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Teachers, SNAs and gardaí ‘dismayed’ at losing place on priority list for vaccines

Minister for Education Norma Foley. Photo: Frank McGrath

Minister for Education Norma Foley. Photo: Frank McGrath

Katherine Donnelly 

March 31 2021 02:30 AM

Teachers, special needs assistants and gardaí have reacted angrily to the news that they are being pushed down the vaccine priority list.

Education workers are set to lose their placing on the schedule that would have put them ahead of certain age-based groups, and in the first 30pc of those to get the jab.

It is understood Education Minister Norma Foley had no advance knowledge of the proposal that was agreed at Cabinet yesterday.

Ms Foley had previously asked that education staff be moved up the list, but once endorsed by Nphet, the change to the schedule has the status of public health advice and the Department of Education’s standard position is to follow public health advice.

All three teacher unions are now seeking an urgent meeting with the department.

Irish National Teachers’ Organisation general secretary John Boyle described the change as “unacceptable” and called on the Government to reconsider.

He said it “would abandon carefully considered priority groups who are working on the frontline”.

Teachers’ Union of Ireland general secretary Michael Gillespie said it would put many essential education workers further down the prioritisation list at a time when the Government’s stated key objective was to fully reopen schools in a safe manner.ADVERTISEMENT is 80%volume is gedemptvolume is 80%volume is gedempt

Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland president Ann Piggott said they were “shocked and dismayed” at the move.

Fórsa’s head of education, Andy Pike, who represents SNAs, said they and other staff had recently returned to schools on the basis that they would be vaccinated as soon as possible.

Responding to the move last night, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) and the Garda Representative Association condemned the “drastic change in policy” and said it will “see our members continue to be exposed to a high-risk working environment”.

“Gardaí will not forget the way they have been treated during this crisis,” they warned.

AGSI general secretary Antoinette Cunningham said the move was “a poor decision and shows scant regard for the unique and high-risk job that gardaí do in policing Covid-19”.

“What is ironic and contradictory here is the Government are asking people not to meet indoors or gather in large groups to stop community transmission, yet gardaí are going from Covid-call to Covid-call and potentially acting as super-spreaders from the very virus that they are trying to control.

“We are deeply disappointed and we are once again appealing to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to consider the role gardaí play in policing Covid-19.”

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