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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Batt’s Man U week-end no compensation for 70,000 education protesters


Yesterday while 70,000 protested in Dublin against the education cuts, the minister responsible was far from the maddening crowd enjoying the delights of the Sretford End! It seems that Minster O’Keeffe had a long standing commitment to watch Sunderland play Manchester United. Sunderland were of course managed by former Cobh Ramblers star, Roy Keane until Thursday and while all politics is local, once Keane had resigned as manager, you’d have thought there was no need for the Minster’s attendance.
Last June, I was on holiday in Manchester too. My family spent a wonderful afternoon at MOSI. This is the museum of science and industry. Central to the museum work is the importance of encouraging a child’s imagination. Our youngsters loved the art in the original Manchester railway station, the world’s first. The emphasis is on hands on learning and activity. It’s fabulous! The teachers I met were aghast to hear that there was nothing with such an imaginative curriculum in south eastern Ireland. They may find it even stranger that Minister O’Keeffe has abolished financial grants to schools that teach chemistry or physics.
Is it too much to expect that Minister O’Keeffe might visit places like MOSI and come back invigorated for his brief? Somehow I think I it is, he seems more intersted in the nation's finances every time he talks!
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Anyhow back to the demo. A wonderful Wexford turnout, 3 buses from Wexford town, organised by INTO. I met a number of teachers, parents, student teachers, pupils on the streets of Dublin. One mother told me that her child was hungry and she went in to a restaurant for 45 minutes. When she came out, the demonstration was still in progress! I met Fidelma Delaney from Blanchardstown, Fidelma works for Crosscare as a psychologist. We know one another from college in the 80’s. We reminisced about our own marching days when we marched for free fees. We’ve agreed to meet up when we retire in 20 years time to march for our medical cards! One of the strategies that FF and the Greens have used to sideline the protests is that it’s only whinging teachers. Well its not about teachers, its about children.
I met angry parents, special needs assistants, members of boards of management, teachers, pupils, school bus drivers, members of religious orders and Labour members from around the country. I’m delighted there was such a strong Labour presence. I met Ruairi Quinn, Brendan Ryan, Peter Coyle and Joanna Tuffy and we had plenty of banners. Fine Gael’s plan to freeze teacher’s pay was not looked on well and I didn’t see one FG banner at the march although SF, Socialist Party, PBP could be seen. The greens, the party that promised lower class size was strangely AWOL too.
The campaign continues and I’ll try to cover it as best I can.

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