De­mands grow for new an­i­mal health probe in west Lim­er­ick

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS - DAN DANA­HER

HEALTH Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris is be­ing urged to ad­dress claims that blood sam­ples went miss­ing dur­ing a State an­i­mal health in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the late 1990s.

Deputy Michael Harty re­cently pre­sented Min­is­ter Har­ris with a dossier from two west Lim­er­ick farmers who claim blood sam­ples went miss­ing dur­ing the Askeaton an­i­mal health in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Co Lim­er­ick be­tween 1995 and 1998.

Deputy Harty, an In­de­pen­dent TD for Clare, plans to ta­ble a par­lia­men­tary ques­tion ask­ing Min­is­ter Har­ris for the ap­point­ment of an in­de­pen­dent ex­ter­nal ex­pert to ex­am­ine the claims made by Pat and Nuala Geoghe­gan from Glin, Co Lim­er­ick.

“The Geoghe­gans are say­ing they have ad­di­tional new ev­i­dence that war­rants a new in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” said Deputy Harty.

“Pat and Nuala Geoghe­gan are very gen­uine peo­ple who are not try­ing to cod any­one. They are not try­ing to catch any­one out, they just want to get an­swers.”

Gal­way West TD Cather­ine Con­nolly is sup­port­ing Deputy Harty’s call for the ap­point­ment of an in­de­pen­dent ex­pert.

“From the day I met Pat Geoghe­gan he comes across as a very straight and hon­est man.

“This fam­ily have been high­light­ing se­ri­ous is­sues for years and they are not alone. Se­ri­ous ques­tions need to be an­swered, not­with­stand­ing the pas­sage of time.

“The loss of the sam­ples — which an in­ter­nal in­quiry ruled was due to hu­man er­ror — is dif­fi­cult to ac­cept,” she added.

The In­ves­ti­ga­tion of An­i­mal Health Prob­lems at Askeaton in­quiry was co­or­di­nated by the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency. It was es­tab­lished in 1995 in re­sponse to the se­vere an­i­mal health prob­lems on farms in west Lim­er­ick.

“A por­tion of the ap­prox­i­mately 4,000 peo­ple liv­ing in the Askeaton/Rathkeale area felt that en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion was the key cause of these an­i­mal health prob­lems, in par­tic­u­lar emis­sions from alu­mina pro­duc­tion at Augh­in­ish Is­land lo­cated some 8km west of the af­fected farms,” stated the fi­nal re­port.

How­ever, the re­port con­cluded that “en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion, toxic sub­stances in the diet, soil com­po­si­tion anom­alies and herbage com­po­si­tion anom­alies” were “un­likely causes of the an­i­mal health prob­lems”.

It also stated that “given the an­i­mal health study find­ings, there is lit­tle cause for con­cern that the prob­lems in the Askeaton area posed a threat to hu­man health”.

Ex­trac­tion

Mean­while, An Bord Pleanála has given the go-ahead to Augh­in­ish Alu­mina to be­gin blast­ing and ex­tract­ing rock close to the mud ponds at the Askeaton plant.

The de­ci­sion has been de­scribed as “reck­less” by the Cap­pagh Farmers Sup­port Group which has lodged an ap­peal with An Bord Pleanála af­ter Lim­er­ick City and County Coun­cil gave per­mis­sion for the pro­posal to the com­pany ear­lier this year.

An Bord Pleanála also re­fused a re­quest from the Cap­pagh Farmers Sup­port Group for an oral hear­ing on the Augh­in­ish pro­posal.

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