Job losses could be in the pipeline at Glenveagh National Park following plans for a shake-up and possible privatisation of Ireland’s national parks.
Tourism Minister Jimmy Deenihan has ordered a wide-ranging review which could see visitor services at the country’s six national parks change.
A whistleblower inside the National Parks & Wildlife Service said Mr Deenihan’s plans could lead to job losses and claimed the organisation was in ‘crisis’ over its alleged lack of a tourism strategy.
There are genuine fears amongst staff at Glenveagh of the privatisation plan for certain sectors of the parks go ahead.
Bus drivers who take visitors to its famous castle are among those who could lose their jobs or be forced to switch to private operators.
Guides positions at all the sites could also be outsourced if the plans go ahead.
The source said he feared that 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.
A national parks insider told the Irish Independent today “The focus of the parks is entirely on conservation and the environment and really there is no focus on tourism at all and breaking up who runs what at the national parks will only make that worse,” said the insider.
“If these proposals go ahead, how long will it be before the conservation side of what we do is also put out to tender?
“There is a real fear among staff that each of our national parks will eventually be run by three or four different private companies whose sole interests will be profits.”
The insider said he was speaking out because “at this rate it is only a matter of time before we start charging people to go into the parks.”
The country’s other national parks are the Ballycrory National Park in north-west Mayo, the Connemara National Park in Galway, the Burren National Park and the Wicklow Mountains National Park.
Entrance to all six parks is free, although there are various cover charges to see inside some of its buildings like Glenveagh Castle.
Donegal TD Pearse Doherty said staff were worried.
“This is the piece-by-piece sale of our national parks,” he said.
“The Government is starting to privatise services, one piece at a time, and people will ask how long it is before entire parks are outsourced to private companies to generate a profit.”
A spokesman for Mr Deenihan told the Independent that services are under review.
“A key priority for the department is to keep National Parks and Nature Reserves open to the public, to provide quality visitor information and to maintain appropriate health and safety standards at these sites,” he said.
“As such, the Department is exploring the potential of alternative models to augment its visitor services and nature education services nationally.”