Belfast Telegraph

North Belfast teachers on strike were not subject to surveillance: report

The trade union NASUWT claimed its teachers at the school were filmed and photographed while on strike last November (stock photo)
The trade union NASUWT claimed its teachers at the school were filmed and photographed while on strike last November (stock photo)
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

An investigation has found no evidence that teachers at a north Belfast primary school were subject to 'surveillance' during an industrial dispute.

The allegation had centred on St Patrick's Primary School on Pim Street, off Belfast's Antrim Road, which had been involved in strike action.

The trade union NASUWT claimed its teachers at the school were filmed and photographed while on strike last November.

It came after a man, who later disclosed he was highly trained in surveillance, was observed taking photographs of staff on a picket line.

The man later turned out to be a relative of the school's principal.

The Catholic Council for Maintained School (CCMS) which oversees St Patrick's PS said it would investigate the teachers' concerns.

A report following the independent investigation into the teachers' claims and seen by BBC News NI found no conclusive evidence that the staff members were put under surveillance.

The investigation was carried out by former general secretary of the Nipsa trade union John Corey and Sinead McNicholl.

Their report concluded that it was reasonable for NASUWT to raise concerns that the teachers on the picket line had been under surveillance.

However, it found that "there was no evidence available to enable the panel to conclude that the staff were subject to surveillance".

"The panel was satisfied that the employer was not involved in any manner in requesting any person to undertake surveillance of staff," the report stated.

"There was not evidence available to enable the panel to conclude that the photographing/filming was done on request or for some other purpose," it added. Their report reveals that in December 2018 and January 2019, the teachers became concerned that the man alleged to have filmed them was also involved in an incident at an eviction in Co Roscommon in the Republic of Ireland.

However, the NASUWT later accepted that was not the case and there was no link to the Roscommon incident.

The man alleged to have been filming staff was in fact married to the school principal's sister.

In April 2019 the man, who used the initials DFW, sent an email to the NASUWT explaining that he had gone to the school on the strike days to ensure his partner's daughter could safely cross the picket line. She was being employed as a substitute teacher in St Patrick's on some of the days that the NASUWT members were on strike.

The investigation's authors also concluded the incident had caused upset and concern to the striking staff and NASUWT officials.

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