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IT has at last dawned on me why media reports on the views of Dr Edward Walsh, a fairly well known public figure, are almost always accompanied by the description “founding president of the University of Limerick”.
Some of his opinions and suggestions are so silly that editors and programme directors must feel it necessary to remind us he was, after all, a university president so we have to publish his views and give them air time.
His latest opinion looks at first sight like a joke: “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.”
Is he serious? Provoke the teachers to go on strike, so that the schools are closed and the 60,000 or so young people in their Leaving Cert year will have to mark time for another year.
But reading his other patronising remarks about teachers (“a pampered group ... behaving like spoiled children ... outrageous demands”) makes one realise he may indeed have lost his grip on things. Would the “founding president of the University of Limerick” not be making a more positive contribution to ameliorating the crisis caused by the neoliberal policies which he often advocates if he seriously reflected on what he might say to teachers whose take-home pay has been cut by almost one-fifth, who work in schools that have been subjected to large cuts in resources and who, like other public sector workers, have become the scapegoats for the Government’s failures in order to persuade them to stay in front of their classes and continue to support the development of their pupils.
And all the while dealing with the genuine constraints under which they are working in the hope that a future government would pay more than lip service to the importance of education.
Or am I deluded, and Dr Walsh’s rant is “the kind of tough talk that is required”.
Cllr Eamon Tuffy
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