Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Thomas Byrne TD has questioned the approach of Minister Richard Bruton to resolving the ASTI teachers’ strike, as students begin to feel the impact.

Speaking on the first day of the strike Deputy Byrne commented, “For weeks I have been pressing the government to seize the initiative and prevent this strike by teachers. I suggested at the beginning of the week that Minister Bruton should actually confirm a pathway on how teachers will have equality of treatment now and in the future post 2018.

“This would have at least shown the union that the government was serious about deferring this industrial action and it would have done so without conceding any principles or position. Instead, the Minister has chosen a much more aggressive strategy, refusing to even acknowledge the principle and then issuing a circular to instruct that the ASTI members will not be paid when they withdraw from supervision and substitution.

“The timing of this circular was very provocative and has actually managed to divide the sides further. It has hardened positions at a time when we should be moving towards de-escalation. The country is now facing complete and utter chaos on Monday week when the schools are meant to be returning from midterm break.

“To add further confusion, reports are now emerging that a spokesperson on behalf of the Minister is saying that pay will only be deducted from ASTI members where schools cannot reopen on Monday week.

“Macho posturing in a situation like this achieves nothing and can be completely counterproductive. The victims in this dispute are the young students who still do not know whether their schools are open or not on Monday week. Following his complete failure to develop a ‘Plan B’ to keep schools open, he now appears to think he can force the situation.

“Minister Bruton’s handling of this dispute has been suspect since the beginning. Now that we have come to strike action, his and his department’s response are a cause for concern. What we need now on all sides are cool heads and recognition that what is important here is not who saves face, or who looks toughest, but the young students whose education and exam prospects are being badly disrupted.”