I have regular contact with my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland, Michelle Gildernew. In 2009, I met with Minister Gildernew at the North South Ministerial Council Agriculture sectoral meetings on the 20th March, 21st July and 18th November. I also met with her in a bi-lateral meeting on the 21st January 2009 and have often met the Minister for discussions at many European Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers meetings. We have wide ranging discussions on matters of mutual interest affecting the development of the agriculture and food sector in both jurisdictions. In the North / South Ministerial meetings the issues discussed included co-operation on animal health and welfare, plant health and pesticides, issues relating to the Common Agriculture Policy and W.T.O. as well as the dioxin contamination incident.
A particular focus of attention is the development of the all island Animal Health Strategy and this, as well as the Animal Health and Welfare Bill, was discussed at a bilateral meeting which took place in Dublin on Thursday last, March 4th and in this regard a conference involving key stakeholders from both jurisdictions is scheduled for 12th April 2010 to discuss delivery of the strategy. A further North/South Ministerial meeting is also scheduled for 31st March.