Anger as Dublin minister claims Moy Park chickens aren't Irish
A senior politician in the Republic has got a Stormont MLA in a flap over chicken.
Phil Flanagan's feathers were ruffled when Irish Equality and Culture Minister Aodhan O Riordain tweeted about chicken fillets on sale in a supermarket in the south.
Mr O Riordain posted photographs of Moy Park chicken alongside a pack of Tesco own-brand poultry - both produced in Northern Ireland - and Breffni Chicken from Co Monaghan.
The Dublin Bay North TD commented: "I have a big issue with branding in Tesco.
"Only one of these 'Irish' products benefits our economy." The Labour politician later withdrew the tweet, but not before Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Mr Flanagan posted a response.
The Sinn Fein MLA tweeted: "I myself have a 'big issue' with a Labour minister complaining that Tyrone isn't as Irish as Monaghan."
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Flanagan said: "Cross-border trade in both directions accounts for a significant proportion of income in this industry. Couple this with the fact that many people in the north who hold an Irish identity and believe that the Irish government are the guarantors of their rights, would look at Minister O Riordain's comments for what they are - shameful.
"Under the minister's brief he has special responsibility for equality. Is it equality for only some Irish farmers and producers or just the ones who vote for Labour?"
Mr O Riordain declined to comment when his office was contacted by the Belfast Telegraph. But he posted on Twitter: "I just resigned from the chicken debate."
However, there was a response to the row from Labour TD Sean Sherlock, Minister with Special Responsibility for North South Co-operation. Mr Flanagan tweeted to him, asking if he shared his party colleague's "mindset".
Mr Sherlock replied that he hadn't tried the products, but added: "Am sure there's little between a Tyrone chicken and a Monaghan one." A Tesco spokeswoman said: "Tesco Ireland sources 100% of its fresh beef, pork and lamb from the Republic of Ireland and 100% of its fresh chicken from the island of Ireland. All fresh meat labelling includes information on the origin of the meat."
The Moy Park chicken fillets also originate in Northern Ireland. The company employs 6,300 people here and operates two large-scale poultry processing plants. Some 2,300 people work in the Dungannon factory and 1,700 in the Ballymena facility. The rest of the staff are based in Craigavon.