A huge security operation has been put in place at ports and airports and along the border to prevent foot-and-mouth disease from entering Ireland. Garda checkpoints have been set up at border crossings and army patrols will be deployed from tomorrow. Many farmers' meetings have been cancelled, and co-ops are taking special measures to keep the disease out of the country. In another development, Britain's Ministry of Agriculture has said a second abattoir in Surrey is being investigated. The abattoir in Guildford had a ten-mile exclusion zone placed around it after a suspect bullock was found.

The Department of Agriculture has meanwhile issued guidelines to retailers. They are prohibited from importing from the United Kingdom fresh meat from cattle, sheep or pigs. Consignments of imported meat products have to be accompanied by official certification. All UK milk products made from unpasteurised milk since 1 February should be removed from shelves.

Irish Department of Agriculture officials are continuing to investigate an area of County Cavan where a lorry, which may have been to the first infected abattoir in Essex, unloaded livestock. It has been reported that the vehicle was used to deliver animals to Cavan. It is understood that inspectors are carrying out intensive investigations in the Virginia area of the county where the lorry is reported to have delivered animals.

Last night, the Department of Agriculture confirmed that it is investigating the possibility that a truck recently came from Northern Ireland to the Republic, having previously been at the English abattoir. A spokesman for the Department told RTÉ News that the investigation was still in its early stages. A number of farms where the lorry made sheep deliveries in the North have been sealed off. Foot and mouth is a contagious disease, which affects livestock. The last outbreak of the disease occurred here in 1941.

The Government has banned imports from the North, and the rest of the UK, of meat and dairy products, as well as live animals, following the outbreak of the disease in Essex. The European Commission yesterday imposed a ban on imports of animal and dairy products from Britain. The Tánaiste agreed earlier today that, if possible, and with the agreement of the whips, this afternoon's statements on the EU Commission's beef proposals should be widened to include the latest information on the foot-and-mouth situation. She was responding to a request from the Fine Gael leader, Michael Noonan.

The Minister for Agriculture said that detailed guidelines regarding the ban on British meat and dairy products would be made available to retail outlets today. The Irish Farmers' Association has cancelled all meetings for the foreseeable future in an effort to prevent the disease spreading to this country. The IFA hopes that its restriction on movement will reduce the possibility of the disease entering or spreading in the Republic.