HC Deb 10 December 1888 vol 331 cc1726-31

Resolutions [8th December], reported. (1) "That a sum, not exceeding £258,525, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1889, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the House do agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

MR. LANE (Cork Co., E.)

said, there were points in relation to this Vote on which he was anxious to have some promise from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. First, he desired to ask if the Board of National Education had given any consideration whatever to one particular paragraph in the Report for last year of the Educational Endowment Commissioners, in which the Commissioners referred to the schools of the Christian Brothers, carried on under conditions that precluded them from receiving a Government Grant, though they received aid from the Industrial Schools Act and from the Science and Art Department. The school, besides carrying on in poor districts the work of an elementary school, undertook with its overworked staff the same educational work as was undertaken by model schools, and stood much in need of additional teachers, for whom no provision was made by Government grant. Special instruction of a more advanced kind was supplied to the more promising pupils, and if any modification of existing regulations could be made, these schools of the Christian Brothers were well deserving of support. That recommendation of the Commissioners appeared after they had inspected only two of these schools, but since then they had inspected the schools of the Brotherhood at Cork and elsewhere. Without exaggeration he might say there was no better elementary and intermediate education than was given by the Brothers at Cork. Two thousand pupils were taught daily in the most advanced subjects, and he did not think it was sufficiently well known that in these schools, conducted by the Christian Brothers without any State aid, the finest technical education was given in the United Kingdom; their museum and technical appliances cost thousands of pounds. He had personal reason to know that in the forthcoming Report of the Commissioners there would be a very strong recommendation that the Board of National Education should relax its rules in favour of these schools. Would the right hon. Gentleman give some assurance that these recommendations would be taken into consideration? There was a very strong feeling in favour of these schools; nor did he think that among those who were opposed to the Catholic religion there would be the slightest objection to a relaxation in favour of schools that did such an immense amount of good, and which, up to the present, had not received a farthing of State aid. Another matter had reference to the grant to the Munster Dairy School. He was very glad to see the hon. Member for South Huntingdon (Mr. Smith-Barry) in his place, as he had given that hon. Member Notice he would bring this matter on to give him the opportunity of speaking on the subject if he desired to do £0. A large grant was made to the Munster Dairy School, and no person in Ireland was more fully prepared to admit than himself the great, the exceptional advantages, that had been derived by agriculturists, especially dairy farmers, from this school. The school had done a large amount of good, but that amount of good might have been tenfold what it is were it not for the unfortunate fact that the school was managed by a body of gentlemen whose continuance on the Board precluded the support of the majority of the farmers in the South of Ireland. He would not go into details, but he thought what he had said would not be contravened. The Board of Management was opposed to the bulk of those whom the school ought to benefit in reference to the land agitation in Ireland. But, bad as it was, he wished to have an assurance that it would not be made much worse, that the school should not be absorbed in a Corporation which he understood might be instituted under Charter. The Board he alluded to had been secretly organized, he might say, by the hon. Member for South Huntingdon and his friends, and the society would claim to be the representative of the agricultural interests of the South of Ireland. They were, he understood, about to appeal to the Privy Council for a Charter, and their programme included the taking over of the Munster Dairy School. The promoters anticipated that they would create a sort of agricultural department for the South of Ireland. Their prospectus had been issued privately, and kept out of the public Press. It was proposed that the governing body should consist of 47 members, of whom 12 were to be elected by the County Grand Juries, two by the Commissioners of National Education, 24 from the general body elected at special meeting, and nine from the existing Committee of the Munster Dairy School. Then the prospectus went on to show how vacancies would be filled. There was only one point in that arrangement that might be supposed unobjectionable to the farming class, and that was the election of 24 members from the general body of that class. But the first step taken towards the formation of a governing body for this Irish Department of Agriculture was to issue "a ticket" privately and confidentially, with the names of the 24 selected gentlemen who were to be elected; and he might say, not meaning anything offensive to the hon. Member for South Huntingdon, who was one of the gentlemen, there were certainly not 24 more objectionable names to be found in the South of Ireland, to whom it was proposed to hand over the agricultural interests of the South of Ireland. He acknowledged the good that had been done by the Munster School, and he did not oppose the grant. What he now wanted was to get from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary some assurance that before the new Government Department of Agriculture was started, this new Society should not be allowed to limit and neutralize the benefit that these grants were to the South of Ireland, by handing them over to a body of gentlemen who had made themselves so thoroughly objectionable to the whole of the farming population of the South of Ireland that it was almost a certainty—he was sorry to admit it—that if this Institute of Agriculture were established and its Board constituted, as was proposed in the draft scheme, he had no hesitation in saying that it would be completely Boycotted by farmers in the South of Ireland, and would only be used by a certain privileged class. All the benefit would be restricted to their protâgâs. He asked the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to say that until the Bill was introduced next Session for creating a Central Department of Agriculture, until the details of that Department were arranged, this school and the grant now devoted to it should not be handed over to this secretly-organized Board, which a few gentlemen had tried to establish, to grab everything in the nature of agricultural education. There were other items he desired to mention, had time permitted. For instance, it was mentioned in the Report that £50 had been expended on potato experiments. It was a trifling sum to be spent on experiments in the culture of the most important crop in Ireland, and the experiments were all carried out on one farm; for all the advantage the experiments were to the farmers of Ireland the money might as well have been thrown into the Thames. But these and other matters of far-reaching importance could not now be discussed.


said, that, as a Member from the South of Ireland, he was bound to admit that there was no public confidence in the management of the Munster Dairy School. With the greatest difficulty, he had on several occasions endeavoured to do his best to pour oil on the troubled waters, and had tried to induce his constituents to have some confidence in the machinery of that institution. It was quite possible that among friends of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Huntingdon (Mr. Smith-Barry) there was some appreciation of what was done; but for the amount of money spent few people participated in any advantage that resulted. A certain number of landlords did as they pleased; the people interested had nothing to say in the management. A certain number of gentlemen having interest with Her Majesty's Government ran the machine—an electoral machine it was and nothing less, though it had some connection with the question of rent. He had no confidence in it, or anything that came out of it. Of the new plan, to which his hon. Friend referred, he knew nothing; but his hon. Friend was in the habit of speaking on matters of fact, and he should certainly say that the new machine, being run in the same way, would speedily fail. He hoped the Chief Secretary would give some attention to the matter. Much good the school might do with its teaching, but it was little more now than a cover for patronage. Although he could not endorse his hon. Friend's praise of the Munster Dairy School, he could heartily agree with him in recognition of the services rendered by the schools of the Christian Brothers. If the Chief Secretary or any Member of the House would simply go to the City of Cork and see the school, they would agree in praising the real and solid work done by these reverend gentlemen. Much of the expenditure under this Vote would be far better devoted to aiding such schools as those promoted by the Christian Brothers. Last year he endeavoured to bring this matter forward, and he now heartily seconded what bad been said by his hon. Friend.


said, the hon. Member for East Cork asked for some assurance on two points. First, the hon. Member appeared to be afraid that the Munster Dairy School might be absorbed in a new Society, the Munster Agricultural Institute, and he desired that the provisions of the Bill for creating an Agricultural Department should be before the House before such an event. He could tell the hon. Gentleman that his fears were altogether unfounded, and there was no doubt whatever that the Bill of which he spoke would be before the House long before the Institution of which he was afraid menaced the prosperity of the Munster Dairy School, in which he was interested. As to the other point raised, the schools of the Christian Brothers, he was as conscious as the hon. Member was of the enormous benefit conferred upon the community by the Christian Brothers. They were the pioneers of technical education in the country; they had done incalculable good; but he did not know that on this side of St. George's Channel it was fully recognized what an enormous benefit their gratuitous labours had conferred on the community. Whether the particular recommendations of the Commissioners, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, could be carried out within the existing regulations that governed the action of the Board of Education he could not say, but he could give an assurance that he would be happy to inquire into the subject, and if it was possible to carry out the recommendations of the Commissioners he would further anything in that direction with much satisfaction.


asked for a promise that nothing should be done towards granting a Charter to this embryo Institution without the public having information about it, and the House an opportunity of expressing an opinion.


said, the new Institute did not come into the Vote at all, nor could he say off-hand anything about it, and should be sorry to give a pledge beyond that which he had given in regard to the Munster Dairy School.


said, surely there would be no objection to give an assurance that the Government would not advise the Crown to grant a Charter until the House had an opportunity of discussing the desirability of it.


asked the hon. Member to put the Question to him in a day or two. It had no connection with the Vote, and he should not like to give any pledge without due consideration.

Resolution agreed to.

Remaining Resolutions agreed, to.