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Minister Coughlan Introduces New Bluetongue Control Measures

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today confirmed that she had signed a Statutory Instrument suspending the importation of certain cattle and sheep from bluetongue-restricted zones.

The measure is a temporary and precautionary one and follows recent developments, particularly in Northern Ireland, where the presence of bluetongue has been detected in a number of animals in the past couple of weeks. However, as the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has not confirmed the circulation of virus in Northern Ireland, its bluetongue-free status remains in place and these new measures will, therefore, not affect the importation of cattle or sheep from Northern Ireland.

Minister Coughlan said that she was introducing this measure in the contexts of evolving information relating to transmission routes for bluetongue and concerns relating to potential movements of certain animals from bluetongue-restricted areas. Ireland had outlined its concerns on the latter to the Commission, most recently at a meeting of Chief Veterinary Officers today. The Minister confirmed that she had asked the Commission again to consider revising the conditions under which live animals may be exported from bluetongue-restricted zones in the light of the new information. The Commission will be convening relevant experts next week to review the position and will bring forward proposals in due course if deemed necessary.

Minister Coughlan said that she was taking action now to suspend the importation from bluetongue-restricted zones of female breeding and production cattle aged over 12 months and female sheep aged over six months. This is a precautionary measure pending the results of the further assessment. It will be reviewed in the light of progress on adaptation of the EU movement regulation and in any event before 1 April by which time she hoped that the Commission would have fully considered the latest information on disease transmission and the adequacy or otherwise of existing regulations.

The Minister said that today's measure was consistent with her stated commitment to keep the level of risk to Ireland under review and to introduce such additional control measures as she considered appropriate.

22 February, 2008

Date Released: 22 February 2008