Department of Agriculture investigators have been threatened that they will be shot, have had guns held to their heads and have been chased down fields with slash hooks the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture has heard.

Speaking before the committee which was being briefed on the Department of Agriculture’s new Investigations Division.

Philip Carroll, Assistant Secretary in the Department of Agriculture said nobody hears about the hostility against the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

“We have had many members against whom false allegations have been made including assault.

“These are the stories you don’t hear about. You don’t hear about the SIU members that have to get Garda protection on there family homes, that have surveillance on their telephones for protection,” he said.

According to Carroll, the unit needs more resources than it is getting at the moment. He said the Department needs to identify people that are suitable for this kind of work.

“This is difficult work, this is not simple work,” he stressed.

“While we hear on one hand about complaints against the SIU, nobody hears that side of it and we as a Department have a duty of care to our staff as well.”

Carroll was before the committee to outline the workings of the Departments new investigations division which was announced by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney in recent months.

He outlined that the new investigations arrangement will bring all the Departments investigations capabilities both internal and external into one division.

He said it will be headed by Senior Veterinary Inspector Pat Flanagan and will be supported by a team of investigators some of whom are core members of the team and others drawn from areas where there expertise will be beneficial to the conduct of particular types of investigations.

However, key to the new Division will be a newly convened steering group which the new investigations division will report to.

The steering group will be chaired by the Assistant Secretary responsible for Corporate Affairs as well as other senior figures in the Department.

According to Carroll the new group will in all cases consider whether a particular matter should be referred back to the relevant inspection areas of the Department for follow through or weather an investigation is warranted and if so, if this should be conducted be the investigations division or referred to the Garda Siochana.

Carroll also outlined that where investigations are being conducted internally the steering group will oversee the conduct of investigations determine whether the submission of cases for prosecution is warranted.