Saturday 20 July 2019

Positive signs in the Junior Cert standoff

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan


The teachers have said "Maybe" rather than a straight "Yes" or "No" to compromise plans on a new format for the Junior Certificate.

Dr Pauric Travers, the eminent intermediary who framed those compromise plans, clearly did an excellent job.

It is easy to understand why he couched his proposals as a closed offer rather than something which could prompt further negotiations.

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan agrees with Dr Travers, and has said it is time to forge ahead with the planned changes to the Junior Cert. The minister's frustration at this stage is very easy to understand.

Since she took over from her predecessor, Ruairi Quinn, last July she has brought a welcome element of dialogue and willingness to compromise with the teachers on an issue of vital importance to future generations of students. Her approach was in marked contrast to that of Mr Quinn - and the resultant dialogue speaks for itself.

The minister is right to point out that no one group can be given a de facto veto over the education system. Everyone must also admit that reasonable efforts have been made to find a meeting point in this intractable dispute. It is time for both sides to take stock of the advantages they have gained. As Education Minister, Ms O'Sullivan has gone more than the extra distance to find common ground for agreement. She also feels that the teachers retaining in principle the right to revert to industrial action is inappropriate.

But now is a really good time to lay emphasis on two positive aspects of the situation. The first is that, after two one-day teacher stoppages, they have signalled that no such action is now planned for the immediate future. The second positive is that the teachers are still prepared to talk.

This all suggests that, disappointing though it is that we do not have a deal right now, a durable agreement may well be possible. On that basis it would be good to see resumption of dialogue.

Both sides must acknowledge that managing change in education is a painstaking process. But a fair and workable deal would bring benefits across society.

Welcome moves to build more houses

AMONG the practices blocking efforts to supply houses at affordable prices to our young people, the mean-minded habit of developers "sitting" on building land has loomed large.

So, the Government move to introduce a "use it or lose it" planning permission clause is welcome. And so too is the initiative by Junior Housing Minister Paudie Coffey, for task forces in Limerick, Waterford, Galway and Cork to tackle impediments to house building.

Shortening the lifespan of planning permissions, where developers are suspected of delaying in hopes that the site value increases, is a very good idea. We await with interest Mr Coffey's "other restrictions" where it appears developers are deliberately dragging their feet.

The plan for a 10pc quota of social housing in new developments also has merit. The earlier targets of 20pc a decade ago were not effective, and at the height of the boom, developers liberally used the get-out clause of paying a levy instead. Local authorities will now buy the 10pc of houses and encourage the builders to proceed.

Getting an effective and sustainable home-building programme back in action is in everybody's interest.

Irish Independent

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