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The BBC's Denis Murray
"The worst possible news, a body blow to the whole country"
 real 56k

The BBC's Kevin Connolly
"This is a major blow in a country where agriculture is a key industry"
 real 28k

The Irish Prime Minister Bertie Aherne
"This is a major disappointment"
 real 28k

Irish farmer Liam Woods
"We believe some of sheep came from England, through Northern Ireland"
 real 28k

Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 19:14 GMT
Foot-and-mouth spreads to Ireland
Irish sheep
The slaughter of Irish sheep has already begun
The first outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease has been confirmed in the Republic of Ireland.

It becomes the fourth European country infected by the livestock virus since the first cases came to light in Britain just over a month ago. The other nations affected are the Netherlands and France.

There have also been reports of suspected cases in Germany and Italy, where a flock of goats has been quarantined near Pisa.


Bertie Ahern: A major disappointment
In the UK, where the number of cases has risen to 480, Prime Minister Tony Blair was heckled by angry farmers on a visit to the worst-hit region, Cumbria.

Two samples taken from a flock of sheep at Proleek, near Ravensdale, in Ireland's County Louth, close to the border with Northern Ireland, have tested positive for foot-and-mouth.

On Wednesday, 138 sheep were slaughtered there as a precautionary measure against the disease. All animals within three miles of the infected farm will also be slaughtered.

The outbreak has been connected to Northern Ireland's only confirmed case of the disease at Meigh in south Armagh.

"This is a major disappointment, given the intensity of efforts of all sections of society here to keep the disease out of Ireland," said Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.

Export bans

Irish Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh announced a temporary ban on all Irish exports of live animals and animal products.

The European Commission is set to ban exports from Ireland on Friday, though some EU member states have already imposed their own bans.

The European Union has already banned livestock exports from the Netherlands following the confirmation of foot-and-mouth disease at three farms there and suspected cases at four more farms.

Cattle cull
The slaughter of thousands of animals is under way in the Netherlands
The Dutch authorities have imposed a nationwide transport ban and begun the slaughter of 20,000 animals but a planned vaccination programme was stopped after the EU raised objections.

In the UK, the spread of the epidemic continued, with another 25 cases being reported on Thursday.

Professor Roy Anderson, the scientist forecasting the size of the foot-and-mouth outbreak for the UK Government has predicted the number of cases will not peak until early May and that the epidemic could continue until August.

The agricultural authorities in the US say their ban on imports of live animals and raw meat from the EU will continue without review until after the diseased outbreak reaches a "peak".

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See also:

22 Mar 01 | Scotland
Slaughter moves to Dumfriesshire
22 Mar 01 | Business
Ireland's 'foot-and-mouth' fears
02 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
Moves to stop spread of disease
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