Pupil power demonstrated as secondary school students protest at the ongoing ASTI dispute.

More than a thousand students gathered outside Cork's City Hall today to protest at the ongoing pay dispute and the recent two day strike by teaching union the ASTI (Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland), with one single message,  

We want our education back.

The Taoiseach had urged students to remain in school and attend whatever classes were available, but many schools were abandoned.  

In addition to Cork city, other peaceful protests took place in counties Dublin, Waterford, Tipperary, Mayo and Sligo, but there were public order offences and arrests at other demonstrations.  

Secondary school teachers reported for work today following two days of school closures. Classes in the majority of schools went ahead as planned.  A three-day strike by union members is however proposed for next week. 

Students at one school who walked out of their classes told RTÉ News said they are fed up of the dispute dragging on, 

We want a guarantee that they’ll stop striking and we’ll stop protesting.

The Labour Court has called both sides involved in this dispute to talks which will begin this Sunday morning, and it is unlikely that a resolution will be achieved within a short time frame. 

Public opinion, along with parent and pupil power appear to have turned against the ASTI in this dispute.

If the talks fail, a ban on exam work, a protracted dispute, and damage to the education system are all on the cards.  

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 23 March 2001. The reporter is Peter Cluskey.