Dublin and Belfast must join forces to sort out the ‘nomad’ cattle issue, which is hampering the cross border movement of livestock at the present time, according to ICOS Marts Executive Ray Doyle.

“I am fully aware of the deep concerns that our mart managers in the West of Ireland have regarding this matter. I attended the farmers’ meeting held in Ballinasloe last Friday and fully agree that the proposal to seek a beef labelling derogation for the island of Ireland will work. This proposal was put forward by the North’s Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill, who spoke at the event.

“If agreement was secured from Brussels on this matter, it would allow for the meat derived from animals born in the Republic of Ireland, but reared and slaughtered in the North, to be labelled as Irish beef.

“The reality is that Ireland is unique in being an island, with a single land border involving two member states of the EU. And in allowing the proposed derogation the EU authorities would be cognisant of the fact that such a development would be a ‘one off’.

“Such a development would take the UK supermarkets out of the equation in terms of questioning the status of store cattle imports coming into Northern Ireland. But it would also give the retailers full clarity regarding the origin of the beef they are selling.”

He also said that there are no technical problems to be overcome in going down this road. “The birth details and other relevant information on each bovine animal born in the Republic can be easily transferred from the computers in Dublin up to Belfast.

“What we need now is for Ministers Coveney and O’Neill to put the case to Brussels as quickly as possible. I applaud the efforts made by Michelle O’Neill on this issue to date. However, Simon Coveney needs to take this matter much more seriously.”