Up to 4,000 schools shut doors and colleges cancel lectures


EDUCATION:THE ONE-DAY strike by more than 50,000 teachers yesterday closed almost 4,000 schools. There was also widespread disruption to the higher education sector, with lectures cancelled across the institute of technology sector and many universities.

UL and DCU, where workers voted against the strike, were open as normal. In Dublin, the INTO claimed more than 5,000 teachers protested outside the Department of Education. The union said the national strike sent a clear message to Government that teachers and other public servants want meaningful talks on an equitable plan.

About 1,000 teachers protested outside the department offices in Sligo. More than 700 attended a protest in Naas, while crowds of 400 and 500 protested in Tullamore and Athlone. Individual schools were picketed by local arrangements across the country.

Addressing teachers in Dublin, incoming general secretary of the INTO Sheila Nunan called on teachers to ignore attempts to divide and conquer workers. She said crude attempts to separate public and private sector workers would fail. “Efforts to pitch the low-paid against average-paid workers will equally fail. The agenda of trying to set the unemployed against those with jobs is also doomed to failure.

“The INTO wants a fair solution to this crisis,” she told the crowd, “one that protects employment, homes, services and salaries.”

John White, general secretary of the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI), said all of the 550 schools where it has members were closed today. “ASTI members would prefer if they were teaching their classes but the solidarity of the support for the strike sends a message to the Government there is a fairer, better way than scapegoating teachers and public sector workers.”

At the INTO march in Dublin, teachers said salaries and job cuts were the strikers’ priorities. “Today is about pay,” said primary school teacher Pat Crowe from North Kildare Educate Together school in Celbridge. “We’ve worked hard for class sizes and we will continue to do so. It is disruptive for parents . . . and it is not good for children. I’d rather be in a classroom but I feel backed up against a wall,” he said.

Protesters said they believed they were paying for a gap in public finances caused by a tax revenue collapse. They called on the Government to use taxation to distribute the burden rather than cut back on public services.