Teachers leader's Welsh links.
The leader of a major teaching union, who has died after a long struggle against cancer, had a 'very close affinity' with Wales.
Tributes poured in yesterday for Eamonn O'Kane, leader of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), who undertook his teacher training at Cardiff University. He also taught in Merthyr.
Mr O'Kane, 57, died on Saturday in a hospice in London with his wife Daphne and his two daughters by his side.
He took over as general secretary of the NASUWT - the country's second largest teaching union - three years ago and gained widespread respect.
The union's acting general secretary Chris Keates said yesterday,' In the relatively short time he had been general secretary he had made a major impact on the education world, securing two of the best agreements on pay and conditions we have seen in 20 years. That was due to his skill and leadership.'
Education Secretary Charles Clarke said, 'He understood that the future of modern teacher trade unionism lies in partnership and he worked tirelessly to achieve that.'
Geraint Davies, Wales secretary of the NASUWT, said, 'Eamonn was an excellent leader and was well liked and highly respected.
'He had many friends in Wales and always enjoyed his visits here, especially for the annual conference of NASUWT Cymru and the Wales TUC.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, described Mr O'Kane as 'unfailingly kind and generous' and a 'very powerful and effective leader'.
'As general secretary he had a vision about where his union should go and what it should do,' added Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.
Mr O'Kane was born in Northern Ireland and was educated at St Malachy's College, Belfast, and Queen's University, Belfast. He taught for 20 years in secondary and grammar schools in Belfast.
Seen as a union moderate, he backed the idea of merging the three main teaching unions into a new 'super-union'.
But last year, a rift opened up with the biggest union, the National Union of Teachers, when he strongly criticised a threatened NUT boycott of national curriculum tests.