29 October 2008

Massive Protest against Education Cuts in Dublin

In freezing cold temperature and rain approximately 12,000 teachers and parents turned out this evening to demonstrate against the education cuts announced in the 2009 Budget. (This figure is according to official sources, while the organisers of the protest say that they brought 20,000 people to Dublin.)
The rally outside Leinster House coincided with a Dáil debate on a Labour Party motion calling for the increase in class sizes to be reversed. It was addressed by several union leaders, parent representatives, school managers and politicians.

John Carr (right), General Secretary of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO), described the budget as "an act of educational sabotage".
He said the people were there to protest in the strongest possible terms about it, adding that they would not allow the educational system to be destroyed by the people inside Leinster House.
He urged the people to "stand and fight, shoulder to shoulder, against the most savage cuts ever taken against children in this country".
The cutbacks represented one broken promise too many, he added.

John White (left), General Secretary of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI), said the cuts would affect every single school in the country.
He urged those at the rally to go back to their communities and ascertain what the effect of the cuts will be on their local schools, and then tell their local representatives.

Ferdia Kelly (right), the General Secretary of the Joint Managerial Body (JMB), which represents the Boards of Management of more than 400 Secondary Schools in the Republic of Ireland, warned that from January children may have to be sent home from schools, or schools may even be closed for a time, because of the proposed cutbacks on substitute teachers.
For generations, he said, teachers, parents and management had worked hard to keep Ireland near to the top of the international league on education.

Áine Lynch of the National Parents Council Primary (NPCP) said the increase in the capitation grant announced in the Budget will not even cover the rise in fuel prices and other day-to-day running costs of schools. The NPCP now fears that the cost of the deficit of running schools will be passed onto parents.
It also expressed concern about the reintroduction of the ceiling on language support teachers.

Meanwhile in the Dáil chamber this evening, the Taoiseach Brian Cowen (left) warned that "even with the Budget economies and cutbacks, the country will still run a deficit which will have to be tackled in the years ahead".

He was responding to questions from opposition leaders, including Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny.

Labour's education spokesman (and former leader) Ruairi Quinn (right) described the government's Budget as "an act of social vandalism which attacks children".
Introducing the Labour Party's motion seeking the reversal of the education cuts, he said that one effect of the cuts would be "to push young, shy children into classes of over 30 other children".

Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe (left), who is becoming increasingly rude and aggressive, accused the opposition of "hysterical claims and scaremongering" in the debate.
He described the changes as "a measured adjustment" and told TDs it was "not credible to claim that the primary school system will be in crisis next year as a result". It was pretty obvious that he was not comfortable in his role and stumbled through his speech in a very bad way, not to be seen from him often.

Fine Gael's Education spokesman Brian Hayes (right) said it was "stomach churning" to hear the Green Party justifying their support for the government cutbacks.
He predicted the controversy would prove "the Green's Stalingrad", claiming that the Green Party would never recover from the serious damage caused by breaking their pre-election promises.
Deputy Hayes emphasised that Minister Batt O'Keeffe "has no credibility in the education sector", describing him as "Brian Cowen's puppet".

Sinn Fein's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin (left) called the Budget cuts a "callous attack on Irish children" and - reaching out across the party lines - urged "all members of the Dáil, regardless of allegiance" to join him in the "defence of our young, our schools and our education system".
Deputy Ó Caoláin, himself a teacher by profession, arrived a few minutes late and entered the Dáil chamber while Ruairi Quinn was already speaking.
He came directly from the mass demonstration outside the parliament and introduced himself to the debate as "a messenger of thousands of teachers and parents gathered outside in outrage and anger over the government's onslaught on the education and future of our children".

A nasty incident overshadowed the debate for a while and raised the political tempers even further. Conor Lenihan (right), Minister of State for Integration and brother of Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, shouted across the Dáil chamber during the speech of a Fine Gael TD and called Dr. Leo Varadkar (left) - Fine Gael's spokesman for Enterprise, Trade and Employment - "a fascist".
Lenihan augmented that outrageous statement with
giving the Nazi salute, which caused uproar on the opposition benches and led to the intervention of Leas-Cheann Comhairle Brendan Howlin, who chaired the session in the absence of Cheann Comhairle John O'Donoghue.

The debate, which saw spirited exchanges between speakers from all parties, has now adjourned until tomorrow morning.

The Emerald Islander

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

it is unconsciounable to reduce funding for education; however, the people may consider thinking outside the box a bit. For example, one could open the doors of libraries after school and on weekends to (1) give the children someplace to go (2) give extra educational opportunities and (3)possibly provide expanded educational opportunities such as small workshops, seminars, and interactive activities by experts from the community.

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