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STSG - A short history

Autumn 1988: Maurice Kearney, Tadhg MacPháidin and Fiona Poole got together to discuss the possibility of setting up a group to cater for the needs of separated primary teachers. The climate of the time was hostile to separated teachers at a professional level as the majority of teachers of primary school were under Roman Catholic religious management. The social and legal climates were equally cold and forbidding.

Tadhg MacPhaidin, as a member of the INTO Benefit Funds Committee, felt there was a need to be met. Maurice, an active member of the Navan Branch INTO, agreed. Fiona, herself a separated person since 1964 , was aware of the needs of and hostility to Separated Teachers professionally and socially. Like Tadhg and Maurice she too, in her role as branch and District Officer, as President and CEC member, gave advice, support and help to those who were in need. Therefore through Maurice, Tadhg and Fiona, there was a wealth of accumulated experience to hand that could be drawn on.

November 1988: we were ready to go. Maurice chaired the first meeting and Fiona took over and stayed in the chair until 1994. Rose Cullen was our first secretary. The group was set up to cater for the needs of Separated Primary Teachers. We have since extended our membership to include single parents, widowed and divorced teachers. Due to the lack of this specialist facility in the other teacher unions there was an immediate demand for second and third level teachers to attend our meetings. This was agreed to, on foot of a modest subscription being paid. It is unchanged to this day. The ASTI now makes a small yearly contribution to the funds. In the early days, each member attending meetings made a contribution towards circularising, through branches and districts, would-be members. Following appeals Branch and District committees answered our call for funding. The CEC expressed no interest and made no imput until 1993 but have since been hugely supportive. The members appreciate these responses , and without them the group could not exist. The officers did not get any expenses initially but I am happy to state they now get a modest sum towards their expenses. Thank your Branch, District and CEC committees.

We have spent the members contributions' wisely and well. We produce a comprehensive professional brochure, which is distributed to branches, districts , educational centres and to congress .We have built up a well stocked modern library and indeed compiled and distributed a booklet of valuable and informative articles.

I recall with a smile, the lengthy discussion we had when choosing a name for the group. The group meets five times a year in the Teachers' Club in Dublin and when necessary individual members host country people. The groups thanks Tadhg for providing this most suitable and convenient venue. STSG meets twice a year in venues outside Dublin in order to facilitate people who can't afford to travel to or stay commercially in Dublin. This also lessens the cost of child-minding and facilitates people on a regional basis. Generally speaking the local branch and district officers and CEC members have an input on these occasions. The AGM incorporates a business meeting and a social aspect. Since 1994 the INTO President attends and addresses the meeting. This is seen as a great honour by the members as is appreciated in his/her busy schedule. A social evening is held in June and greatly enjoyed by members and friends. All activities are advertised in InTouch.

The group runs an excellent programme of talks, lectures, seminars and social activities designed to meet the needs of the members. It offered well supported summer courses, Separation: Pupils, Teachers & Parents, in 1990 and 1991 but due to ignorance or denial of its need, DES did not sanction it in 1992. Incidentally that course had proposed a module on Child Abuse. This rejection was rather ironic as we view modern Irish society and the configuration of families. We were quite definitely ahead of our time. However, the group continues with it’s educational programme facilitating secretaries in taking courses of relevance to the group. It also awards an Adult Education Grant to one or two applicants each year. The applicants are judged and assessed by an outside assessor. The group has also heightened awareness of the INTO and its role in improving the conditions of teachers to its members. As a result motions for congress are formulated and discussed and presented by members at their local branch meetings for adoption for discussion at Annual Congress.

The group has achieved some substantial benefits for members:

  • One consultation, free of charge, with a solicitor on the STSG list.
  • Day off with pay to attend court hearing (obtained through lobbying the CEC).

STSG has made contributions and submissions:

  • To Telecom reference nuisance phone calls.
  • To the Roman Catholic Church authorities reference the presentation of the family in the religious instruction programme.
  • To DES reference family stereotyping in texts.
  • To the CEC reference the need for and role of a welfare officer.
  • To Minister Mervyn Taylor concerning the allocation of pensions
  • To branch and district meetings, when requested.
  • To radio, national and local and the press.

In the early days the pain of acknowledging one's situation was evident in the faces of new members. Therefore we had a slot, "Private Time" at every meeting, where friendships were formed, pain expressed, support given and where stories of walking round and round and round Parnell Square, fearing the visibility of the "caste" mark on one's forehead, were told.

Now nearly fifteen years later we have had life long friendships formed, weddings celebrated, babies born, professional and personal advancement earned and confidence and support given by and to all. The INTO Separated Teachers' Suppport Group is the only such specialist group. It is a great help to members as all are aware of the particular difficulties and problems that can apply.

To date we have had five chairpersons and five secretaries, male and female. All the members owe them a great debt of gratitude as they have given generously of their time and ideas. Please let the group know your needs so that we can continue to be of help and support.

Fiona Poole


See also celebrating 25 years page 29 of September 2013 issue of InTouch.