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Walsh publishes updated FMD contingency plan

by 5m Editor
28 April 2003, at 12:00am

IRELAND - The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mr Joe Walsh TD, today published a detailed Contingency Plan and Operations Manual for the handling of any future Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak.

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Minister Walsh said that publication of the Plan and Manual is the product of an in-depth review by his Department, with the involvement of other relevant agencies, of its management of the 2001 FMD emergency.

“The FMD crisis of 2001 was a most significant event, from a variety of perspectives,“ the Minister said. “The threat posed by the disease held open the prospect of real and substantial economic damage, not alone in agriculture but across a number of sectors, with attendant social consequences throughout the country. That is why at the very outset we made it clear that FMD had the potential to adversely affect directly or indirectly every man, woman and child in the country and why the measures which we took to meet this threat were swift, comprehensive and robust.

“Successful management of the crisis was characterised from the very outset by a recognition and acceptance by all sections of society of the challenge which we faced and of the potential consequences of failure, and by a sustained commitment by the entire community to winning what we termed ‘the battle against FMD’.

“Sectional interests were set aside in forging a genuine national response to the situation which we faced. The level of public support for the measures taken to prevent the spread of the disease was unprecedented, indeed the level of public acceptance of inconvenience, disruption of normal life, and in some cases real cost, were truly remarkable and a credit to the Irish people. Such support and commitment was a key factor in preventing the spread of FMD in 2001 and seeing off the threat to our economy and our people.“

Minister Walsh drew attention to the conclusions of a report which his Department had commissioned from the economic consultants, INDECON, and which was published in March, 2002. This found that had Ireland’s efforts to prevent the further spread of FMD in 2001 not been successful, the adverse impact on GDP could have reached €5.6 billion representing 5.41% of GDP with job losses of up to 12,000.

The Minister said that there had been many components to the management of the 2001 FMD crisis. While his own Department had played the lead role, other Departments and agencies also made major contributions. Opposition spokespersons, private sector bodies, representative bodies, sporting organisations, the print and broadcast media and a myriad of individuals from all walks of life had also played vital roles.

“I want to once again put on record my thanks to all of those concerned who did so much to assist in securing a successful outcome to what was truly a national emergency,“ Minister Walsh said.

The Minister said that lessons should be learned from the handling, no matter how successful, of any crisis and this was no less so in the case of the 2001 FMD crisis.

In this context his Department had carried out a major, in-depth review of the management of the 2001 crisis, and had drawn other Departments and agencies into this exercise. One of the products of this review is the Contingency Plan and Operations Manual published today. Others include the introduction of identification and traceability systems for sheep and pigs, an approval and registration system for dealers, enhanced controls for reception of animals at meat plants, an improved legislative basis and increased cooperation for dealing with animal health issues on an all-island basis.

“The exercise which we have undertaken has allowed us to examine every aspect of the management of the crisis,“ the Minister said, “and to consider why we did certain things and whether we might deal with any aspects differently in a future scenario. Most importantly we drew on the experiences which we had collectively gained in 2001. We sought to capture and retain evidently successful elements, improving on them where possible, and sought to fill in any gaps and iron out any wrinkles which might have become apparent in the 2001 operation.

“We also took account of emerging EU legislation relating to FMD. Our objective was to emerge with an up-dated and fully integrated template for dealing with any future FMD crisis and I believe we have achieved this. I want to pay tribute to all involved in this exercise.“

Minister Walsh said he is conscious that every crisis is to varying degrees different from others. “We have a Contingency Plan and Operations Manual which will form the template for responding to any future FMD crisis but we are also well aware that circumstances may in many respects be different next time. Flexibility of response is therefore vital. I am confident we retain the capability to respond as appropriate to whatever circumstances throw up at us. In this regard retaining the capability for flexibility of response and having a well-grounded base plan are not mutually exclusive, nor does contingency planning compromise our ability to respond swiftly and as appropriate in a variety of scenarios. I see both elements as very much complementary and indeed necessary if Ireland is to continue to maintain a readiness to deal with threats of this kind.“

The Minister concluded by saying that the Plan and Manual was now being distributed to all of the relevant Departments and agencies. He said that arrangements will be put in place to ensure that the Plan and Manual are kept up-to-date with the passage of time and in complying with any future EU requirements.

For copies of the Operations Manual Click Here and for the Contingency Plan Click Here - PDF file

Source: Department of Agriculture and Food Government of Ireland - 28th April 2003

5m Editor