Calls for O'Keeffe to answer claims about farm

 

The Minister of State with responsibility for Food, Mr Ned O'Keeffe, was under increasing pressure last night to answer allegations that his family farm breached a voluntary quality assurance scheme by feeding pigs bonemeal which is linked to the spread of BSE.

It also emerged that Mr O'Keeffe may have breached the Ethics in Public Office Act by failing to declare his interest in a feed compound plant before speaking on a Labour Party motion on the banning of bonemeal in the Dail last week.

Mr O'Keeffe refused to comment yesterday on the report in the Sunday Tribune. However, in a short statement he said he was in the process of checking all the facts and would make a "clear statement" today.

The Labour Party leader, Mr Ruairi Quinn, said he would be referring Mr O'Keeffe's failure to declare his interest in a milling plant before he spoke on his party's private members motion on bonemeal, to the Public Offices Commission this week - under Section 18 of the Ethics in Public Office Act. A minister or minister of state is obliged to declare if he has a material interest in a matter subject to proceedings in the House.

Mr O'Keeffe spoke and voted on the Labour motion last Wednesday. It called for measures to reduce the risk of BSE including a temporary ban on feeding meat-and-bone meal to all farm animals, including pig and poultry currently allowed under EU law.

Mr O'Keeffe did not declare he is the major shareholder in a compound plant, Ballylough Ltd, licensed to include meat-and-bone meal in pig rations. The Minister's son, Patrick, operates the O'Keeffe pig unit.