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Concern grows for Bantry learning hub’s garden centre

May 23rd, 2024 6:00 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Concern grows for Bantry learning hub’s garden centre Image
Padraig O’Sullivan, Styler Gilbert, Michael Collins TD and Leader of the Independent Ireland party, Claire McCarthy, Cllr Danny Collins (Ind), Nina Pyrohova and Daniel Burke have all raised concerns about the pending closure of NLN’s garden centre in Bantry.

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‘BANTRY’S National Learning Network (NLN) garden centre is being closed by stealth,’ according to Michael Collins TD and his brother, local election candidate Cllr Danny Collins.

‘Over the past three months, it has been brought to my attention by students, families, and patrons of the NLN garden centre that the facility is operating at minimal capacity,’ the deputy and leader of the Independent Ireland party told The Southern Star.

‘Despite our initial hopes for a resolution, it appears as if no stock has been procured for the garden centre for cultivation or sale. The popular café has also closed and the life is being squeezed out of what is left,’ he added.

Michael Collins said that if the centre is allowed to dwindle to nothing it would be ‘a significant setback for Bantry and devastating for the National Learning Network trainees.’

Deputy Collins said the garden centre was once a cherished establishment in West Cork and it is disheartening to see customers returning only to find empty shelves.

‘It was always a source of pride and a therapeutic outlet for many of the students, some of whom are dealing with accidents, illnesses, injuries, or disabilities,’ said Michael, who has requested a meeting with NLN’s senior executives in a bid to put a halt to what he described as ‘a covert closure of the centre’.

Deputy Collins has also raised the issue with the Taoiseach Simon Harris and several government ministers – including Patrick O’Donovan, Minister for Higher Education; Stephen Donnelly, Minister for Health; and Mary Butler, Minister for Mental Health – and he called on them to fund the restocking of the garden centre.

‘The sight of bare shelves at this centre, while other garden centres are thriving, is distressing,’ he said.

Meanwhile, Cllr Danny Collins said it is disgraceful ‘this great centre’ is still working off the same funding they were receiving back in 2011.

‘The Government will have to step up and fund it properly because at present we are witnessing a dilution of services and the non-replacement of staff,’ he said.

‘This centre has been instrumental in educating students from Bandon to the ends of West Cork’s three peninsulas, and the students are worried it will close.’

The Southern Star contacted the NLN and requested a comment before going to press.

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