Irish teachers who fled Libyan uprising demand unpaid salaries of €200,000

Former staff criticise Irish Government for continuing to facilitate Leaving Certificate curriculum at International school

Saadi Gadafy, son of Libyan leader Muammar Gadafy. Two of his children were educated at the International School of the Martyrs. Photograph: EPA/Filippo Monteforte

Saadi Gadafy, son of Libyan leader Muammar Gadafy. Two of his children were educated at the International School of the Martyrs. Photograph: EPA/Filippo Monteforte

Wed, May 8, 2013, 06:00

A group of 17 teachers from Ireland who are owed salaries totalling up to €200,000 by a school in Libya has criticised the Government for continuing to facilitate the Leaving Certificate curriculum at the school.

The Tripoli-based International School of the Martyrs (ISM) has offered the Irish syllabus and exam system since the mid-1990s. It is the only school outside Ireland to offer the Leaving Certificate curriculum and exams. Two of Muammar Gadafy’s grandchildren once studied at the school.

Mohammed and Safia Gadafy, whose father, Saadi, is Gadafy’s third son, were students at the ISM before the family fled Tripoli after the city fell to rebel forces in August 2011. Saadi Gadafy is now under house arrest in neighbouring Niger, but the whereabouts of his family are unknown.

Independent TD for Wicklow and East Carlow Stephen Donnelly will raise the teachers’ case in the Dáil this week as preparations get under way to allow students at the school to sit the Leaving Cert in Malta, where the exams have been held since 2011 due to security concerns in Libya.

The Department of Education and the Department of Foreign Affairs are liaising with the Maltese authorities to facilitate the exams.

Fled uprising
Many of the school’s expatriate staff, including the 17 teachers from Ireland, fled Libya when the uprising against Gadafy began in February 2011. The coeducational school is now operating fully again with 700 students enrolled. More than 60 are registered to sit the Leaving Cert this summer.

In an email sent on April 25th, seen by The Irish Times , Martina Mannion of the State Examinations Commission (SEC) told school dean Moftah Messei and principal Donna McPhee that the issue of the outstanding salaries was “an urgent matter” which the commission wished to see resolved.

“We asked you last year to make the necessary arrangements to ensure that all outstanding monies owed to them were paid and we are disappointed that this has not happened,” Ms Mannion wrote. “We are now requesting that all monies owed to these teachers is paid and we will ask them to confirm this to us as soon as payment is received.”

Ms McPhee, a Canadian national who has worked at the school for 13 years, confirmed to The Irish Times that the school had not responded to the email. She claimed the school intended to pay the money owed but had been unable to do so due to what she said were Libyan restrictions on overseas money transfers introduced following the 2011 revolution. “I believe that will be changing quite soon and I am therefore confident we will be able to pay soon,” she added.

One of the teachers, Oisín O’Nualláin, took issue with the reasons given by Ms McPhee, noting that the school had continued to pay the Department of Education the relevant fees to allow its students to sit the exams. He added that the school had previously paid the teachers through a Maltese bank account and not a Libyan one.

Another teacher, Fintan Coen, said they felt betrayed by the Government. “We maintain the Government’s neglect of our contractual entitlements and continuing to do business with a school that has so mistreated its former employees, is a betrayal of our commitment to our teaching posts, a commitment we undertook with pride and honour as ambassadors of the Irish school curriculum,” he added.

In a statement, the commission states it has no role in relation to contractual issues between schools and their employees. “The SEC has been informed by some former teachers in the [ISM] that there are outstanding contractual issues between their employers and themselves . . . In order to be helpful to these former employees of the school, the SEC has brought their concerns to the attention of the school authorities.”

The school was established in the 1950s to educate expatriate children whose parents worked in the oil sector and the diplomatic community.