In light of the recent hazardous weather in Northern Ireland during the last week Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development was asked for her assessment of the coastal flood defences during today’s Question Time. The Minister confirmed that “there is absolutely no doubt that coastal defences were severely tested” but that “the defences that the Rivers Agency is responsible for performed well”. The effectiveness of designated flood defences is constantly reviewed under a rolling inspection and the agency is also willing to provide support to other organisations in their assessment of the infrastructure and coastal defences for which they are responsible.
After the Justice Minister was pressed on how his department is helping address cases of animal cruelty in last week’s Question Time, Chris Lyttle took the opportunity to ask the Agriculture Minister if she has any plans to review her own Department’s policy. Mrs O’Neill highlighted the important and necessary changes brought about as part of the 2011 Welfare of Animals Act citing in particular the new role of local councils in tackling the problem saying that she is “encouraged by the valuable work that they have undertaken to date”. The Minister believes that it is important to allow sufficient time for the new changes to bed in before considering any further changes.
During regular oral questions the Minister also answered Members queries regarding single farm payments and the rural development programme as well as providing an update on the current status of the plans for new DARD headquarters.
Following the regular Question Time there was then fifteen minutes of topical questions. Members took this opportunity to ask the Minister about plans to stop badgers spreading TB to cattle, single farm payments and the Rivers Agency flood alleviation work in East Belfast.