There will be ‘no dilution’ to services in review of Regional Veterinary Labs

There will be no dilution of the service to farmers from the review of the regional veterinary laboratories, the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, has said.

The labs, which are operated by the Department of Agriculture, could be closed as part of a review currently underway.

Speaking at last week’s Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) AGM, the Minister said that the labs are a great service.

“I salute the people that work in them for both the industry and at farmgate level but also in terms of the work they do to underpin the quality, reliability, traceability and certification of everything we produce.

“It is only appropriate that we would then undertake, occasionally, a review of the level of service and say: is this now fit for purpose?

“Is it structured in the optimal way? Is it efficient at what it does? If I give one guarantee to you, there will be no dilution of the service to farmers from the vet labs.”

But the Minister said that it is only right and proper that there would be a review.

Nothing stays the same. Those that hanker after the status quo very often get left behind. We have to make sure that our labs are up to date and fit for purpose.

“I appreciate in terms of the location, be it Kilkenny or Cork or Limerick or Athlone or Sligo, that raises concerns but there will be no dilution of services to farmers in terms of the review of the labs.

“We are obliged to look at the service and see is it fit for purpose. We have that report now, we’ve sent it out to consultation with the staff members and that’s where we’re at with it.”

Meanwhile, Irish MEP Marian Harkin has said that the possible closures of the veterinary labs flies in the face of good animal health practice and is in contravention of recent Government policies to stimulate development in rural areas.

We have seen successive lip service plans to supposedly bring long overdue balanced regional development and the latest Ireland 2040 plan’s strategy is to ensure that ‘the enormous potential of the rural parts of our country are maximised’.

How could this aspiration be taken seriously in the north west when a service vital to the region’s most important economic sector was proposed to be removed, Harkin asked.

“The Regional Veterinary Laboratory in Sligo has been a vital service for the farmers of the north west region in helping them to identify and remedy animal health problems which adversely affected their incomes.

“The Sligo laboratory also plays a significant role in helping to protect Ireland’s animal health status which is a major positive marketing tool in promoting the country’s food products on a worldwide basis.

She called on the Minister for Agriculture to have regard for overall Government rural-proofing policies, and for the overall national interest, by immediately intervening in the present attempt to centralise veterinary services on the basis that ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.