Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 20 November 2017

Beef farmer to sue Dept as SIU row rumbles on

Farmer John Fleury
Farmer John Fleury
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

A CAVAN farmer is set to sue the Department of Agriculture over his treatment by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU).

Douglas Fannin, who was exonerated of any wrong-doing by Cavan Circuit Court last year after the SIU charged him with interfering with TB tests, also confirmed this week that he would be "delighted" to have his case investigated by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

"I've nothing to hide and my integrity is intact following the ruling by Judge Reynolds," said Mr Fannin.

The chairman of the PAC, Deputy John McGuinness, announced last week that a probe into the SIU would be a priority for him following the recent settlement between the Department and Offaly cattle dealer John Fleury.

Mr Fleury's 16 year-long legal battle with the Department ended when the State dropped all 160 charges against him and awarded him a substantial settlement earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin described the Department's pursuit of Mr Fannin by the SIU as "unjustified and disgraceful".

Addressing the Minister for State at the Department of Agriculture, Tom Hayes, Deputy Ó Caoláin slated internal reports into the SIU as "whitewash efforts" on the part of the Department.

He also asked the Minister for Agriculture why SIU officials allowed animals from Mr Fanin's herd into the food chain, when they were simultaneously claiming they had been injected with unknown substances.

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"I ask the Minister of State to explain his and his Department's failure to discipline those departmental employees - veterinary inspectors - who have failed to responsibly carry out their duties, who have put innocent farmers under severe personal stress and strain... (Employees) who have admitted under oath that they allowed an animal enter the food chain that they believed had been injected with an unknown substance, which they acknowledged could have been toxic," he said in the Dáil last week.

"They also stated that they did not believe it relevant that the animal had entered the food chain. Are these people serious?" asked Deputy O'Caoláin.

Mistakes

Minister for State at the Department, Tom Hayes, who was standing in for Minister Coveney, said that the question of disciplinary action did not arise since all the "required checks" were carried out before the release of the animals into the food chain.

However, barrister and Farming Independent columnist Teresa Murphy said that Fleury and Fanin cases highlighted the Department's refusal to admit its mistakes.

"It seems that even the astronomical legal bill which will be faced by the Department in cases like this is not sufficient to regulate the extensive powers which the Department officials have over farmers and their livelihoods," said Ms Murphy.

"It is high time the minister heeded the calls of the farming organisations and put in place a framework to allow farmers recourse against the Department in a much shorter timeframe," added Ms Murphy.

Indo Farming