I have already indicated my concern at the impact of foot and mouth disease precautions on the tourism industry and I am fully aware of the difficulties of restricted access to cultural and heritage attractions reflected in the proposal made by coach tourism operators.
The possibility of foot and mouth disease spreading to this country threatens our economic security and livelihoods, not just those of our farmers and the agriculture and food sector, but potentially of virtually every citizen. Agriculture and livestock are of such vital importance to the whole economy that we have to be thorough in our efforts to make sure that the disease does not spread with disastrous consequences.
I welcome the easing of foot and mouth disease controls announced on Friday, 16 March by my colleague the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. I believe that the technical expert group guidelines will enable a significant number of low risk events and activities in the tourism and sports areas to recommence immediately and should facilitate the early re-opening of a number of our major tourist attractions and events. I am particularly pleased that Dublin Castle, Kilkenny Castle and the Rock of Cashel have already re-opened.