The Teagasc office in Castlebar, which serves as the headquarters of the advisory service in Mayo, is to close with the redeployment of nine staff members.
Mayo Fianna Fáil TD Beverley Flynn has reacted angrily to the news. The Castlebar office has been co-located with the Department of Agriculture for some 33 years and the decision to close the facility flies in the face of national policy.
According to Deputy Flynn Government policy and Teagasc policy state that Teagasc offices should be co-located with the Department of Agriculture and Food where possible. The An Bord Snip Nua report also recommends this, and while the Castlebar Teagasc office is currently the only co-located Teagasc office in the country, it seems incredible that a decision to close the facility would be taken.
Dep Flynn has outlined a number of reasons why the office should remain open.
Castlebar Teagasc office services 591 clients at present and has nine members of staff. While there will be no axing of jobs it is believed staff members will be redeployed to other offices.
The Castlebar is the third largest Teagasc office in Co Mayo and services a large catchment area.
There are opportunities for cost savings in Castlebar and for shared facilities with the Department but these have never been explored, according to the Fianna Fáil deputy.
“A key criteria for Teagasc is improvement of client service and distance to an office,” she said. “Castlebar is centrally located and convenient to farmers who have to visit Davitt House.
“Another key criteria for Teagasc is compliance with access legislation. The Castlebar office meets these criteria.”
The Mayo Dáil representative said she has met this week with Professor Gerry Boyle, director of Teagasc, to express her concern at the decision to close the Castlebar office. “I would ask how Teagasc can justify removing a co-located office with the Department of Agriculture while at the same time bringing offices of Teagasc and the Department together in other locations.”
The IFA has also expressed concern at the office closure. Chairman of the Mayo branch Martin Gavin told the Mayo Advertiser that pressure has been put on Teagasc by the IFA locally to prevent the closure of any offices but the Teagasc budget continues to be cut.
He said while they appreciate the service Teagasc has given at ground level, it is the farmers who are suffering at the end of the day.