Amalgamation of Monaghan and Cavan VECs Proposed

15 October 2010 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Co Monaghan Vocational Education Committee is to be amalgamated with Cavan VEC under proposals agreed by the Government on Tuesday.

The amalgamation will come about as a result of plans to reduce the number of VECs in the country from 33 to 16.

The proposals were agreed at a Cabinet meeting and subsequently announced by Tanaiste and Minister for Education Mary Coughlan, who forecast that the revised structures would leave VECs “stronger and better placed to provide support services.”  The Minister also expressed the view that VEC schools would benefit from the resultant rationalisation of supplies and services.

However, disappointment with the news was voiced yesterday by the Chairman of Co Monaghan Vocational Education Committee Owen Bannigan.

Co Monaghan VEC have been actively campaigning against the prospect of VECs being abolished or amalgamated since such moves were proposed in the McCarthy Report.  They held a special meeting with local Oireachtas representatives last year to make their views known, and have presented proposals to the Dept of Education for alternative measures based on co-operative ventures with other VECs and the implementation of greater efficiencies within the VEC system.

Although some informed speculation about the amalgamation proposal was contained in national newspaper reports at the weekend, the matter did not come up for discussion at Monday’s October meeting of the Monaghan Committee in Monaghan Town, which was held on the eve of the announcement of the Cabinet decision.

The plan unveiled by the Government is more stringent than the recommendations of the McCarthy Report, which suggested that the number of VECs in the country could be reduced to 22 to produce savings.

While the Department of Education stated that the move will significantly reduce the administrative budget for the VEC sector – estimated at €42 million – it remains unclear how the savings will be generated.  Compulsory job losses in the public sector are no longer an option following the terms of the ‘Croke Park’ deal.

The Dept have suggested that amalgamation will lead to a surplus of VEC property, which would then be available for disposal.

The amalgamation proposals have been criticised by the Irish Vocational Education Association’s Michael Moriarty.

He described the announcement as marking “a sad day”, and the passing of an era of local democratic structures.

Mr Moriarty said the IVEA hoped that the Minister’s stated commitment to the vocational education sector meant that there was “more at play” in the decision than “the cost-cutter’s knife.”

“This may be a good day for efficiency auditors, but it is a bad day for local democracy,” he stated.

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