Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

TA could have saved livestock lost to freezing conditions and heavy snow says MLA

Northern Ireland- 26th March 2013 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye.  Heavy snow continues to affect high areas across Northern Ireland following the bad weather at the weekend.  Sheep pictured in the hills above Glenarm in Co. Antrim.
Northern Ireland- 26th March 2013 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Heavy snow continues to affect high areas across Northern Ireland following the bad weather at the weekend. Sheep pictured in the hills above Glenarm in Co. Antrim.

Agriculture minister Michelle O'Neill has come under fire for not drafting in the Territorial Army to help tackle the snow crisis affecting farmers.

Thousands more livestock could have been saved if the TA had been called in and Rivers Agency and Forest Service staff had been drafted in wholesale, committee chairman Paul Frew claimed.

The minister called in help from the RAF and Irish Air Corps following urgent appeals from farmers who said the conditions were the worst they had seen in decades.

The Stormont Agriculture Committee learned yesterday that she did not request help from the TA to help clear roads blocked by eight feet or more of packed snow.

Speaking after the meeting, committee chair Paul Frew said: "I do believe we could have saved more livestock if the department had made the decisions quicker and more people had been transferred over from Forest Service and Rivers Agency," he said.

"If we had had TA personnel on the ground getting to those areas, even on foot, they would have been able to laser the helicopter in to be able to drop vital supplies where they were needed. There is no point dropping feed on top of a mountain when you don't know if there are livestock there."

Meanwhile, Ulster Bank has announced a £10m fund to support its customers affected by the severe weather.

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