DAERA announces next steps in tackling bovine TB in Northern Ireland

Date published: 17 May 2018

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs today announced the establishment of the TB Eradication Partnership (TBEP) as the next step in driving forward the fight against bovine tuberculosis.

During a wide-ranging speech at the DAERA breakfast event at the 150th Royal Ulster Agriculture Society Balmoral Show, Permanent Secretary Denis McMahon announced the new initiative and introduced the members of the new partnership.

TBEP is a fresh approach to addressing the high levels of bTB in Northern Ireland. Industry stakeholders and veterinary representatives within the Partnership will work with DAERA to provide independent advice, assist in policy development and in programme delivery. Our eventual aim is the eradication of the disease in Northern Ireland.

Speaking to representatives from across the agri-food and environment sectors, Dr McMahon said: “We recognise the challenge that faces all of us with the high rate of TB incidence. It is the source of significant stress for our farming families and has the potential to inflict serious damage on the wider agri-food industry and its ability to trade on a global scale. While we have taken a number of measures to address the issue, we want to keep moving forward with our approach.

“A key TB Strategic Partnership Group recommendation was for the establishment of a new partnership structure to provide advice and fresh thinking. TBEP will bring together individuals with knowledge and practical experience who will for the first time have a major role in shaping the TB programme at both a policy and ground level. Farmers will be involved at every level having an input to how the TB programme operates and bringing their experience to the problem.”

Dr McMahon announced that Sean Hogan  has been appointed as Chair of TBEP alongside Seamus O’Kane, from a veterinary background, Dr Sam Strain, from a  science background  and Adrian Patterson and David Rea, both from a farming background.

In his speech to guests at the DAERA breakfast, Dr McMahon touched on a number of issues including the importance of the agri-food sector, which generates an estimated £4.4billion income and employs over 22,000, and its role in protecting our environment. 

He said: “The success of the agri-food sector impacts not only on farmers, fishermen and their families, but also on the wider rural community, sustaining jobs and businesses across rural areas, and indeed making a major contribution to the economy, our natural environment and our way of life. 

"A sustainable and profitable farm base lies at the heart of the food supply chain. After a few years of very difficult market conditions, there was a welcome upturn in farm prices during 2017.

“However, our agri-food sector must be both profitable and sustainable and the way forward is shared practice and collaborative working with the industry, and I am pleased to see this already in action. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ulster Farmers’ Union and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has resulted in an implementation plan with 90 actions that should deliver increased levels of compliance and improved sustainable farming practices on farms throughout Northern Ireland.”

Looking forward, Dr McMahon went on to address the changes that Brexit will bring. He said: “DAERA is working at pace with the aim of ensuring Northern Ireland is properly equipped to get the best deal for our industry. Engagement has been central to our approach at all levels. We continue to work extensively with our stakeholder groups on a programme of work to ensure that the issues, risks and opportunities are fully understood and explored. And we are working closely with key stakeholders in developing shared thinking on a future agricultural policy, environmental principles as well as a long term strategy for our rural society.

“By working together, as one industry, we can achieve a thriving economy, a healthy environment and rural communities where people can live, work and grow.”

Notes to editors: 

1. The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) today announced at the Balmoral Show the establishment of the TB Eradication Partnership (TBEP) as the next step in driving forward the fight against bovine tuberculosis. Pictured are Robert Huey, Chief Veterinary Officer, Seamus O’Kane, TBEP, Denis McMahon, Permanent Secretary Daera, Sean Hogan TBEP Chair, David Rea, TBEP, Jackie Robinson, Daera, Adrian Patterson, TBEP, Sam Strain, TBEP.

2. The new TB Eradication partnership is the Primary Tier of new governance arrangements being put in place to provide expert oversight of a new strategy to drive forward the eradication of bovine Tuberculosis in Northern Ireland. In addition, three sub-regional boards are being proposed which will be involved in the operational planning of the bTB programme and ad hoc local Disease Response Teams which will be set up in the event of severe bTB outbreaks.

3. The TB Eradication Partnership will comprise a Chairperson, and six Members, who will be appointed by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. At present the Chair and four members have been appointed. We were unable to appoint someone from an environmental/conservation or a food processing background. DAERA will discuss with TBEP how these two positions are filled.

4. The TBEP has been established to work with the Department in considering the feedback from its consultation on the development of a comprehensive bTB Eradication Strategy, and driving that strategy forward.

5. Biographies of each member of TBEP

a) Sean Hogan (Chair) is from County Down. He was previously Chair of Northern Ireland Water and he was the first Chair of Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI). He was the Chair of the TB Strategic Partnership Group and oversaw the publication of the TB Eradication Strategy. He has been a chair and member of audit committees in many fields including transport, health and social service, ports and utilities boards. Currently he is the Chair of Newry Credit Union and a non-executive Director of Ervia Group, Dublin.

b) Seamus O’Kane  - veterinary sector

Originally from County Tyrone, Mr O’Kane graduated as a vet in 1972 in Dublin and has 46 years’ experience in a mixed veterinary practice. He has been the President of the North of Ireland Veterinary Association and the Association of Veterinary Surgeons in Northern Ireland. He has also been the British Veterinary Association representative for Northern Ireland.

c) Dr Sam Strain - science community

From County Armagh, Dr Strain has been Head of Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute TB Immunology Research Group and Head of the bovine TB Culture Laboratory in Northern Ireland. He is a member of Animal Health Ireland Johnes Disease Technical Working Group. Currently, he is Chief Executive of Animal Health and Welfare Northern Ireland (AHWNI). He has published a wide range of scientific articles.

d) David Rea - farming background

A dairy and beef farmer from County Down. Qualified as a vet in 1993 from Glasgow and practised for three years in Northern Ireland. He is a member of the UFU and the Association of Veterinary Surgeons in Northern Ireland. He also has extensive experience at a senior level within a dairy co-operative.

e) Adrian Patterson - farming background

He is a mixed livestock farmer from County Down with 16 years’ experience breeding pedigree stock. He has also extensive experience in the private sector at a senior level dealing with major organisational change. He is also involved in charitable bodies at a committee level.

6. The DAERA consultation on its response to the TBSPG report can be found at the DAERA website.

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