HC Deb 14 March 1831 vol 3 cc402-4
Sir Robert Bateson

presented Petitions from the Presbytery of Derry, in connection with the Synod of Ulster, and from the Landowners of Aughadowey, for the continuance of the Parliamentary Grants to the Kildare-Street Society.

An Hon. Member bore testimony to the utility of that society; he knew that it had done a great deal of good.

Mr. O'Connell

did not mean to deny what the hon. Member stated, and, indeed, he had no doubt that instances of the utility of the Society had occurred in the north of Ireland; but the Catholics of that country complained bitterly of the grant. Those who supported the Kildare-street Society, however, never were favourable either to the political or civil rights of the Catholics, and might naturally support a Society which the Catholics hated. It worked well for those who agreed with its tenets; but the Catholics might justly claim a share of the public money, without its being made a condition that they must renounce their father's faith.

Mr. Thomas Lefroy

supported the Society. The number of its scholars had much increased, even its Catholic scholars. In the last year there had been an increase of eighty-one schools, and 8,000 scholars.

Mr. Hume

had presented many petitions against the Society, and knew that great dissatisfaction on the subject prevailed among the Catholics. They saw the public money given to an exclusive sect, and employed to promote exclusive objects. He trusted that some new arrangements would, therefore, be made, as to the grant, which, were it properly applied, would be sufficient to educate the whole necessitous population of Ireland. As it was now applied, it was a mere waste of public money.

Sir Robert Bateson

had presented, he was sure, as many petitions in favour of the Society as the hon. member for Middlesex had against it. The petitions he had then laid before the House were signed by 7,000 persons. He knew of no instance of Catholics objecting to the Society—many of whom sent their children to its schools. He knew that they disliked the Bible being read in the schools without rule or comment; but it was not used as a school-book; it was read to them once a week. In his part of Ireland, the Society was deservedly very popular, for it -had done a great deal of good. He be- lieved its opponents could not cite one instance of its having been guilty of jobbing or proselytizing; but till they did, it was impossible to answer general and vague charges. He hoped the Government would not suffer itself to be misled by taunts, as it would have much to answer for, if it lent itself to the sham conciliatory system that was so much in vogue.

Mr. More O'Ferrall

did not need to point out to the House, that this subject was of great importance to Ireland; which was proved by the number of petitions presented to the House. A liberal system might reconcile the people of Ireland to this Society; but if the present system were persevered in, he despaired of any good being effected by parliamentary grants. The system might be liked in Londonderry: but it was hated in Kildare. He had himself established a school by means of funds advanced by the Kildare-street Society, in which the Douay Testament was read; but the Society endeavoured to substitute for that a selection from the New Testament, and gave out that it had received the sanction of a Catholic Bishop. He was obliged, therefore, to cease his connection with the Society, and could not derive any aid from its funds for extending education. It had been too long the practice in Ireland to force the Bible OH the attention of the people; which only generated animosity and distrust instead of promoting charity, peace, and confidence.

Mr. Wm. S. O'Brien

believed that, under proper regulations, the grant might be most beneficial; at present, it was misapplied; and he trusted that his Majesty's Ministers would redeem their pledges on this subject, and do something to satisfy the people that their interests were not altogether lost sight of.

Sir John Newport

stated, that a large portion of the people of Ireland were hostile to the Society, and as long as that was the case, it could do no good.

Mr. M' Namara

attributed to the conduct of the Society much of the agitation and disturbance which existed in the county he had the honour to represent (Clare).

Mr. Shaw

was anxious to bear his testimony to the good which the Society had effected; and it was impossible, he believed, to devise any plan better calculated to promote education in Ireland.

Petition laid on the Table.

Mr. O'Connell, on a Petition being sub- sequently presented against Slavery, reverted to this subject, and said, that the difference between him and hon. gentlemen was, that they wished the Catholics to be educated by Protestants, while the Catholics wished to educate themselves. The more violent Protestants, those who were indebted for their seats in that House to their hatred of Catholics, actually contended, that they were the fittest persons to educate the Catholics, and to have the disposal of the national funds, destined to the purposes of education. The Catholic prelates had petitioned the House against the Society, and he had presented not less than 150 petitions, and he had more to present. There was nothing the Catholics felt to be more degrading than the superiority assumed by the Protestants; and the present Government would forfeit the respect of Irishmen, if it suffered the aggravating system to continue.

Sir Robert Bateson

wished also to make some further observations, but he was stopped by the Speaker, and desired to take some other opportunity than on the bringing up of a petition against slavery.

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