April 5, 2021
Minister must urgently engage with school staff to avoid industrial action – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has urged Minister for Education Norma Foley to engage urgently with school staff and their unions to avoid industrial action.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“The last thing anyone wants to see is industrial action in schools. School staff are extremely reluctant to consider it as they have already put so much work into getting schools back safely.

“However, there is enormous anger at the government decision to remove vaccine prioritisation for frontline staff, including teachers and SNAs.

“Teachers and SNAs work in environments where social distancing can be at minimum challenging and often effectively impossible. 

“They were given commitments on the vaccine rollout when agreeing to go back into crowded environments to ensure a key service was provided and our children were educated. 

“They were assured they were a priority, because education is a priority. Government now needs to back that up.

“Instead, the government has paid lip service to the importance of education, while in the same breath removing any vaccine prioritisation for staff working in our schools. It is unbelievable.

“It doesn’t make sense that someone without an underlying condition able to work from home could get the vaccine in advance of teaching staff, who must go to work every day and support our young people.

“I have written to my colleagues in the Education Committee asking that we write to the Minister expressing our concerns and seeking the Minister address this.

“Industrial action can be avoided if the political will exists in government. Teaching staff just want the commitment they were given to be restored.

“I note Minister Foley’s comments in the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party last week where she sought a ‘detailed rationale’ for its recommendation to change the vaccination sequence.

“It is hard to take these comments seriously given she herself signed off on the proposal the previous day, but I hope it indicates that she herself understands the concerns and frustrations. 

“I hope that she is not just shaping and paying lip service, and that she will now listen to school staff, to SNAs and Teachers. 

“If she and the government are serious about education being a priority, they need to show it.”

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