Claims that staff at Ireland’s national parks, including Glenveagh National Park, could be under threat as part of privatisation plans, have been refuted.
This morning the Irish Independent reported that Tourism Minister Jimmy Denihan has ordered a wide ranging review which could see visitor services at the country’s six national parks change.
The report said: “A whistlblower inside the National Parks & Wildlife Service said Mr Deenihan’s plans could lead to job losses.”
The report also claimed: “The source said he feared all jobs in the service - run by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht - could eventually be outsourced. Catering services have already been privatised.”
The Irish Independent report claimed bus drivers at Glenveagh National Park, who take visitors to its famous castle, are “among those who could lose their jobs or be forced to switch to private operators.”
However, in a statement issued by Mr Deenihan’s Department at lunch time today, the claims are refuted: “Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, has said that there are no plans - whatsoever - to sell national parks or to privatise the management, preservation or conservation of these parks.”
Minister Deenihan commented: “There are six national parks in Ireland. They are exceptional places. They are owned by the people. They are held in trust by those living today for future generations. This will not change. There are no plans whatsoever to sell these parks. There are no plans whatsoever to privatise the management, preservation and conservation of these parks.”
The statement continues: “The core work of the national park staff including regional management and rangers is to secure and preserve the national parks so that they can be enjoyed by visitors and conserved for future generations. Staff of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) undertake this work at the six national parks and also oversee a network of nature reserves, Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) across the State.
“Visitors to national parks can also enjoy other services, including education services, catering services, recreational services, transport services, viewings of historic properties at some of the sites, and other services. For many years, some of these services have been directly provided by private individuals and companies such as the provision of boat trips, pony trekking or jarvey trips.
“Other services have been provided - on a fixed term contract to the Department - by contractors, for example catering facilities at national parks in Killarney, Glenveagh, Connemara, and Ballycroy, Co Mayo. Cleaning contracts at Ballycroy, Connemara, Glenveagh and Killarney National Parks are also in place.
“Minister Deenihan’s Department is always looking at ways to improve the tourism and education dimensions and visitor services at national parks. For example, the Department - in partnership with a Donegal based enterprise - has introduced an innovative service that allows visitors the opportunity to hire electric and hybrid bicycles at Glenveagh National Park visitor centre, from where they can explore the national park and the surrounding countryside in a low impact and environmentally friendly way. The Department is also examining ways to expand education services on an outreach basis by working with agencies such as the Heritage Council.
“In this way, augmenting the facilities that are available to visitors to the national parks through working and co-operating with others is not a new phenomenon. The priority is to manage, preserve and conserve the national parks, to provide excellent access and services to the public, and to do so whilst making the best use of the resources we receive from the taxpayer. As has always been the case, the Department will continue to explore the potential of using alternative models to augment its visitor services and nature education services nationally.”