More than two thousand people marched from the Port Road to the square in Letterkenny yesterday in anger at Education budget cuts and the impact they will have on small primary schools and DEIS schools in the county.
Fr John Joe Duffy told marchers “our greatest fear is for our children’s future”.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn and the Government came under fire as speaker after speaker vocalised their fear for the future of their schools. In a stinging attack on the Government, The President of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), Noreen Flynn said: “The plain people of Ireland are not to blame for this economic mess and I call on the Government to stop injecting fear and anxiety into the people in rural communities. Your communities are being slowly torn apart now that your schools so central to community cohesion are under attack and at the same time you are being taxed out of existence by successive austerity budgets.”
She told those present that what was now needed was a coherent, long-term and resourced strategy for sustainable schools in the future. “The budget is being used as a blunt instrument to cut frontline services in small and disadvantaged schools. The money saved from education to feed the massive debt created by greedy bankers and speculators. That is wrong,” she said.
She called on the Government to take away the tax loopholes that the wealthy enjoy and to tax those who can afford to pay and use the money to educate and provide jobs for this generation. “We are not prepared to see years of progress dismantled and broken up to pay the for the crimes of gambler bankers and casino capitalists,” she said.
She called on the Minister to speak to the people, lay out plans that are reasonable and equitable. “In the absence of this type of leadership from the Government the INTO is being asked to lead the way,” she said.
One of the main organisers of the event, Father John Joe Duffy, told those present that there is a huge fear for the children of our future. He said: “We fear for all our schools. Our greatest fear is for our children’s future. We stand united, we stand determined, we stand for our children. Education cuts should have no place in the hearts and minds of our politicians, the people of our nation have no stomach for it,” he said.
He said that he was confident that the massive crowds that had gathered in Letterkenny would send a clear and concise message to the Minister for Education that the people of Donegal are angry.
A Gaoth Dobhair based teacher, Cathal Ó’Fearraigh ignited the massive crowd when he told them how schools had survived two world wars, a civil war, the war of independence, may not survive due to these cuts. He urged the Minister to withdraw his decision and to reassess his thinking in relation to the matter. He pointed out that it was poignant that the march had reached its destination in Letterkenny square a place where children were sold into slavery.