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RTÉ One, Monday, 7.30pm
Scannal

Scannal! Drimoleague

Fr. John Crowley © Irish Examiner
Fr. John Crowley © Irish Examiner

In March 1976 the quiet and peaceful life of the little village of Drimoleague in West Cork was shattered. Pickets were placed by teachers on the local national school; seven other schools in the parish initially went on strike in support of them. It was to become the longest school strike in the history of the State

The dispute was over the appointment of a school principal which divided the small community down the middle. The INTO claimed that the appointed teacher, Mr. Nicholas McCarthy was ineligible as he didn't have the full five years experience required under the rules. The most publicised alternative contestant for the job of principal happened to be an executive member of the INTO, local man Jimmy Collins. Central to the dispute was the local parish priest, Fr. John Crowley an ex army chaplain who had seen service in the Congo. , He was accused of sending a letter nominating Mr. McCarthy to the Dept of education while, at the same time, sending in a list of applicants. The newly appointed board of management made it clear from the outset that they were backing Nicholas McCarthy

The strike became extremely bitter and personalised. Matters went from bad to worse when Parents took over some of the classrooms and taught the pupils themselves, The INTO instructed other schools in the area not to enrol students from the striking schools The air was thick with accusations of harassment, intimidation and boycotting- The parents took their case to the high court where the Minister for education was forced to provide the children with free transport to alternative schools. Innumerable settlements efforts were made but negotiations constantly broke down

The strike was eventually settled after six years but a heavy price had been paid. Children had been left at the side of the road for a year and a half with no formal education. The wounds inflicted on this small community ran deep and to this day very few people are willing to talk about the strike. The INTO paid nearly a half million punts in strike pay and 2.4 million punts on court cases taken against them by students over a ten year period.

Reporter: Padraig O'Driscoll

Producer/Director: Kevin Cummins

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