17 May 2002

Now, all-Irish plant health scheme?

MINISTERS north and south of the border in Ireland are working together in a bid to agree an all-island animal and plant health scheme.

"Last year really focused our minds on the health status of our livestock on this island," says John Gilliland, president of the Ulster Farmers Union.

"Gone are the days when Northern Ireland was recognised as a centre of excellence for low disease incidence.

"Clearly, foot-and-mouth has really shown the need to use the water around this island as a phyto-sanitary barrier to keep exotic diseases out," he says.

"Nothing will convince me that DEFRA will learn from the devastating foot-and-mouth crisis. And import controls are as lacking today as they were before the outbreak."

The proposal has already sparked some furious inter-union discussion between the UFU and NFU Scotland, with the Scots concerned that an all-Ireland scheme could hamper the movement of sheep, in particular, from Scotland to Ulster. &#42