New Education Board From the Ashes of Western VECs


At the New Galway Roscommon Education and Training Board inaugural meeting, Cllr. Michael Connolly (Tuam), Cllr. Jimmy Kenny, Cllr. Orla Leyden and Mr. Anthony Geraghty.

Roscommon, Galway City and Galway County VECs are no longer stand-alone entities, and have now become a new western education and training board, which had their inaugural meeting last week in Athenry. 

It was during the heatwave of Tuesday last week, that the new Galway Roscommon Education and Training board met for the first time.  Then CEO of the new board is David Leahy who opened the proceedings, and assured Roscommon members that “provision for one is provision for all,” which appeared to mean equality for Roscommon, considering that it was the smaller VEC.

“The transition phase and transformative phase will be done well,” said Mr. Leahy, adding that Minister for Education would be minded to visit if invited.

The new group got off to an interesting start by suggesting that their voting of the new Chairman would be done either by secret ballot, or open ballot.  Just two members, both rom Roscommon, Cllr. Sean Beirne (FG) and Cllr. Valerie Byrne (Hospital Action Group) voted for a secret ballot, but they were massively outnumbered by the fifty plus members of the two boards.

The Chairman of the new group is Galway’s Pat Gilmore, and he was elected unopposed, and the same applied to the election of the Vice-Chair, South Roscommon’s Cllr. Jimmy Kenny.  Kenny was proposed by his Roscommon colleagues Cllr. Orla Leyden and seconded by Cllr. Tom Crosby.

“Myself and Pat will work for our students in the years ahead, and I would like to propose to keep our sub offices in Roscommon, and I would appeal to the powers that be over that,” said Cllr. Kenny.  “We were afraid that we would be gobbled up like the ‘Galway hurlers’.”

There were murmurings from the Galway members, but no laughter about the GAA comment.

Cllr. Kenny also proposed that there be a sub-committee for Roscommon dealings, when such committees are formed.

“Regarding the venue, we should rotate venues for meetings, and we should be cognisant of the cost, and have meetings in our schools, and I propose that,” said Cllr. Leyden.  “Perhaps we could talk to the principals of the schools to save as much money as we can.”

It was seconded by Cllr. Crosby.

“Where it is possible we could talk to principals,” said the CEO.

The hot weather precipitated the new Chairman to call a halt to the meeting, and postpone some items on the agenda until the September meeting.

Big Parties Continue To Take Mayoral Roles

At least for this year, the big parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are continuing to take the Mayoral roles.  In Co. Roscommon, Fianna Fail was lucky to win the Mayor and Deputy role, albeit after being pulled out of a box.  Fine Gael/Labour has had control of Westmeath County Council since 2004, and this year again managed to win the two positions.  A bonus for Fine Gael happened when they also won the two roles in Athlone Town Council.               

Nicky McFadden TD

Nicky McFadden TD


Lucinda Creighton TD and Mayor Gabrielle McFadden (FG)

Cllr. Gabrielle McFadden, sister of Nicky McFadden TD became Athlone Town Mayor, the last as it will turn out to be, because of the going of the town councils from next years’ local elections.  Fine Gael also took the Deputy role with Cllr. Mark Cooney. (son of former Minister Patrick Cooney)  In Athlone the councillors managed to hold their alliance since 2009, with Fine Gael, Labour and an Independent councillor tightly agreeing to their Mayoral agreement.

The Roscommon alliance has been all over the place since a Fianna Fail/Independent/Sinn Fein alliance took over their council in 2009.  It fell apart the following year, when two Hospital Action Group councillors put a plan in place to break the alliance.  They convinced some of the Independent councillors and the Sinn Fein member to vote against Fianna Fail, therefore creating a Fine Gael alliance of sorts.  Independent Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan became Mayor then, and went on to a Dail win afterwards.

Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan

After the General Election, Fine Gael came to power, and the closing of the Accident and Emergency unit in Roscommon happened.  Therefore the new council alliance broke down, with everyone deserting Fine Gael.


Roscommon Deputy Mayor, Cllr. Orla Leyden


Mayor Martin Connaughton and his son Ivan, with Mary O’Rourke.

Fianna Fail won the double in Roscommon this summer, albeit out of a cardboard box.  Cllr. Martin Connaughton’s (father of Dail candidate Ivan Connaughton) vote was split 13-13 with an Independent councillor, but he was chosen out of the box, and won the chain.  The same happened to Cllr. Orla Leyden, (daughter of Senator Terry Leyden) who became Deputy Mayor.

In Westmeath, Cllr. Peter Burke (a Dail candidate twice before) of Fine Gael took the chain, because of the FG/Lab alliance, and Labour’s Cllr. Denis Leonard took the Vice Chair role.

With all that’s happening with next year’s local elections, a lot less councillors will be coming back, so many of them have to get over the difficult battle of winning back their seats, in much bigger territories than before, and that is all that is in their sights currently.