Friday 23 February 2018

Quinn was no stranger to foot-in-mouth moments

Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

FROM women in the classroom to the betrayal on tuition fees, Ruairi Quinn has experienced his fair share of 'foot-in-mouth' moments.

Throughout his term as Education Minister, Mr Quinn has found himself surrounded with hostility directed at him by teachers, the Catholic Church and even his own TDs.

Remarks about a "highly feminised audience and profession" at the INTO conference in April went down like a lead balloon with the professionals present.

But Mr Quinn found himself in yet another sexism row just weeks later. During heated exchanges in the Dail following Alan Shatter's resignation as Justice Minister, the Labour politician referred to the "motherly concern" expressed by Sinn Fein's deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

The remark drew the ire of Ms McDonald who said the remark had a "sexist undertone".


Mr Quinn's habit of landing himself in hot water stems back even further than the dying days of his ministry.

In February 2013, the former Labour leader suggested that troubled teenagers should approach the school cleaner for advice.

"If somebody trusts a teacher and something has happened they will go to the person with whom they feel most comfortable," he said.

"It could be the cleaner, it could be the maintenance man, or it could be the physical education or sports teacher."

But it was Mr Quinn's remarks about the teaching of religion in schools that led to TDs within his own party describing him as "inept" and "gaffe-prone".

Responding to claims by principals that primary schools are dealing with an "overloaded curriculum", he said that time should be diverted away from the subject and used instead to focus on improving pupils' level of English and maths.

Mr Quinn will be most remembered, among the third-level student population at least, for overseeing Labour's U-turn on tuition fees.

Irish Independent

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