Coughlan bans UK meat imports, FMD response discussed in North

The North's power-sharing executive will today hold a special Cabinet meeting to consider their response to the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Surrey, England.

Minister for Agriculture Mary Coughlan has imposed a ban on all imports to Ireland of UK meat and livestock in response to the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Surrey, England.

Sixty animals have tested positive for the disease on a farm in Surrey, where a culling operation is due to swing into operation shortly.

The North's power-sharing executive will today hold a special Cabinet meeting to consider their response to the outbreak.

A national movement ban on pigs and cattle has already been put in place in the UK.

Stormont Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew is set to brief Cabinet colleagues and senior civil servants on her decision to stop livestock imports at the North's ports.

Department of Agriculture and Rural Development officials in Belfast were also tracing all movement of farm animals between the North and England, Scotland and Wales during July to see if any livestock had come from the farm outside Guildford, Surrey where the fresh outbreak occurred.

The Sinn Féin minister last night moved quickly to reassure the North's farming community that her officials were doing all they could to prevent the spread of the disease.

“The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is acting quickly,” she said. “We are doing everything we can to ensure that this outbreak does not spread here. We hope that farmers will work with us to keep the disease out.”

As British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his Environment Secretary Hilary Benn cut short their summer holidays to return to London to monitor the situation, Ms Gildernew confirmed she had been in contact with officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in England and the Department of Agriculture in the Republic.

During the last outbreak of foot-and-mouth in 2001 there were four outbreaks of the disease in the North.

The first occurred in Meigh in south Armagh, two incidences occurred in Ardboe in Co Tyrone and there was another outbreak in Cushendall in Co Antrim.

More than 50,000 animals were slaughtered in the North.

One foot-and-mouth case was also discovered in the Republic.

The epidemic resulted in the authorities in Belfast and Dublin introducing restrictions on movement.

Specially-constructed disinfection machines were deployed at ports and travellers at sea ports and airports also had to walk through disinfected mats.

The Six Nations rugby championship was disrupted, with the Irish team’s matches against Scotland, Wales and England postponed until the autumn.

Dublin’s St Patrick Day festival was rescheduled while the Ploughing Championships and the North's main agricultural show piece event The Balmoral Show were cancelled.

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