October 22, 2006
A PRIMARY school in Mayo, whose principal is a leading anti-Shell protestor, needed 150 substitute-teacher days in the last school year — more than double the national average.
Inver National School near Belmullet used eight substitute teachers to cover more than two-thirds of the 183-day school year from September 2005 until June.
School principal Maura Harrington, is on sick leave after sustaining head and neck injuries during an anti-Shell demonstration 10 days ago. Harrington clashed with a garda at the Shell gas terminal in Bellanaboy.
It is unclear from the figures, obtained from the Department of Education, if the high number of substitute days is due to the absence of a number of staff, or if a teacher took maternity leave.
According to its website, Inver National School has five teachers.
On average, an Irish primary teacher takes nine sick days a year.
A recent inspection report published on the department’s website calls for a new management structure and says staff meetings lack clear agendas, planning and record keeping.
Harrington denied the report was negative and insisted that, despite her prominent role in the Shell to Sea campaign, she never allows politics in the classroom.
Harrington was taken to hospital with suspected concussion after the incident at Bellanaboy. She was injured as gardai tried to prevent demonstrators blocking a road along which Shell workers are bused.
Her campaign against Shell landed her in trouble with gardai in Castlebar last summer when she and other protesters refused to leave the Fine Gael leader’s offices.
One Monday last May, Harrington claimed she was too stressed to attend a court case in Mayo, at which she faced charges of drunkenness and being a danger to herself, only to show up at Shell’s annual meeting in London the following day.