Eugene McGee (Chairman St Christopher's School Board of Management) making a presentation to Pat O'Toole to mark his retirement as CEO of St Christopher's Services Shelley Corcoran
If there was one facet of Longford’s societal fabric which struck a chord with Eugene McGee arguably more than any other, St Christopher’s Services was undoubtedly it.
His daughter Linda has remained a proud and loyal patron of the Battery Road facility for several years. The McGees’ association with St Christopher’s doesn’t end there, however. Eugene played a prominent role as Chairperson of the disability provider’s Special School’s Board of Management while his wife Marian has been an ever present fixture on the service’s management committee.
Pat O’Toole spent the best part of a decade rubbing shoulders with the disability services advocate, a time he looks back on with great fondness.
“Eugene had a great grá for St Christopher’s and disability services,” said Mr O’Toole.
“He was an excellent advocate and even though we would both have been heavily involved in sport, our conversations always focused on our dealings with statutory bodies like the HSE.”
McGee’s up front, no nonsense approach was a mannerism the Ballymahon based county councillor could have found overbearing. In reality, it was the opposite as both men strived to uphold the interests of one of Longford’s most cherished and highly valued institutions.
“Eugene was always very clear and to the point in what he would say which was a great asset to have when you were dealing with officials.
“And I found that most refreshing,” he said.
In his 2014 book, ‘The GAA In My Time’, and writing in a chapter entitled ‘From Special Players To Special Needs’, Eugene pointed out, “When my daughter Linda, entered St Christopher’s Special Needs School many years ago it led to my involvement with a world that I had previously never encountered and scarcely knew existed. I am constantly struck by the achievements of the clients there who do extraordinary things despite the very serious setbacks they have inherited.”
St Christopher’s has faced many financial challenges over the years, in an interview with the ‘Leader’, Eugene explained, “St Christopher's is very unusual. It is a jewel in the crown of Longford as a county. Nearly every parish in Longford makes a contribution to raise funds every year. It is like the GAA, it is recognised all over the county. Everyone knows where it is and what it does. It is a great tribute to the people who set it up fifty years ago. It is an iconic part of Longford life and it is in danger of being eroded and that is why people want to help out as much as they can.”