Martin calls Bruton ‘lethargic and inept’ over teacher shortage

Varakdar urges FF leader not to be ‘partisan’ in statements made and questions asked

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said the State needed to invest in the training, pay and conditions of teachers. Photograph: Cyril Byrne.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said the State needed to invest in the training, pay and conditions of teachers. Photograph: Cyril Byrne.

 

A claim by the Fianna Fáil leader that the Taoiseach distorts issues and gives “dishonest’’ replies has led to sharp Dáil exchanges.

Micheál Martin expressed dissatisfaction with Leo Varadkar’s responses on Wednesday when he raised the shortage of teachers in the education system.

“You should answer questions that you are asked,’’ said Mr Martin. “You have a tendency to engage in partisan politics in response to genuine questions asked.’’

The Taoiseach replied: “With respect, deputy, if you don’t wish to be partisan, you will have to lead by example as well and not be partisan in the statements you make and the questions you ask.’’

Mr Varadkar said “partisanship” standards should apply to everybody in the House and not just to the Government.

Earlier, Mr Martin said there was a time in Ireland when the teacher, particularly the primary school principal, had a celebrated status in the village or community.

There was a need to invest in the training, pay and conditions and quality of teaching experience.

“In short, we must always seek to attract our brightest and best to the teaching profession,” he added.

“We are not doing that at the moment in this country.’’

Second-level schools, in particular, were finding it difficult to recruit teachers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, Irish, German, French and much more, he added.

Mr Martin said Minister for Education Richard Bruton was being “lethargic and inept’’ in dealing with the issue.

Mr Varadkar said there were 5,000 more teachers working in schools than there were two years ago. That was evidence of the Government’s commitment to education, he added.

He said he did not agree with Mr Martin that the people going into teaching were not the brightest and the best.

Mr Martin denied he had said that.

“Read back on what you said,’’ Mr Varadkar replied.

The Taoiseach said applications for courses were cyclical.