I have just penned this letter to the papers:
In common with many clergy in Ireland I am a school manager and Chairperson of the parish school Board of Management. (I am aware that that is an issue in itself but that is a discussion for another day.) Today, in this capacity I received written strike notice from INTO (Irish National Teachers' Organisation), informing me of the forthcoming industrial action on Tuesday 24 November 2009.
I was not at all surprised to get the letter but I was surprised and disappointed at the tone of the letter. It informed me (in bold type) that 'members in all schools have been directed to withdraw their services on that day. Accordingly, INTO members will not attend for work on Tuesday 24 November 2009. Yours sincerely........'
My disappointment stems from what the letter failed to say as opposed to what it said. There was no expression of regret for the disruption that this would cause for children and families and nor was there any acknowledgement of the discomfort most teachers feel in withdrawing service. In my experience the vast majority of our teachers have a deeply vocational attitude to their work and despite the common begrudgery surrounding their hours and holidays serve us and our children exceptionally well. The teachers that I have the pleasure of engaging with are women and men with a real love for their work and the children they teach.
These teachers deserve better than the abrupt communication delivered on their behalf by the INTO. If I was a member of that union I would feel badly let down. In the current financial crisis there is an emerging consensus that we need as a people to express common ground and to build a sense of shared rights and responsibilities. This arrogant and callous communication will only serve to deepen division and confirm prejudice. I would implore teachers to make sure that they are better served in future for this is a betrayal of their integrity by those who are supposed to be their allies and fellow professionals.
Rev'd Canon Stephen Neill