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Ursula prepares for retirement after 42 years at The Mercy

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Most of us will chose one or even two career paths in some shape or form throughout our lives, exploring different avenues and sometimes in opposite directions.

42 years of dedication to any one establishment, to any one community, requires a huge level of commitment, devotion and loyalty. My lens and I visited many of our national schools over the past week so I seized the opportunity to revisit Holy Cross Mercy National School to chat to principal Ursula Coffey ahead of her retirement.

“I attended Carysfort College in Dublin after graduating from Coláiste Íde in Dingle," Ursula explained.

"From Gneevguilla, Dublin was the most direct route to becoming a teacher. From Rathmore train station, direct to Dublin, it was the simplest route for my mother, who had just started to drive, shortly after my dad passed away when I was just 15. Past principal Sr Carmel (RIP) was a sister of my father's. She was principal at The Mercy from the early '80s until 1991 where Sr Regina took over until 2005. I was the eldest of four siblings and we all went to college in Dublin.

"There are no two days the same in many lines of work Marie but education is forever changing and evolving. Together with Catriona Behan and Catherine Mangan, who were hugely innovative with technology, we began an Erasmus project visiting Ylitornio, Finland, just half an hour away from the Arctic Circle, and frequented Birmingham regularly, where Apple devices changed our methods of teaching forever. Technology was used to differentiate for all needs and gave the ability to be creative making the way forward in communication so relevant. 2007/08 gave way for a massive change in reading and writing and thank God for it as it has seriously benefited every child. Literacy is enormously important for every subject but hugely for maths. Personally I felt there was too much emphasis on paperwork. The children are always and ever the centre of every decision we made at The Mercy NS. I spent 25 years as a teacher, dominantly Sixth Class girls, before becoming principal for a further 17 years,” she said.

PROUDEST MOMENT

“What has been your proudest moment at The Mercy Ursula?" I asked. I completely caught her on the hop. “There have been many Marie, but daily it brings me great joy to see happy children learning. It doesn’t matter what country you come from, we are inclusive and encourage creativity. We have a proud catholic heritage with the nuns since 1844 but here at The Mercy we welcome all religions and nationalities. I am grateful to have a superb team with over 50 staff, excluding the pre-school, which was originally set up by the nuns in the early '80s to facilitate children who could not attend private pre-schools. They were strong women who saw the need. We have also been blessed with excellent Board of Management teams along the way, who have offered immense support and guidance,” Ursula replied.

Ursula was being modest. She herself was a strong woman who saw the need. With prior knowledge, I began to poke a little more.

“A friend of mine works at your Autism Unit Ursula. I visited once with my lens - most impressive. That was built under your reign was it?” I asked.

“It was built in 2016 with four classes, with one purpose built room. Recently we were granted €4.2 million for a centre of excellence purpose built ASD Unit to up our expertise in that area. The nuns have gifted us the land at the back of the school and we are hopeful to put in an astro turf play area too but we will have to see how the build goes first. The department of education have done a lot in the upkeep of the school but if I won the Lotto in the morning we need a new hall!" Ursula joked. Indeed a strong woman who saw the need I thought, and what a legacy to leave behind.
 

RETIREMENT

“How do you feel about retirement Ursula,” I asked.

“I don’t like to talk about it much. My life has been The Mercy. My children went to school here and I taught my youngest, Jennifer, in Sixth Class. I remember taking a notion that she would ask me to be her sponsor for her confirmation to which she replied "mum, you will be too busy with all the other children". I had plans to retire a few years ago as my husband Kieran retired as principal from Fossa NS over 10 years ago but when COVID hit, how could I leave such mayhem? There was more work than ever to be done in setting up an education system that worked for the children at home. I had never been so thankful that we had always had the wheels of technology in motion here at The Mercy. The majority of the children were so resilient and bounced back in the gates of the school as if it never happened. This made me very happy."

“Have you any plans for your retirement,” I asked Ursula.

“My son Niall lives in Vancouver and is getting married to his fiancee Megan in July of next year, so we are really looking forward to that,” Ursula said.

“And where are your other children,” I asked. “Jennifer is married to Lee in Dublin and she works as a medical scientist in Temple Street. My son Fintan is a Garda in Macroom and is married to Laura and they have two girls, Sophie and Stella. My husband Kieran works two days per week still with the diocese and we look forward to celebrating our Ruby wedding anniversary next March, so there’s lots to look forward to Marie.”

It was soon photo time which Ursula considered the ‘worst part’. We made our way to vice principal Anne Lucey’s room, who has also served a lengthy time of 36 years at The Mercy. On the way she told me about how Ursula set up Accord in Killarney, Ireland's leading nationwide agency supporting marriages and relationships, which Ursula had forgotten to mention. This didn’t surprise me at all. I was also informed of her famous brownies, a must at Board of Management meetings, especially enjoyed by Fr Niall Howard.

Opting for accompaniment in her retirement portrait, Ursula is pictured with present teachers at The Mercy, Alice O’Donnell Davern and Frances Arthur, all who began their first day in Junior Infants at the school on September 1 1980, the same day Ursula began her lengthy teaching career in our community, educating all at Holy Cross Mercy NS for the past 42 years.

Thank you for having me Ursula, the pleasure was mine entirely.

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Is it a good time to sell your property?

By Ted Healy of DNG TED HEALY Recently published property outlooks are suggesting single digit growth in prices this year. The MyHome.ie quarterly report found the market had held up […]

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By Ted Healy of DNG TED HEALY

Recently published property outlooks are suggesting single digit growth in prices this year.

The MyHome.ie quarterly report found the market had held up better than evidence had suggested in 2022. The number of vendors cutting asking prices remained at low levels, while many house prices were being settled above asking prices.

However, the report warned that the resilience of the housing marking is set to be tested this year. It found annual asking price inflation slowed to six percent nationwide, meaning the asking price for the average home in Ireland is now €330,000.

There were 15,000 available properties for sale on MyHome.ie in the fourth quarter of the year – an improvement on the same time last year but still below pre-pandemic levels.

Average time to sale agreed was 2.7 months nationwide which the report said is indicative of a very tight housing market.

The report said it expects to see 28,400 house completions in 2022, exceeding its previous forecast of 26,500 finished units.

The author of the report, Conall MacCoille, Chief Economist at stockbrokers Davy, said it appeared the market had held up better than evidence had suggested.

“The number of vendors cutting their asking prices is still at low levels. Also, transactions in Q4 were still being settled above asking prices, indicative of a tight market,” he said.

Recent months had seen worrying trends in the homebuilding sector, with housing starts slowing, and the construction PMI survey pointing to the flow of new development drying up.

“We still expect housing completions will pick up to 28,400 in 2022 and 27,000 in 2023. However, the outlook for 2024 is far more uncertain. The Government’s ambitious plans to expedite planning processes are welcome although, as ever, the proof will be in the pudding,” he added.

Locally, and unsurprisingly, the lack of supply of new and second-hand properties remains the dominant issue. There has been very little new construction due largely to the rising cost of construction, labour, materials and utilities which in turn is putting pressure on the second hand market.

This market proved particularly strong in 2022 with active bidding experienced on the majority of house sales and a large proportion of guide prices being generally exceeded.

The detached family home end of the market is particularly strong with increased competition for a limited number of available well located family homes.

So, what lies ahead and is it a good time to sell your property?

The answer is a tight market with scarcity of supply being a factor. If selling now you will benefit greatly from a lack of supply of available homes (therefore less competition) provided your property is marketed correctly of course!

For anyone considering placing their property on the market, contact DNG Ted Healy 064 6639000 killarney@dng.ie for genuine honest advice on how to achieve the best possible price for your home.

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Tourism VAT rate should be “continued indefinitely”

A Kerry Fianna Fáil Councillor believes the current 9% tourism VAT rate should be continued indefinitely despite “the allegation that some hotels were not passing on the saving to its […]

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A Kerry Fianna Fáil Councillor believes the current 9% tourism VAT rate should be continued indefinitely despite “the allegation that some hotels were not passing on the saving to its customers”.

The reduced VAT rate of 9% was introduced by the Government in response to the challenges posed by COVID-19 to the hospitality sector.

“I believe a return to a 13.5% Tourism VAT rate would be counterproductive at this stage, to small and medium businesses that welcome visitors to our country and our county,” Councillor Michael Cahill said.

“Catered food is already charged at 13.5%, alcohol at 23% and accommodation presently at 9%. This sector is providing pretty decent returns to the Exchequer and should be supported. All parties in this debate, including the Government and accommodation providers, should review their position and ensure their actions do not contribute to ‘killing the Goose that laid the Golden Egg’.”

He explained that the tourism industry is “in a very volatile market”, as can be seen by the enormous challenges “posed by COVID-19 in recent years”.

“A grain of rice could tip the balance either way and great care must be taken not to damage it irreparably. We are all aware that the next six to 12 months will be extremely difficult for many businesses with the increase in the cost of oil and gas, etc,, and a return to the 13.5% VAT rate will, in my opinion, close many doors. If a minority are ‘price gouging’, then it should be possible to penalise them and continue to support the majority who offer value for money to our visitors.”

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