Farm Ireland

Monday 19 March 2018

Protests mount over proposed regional vet lab closures

ICMSA's Pat McCormack
ICMSA's Pat McCormack

Protests over proposals to close half of the State's regional veterinary laboratories are ratcheting up this week, with hundreds of farmers expected to picket the Sligo facility tomorrow (Wednesday).

An ongoing review of the veterinary laboratory network is understood to have identified the facilities at Limerick, Kilkenny and Sligo for closure.

It is understood that the veterinary laboratory in Cork city is also due to be relocated to either Macroom or Fermoy.

The farm organisations fear that farmers from north Munster would have to travel to the Cork facility, while those in north Connacht and Donegal would be forced to use the Athlone laboratory.

Department officials are said to be considering a van collection service similar to what operates in Belgium, where one central lab services most of the state.

ICMSA deputy president Pat McCormack told a farmer protest outside the Limerick laboratory last week that he totally rejected plans to close any of the regional laboratories and described it as a "seriously retrograde step".

"The idea that this lab, which serves Limerick, Clare, north and mid-Tipperary and all of Kerry from Kenmare to Listowel, would close with the thousands of affected farmers expected to make their way to Athlone or Bishopstown in Cork is downright bizarre and completely unacceptable," McCormack said.

"This is a multibillion euro sector and we only have six veterinary labs for the whole state. Limerick is one of the busiest of the six that are left and, to our knowledge, the lab that handles most of the kidney selenium tissue testing for the whole state."

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This view was shared by IFA animal health chairman Bert Stewart who called for an enhancement of the services at the regional sites.

"IFA met Department officials and highlighted to the minister that any approach other than strengthening the diagnostic services provided by the State on all regional sites would be counterproductive," Stewart said.

"Timely submission of samples by farmers and their vets is key to accurate diagnosis of on-farm problems," he added.

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