Press Release

North/South Bilateral Ministerial Meeting – Food Safety and Health

Enniskillen 3 November 2000

The Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Ms Bairbre de Brún, MLA, and the Minister for Health and Children, Mr Micheál Martin, TD, met today in Enniskillen to discuss the way forward on co-operation on health and food safety matters.

The meeting was also attended by Deputy First Minister, Mr Séamus Mallon, MLA, and by Dr Tom Moffatt, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with responsibility for Food Safety and Older People. This bilateral meeting was held outside the formal framework of the North South Ministerial Council.

Commenting on the meeting, Ms de Brún said: “Working together on matters of health and food safety allows us to achieve far greater benefits for all than could be achieved by working in isolation”. Agreeing with his colleague, Minister Martin said “the meeting provided us with the opportunity to keep up the momentum of the on-going and wide-ranging programme of North South co-operation in the health area to which Minister de Brún and I are committed”.

Food Safety Promotion Board (FSPB)

During the meeting, Ministers received a progress report on the work of the Food Safety Promotion Board from the interim Chief Executive, Mr Martin Higgins. Amongst the programmes being developed by the FSPB is a major television advertising campaign that will extend into other marketing channels such as direct mail and in-store promotions. The FSPB was formally launched following the meeting and will be located in Cork.

Co-operation & Working Together (CAWT)

The Ministers received a presentation on the work of CAWT from the Director, Mr Paul Robinson and the Executive, Ms Frances Reynolds. The Ministers paid tribute to the important contribution made to North South co-operation by CAWT (Co-operation and Working Together) since its inauguration in 1992. Ms de Brún said: “The important contribution of CAWT to North South co-operation has often been overlooked in the past. It is an excellent example of what can be achieved by co-operating together”. Wishing the Director and Executive well as they take up their responsibilities, Minister Martin remarked “We are conscious of the potential of CAWT for effecting practical action at local level in health as well as in the wider areas of its operation.”

Areas for Co-operation – Health

Ministers discussed progress in establishing co-operation under five main health areas: accident and emergency services; planning for major emergencies; co-operation on high technology equipment; cancer research and health promotion. With a view to supporting the on-going work in these areas, the Ministers endorsed the following:-

  • with regard to accident and emergency services, CAWT to make further proposals for developing local collaborative projects.
  • the Regional Hospitals Group to initiate work immediately on scoping the development of collaborative arrangements covering renal transplantation and radiotherapy services.
  • the establishment of Working Groups on ambulance services and emergency planning.
  • the establishment of a joint High Technology Assessment Group to draw up protocols for the assessment/evaluation of emerging new technology.

Commenting on the Tripartite Agreement on Cancer between Ireland and the USA, Ms de Brún stated: “This is an important opportunity to improve cancer research in Ireland and is of benefit to the whole island”.

Folic Acid

Co-operation on Health Promotion has been ongoing for many years. Launching a joint campaign on Folic Acid the Ministers stated: “This is a solid demonstration of co-operation which will be of mutual benefit to everyone North and South”. The Ministers emphasised the real and important impact which this campaign can have on the incidence of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, through encouraging women intending pregnancy to take folic acid.