Thursday 21 September 2017

Teacher TDs will have job safety net for 10 years

John Walshe Education Editor

NEWLY elected teacher TDs and senators will be able to keep their old jobs open for up to 10 years in future, the Irish Independent has learnt.

However, the teachers-turned-politicians will lose their pension perks.

The Government has responded to complaints the present system is unfair as it allows them to keep their teaching posts open indefinitely.

But its decision to introduce a 10-year maximum was described last night as too generous.

Labour TD Roisin Shortall, who resigned her teaching post two years ago, said she believed that the new limit was "too much".

"There is a high turnover of TDs, but if you are elected for a second term you should resign your teaching job," Ms Shortall said.

The Government has also decided teacher members of the Oireachtas will no longer move up the pay scale in their absence from school.

At present, they normally return to school on higher pay than when they were elected.

At the top of the pay scale that difference could have been worth up to €15,000 a year -- and a much higher pension.

The Government has also decided that they can no longer chalk up both teaching and Oireachtas pensions at the same time.

The new arrangements will come into effect from the start of the next Oireachtas.

The changes follow controversy which erupted two years ago when former Education Minister Mary Hanafin and others refused to give up their teaching jobs, saying they needed them as fall-back positions in case they were not re-elected.

But last month she informed her old school -- Sion Hill in Blackrock, Co Dublin -- she was resigning her post as "I am making a commitment to politics".

The incremental credit and the dual-pensions arrangements are worth a significant amount to teacher TDs and senators as long as they keep up a small pension contribution annually.

Two teacher TDs -- Fine Gael's Jimmy Deenihan and Fianna Fail's Margaret Conlon -- last night said they were unaware they were entitled to incremental credit for their time in the Oireachtas.

"Nobody ever notified me of this," Mr Deenihan, who was first elected in 1987, said. He added he would go back to teaching if he lost his seat.

"There is no special arrangement for me -- it's the same for everybody else," he said.

"If I was not in politics I would be teaching, but I was asked to run and did so."

Ms Conlon, deputy principal at St Louis Secondary School in Monaghan, said she would have no option but to return to teaching if she lost her seat, "which I hope won't happen".

She claimed the option should be there, saying politics was a "very volatile business".

However, she stressed that she never claimed the difference between her salary and that of her substitute.

Morally

Wicklow Independent TD Joe Behan was aware of his entitlement to incremental credit.

He revealed he wrote to the Department of Education and Skills some time ago asking officials not to give him any incremental or pension credit while he was in the Oireachtas.

"It's not sustainable economically or morally while so many are in pain," he said.

When asked what would happen if he lost his seat, Mr Behan said he would have no option but to return to his post as principal of St Feargal's Primary School.

The department is issuing a new circular on career breaks which outlines changes to the current arrangements.

The 10-year limit will also apply to those who undertake voluntary service abroad or who are involved in missionary, diplomatic or military roles.

All other teachers can get an initial career break of up to five years but have to return to their school for an equivalent period before they can avail of a second break of up to five years.

Irish Independent

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