Teacher and union leader who dedicated life to education

Aloysius (Al) Mackle
Aloysius (Al) Mackle

Former principal of Maghery Primary school and teachers’ union leader Aloysius (Al) Mackle has been laid to rest on what would have been his 87th birthday.

Al, who was principal for 22 years and northern secretary of The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) from 1978 until 1991, died last Tuesday.

His distinguished career spanned over 50 years of service to both the education sector and public life in Northern Ireland.

He began his career in 1948 as teacher in St Joseph’s Primary School, Magherafelt, progressing quickly to the position of principal of Aughanlig Primary School Collegeland in !951.

He became principal of St Mary’s Primary School Maghery in 1955 where he served until his appointment as northern secretary of the INTO in 1978.

During his time in St Mary’s PS, Al married fellow teacher Maire McCallion whom he had met while secretary of Colaiste Rhois Ghoill Co Donegal and together they taught five of their six children in St Mary’s, the youngest completing her primary education after Al moved to his post with the INTO in College Gardens, Belfast.

The teachers’ leader was later appointed chairman and chief executive of the Labour Relations Agency.

He was also chairman of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in the north in the 1980s, when it launched a campaign to counter IRA threats against anyone who did business with the security forces.

Al was also a member of the INTO executive head office in Dublin during this time.

Recognised for his contribution to education in Northern Ireland, Al was awarded the OBE in 1989, an award he immediately attributed to the work of the INTO rather than a personal achievement.

In a tribute to Al, current INTO northern secretary Gerry Murphy said, “Al Mackle led the INTO into great distinction and his legacy lives on to this day in the Jordanstown Agreement {on pay and conditions}.

“Teachers in the north have much to be grateful to him for ... his contribution to the education of generations of our young people cannot be underestimated”.

Education Minister John O’Dowd described him as “a highly respected trade unionist who cared passionately about the people he represented”.

He said that “his contribution has led to improvements not just for staff in the education sector but also the children we are here to serve”.

With a strong commitment to public service, Al also held a number of public appointments during his working life.

Among the many posts held were former chairman of the Southern Health and Social Services Board, member of the Senate of Queen’s University Belfast and a serving member of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights.

Al was also a trustee of Sean McDermott’s GFC in Maghery, helping to secure the original football grounds which continue to serve the local community 

Master Mackle, as he was fondly known within the communities of Derrykeeran, where he resided, and Maghery, where he was principal for some 22 years, will be greatly missed.

Following Requiem Mass in Our Lady Queen of Peace Maghery he was laid to rest in St John’s Cemetery Tartaraghan.

He is survived by his grieving wife Maire, their six children, four of whom travelled from Australia and England to be with him in his last days, and by his 11 grandchildren who are immensely proud of their grandfather’s numerous achievements as he was of theirs.