It was like early morning school assembly, with a group of unruly pupils hellbent on giving the school principal a hard time.
And so it was that Education Minister Richard Bruton had a taste of what can go on in the classroom as rumbustious ASTI delegates heckled and jeered throughout his speech.
In Cork to address the annual convention of the union representing secondary school teachers, Mr Bruton had to pause for water while those sitting at the top table repeatedly called for “order in the hall”.
Placard-wielding delegates lined either side of the sizeable convention centre, holding aloft posters demanding equal pay.
Since 2011, new entrants to the teaching profession are earning less than colleagues for doing the same job. ASTI president Ger Curtin said it meant post-2010 teachers had endured losses in income amounting to €6,000 and €7,000 per annum.
“Pá Céanna don Obair Chéanna,” some of the posters read (same Pay for the same job) and delegates repeatedly called on the minister to “pay up”.
Any mention by Mr Bruton of progress made in education was largely met with jeers.
When he mentioned how the curriculum had expanded with the introduction of subjects such as Mandarin, one delegate yelled “We can emigrate to China”. This was against a backdrop of teachers claiming that graduates are emigrating because of unattractive pay scales and lack of full-time jobs.
Asked afterwards by the press if he felt he got a bad reception, Mr Bruton answered: “I thought it was a very good reception”, which could prompt one to ask “What was in the water that he drank?”.
“I’m a politician who is used to speaking off the back of a truck and maybe it’s a declining skill, but heckling has always been part of the political currency that I know and love. I didn’t find it in any way disrespectful,” he said.
No detention then for the errant ASTI delegates, who surely would have doled it out in the classroom, had they been at the receiving end.
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