Gerry Flynn has described his election as president of Clonmel Rotary Club as a daunting task in some respects but also looks upon it as an opportunity to work with a committed group of people to provide valuable service to the community.
Gerry, who has been a member of Rotary since 2005, has taken over the role from Brian Sheerin. Originally from Borrisokane in North Tipperary, he retired from the teaching staff of the Loreto Secondary School three years ago, where he was career guidance counsellor.
He’ll have precious little spare time on his hands for the foreseeable future, as he has also been elected president of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors for a two-year term. This national body represents 1,300 practitioners working in secondary education, third level colleges and colleges of further education, as well as those working in private practice in other settings.
While he appreciates that he has a busy time ahead he’s pleased to be in a position to give something back to the community and to society.
With the motto of Service Before Self, Rotary International forms a global network of business, professional and community leaders who volunteer their time and talents to serve communities locally and around the world.
Its major international project for the last 27 years has been the eradication of polio, which Gerry Flynn says has been an outstanding success. When Rotary embarked on the project in 1985 there were 181,000 cases of the disease worldwide. Last year that figure was reduced to 228. Cases of polio are now confined to four countries - Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Chad - and so far this year just 78 cases have been reported, while India has been polio-free for the past 12-18 months.
Gerry says they’ve been fortunate to receive matching funding from the Bill Gates Foundation and the total invested by the foundation and Rotary has amounted to $1.1 billion. The local club contributes to the overall fund from its successful Celebrity Chef competition.
At a national level in the next year Rotary will support Special Olympics Ireland.
Of course much of the Clonmel club’s work is carried out at a local level and it’s well-known for its fundraising for organisations including the Hospice, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the South Tipp Mental Health Association.
Next year it has plans to encourage young people to develop their creative talents through Young Photographer, Young Writer and Young Musician competitions in the schools.
It also promotes the Youth Leadership project, where 29 students in six schools in South Tipperary were interviewed, with one student progressing to the regional final; and the Young Chef competition, also in the schools.
It operates a scholarship programme for youth exchange with all the Rotary clubs worldwide, and an ambassadorial scholarship programme where successful students represent the district while pursuing further studies in another country.
Gerry Flynn says that all of this wouldn’t be possible without the commitment and co-operation of the members. They are involved in the club’s major fundraisers such as the golf classic, streets collections and the Remembrance Tree at Christmas. The club also funds other deserving causes in the community.
The Institute of Guidance Counsellors, of which Gerry is also president, has a liaison and advocacy role with government departments, management bodies, the trade unions, national parents groups, higher and further education institutions and the employment and training agencies.
The Institute is a largely voluntary organisation made up of 16 branches around the country, with each branch represented on the national executive.
Gerry says that the Institute faces a particularly challenging year because of cutbacks that have reduced the allocation for the provision of guidance. Each school, for instance, must now provide for guidance from within its own resources, which has implications for the provision of support services for students.
“We hope that the government will reverse the cuts and ensure that this vital frontline service is maintained. The system is at breaking point and the real losers in all of this are the young people, who only get one chance”, he says.
Gerry is married to the former Anne O’Reilly, who was a teacher at the Sisters of Charity School in Clonmel for many years. Thge couple have three children - Shane, a primary teacher in Dublin; Cathal, who qualified as a town planner and now lives and works in the ski resort of Bamff in the Canadian state of Alberta; and their daughter Clara, who has just completed her degree in business and law in UCD and is going on to do a Masters degree in accountancy at the Smurfit Graduate Business School.