The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Mr Joe Walsh TD, has announced that results of tests on samples taken from a sheep flock at Proleek, near Jenkinstown, Co Louth, which were forwarded yesterday to the World Reference Laboratory for Foot and Mouth Disease in Pirbright, UK, have tested positive. Accordingly, foot and mouth disease has been confirmed in this flock. 

The Minister pointed out that this flock is located within the surveillance zone established arising from the outbreak in Meigh, Co Armagh on 1 March. Yesterday, in advance of the test results, controls were intensified in this region, animal movements in Co Louth were stopped on a precautionary basis and Garda re-inforcements assigned to the likely perimeter of the protection zone.

“I have now served an Order giving legal effect to the existing surveillance and protection zone around this farm. The European Commission and the relevant Veterinary authorities have been informed,” the Minister said.

As an initial step, the ban on exports from Ireland of susceptible animals will be retained and exports of animal products will be temporarily suspended. Both the Taoiseach and the Minister had, however, already been in contact with the Commission and expect that the Commission will later today agree to a limitation on the trade ban in relation to the exports of non treated meat and dairy products from the region concerned.

The Minister said that the outbreak is a major disappointment given the intensity of the effort by all sections of society. The flock in question had been examined previously when it was found to be without symptoms. “It is clear from the experience emerging from the UK that this disease is difficult to detect particularly in sheep. Consequently it is my intention to proceed with an aggressive strategic slaughter of flocks in the region,” the Minister added.

“The fact that this case is within the existing surveillance area where the most stringent controls have been in place, that there had been intensive examination of the animals in the area over the past weeks and that movement of animals has been prohibited in the area allows for a realistic hope that this can be managed and dealt with within the area. We also have the advantage that a local control centre has been in place in Ballymacscanlon for a number of weeks.

“This is very disappointing for all concerned, for the country at large, for agri-business, agri-tourism, sporting and cultural organisations and for those farmers in the region concerned. It is a big disappointment also for those involved in the front line who have worked so hard in the fight against the disease. There has been remarkable national solidarity on this issue. We need that solidarity more than ever and in particular the strict application of the controls and protection measures already in place. We will now proceed to deal with the outbreak and its consequences. I have no reason to believe that we cannot confine the situation to this single outbreak,” the Minister concluded.