The future of GMIT's Castlebar campus has taken another twist this week as concerns for the future of the campus intensified. Fine Gael senator Michelle Mulherin said that she had been informed that a number of staff and students at the Castlebar campus had been asked to move to the Galway campus, saying: “I am very concerned that between 12 and 15 staff, at GMIT Castlebar have been asked via their union to transfer voluntarily to Galway within three to four weeks. Should they refuse, they will be added to the redeployment panel, and may be asked to transfer to any location within the higher education sector.
"Additionally, I have received reports that a number of students who are about to enter the fourth year of the Construction Studies course have been advised in writing that the only option available to them to complete the course is by transferring to the Galway campus. I have also received complaints that ideas being brought forward by staff in Castlebar for new courses or the expansion of existing courses are being stymied and ignored by management."
A working group has been set up to look at the future of the campus and is expected to report on their findings by September. Fine Gael senator Paddy Burke outlined this week the latest workload of this group, saying: “The Taoiseach and Education Minister Richard Bruton established a working group in March to formulate a plan and a pathway for a sustainable future of the GMIT Mayo Campus in Castlebar.
“This working group will be visiting Castlebar on May 15, and will meet with staff and students. A schedule of meetings will be set out for over the summer. The working group will then report back to the Higher Education Authority in September. I am calling for further representation from the Castlebar campus to be put on the working group to ensure their voices and concerns are heard."
Senator Mulherin added: "The working group is to report back by September. In the meantime, no changes should be made to the Castlebar campus." The issue was also raised at the May meeting of Mayo County Council, which took place this week, with Fine Gael whip, Cllr Jarlath Munnelly, proposing a motion that no decision on any redeployment of staff in the Castlebar campus be taken until the working group had completed its work. His motion received the full backing of all the parties in the council chamber and it was also agreed that members from each of the political groupings in the council would meet to discuss what steps could be taken next by councillors.
Sinn Féin senator Rose Conway-Walsh also commented this week on the news about the staff and students being asked to transfer to Galway. "It is difficult to see this as anything other than an attempt to downgrade the Mayo campus of GMIT. The manner in which this is playing out is disrespectful to the hard working staff and grossly unfair on current students, many of whom have already made great sacrifices.”
Seantor Burke also said reports that there was a potential link up between Connacht Rugby and the GMIT campus in Castlebar was not true and potentially damaging to the campus. "Fianna Fáil is using GMIT as a political football with concoctions of a programme with Connaught Rugby. This is completely untrue and no such programme is in place. This type of posturing can cause serious damage to GMIT’S Mayo campus.
"With regard to GMIT and the Mayo campus, this college is critical for rolling out vital third-level courses in our region," he added. “The Government is fully committed to the future of the Castlebar campus. We all need to promote Mayo as a great place to receive a third-level education. It is most important to acknowledge the excellent and successful ongoing courses which already exist on the Mayo Campus and the hardworking staff delivering them.”