Agriculture office location should be convenient for farmers

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Deputy Paul Connaughton said this week that he is very concerned about an imminent decision by the Department of Agriculture concerning the future of the Department office at Dockgate, Galway (formerly Hynes Buildings).

“The Dockgate office houses a considerable volume of business in relation to animal disease programmes and many other related matters on behalf of over 13,000 County Galway farmers, stretching from Clifden to Ballymoe and Woodford to Ballinasloe.

“The farming community in County Galway was disappointed and angry when the last move was made from Hynes Buildings in Augustine Street to just down the road to Dockgate some years ago, when very high rent was paid for an office that is gridlocked by traffic jams at peak traffic hours every day of the week. At that time, there was considerable support for a relocation to the Liam Mellows College/Teagasc campus site at Athenry, where many more farm-related services such as the Farm Advisory Section and research facilities are currently headquartered.”

Deputy Connaughton said that he is very concerned about the tip-off he has received and particularly for details contained in reply to his Dáil question to the Minister for Agriculture, where the Minister has indicated that whilst the Department of Agriculture will leave the Dockgate Street office, it is likely to be housed in another office in Galway City, but will not be relocated to Athenry.

Deputy Connaughton said that the Department of Agriculture and indeed all other Departments of government who are interested in value for money must look outside the box on this issue and must give greater consideration to the best interests of County Galway farmers.

“The move to Athenry would make good sense on several fronts. First of all because of the new road structure, Athenry is now a very easy location to commute to. Secondly, there is ample free car parking facilities at the Athenry campus. Thirdly farmers requiring direct personal contact with the DVO office could also engage with other services in a meaningful one-stop-shop way and finally, the accommodation costs of such a move to Athenry would be significantly lower than the astronomical rents of up to €900,000 currently paid for the Dockgate premises.”

Deputy Connaughton said he is arranging a meeting with the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney over the next few weeks to highlight the issues involved.

Deputy Connaughton, in a Dáil question, recently asked the Minister for Agriculture about the value for money audit regarding the rent of the Department of Agriculture office at Dockgate, Galway and plans to have a new office in Galway or if the office could be relocated to Mellow’s Campus in Athenry, which would be much more accessible to the vast majority of farmers in County Galway.

In reply the Minister stated, “The Office of Public Works has primary responsibility for the provision of accommodation to my Department.  In a recent review of the cost of accommodation and the options for alternative premises, the OPW has availed of a break option in the current lease. It is not sustainable to be paying rent when space is available in other state owned buildings in the area. Accordingly, my Department is working with the OPW to make new arrangements to locate staff of the Galway Regional Office, with both short and long term requirements informing any decisions taken.”