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Major questions remain after Minister's angling announcement, says Blair

Major questions remain after the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs announced angling would be permitted from Monday, Alliance spokesperson John Blair MLA has said.

Mr Blair said while the pastime allowed for social distancing guidelines to be followed, the announcement by Edwin Poots left a number of matters without answers before next week.

“Angling is a practice which easily facilitates social distancing and as such, I have been attempting to receive confirmation from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs regarding its potential return as part of the Executive’s path to recovery. However, this announcement late last night to permit angling to return from Monday has come somewhat out of the blue and left major questions to be answered,” said South Antrim MLA Mr Blair.

“Health and safety will be a major issue for everyone going forward from this pandemic. However, fisheries staff at the Department have now been given no lead-in time to prepare for this return. Pathways, slipways, stiles and fishing stands at angling locations will need to be inspected and cleaned, giving just a weekend for this to be done across Northern Ireland before they are open to the public again. Online sales of legally required angling licences has also been suspended, and therefore clarification on this is urgently required.

“I would hope the Minister has also consulted with other organisations, including NI Water and Waterways Ireland, prior to his announcement, as co-ordination is vital to securing social distancing is followed at angling locations, many of which are remote locations on relatively minor roads.

“Alliance will be writing to the Minister to enquire on this matter and seeking answers urgently. While the resumption of activities such as angling is an important step on the return to normality, it cannot come at the expense of public health and safety.”