BY BEN PANTER
It’s been 25 years since Marian Vickers was handed a cheque for a hundred pounds with which to begin her adventure with Northside Partnership Company in Dublin.
|Denis Leamy, CEO of Pobal, Gerry Kearney, the retired secretary general of the former Department of Community, Equality & Gaeltacht Affairs, Marian Vickers who has retired from Northside Partnership and Clodagh McDonnell, Principal Officer, Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government (as it was known until recently).
“Today, Marian and the Partnership are synonymous,” said chairperson Lorcan Ó hÓbain, at a party marking Marian’s retirement. She was the company’s one and only CEO until now.
With the retirement in December of another CEO in Munster – also a long-timer – all but two of the people at the helm in local development since 1991 have handed over to successors.
“When we started this organisation, there was Marian, a mobile phone and later a car and that was it,” said Lorcan. “The impact that she has had over the last 25 years has been absolutely essential and we really say thank you.”
She also served as vice-chairperson of the Irish Local Development Network, among other interests.
The Hilton Hotel on Malahide Road hosted the event which opened with a ‘Champagne Reception’, in stark contrast to Marian’s humble beginnings. Guests included family, friends, community workers, academics, and representatives from various agencies and strands of government and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. All were there to celebrate Marian’s quarter-of-a-century tenure and reflect on progress since Northside Partnership’s humble start.
The Partnership’s first chairperson Padraic White recalled that, “The philosophy we all tried to follow was the same as at national level where the government, trade unions and the community sector had come together after the recession of ‘87 to improve the country. We followed that at local level. It was a great time of innovation.
“As people know, the culture, organisation, and template of new projects are set down at the start and we were fortunate to have an amazing board of people around that table,” he added.
Over the years, with Marian at the helm, the Partnership became a pioneer in the Community Development Sector.
• For example, RAPID set up in 2001 to address issues of social exclusion attracted ˇ5 million into the area in its first five years and is still in operation.
• Northside’s Preparing for Life programme has become a flagship project according to an enthusiastic Dr Matthias Borscheid, SICAP manager (see inside this issue for more).
• SpeedPak, a distribution company set up in 1995 with help from the partnership to address unemployment in the area, was briefly featured in our last issue – It has become a valuable partner to Changing Ireland over the years.
• The Challenger Programme made the front page in the Winter 2014 edition featuring one of its successful graduates Ciara Hurley.
The Northside Partnership’s initiatives impact on every area of life – they even run quit smoking courses for those of us sick of the devil’s weed.
All this is in contrast to Marian’s early days in the job which started out with so much promise and then quickly took a nosedive, as she explained:
“I met the board in very salubrious offices next to the Shelburne Hotel – you’re talking mahogany, crystal glasses, a beautiful boardroom. I met the directors, I signed the contract and I was given a petty cash cheque for a hundred pounds. And then they gave me the Parish Priests mobile phone which took eight hours to wind up – I could make about four calls on it.”
She went on to pay tribute to her colleagues: “We have had the most incredible board of directors, management and staff over the years.”
She spoke of the “privilege” she felt to be involved with the community development sector, saying she felt “very moved” working with people in the community and enabling them in “transforming their lives”.
Soon, Marian and her husband, former local credit union manager Aidan O’Brien will be working with people in a different capacity. They are this Spring opening a B&B in Dingle, Co. Kerry.
If she approaches this latest venture with the same attitude and efficiency that her colleagues described, Francis Brennan might be nervously looking over his shoulder.
* The new CEO is Paul Rogers a native of Coolock who previously worked for Tolka Area Partnership.