Noel: I stand over youth centre deal
Ex-VEC chair dismisses suggestions of impropriety over Mallow lease
THE former chairman of Cork County VEC, Cllr Noel O'Connor, has dismissed any suggestions that he acted improperly in the signing of a lease for a youth facility in Mallow.
The issue arose at a recent meeting of the CCVEC after it emerged that the Dept of Education asked them to account for two unauthorised leases it signed in 2008 and 2011 for the Youthreach building and childcare centre at Ballyellis, Mallow.
Questions have also been raised in relation to an unapproved borrowing facility of €430,000 from Mallow Credit Union, the landlord of the property, which was subsequently not drawn down.
It alleged that the CCVEC misled the department over the leases and gave conflicting accounts of the deal while also supplying different information to An Pobal in order to secure a €1 million capital grant for the centre.
Last summer CCVEC sought retrospective permission for a third, shortened lease at Ballyellis, which was signed without permission after the body decided not to draw down the €430,000.
None of the leases were pre-approved by the department, as required under VEC legislation.
It has also emerged that in 2008 CCVEC topped up the Pobal grant to build the new childcare centre with separate funding from the credit union. An indenture was supplied to Pobal prior to the drawing down of the capital grant in order to prove the existence of the lease.
This was signed by the then CCVEC chair, Cllr O'Connor, and former CEO Barra O Briain.
Speaking to The Corkman, Cllr O'Connor said he had been surprised when the issue had been raised by Clonakilty based town councillor Humphrey Deegan.
"Pobal were willing to give the funding and the land was there. The only difficulty was that the lease would have to be a long-term one for them to grant the funding. So the credit union and the CCVEC got together and I signed a lease with the CEO for a 30-year debenture that enabled us to build the crèche," said Cllr O'Connor.
He said that, with hindsight, there could have been greater communication between all parties, but insisted that he had done nothing wrong.
"Maybe we might have spoken to the department earlier. That said, everything that was done was for the betterment of young people and in the interest of providing facilities for the people of the town," said Cllr O'Connor.
"The bottom line is there is nothing to defend. I stand over the action taken in the best interest of the people of Mallow," he added.