LAOIS should be the headquarters for the merged Laois/Offaly VEC’s when the two organisations come together, according to Laois VEC Chairperson, Mary Sweeney.
“We were happy to merge with Offaly, but we were not interested in a three county approach,” she said at Monday’s meeting.“Now the real lobbying has to start to ensure that we get the headquarters.”
She said Laois wanted to be seen as the lead agency and were one of the most proactive VEC’s in the constituency of Leinster. But she said the members needed to be proactive.
“Ruari Quinn doesn’t hang about. We have a very strong case and have already sought a meeting with the Minister in the next three weeks, as the decision could be made by September,” she said.
She said the decision on the CEO of the merged VEC was out of their hands and would be made by the Department, but Cllr Sweeney said the members should promote Portlaoise at every opportunity.
“Laois and Offaly are frequently coupled together, for example the constituency and garda division. But over the last number of years, Tullamore has got more than Laois has ever got. Now is the time for us to stand up and demand our rights,” she said.
The Chairperson said Laois was “exceptionally well equipped” in terms of administrative premises as the offices on the Ridge Road, the former vocational school and the school building on the Mountrath Road were all the property of Laois VEC.
Cllr Sweeney said Laois also had the greater population and listed some of the services that Laois had including three second level schools and 2 prison education centres.
Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council, John Bonham said the issue boiled down to pounds, shillings and pence.
“We are in complete ownership of the building on the Ridge Road, whereas Offaly’s premises are rented. This is about pounds, shilling and pennies. Everything can be managed from Portlaoise.”