I've received death threats, and seen despicable references to my children
Teachers union leader Pat King reveals he has been bullied as he criticizes heckling of Ruairi Quinn
TEACHERS union leaders have heavily criticised the reaction Education Minister Ruairi Quinn faced at the ASTI conference where he was heckled and interrupted.
ASTI General Secretary Pat King (63) told delegates gathered for the heated secondary teachers conference in Wexford that it was "nothing short of a tragedy" that a small number of members had "overshadowed" the message the union was trying to put across.
He also told members that through his own role as a teacher union leader he had "been bullied" and "abused" with online death threats through a website.
"Included on a website and left on the website by moderators for several weeks was a clear death threat for me and worst still despicable references to my children and grandchildren," he said, as a teacher shouted "disgraceful" from the room.
Mr King said he had spent several hours trying to explain "how unrepresentative" the heckling in the room during Mr Quinn's speech was of the teaching body as a whole.
ASTI President Sally Maguire, who was addressing delegates on the day, said she cannot condone the actions of those that took part.
Mr King said he apologised to Mr Quinn for some teachers’ behaviour.
Mr Quinn told Sean O’Rourke on RTE that he found the situation “difficult” and he had wanted to communicate with teachers but a "small but very loud minority were very vociferous".
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn has today condemned the death threats made online against ASTI general secretary Pat King after he apologised for the hostile reception given to the minister by the delegates.
"I gather that what was on the website was utterly unacceptable and utterly intimidating and threatening," said Mr Quinn.
"That has no place in a democratic society - if we have differences, let us express them irrespective of robustly those differences may be expressed.
"And there is a peaceful way, there is dialogue, my god we've seen what the lack of dialogue in Northern Ireland did for far too long. We should, this island of all islands, be aware that you talk, even how difficult that talking may be," he added.
Minister Quinn, who was continuously heckled and booed during his address to the 450 secondary school delegates in Wexford yesterday, admitted that it had been "difficult".
He also confirmed that Mr King had apologised to him for the delegates' behaviour after his speech.
"He did come to me immediately after the end of the session yesterday and apologise personally to me and I accept that," he said.