There was very little Christmas cheer or goodwill to all men at last week’s Mayo VEC meeting when it was announced that up to 12 teaching posts could be lost in Mayo as a result of the cuts in education.
The revelation was announced by Dr Katie Sweeney, CEO of Mayo VEC who explained the cuts from reading a document released by the IVEA, which represents the VEC bodies. However, she stressed that the document needed further analysis to see how it will affect Mayo schools.
Her revelation sparked a blustering row between the Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin councillors who attacked each other over the method and need of the cutbacks. Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil representatives both attacked the education cuts in the budget but their Fine Gael counterparts were in no mood to take the criticism lightly and accused them of engaging in ‘populist politics’.
Cllr Therese Ruane was the first to comment on the cuts describing them as ‘catastrophic’ and they needed to be addressed by the VEC.
“These are devastating cuts in education and the people who will be affected are those must at risk and the marginalised. This is another slap in the face for education,” she said.
Cllr Patsy O’Brien added that this would be a big blow to the teaching community but accused Sinn Féin of being hypocrites for attacking cutbacks in the Dáil but implementing them in the North.
Fianna Fáil councillor Micheál McNamara added that while he acknowledge the difficulties in the economy he said the cuts would have serious effects in communities around Mayo. He said they had been criticised by various groups involved in education and pressure needed to be put on the Minister to reverse the cuts.
“I know there are difficulties but political pressure needs to be put on to the Minister and to lobby to reverse the cuts. It behoves us all to be proactive and not sit down and wait to see what happens,” he said.
However, former Fine Gael councillor Pat Kilbane said he was ‘shocked’ to hear Cllr McNamara’s comments and whose party he said had ‘betrayed the trust and hope of the young people’.
“Do they realise how they have left the country and have any understanding of the lives destroyed as a result of the mismanagement of the economy?,” he asked. “We have been betrayed as a nation. Michael Collins as Finance Minister had more room for manoeuvre than Michael Noonan has.”
He also criticised the decision to allow a debate on the budget considering that the full details are not yet known and the issue should be about minimising the effects of the cuts.
Both Cllr Christy Hyland and Cllr Eddie Staunton also criticised the political point scoring of the debate and stressed that the money was not there. Cllr Hyland said there was a lot of ‘palaver’ going on.