HC Deb 14 February 1862 vol 165 cc305-7

hoped that the House would allow him to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to a matter of some importance and urgency. Within the last day or two an advertisement had appeared in all the principal Irish newspapers, stating that the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland were about to nominate four candidates to compete by examination for a vacant place in the class of sub-inspectors of national schools, and adding that none but members of the Roman Catholic Church "are eligible to compete for the present vacancy." Now, as a friend and admirer of competitive examinations, he objected to this introduction of sectarian questions into the Civil Service examinations. They had been told that the national system in Ireland was established to bring men together regardless of their religious opinions; yet here was an attempt to nominate exclusively Roman Catholic Inspectors. He could hardly believe that the Secretary for Ireland was the author of the change proposed. He rather attributed it to the traditions of the Irish Office and the Irish Government, who endeavoured to become popular by holding out, he would not say bribes, but inducements to a class in the shape of Government appointments. A striking instance of this had recently occurred in the appointment to a seat at the Education Board of Lord Dunraven, who had always doubted the policy of the system of National Education in Ireland, but who had accepted the office without changing his opinions, and was now protesting against the policy of the Chief Secretary as to mixed education. Against the conduct of the National Commissioners, he (Mr. Hennessy) ventured to protest, and he trusted that through the intervention of the Chief Secretary they would be compelled to rescind the Order to which he had called attention.


thought the hon. Member for the King's County deserved credit for bringing this subject, though a Roman Catholic, under the notice of the House. He trusted that the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland would not, as an ex officio Commissioner of the National Education Board, consider it necessary to defend all the acts of that Board. Lord Derby was the author of the National Education system in Ireland, but it had been so altered since the period of its first introduction that the noble Lord could now hardly recognise his own bantling. The Board consisted of twenty members, every one of whom was a strong supporter of the principles of the present Government. The right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland was not, however, responsible for that state of things, as all those gentlemen had received their appointments before his accession to office. The constitution and the administration of the Board were condemned by the universal voice of public opinion in Ireland. He believed that there was not one member of the Board who had ever been distinguished in any literary capacity, or by his devotion to the education of youth. The members of the Established Church in Ireland had special reasons for complaining of the constitution of the Board, for out of the twenty Members only six were of that religious persuasion. He hoped the constitution of the Board would be altered, and the recurrence of such an event prevented, as had been brought under their notice by the hon. Member for the King's County.


complained, that this subject had been introduced without notice, and admitted that he was not in a position to answer the hon. Gentleman categorically. He could state, however, that he was not an ex officio member of the Board of National Education, that the Board was an entirely independent body, and that the Government had no control, direct or indirect, over its proceedings. With respect to the point which had been raised by his hon. Friend, he could only state upon that occasion that he believed it was the practice that there should be among the Inspectors under the Board a certain proportion of Roman Catholics, of Churchmen, and of Presbyterians; and if vacancies had occurred among the Roman Catholic Inspectors, he saw nothing extra- ordinary in the notice that had been given. He could not, however, upon that occasion offer any precise information in reference to the special case which had been brought under their notice, and he could only give a pledge that he would take care to make it the subject of inquiry.


The advertisement says that any person can compete, with this proviso, that no one can do so except Roman Catholics.


I will inquire into the subject, and let the hon. Gentleman know the result.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Supply considered in Committee.

Committee report Progress; to sit again on Monday next.