Tánaiste presides as new education era dawns for Monaghan

17 December 2010 No Comments by The Northern Standard

It’s not just the A-Team’s Hannibal Smith who loves it when a plan comes together.
 Co Monaghan Vocational Education Committee’s own A-Team of administrators and stakeholders for the new €20 million multi-purpose education complex going into development at Knockaconny were pretty pleased with themselves also when, on Friday, no less a personage than the Tánaiste and Minister for Education Mary Coughlan was on hand to officiate at the formal unveiling of the detailed plans for the new development during an impressively orchestrated presentation in Monaghan’s Hillgrove Hotel.

 And Minister Coughlan’s personal pleasure was clearly manifest. She dashed to Monaghan from a key lunchtime Dáil vote on the Budget measures to find some brief sanctuary from the pressures of Government in an environment where, as Catholic Bishop of Clogher Liam MacDaid phrased it, all the notes were positive ones.
And the mood music chimed well with Minister Coughlan’s combative mien.

 She took the opportunity to respond to criticism from some quarters of her Dept’s spending plans – or lack of them – for the coming year.

“In case people think it is not the case,” she stated in a pointed departure from her scripted remarks, “this year my Dept’s budget will be €8.86 billion – and €1 billion of that will be spent on our special children and their special needs, and for those with disabilities in education. In case people feel we are not delivering for, or protecting, this sector, we are.”

The Minister added that, “It is important to recognise that the Government next year will spend almost €5.5 billion on economic stimulus measures, and education will be to the forefront of that.”

But those remarks were, predominantly, for any listening national media ears. This was in essence a major local, or regional, news day, and the Tánaiste in emphasising how the Government had delivered for Monaghan education in spades was keen to assign credit to Co Monaghan Vocational Education Committee and its Chief Executive Officer Martin O’Brien for their persuasive vision – even if she confessed to not having as clear-cut a memory as the CEO of their meeting in the Four Seasons Hotel when the future purpose of the soon-to-be vacated Monaghan Military Barracks site was first broached with her during her time in the Enterprise portfolio.

As portfolios change, so do governments, and even the most defiant of their Ministers can’t halt the remorseless encroach of progress. With a General Election beginning to peak over the horizon of the approaching new year, there was a wistful trace in her voice when the Tánaiste remarked, “I sincerely believe in the capacity of the VEC to deliver this project, and I hope I will be back in 2012 to the official opening…one way or another.”

Arrayed around the hotel function space were detailed plans of what promises to be a magnificent development, to be comprised of new premises for Coláiste Oiriall, Gaelscoil Ultain, the Monaghan Institute of Further Education and Training and the Garage Theatre, with a sports hall and all the ancillary facilities worthy of what Minister Coughlan predicted would be not alone “an educational and community venture of which Monaghan can be particularly proud”, but a template for a new fast-track approach to the delivery of capital projects in the education sphere, through which “we want to bring devolved decision-making down to localities, where local people can make the decisions themselves in the best interests of their communities.”

• See full coverage of the project launch on pages 22 & 23.

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