Strabane District Council Chief Executive calls DARD HQ move to Ballykelly unjustifiable

dannymcStrabane District Council’s top official has described the decision to relocate Stormont’s agriculture department headquarters to Ballykelly as “wholly unjustified”.

Speaking to the Strabane Chronicle Council chief executive Danny McSorley made his remarks in response to a formal consultation on the relocation of DARD’s headquarters.

It is almost a year since a leaked memo revealed how Strabane topped a table of suitable locations for the 800 Civil Service jobs, but still lost out to Ballykelly.

Now Strabane District Council’s most senior figure has waded into the debate, voicing his concerns at how the Norths Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill reached her decision.

Outlining her rationale for the Ballykelly move, the minister has cited the decisive factor as the availability of the Executive-owned Shackleton Barracks.

But speaking to the Strabane Chronicle, Strabane District Council Chief Executive, Danny McSorley said a more viable option would be Strabane’s new business park.

Disputing Michelle O’Neill’s reasoning, Mr McSorley said the former military site at Ballykelly would need “costly capital redevelopment and repair work”

Mr McSorley also pointed out that in terms of a Civil Service customer base, Strabane has more long-term sick than Limavady, more young people, more older people and more lone parents.

And in terms of DARD itself, he said Strabane had more farms and a greater agricultural labour base.