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2 October 2013

Agriculture and Rural Development Tuesday 1 October 2013 Question Time

The Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle O’Neill MLA responded to a question on the Snow Crisis during Topical Questions and on subjects including Single Farm Payments and Fuel Poverty during the Question Time.

Snow Crisis: Cost
The Ministers Sinn Fein colleague, Daithi McKay MLA, queried the minister on the cost of  the snow crisis at the beginning of the year and "whether, if a similar situation developed in the future, would she consider only availing of services where charges were waived". This was in response to a £640,000 bill from the Ministry of Defence for the use of rescue helicopters during the snow crisis.

The Minister responded:
As the Member has rightly said, we needed the assistance of the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Irish Air Corps during the heavy snow. At my request, they provided helicopter support that allowed us to get much-needed fodder onto the hills and into hard-to-reach areas. I am pleased that they were both happy to come forward with that support. At this point, I am pleased to confirm that the Irish Government have said that they will not ask for any reimbursement for the cost of their helicopters. However, the Department has received a bill of around £640,000 from the British MoD.
Fuel Poverty
During Question Time, Fra McCann MLA asked the Minister "whether her Department will take additional measures to tackle fuel poverty in rural areas."

The Minister responded:
I am concerned about the impact of rising fuel costs, particularly on the vulnerable in rural areas, who are limited in the choice of fuel that they can avail themselves of and do not have access to cheaper alternatives such as mains gas. Addressing fuel poverty is, therefore, a key objective in the financial poverty priority area for intervention, which is detailed in DARD's Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation framework.

Single Farm Payments, hardship payments and bovine tuberculosis were other topics that the Minister had to deal with during question time.

Read the Official Report from the session.