3,500 Dept of Agriculture maps have fields missing

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More than 3,500 maps issued by the Department of Agriculture in connection with EU Single Farm Payment had a significant number of fields missing, the agriculture minister said on 5 March 2013.

Michelle O'Neill said 38,000 maps had been issued in total, and farmers affected by the faulty maps would have an extra two weeks to complete their applications.

Joanne Dobson of the UUP said it was "a sorry episode" and that in another profession the minister would have been sacked.

Mrs O'Neill said the maps were wrong but the details of the farms were correct.

Joe Byrne of the SDLP described the situation as "another embarrassing fiasco for DARD".

He wanted to know why the department had not used the services of the Ordnance Survey to draw up the maps.

The minister said the department had been on "a very difficult journey" and she was content that the issue was being dealt with.

Mrs O'Neill was also asked about the steps being taken to address the depletion of horse mussels (modiolus modiolus) in Strangford Lough.

She replied that her department had implemented the minimum demands of the European Commission (EC), including restrictions on pot fishing in two areas of the lough, and had submitted proposals to the EC for further action.

Replying to a question from Anna Lo of Alliance, the minister said she had met representatives of the fishing industry "on a number of occasions".

The SDLP's Dolores Kelly wanted to know if there was any contingency plan for fishermen.

Mrs O'Neill said some fishermen would be "displaced".

She said there was "a need for more science and there may be a role for fishermen in that".

Earlier in Question Time, First Minister Peter Robinson answered questions on a number of matters including the Delivering Social Change framework, EU competitive funding, and the Irish presidency of the EU.

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