HC Deb 28 February 1862 vol 165 cc861-5

said, he wished to ask a question of the Chief Secretary for Ireland on a subject which he had brought under the right hon. Baronet's notice about a fortnight previously. An advertisement had appeared within the last few weeks in several of the Irish papers. That advertisement commenced in these terms— The Commissioners of National Education are about to nominate four candidates to compete for one vacant place in the class of sub-inspectors of National Schools in Ireland. None but members of the Roman Catholic Church are eligible to compete for the present vacancy. The examination in the following subjects will be held in Dublin under the direction of the Civil Service Commissioners. The subjects of examination and other details were then stated; and the concluding paragraph was as follows:— Applications, accompanied by copies of testimonials, and stating age and religious denomination of the candidate, must be addressed," &c. The advertisement set forth the qualifications for the appointment, with the addition of the religious qualification The Civil Service Commissioners, in their report, gave the same identical qualifications, with the exception that the religious qualification did not appear in their report. The right hon. Baronet had told the House on a former occasion that he had no influence, directly or indirectly, over the National Board, and that House was therefore the proper place in which any complaint against the Board must be preferred. "What was the meaning of the advertisement? Was it to get the best sub-inspector of schools? If so, they would not get the best men by confining the candidates to one religious denomination. The Board of National Education in Ireland professed to be, he would not say an irreligious Board, but a purely mixed education Board, from the appointments and management of which religion was carefully excluded. The House voted large sums of money in support of a purely mixed system, and then they found that it was administered on denominational principles. He did not object to that; he only complained that the Government came for money avowedly to promote mixed education. He was told that these appointments were made denominational for the purpose of conciliating an influential section of the people of Ireland, but he would ask whether the proposed was a proper method of conciliation? A man educated by the National Board itself, in the model school at Dublin, where he might have received an admirable education without having heard a whisper of religion, might find himself debarred from this competition by the religious qualification required. Whore was he to get his religious testimonials, and who was to examine them? And who would decide whether he was a good Catholic or a bad one? Those were questions which would not come under the cognizance of any Board, and above all a Board of education. The Civil Service Commissioners had been holding examinations seven years; but that was the first time sectarian questions had been imported into them, and he hoped it would be the last. He hoped the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland would exercise his influence with the Commissioners, and compel them for the future so to conduct their examinations as not to offend any class of the community. He was sure the advertisement was equally as offensive to Catholics as to Protestants and Presbyterians. If good inspectors were wanted, let the competition be open to all.


seconded the Motion.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'this House is of opinion that the efficiency of the system of Competitive Examinations for the Civil Service would be endangered by the introduction of sectarian distinctions; and that this House is of opinion that the recent announcement made by the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, to the effect that a vacant appointment under the National Board is to be filled up by means of an Examination to be conducted under the direction of the Civil Service Commissioners, but at which Examination "none but members of the Roman Catholic Church are eligible to compete," is inexpedient and unwise.' —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


I think the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment, has entirely misunderstood the usual course of proceeding by the Board of National Education. The hon. Member has said that this is the first time that sectarian influences have been introduced in the appointment of sub-inspectors, [Mr. HENNESSY: I beg pardon. I said, "into Civil Service examinations."] What I was going to observe was, that it has always been the system, although, perhaps, not acknowledged before 1860, when the Board were equally divided between Protestants on the one side and Roman Catholics on the other. The number of the Board was then increased from fifteen to twenty members, ten of whom were Protestants and Presbyterians, and ten Roman Catholics. It has always been the practice as much as possible, I will not say to conciliate, but in the matter of national education in Ireland to divide the patronage between the various religious denominations. Thus, we have one Roman Catholic Secretary, and one Protestant Secretary to the Board. We have one chief inspector who is a Roman Catholic, and one who is a Protestant; and I am told by the Roman Catholic members of the Board that the system has worked well, and that they do not wish to see it changed. I am told that the Protestants are also satisfied. I have nothing further to add, except that when Roman Catholics and Protestants on the Board are so convinced that the system works well, and when the Roman Catholics especially desire no change, I think it not expedient that there should be any alteration.


I quite understand the uneasiness of the hon. Member for the King's County (Mr. Hennessy)—I mean the uneasiness which he has expressed in this House. He fears that there should be introduced into the Civil Service examinations a religious qualification. Now, on former occasions the hon. Gentleman has expressed himself as much in favour of the introduction of the denominational system of education into Ireland. I have heard him put that opinion forward. Well, if we are to have a denominational system, how are the denominations to be ascertained without examination? And how can the hon. Gentleman reconcile his anxiety in favour of a denominational system with his present objection to the very reasonable proposition made in the circular or advertisements issued by the Educational Board in Ireland. It is obvious that when the hon. Gentleman proclaims his anxiety in favour of the denominational system, it must be a denominational system in the dark, so far as this House is concerned. We have in England admitted the Roman Catholic poor schools to participate in the grant made in this country under the denominational system. I speak of England and Wales. And what has been the result? Why, out of three Inspectors of Roman Catholic schools we have the report of only one. The reports of the other two inspectors have been suppressed as unfit, in the opinion of the Vice President of the Committee of Privy Council on Education, for the perusal of this House. And the one report which has been published states that the accounts of the Roman Catholic poor schools which are under inspection have been rendered in such a manner in several cases as to be perfectly unintelligible. I think these facts are strong reasons against the establishment of the denominational system in Ireland, as formerly suggested by the hon. Member for the King's County. I must say that the proceedings of the Educational Board in Ireland appear to me to be perfectly reasonable and consistent with the grants made for education in Ireland. The Irish national system is intended to be a mixed system. How far it really is so I do not pretend to say, but I must say I think the objection taken to the advertisement in question is exceedingly captious as emanating from the hon. Member for the King's County. I could conceive nothing more appropriate than the reply of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and I trust the House will excuse my having pointed out the inconveniences that are likely to ensue, according to the showing of the hon. Member for the King's County, if any system were adopted claiming to be denominational, but without the means of ascertaining the denominations in connection with which the educational grants under such a system would have to be administered.


said, he would not call the terms of the Motion "captious," but he could not understand the object of bringing the subject before the House, except for the purpose of bothering the Chief Secretary, who seemed to be sufficiently bothered already by Irish affairs. It seemed most extraordinary that, though there were last Session and the Session before repeated complaints of the large preponderance of Protestant inspectors, now, when a Roman Catholic was to be appointed, a member of the same persuasion should start up in the House and say he would not have a Roman Catholic inspector at all. The hon. Gentleman had said that the advertisement had offended Protestants and Presbyterians in Ireland. That might be so, but he (Mr. Scully) denied that it had offended any Roman Catholic except the hon. Gentleman himself. Since there was a strong infusion of the Protestant element into the system, it was only right and fair that it should be counterbalanced by a free infusion of the Roman Catholic element. While the system continued, as the Chief Secretary had remarked, everything should be done to conciliate the people of Ireland. If the hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. Vance) who had seconded the Motion would endeavour to put down Protestant ascendency and every other ascendency in Ireland, he should have his (Mr. Scully's) support. For his own part, he would be glad if any person had ingenuity enough to frame a Bill which should make it penal to introduce the terms "Protestant" and "Catholic" into discussions in that House. He was sorry to say that since the commencement of the Session he had hardly heard any Irish member open his lips upon any general subject whatever; he himself had not done so; he had tried it last Session, and he found that it was expected that Irish Members should confine themselves exclusively to Irish subjects.


said, the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken seemed to have an exaggerated notion of his (Mr. Vance's) power to put down Protestant ascendency. He believed it no longer existed. What he wanted for the Protestants was fair play, and that he believed would be promoted by assenting to the Motion of the hon. Member for the King's County. As it had been resolved that there should be a national system of education, irrespective of creeds, in Ireland, the practice of advertising for denominational teachers, inspectors, or any others to carry on the system, ought to be condemned. If such a system had been established, it would be more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Men ought to be selected, not for their particular creed, but for their efficiency as teachers or inspectors.


With the permission of the House, I would withdraw the Amendment; but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will answer the question, "Will the examination take place?"

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.