Special needs anti-education cuts protest marks end of new Govt. honeymoon

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Hundreds of parents, children, teachers, political representatives and people from communities all over the country gathered outside the Dáil on Wednesday to express their anger and dismay at the government’s plan to cut Special Needs Assistants and Resource teachers.    It was possibly the finest day of this patchy summer, and as one father of a young man with Down syndrome put it, we should be at the beach instead of protesting outside the house of elected representatives. He went on to say that his young boy would not be the great young man he is at 17 without the help and dedication of the Special Needs Assistants who’ve worked with him since he started his education.

Representatives from Pavee Point and the Irish Travellers Movement were also present as the draconian cuts levelled at the Education of young Travellers has seen the elimination of the Visiting Teachers Service for Travellers, along with Transport cuts, and the loss of Resource Teachers.  Martin Collins (Assistant Director of Pavee Point) said that he used to see the Dáil as a settled person’s institution which failed Travellers, but that he now saw it as an institution which failed the people of Ireland, and he pledged solidarity to the campaign.

The incoming Government arrived with the promise that they would look after the most vulnerable in our society.  Yet they act like this – sticking to the cuts that were imposed by the previous government which means that 227 Special Needs Assistants will not be replaced.  The Technical Group in the Dáil which comprises of United Left Alliance candidates and independents like Mick Wallace, Shane Ross, and Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan put forward a motion to have the cuts reversed.  (The motion fell later in the day by 103 votes to 45.)

Richard Boyd Barrett equated the irrationality of the Government’s position to the same one used during the Vietnam War by the United States.  The idea that in order to save the village one has to bomb it, the Government is saying that in order to save the health service, one has to close down hospitals, in order to save the Education system, one has to cut Special Needs Assistants and sack Resource teachers.

Parents spoke from the back of a flat bed truck stating how unimaginable life would be without the dedication and work of the Special Need’s Assistants.  They spoke of the betrayal they felt when a few short months ago the opposition parties as they were then, supported their struggle, but are now the imposers of these cuts. There was a promise to be back in September with an even bigger protest. 

The honeymoon is definitely over for this coalition of the willing when it comes to cuts.  After over a 100 days in office, the old excuse of it (the economy) was broken when we got here excuse is wearing thin.  The first 100 days saw a concentration on the circus of visits from foreign dignitaries.  Now is the time when the rubber hits the road, we have arrived to the difficult task of saddling the burden of private casino capitalist debts onto the shoulders of the Irish people.  This means cutting big cheques (€700Million plus) to the IMF.  The only way this debt pay back can be serviced is by making cuts.  The parties of Fine Gael and Labour are up to doing it.  People elected new dancing monkeys but the organ grinders of the IMF and ECB are playing the same tune.  It is going to take more than putting an X in a box for a new set of dancing monkey’s to change that tune.

WORDS & Images: Dermot Freeman

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