Monday, 16 November 2009 00:00

Christmas 2009 RSTA Newsletter

Midland Branch

A meeting was held in Longford on 14th October to officially establish the Midland Branch.

The Officers:

Pat Joe McLoughlin    Chairman

Martina Kelly                Secretary

Rosemary Kiernan      Treasurer       Phone: 043-6686101

Thanks to this new committee and we wish them every success in serving members from the surrounding counties.  The inauguration meeting of the branch will be held on 16 November at 2pm.  The guest speaker will be Marie Doyle, RSTA President.  Venue to be decided. Please contact Rosemary Kiernan for further details.  Ph: 043-6686101 or 087-7589287 .Information about the Christmas lunch will be available at that meeting.  Spread the word among your colleagues.  Details can also be checked on the web:

Important Information

Pension Parity

Public Service Pensions Parity is the linkage of the pension of the retired person to the pay of his/her successor.  When a public servant, nurse, teacher or local authority official entered the public service, he or she paid a pension contribution of 6.5%.  This contribution was given on the firm understanding that parity would continue to give a pro-rata increase on retirement in line with increases to serving workers.

Parity in public services pensions has been established since 1969.  Successive Ministers of Finance have affirmed that custom in 1972, 1984, 1986, 1998 and 2004.  Parity however could be now under threat given the recent changes in public sector pay.  If salaries of serving teachers are further deducted in any new fiscal measures, this could lead to a situation where retired teachers are actually earning more than half than their serving colleagues.  This would mean that parity would be broken which would have serious implications for all.

 The continuing interest of our parent union A.S.T.I. however is encouraging.  Emeritus members of A.S.T.I. may attend meetings to help draw attention to the importance of pensions for all members.

Seán Geraghty, Vice-President

Pension Costs for the Public Service Worker

A recently retired ASTI member, Seán Fallon has calculated the true cost of public sector pensions in the following manner

Public service workers pay (and pay dearly) for their pensions. Indeed, the amount they actually pay and the amount of their pay that they have deducted because of the perceived superior quality of their pensions add up to a very large contribution. These are as follows:

1.      Basic contribution of 6.5% of salary per year contributed for 40 years, the current so called "pension levy," a 7.5% per annum pay cut,

2.      The loss of a 3% pay-increase, due since P.C.W. agreement but traded off against an early-retirement scheme since the Government pleaded inability to pay it at the time. The early-retirement scheme has now been withdrawn but without paying the corresponding 3% per annum from then,

3.      A pay limitation of "up to 12%" in the second benchmarking exercise due to the perceived superior quality of public service pensions. For the sake of argument let us say this amounted to an effective pay cut of just 4%.

4.      This means that public service workers' pensions are effectively costing them about 21% of salary now and even before the so-called "pension levy" public service workers' pensions were effectively costing them about 13.5% of salary.


GET UP STAND UP. We, the members of the RSTA need to show the Government that we want to build a better, fairer society by adding our voices to those protesting. We can also sign up online, wear the stickers, join the rally, and lobby our local T.D.


Memories are made of this.

An Intensive Experience

Approaching the slipway from the new bypass onto the old road… a sharp turn… change down the gears.  A lorry approaching, a big lorry, negotiating the other half of the dog-leg shaped slipway. We both straighten up, driving towards each other… and then it happens… the trailer jack-knifes, swinging over into my half of the road. Steer to the left to avoid impact. Too late… Bang!



        In Castlebar hospital, a decision was made to attempt to save my arm even though it had initially appeared that it was beyond saving. And in the process of doing this my blood pressure went so low that saving my life became the priority. I was moved to Galway for further orthopedic and plastic surgery. During the early part of my induced coma I had benign dreams – that my mother was there, stroking my blood-soaked hair, that my brother was there, and also my children, and children they appeared to be even though they are now all adults. I dreamed, with total clarity that I was put on board a military plane and flown to Moscow for surgery and then flown back to Galway.

 It took quite a lot of time and effort on the part of my family, to convince me that this, in particular, hadn’t happened.

       But then I entered into a phase where the dreams were no longer benign. As I drifted in a state of deep unconsciousness and then on to fretful wakefulness and all the stages in between, I experienced depths of dementia and paranoia that were terrifying in their intensity.

In my deep unconscious state I imagined myself to be in a huge cave-like place, the darkness of the concave roof relieved by myriad images of grotesque faces and people who leered and sneered at my helplessness and distress.

These images changed incessantly as they flitted across the darkened sky over my head, always ugly and full of threat. In the background I could hear a constant flow of shrieking music, screaming away in an endless rondo. And far below all this mayhem, was a surging flood of multicoloured viscous evil-smelling liquid through which I had to swim, sometimes submerged and gasping for breath, other times swimming on the surface, but never able to rest, always struggling, always gasping. My broken ribs and collapsed lung, I’m sure, were at the root of my breathing difficulties. But what about all the rest? Was I dead, I asked myself? Was this hell? Had I sinned once too often and was this all I had earned? And would it ever end? Was this to go on for eternity?

       Over the course of the next eight or nine days I was kept under sedation. I may have regained consciousness from time to time because I have some memories of people coming and going.. Each time I returned to near consciousness; my fevered mind took the realities that I could vaguely see around me, and created another version of hell.

 My mind concocted an elaborate scenario in which the hospital and all the staff were not real, rather they were clones created by a mastermind nurse who, for reasons unclear had decided that I would never escape from this surreal, virtual world. In my paranoia, I regarded all the staff as the enemy and I treated them with great suspicion.

       Apart from the dementia of deep unconsciousness and the paranoia of near consciousness a third scenario added to my torment. Hallucinations. I saw things and people who weren’t there. There were cars parked outside the glass door of the room – even though we were on the third floor of the building! Even the glass door didn’t exist! The walls appeared not to be solid. They were made of white translucent gauze-like material behind which I could see sinister figures moving menacingly. One of these was a ferocious looking Samurai character in full armour and carrying a double bladed axe. And most frightening of all, my room and indeed myself had come to the attention of a drunken lout with a head of wild hair and a shaggy beard, who wore a scruffy cowboy suit complete with Stetson hat and high boots. This man, it appeared to me, hung around outside my non-existent glass door, peering in and even trying to push his way into the room. When two nurses went out to usher him away I saw him attack them repeatedly with a pickaxe handle until they were both unconscious and bloody. Imagine my amazement and confusion when they both appeared at my bedside later on, looking neat and tidy in their uniforms!

 As I began to regain consciousness I gradually became aware of the presence of the nurses and of my family members. To my amazement I was told that they had been coming and going for the past week or more. My wife hadn’t left my side most of that time. I tried to tell her about the imagined plot to keep me captive in the hospital. I said goodbye to her and told her that she must leave for fear that they would try to entrap her as well. My awareness of the presence of people, real people, came and went as I slipped back into the surreal world of horror. By opening and closing my eyes I drifted from the world of dementia into the world of paranoia and back again.

I noticed that when I closed my eyes it took about ten seconds for the demons to appear – the same when I opened my eyes.

 So by closing my eyes and counting to nine and then opening them and again counting to nine, I managed to fool the madness and to get some vestige of peace and rest. This device and my wife’s voice gradually convinced me that I could survive after all. I nagged my wife to “keep talking!” because when she stopped the horrors resumed again.

 During one particularly traumatic forty eight hour period about ten days after my accident I became very distressed and depressed. I pulled out all the tubes to which I was attached, totally heedless of the consequences. During this time I had had no sleep, and then, quite suddenly, it all ended. I asked the nurse what time it was. She said it was twelve midnight. What appeared like minutes later she came into the room again and I asked her the same question. “Three o’clock” she said. I realised that I had slept soundly and without nightmares for three hours and I felt marvellous. “Is there any chance that I could have tea and toast for breakfast?” I asked the astonished nurse. “I will get it for you myself before I go off duty at seven” she said. And true to her word she did.

 My recovery has been very good since then even though I did need further surgery on my arm. My experience of delirium, hallucinations and paranoia, I have since learned, is a relatively common one for people in very stressful and traumatic situations which require a heavy drug regime. It is known as ICU Syndrome or ICU Psychosis, a condition which manifests itself in any or all of the experiences that I went through. While it undoubtedly was the most terrifying experience of my life, I now know that it does pass and has to be seen as a small price to pay for the Intensive Care treatment which, in fact, saved my arm and even saved my life.

(Lorcan Leavy, Mayo Branch).  Previously published in The Irish Times Health Supplement, August 4, ‘09


North East Wonderland.     

As we left the Hill of Faughart going north, our guide, RSTA member Eamon O’ hUallacháin said; “ For the next few hundred metres this road demarcates five boundaries; on our left the townland of Carrickbroad, the Parish of Dromintee, the County of Armagh, the Province of Ulster, and Northern Ireland itself.  On our right the townland of Carrickaneena, the Parish of Faughart, the County of Louth, the Province of Ulster all in the Republic of Ireland.  Not only are we crossing five boundaries but a few miles north is the Black Pig’s Dyke, an ancient gateway to Ulster and just south of us we crossed out of the Pale when we left Dundalk”

This is just a flavour of a stimulating adventure which the North Eastern Branch of RSTA, with guests from Dublin and Belfast, enjoyed on a beautiful sunny Thursday, September 10th. All sixty of us headed north by coach with Castletown Mount, the birthplace of Setanta on our left. We followed the road across Castletown Bridge – Ath na gCarbad (ford of the chariots), the road taken by Queen Maeve and her army.

On Faughart Hill Eamon showed us the Shrine of St. Brigid, the burial place of Edward Bruce and the campsite of the Williamite army in 1690. We moved to South Armagh, to Moyry Castle in the Gap of the North where Aodh O’ Neill engaged Lord Mountjoy and denied the English entry into Ulster in 1600. Next was the magnificent Ring of Gullion, a sixty million years old volcanic crater with its storied villages of Dromintee, Forkhill and Mullaghbane. In our imaginations we climbed Sliabh Gullion with Yeats and Maud Gonne.

After lunch in the Carrickdale Hotel we visited the Dolmen at Proleek with its massive fifty ton capstone. On to Cooley, the Táin Trail and the Long Woman’s Grave – Lug Bhan Fhada – a legendary Spanish Lady lured to Cooley with the prospect of lands and riches only to be tragically disappointed. Down the mountain to Omeath and the sparkling Carlingford Lough with Warrenpoint and Rostrevor on the Down shore. Eamon traced the Danish influences – Carlingford, Greenore and other place names.  

In the capital of the region, the medieval town of Carlingford we stopped and were given a choice; visit King John’s Castle, he of Robin Hood fame, or partake in a fringe event. Most followed Eamon to the Castle but the weaker willed, having made a cursory visit to to the Tholsel, sidled into PJ’s for a beverage.  A few songs were sung on the way back to Dundalk and all dispersed in great good humour.

Unfortunately some RSTA members were disappointed because we were overbooked and couldn’t take them. South Armagh/ North Louth will be revisited, as there is at least as much again to be seen and heard. There’s every chance that Eamon will guide us. Go raibh maith agat arís a Eamon, bhi an turas sin tharr barr

(Art Agnew, North Eastern Branch)


Recession now – Forget IT

In the summer of 1956 I was conferred with my higher Diploma in Education to add to the B.A. of the previous year.  With the optimism of youth I placed advertisements in the National papers fully expecting to be snapped up by some prestigious school.  However, no headmasters seemed to bite or maybe they were all enjoying their holidays.  Some ads began to turn up in the educational columns of the Irish Independent to which I despatched my C.V. and references.  Nobody bothered to answer.

I put it down to the time.  Secondary teaching posts were the preserve of priests, brothers and nuns with few openings for us lay folk.  Even the larger colleges had only room for one or two non-clerics.

Next I turned to those agencies promising success in appointing teachers, boasting of up to a hundred percent job placement.

The offers began to pour in, all from missionary schools in sub Saharan Africa. A large slice of my earnings would be required by my agents for the next two years.  I became more determined than ever to confine myself to the home market if at all possible.

At last I got a reply to one of my ads.  It was by phone and from a large CBS school in Munster.  The head brother interviewed me on the spot, asking me several pertinent questions which I had to answer off the cuff.

 I was astonished when he told me he was giving me the job, promising to put a confirmation letter in the post that afternoon.  I was to return a form accepting the offer immediately.

Needless to say there was great rejoicing in my family that evening with my first job in the bag and another son off their hands!  Next day, instead of the promised letter, a telegram arrived.  My appointment was cancelled with no explanation other than “Post now Filled”.  Back to square one.

A few days later a letter arrived from the headmaster of a Dublin lay school calling me for an interview at 10.30 am the following morning.  As I lived in Carrick-on-Shannon there were no trains or buses to get me to Dublin as early as that.  I was reluctant to book myself into a hotel or guest house so I took the Carrick means of getting to the capital for an early call.  I arranged a lift in a lorry delivering its daily load of Arigna coal to the Pigeon House.

We left Carrick at 6.30 am and the driver dropped me off at O’Connell Bridge three hours later.  There was just time for a face wash and freshen up in the toilet of the Gresham hotel before a bus to the school.

There I faced a rigorous interview, was told I had the job and signed my acceptance form before I left to get the train home from Westland Row.

At that time teachers had to do a pre-registration year before being fully qualified and eligible for an incremental salary.  If we complained about this to the older teachers they would tell us we were lucky as it took three years pre-registration in their day.  So I started my teaching career on a school pay of £240 per annum - £20 per month to keep myself in ‘digs’ with the balance to sample the joys of city living!

Now that’s what I call a recession.

(Lionel Gallagher, Sligo Branch)

The President of the RSTA, Marie Doyle wishes all members of the Association and their families a Happy and a Peaceful Christmas and good health in 2010

Just a Thought

One kind word can warm three winters

Japanese proverb

Eileen Brennan, Florence House, 54 Florence Road, Bray, Co Wicklow. Tel. 01-2868095

Brendan Duggan, St. Anthony’s, Cummeen, Strandhill, Sligo. Tel.071-9162474 or 087 6495181

Aveen Kilduff, 49 Herbert Park, Bray, Co Wicklow. Tel.01-2760616 or 087 6641466

Teresa McCarthy, 49 Ballinvoher Rd., Fr. Russell Road, Limerick. Tel. 061-424643

Catherine McHugh, 5 Blacquiere Villas, Phibsborough, Dublin 7. Tel. 01 8305646

Nuala O’Connor, 21 The Heights, Ballinteer, Dublin 16. Tel. 01 2980819

Louis O’Flaherty, 43 Lorcan Drive, Santry, Dublin 9. Tel. 01 8426910

Martin Wallace, 31 Lohunda Downs, Dublin 15. Tel. 01 8215557

Medical Cards

We wish to protest at the removal of the automatic entitlement to medical cards for all those over seventy. We regarded the initial announcement as arbitrary and unjust. The subsequent introduction of a means test is divisive and could set a precedent for the denial of existing benefits for the elderly. We would like to make the following points.     

            Government sources have said that fewer than 5% of the over seventies will lose their medical cards under the new means tested scheme. We understand that there are approximately 323,000 over seventies with medical cards. This would mean that 16,150 persons would lose their cards. We further understand that since the beginning of the year the HSE has been paying General Practitioners an annual fee of €308 for all medical card holders over seventy.

This should result in a total cost of less than €5,000,000 per year to compensate doctors for those who are to have their cards removed. It seems like a very small saving for a big injustice.       

The recent imposition of a 1% levy on all incomes and pensions means that those on a pension/income of €36,500 a year are already liable for a charge of €365 per year which is greater than the cost of providing a doctor only medical card. This is in addition to any income tax payable or possible reduction in pension in the future.           

            It seems particularly invidious that current holders of medical cards have to self-incriminate and declare that they are no longer entitled to a benefit which they believed was their right. This smacks of McCarthyism. We understand that applicants for a medical card are assessed on their net income. Why then is gross income used as a criterion for removing a card from those over seventy and particularly from those who are most honest.

            We are concerned about the plight of couples who may qualify for a medical card under the proposed means tested system but if a spouse should die the remaining partner may cease to qualify. This would cause unnecessary hardship to the survivor who may then be required to make a new application for something which they had enjoyed for many years.    

            We believe that the proposal to remove the universal right to a medical card from all those over seventy and to replace it with a means-tested system is unjust and creates a dangerous precedent and is in stark contrast to what happens in Northern Ireland. We further believe that the only fair and honest way to fund a health service is through a properly monitored tax system.

Louis O’Flaherty, Dublin Branch

The Levy

The 2nd Benchmarking Report in 2008 resulted in 300,000 public servants and 100,000 retired public servants receiving a pay award of 0%.

-     This report stated “A discount of up to 12.5% was applied because of pension entitlement”.

-          Because this was not highlighted by the Trade Union movement at the time, the way was left open for the savage attack on our take-home pay which is now being proposed by the Government.

-          The failure by Trade Union leaders to state at every opportunity that public servants pay 6.5% of their salary for pension in addition to the 12.5% above, created the impression in the public mind that Public Servants did not pay anything for their pension.

-          Benchmarking has been shamefully described as the “ATM for Public Servants”. The first Benchmarking Report in 2002 was welcomed by IBEC who said at the time “Benchmarking has brought reality into Public Service pay and has stopped leapfrogging and relativities”.

-          This same Benchmarking process replaced our traditional pay review mechanism.

-          The “Rolls Royce” Public Service pensions referred to by Turlough O’ Sullivan is as follows

Public Service retiree on pension of €500 per week after 40 year’s service does not   get the State Pension of €230 per week. Thus the real additional benefit of the “Rolls Royce”, after working for 40 years, is €270 per week, NOT €500.

Out of this, the pensioner pays VHI, including the levy of €128, and the new 1% income levy (equivalent to €400 per annum).

-          The separation of the link between Public Service pay and pensions, evident again in this proposed levy, must be stopped.

-          Public servants are prepared to take some of the pain of this recession, on an equitable basis, even though we did not receive the gain of the private sector during the Celtic Tiger- large bonuses, company cars, expenses.

-          Many public servants are on temporary contracts. This is not secure employment.

-          It is offensive to Public Servants that the private sector is referred to as “the real economy” by Turlough O’Sullivan. The public sector economy is very real to people who are in hospital, children in schools and people who are rescued by fire-fighters.





 Branch News Cork 

Humphrey Twomey

Congratulations to Humphrey Twomey, on his informed contribution to the television documentary on the legendary Cork priest, Father O’Flynn who founded the famous amateur theatre company,’ The Loft’. The company devoted itself to producing the works of William Shakespeare.  Humphrey’s life-long interest in the theatre led him to complete a Master’s degree in Theatre Studies in UCC.  He is particularly interested in early twentieth century theatre in Cork city, the Macroom born playwright, T. C. Murray and of course Father O’Flynn.  Humphrey taught for many years in the Sacred Heart College, Carrignavar.  He was a very active member of the A.S.T.I. and the History Teachers’ Association.  Since his retirement he has been a tireless worker in the R.S.T.A. as chairman and treasurer.

Pat Holohan, Cork Branch

Curious and Curiouser

A former Fianna Fáil member Mr. Wolfe is forming a new party, The Seniors’ Solidarity Party, to challenge the Fianna Fáil and Green seats in the Howth/Malahide ward in the forthcoming local election.  He felt that the Government had sledge-hammered the elderly in the budget by taking the medical card away from them.  He is hoping to mobilize the ‘grey vote’ into action.  So far the response locally had been very positive with support coming from places such as Galway and Waterford.  He hopes to run candidates in these counties.

The new party aims to do more than just protest against the medical cards issue and states that it intends to eliminate all discrimination against the retired in all areas of life.  He is in favour of a postal vote for the infirm.

Report on the Extraordinary General Meeting

The EGM, to revise the Constitution, was held in the South Court Hotel, Raheen, Limerick on the 4 February 2009.

The meeting was chaired by the President, Marie Doyle.  Attendance was good despite the bad weather conditions at the time.  Two delegates from the following branches: Dublin, Limerick, Mayo, Sligo and Wicklow represented their respective branches.  Amendments were made to the rules where necessary.  The new draft was ready for the Annual General Meeting in May,2009


October 8 saw a group of Kildare RSTA members embark on a pilgrimage, the old pilgrimage to the shrine of St James at Santiago in Northern Spain.  The essence of pilgrimage has three aspects - a sacred journey, a sacred place, a sacred goal.  It is always a spiritual experience, and a metaphor for life.  The goal is personal and may also have a group aspect – as in a family making thanksgiving for restoration to health of a loved one.  The length of the journey is not in itself highly important as long as it allows some leaving behind of everyday life and cares.  For the Camino it is principally along the journey that any transformation can take place, that insight is gained, that penance is done (an emphasis peculiar to the Irish??). In our group goals varied from thanksgiving to supplication for a loved one to goals of personal transformation in various ways

We walked 90 km in 5 days – an achievement we were quite proud of.  The pathway or Camino took us mostly through trees and alongside green pastures where the cowbells tinkled.  We did short stints along country roads and through wee hamlets, we only entered big towns to stay there at night.  Very little of the journey brought us in contact with everyday traffic so we could have a truly reflective/contemplative time.

In the towns where we stayed we usually found an evening “pilgrim Mass”, and in one case the pilgrims were all invited up to the alter to receive a special blessing.  Two unusual crucifixes caught our attention – one in Melide had a seated Christ, the other was in a wee church a few miles away and showed Christ holding one pierced hand down to his followers.

There was no shortage of “pit-stops” along the way nor of pilgrim hostels.  I certainly appreciated the luxury of staying in a hotel, in a twin bedroom rather than a large dormitory and of having lots of hot water. For some the privations of hostels seemed more appropriate to the pilgrimage.  We learned the importance of using liberal amounts of Vasaline all over the feet every morning to keep blisters at bay, “Compeed” came efficiently to the rescue if we missed spots.

Reaching Santiago was both a relief, a sense of having reached or goal but also sense of “Ah it is over now”.  We gratefully knelt at the Apostle’s relics and offered him our journey, our thanks and our hopes.  We all felt we had gained much from the pilgrimage, some in very personal ways.  I learned the importance of undertaking a demanding project in the company of someone positive who would not give up, of keeping a rhythm going on a long walk.  Another member felt she got along by virtue of walking with a great talker who kept her distracted from thoughts of distance yet to cover, or of any aches or pains!  I am not the only one bitten by the walking bug – or is it the Camino bug?  Come May I will be back on the Camino with some of my family and am looking forward to it very much.  My walking companion of October has more ambitious plans!  We would all say to anyone who is thinking of doing the Camino “GO AHEAD, you will never regret it.  Buen Camino”.  

Eilis Mc Cormack, Kildare Branch.

A Thought

I shall pass through this world but once.

Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show

To any human being let me do it now.

Let me not defer or neglect it

For I shall not pass this way again.