The battle against cuts to DEIS schools saw the mobilisation of huge numbers of parents from Tallaght and the Dublin South West area. The remarkable level of pressure exerted on the government and local Labour and Fine Gael TDs forced them to rethink and roll back from what they saw as an easy target. The campaign highlighted the merit of organised opposition, the challenges faced in building a campaign and the need to consolidate and build on the efforts of all involved to fight further attacks.
In Scoil Santain, Homelawns, after being informed of impending cuts to teacher numbers and supports, a Parents Action Group was formed. A campaign developed designed to exert the maximum amount of pressure on Rauiri Quinn and, in particular, on local TD’s Pat Rabbitte, Eamonn Moloney and Brian Hayes.
In January a group of over 400 descended on Dail Eireann to welcome the government back from its extended holiday. DEIS was cemented as the overriding political issue of the new year. The Irish Times front page summed it up- CLASS ACTION. Realising the diminishing impact of chanting children we then set about building on the early momentum.
Contact details for relevant TDs were given to every parent and we bombarded their offices by phone, E Mail and letter. We opened up a constant line of communication with parents and passed on information regarding the campaign and tactics. We used local and social media to highlight the issue. We submitted Dail questions which Clare Daly TD asked on our behalf.
As well as building our campaign, a conscious decision was taken to try and build links with other local schools and reject any case by case review. Through local media we encouraged the formation of action groups in other schools. We contacted many local principles directly and urged them to mobilise and join the campaign
The intervention of the DEIS Teachers Action Group and the 4,000 + strong protest in Dublin was the culmination of pressure that they had been exerting. Organised by an active element of workers within the INTO, independently of union leaders, this was a welcome development and had a huge impact.
A further protest March was held in Tallaght, coinciding with the payment of €1.25 billion in Anglo Bonds. About 250 people participated, representing four local schools. There was a great sense of solidarity and a stronger political atmosphere. A clear message was sent to local TD’s.
It was no coincidence that it was Pat Rabitte who claimed the credit for raising this issue with his Labour lackey Minister Quinn. We recognised the weak position of the Labour Party in our community and also the influence of Mr. Rabbitte and Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes in government circles.
Minister Quinn announced the reversal of many of the cuts to Deis schools. There would be no lose of teachers in DEIS Bands 1 or 2. The student/Teacher ratio was protected. Legacy posts were kept. Disgracefully, the modern Languages programme was removed. In an attempt to isolate and stigmatise DEIS schools the capitation grant to all schools was front loaded.
Schools outside the DEIS Bands have not avoided the cuts to teachers. This was an open invitation for struggle to emerge from within this group and the unions. These schools were forced to enter the very case by case review that DEIS schools had rejected and defeated! The decision by DEIS schools to mount an aggressive, united campaign and not to plead to local TD’s for favourable treatment, has been proven correct. This is a tactic that we will continue to pursue.
Over the coming period of austerity all schools, particularly those classed as disadvantaged, will face huge attacks on funding. Minister Quinn has indicated a €77 million deficit for Budget 2013 and €147 million for Budget 2014.
The experience gained from this campaign is invaluable in building against the wider austerity measures facing the working class. It has highlighted the effectiveness of organised, non- concessionary opposition. It has further exposed the nature of this government and the inherent weakness of their position. It has underlined the potential that exists in worker based initiatives.
Perhaps most significantly, at this time, it has shown the need to build and link with other campaigns. The goal of this and similar campaigns must be the politicisation and development of a mass movement against austerity. In this way we can develop to not only defend what we have but to demand investment in areas like education and jobs that will benefit society and not in the rotting financial institutions that cripple it.