Pat King said a small minority of members had treated the minister disgracefully during Mr Quinn’s speech to the union’s annual convention on Tuesday.
Mr King told ASTI delegates that he and union president Sally Maguire — who, he said, represented the 17,000 members’ views concisely to the minister — had to go on radio shows yesterday morning to explain the behaviour seen and heard in the media was not representative of teachers.
“It is nothing short of a tragedy that this magnificent moment for the ASTI was overshadowed by the actions of a small number of our members,” Mr King told the convention yesterday, prompting applause from most delegates in the room.
The minister had to speak over loud heckling and shouting through most of his speech from small groups of members, one of them using a megaphone at one stage, although most of the room became rowdy as Mr Quinn pushed his points on junior cycle reform.
Mr King said it would have been far easier yesterday to say nothing, but he would have been ashamed of himself if he did that.
“Last January I described in detail to CEC [ASTI’s central executive council] how I had been bullied and abused on a website run and moderated by ASTI members.
“Included on the website, and left on the website by the moderators for several weeks, was a clear death threat for me and, worse still, despicable references to my children and grandchildren,” he said.
“I told CEC about this personal abuse because I don’t want anyone else to suffer in that way.
“I also promised myself I would never sit silently and allow any other human being to be bullied or abused in my presence,” he said.
“Yesterday, in this room, I saw a man being abused, shouted down and treated disgracefully by a minority in this room and the source of some of that abuse came from exactly the same origins as the abuse I experienced,” Mr King said.
A head of the ASTI Fightback group, whose members were among those protesting during Mr Quinn’s address, later said that he did not know of a death threat on its Facebook site.
He said the group had checked for any such threats.
“We have a responsibility to make sure that there aren’t any negative comments or personal attacks, and so it removed a reference which Pat King complained about last January that had referred to his grandchildren,” said Mark Walshe, a teacher from Swords in Co Dublin.
He said the nature of the removed post, which he said was put up by another teacher, was to ask how the general secretary could look his children in the eye given his role in pay agreements that were damaging education.