Life Centre director ‘hopeful’ about talks

This weekend, Taoiseach Micheál Martin told The Echo he believed positive work had been done to secure the Life Centre’s future.
Life Centre director ‘hopeful’ about talks

Christy Moore chatting with Don O'Leary, Cork Life Centre at the concert in the Cork Opera House earlier this month. Picture; Eddie O'Hare

The director of the Cork Life Centre has said he is cautiously hopeful about negotiations with the Department of Education on the centre’s sustainability, after the Taoiseach said he believes the northside centre could serve as a pilot for a future model of alternative education.

The Life Centre, which is based in Sunday’s Well, is an alternative education facility which every year offers one-to-one tuition up to Leaving Certificate to 55 young people for whom mainstream education has not worked.

A month ago, the centre’s director, Don O’Leary, said the Life Centre had lost eight teachers over the summer, due to uncertainty over the centre’s future, and because the Department of Education paid those teachers in co-operation hours, effectively part-time rates which do not allow holidays, pension rights or access to incremental pay increases.

Mr O’Leary told The Echo last month that the centre, which was established in 2000 by Nash’s Boreen native Brother Gary O’Shea, had never been in a more precarious position.

Now, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said an assistant secretary of the Department of Education has, over the past fortnight, visited the centre and “very good progress has been made in terms of identifying the Cork Life Centre perhaps as a pilot unit”.

This weekend, Mr Martin told The Echo he believed positive work had been done to secure the Life Centre’s future.

“I’m a great believer in having alternative learning environments for young people, and that one size does not fit all, I would have been a very strong believer in the Youthreach programme many, many years ago, when I was in a different capacity,” the Taoiseach said.

“We value the work of the centre, and we’re very conscious of the need that it is sustainable into the future in terms of human resources and teachers’ career pathways and so on.”

Responding to the Taoiseach’s comments, Don O’Leary said he was cautiously hopeful about progress in negotiations with the Department of Education, but he said a clear timeline was needed on when the department would start paying the centre’s staff a sustainable wage.

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