The headquarters of the newly merged Longford/Westmeath Vocational Education Committee (VEC) is to be established in Mullingar.
The Department of Education and Skills made the announcment earlier this week and while representation to maintain the headquarters in Longford was made by VEC members to the department at the beginning of the summer, the decision to facilitate it in Mullingar has now been finalised.
Fine Gael’s Deputy James Bannon said that Longford had been let down by the coalition led government as a result of this latest move and said that the county had been “deprived” yet again.
“Despite my efforts to highlight the cost-effectiveness and the potential of the Longford VEC site, the Minister for Education and Skills decided to locate the headquarters in Mullingar, just hours after I raised the issue in the Dail,” he said, adding that establishing the headquarters in Longford would have served as a “softening of the blow” brought on by the closure of Connolly Barracks.
“It makes absolutely no economic sense. As I stated in the Dail, investment to the tune of €2 million was made by the Department of Education and Skills in Longford VEC over the past two years and this sum included the purchase of part of the Connolly Barracks site and the refurbishment of the VEC’s administrative offices to a very high standard, leaving it with all the infrastructure required to be the new headquarters.”
He then went on to say, “The potential is definitely there and it is a shame to waste it. Moreover, the annual rental would be extremely cost-effective. Longford VEC is more than able to facilitate the redeployment of staff under a redeployment scheme within the context of the Croke Park agreement. The potential of further development would have made the Longford site an exciting and viable prospect, easily accessible by road and public transport, given its central location. Longford has suffered the closure of one valuable facility after another in recent years to the detriment of the local economy. A decision to locate the VEC Headquarters in Longford would have been a vote of confidence in a county which is fighting for economic renewal.”