Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has brought a High Court challenge involving a ruling against a senior Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) official.

However, this is not intended to change the outcome of the overall case, the department says.

In response to an Agriland question asking why the minister made the move, a DAFM spokesperson said:

“The minister has not sought to challenge the conviction of a Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine official over animal welfare issues.

“Rather, the minister was obliged to bring proceedings before the High Court in order to protect the integrity of the overall conviction, as the suspended custodial sentences handed down by the court in respect of two of the four offences were not provided for in legislation.

“The department official concerned will remain convicted of all four offences and will have to serve the four month suspended sentence imposed on him by the judge, irrespective of the outcome of these proceedings.

“Any neglect of animals or cases of animal cruelty will, where warranted by the evidence, be pursued through the courts by the minister and the persons responsible held publicly accountable for their actions,” the DAFM representative concluded.

This follows calls from Sinn Féin agriculture spokesperson Matt Carthy urging the minister to “clarify his intervention” in the matter in recent days, stating: “It is imperative that Minister McConalogue provide clarity as to why he was brought this action and on what basis he did so.”