Cog Notes: Tales from the man who did Ruairí Quinn’s spin

It’s not quite a kiss-and-tell, but John Walshe’s book has some intriguing observations

You have to say John Walshe has a great sense of timing. He hops from journalism into a plum job for Ruairí Quinn, and then, with indecent haste, bangs out a book in time for the Christmas market.

It's not quite a kiss-and-tell. Head boy Ruairí will be happy with the largely flattering portrait Walshe delivers in An Education: How an Outsider Became an Insider – and Learned What Really Goes on in Irish Government. But there are some intriguing observations, and Walshe has good timing in a comic sense too, as he recalls foul-mouthed exchanges with other advisors, spin doctors, civil servants and politicians.

Peter Sutherland will be shocked to learn that his law school at UCD lost out on €5 million in "spare" capital funding because of the optics of pumping public money into training more lawyers. Funniest of all, though, is Walshe's revelation that a fee-paying school approached the department in the midst of cutbacks, not to join the free scheme but to get the State to appoint half a dozen extra teachers so it could become a "centre of excellence". Walshe told Cog Notes he wouldn't identify the school but "talk about out-of-touch".

Movers and shakers in the field have been keen to find out if they are mentioned in the book, and there’s no index to help them.


Is this a ploy by the canny Galwegian to get more people to buy it? “No, the reason was time pressure. I had to do 70,000 words in less than two months. It would have taken a few more days to do an index, and we didn’t have time.”

It’s the truth, he says, not just spin.

Hat-trick for Irish education managers in Europe

The elevation of Clive Byrne to president of the European School Heads Association completes a hat-trick for Irish education administrators.

The Cabra man, who left St Mary's College, Dublin, to head up the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, joins Michael Moriarty, ETBI general secretary; and Padraig Walsh, Quality and Qualifications Ireland chief executive, in scoring at European level.

Moriarty is president of the European Federation of Education Employers and Walsh of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education. Talk about Ireland punching above its weight.

Languages ‘are the new Stem subjects’, says third-level chief

Higher Education Authority boss Tom Boland is urging guidance counsellors to highlight the overseas exchange opportunities to students when discussing third-level options.

Speaking at the recent launch of a new Erasmus+ Ireland-Germany project, he also stressed the importance of studying languages from primary level upwards. “We need to understand and communicate in more languages than Irish and English to be able to compete internationally. Languages are, in many ways, the new Stem subjects.”

The Ireland-Germany initiative sees 40 traineeships and placements being offered to Irish graduates.

Video competitions for schools

The closing date for registration for the Irish Congress of Trades Unions’ Youth Connect video competition is November 14th.

The task is to create a three-minute video in teams of two to four. The prize? A trip to New York – with your teacher.

Another video competition – primed to get students out of the editing booth – is the Pumped schools award, organised by the Irish Heart Foundation with Bayer. They are calling for 90-second movies on a heart-health theme, arguing that post-primary schools are not sufficiently adhering to the recommended two hours of physical education each week.

‘Dog Pooh’ hits the right notes

Last month, Cog Notes highlighted a marvellous educational movie about a killer toilet; this week, we’re giving a shout-out to Dog Pooh!

Again, it’s in a good cause. The operatic video is part of Environment: The Musical, the brainchild of Annette McNelis, a mother of three and a music tutor.

“My wish is to change the world with the messages contained in the songs and the script,” says McNelis, from Buncrana, Co Donegal. “I plan to do this by making environmental education fun and easy for our children, and by getting them singing too, leading to performances of the musical that will further inspire and educate the wider public.”

The website has attracted enthusiastic reviews from the likes of An Taisce and the INTO, and by gum is that Dog Pooh! chorus catchy.