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Minister responds to confirmation of Bluetongue case in Northern Ireland

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today commented on the positive test result for bluetongue in a single imported animal on a farm in Northern Ireland.

Minister Coughlan confirmed that she had discussed this matter with her Northern Ireland counterpart, Michelle Gildernew MLA, and that her officials had been and were continuing to maintain very close contact with their Northern colleagues.

Minister Coughlan noted that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) in Northern Ireland are continuing to regard Northern Ireland as "officially bluetongue free", that the farm in question is under restriction and that the animal has been slaughtered while a programme of tracing and testing continues in associated herds.

Minister Coughlan confirmed that she had chaired a meeting yesterday of the Management Committee of her Department's National Disease Control Centre and that, following that meeting, she had instructed that all cattle and sheep recently imported from Northern Ireland and those still on farms be traced and tested for bluetongue. Furthermore, the Minister has decided that cattle and sheep from Northern Ireland, other than those going direct to slaughter, will now be subject to post-importation test for bluetongue, as is currently the case for cattle being imported from other than Northern Ireland. Despite having done in excess of 1,700 post-importation tests, no bluetongue has been detected in this country.

The Minister also said that, in keeping with her commitment to keep the risk of the introduction of the disease to Ireland under constant review, she had, following this development and the further cases in England and Wales earlier in the week, instructed her officials to continue to keep the risk of introduction of the disease to Ireland under ongoing review and said that she would apply any additional controls considered necessary to mitigate any increased risk.

Finally, Minister Coughlan urged farmers to consider very carefully the potential risks of importing cattle from bluetongue-affected areas.

Date Released: 15 February 2008