HC Deb 02 August 1888 vol 329 cc1220-3
MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether complaints have reached him of the condition of Donegal Workhouse, for the past five years through the action of the Protestant majority of the Board of Guardians, who systematically excluded Catholics from every official position in the Union; whether he is aware that on the 2nd of June last a Resolution was passed by these Guardians that the matter of an appointment of a Catholic to any office in the workhouse be not entertained by the Board for 12 months, and that when on three occasions a vacancy for schoolmistress arose, the Guardians at each time set aside the Catholic candidate, though more eligible, and appointed a Protestant; whether two of the Protestants so appointed were compelled to resign in consequence of not attaining to the educational standard of the National Board; whether the Guardians refused several applications for a catechist to teach prayers and Christian doctrine to the Catholic children; whether afterwards they, on several occasions, declined to appoint a Catholic assistant teacher to the workhouse, although strongly recommended and sanctioned by the Local Government Board; whether he is aware that 90 per cent of the inmates, and nearly all the children, are Catholics; whether he is aware that the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan), and the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) when Chief Secretary for Ireland, and the Local Government Board expressed disapproval of the conduct of the Guardians; whether the parish priest, the Very Rev. Hugh McFadden, with the approval of the Catholic Bishop, resigned the chaplaincy of the workhouse on account of the persistent refusal of the Protestant majority of the Board to grant a religious educatian to the Catholic children; whether, in consequence, the workhouse of Donegal has been without a Catholic chaplain for the past five years, 90 per cent of the inmates without Divine Service in the Union on Sundays and Holy Days, and without the opportunity of practising their religious duties; whether the Local Government Board have power, under such circumstances, to dissolve the Board of Guardians; and, whether the Government will take any, and, if so, what, means to remedy grievances suffered so long?


Perhaps it would be convenient for the right hon. Gentleman to answer Question 53 at the same time.


I would prefer that my Question should be answered by itself.


I have here the answer both to Question 21 and 53; but as the subject is a purely local one, and as the answer covers about six pages of foolscap, I think it would be more convenient that the hon. Gentlemen should allow me to show them the answer, and then send it up to the newspapers, rather than I should trouble the House with an extremely long and dull recital.


Mr. Speaker, my Question is one of great importance, and I shall insist upon its being answered orally.


It is not competent for the hon. Gentleman to force a Minister to make a reply in a particular form. If the right hon. Gentleman chooses to give his answer in writing, I know of no power to force him to give it orally in the House.


I hope the House will understand it is really out of respect to the House I refrain from reading this document; but if the House wishes to hear it, I shall be happy to read it. [Home Rule cries of: "Read, read!" and Ministerial cries of "No, no!"]

The reply was as fellows:—1. The only complaint made, so far as the Local Government Board are aware, respecting the exclusion of Roman Catholics from official positions had reference to the workhouse teachers; but observations may have been made as to the general tendency of the Guardians in that respect. 2. It is not the case that a Resolution was passed that the appointment of a Roman Catholic to any office be not entertained for 12 months. The Resolution of June 2, and a further one of June 16, related only to teachers, and the consideration of that question was postponed for 12 months. With respect to the office of schoolmistress, three vacancies occurred within recent years. The first was in October, 1882, on the resignation of the Protestant teacher, who had held the post for 16 years; the second was in June, 1885, and the third in June, 1887. With regard to the first of these vacancies, the clerk states that a Protestant was appointed who had been trained as a teacher in the Kildare Street Training Institution, and who had been engaged for seven years as a teacher of a school in Donegal. The Roman Catholic candidate was, the clerk says, only 19 years of age, and, therefore, ineligible under Article 32 of the General Regulations. For the second vacancy a Protestant was again selected. This teacher was not classed under the National Board of Education; but she had been trained in the Londonderry District Model School. One of the Roman Catholic candidates had a certificate of the second class under the National Board, besides other qualifications. On the occasion of the third vacancy the highest qualified candidate was elected. She is a Protestant, and holds a certificate of the first class under the National Board of Education, and is now in office. The candidate who was supported by the Roman Catholic Guardians on this occasion was neither trained nor classed. 3. The clerk reports that it is not a fact that any of the teachers referred to were compelled to resign; but it would seem that in 1884 the National Education Commissioners had reported to the Guardians that the then schoolmistress had failed to pass a qualifying examination of theirs. The statements in paragraphs 4 and 5 are correct. 6. The clerk states that 79 per cent. of the inmates, and 78 per cent. of the children, are Roman Catholics. 7. It is the case that the right hon. Gentlemen named, as also the Local Government Board, expressed regret at the continuance of the existing state of things. 8. In April, 1883, the Roman Catholic chaplain of the workhouse (the Very Rev. H. McFadden, P.P.) resigned his position by direction of the Roman Catholic Bishop, on the ground of the non-appointment of a Roman Catholic catechist. 9. No one has acted in the capacity of Roman Catholic chaplain of the workhouse since 1883; but the Local Government Board are informed that all the inmates who are able are at liberty to attend Mass at the chapel in Donegal, which is only a few hundred yards from the workhouse, and that the parish priest visits the sick. 10. The Local Government Board cannot dissolve the Board of Guardians because the Guardians have declined to appoint a Roman Catholic assistant teacher or catechist; and the Solicitor General for Ireland of the day informed this House on December 2, 1884, that the section of the Act authorizing the substitution of paid Guardians does not apply to this case. 11. The Local Government Board have endeavoured to induce the Board of Guardians to appoint an assistant Roman Catholic teacher; but this the Guardians have declined to do, although they are apparently willing to allow an additional salary to the chaplain if he would himself employ a catechist to assist him; and in 1884 the Local Government Board offered to the late chaplain, if he would resume duty, an increased salary in consideration of the extra labour caused to him through the teacher not being a Roman Catholic; but he declined to accept it. I fear I am unable to suggest any further remedy in the matter.