Clare Bailey MLA has raised concerns over the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs response to the ongoing bird flu outbreak, the largest ever in these islands.
The Green Party NI Leader, who sits on Stormont’s AERA Committee, said: “In evidence to the Committee, Department officials revealed that are unsure if all councils will be attending a meeting due to take place on Friday. It’s been over a fortnight since avian flu was first confirmed by the Department and I am concerned that their response has neither been as proactive nor as rapid as possible.
“Whilst the Department has prioritised responding to outbreaks in commercial flocks, the outbreak among wild birds in the Waterworks for example, hasn’t been responded to with the urgency or clarity required. Officials have said that they do not have a statutory responsibility to control the virus in wild birds. However, in the interests of protecting our biodiversity and public health, the Department should be taking the lead in managing a multi-agency response and communicating this effectively.
“This week, Minister Poots said that ‘whenever there's a crisis, we have to find the money’. I also call on the Executive to deliver on this commitment and guarantee that the necessary funding is in place to compensate farmers whose flocks have had to be culled in response to the outbreak.
“The Public Health Agency has said that the risk to humans from bird flu is low, but people should not handle sick or dead birds. The ongoing Covid pandemic has demonstrated the importance of responding to outbreaks of disease proactively and robustly. We cannot risk the situation worsening due to delayed action.”
Media contact: Jack O'Dwyer-Henry (07504410770)