Union votes for an end to compulsory Irish rules
THE INTO yesterday demanded that Irish be dropped as a compulsory qualification for teachers working in the Republic. A controversial motion carried at the union's congress in Ennis called for a more flexible approach to the language qualification. It was proposed by incoming Vice-President Des Rainey from Derry, who rejected suggestions that it would lead to a dilution of the language.He said the INTO had 2,500 members in secondary schools in the North at present. Some of them might wish to teach south of the border, but the present Irish language requirement was an impediment to that.
He said that the secondary registration council should not have this requirement in the Republic, other than for teachers of Irish.
He called for a more flexible approach which would allow greater mobility of teachers on this island.
The motion was opposed, however, by a minority of delegates who feared that it would lead to a downgrading of the language in schools.
Mr Joe Conway from Waterford said that the history of Celtic languages had shown that Manx and Cornish had disappeared, while Irish and Scots Gaelic were in the ``Twilight Zone''.
Breton and Welsh were doing reasonably well. He said that the motion contained a suggestion of a knee-jerk reaction to the recent agreement on the North but Irish was facing a very difficult fight for survival.
Mr Conway said there were 250,000 members of the National Union of Teachers in the UK, many of whom were very demoralised. Some of them might consider applying for positions in Ireland if the policy outlined in the motion were implemented.
Ms Deirdre O'Connor from Monaghan urged delegates not to get too carried away by the euphoria surrounding the peace process.
The present policy, under which teachers needed an Irish qualification, had served the system well.
Teachers who were trained in the North had two years to meet the requirement.
``We would not expect to be able to teach in a country where we could not speak the language, and, like it or not, Irish is an official language of the State.''
But General Secretary, Senator Joe O'Toole, said that everything had to change north and south ``That's the price of peace.''
He said that the union had 5,500 members in the North and this was a vote to include them.
Noel Ward from Tallaght rejected suggestions that Irish was in a perilous state. He thought it had never been stronger with the growth in Irish medium schools, the Irish TV channel and the new recognition of the language in the North.
Education Minister Micheál Martin said he was not clear what the union was seeking, as this was the first time it had raised this issue.