Concern at suspected case of BSE identified in Co Louth

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The Department of Agriculture in the Republic of Ireland has confirmed that a suspected BSE case has been identified on a dairy farm in Co Louth.

If BSE is confirmed this will be the first case of the disease in Ireland since 2013.

It is understood the case was discovered through the department’s ongoing surveillance system on fallen animals.

The cow, which was a five-year-old, was not sent for slaughter and did not enter the food chain.

Test results are expected to be available within a week.

If confirmed to be a classic case of BSE, this may impact on Ireland’s recently awarded “negligible risk status” from the World Organisation for Animal Health and Ireland would revert to the “controlled risk status”, which applied up to last week.

Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman and Stormont Agriculture Committee Chairman William Irwin MLA has spoken of his concern following reports of the potential case of BSE across the border.

Mr Irwin said it would be a concern if a case was discovered especially as the Republic of Ireland had only recently been granted a ‘negligible risk’ status by World Animal Health Organisation.

Mr Irwin stated: “This is certainly concerning and if a case is confirmed it must be rigorously investigated by the Irish DAFM in terms of the source and all steps taken to reduce any potential for a spread of this disease. Everyone within the industry on both sides of the border will be keeping a very close eye on this developing issue to see if indeed the case is confirmed as BSE and I understand the results will be known next week.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams said he has written to the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney TD asking for all available information about this very serious development.

Mr Adams added: “While we hope that the tests will be negative it is imperative that the Minister move quickly to provide reassurance to the farming community, provide any support necessary for the farmer affected by this scare, and reassure customers, particularly internationally.

“The island of Ireland has very robust mechanisms to prevent and monitor for BSE and other risks to animal health and to ensure that the food chain remains uncontaminated.

“The Minister should ensure that whatever measures are applied are done in co-operation with his Ministerial counter-part in the north Minister Michelle O Neill.”

Mr Adams concluded: “The farming community in all parts of this island plays a vital role in providing jobs and holding rural communities together. Farmers work very hard to produce top quality food products. I am sure they, like the community of Louth, will be concerned for the farming family affected by this scare.”

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture Éamon Ó Cuív has said it is essential that immediate action is taken to isolate the cow and the farm.

He added: “All measures must be utilised to ensure that the herd’s status is protected and that a comprehensive plan is put in place to limit exposure to any potential case.

“Ireland has worked hard to establish itself as a safe food exporter, and we trade internationally as a result of our high quality standards. Any threat to our reputation has the potential to inflict major damage to the economy and to farmers’ income.

“The Department of Agriculture must move swiftly to establish the facts of this case. I sincerely hope that this suspected case is not BSE, but the Department and the Minister must be prepared for all eventualities.”