HC Deb 24 June 1869 vol 197 cc517-9

said, he wished to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether the attention of the Government has been directed to the delivery in the Halls of the Queen's Colleges at Galway and Belfast of very questionable expressions on the part of certain students and others, especially in connection with the Literary and Scientific Society in the Galway Queen's College; and, whether the Government will not consider it desirable in such seminaries, supported by Imperial taxation, to require from the College authorities a stricter fulfilment of the prohibition against the discussion of political and party questions within the lecture rooms of the Colleges, and as set forth in one of the Statutes of the Queen's University?


, in reply, said, his attention had been first called to the subject by this Question of his hon. Friend, when he at once took measures to ascertain the facts. He put himself in communication with the Vice Chancellor of the Queen's University, and through him with the Presidents of the Colleges. He would tell the hon. Gentleman the result of those inquiries. First, as to Galway, it appeared that at the Queen's College there, and, he believed, in the other Queen's Colleges, there existed a so-called Literary and Scientific Society among the students, one of the rules of which had been the absolute exclusion of party and polemical subjects. But the President of the College informed him that in consequence of a statement in the Irish Daily Express of the 9th of March, characterizing the tone of a recent debate in that Society as seditious, a meeting of the College Council was convened to consider the matter, when it was discovered that, without their knowledge, and no doubt, in a very improper manner, the rule prohibiting the introduction of political and party subjects had been abrogated by the Society itself, and that, on the occasion in question, subjects of that nature had been introduced and discussed. Upon that the College Council took severe measures, and prohibited the meetings of the Society for some time. Afterwards they took care that the rule should be reenacted in a very stringent form, including the necessity of the presence of a College Professor or other officer on all occasions, and requiring him to put a stop to the introduction of any such subjects, if it should be attempted. But the President, he must say, added that the College Council, having examined with great care the charges made against that particular meeting of the Society, came to the conclusion that the allegation that seditious or treasonable language had been used was unfounded, and was disproved by every witness who appeared before the Council. It was also denied by the chairman, by the secretary, and also by the gentleman who read the paper in question. In respect to Belfast, it appeared that on an occasion which was also noticed in the public Press a lecture was delivered by a Mr. Killean, who was not a member of the College, although for a short time he had been a member, and that lecture undoubtedly violated that same rule of the exclusion of political and party subjects. But Dr. Henry, the President of the College at Belfast, assured him that great care would be taken that such an occurrence should not happen again, and promised that measures would be adopted to prevent in future even outsiders from thus violating the College rules, thereby impairing the utility of a valuable society, and inflicting an injury on a body of loyal and exemplary students. The result was that violations of the rule against the introduction of party politics did not recur. Whether absolutely seditious and treasonable language was used or not was more than doubtful; and they might hope that there was very little, if anything, of that kind going so far as that. But, at all events,—and this was the most important point—there was every reason to believe that there was no risk of a future recurrence of any such proceedings.