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Minister Coughlan relaxes rules on Bird Gatherings and Pigeon Racing

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, today announced a relaxation in the rules covering bird gatherings and pigeon racing.

The Minister confirmed that, following a risk assessment undertaken by her Department, bird gatherings would be permitted under general authorisation with immediate effect, subject to a number of conditions (details of which are being posted to the Department's website). This new arrangement will apply to gatherings for shows, exhibitions and markets and reverses the decision taken in February 2006 not to licence such gatherings.

Minister Coughlan also confirmed that, with effect from 17 May, pigeon racing between Britain and Ireland would be allowed under licxence. Currently, pigeon racing is allowed only on an all-island basis.

The Minister said that, following a period of relative stability in relation to avian 'flu, and on a risk assessment basis, it was considered appropriate to relax controls in relation to gatherings and pigeon racing and to align the arrangements being applied on both sides of the border and, by extension, between Ireland and the UK.

Minister Coughlan said that notwithstanding today's announcement, she and her Department would continue to carefully monitor the situation and would take such action as she considered appropriate from time to time. She said that today's announcement reflected a period of recent stability and described the measures being introduced as appropriate in the current circumstances. The Minister also confirmed that, if the circumstances demanded, she wouldn't hesitate to reverse today's decision and re-impose the controls now being relaxed.

11 May, 2006

Date Released: 11 May 2006