Frew says minister has questions to answer

Wednesday March 27 - Paul Frew, DUP MLA For North Antrim and DUP Agriculture spokesperson, has asked why when the DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill has stated that she has deployed Rivers Agency Staff to assist in the emergency that there are still staff on routine duties driving about in vans that could be used to help on the ground.

Mr Frew said: “I have been contacted by other elected representatives to tell me that there are many Rivers agency staff still conducting their daily duties after the Minister declaring that Rivers Agency staff have been deployed to assist the emergency.

“I’m led to believe that personal who operate the Diggers and heavy machinery have been deployed but other workers have not. I would question this decision given the seriousness of this emergency and the fact that over the last 5 days people have been seriously concerned about their Health and the welfare of their animals.

“I made the call very early on that we should be asking for the TA to be deployed. They have fully trained Medics available that have experience in conflict situations. The TA have an infantry Battalion of personal in the 2 RIR which could have been deployed to assist in finding buried livestock. The TA have logistic corps and engineers who could have assisted in clearing roads. We could have maybe saved thousands of livestock if that call had been made earlier!

“We have has support with regards a helicopter which has been deployed and is giving much need relief and supplies to isolated areas particularly in my own constituency of North Antrim but the DARD Minister then stated that she was using personal from Rivers Agency and Forest Service to assist. Why has she not deployed all resource from these agencies at this time?

“It could have saved thousands of livestock and helped assist people living in isolated areas of Northern Ireland who are still cut off. This would also help Rivers Agency staff get the information required in order to assist them when the thaw comes and the flood measures need to be put in place.”