26 March 2014

Question Time: Agriculture and Rural Development 24 March 2014

The Agriculture Minister said she wanted to play a role in securing jobs for some of the 300 Driver and Vehicle Agency employees who were to lose their posts in Coleraine, County Londonderry.


Michelle O'Neill said she had asked her permanent secretary to consider the matter in light of her decision to move the headquarters of the Department of Agriculture (DARD) to Ballykelly.
"If there is any way that we can work to assist those people then I'm prepared to do that," she said.
In reply to a question from Leslie Cree MLA, Mrs O'Neill said that 642 people, or 86% of DARD headquarters staff, had indicated that they did not wish to move to Ballykelly.
She said that in the wider civil service more than 1,100 staff had indicated that they wanted to work in that area.
The minister said she had previously announced that not all jobs would be relocated to Ballykelly.
Mr Cree said he believed the minister was acting against the wishes of her department and no business case had been prepared.
Mrs O'Neill said her officials were working with her.
"We have been working very hard to bring forward a business case,"
During regular oral questions the Minister also answered Members queries regarding single farm payments and an update on the the rural development programme.
Following the regular Question Time there was then fifteen minutes of topical questions. Members took this opportunity to ask the Minister about the proposal from abattoirs to reduce payments to cattle farmers by £150 for those cattle that have been resident at more than four farms during their lifetime, Rural Crime and the catch, test and release scheme for badgers in her efforts to eradicate bovine TB.

You can read the full transcript on our website.