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Prometheus's Fire: Abstracts

Chapter 17: Trade Union Organisation in Technical Education 1913-1930

Gerard Moriarty and John Logan

The authors go in some detail into the working conditions experienced by the early technical instructors, who covered the country on their bicycles, often teaching in barns by paraffin lamps. The Association of Manual Instructors was founded some time before 1913 by JJ O'Connor; and other groups followed.

The various groups got together in 1913, and formed a central executive body in 1917, which gained pension rights and security of tenure for its members in 1919, making use of the available local government legislation. Affiliation to the Irish Trade Union Congress followed, in association with the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO).

The authors trace how the Union interacted with Government in the local government legislation which followed in the new State, culminating in the 1930 Vocational Education Act. For some years in the 1920s George Russell was their President. Although the technical instructors were low in the social 'pecking order' of Irish rural society, because of their strong union organisation they were in advance of the secondary school teachers in terms of winning basic concessions like pension rights. They were officially classified as local authority officers.

The authors call for further work on the history of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI), to fill the gaps left in the work of historians of education, such as for example TJ Durkan, who appears to have missed the significance of the early work of JJ O'Connor and the pre-1914 pioneers.

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