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Gurteen College Forced To Refuse Farm Students

Seamus O'Farrell, Mike Pearson, Wray Platt Gurteen Farm Manager, Michael White Teagasc Reps, Bill Condon, all who attended a recent Cross Compliance event at Gurteen College.

Speaking at last week’s Agriculture Committee meeting, Deputy Noel Coonan questioned the Director of Teagasc, Professor Gerry Boyle, on the provision of additional staff and facilities at Gurteen College, to accommodate some of the 250 applicants that were turned down this year.

The North Tipperary and South Offaly TD said: “It is an ill wind that blows no good and the current recession has put the focus on agriculture; which is now perceived by many as the main hope to bring the country out of the mess it is in. I recently spoke with Mike Pearson, Manager of Gurteen College, who told me that he could provide at least a further 100 courses at the establishment if he had the staff and facilities to so do. While Gurteen College is a private institution, I am concerned about budget cutbacks and the inability to provide course places to young people who are crying out for them.  A number of young people in my constituency were greatly disappointed when they were unable to secure a place in Gurteen and Mr. Pearson has told me that he could deliver the courses, were he given the resources to so do.”

In response to the Deputies queries, Prof. Boyle said the crux of the issue is the Government’s ban on recruitment. Teagasc’s Director commented: “I probably had representations from the people who contacted the Deputy in regard to admission to the college this year. There was excess demand for places and I regret very much that we had to turn down 250 applicants which is something we never had to do before, purely because we did not have the teaching staff to accommodate the students. The reason is very simple; it is not a policy of Teagasc, rather, it concerns the moratorium. If we were to get external funding for teachers from a generous co-operative or company which said it wanted to support a particular college and sub-vent a number of teachers; we would still not be able to recruit staff under the moratorium. The biggest difficulty we are facing is in dealing with the moratorium on recruitment.

This means that if Gurteen College loses teachers through early retirement, illness or maternity leave for example, they now cannot hire a teacher.  The local Fine Gael TD, who is a member of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and also F G Party Spokesperson on CAP Reform, said he will continue to lobby the Government to provide additional resources in order to keep our vibrant rural economy alive.

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