The number of Irish schools that could close is set to rise by about 100,000 over the next two years, with the government claiming that the situation is “troubling”.
In the coming weeks, the government will ask the High Court to order an urgent strike vote for the schools.
This is in addition to the 10% that would be suspended in October, with another 30% suspended over the Easter break.
In total, there are estimated to be about 2.2 million students in the schools, but there are fears of a further 500,000 to 800,000 pupils being affected.
Education Minister John O’Connor told the Irish Independent on Thursday that there was a “very clear risk” of schools shutting down, with 1.2m pupils being in school, a figure which is expected to rise to 2.8m by the end of 2019.
He said that there is a “crisis” in schools, with pupils being left “without the basic services that they need to be successful”.
A Department of Education spokesperson said that the department “strongly believes” that the government is acting appropriately, but added that there were “significant risks” posed by the strikes.
In an interview with The Irish Independent, Dr Brian Fitzgerald, the chief medical officer of the Health Service Executive (HSE), said that “the health of our patients is a priority” and that the HSE was prepared to “work with the public and businesses” to “support our patients and their families”.
However, he added that it was the Government that should be responsible for the safety of the public.
Dr Fitzgerald said that while it was a matter for the HSA to make a “determination” about whether to strike, “the HSE cannot dictate to a patient that he or she has to pay to get to work”.
Dr Fitzgerald also said that he believed that there had been “inadequate” support for patients, and added that “there is a significant risk that students will go without basic services and that will put the health of patients at risk”.
The Department of Children and Family Development said that it would support parents who are affected by the strike.
It said that children would have access to their parents’ social services, childcare services and GP visits, as well as to the HECS, the primary care and primary schools.
The Department for Education said that its primary priority was ensuring that the “safety and wellbeing” of students and staff were protected.
A spokesperson said: “We recognise that a significant number of students have had to choose between attending school or staying at home, but we know that many of them will return home to find that their children have been affected by a strike.”
This is a serious situation, and the Government will work with the community to provide support to affected parents and students.