‘Aid to farmers should not come at a price’

Snowbanks above Cairncastle. INLT 14-320-PR
Snowbanks above Cairncastle. INLT 14-320-PR

EAST Antrim MLA Oliver McMullan has called on the Ministry of Defence to cancel the charge they have levied on the Department of Agriculture for the use of their helicopter during the recent weather crisis.

As reported in last week’s Larne Times, an RAF Chinook helicopter was called in to help get food to snowbound animals in isolated parts of the province, including the Glens of Antrim. The Irish Air Corps also provided assistance.

And it has emerged that while the MOD is charging DARD for the use of the helicopter, while the Irish Air Corp is not.

Sinn Fein representative Mr McMullan said: “It appears to me that the Irish Air Corp are offering aid in the truest sense for stranded farmers, their families and their livestock while the British Ministry of Defence involvement is coming at a price

“I call on the British MOD to announce that they will cancel this charge for the use of their helicopters following in line with what the Irish Air Corp are doing in the present emergency.

“Giving aid in the present circumstances should not come at a price.”

The Assemblyman has called on the Department of Social Development to play its part in relieving the hardship faced by many isolated homes affected by the severe weather. Many are facing real hardship. This extends beyond the farming community in rural areas.

“Many departments have stepped up to the mark to alleviate the hardship in this crisis including DARD and DRD.

“I am now calling on the Minister for Social Development to intervene and instruct the Social Security office to pro-actively examine where additional payments or crisis loans may be made to elderly, families or those who are on benefits for example who have been adversely affected and may be in need of extra support.”