This is my last contribution to TUI News as I am retiring from the job as Secretary of the RMA at the end of January. I have really enjoyed my stint over the last ten years as Secretary, I have made many friends and had some great experiences. You all remember the moment when you decided to retire from teaching, it is amazing how for most of one’s career one never considers the inevitable end of that career yet when the moment comes it is clear and final. For me it came as I felt the loss of energy to complete the teaching day. It was something that I had never considered before, I loved teaching and I enjoyed the challenge, however when I acknowledged my position I was quite happy to retire and looked forward to a new phase in my life. I will not discuss here what the moment was for my present decision. The great thing about retirement is the freedom it gives you, you have finished your career and you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. You have the freedom to make choices that you did not have when you were teaching, you also have the time and dare I say it the resources.
We had a wonderful autumn break in the Four Seasons Hotel in Carlingford. Over sixty of us gathered for the three day break. The weather was as is usual for these outings magnificent, the weather for these outings follows a pattern that could be compared to Old Moors Almanac, it was the beginning of November and we had beautiful sunshine for the three days we were there and the day we left it lashed rain and the weather broke. The hotel treated us very well too, the service, the food, the friendliness was all excellent and the rate for our stay was one of the best we ever had. Our members really enjoyed it, the atmosphere was really friendly it was like one happy family. We went to Belfast on one of our outings some went shopping but most of us went to the Titanic Centre. This is a most impressive experience it was my second visit, I think you need more than one visit to appreciate the depth and extent of the experience. Or coach driver brought us on a tour of the Shankhill and Falls roads it was very sad to see the very high dividing wall still very much in place despite all the progress made. On the second day some went to the Outlet in Bambridge, not a patch on the Kildare one, followed by a tour of Newry. Others went on a trip through the Mourn Mountains to Newcastle, with the weather we had this was a beautiful experience.
The RMA continues to grow, the number of Branches are increasing and many held a social event for the Christmas, I attended one in Kildare which was a great success.
The Alliance continues its campaign to restore the deductions in our pensions and the anomalies that apply to the public service. It was decided at the last meeting to write to all members of the Government and Dail and Senate members. This is part of our lobby process which will soon involve each member being required to approach their local Dail and Senate representatives and all Local Government public representatives. We must inform all those about the situation we are in regarding our pensions and the contribution we have made towards rectifying the financial situation in the country in the last five years. We must continue to inform the public that we paid for our pension all our teaching life and that we are entitled to the restoration as a matter of urgency. Serving members have many years to make up the loss in recent years where we have less time.
Before Christmas we had received over forty replies to our letter from TD’s and Senators and since then we have received another twenty, they are coming in drips and drabs. Some just acknowledge receipt of the letter others discuss the merits of our case and agree others again have contacted either the Minister for the Public Service, Brendan Howlin or the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan. Seamus Healy asked a Dail question to Brendan Howlin when he would give Statutory Negotiating Rights to the Alliance. The private secretary of Joan Collins thought that we had sent the letter to the wrong Department and she was going to rectify it!!! Michael Martin said that he would meet us with other spokespersons to discuss the situation, when I mentioned this to another member of the Alliance he said that he had received a similar letter a year ago and despite many letters and phone calls they have not met yet. Yet the exercise was well worth it and we will follow it up with further more personal lobbying. As regards your own personal contribution toward this task a leaflet is being prepared for you that will state our case and indicate what we expect from the public representatives. Make no mistake but that this is a fight, we are not going to receive a restoration of our pension without making a good case to each and every public representative. Remember the Farmers are our model in this lobbying exercise, they are not lying down.