Schools shut all week
About 200,000 secondary school pupils are locked out of school indefinitely from today as the teachers' pay dispute brings the second-level education system to its knees.
With no sign of a breakthrough in the row involving the 17,500-strong Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI), parents and students in about 400 schools have no idea when they will reopen.
At the moment, there is nothing to suggest that the schools will be in a position to reopen before the end of this week. The closure of more than half of second-level schools, on health and safety grounds, arises from the refusal of the ASTI to continue doing supervision and substitution work.
Confusion will be compounded tomorrow when even more second-level schools - about 500 - will be shut by a separate one-day strike by the ASTI.
The closures and uncertainty is also causing major headaches for working parents, who have to make alternative arrangements for their children's care.
Today's action went ahead after talks between senior Department of Education officials and ASTI leaders ended last night, with no progress reported.
In a move that will stoke tensions between the Government and trade union leaders, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said strike action cannot be used by workers as a means of taking "all the benefits of the recovery for themselves".
The Fine Gael leadership race frontrunner said following the €50m Labour Court ruling on Garda pay, he will resist any attempt to cut social welfare spending to facilitate pay demands by public sector workers.
However, union leaders are ramping up the pressure, warning of a "free-for-all" unless talks on a new pay deal begin after Christmas.