HC Deb 23 August 1831 vol 6 cc457-60
Mr. Wyse

presented petitions against any further grant to the Kildare Street Society, and praying that the House would take measures for establishing a general and national system of education in Ireland. Some of these petitions represented, that schools had been founded in Ireland by Catholics, at which children were educated without distinction of sect. He had examined some of these schools, and found them attended by a large portion of the population, and that they had diffused a degree of morality in the neighbourhoods where they had been established, which he should like to see prevail in Ireland generally. Besides schools for the education of the lower classes, there had lately been founded a large college, capable of maintaining and educating at least 500 students. The erection of this college cost 12,000 l., every farthing of which was contributed by the Catholic clergy, who had repeatedly declared themselves willing to vest in the hands of Protestant as well as Catholic trustees, the management of colleges of this description, for the education of the middle classes, which, if possible had been more neglected than that of the lower classes. The education of the middle classes was a matter of great importance, because they had the power of influencing the lower classes. At this college the students were instructed in mathematics, engineering, and other branches of science, in addition to the usual course of education. It would be for the House to consider whether it would be expedient to establish similar colleges in other parts of the country. If Ireland were backward in the race of intellect, it was from education not having received encouragement. Give it that encouragement, and remove the causes of internal discord which had been nurtured in Ireland under successive governments, and she would take her place by the side of other countries. A good example had been set by a depressed sect. Into this Catholic college Protestants as well as Catholics were admitted. He hoped that Government would adopt this example, and that similar colleges would start up in every part of Ireland. The Government could not be ignorant of the advantages which had accrued from the academic institution of Belfast. When that institution was founded, there was scarcely a mathematical student in the neighbourhood, now there were more than 180, and the effect upon the middle classes, in Belfast and its neighbourhood, had been most important and beneficial. Such having been, the result of the establishment of this institution in the north, it was but fair to suppose, that a similar one would be experienced from the adoption of the plan in the South.

Petitions to lie on the Table.

Mr. O'Connell

presented a petition from the Catholic Bishops of Ireland, praying that the grants for education should be equally distributed in the education of the Catholic and Protestant poor of Ireland. They complained of the Kildare Street Society, whose system of education the petitioners considered as leading to strife, ill-will, persecution, and proselytism. The petitioners were most respectable, most irreproachable persons; and their evidence was well worth the attentive consideration of this House and the Government.

Mr. Lefroy

said, he must deny the charge of proselytism contained in the petition against the Kildare Street Society, for it was decidedly unfounded. He would not take the evidence of these Bishops against the testimony on oath which had been adduced before the Commissioners for Education. He denied that the Kildare Street Society led to strife or persecution; and if the Catholic population of Ireland were not educated by that Society, they had to lay the charge against the Catholic Bishops and their clergy. The witnesses appealed to by the learned Member had a direct interest in the petition, for their object was, to obtain possession of the funds by which the Protestant poor of Ireland were now educated. He was a member of the Kildare Street Society—he fully appreciated its benefits; and if the Catholic poor had not profitted by them, the fault was not with the Society, who allowed them their own Bible and their own teachers.

Mr. Sheil

supported the prayer of the petition, having been requested to do so, and knowing the great respectability of the petitioners, he readily acquiesced in their wishes. The hon. Member (Mr. Lefroy) stated, that he was a member of the Kildare Street Society, and that the petitioners had for their motive the desire of getting some of the funds into their own hands. But was it not likely that the hon. Gentleman was as much influenced in his opposition to the petition by the organ of retention, as the Bishops were by the organ of acquisitiveness. The hon. Gentleman seemed to imagine that we should still have prevailing in Ireland, The good old rule, the simple plan, That those should take who have the power, And those should keep who can. And accordingly, the hon. Gentleman endeavoured to keep what he could of this grant. With respect to the question of evidence on the Kildare Street Society, he would refer to that of three Protestant Bishops to be found in the Report of the Committee of Education in 1812, by which it would be seen, that they declared the Kildare Street Society unfit for the purposes for which it was intended. As the subject, however, of the grant to the Kildare Street Society would come before the House in a few days, he would not then make any further observations.

Mr. O'Connell

said, the observations o the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lefroy) went to give the lie direct to the Catholic Bishops. No man who knew the worth and Intel- ligence of the petitioners, could fairly impugn their statement as to the evil effects of the Kildare Street Society.

Mr. Lefroy

denied, that he ever was, or could be guilty of giving the lie to any respectable persons, particularly when hey could not, from their peculiar station, be able to call for that explanation which was seldom refused amongst Gentlemen.

Petition to be printed.