Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 February 2018

Department's multi-million euro lab to deal with Foot and Mouth runs over budget

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

A new multi-million euro laboratory, which is being constructed by the Department of Agriculture to handle serious animal disease outbreaks such as Foot and Mouth, has run over budget before completion.

The new lab, which the Department is building in collaboration with the Office of Public Works, is a high containment laboratory at Backweston and is designed to enhance Ireland’s capability to diagnose of exotic viral diseases of farmed animals.

The Department made the decision to upgrade a pre-existing laboratory space within its Backweston Laboratory Complex, in Dublin on the back of an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease in the UK in 2007 attributable to an escape of live virus from a facility in Pirbright.

A specialist US engineering firm was contracted to carry out the works and ensure the integrity of the design and to have confidence that the project would deliver a facility to the required certified standard.

The tendered cost of the main building works were €4.9m excluding VAT.

However, the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed, confirmed this week that during the construction works an underlying issue in the fabric of the original building was discovered.

“Although this does not affect the stability of the structure, it had the potential to compromise containment,” he said.

The Minster confirmed that the engineering solution to rectify this problem and the associated project delays have cost an additional €219,572.

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He said building works are currently scheduled to be completed in early May 2017.

“On completion we will have the laboratory infrastructure required for safe, rapid and reliable laboratory diagnosis of exotic viral disease – this self-reliance constitutes a critical support for our expanding, export-dependent livestock sectors,” he said.

The overrun comes as 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.

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.

Fears have been raised that the review could see a number of regional laboratories close.

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