Dáil Éireann - Volume 296 - 09 February, 1977

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Examination Dispute.

22. Mr. MacSharry asked the Minister for Education the steps he is taking regarding the setting and correcting of this year's examination papers in view of the dispute between his Department and the TUI; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

23. Mr. Carter asked the Minister for Education the position between his Department and the TUI regarding the supervising of the summer examinations for post-primary pupils.

[1138] Mr. P. Barry: With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 22 and 23 together.

Discussions are proceeding in regard to this matter and it would not be appropriate to make a statement at present.

Mr. MacSharry: Can the Minister tell us what kind of discussions?

Mr. P. Barry: Discussions between the union involved and my Department.

Mr. MacSharry: When did these discussions begin?

Mr. P. Barry: They are in progress in fact today.

Mr. MacSharry: Since when?

Mr. P. Barry: Initial contact was made some time ago and the formal meetings began today. I do not think they will conclude today; it will take a number of meetings before there will be either a breakdown or a result.

Mr. MacSharry: Is the Minister aware of the hardship the dispute is causing to a big number of students who are waiting to do examinations?

Mr. P. Barry: I am, yes.

Mr. MacSharry: Has the Minister alternative proposals in the event of non-agreement between himself and the TUI to ensure and guarantee at this stage, regardless of the discussions in progress, that examinations will be set and corrected in the coming session?

Mr. P. Barry: No, I have not because I think I can forsee that there will be agreement.

Mr. MacSharry: Surely as Minister for Education, the Minister must give an absolute guarantee that students will have the opportunity to sit for their examinations and have their examination papers corrected? Surely that is the Minister's responsibility and he must give that guarantee no matter what action he has to take?

[1139] Mr. P. Barry: I am quite confident that will be the position.

Mr. Wilson: Are the negotiations which are now proceeding within the framework of conciliation and arbitration?

Mr. P. Barry: No.

Mr. Wilson: Did the Minister's Department plead inability to pay at a meeting of an arbitration council?

Mr. P. Barry: I do not think the document involved is worded in that way. I am speaking from memory now.

Mr. MacSharry: The answer is yes.

Mr. P. Barry: No, it is not.

Mr. MacSharry: And you will do the same again with these.

Mr. P. Barry: I regret I cannot remember the actual details of the submission from my Department but there was something not quite in that form of words but which, perhaps, would convey the same impression.

Mr. Wilson: The Minister said the present negotiations are under the arbitration procedure?

Mr. P. Barry: No, I said they were not.

Mr. Wilson: Would the Minister like to say what happened at arbitration, if anything?

Mr. P. Barry: Yes, the union involved withdrew its members because they said the submissions from my Department—again speaking from memory and subject to correction— contained a phrase, and this is the type of phrase the Deputy refers to, which they had understood should not affect the discussions in question. I am a bit too vague to talk about it here because it is some time since I saw the papers.

Mr. Wilson: Did the Minister's predecessor and the Department give a guarantee that this plea of inability to pay would not be introduced at the arbitration proceedings?

[1140] Mr. P. Barry: No. There is a fine point there. The argument my Department made was that it would not be used in the event of the arbitrator finding against my Department but they could give no undertaking that it would not enter into the discussions.

Mr. Wilson: Could the Minister say what the total cost of paying the teachers in dispute would be to his Department?

Mr. P. Barry: The Deputy would have to put down another question because I have not that information here.

An Ceann Comhairle: Question No. 24.

Mr. Wilson: Would the Minister——

An Ceann Comhairle: I have allowed a long series of questions on this.

Mr. Wilson: I submit that it is a very serious question. There are many students involved. My briefcase is full of letters from agitated students who are really perturbed about the position as very often jobs depend on their getting certificates.

Mr. P. Barry: I agree absolutely but I am not sure that we are doing a great deal of good in the dispute by having it aired in this way at this time.

Mr. MacSharry: You had 12 months——

Mr. P. Barry: If the Deputy has something to say, he should stand up and put his question through the Chair and not shout questions or remarks across the House at me.

An Ceann Comhairle: Order.

Mr. MacSharry: Sorry.

Mr. Wilson: Have the Minister's Department advanced any further with the idea of an examinations board which would preclude such disputes as this arising?

Mr. P. Barry: Not in the context of this dispute, no.

[1141] Mr. Wilson: Would the Minister undertake to let me know by correspondence the total cost of paying the teachers for setting and marking these examinations?

Mr. P. Barry: I should be glad to do so.

Mr. MacSharry: Why did it take until today to get the parties concerned together in view of the fact that many of these examination papers have to be set before the end of the month and why was not some action taken in the course of the past nine months?

Mr. P. Barry: That is not true at all. As the Deputy knows, the union in question had a ballot among their own members and I think the result of that —again speaking from memory—was not known until the middle or end of last month. So, there is no delay in that regard.

An Ceann Comhairle: Question No. 24.

Mr. Power: Arising directly out of what the Minister said——

An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry. I have called the next question. I have given every latitude on this matter.