Bishop calls for VEC rules review

CHURCH of Ireland Bishop of Cork Paul Colton has called for a review of the legislation governing the setting up of VECs after a controversial vote saw a Church of Ireland nominee dumped off the Cork VEC committee.

The nominee, Douglas- based Reverend Canon George Salter was replaced by a former Fine Gael councillor during a County Hall meeting to fill four vacancies on the county VEC.

During a furious row, Fine Gael was accused of indulging in political cronyism by putting up a former county councillor as a candidate against two religious nominees – who would normally be elected unopposed.

Cllr Donal O’Rourke (FF), a former chairman of the VEC, said a “model agreement” had existed for as long as anybody could remember and that two religious nominees were appointed to the 25-person committee. Although their powers are strictly limited, committee members are paid travel and subsistence allowances for attending meetings and conferences.

In a statement, Bishop Colton said it was “wholly inappropriate” that four community placements were being sought out by politicians.

“The legislation constituting the VEC provides for the election of four representatives of the community. Politicians, parents and VEC staff are elected under other headings. Given that the largest number on the VEC are members of the county council, it is, in my view, wholly inappropriate that the four community places allocated to be shared between students, teacher unions, commerce, Irish language interests and voluntary associations, are also coveted by political parties,” he said.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Cork and Ross and the Diocese of Cloyne said both dioceses are co-trustees with the VEC in 15 of the 21 post primary schools in the county.

In that context, the spokesman said, it was “not unreasonable” that there were Church representatives on the VEC committee. There is however currently “no statutory provision” for religious interests.

A number of years ago, both of the Cork dioceses had a VEC seat each but now just one nominated seat is shared between the dioceses and that is currently held by Fr Tom Deenihan of Cork and Ross.

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