Teacher shortages the latest dilemma with roots in housing crisis

Inside Politics: Tendrils of housing issue continue to spread as Martin’s premiership enters final stages

Good morning,

The move to allow Minister for Education Norma Foley suspend career breaks for teachers heralds another significant wintertime headache for the Government. It’s important to note that it’s not a full-scale cancellation of all career breaks, nor has the decision to suspend or amend career breaks for new applicants even been taken yet, but Foley’s decision to equip herself with a host of new tools (some dozen actions are being considered) gives an indication of the depths of the concern in the Department of Education.

What will really concentrate minds in the Coalition is the fact that the move has its roots in the housing crisis, with the shortage of teachers most acute in Dublin, where salaries simply cannot keep up with the cost of living. With the seemingly intractable housing crisis now spilling over into other areas – areas that hit parents and schoolchildren, areas that sharpen voter intent – the worry will be: what next? And can anything be done to stop these dilemmas gathering pace?

Education Editor Carl O’Brien runs the rule over the options here.


It comes as Micheál Martin prepares to chair his penultimate Cabinet meeting this morning, before handing over the keys of the Taoiseach’s office to Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. After a rocky start, Martin is seen as having had a steadying influence over the first “grand coalition”-type government in Irish history.

It is a strange time to consider the issue of legacy for Martin – not least because he may still lead Fianna Fáil into the next general election, and will continue as tánaiste and a Cabinet minister – at least for now. An unkind reading of his term is that he kept the spending floodgates open during crises, but failed to make an appreciable dent in the chronic problems that are most likely to hurt them in the next election: namely, health and housing, issues that are now patently making their presence felt across the board, as the teacher supply problem shows.

Recent polls are broadly encouraging for the Government, and supporters of the Taoiseach feel that he has held back the tide, claiming a sense that the Government has survived and has the potential at least to build from here. Whether that is real or wishful thinking, or whether the Government can generate enough momentum to achieve escape velocity from the overlapping crises chasing them, remains to be seen.

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Cabinet is set to meet at 8.45am. A busy agenda is topped by the long-awaited hospital consultants’ pay deal.

Afterwards, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar will launch the Government White Paper on enterprise at 12.15pm in Government Buildings, joined by junior ministers Dara Calleary and Damien English.

The tourism committee will meet officials and representatives of the industry to discuss the vexed issue of the rising cost of tourist accommodation in Ireland – that’s at 3pm. Earlier in the day, Eamon Ryan and Hildegarde Naughton meet the transport committee to consider aviation policy, and Michael McGrath is up to discuss lobbying legislation with the finance committee, followed by Paschal Donohoe on legislation relating to individual accountability in financial services. The full schedule is here.

Action in the Dáil starts with topical issues at 9am, followed by a Private Members’ motion from the Social Democrats on teacher shortages. Leaders’ Questions is at midday, before Government business in the afternoon covering off pre-European Council statements, the Work Life Balance Bill, health insurance and legislation designed to address the issue of mandatory disclosure, arising from the CervicalCheck scandal. The full schedule is here.

The Seanad sits at 10am, hearing tributes to former senator Terry Brennan before lunch. Government business in the afternoon includes the Finance Bill and the Social Welfare Bill. The full running order is here.

The Construction Defects Alliance will hold a protest and lunchtime briefing outside Leinster House tomorrow.

And there’s no World Cup action to distract anyone for two whole days.