The uncertainty created by Brexit is in danger of allowing instability and uncertainty in Northern Ireland which could allow the polarised politics of the past to dominate, members have been warned.
NASUWT Assistant General Secretary Jim Quigley said that teachers in a post-Brexit Northern Ireland would find themselves on the “frontline” when managing the social impact of leaving the European Union.
Speaking to members at the NASUWT Northern Ireland Annual Conference in Belfast, Mr Quigley warned of further attacks on public sector funding and on workers’ rights.
And he said “bigotry, racism and sectarianism” always had to be challenged and resisted by the NASUWT, which had historically always been organised on non-sectarian lines.
He warned: “In a post-Brexit Northern Ireland it will be teachers who find themselves on the frontline."
Mr Quigley, delivering the General Secretary’s address, said: “The remarkable job teachers do, persisting in incredibly difficult circumstances will only become more difficult in post-Brexit classrooms.
“We need to prepare for the attack on public funding and workers’ rights that will inevitably follow.
“Across the UK, polarised politics instability and uncertainty has allowed for prejudice to dominate a mainstream narrative.
“In a post-conflict Northern Ireland, polarised politics, instability and uncertainty threatens to create a space which could, all too easily be filled by the familiar ghosts of the past.
“Bigotry, racism and sectarianism must be resisted and challenged by the NASUWT and our members in whatever ugly forms they might take.”
Mr Quigley reminded members that, historically, the NASUWT was the only teachers’ trade union in Northern Ireland to be organised on an explicit anti-sectarian platform, welcoming teachers regardless of political affiliation or religious belief and the Union was very proud of the fact.
But the message of equality and respect for diversity would continue to be at the forefront.
He added: “The NASUWT has been, and will continue to be resistant to bigotry, racism and hate. From the classroom we will persist with our message of equality and respect for diversity in a post-Brexit Northern Ireland.
“The children you teach are reliant on your courage and resilience in the face of a rising tide of intolerance and xenophobia and we cannot let them down. Their futures really do lay in your hands.”