Drawing attention to their superior working conditions, Dr Edward Walsh said they constantly made “outrageous demands” and were now choosing to ignore that the country was in a “national crisis”.
“One would expect the leaders of communities to give good example. Irish teachers are well paid. Despite the cuts, they’re paid 20% more than their counterparts in Britain.
“They teach one of the shortest school years in the world. They manage to come and go during the school day. In other places it’s a nine to five school day. They have 21 days of undocumented sick days. So they’re a pampered group and they really are behaving like spoiled children.
“It’s about time they gave leadership in their community and helped the country redeem itself,” he said.
Responding last night, the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) described Dr Walsh’s comments as “mischievous, ill thought-out and an insult to the profession”.
“He is completely oblivious to the realities of teaching in Ireland at the moment.
“Teachers have had their salaries slashed by 20% when unpaid increases, the pension levy and pay cuts are taken into consideration. They cannot take any more hardship.
“He would do well to remember that not all teachers are on permanent contracts or full hours and many struggle to make financial commitments due to a cut in hours and salary.
“Just 68.2% of teachers in vocational schools in Ireland are permanent, and just 27% of teachers under 30 in Ireland are permanent,” a TUI spokesman said.
Speaking on Newstalk yesterday, Dr Walsh called upon the Government to “face down” the teachers and let them strike for a full year, if that’s what they want.
“I would hope that the Government and the minister would face down any threat of strike there.
“Aer Lingus I think indicated the kind of executive leadership that’s required.
“Teachers’ salaries each year cost the taxpayer €4 billion and in extremis I don’t think it would be a great crisis if, in fact, all of the teachers went on strike for a year, we would then save €4bn and we would avoid an extra 60,000 people coming onto the workforce.
“It would not be a national crisis, if the whole school system, to face down the teachers, were closed.
“This is the kind of tough talk that is required,” he said.