Northern Ireland news

Relocation of Forest Service HQ cost half a million pounds

The former Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill officially opened the new headquarters of the Forest Service in Enniskillen in February. The move from Belfast cost more than £500,000. Picture by Andrew Towe, Parkway Photography

THE relocation of the Forest Service headquarters from Belfast to Enniskillen cost more than half a million pounds.

The new offices were officially opened in Inishkeen House in February, following a move from Dundonald House on the Stormont Estate.

A total of £512,000 was spent on the switch, which saw 40 staff relocating to Co Fermanagh.

At the time the move was announced in 2012, it was reported there were around 100 staff working for the Forest Service in Belfast.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs did not respond to a request for the number of staff that refused to transfer.

In response to a written question from Fermanagh and South Tyrone UUP assembly member Rosemary Barton, agriculture minister Michelle McIlveen said: "Where a member of staff could not transfer with their post, those posts have since been filled by staff who wished to work in Enniskillen."

In 2012, then minister Michelle O'Neill said there were "obvious advantages" in relocating to an area where forests cover "15% of the county".

There are also proposals to move the headquarters for the department to the site of the former Shackleton Army Barracks in Ballykelly, Co Derry.

However, SDLP agriculture spokesman Patsy McGlone claimed the Executive's approach to decentralising civil service jobs "has been farcical".

"With one hand they are forcing staff to travel hours to these new offices, while with the other they are forcing people to travel hours into Belfast after closing Jobs and Benefits offices in the west, including in my own constituency in Cookstown."

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