High-level cross-border labelling discussions under way

High-level negotiations are taking place on a cross-border basis to find a way that all cattle raised and slaughtered on the Island will, under European law, be allowed to be labelled Ireland as the country of origin.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney held meetings with his counterpart in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, recently on the matter and both are eager to progress the issue.

Speaking in the Dail on the matter this week, the minister outlined some difficulties the negotiations have encountered.

“A technical discussion has commenced at a very senior level in both departments to determine how we can facilitate this. However, it is not as simple as one might think.

“There are potential problems with us supporting Northern Ireland in putting an Irish label on the food it produces because I, as an Irish minister, must stand over Irish food in terms of its integrity, safety and so forth.

“If we have a food safety problem that emanates in Northern Ireland, over which I have absolutely no control in terms of supervision, veterinary standards and so on, the Irish food industry could be significantly damaged.”

The minister continued: “This is a genuine problem but we are working to solve it so that food produced in Northern Ireland can be labelled as Irish.”

It is understood protocols, in particular co-ordination of inspection teams, will form part of the proposed new agreement. Talks are still ongoing.

Pictured Minister Simon Coveney and his Northern Ireland counterpart Michelle O’Neill at last month’s 21st North South Council for Agriculture meeting