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cattle neglect TDs call on Minister for Agriculture to explain why he wants dept official's animal cruelty sentence set aside

Department of Agriculture official Bernard Brian Kilgariff inflicted "greatest form of cruelty" on his own cattle

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Bernard Brian Kilgariff is confronted by the Sunday World

Bernard Brian Kilgariff is confronted by the Sunday World

Bernard Brian Kilgariff is confronted by the Sunday World

Opposition TDs have called on the Minister for Agriculture to clarify why he has brought a High Court challenge to try to set aside a suspended sentence imposed on a department official who a court heard inflicted the “greatest form of cruelty” on cattle on his own farm.

The Sunday World revealed in June that Department of Agriculture official Bernard Brian Kilgariff, who is responsible for enforcing animal welfare regulations, was found to have broken those regulations when visited by inspectors at his farm in Kilgariff's farm in Bricklieve, Sligo.

He was convicted at Sligo District Court after he pleaded guilty to two charges relating to the testing breaches, and to four of 10 charges relating to neglect, or being reckless regarding the health or welfare of an animal.

Judge Kevin Kilrane, who described the case as “the greatest form of cruelty”, gave Kilgariff a four-month suspended prison sentence on each of the charges relating to the animal carcasses.

Mr Kilgariff was also convicted on the two testing charges and fined €1,000 in each matter.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue is seeking a judicial review to have the suspended sentence set aside.

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One of the two donkeys found with hooves in horrific state

One of the two donkeys found with hooves in horrific state

One of the two donkeys found with hooves in horrific state

Lawyers for the Minister claim the judge erred in law and acted in excess of its jurisdiction by imposing a concurrent four month suspended prison sentence in respect of offences concerning the disposal of animal carcasses.

The maximum penalty that could be imposed for such an offence committed under the regulations is a fine, the Minister's lawyers submitted.

In the original case Judge Kilrane criticised the department’s handling of the case and said he was amazed Kilgariff was still in his position.

Opposition TDs are now calling on the Minister to explain why he is seeking to have the suspended sentence set aside.

Sinn Fein Agricultural spokesman Matt Carthy said it appears “bizarre” that any employer would take legal action on behalf of a staff member convicted of “grievous activities”.

“More so given in this instance that it involves a Minister acting on behalf of the Irish people.

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“Reports that the Minister for Agriculture has taken a legal appeal on a case that resulted in a conviction of a senior official for breaches of animal welfare rules on his own land have caused great concern and unease among the public.

“I am conscious that this is subject to legal proceedings. However, the public concern is such that it is imperative that Minister McConalogue provide clarity as to why he was brought this action and on what basis he did so."

Social Democrats Agriculture Spokesperson Holly Cairns has also called on the Minister to clarify the situation.

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Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

“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 Kilgariff – who is judicially reviewing the sentence.

“If Mr Kilgariff 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.

Inspectors who visited Kilgariff’s land found a number of issues including:

Carcasses of animals that had lain unburied for up to four weeks;

A cow with a broken leg that had to be put down;

A black bull and two Charolais cows who were so emaciated and weak they also had to be euthanised;

And lands strewn with rubbish including oil cans, batteries and bags of ash which would have been poisonous to animals if consumed.

Pictures and videos obtained by the Sunday World also show how the hooves of two donkeys - rescued from the hellish conditions on Kilgariff's farm - were so overgrown they could barely walk.

At the original hearing Judge Kilrane accused the Department of being too lenient against Kilgariff in relation to its internal handling of the case.

"The only thing that amazes me is this man is still a senior agricultural officer with the department, and secondly, during the currency of this he was still collecting a full salary," he said.

“A gentleman overseeing the very matters for which he has pleaded guilty."

The judge described the department's pursuit as too lenient and said it should have been more "robust".

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