Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo

Northern Ireland Assembly

Monday 14 May 2001


Assembly Business

Foot-and-Mouth Disease

Game Preservation (Amendment) Bill: First Stage

Family Law Bill: Consideration Stage

Code of Practice on Access to Workers
During Recognition and Derecognition Ballots

Social Security (New Deal Pilot)
Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000

Public Health/Health Inequalities

Oral Answers to Questions

Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister

Department for Regional Development

Department of the Environment

Public Health/Health Inequalities


The Assembly met at noon (Mr Speaker in the Chair).

Members observed two minutes’ silence.

Assembly Business


Mr Speaker:

Order. During Question Time on Tuesday 8 May, the Deputy Speaker, Mr McClelland, was asked to rule on whether Standing Order 19(2)(b) had been breached during a supplementary question by Mr McGrady to the Minister for Social Development. I have read Hansard Volume 11 No 1, pages 21 and 24, and I am satisfied that Mr McGrady was asserting variability of quality in the work of housing associations. The Member’s remark was not, in itself, an allegation of malpractice, and I do not believe that a breach of that Standing Order occurred.

Later that day, during the debate on the motion of no confidence in the Minister of Education, I was asked to rule on an allegation that Rev Dr Ian Paisley had made unparliamentary remarks from a sedentary position. I remind Members of my previous ruling of 4 December 2000, recorded on page 425 of Hansard, that unparliamentary remarks made from a sedentary position are no more acceptable than those made from a standing position.

I have examined Hansard and found some ambiguity over whether Dr Paisley was referring to Mr Adams, the Member speaking at the time, or to the person being quoted by Mr Adams. Mr Peter Robinson made clear his view of to whom Dr Paisley was referring, but I have also previously ruled that no Member may make an interpretation of what another Member said. I therefore call on Dr Paisley to say to whom he was referring and to clarify his remark.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

Page 40 of Hansard clearly shows that what I said was in relation to the letter and to the accusation made in it.

I was not referring to the Member. I was referring to the man whom he quoted as having made the very serious statement that I was trying to set up Roman Catholic people, probably to be murdered.

Mr Speaker:

A remark can be unparliamentary only if it refers to other Members. If, as Dr Paisley has clarified, he was referring not to Mr Adams but to the man whom Mr Adams was quoting, then the remark cannot be deemed to be unparliamentary.

Dr Paisley also rose on a point of order, contending that the remarks were not true and that they were an incorrect quotation of him. That in itself would be unparliamentary. Therefore, I ask Mr Adams whether he accepts Dr Paisley’s contention that the remarks that he quoted were not remarks that Dr Paisley had made.

Mr Adams:

I accept your ruling on the matter but draw your attention to when Dr Paisley made his interruption. I had said that

"Dr Paisley asked the people of the Shankill what was wrong with them, because there were papists living at 425 Shankill Road, 56 Aden Street and 38 Crimea Street. I forgive the Rev Dr Ian Paisley for these remarks."

Then he interrupted to say "Liar".

Secondly, I believe that what I read is an accurate reflection of a report of remarks made by Dr Paisley at that time.

Mr Speaker:

The Member has said that, at that point, he was not quoting from the person from whom he had earlier been quoting but was speaking in his own right. That is a clarification of Hansard. However, Dr Paisley’s point is that the report was not factually correct and that that is not what he said. That is what the Member maintains. To quote a Member as having said something that he or she did not say is unparliamentary. Dr Paisley has said "This is not what I said." It may be that someone else put it in a newspaper, but I have often said that newspapers are not entirely reliable in some of these matters. Does Mr Adams accept Dr Paisley’s contention that he, Dr Paisley, did not say the things that he was quoted as having said?

Mr Adams:

I do not accept his contention. I note what Dr Paisley has said, but I only have his assertion about this. I believe fundamentally that he addressed the word "liar" to me and not to anyone else.

Mr Speaker:

I will have to give further consideration to the matter, because when a Member says quite clearly that the report that another Member is quoting from is not true, it is normal practice to accept that. The Member is saying that he does not accept the contention that the Member makes and that it is not a true report. It may be a report that was given in all good faith — indeed, if it were not, that would be unparliamentary — but that is not the question. The question is whether the Member now accepts Dr Paisley’s contention that he did not say these things and that they are not true.

Mr Adams:

I do not accept his contention, but I have noted what he has to say. In fairness to him, I will check the report, and if it is then my view that I am wrong, of course I will come back and make that clear.

Mr Speaker:

I will make two points, and the Member will be given an opportunity to respond.

Whether it is a correct quotation of a newspaper report is not actually the point, because the newspaper report may not be true. That would be the reporting of an untruth, if one accepts what Dr Paisley has said.

The Member will, of course, have an opportunity to reflect, as will I, and to review Hansard. I emphasise the view about what would constitute unparliamentary language. Whether a report is true is another matter.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

I do not need the forgiveness of a man of the ilk of the Member for West Belfast. I never made any such statement, and if he was so keen to search for and get one, why did he not bring the proof? Other matters were mentioned, and we now have Hansard to refer to. I will be making a personal statement to the House about other matters that are incorrect and untrue.

Mr Speaker:

I ask Members to reflect on what they have said and what has been said. I will be reflecting upon the matter, studying Hansard and taking a view on what Members subsequently say. I hope that I have made the position clear. If any Members are in doubt, they should consult ‘Erskine May’.

During the same debate on 8 May, my attention was drawn to an allegation that a Member made gestures across the Chamber. These were not observed by the Speaker. I asked for the videotape of the proceedings to be viewed, but no gestures were recorded.

There are some circumstances where gestures between Members would be a return to a more primitive form of communication. Sometimes it may be the only direct form of communication between Members, and in such circumstances it may be interpreted as an advance. I have consulted ‘Erskine May’, and there is no indication of what may constitute unparliamentary gestures. They do not seem to have needed to rule on this matter in other Chambers. It is difficult enough to identify unparliamentary words, without trying to identify unparliamentary gestures. One could understand that there would be some gestures that would not only be unparliamentary but would also be extremely rude. I hope that such behaviour would not become practice in the Chamber.

On page 389 of the current edition of ‘Erskine May’, the Speaker rules on the question of Members using diagrams to elucidate their statements. The Speaker has said that

"Members should be sufficiently articulate to express what they want to say without diagrams."

I trust that I may refer to this as a precedent for gestures or hand signals. I emphasise that Members should communicate only through the Speaker — and in words.

Mr Adams:

Tá mé buíoch díot ar son na hoibre a rinne tú faoi mo ghearán. Ach ar chuir tú aon cheist ar an Uasal McCartney? I appreciate the work you have carried out in investigating my complaint. Did you ask the Member, Bob McCartney, about the gesture he made?

Mr Speaker:

I did meet with Mr McCartney; I always try to be in touch with any Members on whom a ruling is going to be made in order that they can be in the Chamber if possible.

It is not always possible actually to speak with such a Member, but I do try to make contact with him or his representative. However, I was able to make contact with Mr McCartney and meet him.

12.15 pm

The Member and the House know that it is not appropriate for me to divulge what happens or is said between a Member and the Speaker. I treat such meetings less as time in the confessional and more like appointments I would have had during my previous professional practice. However, as a result of that meeting, I am satisfied that no untoward intent was meant by any of the gestures or gesticulations made in any part of the Chamber at that time — I am content about that, and I think that I have followed the matter up with some due diligence.

I trust this is of some reassurance to the Member — although perhaps not a full reassurance. Members from all parties often have conversations with me, and it would be wrong to divulge those conversations other than as I have done.

Mr Adams:

Further to that point of order. It may be appropriate for you, as a former psychiatrist, to use those rules. I welcome your ruling about hand signals or gestures. However, my Colleague gestured towards me as if pointing a gun and pulling the trigger, and I want that on the record.

Mr Speaker:

As Mr McCartney has been referred to, I will give him an opportunity to respond.

Mr McCartney:

I am grateful, Mr Speaker. I find it ironic — almost a macabre joke — that the president of a party inextricably linked with an organisation reeking with blood should suggest —

Mr Speaker:

Order. An accusation has been made. If the Member wishes to respond to the specifics of that — to whether the accusation is true — he may do so briefly in context. However, this is not an opportunity for a speech on the matter.

Mr McCartney:

I accept that.

The Member suggested that I made a gesture as if pointing a gun, and that needs explanation. After a particularly unctuous speech by the Member, in which he talked about cleansing streams flowing under bridges, he sat down, looked across the Chamber at me and put up his hands as if in resignation or supplication — looking hard at me. I indicated to him by gesture — because I do not converse with the representatives of terror — the following: shaking my head, which meant "No", and making a gesture with my hand, which meant "guns". I will have discussions at any time with any representative of a political party, whatever his previous background, when he no longer fronts organisations armed and dedicated to terror, whether Republican or Loyalist. That explains entirely my response by gesture to the good Mr Adams, who had just made this horribly unctuous address.

Mr Speaker:

Order. I trust that the House can see my dilemma. There appears to have been no direct communication through the Chair on this occasion, and what communication there was was by way of hand signals. I am hesitant to intrude upon that. I call on the House to communicate through the Chair and to do so in words, since I cannot hope to convey the meaning of gestures.

Mr Adams:

I want to welcome what is obviously a big advance in communication for the Member. However, I reject entirely his explanation.

Mr Speaker:

Order. Sadly we must bring this matter to a close and give the Minister an opportunity to communicate to us on the very serious matter of foot-and- mouth disease.

(Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr McClelland] in the Chair)


Foot-and-Mouth Disease

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (Ms Rodgers):

I regret that it has taken 20 minutes to get to this very serious issue, about which people are extremely concerned. There has been some unfortunate point scoring, but as you say, Mr Speaker, if there is communication, at whatever level, that is all to the good.

Because I have been awaiting the final test result from the laboratory in Pirbright, Members will not have received a copy of my statement in accordance with Standing Order 18(1). I apologise for that. Copies are available from the Business Office.

I want to spend a little time bringing Members up to date with the current Northern Ireland foot-and-mouth disease position. I would then like to refer briefly to my policy on movement controls before explaining something about the testing work that my Department is doing, which seems, judging from the media coverage it occasionally gets, to be poorly understood.

The position remains as it has been for some weeks now, with a total of four confirmed outbreaks – one at Meigh, County Armagh; two at Ardboe, County Tyrone; and one at Cushendall, County Antrim. In addition to those confirmed outbreaks, we receive from farmers and vets regular reports of suspicious symptoms, which we thoroughly investigate. We are also performing blood tests on sheep to determine whether any of them have been exposed to, or are harbouring, foot-and-mouth disease. I shall say more about that in a moment.

As Members will be aware, we have been investigating one suspect case relating to sheep at Ballycastle that were exhibiting some suspicious symptoms. Samples have been at Pirbright for testing, and I am happy to confirm that the definitive results — which I received this morning — are negative.

My Department’s vets are continuing to follow up a number of tests that require further investigation. For reasons I will explain in a moment, we can expect that pattern to continue over the coming months, but, as far as those particular investigations are concerned, it is fair to say that we are not unduly worried about any of them at present.

That sums up the present situation. Encouraging though that is, I am acutely aware of the effects that the livestock movement controls have had on the industry since I had to ban all movements just before Easter. Over the last three weeks or so, I have been able to ease that ban progressively. Doing so is a balancing act between the risk of spreading the disease and allowing some semblance of normal farming practices. I have, therefore, permitted the movement of certain livestock in certain circumstances, provided that the necessary disease control conditions are met. I have agreed that my Department will meet the costs of veterinary certification in those cases.

Assuming there is no radical change in the underlying disease situation, further relaxation of the movement controls will be permitted next week. I have already announced the relevant details, in response to calls from Members and from the industry, to allow people to plan accordingly.

I have also announced a further limited welfare disposal scheme for cull sows, which at present have only very limited market outlets available. Members may also be aware that, following representations to the European Commission, I have secured a concession in relation to the completion of integrated administration and control system (IACS) forms in Northern Ireland. While the deadline for the submission of those forms is tomorrow, 15 May, farmers will have until 30 June to make amendments to their forms.

Finally, I have been conscious of the difficulties that the foot-and-mouth disease controls pose for the beef special premium scheme. My staff have been unable to carry out the necessary inspections and ear notching. Therefore I have arranged that when movement controls are relaxed on 23 May and farm-to-farm sales resume, farmers will be able to phone, fax or write to the Department and, on the basis of the relevant ear-tag numbers, establish the premium status of the animals that they are considering buying.

I hope that Members will agree that those measures represent a reasonable response to the industry’s most pressing needs.

I want briefly to clarify the blood testing programme that my Department is currently undertaking. It is a screening programme designed to determine whether foot-and-mouth disease is still present in Northern Ireland. It is likely to extend over the coming summer to all the areas where sheep are traditionally kept. We are starting with the surveillance zones and any related tracings before moving out to the main sheep areas.

The testing is known as serology testing, and it looks for antibodies to the foot-and-mouth disease virus. The presence of those antibodies means that the sheep has been exposed to the virus at some point. Such sheep do not have clinical foot-and-mouth disease, so the discovery of antibodies does not constitute an outbreak.

They do, however, pose a potential threat to other livestock, which could in turn develop foot-and-mouth disease, so our policy is to slaughter them.

The serology testing is carried out by my Department’s veterinary science division at Stormont, which has the capacity to handle 10,000 tests per day. Over 82,000 blood samples have been processed up to 10 May, 43,000 of those in the previous week. This is only a screening test, and it is not 100% accurate. It will produce some false positives. That means that all positive results from serology testing are sent to Pirbright for more exacting tests, and this process can take up to one week. Unfortunately, some of these cases have been picked up by the media and presented as Northern Ireland’s next outbreak. That announcement is at best premature, and at worst wrong. We are not complacent when such a result emerges. The flock involved will be visited, restricted and clinically examined, and additional blood samples may be taken. As we are dealing with a screening test which is a relatively blunt instrument, we can expect to see flocks restricted in various parts of Northern Ireland over the next few months. There will also be an occasional sheep cull. None of this means that we have serious fears that the flocks in question are infected; it means that we are taking no chances.

Looking further ahead, I intend to reopen the case for Northern Ireland to be regionalised for foot-and-mouth disease control purposes. The results of the serology- testing regime will be crucial in achieving that status and reopening our export trade.

Even though we have had no new outbreaks for several weeks, it is vital that we keep up our guard. We have been here before, just prior to the Ardboe outbreak at Easter. While we still do not know how the disease got from Meigh to Ardboe, it is certain that illegal movement of livestock was to blame. It is important that farmers continue to practise fortress farming, and that everyone continues to adhere to the movement controls that are in place. Our biggest threat continues to be complacency.

The Chairperson of the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development (Rev Dr Ian Paisley):

I welcome the Minister’s statement and thank her for letting us know that this statement would be made.

The House will be happy about the good news from Ballycastle. We are thankful to Almighty God that the disease has not affected Ballycastle, because with sheep running on the mountain tracks, it would have been impossible to contain the disease. Is this the final statement from Pirbright?

I welcome the forms. Do they go with the forms being filled out by farmers using the mountains in south Down? In 2000, the Minister helped farmers in that area. Will those farmers be helped in the same way this year?

How is the process of compensation advancing, and how many farmers have already been compensated?

Ms Rodgers:

Full testing has been carried out for Ballycastle, and that is the final result.

The situation in the Silent Valley in south Down remains as I have previously explained. The force majeure concession cannot be applied in 2001 because the grazing ban has now been in place for some time and must be taken into account. Farmers were aware of that in time to make other plans. Consequently, the farmers affected cannot claim the Silent Valley land in their integrated administration and control system (IACS) land declarations for 2001.

As far as I am aware, the compensation paid to date is almost £1·3 million, and that is just in the Meigh area and that of the south Armagh cull. No other compensation has been paid to date, but I hope that it will be fairly soon.

12.30 pm

The Deputy Chairperson of the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development (Mr Savage):

It is gratifying to note that there are no more outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and that that is the final report from Pirbright. I also welcome the news that the cull sow scheme has started to get under way. It is long overdue. There are many things that one could say about the present situation. Dr Paisley raised the issue of compensation for farmers affected by this disease. I hope that something can be done about that fairly soon.

We can all learn from what has happened. We should be starting to think about a common enforcement policy between the North and the South. There seems to be a variance between the actions of the two Departments.

I have been taking many calls over the weekend about the Minister’s decision to ban horse racing, especially at Downpatrick. I ask the Minister to look very seriously at that, because this is an industry that has come through a lot. There are so many people involved in the horse racing world. If they do not get a race or two, all their work over the last year will have been to no avail. The situation in the South is totally different to what it is up here. I know that she is very conscious of the regionalisation system, but I ask the Minister to look seriously at horse racing.

Ms Rodgers:

In relation to a common enforcement policy North and South, I am very much aware of the need to co-ordinate our efforts throughout the island in order to ensure that we are not faced with similar difficulties again. I have, as Mr Savage will be aware, asked the vision group, or a sub-committee of the group, to look at the lessons to be learned. One of the things that they will be looking at is the need for the tightening up of legislation on ear tagging. I am in discussion with Minister Joe Walsh about those very issues, because they are looking at the same things. We will be co-ordinating our approach, because I think that that is important, and I take the point.

I also take the point that horse racing is an important industry. I had a meeting last week with the industry on the possibility of resuming horse racing. The Executive will be considering the matter this week, and at that point I will be in a position to make a further announcement.

Mr Bradley:

The Minister’s statement contained a substantial amount of good news, particularly from Pirbright, and I thank her for it. My question is about the temporary regulations regarding the dos and don’ts of the imminent sheep-shearing programme, which is causing a good deal of concern. Has there been a review of the original restriction, or is a review being considered?

Ms Rodgers:

I am aware that the difficulties with sheep shearing are causing welfare problems. The season is upon us, and it cannot wait. It also creates real risks, particularly for those farmers who no longer do their own shearing and have to bring in contract shearers. I do not have to spell out the risks of having contract shearers moving from farm to farm. I am reviewing the situation. My officials have been working on protocols. I hope to have the protocols in place by next Wednesday, so that sheep shearing can then begin in, I repeat, extreme welfare cases only because of the risk.

The protocols will be in place and will be in the farming papers, but where farmers are doing the shearing themselves, they will be given advice about the procedures to follow. Licensed contact shearers will be given very strict protocols about cleansing and disinfection when they move on to the next farm. However, I am aware that this is a very real problem; it is being reviewed, and I hope that it will be dealt with very soon.

Mr C Murphy:

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I welcome the Minister’s statement and the news that the recent testing has proved negative. The Minister indicated that she and her officials do not know precisely how the disease got from Meigh to Ardboe, and that indicates that they are firm in the belief that the disease originated in Meigh. What evidence is there of that, and is there any evidence of where the outbreak in Antrim originated?

Finally, is there any indication yet of when the marts will be reopened for sales? Although farm sales may be welcomed, there is a severe loss of business as a result of the closure of marts, and it does not benefit farmers to have to sell on a farm-to-farm basis. There is much greater benefit from selling in the mart scenario.

Ms Rodgers:

In relation to Meigh and Ardboe, I was simply making the point that we had one case in Meigh and that the next case was in Ardboe. I am not saying that there is a connection but rather that we have not been able to establish whether the disease came from Meigh to Ardboe and, if so, how. I am not making any assumptions except that illegal trading was clearly the cause of it. We have traced back all the possible legal traces, and it did not come from those sources. Members can draw their conclusions from that.

In relation to marts, Members should understand that we have not completed serology testing, and even when we have completed it, we will not be in a position to know that we have dealt with the infection that is in the sheep flock. To reopen marts before we are sure of that would be taking too much of a risk.

I understand and recognise the difficulties, and that is why we are taking the step next Wednesday to allow farm-to-farm sales. I also understand that the owners of the marts are looking at other ways of facilitating sales, perhaps video sales, for instance. Certainly I am anxious to look at that as soon as it is possible to do so without risk, but, at present, we are quite a bit away from that.

Mr Ford:

I too welcome the Minister’s statement and the continuing efforts that she and her Department are making. The Minister referred to extending serology testing to all areas where sheep are traditionally kept. My understanding was that serology testing was to be extended to the whole of Northern Ireland, particularly in the light of what she has just said to Mr Conor Murphy.

Can the Minister say whether this is indeed to happen and, if so, what is the anticipated timescale? Would it be possible to have any trade in sheep before the tests were completed? This could take until the autumn and would probably present major problems until then.

Secondly, with regard to a potential mass burial site, which we pray will not be needed, have any sites been identified yet, and should I believe the words of Sam Foster or David Burnside in that Nutt’s Corner is a possible location.

Ms Rodgers:

Having tested the sheep flocks in the surveillance areas, we move on to the glens, Sperrins and lowlands. We intend to get to all sheep flocks, because otherwise we could not be certain that we had dealt with all possible infection. That testing will take some time.

In relation to a burial site, as the Member will be aware, the Executive decided that we need contingency plans for the worse-case scenario, and my Department was asked to employ a consultant to identify possible sites.

Work is in progress on that. I do not yet have a final report, but the Executive will discuss the matter this week. However, with regard to Nutt’s Corner, no burial site has been identified or decided upon.

Ms Morrice:

I thank the Minister for her statement. It is valuable for the House to be kept informed of the situation. The Minister has permitted the movement of certain livestock in certain circumstances. What impact will that have on the movement of animals between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and on cross-border movement? Is the Minister satisfied that the controls in place at ports, et cetera, are effective enough to ensure that the disease does not continue to spread here?

Ms Rodgers:

I am not considering allowing the movement of animals from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, because as the Member will be aware, the situation is much worse there than it is here. I am not even considering such livestock movement. I am trying to deal with the difficulties being faced by Northern Ireland’s farming community because of the present movement restrictions.

Rev Dr William McCrea:

I thank the Minister for her statement. Farmers are facing some practical problems. Following a cull they are left with meal, which in some cases is worth thousands of pounds. Will farmers receive compensation for that? Some farmers have also had to make workers redundant after a cull, and redundancy payments have had to be made. Will they be compensated for that?

May I ask the Minister if there is any news about rate relief for the livestock market providers, given the redundancies that have occurred in those markets? Will they get rate relief? We do want the markets opened as a matter of urgency, but in the meantime can Members be assured that the livestock market owners will get financial relief?

Ms Rodgers:

I thank Mr McCrea for his questions. Unfortunately, meal that has been left over comes into the realm of a consequential; it is not a direct result. However, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will pay for any meal that it has confiscated due to fear of contamination. As the Member will be aware, consequential compensation is being looked at on a national level, and I will ensure that Northern Ireland is not treated any less favourably than anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

The redundancy of some workers is an unfortunate consequence of the present terrible situation, and it is a matter for the Department for Social Development. That Department has made special arrangements to help people in such situations, and one person has been designated to deal with the farming community. People who have been made redundant will get some assistance from the Department for Social Development.

The Department of Finance and Personnel is working on rate relief, and it is hoped that it will have something very soon. I appreciate Mr McCrea’s point about the marts that have been put completely out of business. That matter is being looked at by the Department of Finance and Personnel, and it is hoped that there will be progress there soon.

Mr J Wilson:

Can the Minister say how many holdings adjacent to the McCambridge holding at Newtowncrommelin were culled?

Did any of the culls prove positive for foot-and- mouth disease?

12.45 pm

Ms Rodgers:

I do not have the statistics to hand, but I will write to the Member with the information.

Mr McGrady:

I thank the Minister and her Department for the work they are doing in this respect and also for this morning’s progress report, which, it is hoped, points the way to a complete return to normality.

I refer to the answer the Minister gave to the Chairman of the Agriculture Committee regarding the sheep farmers in the Silent Valley and the Mournes. Will she confirm that had there been proper consultation with the Minister for Regional Development last year, then the doctrine of force majeure could be used this year also? Notwithstanding that historical fact, will she re-examine the situation as a matter of priority for the double and treble jeopardy in which the Mourne and Silent Valley sheep farmers are engaged?

In response to the Deputy Chairperson of the Agriculture Committee, I make a special plea with regard to the horse racing in Downpatrick and also at Down Royal in Lisburn. They have wisely postponed their meetings and have now obtained from the Jockey Club the dates of 1 June and 2 June. Taking into account all the protocols they have put in place, it is imperative that the Minister give the green light to that event. Otherwise that company, the Maze company and much of the horse-breeding, rearing and training fraternity in the North will go into bankruptcy.

Ms Rodgers:

In relation to the force majeure, my officials have been in consultation with officials in the Department for Regional Development since the decision was announced. However, once the information was relayed to the farmers that their sheep would not be allowed onto the mountain, force majeure could not be used this year, as the sheep farmers were warned well in advance.

In relation to horse racing, I take Mr McGrady’s point. I know that it is an important issue. The Executive will be considering the matter this week.

Mr Berry:

The Minister has announced a further limited welfare disposal scheme for cull sows. Can the Minister confirm that the fixed amount for cull sows is only £30? If this is the case, surely that is inadequate compensation for the farmers.

When does the Minister intend to re-open Gosford Forest Park in Markethill? As she is aware, it has been closed since the outbreak and is causing much concern and distress in the area with the loss of tourism and business. I am aware that there are animals in the vicinity and that that is the reason for the closure. Surely something can be done to alleviate this problem and get Gosford Forest Park reopened.


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