Foot and mouth outbreak feared

By Michael Drake



NORTHERN Ireland could suffer a repeat of the foot and mouth crisis which hit the province almost two years ago, it was warned today.

South Antrim MP David Burnside said he was surprised no-one had yet been convicted for the part they had played in smuggling into Northern Ireland infected animals which had caused the outbreak.

Mr Burnside was responding to a letter he had received from Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett on the matter.

In her letter, Mrs Beckett revealed a number of files had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who had concluded the prosecutions should not proceed.

"Other potential offences under the Importation of Animals (NI) Order and the Diseases of Animals (NI) Order are still under investigation.

"Eight cases prosecuted in respect of illegal movement of animals within Northern Ireland during the outbreak have resulted in four convictions with fines," she told Mr Burnside.

The MP said: "The farming industry in Northern Ireland was virtually crippled as a result of foot and mouth disease.

"So long as those who brought foot and mouth disease to Northern Ireland remain unpunished, the more the worry remains that a similar disaster for the local farming community could happen again," he said.