Steven Agnew expressed concern for the wild animals used in circuses and the conditions they are forced to live in during today’s Questions to Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill. The Minister hosted a meeting with the Born Free Foundation, Animal Defenders international and the Captive Animals Protection Society to discuss the issue in January 2013. The issue was also raised at a number of North/South Ministerial Council meetings. Mr Agnew wanted to know if the Minister would be prepared to act on her own in introducing legislation in Northern Ireland. However she expressed reticence at this idea as “when we create legislation we have to make sure that it is relevant and is responsive to a need. Given that we do not have a circus based here and only have visiting circuses from the Twenty-six Counties and, indeed, from across Europe, the best solution that we have at the moment is to develop a very strong protocol so that everybody is clear about their responsibilities.”
Kieran McCarthy then asked the Minister for her assessment of the current schemes to ensure a sustainable supply of labour for the fishing industry. The Minister assured that “I am very supportive of our fishing industry and the contribution it makes to the economy, and I am keen to support the industry through measures geared towards helping businesses adapt to the challenges they face.” The European Fisheries Fund has provided funding to encourage new entrants into the industry. The new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, to be launched later this year, will provide further opportunities to support the fishing sector and contribute to developing skills and knowledge of the fishing industry. The Minister also assured that the Department will continue to consult the fishing industry to identify the measures required to meet its needs.
The Minister also answered Members’ questions on DARD funding for GAA clubs, pig meat market price, flooding in South Belfast, and banking arrangements for farmers.