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The Minister must explain why he is taking the unprecedented step of judicially reviewing a case that he actually won.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue must explain why he is attempting to set aside parts of a conviction imposed on one of his officials for animal neglect and animal welfare breaches, according to Social Democrats Agriculture Spokesperson Holly Cairns.

“In June, a Department of Agriculture official, Bernard Brian Kilgarrif, was convicted of a litany of animal neglect and animal welfare breaches. At the time, Judge Kevin Kilrane, at Sligo District Court, said cattle on Mr Kilgarrif’s land “were in the most shocking state of suffering”.

“The Judge also noted that it was extraordinary, given Mr Kilgarrif’s appalling treatment of his own animals, that he was a Department of Agriculture official charged with enforcing the same animal welfare laws he himself was breaching.

“It is also notable that Judge Kilrane was extremely critical of the Department, saying it had treated Mr Kilgarrif too leniently and should have pursued the case against him with greater urgency.

“Mr Kilgarriff ultimately pleaded guilty to four of 10 charges relating to neglect, or being reckless, regarding the health or welfare of an animal, and two charges of failing to have his animals tested for TB and Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) since 2016. Judge Kilrane imposed concurrent four-month suspended sentences, in respect of the animal welfare breaches, and fined him €2000 in respect of the testing offences.

“However, it now transpires that the Minister is taking judicial review proceedings to set aside the concurrent four-month suspended sentences imposed on Mr Kilgarrif. So, having belatedly taken the initial prosecution against his own employee, the Minister is now apparently unhappy with the severity of the sentence.

“Ordinarily, if there is unhappiness with a sentence handed down by the court, it is the defendant who either takes an appeal or judicial review proceedings. Extraordinarily in this case, it is the Minister – who prosecuted Mr Kilgarrif – who is judicially reviewing the sentence.

“If Mr Kilgarrif feels he was treated unfairly by the court, then it is open for him to appeal the sentence to the Circuit Court. The Minister must explain why he is taking the unprecedented step of judicially reviewing a case that he actually won.

“He must also explain why, according to media reports, he is attempting to quash both the sentence Mr Kilgarrif received and the conviction – and not have the matter remitted back to the District Court. This means that Mr Kilgarrif, who pleaded guilty to these offences, will have those convictions permanently expunged from his record.

“Animal cruelty is a serious offence which is prosecuted all too infrequently. The Minister must immediately explain why he is seeking to set aside convictions for egregious offences imposed on one of his own officials.

“Given these are civil proceedings, there is nothing stopping the Minister from making an immediate public statement on the matter.”

13 August, 2021


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