More than 43,000 primary teachers are voting over the next month to elect the head of one of the country’s biggest unions.
Two serving officials and a former president of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) are contesting the vote to become the general secretary, which is decided by a ballot of members.
The job offers a starting salary of €127,623 and will be filled next August after the departure of Sheila Nunan from the role. The pay scale was previously tied to the that of a deputy secretary general in a government department, but was reduced by Ms Nunan to tie it with the assistant secretary general grade when she took up the role.
She announced in August she would be stepping down from the job to which she was elected in 2009.
The general secretary leads the day-to-day running of the union, which has 36,000 members in the Republic and more than 7,000 in the North. The position is only open to anyone who has been a teacher and a member of the INTO for at least five years, and candidates had to be nominated by one or more branches with a membership of more than 500.
All INTO members will receive ballot papers next week and a result should be declared on December 18. The winner will be appointed as general secretary designate next March, before taking over in the top job in August.
Like Ms Nunan, one candidate, John Boyle, is an ex-president of the INTO, having chaired its executive committee for a year up to last Easter. The principal of a large Dublin primary school, he received the nominations of 107 INTO branches following initial canvassing around the country since the incumbent announced her plans.
Alison Gilliland has worked for the INTO for 14 years, having taught in Dublin and Spain, and is the equality officer in charge of professional development services for members.
The Labour Party member of Dublin City Council has the support of 18 branches.
INTO assistant general secretary Deirdre O’Connor, who has been an official since 2002, has nominations from 41 branches. She worked at a Monaghan primary school and a programme supporting implementation of the new primary curriculum before becoming an employee of INTO, where she heads the section dealing with terms and conditions for members.
The biggest questions facing the candidates may be around how the union deals with the pay equality issue, after the union’s members in the Republic voted 53% to 47% last month to reject proposals to close the gap in salary scales for those who began teaching after 2010.
A further ballot on industrial action on the matter is expected to be issued next month.