‘Cost-benefit analysis’ will inform decision on regional labs - Minister

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed has said that a cost-benefit analysis will inform future decisions by his Department into the future of its Regional Laboratories.

It recently emerged that the Department has tasked a working group, led by Prof. Alan Reilly, and comprising senior officials with undertaking a review of its laboratory services, including both its Central Laboratory complex in Backweston, Co. Kildare and its network of Regional Laboratories in Athlone, Cork, Kilkenny, Limerick and Sligo.

According to the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed who was responding to questioning from Fianna Fail's Charlie McConalogue the ultimate objective of this review is to assist the Department in developing a long-term strategy for its laboratories that builds on existing capability and expertise in animal health, food safety and plant sciences, and ensures that it achieves both operational and scientific excellence.

The Minsiter has said that the Working Group presented a report to the Department, which makes recommendations on, oversight and co-ordination of the laboratories activities, re-organisation of Divisions and support functions within the Central Laboratory complex.

There were also further recommendations on options for the future development of the Regional Laboratories – with a view to improving disease investigative and surveillance capability but with the over-riding imperative of maintaining and enhancing services to farmers and human resources management within the laboratories - with a focus on grading structures, career development opportunities and workforce planning.

The Minister said consultation on this report has commenced with the Department’s laboratory-based staff and added that Further consultation will then take place with other stakeholders.

“A decision on implementation of these recommendations will await the outcome of this consultative process.

“In addition, as regards the Regional Laboratories, any decision will also be informed by a cost-benefit analysis of the various options that have been proposed,” he said.

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IFA Animal Health Chairman Bert Stewart has said the Department of Agriculture Regional Veterinary Laboratory services are highly regarded, a vital support for farmers throughout the country and the focus of the Minister and his officials must be the enhancement of services to farmers in all regional sites.

Stewart said farmers have made enormous investment in improving the health status of the national herd which benefits the agri-sector and wider rural economy.

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