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Ministers bang the drum over key department relocation from Belfast

Words: Roger Milne

Senior Stormont politicians have been banging the drum for the development benefits which should flow to the North West of Northern Ireland as a result of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) moving its headquarters from Belfast to Ballkelly.

Agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill and the deputy first minister Martin McGuinness stressed the economic implications of the relocation when they visited the demolition work at the former Shackleton military site where the new DARD HQ will be located.

O’Neill said: "Relocating DARD headquarters to Ballykelly offers huge economic opportunities for businesses in both the town and the wider North West. Hundreds of civil servants will be coming to work, shop, eat and enjoy leisure pursuits here whilst, at the same time, helping to create many more additional service and supply jobs and secure existing employment."

The move from Dundonald House in east Belfast to the five-hectare site at Ballykelly will be carried out in two phases, with 350 staff taking up positions in 2017, and up to a further 300 posts potentially transferring in 2020 in phase two.

Work is also well under way to move the Department’s Fisheries Division to Downpatrick, Forest Service headquarters to Enniskillen and the Rivers Agency to Loughry.