Lessons from teachers’ conferences

Sat, Apr 6, 2013, 06:00

Sir, – Brian Mooney in his critique on teacher conferences, “Let’s not drown out our own voices at convention” (Education, April 2nd), seems to imply the Asti and other unions are not that democratic or representative of their membership.

He uses quotations marks around the word representatives to denote irony. He is basically saying they don’t represent the majority of “reasonable” teachers. I have been involved in the Asti actively for about a decade. I don’t recall Brian Mooney attending a conference or putting himself forward for union elections. He is free to do so at at any time.

It is not fair to imply that those who give up precious family time are somehow unrepresentative. They come from schools all over Ireland and act on the wishes of their members – not their personal whims. He should not judge union activists by a few selective TV clips. Every major decision the Asti/TUI/INTO makes must be passed by its members in a democratic ballot . There is no democratic centralism in any union.

He also implies that Croke Park 2 is simply about pay and conditions. He is right to remind us all about how this might play in the home of somebody who is unemployed. However, Croke Park 2 is not just about pay. By passing this agreement union members are bound to co-operate with “ongoing change” including the proposed reform of the Junior Cert, of which there are many valid educational criticisms that have nothing whatsoever to do with pay and conditions. – Yours, etc,


Asti Central Executive


The Headlands,

Bray, Co Wicklow.

 A chara, – Gregory Pym (April 4th) repeats the common misconception that all teachers have “generous pay, conditions and job security”.

The reality however, is quite different. An increasing number of Irish teachers are employed on a casual part-time basis with no job security, often living on less than the minimum wage.

Young teachers are in an exceptionally difficult position. The majority of secondary teachers under 30 years of age are on non-permanent contracts of a year or less. They are being offered insecure employment rather than a dedicated career and far from “job security” these teacher have no guarantee that their job will even exist in the next school year.

We now have an army of nomadic teachers who wait by the phone each night in the hope of scraping together a few hours of employment the next day. The proposals in Croke Park 2 will further reduce their employment opportunities and drive these teachers out of the workforce and most likely, out of the country.

Newly qualified teachers enter the teaching profession after an unpaid training period of five years (soon to be six at second level). It takes many more years to secure some level of permanency and even then, this is on reduced hours that see them earning considerably less than the average industrial wage.

It is hard to see future graduates flocking towards teaching as a career. – Is mise,



Killarney, Co Kerry.

A chara, – I take exception to the comments of Terry Doyle (Letters, April 4th), and others who have criticised the behaviour of teachers at their respective conferences. I wish to put on public record as an INTO member who attended the largest of the teacher unions conference this week, if for no other reason but to assure my family, my many friends and more importantly my teaching colleagues of St Patrick’s Boys School, Drumcondra, Dublin, as well as my branch members in Dublin Tolka, and my District 14 of the INTO, that I don’t wish to be associated with the remarks made in relation to the “bad manners” and “disgraceful behaviour from our teachers” by Terry Doyle.

I was not even presented with a red card, which I accept many delegates had in the hall on Tuesday morning last, and which many, though not all, used at various times throughout the Minister’s speech, by way of a peaceful protest at remarks he made in relation to our ever-changing terms and conditions of service.

As delegate of the Dublin Tolka branch of INTO, I feel it important to clarify that not everyone behaved as was stated in a “disgraceful behaviour”, and while I totally sympathise and fully support the plight of newly qualified teachers, as well as criticise the huge cuts to salaries and the (yet again) drastic changes to our terms and conditions of service under Croke Park 2, I did not offer up four days of my Easter holidays to travel to Cork to heckle the Minister, or to be accused of such like.

In my personal opinion, the heckling was to a minimum, no more and no less than you would witness at a football match in Croke Park , or a concert in the 02. The INTO President Ann Fay, had only to call order once to the delegates while the Minister was speaking, and not “twice” or a “few times” as was reported by the media.

Although many did engage in the heckling, it was some and not all. I, like so many who read these allegations and such like, feel I have a personal duty to put my feelings on record, and as a proud member of the INTO member I feel it necessary to set the record straight. – Is mise,



Blanchardstown, Dublin 15.