MEETING Mayo Fine Gael TD, Alan Dillon, is due to meet Minister Simon Harris this week to discuss the latest developments at the Castlebar campus of GMIT.
Council vows to help fight downgrade of GMIT Castlebar after closure of campus business department
THE board of Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) has been accused of using the current Covid-19 pandemic to downgrade courses in its Castlebar campus and of holding an anti-Mayo bias.
GMIT’s recent decision to close its business department at its Castlebar campus was roundly criticised by councillors at last week’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council. The issue was raised by Independent councillor Mark Duffy, a former student and Student Union President of the Castlebar campus, who said that he was not surprised by the measures taken by GMIT management.
“There has always been an anti-Mayo rhetoric in GMIT. If you ask any lecturer they will confirm what I am saying. That has been there for the last 20 years. It is as well to be named GIT as opposed to GMIT from the experience I have seen. The measures being taken now are of no surprise,” he said.
The Ballina-based councillor added that despite the Castlebar campus having never been marketed or promoted, it has been hugely beneficial for students who have studied there.
“A group of friends of mine who were unemployed went in as mature students in the college and one went on to be an accountant and is back working in Mayo and another set up her own business. That college helped so many people out of a recession and as we are facing potential austerity measures and difficult economic times we need an opportunity for young people to study locally in the county.
“I want an update from Mayo County Council in relation to the relationship between the council and GMIT and how we can further support them and address any issues they are facing. We need to help them from this side because they are not getting any help from Galway, and that is a fact,” he said.
In 2017, former Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced the creation of a working group to formulate a plan for the sustainable future of the Castlebar campus. A five-year campus strategy was agreed in December 2017, with €750,000 to be ring-fenced for the campus for each of the next five years, while the plan was to be implemented.
At the time, grave concerns over the future of the campus had led to street protests, with Mayo County Council instrumental in opposing any downgrading of the campus.
Fianna Fáil councillor Al McDonnell accused the board of GMIT of now using the Covid-19 pandemic as cover for the downgrade.
“There is a hidden agenda there to downgrade the facility in Castlebar. The board is probably assisted by the current pandemic because large congregations of people [protesting] in opposition to the proposal like this are now limited. They are taking advantage of the current situation. As soon as this virus disappears we will be on the streets again like we were before. It is an indispensable resource, and we cannot afford to lose it and cannot afford to downgrade it,” he said of the Castlebar campus.
Cllr McDonnell was also critical of the fact that none of the 18-person board of GMIT has a Mayo connection, saying that the campus is bound to suffer as a result.
Cllr Damien Ryan added that any GMIT board should include the Cathaoirleach and the Chief Executive of Mayo County Council.
Current acting-Chief Executive of Mayo County Council Peter Duggan agreed to write to the board of GMIT expressing the council’s opposition to the downgrading of courses.
“It is a vital asset and institution to have in this county. We are trying to attract investment and jobs, and our ability to say we have a third-level institution to provide skills for the jobs is hugely important to us, and we will support GMIT in any way we can,” he said.