§ MR. BOUVERIE
I wish, Sir, to put to my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government a Question of some importance, relating to the Notice of Motion which stands in my name, on 211 the subject of the Callan Schools and Mr. O'Keeffe. Since I gave that Notice, Papers have been placed in the hands of Members having a direct bearing on the subject of my Resolution. One part of that Resolution had regard to the past, and another related to the future. With regard to the past, I intended to propose that the House should express its regret for the course which had been taken by the National Board of Education with regard to the Rev. Mr. O'Keeffe, and as respects the future I intended to ask the House to lay down a rule for the conduct of the Board in similar cases hereafter. The Papers which have been delivered to hon. Members this morning show that a rule has been suggested by Her Majesty's Government to the Commissioners for their future guidance in similar cases, which, practically and substantially, is the same as I would have asked the House to agree to, and that rule it appears has been accepted by the Commissioners. Therefore, that part of my object has been answered. But though security has been given for the future, I still think that reparation for the past is due to the Rev. Mr. O'Keeffe. I understand, however, that Her Majesty's Government do contemplate that the new rule will be applied to the case of that rev. gentleman, and I can only say, therefore, that if the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government can give a satisfactory answer in this respect, and can assure me that the Government have every reason to believe, and will take every means in their power to insure, that Mr. O'Keeffe shall be fairly heard, and his right to be manager of the schools shall be considered by the National Board, without reference to his being a suspended priest, then the second object of my Resolution will be answered. The rev. gentleman will then have got the reparation which is his due, and the House will have obtained the assurance for the future which it has a right to demand. In that case it will not be necessary for me to trouble the House by moving my Resolution on Monday, and I now therefore beg to ask my right hon. Friend what is the view which the Government take of the matter?
I hope, Sir, I shall be able fully to meet the wishes expressed by my right hon. Friend. 212 Before answering his question I will first say one word upon the past. My right hon. Friend will bear in mind that when he raised this question during the last Session of Parliament—and no one could be surprised that it should have been raised by some hon. Member of the House—my noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland and I myself were not in full possession of the facts of the case. We admitted that we could not produce what in our judgment would be a full justification for the course of action which had been pursued, and we likewise admitted that Her Majesty's Government must, in every important question, be ultimately responsible for the proceedings of the Commissioners, that we could not and should not shield ourselves from ultimate responsibility, while we alleged that the moment had not yet arrived when we could consider with advantage the entire question. I then stated what I now repeat, that it would be a matter of extreme pain if, considering the immense importance of the question of national education in Ireland and the eminent services which during 40 years have been rendered by the Board of National Education, it had been found necessary by this House to pass, or by my right hon. Friend to propose, a Motion of Censure upon the conduct of the Commissioners. And I can now truly say that, although the Government has not been prepared to sustain or approve the rule which has heretofore, apparently, governed the practice of the Commissioners, I can perfectly well understand how the majority of the Commission was led by the consideration of that rule to the course which they have adopted. My right hon Friend, giving a fair and not a captious interpretation to the subject, is satisfied with the rule which was recommended by Her Majesty's Government to the Commission, and which has been adopted by the Commission without difference of opinion. The question which he asks me is substantially this,—Whether the case of Mr. O'Keeffe will be read in the light of that rule? I can give my right hon. Friend a perfectly explicit answer. I could not entertain the smallest doubt that such a body of gentlemen as the Commissioners, in adopting that rule, have accepted it frankly and fully; and not only so, but I consider myself 213 entitled, from information upon which I can rely without any fear of being deceived, to say that the Commission will give Mr. O'Keeffe the full benefit of the rule if he shall renew his application. Such, I believe, is the view of the Board—such, undoubtedly is the view of the Government, and upon the Government, as I have stated, the responsibility ultimately rests. The House has a right to demand at our hands an account of every important transaction of the Board, and it will be the duty of the Government to communicate to the Commissioners the wishes of the House.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
I am perfectly satisfied myself with the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman, and, therefore, I shall not think it necessary to bring forward the Motion, having gained the object which I had in view.