Foot and mouth reaches Irish shores

Black day as foot and mouth reaches Ireland, despite desperate efforts by authorities to stop virus spreading across border

Despite desperate efforts by Irish authorities, foot and mouth has gained foothold on the Irish shores. Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, informed the country's parliament of two confirmed cases along the border with Northern Ireland. He stated: "This is a major disappointment, given the intensity of efforts of all sections of society here to keep the disease out of Ireland."

Ireland is now the third European country outside Britain to fall victim to foot and mouth. Cases were confirmed in France last week and in the Netherlands on Wednesday.

The Irish government has been openly critical of Britain's handling of the crisis. In its efforts to remain disease free, Ireland had taken all stringent measures and discouraged travel around the country. The measures included cancellation of the traditional St Patrick's Day celebrations, banning major sporting events on home soil, preventing horseracing teams from travelling to Britain and the deployment of police and troops along the border with Northern Ireland.

In Ireland the agri-food sector accounts for 10 percent of the gross domestic product and 27 percent of net earnings from trade and is therefore crucial to its economy.

This development has again led to calls for mass vaccination of livestock against the disease. Currently most European Nations are opposed to the idea, arguing it would cost European nations - apart from those that already have the disease - their current "foot-and-mouth-free" status in world markets.

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