Source: Gareth Chaney/

When students struck back: During the 2001 teachers' strike, students took to the streets

Frustration boiled over as the dispute went on and on.

SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS with the ASTI have announced seven strike days between this coming Thursday and 7 December.

The industrial action has come to a head after pay negotiations failed since the ASTI’s rejection of the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

While the prospect of school closures has the potential to escalate and is a worry for exam students especially, it’s not yet reached the scale of disruption in 2000/2001 when ASTI strikes continued into the final school term.

The dispute became so prolonged that student frustration boiled over and they organised counter-strikes against the continued action by teachers.

It came to a head on 23 March 2001 when a student-led protest demonstrated outside the Dáil.

While these strikes were coordinated and had a central message, other smaller protests at individuals schools were more impromptu.

This is what the protests looked like fifteen years ago.

Students strike back, 2001

Source: Gareth Chaney

According to a news report from the time, “second-level students used mobile phones to co-ordinate the massive protest.”

Source: Leon Farrell

The main fears at the time were for the 60,000 students who were due to sit their Leaving Cert in June 2001.

Source: Gareth Chaney

In the Dáil, the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat government was accused of trying to “smash the ASTI” and “humiliating its membership into submission” rather than helping students.

Source: Gareth Chaney

In a speech by Michael Creed TD, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was also accused of being too “preoccupied with arrangements for a second U2 concert” to deal with the ongoing strike.

For the first time ever in 2001, Slane Castle played host to two outdoor concerts both by U2 in successive weeks.

Some of the protest saw secondary students just walk out of class and assemble outside. While some of these informal protests saw students head towards the city centre, others didn’t make it that far.

As outlined by one reporter who was a student at time.

We made our way down past the sports pitches, ready to leave the gates and get the Dart into town where students were mobilising outside the Dáil.But we never made it into town. Before we made it out of the school complex we were greeted by the teaching staff and school security at the gate who told us all to turn right back around and get to class.

Source: Gareth Chaney

At the height of the dispute, three days in a given school week were cancelled because of the teachers’ action in withdrawing supervision.

Teachers had been seeking a pay increase of 30% outside of the national agreement, the PPF, and argued that they were not being paid for the supervision they provided.

Read: Schools will shut for seven days as secondary teachers announce strike action >

Read: Those in exam years will feel the strain of teacher strikes, says student organisation >

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