The Donegal Vocational Education Committee (VEC) has deferred appointing the board of management of a Rosses secondary school, after members raised questions about a letter from the school principal supporting Pat “the Cope” Gallagher, MEP, one of the nominees.
The principal has defended the letter, saying he was highlighting Mr. Gallagher’s long service on the board in relation to good practice identified during the school’s recent whole school inspection.
At the VEC’s November meeting, board members were to consider reappointing the outgoing members of the board of the Rosses Community School in Dungloe: Mr. Gallagher, Cllr. Marie-Therese Gallagher and Enda Bonner.
John Gorman, principal of the school, had sent a letter dated Oct. 16th to Shaun Purcell, VEC chief executive officer, pointing out that Mr. Gallagher had been a member of the board for the past 27 years, “and has assisted the school hugely over this period.
“We recently had a whole school inspection by the Department of Education and it stressed the importance of continuity of the board,” Mr. Gorman said in the letter. “In this respect, I would kindly request that the VEC would strongly consider keeping Pat the Cope Gallagher in his current position as a member of the board.”
Board members Francis McDaid and Oliver McDevitt expressed concerns about the letter at the VEC meeting.
“I think this is wrong,” Mr. McDaid said. “I think we shouldn’t have this letter in front of us.” He claimed the principal was “lobbying for a particular individual” and asked that the VEC seek advice from the Department of Education.
Mr. McDevitt said he had great respect for Mr. Gallagher but agreed that the letter should not have been sent, calling it “canvassing”.
VEC member Fianna Fáil Cllr. David Alcorn said Mr. Gallagher had been “at the beck and call of everyone there” during his time on the board, and proposed that the three members be reappointed.
The board voted 8-8 to defer the appointments to the December meeting. Board chairperson, Labour Cllr. Martin Farren, cast the deciding vote to defer, saying he cast it, “for the sake of harmony”.