Eradicating TB must be the end goal, says Irwin

DUP MLA Willaim Irwin
DUP MLA Willaim Irwin

Stormont Agriculture Committee chairman William Irwin MLA has said Northern Ireland’s TB incidence rate remains a cause for concern as figures show the province still has the highest incidence rate within the UK.

Mr Irwin was speaking after chairing this week’s Agriculture Committee meeting in Parliament Buildings where DARD officials provided an update briefing on TB.

Mr Irwin reiterated calls for a direct cull of badgers in hotspot areas and drew comparisons with the situation in the Republic of Ireland where a cull of badgers within hotspots has been having positive results.

He said: “Bovine TB continues to cost a huge amount of money year on year and it is really only in the past couple of years that a more direct approach is being adopted by DARD in terms of trying to impact on the TB incidence rate within Northern Ireland. There is however in my opinion a stark difference in the approach being adopted in the Republic of Ireland compared with our quite cautious approach here in Northern Ireland.”

“In the Republic of Ireland the government there has pushed ahead with a cull of badgers with positive results and is now considering a cull of deer. The incidence rate in the Republic of Ireland is decreasing currently at 3.11% and as Northern Ireland now has the highest incidence rate within the UK at 6.48% I still feel there is cause for great concern.”

Mr Irwin continued, “The absolute end goal of the minister and her department must be the eradication of the disease and I do not support the view that there is a half-way house nor indeed a ‘workable’ or ‘acceptable’ incidence level.

“There is the need for a much greater emphasis on eradication and I would question the timescale of the current TVR approach especially given the fact the intervention study is both resource heavy and will take to at least late 2019 to complete.”

“I recognise that the study has certainly its merits in terms of a methodical approach to testing, building up a picture of badger movements and collating data. However it is clear, given the current incidence levels, that Northern Ireland really needs a more hard edged approach and that can be achieved with a controlled cull.”