Irwin unconvinced by Muir on disease control

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Newry and Armagh DUP assemblyman, William Irwin, has said there must be clarity from the DAERA Minister Andrew Muir following a recent intervention in the assembly where the minister stated that he “had no longer powers for disease control in Northern Ireland”.

Mr Irwin said it was not acceptable where, on an issue of such importance, the minister was appearing to divert responsibility to DEFRA and was in effect “washing his hands of responsibility for the shocking TB incidence rates in Northern Ireland”.

Mr Irwin said: “Bovine TB rates in Northern Ireland remain the highest in the UK and Ireland and without any meaningful interventions - for instance on wildlife carriers, those figures will not see any meaningful reduction.

“That is bad for farmers and bad for animal welfare.”

William Irwin MLA. (Pic: Freelance)William Irwin MLA. (Pic: Freelance)
William Irwin MLA. (Pic: Freelance)

He added: “In discussions I have had, it appears to be the case that the Northern Ireland Office and Cabinet Office do not share the view of Minister Muir that responsibility rests with DEFRA and I have no doubt that a record of communication exists which would show the NIO disagreeing with Minister Muir on his assertion.”

Mr Irwin continued: “I could see through it if the minister was a proponent of Direct Rule, however, he is a devolutionist, which is why I think he is playing games on this matter and could be accused of not wanting to tackle, what is in reality, shocking Bovine TB incidence rates in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Irwin concluded: “The minister needs to get to grips with his brief and ensure that Northern Ireland farmers are listened to, particularly with regards to the importance around maintaining compensation levels at 100 per cent and the minister also needs to come forward with action on how TB incidence rates can be lowered to the benefit of our farmers and the wider agri-food industry.”