Tuesday 17 September 2019

Teachers occupying city college after shock closure

Anger: Robert Dunlop found out about the closure at his wedding
Anger: Robert Dunlop found out about the closure at his wedding

Ryan Nugent, Ian Begley and Anne-Marie Walsh

Shocked teachers are occupying a €2,000-a-year English language school after being told they have lost their jobs just weeks before Christmas.

Around 20 teachers took occupancy of the Grafton College building in Portobello last night and have demanded contact from the school's owner. They also want to meet Education Minister Joe McHugh.

Wages were not lodged in their bank accounts last Friday. Yesterday they got a letter from the managing director informing them the college has ceased to trade with immediate effect and they will lose a month's pay.

The workers have been unable to contact the college's London-based owner.

But up to 500 students will be able to transfer to other schools to finish studies under 'learner protection' measures.

One of the teachers, Robert Dunlop, was in the middle of getting married on Saturday when he found out. His wife Gisela is pregnant and due at the end of the month.

"I was getting married when I found out and hundreds of messages were coming in when I was literally waiting for the wedding march to start," he said. "I blocked it out until this morning and then reality bites. I still can't come to terms with it."

"With the baby on the way at the end of the month it just doesn't seem real," he added.

His colleague William O'Brien (31) had been working there for more than a year and a half. "Until this happened everything was fine. It was a very good school with lots of excellent teachers," he said.

"We never expected to be in this position at all," he added.

Mr O'Brien said all of the teachers will now be looking for work.

He said they were unsure how long they will be in the building. "We're here for as long as it takes," he said.

Trade union Unite has urged Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty to fast-track payments from the Insolvency Payments Scheme to help staff.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page was set up by students from the school.

A college spokesperson was unavailable for comment.

Irish Independent

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