Fears of mad cow disease case on Co Louth farm
A case of suspected mad cow disease has been identified on an Irish dairy farm in a border county.
The Republic now faces losing its sought-after status as a BSE-free country.
The five-year-old was part of a 120-cow herd belonging to a family who have lived on the Co Louth farm all their lives.
The same farm was at the centre of a BSE case in 2002.
The proximity of the suspected case to Northern Ireland will cause concern. While tests are ongoing, the Republic's Department of Agriculture's chief veterinary officer admitted he was 80% certain that they would confirm that the cow was Ireland's first case of BSE in more than two years.
Irish Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney swiftly moved to stress the rare breed dairy cow in Co Louth appeared to be an "isolated" case. But officials had made contact with the Republic's key beef markets to inform them.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the test was likely to prove positive. He said: "It's an isolated incident, it's one that we're concerned about, it's been highlighted because of the rigid system for detecting abnormalities.
"It will be a week or 10 days before conclusive evidence of what this is. So, I think it's accepted that it will be a positive test. It's a setback as it puts us back in a situation that we were in. But I hope that we can have accuracy and full understanding of how this happened under the rigid analysis system that we have."
A confirmed case will now set the country's BSE-free progress back by six years.
It comes just days after a key world animal health organisation declared that Ireland was effectively free of the disease, which originally sparked a huge food scare in the 1990s.