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Deputy Cathal Crowe was one of four Oireachtas members who attended the December meeting of the Clare Pyrite Action Group. Photo: John Kelly.

UL and local civil defence partnership mooted by FF deputy

Ennis training centre for paramedic BSc would be mutually beneficial, says Crowe

THE possibility of an Ennis-based training centre for University of Limerick’s course in paramedic studies has been floated.

A government minister has proposed the University of Limerick and the Clare Civil Defence should enter negotiations on the proposed establishment of a training centre for paramedics.

Deputy Cathal Crowe recently asked the Minister for Education and Skills, Simon Harris if he would support proposals to develop a training centre for students of the University of Limerick’s bachelor of science in paramedic studies course at the new Civil Defence building in Ennis.

Minister Harris said the best way forward would be for the Civil Defence and the University and any other relevant stakeholders to speak directly to see if there are mutually agreeable proposals that can be advanced.

Deputy Crowe stated there is room to develop a paramedic training facility in Ennis.

“There is a fabulous facility, which the Minister’s colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, opened just a few weeks ago. It is state-of-the-art.

“We should not send UL graduates to Liverpool to complete practical training that can be done in the Mid-West. We could have graduates coming out of the Mid-West with paramedic training. Imagine what that would mean for our health service.”

Deputy Crowe has also impressed upon the Taoiseach the potential of forging strong links between the University of Limerick and the new civil defence headquarters in Ennis.

“The basing of third year paramedic students in Ennis town and the completion of some of their practical work in Clare could mean a greater ambulance service in the county that would provide much-needed cover to people who live in remote parts of the west, east and north of our county.”

While UL offers a highly commended paramedic course, he pointed out once the students reach the practical element of their studies, they must travel to the UK to complete this segment.

“The Technological University of the Shannon has brought university town status to Ennis with the LIT campus on Bindon Street.

“With this now in existence in the Midwest, we should be looking to build a stronger alliance with the University of Limerick, given its proximity to Clare and also the fact that a considerable amount of the UL campus is now developing on the Clare side of the border.

“One of the key aspects to this, I feel, is targeting the paramedic qualification that UL already offers.

“There has been a trend in recent years that some of the students, after graduation, remain in England as they have developed a familiarity with the system and have acquainted themselves with prospective employers during their training.”

“I said to the Taoiseach that in ways this leads to a brain drain and we should really have the capacity here in Ireland to offer this practical training. I’ve suggested that the new civil defence headquarters on the Quin Road in Ennis would be an ideal facility to provide for this.

“The new HQ is one of the largest civil defence bases in the country and beyond being a base for high end modern ambulance, medical and rescue equipment it also has facilities for lectures and studying.” He pointed out the civil defence facility is only 400m away from the bus and railway station and also accessible to the nearby motorway, while the UL campus is only a 35 minute commute.

All of this should make it a very viable alternative to students having to go to England each year.

Deputy Crowe knows that Pat Dowling, chief executive of Clare County Council, and his team are very eager to forge greater links with third level campuses in the region and he hopes people can build on what has already been achieved with the Munster Technological University and now look to develop a meaningful link with UL in Ennis.

Minister Harris admitted this is not an issue which has previously been brought to his attention.

“It’s certainly very positive to see the new Civil Defence headquarters in Ennis open. Taken alongside the establishment of the Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest and the fact that Ennis is now a university town, these will be important drivers of development for the town and the wider region.

“Higher Education Institutions are autonomous institutions under their relevant legislation. That means that they are academically independent and entitled to decide on their particular academic course content and provision, the location of programmes and their resourcing.

“That’s the approach which makes most sense and which ensures that educational provision reflects the particular needs and interests of a local area or region.

“In this case, the best way forward would be for the Civil Defence and the University and any other relevant stakeholders to speak directly to see if there are mutually agreeable proposals that can be advanced,” he stated.

by Dan Danaher

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