Friday 24 January 2020

Students being held to ransom in pay row

'Compounding one wrong by heaping another upon it is a strange way to go about establishing a right' Picture: Arthur Carron
'Compounding one wrong by heaping another upon it is a strange way to go about establishing a right' Picture: Arthur Carron


There is something to be said for the Chinese proverb, "he who strikes first has lost the argument". The closure of hundreds of our schools and the threat by gardaí to take industrial action are clear challenges to our concept of social solidarity. They both speak to failure at several levels. The proposed action by gardaí is a threat to the security of the State. But both actions will punish people who have nothing to do with these disputes.

There will be losers across the board. That there is a ground root of injustice concerning the two-tier pay system, as outlined by the ASTI, is not in question. But compounding one wrong by heaping another upon it is a strange way to go about establishing a right.

Students all over the country find their schools closed today. They should not be held to ransom, they have no part in the argument, yet it is they who will suffer. The same might be said for all those who depend on the gardaí to uphold law and order.

The place to seek resolution in both disputes is at the negotiating table. The ASTI has claimed that the Department of Education is being "provocative" by taking teachers off the payroll if they do not carry out full duties. Parents who worry today about their children being out of school might apply the same word to the ASTI's behaviour.

The Government has no choice but to stick by the Lansdowne Road Agreement - it is the cornerstone of budgetary and pay policy. The economy is recovering from the greatest shock in its history. It faces another potential period of turbulence with Brexit. Now is not the time to sabotage progress secured by huge sacrifice, and substitute it with industrial chaos. But the Government has failed to assure either the ASTI or gardaí that it can reach a reasonable compromise. All concerned should recognise that it is not about getting a larger slice of the cake, but about creating the conditions for a larger one. That can only be done through consultation and commitment, not entrenchment and strong-arm tactics.

Time for the Taoiseach to appoint a Brexit Minister

In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, this newspaper called for the appointment of a minister to co-ordinate our response. That case becomes more pressing with each passing day.

After Britain, this country is the most affected by the consequences. There are as many opportunities as there are risks and we must be ready to react to both. But where there ought to be coherence and decisiveness, there is confusion and doubt.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny pointed out that there is no deal between the Irish and British governments to shift the frontline of immigration controls to the Republic's port and airports. He was setting the record straight after the Secretary of State for the North claimed that London and Dublin will work to strengthen Ireland's external borders in order to combat illegal migration into the UK after Brexit. The problem is we are operating in a vacuum because Britain has not declared its hand.

Mr Kenny is right that "we do not want a return to a hard border". This message must be hammered home unequivocally. The UK decision to leave the EU is irreversible. But we do not have the luxury of waiting for London or Brussels to decide what's best for us.

Mr Kenny has said he emphasises "every chance" he gets that our case is unique given the North, the Common Travel Area and our economic ties. But this is too important to be left to "chance". That is why we need a Brexit Minister.

Irish Independent

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