THE risk of strike in schools grew this week as the row between teachers and Laois VEC worsened significantly, after angry scenes at Monday’s monthly VEC meeting.
Teachers and management clashed during the meeting while a protest approximately 60 strong was held outside VEC offices on the Ridge Road in Portlaoise. Inside the meeting there were strong words between teachers’ representative Gerry Quinn and chairperson Councillor Mary Sweeney when it was ruled that the issue should be discussed behind closed doors.
The protest outside was attended by teachers from schools all over the county who expressed anger at the transfer of two teachers from Portlaoise College. It was also attended by president of the TUI Mr Gerald Craughwell. Teachers will be balloting for strike action early next week.
During the meeting Mr Quinn attempted to raise the issue several times during the meeting but was told by Cllr Sweeney that she had sought legal advice and that they could not discuss it until the relevant time. The issue was then discussed in committee and the press were asked to leave. Mr Quinn and a second teachers representative later walked out of the meeting.
Speaking to the Leinster Express afterwatrds, Mr Quinn said that “it is clear that there was an attempt to close contributions. I had to make several attempts to discuss the issue. It is within the remit of the committee, in the area of policy. What we sought to do was ensure that it was operated correctly”.
Mr Quinn said that the issue wasn’t listed on the agenda for the meeting and that there was a considerable level of confusion. “I had absolutely no option but to clarify that. There was a difference of view. There is no question of us endangering the board and I absolutely respect the law. The committee’s responsibility is policy and it must operate within the policy of the VEC”. He added that the meeting was very difficult. “There was a lack of clarity beforehand and we’ll have to reflect together now”.
Cllr Sweeney told the Leinster Express that she sincerely hoped the matter would be resolved. “I want to clarify completely that I had made consideration that the matter would be on the agenda. I have had very, very upsetting phonecalls and contact from people in the TUI. I must do as the legal advice said, I am responsible for the committee”.
She said that there will be ongoing contact between the relevant people. “There will have to be comprimise on all sides”. Laois VEC CEO Anne O’ Keefe was unavailable for comment.