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Bill could save Government blushes on Teaching Council

By Niall Murray, Education Correspondent
A BILL being rushed through the Oireachtas this week could save Government embarrassment after it emerged that it gave the go-ahead for elections to the first Teaching Council without having legislative basis.

The council will work as a regulatory body for the profession and is due to be formally established by Education Minister Mary Hanafin next month.

Of its 37 members, 21 were nominated by the minister, unions and other representative bodies.

The remaining 16 were elected directly by teachers in November 2004 but a technical issue in relation to the elections emerged recently in the Department of Education.

The elections were held under regulations signed into law by then minister Noel Dempsey in September 2004. But as officials prepared for the commencement of the Teaching Council on a statutory basis, it transpired that the section of the 2001 Teaching Council Act under which the regulations were made had not been legally commenced.

Ms Hanafin told the Dáil this raised a potential question about the legal basis for the elections, leading to the bill introduced yesterday.

"The amendments covered by this bill retrospectively validate the power to make these regulations, thus ensuring that there can be no question about whether the elections were held in accordance with the Teaching Council Act," she said.

Department of Education officials have notified council members that the amendments are the result of an apparent oversight.

A department spokesperson said last night it was unclear how, or at what stage, the matter was overlooked. But she stressed that the preparatory work already undertaken by the council would not be affected.