The Rural Independent Group leader deputy Mattie McGrath has called on Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue to make a statement in the Dáil following the easing of a sentence against a senior DAFM official.

In June 2021, the Sligo District Court convicted a senior DAFM official to serve a suspended four-month prison sentence following animal welfare issues.

Minister McConalogue brought a high court challenge against the sentencing, which resulted in the removal of the suspended sentence imposed on the official.

Commenting on the minister’s high court challenge, Tipperary TD McGrath claimed:

“The minister’s meddling in this case has potentially undermined the independence of the judiciary and takes what should be solely a judicial matter into the political realm.”

McGrath called on the minister to give a statement in the Dáil, demanding “full facts including his reasoning for taking the high court challenge and the legal costs involved”.

“The minister must also outline whether this official continues to be employed by his department.

McGrath also claimed that, in the original case, the judge criticised the department’s management of the case.

The independent TD said the department has been too lenient with the official in its internal handling of the case.

The convicted official, who was responsible for enforcing animal welfare regulations for the minister, was charged after animals were found dead on his farm.

He was also convicted of failing to have animals tested for TB and bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD).

The high court review set aside the four-month prison sentence. However, the official remained convicted on two charges and was fined €1,000 in each matter.

Senior counsel Mark Dunne, who represented the minister in the high court, concluded that the maximum penalty that could be imposed for such an offence under existing regulations is a fine.