It is proposed to transfer 300 departmental staff to Mullingar and 100 to Athlone as part of the programme of decentralisation announced on 3 December 2003. In addition, the National Educational Welfare Board and the NCCA will be transferred to Portarlington in County Laois and the NQAI, HETAC and FETAC to Edenderry in County Offaly. All activities currently undertaken as part of the work of the headquarters of my Department in Dublin will be transferred.
As stated in the budget announcement, Ministers with headquarters outside Dublin will be provided with a centralised suite of offices for a small secretariat to enable them to conduct business while in Dublin and when the Dáil is in session. The Deputy will appreciate that the process of decentralisation is at an early stage of implementation. However, all measures necessary and consistent with the Government's announcement on decentralisation will be taken to minimise to the greatest extent possible any risks or disruption to the work of my Department or to the services being provided to the public.
The Deputy will be aware that a substantial part of my Department's operations are already located in Athlone and Tullamore. In accordance with the Government announcement, a decentralisation group has been established in my Department and this will report on a regular basis to the management advisory committee and myself.