Cowen 'confident' of pig processing agreement


Taoiseach Brian Cowen said he remains confident of reaching agreement with the owners of pig processing plants over their demands for a multi-million compensation package from the Government to help them following the pigmeat recall.

The Taoiseach's comments came after Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny criticised the Government today over the delays in getting pigmeat back on supermarket shelves following the recent recall.

Speaking at Leader's Questions in the Dáil this morning, Mr Kenny claimed the situation was turning out to be "an unmitigated disaster" following the discovery of high-levels of dioxin contamination in pigmeat late last week.

He suggested the Government had no back-up plans to ensure that the sector could return to normal as soon as possible.

Mr Cowen stressed progress had been made during talks with pig processors last night and that he was hopeful the situation would be resolved shortly.

"There's no lack of urgency on the Government's part. We are acutely aware of the impact that suspension of slaughtering has had on the hundreds of producers throughout the country and the thousands of workers whose jobs have been compromised by recent events," said the Taoiseach.

"The Government wants to see a very significant sector operating at full capacity with its many thousands of jobs secured," Mr Cowen insisted.

He said discussions last night had considered a number of possible supports for the sector including financial assistance.

"Our priority is that processing will resume as a matter of urgency. And if agreement on an aid package is reached slaughtering could resume very shortly thereafter."

"We are determined to work with the processing industry to find a solution which will meet all the legitimate requirements of everybody, including the taxpayer," he added.

Mr Cowen said a scientific assessment from the European Food Safety Authority on the possible health risks from Irish pigmeat products, would provide clarity to the secondary processing sector and the question of liabilities.