Sunday, February 21, 2010

 

Coughlan - time to move on?

I’m already bored of the O’Dea resignation. Enough of that. What is still simmering at the surface though is the clear need for change at the top. I’d love a complete change of government, but it’s unlikely that we’re going to see that too soon. In the meantime, Cowen simply has to replace some of his senior ministers.

The most obvious of the lot is the Tainiste, who appears to be totally out of her depth. She just doesn’t seem to get it at all. Take the case of SR Technics. Others have talked about the Hanger 6 issue, but one other matter that she may think is too small for her, but yet affects scores of people, is access to the EU Globalisation Fund. This is a pot of money which goes towards paying for back to education courses to retrain people who have lost their jobs to places outside of the EU. Recently the former DELL workers in Limerick were able to access this fund; we’re all hopeful that this will also be the case with the former SR Technics workers.

Over 60 former workers had signed up to do a degree in Engineering Maintenance at DIT. The college was all set to start this new course, tailored to the past experience, skills and needs of the former workers – all that was needed was the EU Globalisation Fund. But because of delays in the application (where the blame rest on this we don’t know, but it appears that the government is at least slightly to blame) the fund has not yet been approved. In the meantime the DIT asked for some sort of guarantee to be put in place until the money comes through. This is where Mary Coughlan could have helped. Surely, everyone thought, she could work out some sort of guarantee deal?

But out of Coughlan’s office came nothing. Silence. I wrote to her during the week to explain the urgency of the task. No response yet. Meanwhile, the college can’t wait any more and has had to cancel the course. That’s dashed the hopes of the 63 former SRT workers who had hoped to do the course. No doubt many of them will go on to find other suitable courses, and the best of luck to them. But for me the worrying thing is her seeming inability to want to involve herself or her office in an attempt either here or elsewhere to stem job losses or improve retraining opportunities.

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