HC Deb 17 April 1879 vol 245 cc577-86

, who had a Notice of Motion on the Paper, which, owing to the Forms of the House, he was unable to move, to the effect— That the practical exclusion of the Catholic element from the entire Professoriate of the Faculty of Arts in the three Colleges of the Queen's University in Ireland renders the compulsory maintenance of these institutions at the public expense an additional and offensive grievance to a Catholic people, said, that in connection with this matter it had been again and again remarked that there was an advantage in the mingling of youths of different creeds during the period of life when prejudices were not strong, and when habits were formed which would be likely to have the effect of implanting in their young minds the seeds of mutual kindness and respect. It had been said that the meeting of young men of different religious persuasions in the same Colleges and Univer- sities must have the effect of rendering them tolerant citizens afterwards. It might be objected to these statements that they implied the less religion people were troubled with the better. But it was altogether a misrepresentation of the position which Catholics took up upon this question to say that they objected either solely or mainly to the mingling of young men of different religions in the same lecture-halls. What they complained of was the refusal of any permission to them selves to have in the institutions of which he was speaking Professors who would instruct the children of Catholic parents in those principles of religion which the parents desired to be taught to their children. They saw no objection whatever to Protestant parents sending their children to a Catholic University should they consider it right to do so; but they thought it would be unjust, unfair, injurious, and tyrannical so to dispose the public education of the country that Protestant parents should have no alternative but to send their children to the halls of a Catholic University, or vice versâ. The Queen's Colleges in Ireland had been represented in the House and in the country as institutions in which Catholic and Protestant students had equally fair play; but, so far from that being the case, they were in their teaching and in their Professorial staff practically non-Catholic institutions. They were to all intents and purposes Protestant institutions of various kinds and shades. If the Queen's Colleges were officered by Catholic Professors, if the examinations were con-ducted by Catholic Examiners, if Government tutors of the highest standing assisted the students in their studies, those for whom he spoke would not object to the presence of Protestant students in the halls; but they did object to being obliged to send the Catholic youth of Ireland to such institutions as the Queen's Colleges, which were officered by an almost exclusively Protestant Professoriate. It was a mockery—it was a thorough mis-statement—to say that those institutions offered the same advantages to Catholic as to Protestant students, and that they were equally fair to both. How could this be so, when the various Chairs were found to be in the possession of men of one set or sect of religious opinions? In dealing with this matter, he was influenced in no way by any bigotry or religious prejudice. It was a matter of perfect indifference to him whether a man was a Catholic or a Protestant, so long as he was of personal worth as a citizen. But this was a question of parental right and of fair dealing as between different denominations, and it was a question which it behoved the House very seriously to consider. Take the case of the Queen's College, Belfast. That College was practically a Protestant institution, and enjoyed the entire confidence of the Presbyterian and Protestant population of Ulster, and they found the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland approving of the manner in which the Chairs in that professedly un-sectarian College had been filled. But what was the fact? That after all that had happened, after all the criticism which had been brought to bear upon the subject, he believed there was not in the list of Professors of Queen's College, Belfast, a single member of the Catholic Church to be found in the Professorial Chairs of the entire Faculty of Arts. The result was that nearly 200 Presbyterian and Evangelical students attended there, while, although half the population of Ulster was Catholic, there were only about a dozen of Catholic students to be found there altogether. If they went from Queen's College, Belfast, to Queen's College, Cork, they would find that for all practical purposes the Professoriate was again non-Catholic. There was one single Arts Chair out of 10 which was held by a Catholic; but all the other Chairs were occupied by Protestants of various denominations. There was, indeed, a sort of Catholic ornament who had been lately added to the College—an ex-Professor of a Catholic University had been induced to accept the handsome post of President of the institution, but he did not teach. He exercised no function of the kind; and practically the entire teaching of Queen's College, Cork, was in the hands of non-Catholic Professors. Passing on to Gal-way, the same tale repeated itself. Out of some 10 Professors in the Arts Faculty, there was only to be found a single Catholic Professor. And yet this was the system which, although it was so manifestly unfair, and had in its numerical results proved a failure, they were taxed for and asked to sanction and to approve. There were, besides those Pro- fessors, a few Professors in the Queen's University who were Catholic, and he would not be guilty of the subterfuge of holding back that fact. Both in Cork and in Galway there were a couple of so-called medical Professors who were Catholics. In Galway there was, to his own knowledge, a Professor of the practice of medicine who was a Catholic, and a Professor of Materia Medica who was a Catholic, while the Professor of anatomy and physiology was also a Catholic. But the House would, of course, observe that these were purely Professional Chairs, and in no way entered into general education; and he believed that it was very rare indeed that the religious bias of a Professor would become visible in a lecture on Materia Medica, on the practice of medicine or anatomy and physiology. Besides, those Catholic gentlemen who were appointed to medical Professorships in the Queen's University in Ireland were almost invariably local medical gentlemen. If they went into the history of the matter, they would see that under the acknowledged distinction of these local gentlemen and their reputation in the different branches in which they were selected to teach there was also the fact that those gentlemen also represented local influences; and again and again had it happened, as in Galway, that the entry of a Queen's College student into a hospital under the control of a local Catholic Board of Guardians, &c, would not be very easy if the local medical gentlemen were strictly tabooed by the College authorities. Thus, there were three Catholic medical Professors in Galway, and two in Cork; but, of course, medical education had nothing at all to do with the general University education of the people. Before the Queen's Colleges were established there was a medical school in Cork, and another in Belfast; and although a medical school had been nominally established in Galway since the foundation of the Queen's Colleges there, to all practical ends and purposes there was still no real medical school. The lectures were still given, but for all the practical purposes of their business the medical students had to attend the Dublin hospitals. The fact remained that out of 30 Chairs 28 were in the hands of non-Catholics, and yet these were the institutions which Ireland was asked to pay for and support. He left it to the advocates of the system to say whether the Catholics were deliberately and purposely kept out of the Queen's Colleges' Chairs on account of their religion or not; and however his objections might be answered, he did not expect more than a few general observations which would leave the House about as well informed as before on the subject. He had no doubt the Chief Secretary for Ireland would reply with his usual courtesy, but also with his usual vagueness. What he (Mr. O'Donnell) desired to show was that the so-called undenominational education was in the hands of one denomination—namely, the Protestants; and that the Catholics, who were the representatives of the great majority of the people in Ireland, were to all intents and purposes excluded from this University, which was intended for the benefit of the people of Ireland. It was impossible under these circumstances to accept such an institution; and the Government might be perfectly satisfied that the Irish Members would give this and similar institutions every resistance in their power. In fact, he thought there was no extremity of resistance recognized within the procedure of this House which ought not to be resorted to in order to prevent the imposition on the people of Ireland of a system of this nature—a system which in its theory was unworkable, and in its practice was distinctly an anti-Catholic institution, falsely forced upon the people of Ireland under the pretence that it was one which deserved their support. He declared this system was false in inception, tyrannical in working, and in its results a base hypocrisy imposed upon an honest people.


said, he looked upon this question as a very important one, and there was no mistake as to what the opinion of Catholic Ireland was with regard to it. Last year they had before the House the subject of a general revision of University education in Ireland, and 57 Irish Members voted for a change, while not more than 10 Irish Members—and those Representatives of Protestant constituencies—voted for the present state of things. An analysis of the votes of the 10 Irish Members who voted showed that they came from Fermanagh, Tyrone, Belfast, Carlow, Dublin County, City, and University. Taking, therefore, the constituencies re- presented by the 57 other Members, it was evident the present system was not favoured by the Irish constituencies. In fact, the whole of Catholic Ireland was against the present system, and the Government were actually taxing the people of Ireland in order that they might carry out a system of education which they disliked. They were forcing upon Ireland a system which she abhorred; and yet they expected her to be as contented as the people of England were with a system which was in accordance with the feelings of a majority of the people. In England they had the School Board system, in which Manchester, Birmingham, and other places, might determine what the system of education should be, and they might introduce what amount of denominationalism they thought proper; but in Ireland there was a rigid system, and a totally different state of things existed. He appealed to Her Majesty's Government not to be annoyed at the attempts which were made to bring this question under the notice of the House. The Eastern Question was brought before them in many different ways. First, in regard to Cyprus, then as to Afghanistan, and, then, in other ways; and equally as the people of England were interested in the different phases of the Eastern Question, so were the people of Ireland interested in the different phases of the University Education Question in that country. Many amongst the Irish people had entertained the hope that the present Government would appreciate the fact that the majority of the Irish nation wished for a different system of education. None of them objected to Protestants or Secularists—if there were any in Ireland—having Colleges of their own; but, all they asked was that they should consider the feelings of three-fourths of the population, and afford them due means by which they might obtain a Catholic education. Nine-tenths of the Professoriate in the Qeeen's Colleges did not belong to the religion of the country; and although he did not mean to say that the Protestant Professors attempted to convert or pervert the Catholic youths in their charge, yet he believed that when Professors found themselves of a different religion from the majority of students, they would eschew religious topics altogether; and the House would admit that few things were mere dangerous than to talk of certain scientific subjects with all reference to religion omitted. The system was one which, so far as it had any influence at all, was calculated to sap the foundations of all Christianity. He believed the hon. Member for Dun-garvan (Mr. O'Donnell) had done right in bringing this matter forward, because if the Government were left for a fortnight or a month without being reminded of this crying grievance, they would begin to think there was no grievance at all. It was by hammering away at the question that they would convince Irish constituencies of the necessity of returning Members pledged to see justice done in this matter; and he, therefore, believed they were doing good service to their country in pressing this matter forward. He hoped the Catholic electors, both in England and Ireland, would be sufficiently strong to compel the Government to give proper consideration to the subject.


said, the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Major Nolan) had drawn a comparison between the subject brought forward by the hon. Member for Dungarvan and the Eastern Question; but he (Mr. J. Lowther) was at a loss to understand what analogy there was between the two subjects. He presumed, however, that it was to be found in this—that the hon. Member for Dungarvan, following an illustrious example, wished to drive the Professoriate of the Queen's College "bag and baggage" out of Ireland, and that he considered that to be a proposition which he was justified in season—he would not say out of season—in bringing continuously before the House. He (Mr. J. Lowther), however, was not sure that the example to which he had alluded, illustrious though it might be, was one to be cultivated by those who wished to obtain success. He should rather have thought it was one to be avoided. He did not wish the question of Irish education to be relegated to the category of the "bag and baggage" question, as it would then become one which could never be mentioned without exciting a legitimate want of sympathy in the mind of the great mass of the community. The Irish Education Question was a great question; and although, no doubt, they had some very influential Representatives of the Irish nation present to-night, the matter was one which he was disposed to believe would require an expression of opinion from a greater number of Members than had addressed, or were likely to address, the House on this occasion. The hon. Member for Dungarvan had spoken of the Queen's Colleges as having attained no practical result. [Mr. O'DONNELL: I did not refer to the subject.] He (Mr. J. Lowther) knew that the hon. Member had carefully avoided the subject; but he certainly understood him to say the Queen's Colleges had not succeeded in obtaining the results for which they were originally founded. The hon. Member in making that statement had displayed great moderation and modesty, for he might have reminded the House that they were indebted to a Queen's University education for the able speech which had occupied the time of the House for upwards of half-an-hour. There had, therefore, been instances in which the money expended by the country in providing Professors for these Colleges had not been entirely thrown away. But the subject was one which required handling in a manner that could hardly be attempted that evening. The hon. and gallant Member (Major Nolan) had said that the question would come continually before the House, sometimes in one form and sometimes in another; but he (Mr. J. Lowther) did not think that, although they might have the pleasure of listening to one or two, or perhaps even three speeches, the subject was likely to be broached that evening from a point of view that would exhaust all the arguments which could be raised upon the question of Irish education. He did not see at that moment any of the opponents of the hon. Member who probably would require their opinions to be heard. As the subject was one which the House of Commons must be prepared to discuss at a future time, and the hon. and gallant Member had promised them that many opportunities for discussion would be afforded, he (Mr. J. Lowther) thought he should be studying the convenience of the House by reserving the opinion of Her Majesty's Government for another occasion.


said, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Lowther) had given the House no information whatever. He (Mr. O'Clery) would be very glad if the Irish Members would initiate a cru- sade against the present system of education in Ireland, which would have for its ultimate object the "bag and baggage" policy referred to by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman was pleased to be facetious with regard to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member (Major Nolan) upon the Eastern Question. The Irish people had to pay, unfortunately, for the dealings of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the Eastern Question, as also for the system of mixed education imposed by Her Majesty's Government upon Ireland, and that constituted a very legitimate reason for their Representatives bringing those matters before the House of Commons. It had been stated that the Irish voters resident in England would have something to say about Irish education at the next General Election. He (Mr. O'Clery) had reason to know that they would insist that any candidate who wished to have their support should make it clearly understood that he was in favour of denominational education, not only in England but also in Ireland. Now the Government, and the Party which the Government led, had won for itself a position in England by affording denominational education in English Schools; but it had never occurred to them that perhaps two-thirds of the Members of the Conservative Party returned by England would at the next General Election be called upon to be consistent, and give to Ireland a system of denominational education which they were willing to accord to England. There were to his own knowledge many constituencies in England where the Irish vote would turn the scale. It had been said the other day that the natural Conservative majority stood at 47, and it would be a question at the next General Election whether that natural majority could be maintained. He submitted that the right hon. Gentleman, as the champion of the Conservative Party, should have been prepared to make some statements of the views of the Government upon the subject of Irish education, for the information of Irish Members, and not indulge in vague generalities. They could only appeal to him to do this by forcing upon his notice, and the notice of his Colleagues, the fact that the Catholic priests of Ireland were determined—and the right hon. Gentle- man would know by his official position that they possessed some influence—to make the question of denominational education in Ireland a test word. The hon. and gallant Member for New Ross (Colonel Tottenham) would have now no chance of being re-elected for that borough, if he were at all hesitating or vague on that question; and he need hardly point out to the right hon. Gentleman that scarcely one in three of the members of his Party in Ireland would have any chance of being re-elected unless they were clear and outspoken on the subject of University education. Now, there were many constituents who could afford to dispense with representation in an Irish Parliament, but could not afford to dispense with the question of University education. It was the primary duty of Irish Members to consider the wishes of the Irish people on every great question in which they were interested, and this one vitally interested them. There were other questions also—namely, those relating to the land and the Irish Parliament, which, as well as some of great Imperial importance, naturally demanded the attention of Irish Members; but he would be wanting in his duty if he did not press this particular question on every occasion upon the attention of the House. The right hon. Gentleman would do well to consider it also, so that he might, when the matter was again brought forward, be able to give Irish Members some definite answer.

Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.