The DUP’s William Irwin MLA has chaired the last ever Agriculture & Rural Development Committee at Stormont.
The ARD committee in its current form will cease to exist when the Assembly dissolves and will be amalgamated in the next Assembly term with the Environment Department to form the new Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs.
Mr Irwin said it had been “an honour” to chair the committee and said he had fought “directly for the farmer and rural community” in his role as chairman.
Mr Irwin said: “The role of the committee is to hold the department to account and I think that over this period I have brought forward suggestions and points of action that have been well received by officials and most importantly ‘acted upon’.
“Given my firm background in agriculture I was absolutely focused on straightening the path on many issues where red tape and bureaucracy make things more complicated than they really need to be. This was the case on issues such as the cattle ear tagging issue.
“I saw in other parts of the UK less onerous arrangements were in place on ear tags and I felt strongly that DARD here could adopt a similar practice. These real concerns, fed directly to me by those in the industry, were listened to by the officials and we now have a much less onerous procedure in place. That type of intervention, an intervention that actually has a positive benefit on our farmers, really satisfies me and motivates me to do much more.
“I feel in the committee, members got to grips with issues well and where changes could be made, we as a committee grouping, have pushed hard for those changes. That is the real work of the committee system and in the new Assembly term when DARD and DoE will combine, that same type of determined effort to improve the situation for farmers and our rural community must continue.”