IT MAY have ended almost nine years ago but the State is still paying legal fees for the Beef Tribunal which, to date, has cost more than £19m.
The Dail Committee of Public Accounts, after hearing yesterday that more claims were still coming in for legal fees, asked that it be supplied with full details of just how much the tribunal has cost in total to date.
According to the Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on Agriculture, Food and Rural Development up to the end of last year the tribunal had cost £19,626,265.
General Secretary at the Department of Agriculture, John Malone, said the claims for representation at the two-year tribunal had almost reached "the end of the road".
The public accounts committee heard that legal bills accounted for most of the total to date with the overall cost of the 226-day hearing now likely to exceed £20m.
In comparison, the Flood Tribunal, which is expected to run for a further two years, has already cost the taxpayer more than £11m.
Yesterday's committee meeting also discussed the various attempts by the Department of Agriculture to control the spread of Bovine TB.
The committee heard how up to the end of 2000 expenditure on tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication schemes totalled £954m, not counting administration costs of £391m. The costs in 2000, not counting administration, were £78m.
The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on Agriculture, Food and Rural Development detailed how, since 1965, progress in reducing the levels of bovine TB had been "slow and somewhat erratic".
The report noted: "more than 30 years on disease levels still remain stubbornly high at 2.9pc of herds and 0.3pc of animals".