EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn has hit out at his Fianna Fail predecessors for spending too much time visiting schools and not enough time at their desks.
But his attack angered Fianna Fail, which accused him of trying to tarnish the records of previous Education Ministers Mary Coughlan and Batt O'Keeffe.
Mr Quinn criticised the level of time that they had spent behind their desks in the Department of Education's headquarters in Dublin.
"The tradition introduced by previous Fianna Fail ministers of spending up to two days per week visiting schools and reporting back to look for special exemptions created a sort of 18th-century acceptance of patronage," he said.
He said that previous Fianna Fail ministers had been spending less than a day-and-a-half behind the ministerial desk.
Mr Quinn has visited just 21 primary and secondary schools so far this year.
But his comments sparked an angry response from Fianna Fail education spokesman Charlie McConalogue.
"I think it's unbelievable that you would have a Minister for Education who has a policy of not visiting schools. He's trying to tarnish and criticise what previous ministers did in order to give cover to his own lack of interest in what's happening to the education system," he said.
Mr Quinn has insisted that he has used his time in the department to work on his reforms, such as the new Junior Certificate curriculum.
Independent TD Finian McGrath, who is a former school principal, said that ministerial school visits sent out a positive message.
"When the minister visits a school, particularly a disadvantaged school, it creates a great lift in the community," he said.