Private Members' Business. - Teachers' Dispute: Motion.

The following motion was moved by Deputy Creed on Tuesday, 20 March 2001:
That Dáil Éireann condemns the Government's handling of the ASTI dispute by:
–its failure to make meaningful intervention at an early stage,
–refusing to meet the ASTI,
–the illegal manner in which pay was deducted from ASTI members,
and bearing in mind the threat to the future of 60,000 leaving certificate and 60,000 junior certificate exam students and the long-term consequences for the fabric of the education system of a protracted dispute, calls on the Government to enter into immediate negotiations with the ASTI;
and furthermore calls on the ASTI to co-operate immediately with the holding of the leaving and junior certificate examinations.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
commends the Government and the Minister for Education and Science for their efforts to resolve the ASTI dispute, including the provision, in conjunction with the social partners, of increases amounting to 22.6% for teachers together with a 10% reduction in personal taxes and, for the first time, a benchmarking process through which public servants can obtain further pay increases by comparison with graduate entry employment groups in the private sector; and further commends the Government for its determined and continuing efforts to bring about a resolution of this dispute through every industrial relations procedure available, including conciliation, independent arbitration, facilitation by the Labour Relations Commission and, ultimately, a full hearing by the Labour Court; and for its agreement to establish a forum on education on the changing role of teachers as recommended by the Labour Court; and calls on the ASTI to work with the Government and the social partners to obtain their objectives and to co-operate immediately with the holding of the leaving and junior certificate examinations.
–(Minister for Education and Science).

Deputy Shortall was in possession and she has 21 minutes remaining.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Rabbitte, Wall, Moynihan-Cronin, Gilmore and Ó Caoláin.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The reality of the dispute at this point is that not much separates the two sides. The Labour Court has found that the teachers have a sustainable case in relation to their pay claim. The scope of the benchmarking body, thanks largely to the ASTI, has been greatly widened. It is important that further clarification be provided for teachers on the potential of this body.

If the Government expects the ASTI to consider this route as a mechanism for pursuing its pay claim, it must also make a gesture of goodwill to the ASTI to encourage it to engage in this process. There are many possibilities for such a gesture. A down payment is one. The issues of supervision and substitution could be addressed, which could provide another possibility, or there could be some type of up front payment which would allow for lost time to be made up. Any one of these options is possible and none would interfere with the PPF. Any one of them would provide a tangible result on which the ASTI could ballot its members.

What is needed now is creative thinking and an earnest effort on both sides to find a solution. Time is of the essence, however, and we are now at the eleventh hour. There is a brief opportunity to salvage the examinations but it will pass in a matter of days. A Government initiative must be taken to unlock this dispute. The examination students demand and deserve such an initiative and the welfare of the education system requires it. The ball is firmly in the Government's court.

This is a major dispute and I was surprised by the confrontational tone and provocative language from the Minister for Education and Science last night. The conclusion that quiescent social partners and the Government holding firm will bring the ASTI teachers to heel is wrong. The refusal of the Labour Court, although acknowledging that the ASTI claim has merit, to make any down payment and the subsequent attempt to demonise the teachers is calculated only to make this dispute more intractable.

The pretence that the examinations will go ahead and that the papers will be marked is transparent nonsense. I say that as a Member whose daughter hopes to sit the leaving certificate examination this year. I do not believe it is possible to mark the leaving certificate examination without the participation of serving teachers. The fact that the Minister claims it is possible to do so only fills me with the conviction that it cannot be done.

There is nothing about the Minister's handling of this dispute to date that would lead one to have confidence in his ability to resolve it. On a number of occasions he has exacerbated the dispute by his direct actions, such as the illegal deductions of pay and the confused, messy and frequently incorrect repayments. Flying to Malaysia and waiting for the teachers to come to heel will not resolve this dispute.

There is nothing to prevent the Labour Court from summoning the parties to clarify what it means by affirming that the teachers' claim has merit. A down payment against the eventual assessment of claim would require the ASTI to put the Labour Court recommendation to ballot. This would not create a precedent. There are several precedents for the Labour Court summoning the parties after issuing a major recommendation and providing clarification of the recommendation.

A down payment, in circumstances where the court has acknowledged there will ultimately be a substantial payment, would not constitute a breach of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness. Such an initiative would tie the ASTI to balloting its members to call off its industrial action and to facilitate the conduct and marking of the examinations. If such an up front, part payment of whatever will be the ultimate settlement is guaranteed from a current date, it would be unacceptable for the ASTI not to hold a ballot.

Teachers fear that by summer 2002 the state of the economy might have changed, especially if the American economic downturn continues. There is a lack of clarity, notwithstanding the renegotiation of the PPF, about the precise date of implementation of pay increases arising from the benchmarking process. Teachers feel, therefore, that they must strike now while the iron is hot in terms of current and recent economic growth rates and Government surpluses. Instead of looking to the Far East for inspiration, the Minister, Deputy Woods, should indicate his willingness to respond to such an invitation from the Labour Court.

If the Labour Court feels unable to take such an initiative, it is open to the Labour Relations Commission to do so without further delay, especially since the referral to the Labour Court in the first instance was on anad hoc basis given the customary bargaining machinery used by teachers. The Minister's inaction lacks imagination in facilitating a resolution of this dispute. That is inexcusable given the stress being caused to examination students and their parents and in view of the career implications for leaving certificate students.

The strategy of the Government to grind the ASTI into the ground will not resolve this dispute. The Government is creating a siege mentality among teachers and that will not provide a way out. There is a well trodden path whereby the Labour Court can resummon the parties and use the recommendation it issued as a basis for settlement along the lines I have suggested.

The continuation of the stand-off between the Government and the ASTI has reached a critical point. As each day passes, the consequences for examination students get worse and the integrity of our education system weakens.

My serious concern is for disadvantaged students. Students who are disadvantaged because of either their abilities or income run a high risk of leaving school early. The disadvantaged students in the class of 2001 should be commended for persisting within the education system until their final year. However, the number of days lost to date as a result of the deadlock in this dispute will have negative repercussions for them. Lost days are damaging for students who need extra help to achieve results. For students from disadvantaged areas, lack of funds to attend grind classes and lack of access to computers have damaged their chances of achieving the results to which they aspire.

The Minister mentioned using the Internet. In many places in my constituency the Internet is a mystery. Disadvantaged areas tend to lack important resources such as well resourced libraries. There are three computers in Athy library and they must be booked a week in advance. What hope have school classes in Athy of using that facility to access the material on the Internet which the Minister claims is available to help them prepare for their examinations? This further militates against disadvantaged students.

Students who get disappointing results are less likely to repeat the leaving certificate in an attempt to achieve satisfactory results. They are more likely to enter the labour market to take up unskilled, low paid and insecure jobs. I hope the fears I express do not become a reality. I hope the Government can act responsibly, show leadership and sort out this dispute.

Instead of engaging in trench warfare, the Taoiseach should take his role as leader of the Government seriously. His duty must be to ensure students are not damaged, particularly students who are disadvantaged. In addition, he has a duty to ensure that the education system is not damaged beyond repair. It is vital that teaching should be an attractive career path for young graduates. The salary is part of a job's attractiveness and, given the choice in employment opportunities for young graduates, there is no doubt that many will opt for well paid opportunities in the high tech sector instead. The continuation of the stand-off between the Government and the ASTI does no favours for anyone. Both sides must now act responsibly. Time is of the essence and another week cannot be allowed to go by without a resolution.

My other concerns go beyond the forthcoming examinations. I have deep fears about the long-term repercussions of this dispute on our education system. If the situation is allowed to persist new problems will emerge concerning secondary school places. Parents and students are already developing a reluctance to attend ASTI schools on the basis that if the Government allows the deadlock to continue schools will face an autumn of discontent. Unless this dispute is resolved parents will be forced to choose TUI schools above ASTI schools for children starting secondary school in September. This could have major consequences and I ask the Minister to set a procedure in place immediately to resolve this problem.

I thank Deputy Shortall for sharing time with me. I will focus on the hardship and damage being caused to students and parents as a result of the current stand-off between the Government and the ASTI. In what could only be described as a bitter and inflammatory speech last night the Minister for Education and Science attempted to lay the entire blame for the current crisis on the ASTI. The tone was in keeping with the provocative noises the Minister and the Taoiseach have made since autumn. It is a self defeating strategy which will only serve to alienate the teachers from the industrial relations framework and make a resolution of this dispute harder to find. The current dispute will have to be resolved and that resolution will involve both sides, ASTI and Government, moving from their entrenched positions.

A vital component to settling this dispute is that if the Minister is actively seeking a resolution he will have the good sense and the courage to make the first move. Given the tone and content of last night's speech I fear the Minister has no such intention. If this stance continues then the deadlock in the dispute will remain and it is the thousands of students around the country and their parents who will pay the price. It is an appalling situation and will have long-term consequences. It demands an urgent initiative from the Government and a courageous response from the ASTI to break the current deadlock.

The pressure on students at this time is indefensible. Over recent years the stress in regard to the leaving certificate has become incredible. To have the exams thrown into doubt at this stage is outrageous. It is unfair to the students as they prepare for probably the most important examination of their academic lives. That it is the students with special needs who may be the first to be seriously disrupted highlights the tragedy of the situation. It is vital for these students that both sides in this dispute use every waking hour to break the deadlock as soon as possible. As long as the current crisis continues the pressure and disruption suffered by students and their parents escalates. This evening there are signs that the ASTI will seek clarification of the recent Labour Court recommendation. I welcome the development and would encourage both the Minister and the ASTI to grasp the window of opportunity that now exists to save the leaving and junior certificate examinations.

Parents, students and everyone with an interest in the education system demand a resolution to the teachers strike. This is no time to engage in a blame game as the Minister attempted to do last night. It is a time for all parties to use the short time available to hammer out a settlement that will give the students the certainty they need to face their examinations with confidence despite the disruptions they have had these past few months.

I also thank Deputy Shortall for sharing her time. The one thing we can be sure about in this dispute is that like all industrial disputes in the public service it will be settled. There has not ever been a dispute in the public service that did not end up being settled through negotiation between the trade unions involved and the Government. This one will be settled and the question is whether it will be settled in time to allow students sit their examinations and in time to allow them prepare adequately for them. Another question is whether it will be done before irreparable damage is done both to the teaching profession and to the education system. The only way the dispute can be resolved now without damage being inflicted on students, the teaching profession and the education system is for the Government to take an initiative and engage in direct discussions with the ASTI to find a formula to settle the dispute. Both sides in the dispute seem to be using the examinations as the ultimate weapon. The ASTI has targeted them and it has been described as the nuclear option. Similarly the Minister's insistence that he can go ahead with the examinations is being used, by him and the Government, as a weapon to defeat the ASTI.

The examinations cannot go ahead. Where will the Minister get people to mark the scripts? It is nonsense to suggest that somebody who got a degree in English 20 years ago, and last read a novel two years ago, can walk in and correct honours leaving certificate English. It ignores the fact that those who mark examinations build up considerable experience. The teacher who goes in to mark examinations starts on the pass junior certificate and builds up a number of years experience. The teacher who gets to mark an honours leaving certificate script is a teacher with a considerable number of years experience in correcting and examining. Even if the Minister managed to get people to mark them where will he get the supervising examiners. They have been correcting papers for years and are the critical people in the examination system who standardise the results and provide consistency in them. Where will he find the chief examiners to do that? These are the critical people. The Minister cannot do it and there is no point in giving the impression publicly that he can.

The impression has also been created that anyone can go into an examination hall and keep order. That is nonsense. There are decisions which require professional judgment to be made. Are two answer papers to be given to a child? Are two children to be allowed out to the toilet at the same time even if one is manifestly sick? What happens if there is a different version of the question on the Irish and English versions of the paper? What happens if there is a typographical error? Decisions requiring professional judgment will have to be made in the examination hall and these can only be made by teachers. The Minister needs to get into discussion with the ASTI and settle this before irreparable damage is done to children, the teaching profession and the education system. If he cannot do it then he should get off the stage and let someone else do it.

I thank the Labour Party Members for sharing their time. The stress and strain on leaving and junior certificate pupils is mounting daily as a result of the teachers' dispute. This is an extremely worrying time for pupils and parents. We must also recognise the tremendous strain this dispute is causing to teachers who invest so much of their energy and commitment in preparing their classes for vital examinations. For teachers the current action is unprecedented. They want this dispute resolved so they can give their full attention once again to their classes. The Government through both the Taoiseach, Deputy Ahern and the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Woods, have consistently refused to get directly involved in this dispute. Their bottom line is that pay claims must be processed through the PPF and benchmarking. This should not be a precondition to talks. This Government's attitude is both wrong and disastrous. It needs to have a hands-on approach and cannot allow the PPF to be an apartheid type agreement where any group outside it is regarded as beyond the pale. The Government must show flexibility and it is in their gift to do so. The Taoiseach is deservedly recognised for his negotiating skills and should personally intervene in the dispute. Direct talks should take place between the ASTI and the Government. Both sides must do all in their power to bring that about and every avenue must be explored. The ASTI must display flexibility to facilitate talks and mobilise maximum support for their cause.

In recent days and weeks, and even in the past 24 hours in this House, much of the commentary has attempted to place the entire responsibility for this dispute and its resolution on the teachers. I believe the Government bears the primary responsibility for allowing this dispute to develop and efforts should now be directed towards the Government moving into direct negotiations with teachers. I appeal to the Minister to take the first courageous step here this evening. Our children and young students, first and foremost, look to him for leadership and I urge him to provide it. Tacaím an rún. Go raibh maith agat.

I wish to share time with Deputy Pat Carey and the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The Members of this House and the people of Ireland are well aware that this debate relates to a pay dispute between the ASTI and the Government and the action which should be taken by the two parties at this time. It is important, then, that we examine the actions to date of the parties to the dispute. When agreement could not be reached on the ASTI's 30% pay claim through direct negotiation, the matter was referred to the independent Teachers Arbitration Board which found that ASTI members should be treated in the same way as other teachers who accepted the terms of the PPF. The ASTI rejected that finding and commenced its campaign of industrial action. The Government accepted the recommendations of the independent board and implemented its findings—

We have heard this history 100 times; we want to know how the Government proposes to resolve the dispute.

Deputy Rabbitte was not interrupted during his contribution and he will not deflect me from what I want to say.

The Government accepted the board's recommendations and implemented its findings by applying the terms of the PPF to ASTI members. This had the effect of ensuring that ASTI members' salaries were maintained on a par with their teacher colleagues in the other unions. At the outset of the industrial action last November, the ASTI complained that the PPF increases were inadequate because of the higher than anticipated rate of inflation at that time, that the benchmarking process was unclear and that payment of any increases arising from benchmarking was too far into the future. Members will be well aware that benchmarking was agreed on 4 December and incorporated in the budget by the Minister for Finance on 5 December. Any position adopted by any body or group prior to that was irrelevant.

The Government agreed in December to improve payments under the PPF by providing for an additional payment of 2% from 1 April next and a lump sum payment of 1% of annual salary on 1 April 2002. In addition, it agreed that 25% of any increase accruing from benchmarking would be paid with effect from 1 December this year with the implementation of the remainder of the increase to be a matter for discussion between the relevant parties.

When the ASTI complained about deductions from teachers' salaries—

Illegal deductions.

—for days on which teachers withdrew from supervision activities and school classes were cancelled, the Government refunded the deducted moneys, as a gesture of goodwill, on the basis that there was an indication that negotiations could commence.

Poppycock. Those moneys had to be refunded because they were deducted illegally.

The Government may yet take back the PPF payments.

During the period of the industrial action, the ASTI continuously called for the appointment of another independent body to examine its case as it claimed the arbitration board had not considered it fully. In an effort to resolve this dispute and in the interests of the nation's children, the Government agreed to refer the dispute to the Labour Court. When the Labour Court issued its recommendation on 9 March, the Government accepted it while the ASTI totally rejected it and immediately embarked on industrial action, including non-co-operation with all work connected with the annual State examinations.

It is clear that it is the Government which modified its position at every stage of this dispute in order to achieve an equitable resolution. In spite of this and the definitive statement from the Labour Court that the teachers had a sustainable case in regard to their claim that they had fallen behind other comparable graduate employment groups, the ASTI still decided to disregard the considered recommendation of the most experienced industrial relations body in the land.

The ASTI has ignored the improvements in the direct pay terms of the PPF and the arrangements in regard to bringing forward the payment of the increases, arising from benchmarking, agreed by the Government and the other public service unions since the dispute commenced. The ASTI does not accept the assurances of the Government and the Labour Court that the benchmarking process does not involve the introduction of performance related pay. It is inexplicable that the union steadfastly refuses to submit its pay claim to the benchmarking body to be adjudicated on at the same time and on the basis as all other public service unions, including the other teachers' unions. It is time the ASTI acknowledged that the PPF and the associated early settlers' agreement provides an increase of almost 22% and that benchmarking can deliver more. The ASTI must realise that it cannot be treated exceptionally or in a different manner to any other public service or teacher colleague group.

Social partnership, which has delivered our current prosperity, must be maintained. I urge the ASTI to rejoin the fold and utilise the mechanisms of the PPF to process its claim to finality in an orderly fashion through the long-standing and tested industrial relations machinery of the State.

Like Deputy Rabbitte, I, too, have had the privilege of serving on boards of management. Deputy Ulick Burke and I served on a board of management together and I chaired a number of boards. While I do not have any parchments or teaching qualifications, I am proud to be a Member of this House as a result of the contribution of primary and secondary school teachers. I have the utmost regard for teachers—

Patronising jargon.

—and believe that 80% of ASTI members do not want this industrial conflict. They do not want to be out of their classes or reject involvement and participation in the State examinations. It behoves ASTI members to take the lead from their colleagues in Presentation College, Thurles, who today appealed to the central executive council to suspend the industrial action, allow the benchmarking to proceed and co-operate with the examinations.

The Minister of State's comments will only make matters worse.

The Minister for Education and Science has a plan.

Deputy Burke does not seem to want to resolve the dispute; he and some of his colleagues appear to want further conflict. The Government has not sought conflict; it has taken every possible action to bring about a resolution to this issue. The examinations will proceed because the children of this country cannot be denied the right to sit such examinations this year. Nobody wants conflict. I do not believe the vast majority of teachers want such conflict and I appeal to them at this eleventh hour, prior to tomorrow's central executive meeting, to suspend their industrial action. I urge them to participate in the normal work they do on an annual basis and to take an objective view of the benchmarking process. That is what parents want and it is what 80% of teachers want. This issue can be resolved if some leadership is provided and if common sense prevails. The teachers need only take one small step forward to create an opportunity for the resolution of this conflict in the interests of Irish students.

Cosúil lena lán daoine sa Teach seo chaith mise tríocha bliana an-taitneamhach ag múinteoireacht. B'fhéidir go mbeidh mé ar ais ag múinteoireacht arís ag deireadh an na Dála seo.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Má tá an t-ádh leat.

B'fhéidir é. Is cuimhin liom nuair a bhíodh an Seandaóir nach maireann, Jackie Brosnahan, ag caint mar gheall ar an stailc i 1946 agus Páirc an Chrócaigh. Is cuimhin liom an díospóireacht a bhíodh ann mar gheall ar Choimisiún Louden Ryan mar chomh-phá.

I recall that very difficult debate when the common basic scale was being put in place which, in some respects, is being echoed by the sentiments currently being expressed by members of the teaching profession. Most people who went into a career in teaching did so because they felt it was a vocation. At the risk of being accused of being sentimental or schmaltzy, teachers in Ireland have for generations past delivered an education system of which we can justly be proud. We are now at a difficult crossroads. Above all, it is time for cool and calm heads and a sensible approach. Members of this House participated in the attempts of the Joint Committee on Education and Science to examine the recommendations of the Labour Court to see if we could help in some way. We have all had a chance to make a contribution but inflammatory remarks inside or outside this house are not helpful. There is a window of opportunity and I was pleased to hear the measured response of the Taoiseach, the Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Quinn, today. It does not seem to have gone unnoticed. I call on the ASTI to do what everybody in this country wants it to do, to take the opportunity to reflect on the advice given to it and to look at how it might address its present difficulties. These may be of its own making, but we should assist it to find a way out. The Joint Managerial Body has said it would be helpful if the ASTI would stand down from the three day industrial action next week, move towards supporting the oral, aural and practical examinations, and not inhibit the arrangements for special needs students. It was not ever the intention to disrupt those arrangements and the general secretary has been very helpful but measures like that are not helpful to the resolution of this dispute.

The Government has been extremely helpful to the ASTI. It has participated in the conciliation and arbitration process, and has gone to a mediator and the Labour Court. The PPF has been paid to ASTI members as well as to everyone else.

The ASTI needs to look at the pressures it is putting on students and I know many members are individually aware of that. The ASTI does not seem to realise the pressures on students because of the uncertainty of its actions. I was pleased to learn that the strategy the Minister has devised to provide supervision for the examinations is showing results. As of today, approximately 5,000 applications for the posts of superintendents have been received by the Department. That is an important signal to the ASTI that there are people who are prepared to work in the examination system.

The ASTI should understand that the examination system should be separated from the rest of the dispute. Participation in the examination system is not part of teachers' contracts and has developed through practice over the years. The parents' representative bodies have made a very great contribution but I ask that they be patient and understand the positions of both the ASTI and the Government.

There is great hope in the Labour Court recommendation that a teaching forum be set up. There are many issues which now need to be examined. As the Taoiseach said today, the system has developed in a piecemeal fashion over the years. The religious made a huge contribution to the system but are no longer available in such numbers. The issue of supervision needs to be addressed. The profession has become a part-time profession at certain levels. The forum could look at all these issues.

Benchmarking has been rejected by the ASTI and that is a pity. It has been said there is no guarantee that benchmarking will produce a result acceptable to the teaching unions or to the public service unions. It has arisen from the refined wisdom of the pay partnership and the pay determination system. The process is chaired by an independent judge without any strings attached, and without reference to performance-related pay. The ASTI needs to examine benchmarking as a way forward.

I wonder what members of ASTI have to fear from benchmarking given that the Labour Court has said the ASTI has a strong case. Their colleagues in the INTO and the TUI have accepted the benchmarking process. Members of ASTI are prepared to compare themselves with other graduate employments in their arguments for a 30% pay increase but they are prepared to reject the process which would achieve this. They will not accept the outcome of two separate independent and experienced industrial relations fora both of which arrived at similar conclusions. The increases already awarded and due to be awarded under the PPF together with a commitment to pay a quarter of any increase from the benchmarking exercise constitute a reasonable response to the ASTI claim.

I ask the ASTI to heed the call from both pupils and parents to suspend industrial action and reflect on the damage being done to the future prospects of so many young people. I also ask the ASTI leadership to consider its strategy and the effect that strategy is having on students preparing for examinations. Those students cannot afford to have further disruption of the already limited number of school days available to them between now and the examinations. I call on the central executive committee of the union to reconsider its stance on the benchmarking process and put the recommendation of the Labour Court to a full ballot of the members.

I must first declare that I am a former member of the teaching profession in case there is any talk of conflict of interest. In the course of the debate in this House on the industrial action being taken by the ASTI, an effort was made in some of the contributions from the other side of the House to supplant fact with fiction. The essential thrust of Deputy Creed's contribution centred around his sense of dissatisfaction with what he termed a "do nothing" approach by the Government. I hope Deputy Creed enjoyed whatever time he spent on another planet in recent months. It is time for him to return to the real world and face some of the harsh realities. It is important to point out that the Government has participated in the conciliation and arbitration system for the ASTI claim. Unfortunately, the ASTI rejected the arbitration findings. The Government subsequently applied the general pay terms of the PPF and the 3% early settlers increase to the ASTI and agreed that the Labour Court would further examine the ASTI claim. The Labour Court then held that the application of the PPF to the ASTI members met all of their claim in full other than their demand for comparison with other graduate employments. The claim that ASTI members had fallen behind other comparable graduate employment groups was upheld by the Labour Court and it recommended that that aspect of the claim should be processed through the public service benchmarking body. The Government has applied the general pay terms of the PPF and the 3% early settlers increase to the ASTI, giving a total increase of about 22%. The Labour Court has found that it has a sustainable case under the benchmarking process, but the message does not appear to have got through to ASTI members.

The response of their trade union has been disappointing. Its central executive council rejected the Labour Court recommendations out of hand and has embarked on an escalated programme of industrial action without reference to a ballot of its members causing unwarranted difficulty—

(Dublin West): That is completely wrong.

When he speaks, the Deputy can tell me when the ballot was taken. The ASTI has embarked on an escalated programme of industrial action without reference to a ballot of its members causing unwarranted difficulty and anxiety for examination students and their parents.

How Deputy Creed and his party can portray this as a Government agenda to smash the ASTI and humiliate its membership into submission defies belief. He seems to be saying that the Government, after bona fide participation, should discard the well established and respected industrial relations machinery of the State because some elements within the ASTI do not agree with its findings. With that type of attitude, it is just as well Fine Gael is not in government because the country would be on its knees as a result of moral cowardice. Deputy Coveney accused the Taoiseach of refusing to talk to the ASTI unless negotiations began exclusively on the Government's terms. Either the Deputy has not read the Taoiseach's letter to the ASTI, has misread it, does not understand it or chooses to misrepresent it. Whatever the reason, he is wrong in his statement.

Many of the contributions have focused on the major contribution the teaching profession has made to the country. I am sure no Member would argue to the contrary and, having served in that noble profession, I, certainly, would not argue with it. No one on the Government side of the House underestimates the extent to which our growth and development into a relatively prosperous nation have been built on the dedication and commitment of those in the teaching profession generally. That applies to all teachers, including those represented by the INTO and the TUI. Those two trade unions are content to deal with their cases for increased pay under the benchmarking system. The ASTI should do likewise.

As a former teacher and ASTI member and someone who retains a keen interest in educational issues, I am dismayed by the approach the ASTI leadership has adopted on this issue from the outset and have conveyed that view to former colleagues. By not subscribing to the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness it has succeeded in isolating itself from the trade union movement and fellow teachers and teaching unions, breaking in the process a joint approach adopted by teaching unions which has worked very well. As a teacher, I was involved in some of the previous joint efforts by teachers to improve their pay and conditions in education. The ASTI has also put itself in a position where it is at loggerheads with parents, which is unprecedented in the history of the modern education system, and, most visibly and regrettably, pupils.

I regret that a group which is not representative of the vast majority of members of the secondary teaching profession has led the ASTI down this cul de sac.

(Dublin West): Slander.

In the process it has damaged not just the ASTI, but the wider profession and the education system in general. That element within the ASTI which drives this so-called crusade is increasingly losing touch with reality. As my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, said, the vast majority of the ordinary ASTI membership do not regard the future of 120,000 junior and leaving certificate students as fair game in advancing their cause, unless the teaching profession has changed utterly in the past ten to 12 years.

It is noticeable that, when the nursing profession went on strike, it was careful to ensure emergency cover was provided. It is striking to witness the different approach adopted by the element within the ASTI which seems to regard its most vulnerable charges as nothing more than a nuclear button to be pressed in advancing its campaign. It is not representative of the teaching profession or the vast majority of secondary teachers. It is time for the majority within the ASTI to make their voices heard. They must ensure realism replaces the unreasonable approach adopted by some in the leadership. It is time the ASTI's energy was directed to where it can achieve lasting benefits for all its members, which is advancing their case for improved pay under the benchmarking process.

I am a former teacher and career guidance counsellor and I am well aware of the type of pressure the 120,000 young men and women are under at this time of year in normal circumstances just thinking about the examinations, never mind having to contend with the additional pressures of a teachers' strike. The Government has clearly stated that, come next June, those 120,000 students will sit their examinations and not be 120,000 pawns filling the front line in a battle plan drawn up by an unrepresentative element within the ASTI.

(Dublin West): Slander.

My colleague, the Minister, Deputy Woods, has underlined the Government's commitment to doing this in a way that ensures the well earned integrity of the examination system will be maintained. It is heartening to witness the public rallying to the Government's call to support its endeavours to deliver the examin ations. I am confident that the public will continue this support for the Government in ensuring the rights of young people are not denied and the examinations are conducted, papers marked, results issued and children allowed to progess upon their chosen career paths. For the Government to do or Members to support anything else would be nothing short of a reckless abdication of our responsibilities.

I reiterate the appeal that I have made to the reasonable and moderate members of the ASTI committed to the teaching profession and students in the system, especially examination students, to regain control of the trade union.

(Dublin West): More slander.

What does the Deputy mean? He should explain.

He knows better than most what I am talking about.

(Dublin West): No, I do not. The Minister had better explain himself.

He is unrepresentative of the people.

We will not forget the night the Minister shoved Jim Fahy in Galway.

I ask the moderate members of the ASTI to regain control of the trade union before it does any more damage to itself, the teaching profession and the education system. They, like those in their fellow teaching unions, should pursue their claim for comparable pay under the benchmarking process. The Labour Court has indicated this as the way forward and, the sooner the responsible elements in the ASTI respond positively to this, the sooner we can address the issues involved. The Government has clearly accepted that issues need to be addressed which, probably, should have been long ago. This is the opportunity to have those issues addressed and the ASTI should address them immediately. As a former member, I believe that if the ASTI leadership continues on its current path it will result in serious rifts and division within the union. A divided union is not in anyone's interest, least of all teachers. I make a special plea to ASTI members. I have met union members from my own constituency over the past two months. Some are bewildered by what is happening. Some are not well informed on what the leadership is doing and it is time for ordinary union members to regain control.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Dukes, Kenny, Sargent and Joe Higgins. I support the motion tabled by my colleague Deputy Creed in the name of the Fine Gael party. I did not expect an attack against a professional group such as that delivered by the Minister for Education and Science in the House last night. We can forget having a Minister who depends on partnership and goodwill to deliver the services for which he has responsibility. This Minister has kicked partnership in the teeth by his use of intemperate language with regard to ASTI tactics, using words such as "to continue callously to pursue its demands"; "the ruthless intent of the ASTI"; "the bullying tactics of the ASTI"; "the reckless pursuit of their claim"; "mischievous undermining of student's minds"; and "cynically targeted students".

The Minister has once more gone too far. He started this process of antagonism at the outset of the industrial action in autumn 2000, when he alienated the ASTI by illegally deducting pay for days of "work to rule".

It was not illegal.

This attitude continued with the Minister's statement that the Government will run the exams without teachers. This was not even prefaced by an acknowledgement of the value and experience contributed by teachers over the years to make the system efficient. Dismissal is the Minister's solution to the problem.

What is your solution?

Education is now in crisis. The long-term damage caused by the Minister's inaction and his statements cannot be fully quantified, but it will haunt this Government. If, through the Minister's uncaring attitude, the teachers who deliver the service are undermined and demoralised then the future of education at second level is bleak in the extreme. The Minister is now pursuing the same tactics used in Thatcherite England. That is, to face the teachers down at all costs. The consequences of this attitude are manifest to all who care to see the results in England. It may be too late for the Minister to prevent this decline and change his attitude, but his successor will have to re-establish the partnership now destroyed by him.

The Minister must accept some of the responsibility for a situation where parent's spokespersons have called teachers on strike "terrorists"; where teachers' authority is undermined by walkouts; and the extreme and sad situation where teachers have had eggs thrown at them and are spat upon by students. Does the Minister condone this activity? Will he reject it? He has failed to do so to date as he is too busy with his spin doctors, feeding elements of the media with selective anti-teacher propaganda.

It is a difficult time for students preparing for exams in this uncertain climate. The Minister cannot ignore the concern and anguish of the dedicated teachers who have taught these students for the past six years. They are not terrorists and they want to see students advance into the world beyond the school in full preparedness with the highest certification. The Minister should not continue to protract this distress. He should act now before student confidence is undermined.

The Minister declared that the resolution of this dispute remains a top priority and that it is his sincere hope that a resolution can be found. Who can believe this statement? What has the Minister done to bring about a resolution? The students do not believe the Minister—

I have worked endlessly to resolve this dispute. You are talking nonsense.

The students are out of their classes—

What has the ASTI done?

—some of the students were at the gates of this House today.

The Minister is under House arrest.

The parents do not believe you—

What have you done?

Declare your vested interest.

The students do not believe you, the parents do not believe you—

The Minister has a vested interest to declare.

The Deputy should go and write an article about it.

The Minister has failed to take action. His inflammatory comments today have caused concern.

There is a Point of Order.

That is not a Point of Order.

On a point of order, it has been brought to my attention that Deputy Ulick Burke is an active member of the ASTI. He should have declared his interest before he spoke. Has he anything to declare?

(Interruptions.)

It has caused great distress to teachers and students alike. The Minister has to ensure that the exams will uphold the highest standards of quality and integrity in our education system. Nothing that the Minister has done to date, including his so-called contingency plans, can convince me that this can be done or that he has the ability to do it. He must eliminate the doubt from the minds of students and parents that the capacity and logistics are in place to undertake this task. The Minister cannot do that and he knows it. Will he explain to the House how he will operate his plans given that, in ordinary circumstances, it takes three weeks for the examinations and the marking of scripts to be undertaken? We hear that the new team the Minister has in mind will receive training. This worries me seriously. By who will this training be given and—

There is training given every year. The Deputy does not know what he is talking about.

—take for instance the new examination in honours English this year. It has taken five or six days of intensive in-service training by the Department to prepare teachers at that level. Despite having 5,000 applicants to supervise exams, he has had a go-slow and work-to-rule in operation for more than one year at the Department of Education and Science Athlone education branch. He has done nothing to resolve that.

There were no pay deductions there either.

In the case of practical exams, how can the Minister guarantee the safety of those involved in metalwork and woodwork? Can the Minister give an assurance that the insurance provided by the schools will indemnify them for any accidents in the course of practical examinations—

We said that already. You are out of date.

We are now in a state of deadlock and crisis. The only way out, and the sooner they start the better, are talks to explore the possibility of building on the common ground that exists.

The Deputy will use every red herring to undermine the exams. He should declare his interest and be honest.

I believe that some common ground exists. The Government must offer a dignified option, as Deputy Carey has said. It can turn to the teachers, it can turn to the students or anyone else, but where is its offer of a dignified opportunity? The Minister has handed out nothing but insults to everybody in this dispute. It is time he moved aside and allowed somebody else to deal with it.

Follow that, Deputy Dukes.

To avoid worry on the other side, the only interest I should declare is that I was for a time – it is my only connection with teaching – an adjunct or part-time professor in the University of Limerick—

That is fine.

—a wonderful city that has the misfortune to be misrepresented by the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea.

Three groups of people are being damaged by this dispute. The first and most important group is the certificate students, particularly the leaving certificate students. We should not forget that however difficult this will be for leaving certificate students this year who wish to go on to third level education, the consequences could be even greater for leaving and junior certificate students who will not get any other qualifications. Such students enter the workforce with only the certificate they get from schools. Not many people mention such students, but they must be remembered.

I am not convinced that the examinations will be held this year. I would prefer much more clarity from the Ministers on the measures they are taking. From what I see and hear, I am not convinced the examinations can be held. However, even if they go ahead, many leaving certificate students now find that they are behind for two reasons. The first is that they have missed days because teachers have been on a work-to-rule while the second is that, as a direct consequence, a number of them have not even finished all the course work that should have been done. Such students have been placed under enormous strain since last November and it gets worse as every day passes.

The second group being damaged by the dispute is the secondary school teachers. Many members of the public, parents and students do not understand why the dispute has gone on for so long, why the ASTI appears unable to find a way of resolving it and why the ASTI has, in their eyes, targeted the certificate students this year. There is a serious risk of confrontation between students and teachers. If that happens, it will adversely affect teachers' authority not only now, but in the years ahead. It will affect the respect in which they are held by students and parents for a long time and this will be extremely bad for the profession. It will be a bad blow to it and the conditions in which teachers carry out their duties.

The third group being damaged is the Government. That does not particularly worry me as far as the personalities are concerned, but I worry about the damage the dispute is doing to the process of government. The Government has given no indication that it is trying to communicate with teachers or trying to get across any pattern of activity—

Come off it. We are doing it all the time

Get off the stage.

—that holds out a hope of resolving this dispute. If the Minister, Deputy Woods, listened more instead of preaching, he might be further ahead in this dispute than he is now. The dispute eventually will be settled and the sooner that happens, the better. However, there is only one way the dispute will be settled in the end—

Give in.

—and that is by negotiation. The parties to the negotiation will be the Government and the ASTI.

The social partners.

It will be the Government and the ASTI.

The public service unions.

The Minister should not try to hide behind hedges. I cannot understand why the ASTI has failed to grasp or comprehend the clear signals in the Labour Court report that there are factors in the current situation that could provide a way into negotiations for secondary school teachers. From my contacts with trade union sources – I am not the only one with such contacts – I am satisfied that there is a strong disposition on the part of people deeply involved in the PPF towards finding ways of defining and using the type of leeway identified by the Labour Court to resolve this problem in a way that does not prejudice the PPF or the partnership process.

I have the clear impression that the Government understands the signals given by the Labour Court in its report. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that the Government is prepared to exert itself in any way to communicate the meaning of those signals to the ASTI. All the Government's actions so far have been confrontational. All the Ministers have done is close every door in sight instead of trying to open them.

It is not fanciful to remind the Government that it has a precedent for the way the dispute should be handled. It had the support of the House for its approach to the peace process when it made it clear that it would not impose preconditions at any sensitive stage of the negotiations. It is time the Government applied that lesson to this dispute. Both sides must learn that and it is time for them both to step back from their entrenched positions and find ways of getting together rather than staying apart.

The situation in this complex strike has evolved to the point where the ingredients are now available and identified which, if properly mixed and presented, could either lead to a radical restructuring of the education system or to it being severely damaged for years to come. When the Minister, Deputy Woods, walked forward in Áras an Uachtaráin to accept his seal of office, he did so as the political protector and developer of the education system in all its forms. To date, he has not shown in his Ministry the necessary interest, enthusiasm or imagination to lead the educational sector into the future and enable it to continue to be the engine of the tiger economy, as he described it some time ago.

Political culpability for this strike rests on the shoulders of the Minister for Education and Science. He must ensure that the legal rights of children to a proper education are implemented and that the legal responsibility he holds for running State examinations and having them marked properly is met. The Secretary General of his Department, in a most honest and forthright admission to the Joint Committee on Education and Science, said some time ago that he wanted the teachers involved and that it is practically impossible to mark the examinations without their experience and assistance.

This not a time for riding high horses or trying to engage in face saving exercises. It is a time for real leadership and facing the reality that is frightening for many young people. There are a number of irrefutable facts. Some 120,000 students and their parents feel stressed, pressured and let down. Their educational study rhythm has been severely disrupted since last September, adding to the pressure. When the nurses provided emergency care during their strike, in most cases they did so in respect of patients they did not know and had never met. When gardaí provided an emergency service, they did so for the community in general. However, in this case, the strike days have destroyed the unique and special relationship that is required between student and teacher. All the years of encouragement and advice and the development of community leadership and personal development skills are set at nought. Pupils feel let down in their hour of need. This has brought about a watershed in the volunteerism concept in education.

The Minister should explain what is meant by benchmarking and, more importantly, what it is not. There is paranoia among the teaching profession about what it might entail. He should also clarify how a legitimate trade union can pursue its legitimate pay claim outside the PPF, of which it is not mandatory to be part.

The Government acts as employer of the teachers and should invite them to talks. That is not a concession, but good diplomacy and politics. The Minister should clarify what it is the Government wants and assist the teachers in having the Labour Court clarify its recommendations. It should explain what is meant by the establishment of a teaching forum, for which I called last October. It should set a time limit of 18 months for the forum to do its work with a request that a report be issued by the end of this year. The forum has the potential to make the teaching profession one of which everybody can be proud.

The Minister stands at the crossroads. He can either be the Donogh O'Malley of the new millennium or the person who will destroy Irish education. The choice is his.

Very few Governments have had to deal with an ASTI strike. The last one commenced on 1 February 1969 and the only one before that was in 1920. Matters have to be very bad before teachers take strike action. Bad as matters were at the outset of the dispute, by its studied indifference the Government has made them worse. The refusal to pay teachers unless they engaged in the supervision of playgrounds was a cul-de-sac from which the Minister had to do a U-turn. He is now in another cul-de-sac.

I appeal to the Minister to look again at the Labour Court recommendation and distinguish between a PPF award and a clear stand alone down payment. I also appeal to him to ask the Labour Court to review its recommendation and consider acknowledging in a tangible way its admission that secondary school teachers are unpaid and recommend a down payment as the first step towards a final settlement. This would allow examination preparations to proceed without stoppages and distractions. Already this week oral examinations have been deferred. Last year they were in jeopardy because teachers could not be found to leave their classrooms to assume the additional responsibilities of examiners.

Even before the dispute the warning bells of a crisis in education faced the Minister. Still he tells us all is well and examinations will proceed. Leaving and junior certificate examination candidates in Dublin North and around the country want to know when they will be held. They also want to know what is in place to ensure written examinations can proceed. I could not tell them. I hope the Minister can in detail.

The Minister says that he has no evidence of teacher shortages, even before the dispute. The facts are otherwise and speak for themselves. In the school year 2000-01, 69% of schools experienced teacher shortages. Dublin reported 84% shortages; County Leitrim, 100%; County Meath, 87%; County Limerick, 71%, and County Galway, 62%. County Kerry reported a figure 40%, the best in the country, but even there almost half of the county's schools had shortages. If the Minister was the owner of a crèche, given his neglect of education, he would now be in court and, possibly, behind bars.

(Dublin West): Following on his colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, slíbhín like, heaped on teachers the same disgusting slanders which the hated Margaret Thatcher heaped on miners in Great Britain in the 1980s when she attempted to crush the trade union movement. Using all the methods of McCarthyite witch hunting he was only short of labelling ASTI members, the country's educators, the enemy within. It is a shameful day for the Government, which is criminally sacrificing the future of education in its determination to hammer down the hatches on other workers, especially low paid workers in the Civil Service who are seeking a just wage in this period of economic growth.

The concerted media campaign of vilification of teachers, which has reached a crescendo in recent days, is disgusting in the extreme. There have been a few notable exceptions. As well as the usual hacks, in recent days certain prima donnas in journalism, who consider themselves to be the paragons of liberality, have travelled a well worn path of taking the side of the Establishment when the chips are down.

The Government's strike breaking plans for the examinations will be disastrous. The Minister may go to every highway and byway of the State and press gang every lame dog and stray cat into the examination halls to attempt to supervise the examinations. That in itself will unsettle the students. It is inconceivable that the examinations can be corrected without the teachers. Let us end the fiction the Minister has been attempting to sustain in recent weeks.

I defend the democratic right of secondary school students to strike and protest outside Leinster House or anywhere else. However, with his media spaniels at his heel, the Minister believed he could use the thousands of students in the country as a battering ram against the teachers. Happily, many of them have protested against the Minister and the failure of the Government to deal justly with their teachers. They have not swallowed the propaganda and I urge them not to do so.

Benchmarking is the great buzzword and another smokescreen for the Government. It began as a means to sweat more labour out of Japanese factory workers. Why should we use the discredited means of multinational companies for the education system?

It is a good job the Deputy gave up teaching.

(Dublin West): We can make improvements within the ethos of education, but not by using the ruthless methods of multinationalism.

It is with deep regret that I must speak on this historic, but very sad moment in the history of Irish education. The Minister was out of the country last weekend while the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, was busy at a typewriter producing material that could be considered as incitement to hatred in a normal democracy. The students have a right to an education while the Government must deal with the wage problem.

The Government has a bigger responsibility, to govern. In this it has failed miserably. The Taoiseach and the Minister may refer to the PPF, an important factor. The Government has failed, however, to deal with the interests of citizens and the students who face their examinations. Four months ago, in response to my question in the House, the Minister said that he could guarantee an equal chance to all students doing their exam inations this year. Today he knows that is not the case. It is an unequal playing pitch. In addition, students whose classes were not interrupted have no guarantee that they will sit their oral examinations.

The Minister has created a very sad situation. In any normal democracy the Government would do the honourable thing and say that it is unable to rule and resign. Students walked out of classes yesterday and protested outside Leinster House today. If that is the tiger Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats are riding, it is time it was tied up. It is also time both parties resigned from Government because they are a disgrace and failure.

In 1969 I was on strike as a member of the ASTI. I was finer looking then. This strike and the manner in which the Minister and the Government have handled it remind me of the manner in which it handled the nurses' industrial dispute earlier in its term of office. It appears as if it will have similar consequences.

The Government decided that it would not treat with the nurses. It has the notion that when dealing with teachers or nurses the best industrial relations strategy is to allow them to strike.

The theory is that as nurses and teachers do not usually resort to the strike weapon and are not represented by militant unions, and because in the opinion of the Government they are professions with a very high percentage of women, when they go on the picket line and feel the cold breeze of public disapproval, as well as the cold weather, their resistance will break and the strike will be settled on the Government's terms. That is the strategy of the hard nosed employer represented by the Minister for Education and Science, and it was the strategy adopted by his colleague who is now the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in regard to the nurses. In terms of hard nosed industrial relations strategy it worked in the case of the nurses. They settled, according to the Government's spin doctors, on its terms. The PPF was secure, according to the Government, and everyone went on to a greater and more prosperous Celtic economy.

However, a few weeks later, the nurses who were forced into a settlement looked around for alternative jobs. They walked out of the wards. In Beaumont Hospital and the Mater there is a 25% turnover of nurses every year. Nurses are trying to do everything except engage in nursing. The way in which the Government won its pyrrhic victory over the nurses devastated the health services. The reason the Government is pouring billions of pounds into the health services without getting any result is founded in what happened in the nurses' industrial dispute and the fact that they are no longer willing to serve.

The Government is facing a similar position with the teachers. It has used its power and adopted a hard nosed industrial relations attitude. It has been provocative and manipulated the media to put the ASTI into a position where it rarely receives a favourable line in a newspaper. The Government probably has the capacity to drive forward and run some kind of examinations in the summer though I do not believe it has the capacity to correct them. If it does so, it will achieve another pyrrhic victory over another public service union but it will live to regret it because the teachers will walk out of the classrooms led by the younger teachers, the EPT teachers, who are part-time anyway, temporary teachers and those with skills, maths and science, that can be used in the modern economy. It is extremely difficult to get a physics teacher. Younger teachers with a good arts degree will retrain for the IT industry, go into journalism or public relations. We will have the kind of teaching profession, with the dire educational consequences, that is now commonplace in the cities of the United Kingdom. That is what the Government faces. It is a risky strategy.

I remind the Minister that as well as being the employer of the teachers he has a duty, in the national interest, as Deputy Belton said, to govern the country in everyone's interest, principally that of the 120,000 students who are now at risk because of his cavalier attitude to this dispute. It is not a question of this dispute being handled badly but of a Minister and his advisers deciding to handle it in a provocative way to provoke the teachers into action. For example, why would the Minister make alternative plans for examinations last December when there was no threat to them at that time? Why did he make these announcements?

One must have contingency plans.

(Interruptions.)

Why did the Minister deliberately break the sanctity of the databank in the Department? Why did he deliberately break the law to target ASTI members and deduct money from them which he should not have done? That was extremely provocative.

As a gesture of goodwill the money was returned.

(Interruptions.)

It was like the goodwill gesture of bringing two buckets of water after one had burned the house. It was far too late at that stage to do anything about it. The Minister adopted a particular attitude to this dispute. It was not a series of accidents. My colleagues who believe it was a series of accidents perpetrated by a maladroit Minister are wrong. He did this deliberately to put the teachers and the ASTI in a particular position. Now he has them in that position and he has a difficulty.

What about the industrial relations along the line?

The Deputy does not like that.

The Minister acted extremely badly and is looking for people to try to pull the iron out of the fire.

No marks.

The Labour Court, under the Chairman, Finbar Flood, did a very good job trying to balance the Minister's and the ASTI's arguments. As far it could, within the constraints placed on it, it would have advanced the process towards a settlement. Its judgment can be built on. It stated:

Finally, the court in considering this case has been conscious of the emotions aroused by the effects of this dispute on a wide range of people and the national consequences of failure to resolve the dispute. This dispute has the potential to divide the community, the teaching profession and do irreparable damage to the students taking State examinations this year. The effects on the educational process will last for many years and have an enormous impact on the 350,000 students in schools.

When Finbar Flood penned those sentences, he was not talking to the ASTI but to the Government.

I said that long before.

He was warning the Minister that there would be consequences for education, just as there were consequences for the health services, because of the ill thought out provocative strategy the Minister has followed. The Minister carried his provocation on to the floor of the House last night and used language which was unprecedented, in the middle of an industrial dispute.

I said I was annoyed at the targeting of children with disabilities—

The Minister is not paid to be annoyed.

It was as if he were selecting muscular verbs to insult the ASTI and the teaching profession to the maximum possible.

—and at the targeting of children and their exams. Is the Deputy not upset at that?

That is the kind of language the Minister used and it is provocative. The Labour Court recommendation is a basis for settlement. Many of us have been involved in industrial relations on both sides of the table. I know the Taoiseach has significant expertise in this area. We all know that when the Labour Court adjudicates it is conscious of its independence as a forum of industrial relations. It will not reconvene if it is doomed to failure a second time.

Demands for Labour Court clarification are usually demands to adjust or modify the position. Everyone knows what is meant. When somebody looks for clarification it is code for saying if someone can tweak this a bit and modify that we may get a settlement. There are no circumstances I know of in which it is successful if one side calls for clarification. The Labour Court simply will not respond. It does not want to be rebuffed. The way to do it, and the Minister's boss knows this as there is no better man when it comes to these matters, is for the Government to commence a process which will bring the ASTI into bilateral talks so that it can work out an agreed modification of the Labour Court position that can be put to it when it is asked for clarification. When it gives its clarification, it will be on the basis of what the employer and union has agreed beforehand. That is the way industrial relations works and that is how it will work in this case. It is time for the Minister to begin that process.

The real victims are the 120,000 students, those doing the junior certificate and leaving certificate examinations. That they marched on the Dáil is significant. While they have a democratic right to do so, it is a great pity for society that our children would be radicalised and believe they have to march on the national parliament to get their democratic rights. It is the responsibility of Government to protect the rights of children and one of those rights is to sit the examinations.

Members should ask themselves a simple question, that is, what do they believe the students, teachers and all of us want? We want the examinations to go ahead in a credible way so that this group of students will be able to sit their examinations this year in harmonious circumstances and be confident their papers are properly marked. No one is taking sides on that issue. It is the responsibility of the Minister and the Government to arrange the negotiation process which delivers that result. All the other bits and pieces will fall into place. There are at least five favourable recommendations in favour of the ASTI which can be built up to give them the kind of settlement they are seeking. However, the Minister must negotiate. He must end the insults, confrontation and conflict. He should get into a bilateral situation and get the modifications on Finbarr Flood's document so that the examinations can go ahead and peace can be restored in the schools. Apart from 1920 and 1969, the ASTI has a good record in industrial relations. Some 32 years later, they are at the point of striking again.

Amendment put.

Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, David.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Blaney, Harry.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Matt.Brennan, Séamus.Briscoe, Ben.Browne, John (Wexford).Byrne, Hugh.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Collins, Michael.Coughlan, Mary.Cowen, Brian.Cullen, Martin.Davern, Noel.Dempsey, Noel.Dennehy, John.Doherty, Seán.Ellis, John.Fahey, Frank.Flood, Chris.Foley, Denis.Fox, Mildred.Gildea, Thomas.Hanafin, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kenneally, Brendan.

Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Séamus.Kitt, Michael P.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McDaid, James.McGennis, Marian.McGuinness, John J.Martin, Micheál.Moffatt, Thomas.Molloy, Robert.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Michael.Ó Cuív, Éamon.O'Dea, Willie.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Hanlon, Rory.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Kennedy, Michael.O'Malley, Desmond.O'Rourke, Mary.Power, Seán.Roche, Dick.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wade, Eddie.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Walsh, Joe.Woods, Michael.Wright, G. V.

Níl

Allen, Bernard.Barrett, Seán.Bell, Michael.Belton, Louis J.Boylan, Andrew.Bradford, Paul.Broughan, Thomas P.Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).Burke, Liam.Burke, Ulick.Carey, Donal.Clune, Deirdre.Connaughton, Paul.Cosgrave, Michael.Coveney, Simon.Crawford, Seymour.Creed, Michael.Currie, Austin.D'Arcy, Michael.Deasy, Austin.Deenihan, Jimmy.Dukes, Alan.Finucane, Michael.Fitzgerald, Frances.Flanagan, Charles.Gilmore, Éamon.Gormley, John.Hayes, Brian.Higgins, Jim.Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael.Hogan, Philip.Howlin, Brendan.

Kenny, Enda.McCormack, Pádraic.McDowell, Derek.McGahon, Brendan.McGrath, Paul.Mitchell, Gay.Mitchell, Jim.Mitchell, Olivia.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Noonan, Michael.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Penrose, William.Perry, John.Quinn, Ruairí.Rabbitte, Pat.Reynolds, Gerard.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Shatter, Alan.Sheehan, Patrick.Shortall, Róisín.Spring, Dick.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.Upton, Mary.Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and Power; Níl, Deputies Bradford and Stagg.
Amendment declared carried.
Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to".

Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, David.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Blaney, Harry.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Matt.Brennan, Séamus.Briscoe, Ben.Browne, John (Wexford).Byrne, Hugh.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Collins, Michael.Coughlan, Mary.Cowen, Brian.Cullen, Martin.Davern, Noel.Dempsey, Noel.Dennehy, John.Doherty, Seán.Ellis, John.Fahey, Frank.Flood, Chris.Foley, Denis.Fox, Mildred.Gildea, Thomas.Hanafin, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kenneally, Brendan.

Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Séamus.Kitt, Michael P.Kitt, Tom.Lawlor, Liam.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McDaid, James.McGennis, Marian.McGuinness, John J.Martin, Micheál.Moffatt, Thomas.Molloy, Robert.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Michael.Ó Cuív, Éamon.O'Dea, Willie.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Hanlon, Rory.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Kennedy, Michael.O'Malley, Desmond.O'Rourke, Mary.Power, Seán.Roche, Dick.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wade, Eddie.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Walsh, Joe.Woods, Michael.Wright, G. V.

Níl
Allen, Bernard.
Barrett, Seán.
Bell, Michael.
Belton, Louis J.
Boylan, Andrew.
Bradford, Paul.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Burke, Liam.
Burke, Ulick.
Carey, Donal.
Clune, Deirdre.
Connaughton, Paul.
Cosgrave, Michael.
Coveney, Simon.
Crawford, Seymour.
Creed, Michael.
D'Arcy, Michael.
Deasy, Austin.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
Dukes, Alan.
Finucane, Michael.
Fitzgerald, Frances.
Flanagan, Charles.
Gilmore, Éamon.
Gormley, John.
Hayes, Brian.
Higgins, Joe.
Higgins, Michael.
Hogan, Philip.
Howlin, Brendan.

Kenny, Enda.McCormack, Pádraic.McDowell, Derek.McGahon, Brendan.McGrath, Paul.Mitchell, Gay.Mitchell, Jim.Mitchell, Olivia.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Penrose, William.Perry, John.Quinn, Ruairí.Rabbitte, Pat.Reynolds, Gerard.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Seán.Shatter, Alan.Sheehan, Patrick.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.Upton, Mary.Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and Power; Níl, Deputies Bradford and Stagg.
Question declared carried.