Members of Longford VEC locked horns on the thorny issue of the VEC moving to Mullingar under a planned amalgamation at last month’s VEC committee meeting.
After a fifteen minute discussion on the matter, and having heard the same arguments the past few months, Cllr Sean Farrell said the VEC should move on and look at putting alternative plans in place. The Cashel councillor said Longford VEC should present the facilities on offer to the Department of Education and Skills for any possible other uses.
“I don’t think the decision will be reversed. In this instance, the decision has been made to move it to Mullingar. We have accommodation here and with the barracks we have more available space than ever before. We need to get a plan together and sell it to the Department for some other project,” Cllr Farrell told the meeting.
Former teacher Brian Hyland agreed with Cllr Farrell’s sentiments. “Unfortunately, it’s all been decided. We’re fooling ourselves if we think we can overturn the decision. Bottom line, James Bannon is outnumbered three to one by Westmeath TDs. The best we can hope for is to keep a sub-office here in Longford. It was politics, but it’s water under the bridge and we need to move on,” Mr Hyland said.
However, not all members of the VEC felt it was time to let the issue go. Willie Dennigan felt Longford was being neglected once again. “One thing I’ve learned is that Longford has never gotten anything it didn’t truly deserve, even in the good times.
“We had to fight tooth and nail all the way. The question we have to ask is, is this the best for education? The decision to locate in Mullingar is about as transparent as a bucket of muddy water.”
“It’s a joke; we need to get more vociferous. We need to get more vocal, not upset. This is not value for money. We need to get a course of action in place. This issue is not dead,” Mr Dennigan exclaimed.
Longford VEC invited the Minister of Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn to open the Adult Education Centre in Connolly Barracks and also to meet with the VEC to discuss the issue of the relocation of Longford VEC to Mullingar. While his secretary acknowledged the receipt of the letters, so far the Minister has made no indication of his willingness to either come to Longford or to discuss the situation.
“From what I can see, there is no willingness for anyone to tackle the minister responsible. The reason we’re in this position is because there’s still only a handful of people and journalists willing to ask the hard questions. Some have expressed concerns but don’t seem willing to challenge the minister,” Cllr Mae Sexton said.
“He should be embarrassed into reversing the decision or admitting it was wrong. I get angrier every day; this was a blatant political move and I seem to be in the minority who want to pursue it,” Cllr Sexton said.
Cllr Gerry Brady said the VEC should convince the currently unappointed new CEO of the amalgamated Longford Westmeath VEC to keep a sub-office in Longford. “A headquarters means nothing; it’s just a building but if we can convince the new CEO to keep 20 or 30 of the staff here in Longford it’ll be a case of losing the battle but winning the war,” he said.