Elliott challenges Minister on ‘failure’ of Forest jobs promise

Inishkeen House Enniskillen

FALLING SHORT…It seems that the 100 jobs to be relocated to Inishkeen House in Enniskillen are not going to materialise

FERMANAGH MLA Tom Elliott has hit out at the ‘failure’ of the Agriculture Department to relocate all Forest Service staff to Fermanagh after it was revealed the number of jobs under consideration has been scaled down by almost half.

The UUP man claimed the proposals to decentralise the Forest Service, which were announced in May 2012, were a “red herring” saying that the agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill has to “deliver what she promised”.


Approximately 100 staff are currently employed at the Headquarters in Dundonald House in east Belfast while a number of Forest Service employees are based at Inishkeen House in Enniskillen.

However, following a question tabled at the Northern Ireland Assembly, it was announced that 60 posts were now in line to be relocated.

Ms O’Neill is facing criticism from Mr Elliott who called on the minister to explain why the number of posts have been reduced.

“I was there in Balmoral when they made the announcement, which I very much welcomed because I have been lobbying this for a while,” he said.

“Fermanagh is an obvious choice for an agency of that size but it sounds as if the plans have gone off the rails. “It’s very unfortunate and disappointing as it would have been a boost for Fermanagh but now it seems as if it’s going to be a red herring.

“There’s obviously a huge gap in the system and it’s very unfortunate this has happened. There has been a break down in communication in the department and the minister hasn’t been able to deliver.

“It seems to be a failure by the department.


“I do think the minister needs to explain why it’s so significantly reduced and get back on track to where she planned to be. She has a responsibility to deliver what she promised.”

Last month around 60 employees were handed a detailed questionnaire which, when completed, will confirm the number of staff who agree to work in the relocated headquarters.

If any employee states that they want to relocate, then the vacated post will be offered to other civil service staff with the roles thought to be filled by local workers.

A spokesman for the Agriculture Department said: “No member of staff is at risk of losing their job. The Department will work with staff who do not wish to relocate with their post to find them another suitable post either in DARD or across the NICS (Northern Ireland Civil Service).

“Any post vacated by a member of staff not wishing to relocate to Fermanagh will be offered to other NICS staff – we expect that the staff who will apply to fill such vacancies will be mainly from Fermanagh and the surrounding areas.”
It is expected that the relocation should take place by June 2015 while the options for accommodating staff is under review.

Forests cover around 15 per cent of the county and Fermanagh has approximately one quarter of all forestry land in the North.

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