Cog Notes: Is the ASTI fit for purpose?

Kieran Christie takes over a divided union that has dodged hard decisions

Recriminations continue within the ASTI over the rejected ballot for junior cycle reform. It's not the finest hour for the 180-member central executive committee, whose failure to make a recommendation on the plan left the path clear for Fightback, a left-wing faction fondly known as "the Trots". But as well as bombarding schools with Vote No literature, one of Fightback's leading lights, Andrew "Megaphone Man" Phelan, has been busy expanding a side enterprise. With the sort of get-up-and-go that would make Ibec proud, the PE teacher is a brand in his own right through Phelan Fit, a sports training and conditioning service.

Phelan, who says he is doing a master’s degree in strength and conditioning, sets out a three-point plan for clients on his website: be honest with yourself, train honestly and follow the Phelan fit programme.

“I am determined to help you achieve your goals, no matter how challenging they may be,” he says.

Sounds like he has a ready customer in incoming ASTI general secretary Kieran Christie, who takes over a divided union that has dodged hard decisions, including the overhaul of its backward and paralysis-inducing committee system. Time for the ASTI to have a hard look in the mirror.


A very specific challenge due to face the teacher unions shortly was highlighted by Ruairí Quinn’s former adviser John Walshe at ETBI’s annual conference recently. Always one for an interesting fact, he noted that the education portfolio has been held for the past three decades by either Labour or Fianna Fáil, arguably the two most union-friendly parties. If the ASTI finds Jan O’Sullivan too hard to deal with, imagine how it’ll fare with Simon Harris, Lucinda Creighton or Shane Ross? Walshe had the audience stumped on the identity of the last Fine Gael minister for education. Gemma Hussey? No. It was Paddy Cooney in 1986.


A PhD scholar from NUI Galway is seeking participants for a national survey calculating the economic costs to families raising a child or children with an autism-spectrum disorder. The survey, which is strictly confidential, is being conducted by Áine Roddy in association with Irish Autism Action. It is the first international study of its kind. It is hoped that it will inform public policy about the economic burden of raising a child with autism. Everyone who returns a completed survey has a chance to win one of five iPads. The survey can be downloaded at and should be returned by email or Freepost before Friday, October 23rd.


Newly qualified Irish teachers are increasingly being targeted by overseas recruiters, and for those interested in exploring their options there's a seminar on Saturday, October 17th, in Stillorgan Park Hotel in Dublin. Widening Horizons: International Career Opportunities for Irish Teachers is organised by Godsil Education, the consultancy set up by Arthur Godsil, a former headmaster of St Andrew's College, Dublin. He says, "English-medium international schools – of which there are now over 7,700 around the world – offer significant opportunities to both Ireland's jobless teachers and career breakers, as well as those teachers looking to advance into more senior administration roles." Tickets are €10, or €30 if including a personal career consultation.

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times and writer of the Unthinkable philosophy column