Demands grow for new animal health probe in west Limerick
Health Minister Simon Harris is being urged to address claims that blood samples went missing during a State animal health investigation in the late 1990s.
Deputy Michael Harty recently presented Minister Harris with a dossier from two west Limerick farmers who claim blood samples went missing during the Askeaton animal health investigation in Co Limerick between 1995 and 1998.
Deputy Harty, an Independent TD for Clare, plans to table a parliamentary question asking Minister Harris for the appointment of an independent external expert to examine the claims made by Pat and Nuala Geoghegan from Glin, Co Limerick.
"The Geoghegans are saying they have additional new evidence that warrants a new investigation," said Deputy Harty.
"Pat and Nuala Geoghegan are very genuine people who are not trying to cod anyone. They are not trying to catch anyone out, they just want to get answers."
Galway West TD Catherine Connolly is supporting Deputy Harty's call for the appointment of an independent expert.
"From the day I met Pat Geoghegan he comes across as a very straight and honest man.
"This family have been highlighting serious issues for years and they are not alone. Serious questions need to be answered, notwithstanding the passage of time.
"The loss of the samples - which an internal inquiry ruled was due to human error - is difficult to accept," she added.
The Investigation of Animal Health Problems at Askeaton inquiry was co- ordinated by the Environmental Protection Agency. It was established in 1995 in response to the severe animal health problems on farms in west Limerick.
"A portion of the approximately 4,000 people living in the Askeaton/Rathkeale area felt that environmental pollution was the key cause of these animal health problems, in particular emissions from alumina production at Aughinish Island located some 8km west of the affected farms," stated the final report.
However, the report concluded that "environmental pollution, toxic substances in the diet, soil composition anomalies and herbage composition anomalies" were "unlikely causes of the animal health problems".
It also stated that "given the animal health study findings, there is little cause for concern that the problems in the Askeaton area posed a threat to human health".
Meanwhile, An Bord Pleanála has given the go-ahead to Aughinish Alumina to begin blasting and extracting rock close to the mud ponds at the Askeaton plant.
The decision has been described as "reckless" by the Cappagh Farmers Support Group which has lodged an appeal with An Bord Pleanála after Limerick City and County Council gave permission for the proposal to the company earlier this year.
An Bord Pleanála also refused a request from the Cappagh Farmers Support Group for an oral hearing on the Aughinish proposal.