70,000 horses claim 'slip of the tongue'

70,000 horses claim 'slip of the tongue'

Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh has corrected herself after she wrongly claimed there were 70,000 horses unaccounted for in Northern Ireland.

Labour MP Ms Creagh said the comment, made in the House of Commons on Monday, was a "slip of the tongue".

The figure, attributed to the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, actually refers to the whole island of Ireland.

Ms Creagh made the clarification after she was challenged by DUP MP Ian Paisley during a debate on the horsemeat scandal in the Commons on Tuesday.

He said: "That this is not the case, that is was indeed the Republic of Ireland, not Northern Ireland that the evidence relates to and that the USPCA is a very responsible organisation and did not actually make the claims about NI but made them about the Republic.

"Would she join me now in a cross-party promotion of the Northern Ireland red meat sector which is amongst the best, most traced and tastiest food in this country?"

She replied: "I'm happy for the record to be put straight on that. In the heat of the debate that was a slip of the tongue.

"Of course as the granddaughter of a cattle farmer in Northern Ireland it is imperative and incumbent upon me to recommend the meat of the good cows of Northern Ireland."

Meanwhile the contaminated meat scandal has been discussed at Stormont during a joint meeting of the agriculture and health committees.

Robert Huey, deputy chief veterinary officer in Northern Ireland, told the politicians that he did not recognise Labour's 70,000 horses claim.

"I do not know what the basis of it is," he said.

The committees were briefed by Gerry McCurdy of the Food Standards Agency, who said there is information linking the issue to fraudulent activity in Europe.

He explained that the investigation still had some way to go, but added that differences in the price of beef and horse could be at the source of criminal activity.

"If you are selling horsemeat, someone said for £700 a tonne versus £3,000 a tonne, for anyone who is in the game of being fraudulent there is an extremely helpful financial incentive there for them to break down product," Mr McCurdy said.

"The information available to us does point in the direction of Europe but we cannot be definitive about that at this point in time until those investigations are complete."

He said 18 countries are involved in the process and negotiations have been taking place with individual member states of the EU and the European Commission.

On Tuesday evening raids took place at a slaughterhouse and meat firm.

Work was suspended at Peter Boddy Licensed Slaughterhouse, in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, and Farmbox Meats Ltd, of Llandre near Aberystwyth.

Police and the Food Standards Agency were involved in the operations.


Elsewhere on the Web

More Top Stories

UTV Digest

Your daily digest of the most popular UTV Stories

Back to Top