It was off to sunny Donegal last month for nine county councillors when the annual McGill Summer School took place.
Located in the picturesque village of Glenties, the summer school ran from Sunday July 24 to Friday 29. Taoiseach Enda Kenny delivered the opening lecture, followed by several talks a day on political topics, broken by the odd exhibition opening and concert.
Sean Fleming, TD and Fianna Fail spokesperson on public sector reform, lectured on ‘Transforming the public Sector’ during the week, while other topics ranged from ‘The future of Irish banking’ by AIB executive chair David Hodgkinson to ‘Transforming the health system,’ given by Minister for Health James O’Reilly.
Unlike other councils Laois Council Council refuse to say who goes on such conferences or the costs involved. However the Leinster Express has learned that the Laois contingent was made up of councillors: James Daly, Paul Mitchell, Paddy Bracken, Catherine Fitzgerald, Pat Bowe, Ray Cribbin, John Moran, Seamus McDonald and John King. Last year ten cllrs made the trip, claiming expenses of E9,500 through Laois County Council, while in 2009 14 of the 25 went, at a cost of E1,000 each. The costs are published in the annual report. It was the single biggest conference cost in both years.
Timahoe’s Cllr James Daly of Timahoe defended the trips.
“All the leading politicians and economic advisors are there. It’s interesting to listen to expert minds and hear what they have to say. It gives a good insight to what is going on,” he told the Leinster Express. “It’s hard to say what’s good value these days, but we’re entitled to go,” he said.
Portarlington’s Cllr Mitchell sees the conference as a chance to learn facts and make contacts.
“People will complain about the price but it’s well worth it as regards education. You have to know the facts. What i like about the McGill school is you can ask a direct question, and talk to experts. It’s also the people you meet, for example I met the head of the IDA and got him to come to Port to look at the Avon factory, he told me it had gone completely off their radar,” he said.
Portlaoise’s Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald also attended.
“To me it’s the best conference of the whole year. It’s a fantastic range of speakers, all the top economists are there,” she said.
Mountmellick’s Paddy Bracken also chose to head north.
“It gives a broader perspective, on various topics, including the environment,” he said.