HC Deb 08 August 1884 vol 292 cc280-3

Resolutions [7th August] reported.

Resolutions 1 to 6, inclusive, agreed to.

Resolution 7 read a second time.


said, he desired to call attention to the action of the National Board of Education in Ireland regarding the building of certain schools under the Board. In these schools a large number of children were trained with the best possible results, as was shown by the examinations instituted by the Government themselves. In the Queen's County there was one school which afforded a very strong illustration of unfairness. All the ordinary schools in Ireland were divided into two classes—vested and non-vested—and, according to the rules of the Commissioners of National Education, all vested schools were entitled to building grants, if they complied with certain conditions. The vested schools, which were vested in the Commissioners themselves, of course were entirely paid out of these Votes; but the non-vested schools, which were vested not in the Commissioners themselves, but in local trustees, were allowed only two-thirds of the total expenditure which was sanctioned. There were some schools which were in the hands of local trustees, which had a purely secular staff of teachers; but there were other schools in the poorer districts, which were not able to maintain a staff of teachers sufficiently strong for the needs of the district, because their resources were so attenuated. In these cases it was not uncommon to receive assistance from monks or nuns. Now, the very presence of a monk in a school even for a few hours a-day, and even though the monk might have had a first-class certificate for 30 years—his very presence in the school was sufficient to preclude the trustees from obtaining any allowance out of his grant. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who had promised to inquire into the matter, would put himself into communication with the Resident Commissioner, Sir Patrick Keenan, he would find that Sir Patrick Keenan himself admitted the very great unfairness and great hardship which arose under the Rules as at present interpreted. It seemed to him (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) that the interpretation of these Rules was a purely arbitary one, introduced years ago, when the Board was a great deal more hostile to Catholic interests than it was now, and that their Office Rules had been allowed to be a bar to the fair claims of very many highly deserving schools and very many self-sacrificing managers from one end of Ireland to the other. As the Chief Secretary for Ireland was not in his place, he trusted the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Walker) would be able to give some satisfactory answer.


said, he begged leave to support the contention of his hon. Friend (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) with regard to these schools. It must be acknowledged that it was very desirable to improve the condition of a very large proportion of the schools in Ireland, which any person who travelled in that country must see were of an exceedingly poor description. The National Board of Education did not seem to be very strongly in favour of increasing the comfort of the unfortunate children in their schools; and, unfortunately, it was in those districts where the children were worst housed, and so on, that improvements were most required. On the other hand, they knew that the nuns, from a variety of sources, had built and maintained exceedingly roomy and comfortable schoolhouses and schoolrooms for the accommodation of the different classes of poor children who attended the National Schools. They knew also the secular results, leaving the religious results out of the question, were superior to the average secular reults of the ordinary National Schools, and yet the nuns received no assistance whatever in this respect from the Government. He did not see why one law should be made with regard to schools in which the teachers belonged to a religious Order and schools of which the teachers were not of a religious Order. There was another matter in connection with the Vote he would like to refer to, and which was to ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury how much money had been advanced by the Government on the reclamation of the slob lands in the county of Clare; how much was expected to be spent on them in the time to come; and how much they expected the value of the property would be when the work was finished? He believed a large amount of money had been spent by outside parties on these reclamation works; and he believed the Government had advanced, and rendered itself responsible for, a considerably larger sum than the whole property would be worth when the works were finished. He had no objection to spending public money in a neighbourhood, as it was very good for the shopkeepers and the bloodsuckers of one kind or another; but it sometimes did a large amount of injury by demoralizing the people.


said, he hoped that in any arrangements with regard to the schools referred to by the hon. Member for the Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor), the Government would bear in mind that the Common Law of England was opposed to Monastic institutions. Although that law was more lenient to those institutions than that of any other country in Europe, he ventured to trust that that law would not be lost sight of in anything that might be done with respect to the encouragement of schools subject to the management of Conventual and Monastic Orders.


said, he did not speak of any schools under the management of Conventual and Monastic Orders. He spoke of non-vested schools under the management of local trustees, in which some monks, for want of a sufficient staff of teachers, were occasionally introduced.


said, that the subject belonged to the Chief Secretary's Department, and not to his. He was sure, if his right hon. Friend gave any pledge, he would carry out that pledge. More than that he could not say, and he (the Solicitor General for Ireland) would see that the subject would be brought before him.


said, that, in answer to the observations of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), the reclamation of the slob lands in Clare was presented to a former Board of the Treasury as a reproductive work. In that case, the reproductive work would undoubtedly entail a very considerable loss to the Treasury.

Resolution agreed to.

Remaining Resolutions agreed to.