Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Key Rural Affairs staff are staying put in Dublin, says Ring

Rural affairs minister accuses Ó Cúiv of 'playing politics' on relocation demand

Éamon Ó Cuív. Photo: Frank McGrath
Éamon Ó Cuív. Photo: Frank McGrath
Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring

Minister Michael Ring has ruled out moving key staff in his Department of Rural and Community Affairs from Dublin to his native Mayo.

Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív claimed the establishment of the new department provided an ideal opportunity for its relocation out of the capital and he suggested a site owned by the Office of Public Works in Charlestown, Co Mayo.

But Minister Ring angrily accused Mr Ó Cuív of "playing politics" and insisted that he had "no intention" of moving his senior officials out of Dublin.

"I saw it in my brief as minister of sport and tourism with the department based in Killarney, if you wanted a file you had to have it couriered up and couriered down. If you wanted an official you bring them up and bring them down," Mr Ring explained.

He pointed out that the Department of Rural and Community Affairs already had 52 staff mainly based in Ballina, but he said its headquarters would remain in Dublin.

"The secretary of the Department, or an assistant secretary or two, have to be here in Dublin. You have to have that to formulate government policy," the minister maintained.

"I will be doing my work mostly from here [in Dublin]. I can't be in Ballina," he added.

However, Mr Ó Cuív said relocating the Department to Charlestown provided an opportunity for the government and Minister Ring to "put down a marker" and show a genuine commitment to rural development.

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"If Minister Ring is serious about improving employment opportunities and services in rural Ireland, he should locate the headquarters of his new department there [Charlestown]," Mr Ó Cuív said.

"There is a suitable site available, and the creation new jobs in the town would bring a much needed economic boost for the area.

"It would also mean that the civil servants in the Department would experience the realities of rural life on a daily basis," he added.


Mr Ó Cuív pointed out that the mid-Connacht region had suffered severe depopulation through emigration over the last century.

He said the Department of Rural and Community Affairs should be located in a CLAR area and the Charlestown site was ideally suited.

"If the policy makers are living in the same conditions, they will have a better appreciation of the challenges faced by rural communities, such as poor broadband, and how these conditions could be significantly improved by a relatively small public investment," Mr Ó Cuiv said.

This view was supported by Roscommon-Galway TD, Michael Fitzmaurice.

"It would also be totally appropriate for the Department of Rural and Community Affairs to be based somewhere in the west of Ireland," Mr Fitzmaurice said.

"It would not only make sense but it would be a big boost to whatever area was chosen in terms of employment," he added.

"Any staff such as principal officers who would object to a move to the country could be accommodated in other departments and I am sure there would be plenty of people willing to live and work in the west in the new department," Mr Fitzmaurice maintained.

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