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Minister Smith Nominates Mike Magan as Interim Chairman of Animal Health Ireland

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today confirmed that he was finalising interim arrangements to facilitate progress on the proposed industry-led Herd Health Initiative to deal with non-regulated diseases.

Minister Smith said that following on from extended consultations with relevant stakeholders, it was proposed to establish a dedicated, industry-led, national co-ordinating body to be known as Animal Health Ireland. This body, which will deal with non-statutory diseases and conditions, will operate as a partnership between industry, service providers and Government with a focus on herd health and will have two broad aims namely

  • to determine and, on an industry-wide basis, obtain agreement on a range of animal health interventions capable of enhancing on-farm productivity and the competitiveness of the Irish livestock industry in international markets
  • to develop and co-ordinate the national infrastructure that will be needed to enable industry at all levels to take appropriate and effective action.

The Minister said that Animal Health Ireland will be managed by a Steering Group that will act as the Board of the organisation. In order to facilitate a prompt start, he had agreed to put in place an interim Steering Group which will be chaired by Mike Magan. The remaining members of the Group will comprise individuals with skills and competencies such as livestock farming, veterinary science, agricultural economics and international marketing. The Steering Group will report to a Stakeholders Group which will be representative of farming bodies, dairy co-ops and service providers and will have overall responsibility for the strategic direction, structure and financing of the organisation. The organisation will have a small number of Executive staff who will be responsible for implementing agreed strategies. The Minister said that he was also proposing to assign staff to the new organisation for an interim period.

Future arrangements for the Steering Group, staffing and organisation of the body, will be a matter for the industry.

Minister Smith said that while this initiative complements the Department's statutory measures for dealing with regulated diseases such as TB, Brucellosis, BSE, etc., the arrangements relating to Animal Health Ireland represent a substantial departure from the traditional Government-led model that has characterised animal health policy to date in Ireland. Its success will depend on the willingness of all stakeholders to engage with each other from non-traditional positions in pursuit of common goals. It is modelled on successful international examples in particular in Australia, the Nordic countries and the Netherlands. "I believe that the measures that will be pursued by Animal Health Ireland can secure improved profitability for Irish farmers and international competitiveness of Irish livestock products through a co-ordinated national approach to animal health by industry and other service providers with support from Government" the Minister said.

In conclusion, the Minister said that the proposed initiative will be formally launched at a meeting with stakeholders in the next few weeks.

Date Released: 26 November 2008