EU Commission carries out audit of Port of Larne DAERA border control post
The European Union Commission has carried out an audit of the DAERA border control post at the Port of Larne, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has been told.
According to council minutes, chief executive Anne Donaghy advised councillors at a special meeting behind closed doors last month of an EU audit of the shared use Larne Border Control Post for the inspection of food and non-foodstuffs.
The audit took place on June 22.
A number of issues were raised at the special meeting by councillors including the reason, timing and nature of the audit and the current and longterm costs of employment of the council’s environmental health officers at the Redlands Road facility in Larne.
The chief executive undertook to seek clarification from DAERA, the Food Standards Agency in London and the Cabinet Office in relation to understanding of the council’s duties.
She proceeded to provide members with preliminary legal advice in respect of the authority’s legal function at Larne Port.
Coast Road Sinn Fein Councillor James McKeown, seconded by Braid Alliance Councillor David Reid, proposed that the council writes to the Northern Ireland Assembly and relevant Departments to seek an urgent meeting and to Belfast City Council to work with them on the issue and to seek “alternative legal opinion”.
This proposal was defeated by 20 votes to eight.
On the proposal of Larne Lough DUP Councillor Gregg McKeen, seconded by Bannside TUV Councillor Timothy Gaston, it was ageed to write to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Cabinet Office to seek clarification.
The council also agreed to note the preliminary legal advice in respect of the authority’s “legal function at Larne Harbour-Port” and send a barrister’s letter to DAERA and the Department of Health and to “continue to communicate with government regionally and nationally under the instruction of the barrister”.
The council employs 12 environment health officers to assist with carrying out post Brexit checks at the border control post in Larne.
In February, the officers were temporarily withdrawn from checks over “concerns for their safety and welfare” following what was described in a council statement as “an upsurge in sinister and menacing behaviour”.
This included the appearance of graffiti in the Larne Harbour area describing port staff as “targets” and suspicious activity involving apparent information gathering, including the taking of personal vehicle registration numbers.
The council said that the issue had caused “extreme distress and worry to staff” and the authority “had no option but to withdraw them from their duties in order to fulfil its duty of care and carry out a full risk assessment with the PSNI, Food Standards Agency and DAERA”.
The inspection of meat products was subsequently suspended at Larne and Belfast ports.
The circumstances surrounding this decision are the subject of a DAERA inquiry.
DAERA says that “all agri-food goods, plants and animals entering Northern Ireland from all third countries including GB, must do so via a Northern Ireland Point of Entry (POE) which has been approved by the European Union (EU)”.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter
Click here to read: Mid and East Antrim Council ‘affirming opposition to NI Protocol’
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