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Meeting to hear plans about proposed closure of Teagasc centre

A PUBLIC meeting will be held in McNamara’s Bar in Scariff on Monday next to discuss the proposed closure of the local Teagasc centre at the end of the year.
According to local county councillor, Joe Cooney, the Teagasc office in Scariff is to be closed at the end of 2011 ending over 100 years of this advisory service in the region.
This proposed closure has arisen due to government cutbacks in the body’s funding as well as the recruitment ban imposed on the public service and has lead to the decision in 2009, by Teagasc, to undertake a process of closing regional offices.
Councillor Cooney has stated that this decision “should be subject to substantial review”.
Teagasc is proposing to relocate the services offered at its Scariff office into its facility in Ennis by 2012 but the move is being opposed by local representatives who have acknowledged the need for the office to remain in situ.
The Scariff office has 450 clients and conducts 290 average yearly farm visits and 490 average yearly consultations and currently employs two permanent advisors, one clerical staff member and a caretaker. Two to three other advisors work in the area but are accounted for through the Ennis office.
“Teagasc are proposing to close 40 offices nationwide, including the Scariff office and they are urging the Government to do more as Teagasc’s hands are tied, with budgetary cutbacks and the embargo on recruitment,” Councillor Cooney explained.
According to the East Clare councillor, “The Scariff office is owned by Teagasc and has very low running and maintenance costs. It has very good facilities to deliver services to farmers. The building will have to be sold and this is not a good environment in which to do so. There is a proposal to build an extension onto the Teagasc office in Ennis to accommodate staff from outside offices. The current running costs of the Teagasc office in Scariff compared with the cost of the proposed building extension in Ennis does not add up. Spending money on an extension is ridiculous and I would ask to defer the building of the extension for a number of years,” Councillor Cooney said.
Councillor Cooney has said that having a Teagasc office at the heart of East Clare is “hugely important”.
He said agriculture is the main economic activity of the area and that due to the number and complexity of schemes currently in place along with the constantly changing regulatory environment, there is a greater need for this advice centre.
“Sources in Teagasc have stated that work will have to be done in Ennis to facilitate this closure and thereby undertaking unnecessary expenditure. If staff are based in Ennis, their focus will be taken away from East Clare by definition. This is a further attack on rural infrastructure. The provision of all types of services seems to be centralised irrespective of regional demand,” Councillor Cooney said.
He added that offices in Ennistymon and Portumna have already been closed.
“In a period when agricultural training cannot fulfil the demand, I believe that imaginative use of the office could be made,” he added.
“There has been an advisory service in East Clare for over 100 years. The closing of the office in Scariff will have a huge effect on a large part of the community. It is also an advisory service that provides education and technical advice to farmers, and holds dairy discussion groups and beef discussion groups regularly,” Councillor Cooney continued.
Councillor Cooney stressed that this facility “is a very active centre based in the heart of East Clare and it is important that all avenues are explored to keep this facility opened for the people of the area”.
“The closure of this facility will mean people seeking advice in relation to these schemes will now have to travel the 37km to Ennis and for some farmers, they will have to travel one hour to get to the Ennis office. It could also mean that Teagasc will lose clients by not having a local advisory service and more farmers will lose money due to penalties associated with incomplete application forms,” Councillor Cooney concluded.
Meanwhile, Councillor Pat Hayes has also stressed the need to keep the Scariff office open for business.
“There is a lot of concern among the public that it would close and if it did it would be a big loss to East Clare as it is of great help to the community. Teagasc’s funding has been cut on a national level and this resulted in the closure of the Ennistymon office last year. It is now proposed that the Scariff office would be closed with the loss of all the services. We need to make a stand to keep our office in East Clare. I would hope that the new Government would keep these advice offices open. The farming industry is doing well and I think these offices provide up-to-date information to farmers on the changing aspects in farming and are critical to keeping the people updated on schemes and new technology,” he said.
Councillor Hayes added that it is hoped to put pressure on the Government to discuss the closure of these facilities with Teagasc and try to look at an alternative solution.
“We don’t want to lose this service. If we keep losing services, it will take people and business away from the town and into Ennis,” Councillor Hayes concluded.
Clare’s four TDs along with local public representatives will attend the public meeting in Scariff on Monday night, which will commence at 9pm and a representative of Teagasc is also expected to attend.
All local organisations, farmers as well as any other interested parties are invited to attend.

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