Longford VEC comes in for criticism over HQ decision

Local politicians elected to Co Longford’s VEC committee have been accused of not “shouting loud enough” over a government led decision to relocate its headquarters in Mullingar.

Local politicians elected to Co Longford’s VEC committee have been accused of not “shouting loud enough” over a government led decision to relocate its headquarters in Mullingar.

In a scathing outburst, Cllr Paul Connell this week branded the move “scandalous” while also calling into question the level of apathy coming from within the VEC itself.

The independent councillor, a former member of the committee himself, said he couldn’t understand the stance certain politicians and executive figures were taking given the controversy surrounding the move.

According to figures released last month and which were previously published by the Leader, rental costs look set to command up to €120,000 annually compared to the €13.30 a year rent in Longford.

Hitting out, Cllr Connell snapped: “I can’t believe that the VEC committee are staying so silent on this. The difference in the rent is so far apart that it makes no sense at all.”

The Tesco employee was just as critical of the comments attributed to the Department of Education’s general secretary, Brigid McManus.

At the February meeting of the Dail Public Accounts Committee, Ms McManus said the decision to choose Mullingar over Longford was one based purely on geographical grounds and because of its potential going forward.

However, a frustrated Cllr Connell rubbished those claims, branding the move as one which had other, more strategic, implications attached.

“There is no more central location than Longford. This was a political decision.

“They (government) took the decision to move the VEC to Mullingar to keep (Willie) Penrose quiet.

“The chair of the committee John McGuinness even said the figures were shocking and represented poor value for the taxpayer,” he said.

Switching his ire back in the direction of Co Longford VEC’s current crop of sitting members, Cllr Connell admitted the approach taken by some members was baffling.

“I am extremely disappointed with the committee, they have shouted about lesser things. It just seems like nothing is being done,” he raged.

Both acting chief executive of Co Longford VEC, Rosemary Killian Johnston and chairperson Alan Mitchell were uncontactable this week in response to Cllr Connell’s claims.

One of its present members, Cllr Mae Sexton said she understood and accepted the misgivings of her fellow council colleague, labelling the saga “disgraceful”.

She said: “I have spoken with John McGuinness about this and I am of the view that Ruairi Quinn should not be allowed to get away with this.

“I think Paul (Connell) is probably right, in fact I am inclined to agree with him. The committee has not made enough noise about this.

“When a decision is taken which I believe is morally wrong, like this one is, the minister of the day should be brought to boot. That hasn’t happened.”

Those comments, by both Cllrs Connell and Sexton, come on the back of recent revelations almost €2m has been spent upgrading the Co Longford VEC campus in recent years.