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Minister Bans Importation Of Certain Cattle And Sheep From Bluetongue Zones

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, confirmed that, with immediate effect, only cattle, sheep and goats that are less than 90 days old or that have proven natural or vaccinated immunity to bluetongue may be imported to this country from bluetongue-restricted areas. Such imports that are permitted must meet pre-export test requirements and additional rules apply in the case of female animals.

The new controls, which have been agreed at EU-level following the adoption of unilateral measures here and pressure from the Minister to adjust EU trade rules, allow Member States discretion to place further restrictions on the movement of animals from bluetongue-restricted areas until the end of the year. Ms Coughlan said that she had decided to apply these new tighter control measures immediately because of her determination to maintain Ireland's disease-free status. Ireland is applying the new import restrictions from the earliest possible date available.

Ms Coughlan said that the new EU-wide measures addressed the concerns that she had consistently expressed about the adequacy of the former movement controls, particularly as they affected disease-free countries, and were a response to the unilateral action she had taken in February. On that basis, the new measures now in place will, from 5th May, replace the unilateral ban on the importation of certain female cattle and sheep introduced in February.

Minister Coughlan said that notwithstanding the introduction of these new measures, she would continue to insist that the EU must keep the bluetongue control measures under ongoing review and that if necessary these must be modified should evidence emerge that would demand such action. "My priority continues to be to keep bluetongue out of this country and I will not hesitate to introduce additional safeguard measures, as I did in February, if I consider that such action is warranted."

The Minister said that she and her Northern Ireland counterpart, Michelle Gildernew MP MLA, had discussed the issue at their North South Ministerial Council meeting last week and both had reaffirmed their respective determinations to ensure that the island of Ireland remained bluetongue-free. Ms Coughlan said that the measures being introduced today would help in that regard but she repeated her advice to farmers not to import livestock from any location in present circumstances.

The Minister said that her Department had also published a range of advice in relation to bluetongue and that this information could be accessed on the Department's dedicated bluetongue website www.bluetongue.ie.

5th May 2008

Date Released: 06 May 2008