§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ LORD FREDERICK HAMILTON (Tyrone, N.),
said this Bill, which he had the honour to move should be read a second time, was one the provisions of which were very simple, and they were demanded by the necessities of the minority in Ireland. The present National Board of Education in Ireland was in a most peculiar position. It was the only Board in the Kingdom which had large public funds under its control, and which all the while was not subject to the control of Parliament. He ventured to say that this was a most anomalous state of things. He did not believe there was any other Board which had such liberty as this. The only power that existed at present was one of veto by the Lord Lieutenant where the change of rule by the Board was of a fundamental character. Meetings on the subject-matter of the Bill had been held in many parts of the North of Ireland, and the necessity for some such change as they advocated, and as the Bill provided, excited intense interest. The Protestant Synod of Derry had passed a unanimous vote—a unanimous resolution—on this question, stating that the change was necessary on behalf of the Protestant minority in Ireland. The onus lay with those who opposed this Bill to show why the Board of Education in Ireland should be placed in a different groove from any other Board in Ireland or in the Kingdom. There was no reasonable hypothesis in the existing system; and the Government were dependent for their Parliamentary existence on the very party who had the majority in Ireland and from whom the danger they (the promoters of 708 the Bill) wished to avert would come and could come if that party wished. The Bill was framed on lines which would give the least inconvenience to the National Board. The first clause provided that all rules made after the passing of the Bill should be submitted to the Lord Lieutenant for approval, and he might approve, reject, or remit them to the Board. If the Lord Lieutenant rejected or remitted a rule, such rule would be void. In the case of any non-contentious rule there was absolutely no change. Such rules would merely require the formal assent of the Lord Lieutenant. The Bill further proposed that if the Lord Lieutenant should provisionally approve a rule it should come into force one month after, unless during that time a Petition praying that the rule might be laid before Parliament should be presented by one or more of the Education Commissioners. In the event of such a Petition being presented the Lord Lieutenant was to cause the rule to be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and if it should be wholly or in part disapproved of by either House of Parliament within 40 days such rule or part of a rule should be void. If the rule submitted to them was not disapproved by Parliament within 40 days the Lord Lieutenant might declare his final approbation of it. The Bill gave to any one of the representatives of religious minorities in Ireland, in the event of the Board passing a rule which in his opinion would be injurious to the interests of his particular religious body, the power of appealing to the Lord Lieutenant, and through him to Parliament. The Board in Ireland represented all creeds, but he did not think anyone could reasonably object to the control which it was thus proposed to exercise. It was certainly not unreasonable that, a contentious rule should be brought before Parliament before its final adoption. It was a very simple safeguard; but it was a very necessary one. Any one who knew how strongly the Protestants of Ulster felt on this question, how strongly they were opposed to the introduction of the thin end of the wedge of denominationalism in any part of Ireland, would understand the reasonableness of this Bill. Any one who understood the horror with which the Protestants of Ulster viewed such things would under- 709 stand it. He might go so far as to say that he could not conceive a greater curse to Ireland than denominational education. Children at the present time, though belonging to two religions, grew up together—Catholic and Protestant. Were they going to train up future generations to bigotry and intolerance by separating the children and so preventing them from gaining the advantages which were theirs to-day? Were they from their birth to be brought up in distinct camps, so that they might hate and loathe each other? There were one or two clear conclusions arrived at in reference to this Bill. They were making a very moderate demand, for it was a very moderate Bill. The Secretary for Scotland (Sir G. Trevelyan), speaking in the House on Monday last, said—Whatever shall be done shall be done with the full consent of Parliament, and with the full knowledge of Parliament.That was all that the promoters of this Bill asked. Members from Ulster were surprised when they heard that the Government intended to oppose the measure. The House would doubtless have some explanation from the Treasury Bench as to why the Government thought it necessary to oppose the Bill; but they might doubt whether the true explanation would be given. He hoped the Party opposite, who had been so lavish of their assurances that they wished to safeguard the rights of religious minorities, would see that there was nothing in the Bill more than Protestants generally were entitled to seek. When they came to a Division it would be seen how much genuineness and sincerity there was in those professions. He moved that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Lord Frederick Hamilton.)
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON (Armagh, Mid.)
said that this Bill was, indeed, a very simple, unpretentious, and moderate measure. He did not see how any hon. Member could oppose it, for it only proposed that an extraordinary anomaly should be removed, and that the National Education Board should be placed under the control of Parliament and be prevented from rushing through fundamental changes in 710 the national education of Ireland, in a back room in Dublin, without the approval of Parliament. That was a fair proposal. If the Chief Secretary was of opinion that the Bill was too comprehensive or too stringent, it could not be opposed on that ground, for the promoters of the Bill would be willing to introduce any alterations which be might deem necessary in the interests of the National Board. They were prepared to exclude all matters of routine, all rules dealing with the classification of teachers, with the standard of efficiency, or with the programme of examinations. In fact, all matters of detail or routine they would be willing to exclude absolutely from the operation of the Bill. He did not wish for a better argument in favour of the Bill than was afforded by the speech of the President of the Local Government Board earlier in the day with reference to the Private Bills of Municipal Authorities in England. The right hon. Gentleman argued that it was most essential that Parliament should maintain its control over Municipal Authorities. Surely it was no less important in the case of a Board of Education, dealing with the education of a very large number of children in Ireland, where admittedly there were great contention and dissension upon those subjects, and great alarm with reference to the religious education of the children. Let them look at the position of the Board? From the Report of 1891 it appeared that the Parliamentary grant was over £866,000. Since then, a further sum of £200,000 had been added; and he believed he was right in adding also a further sum which was given for pensions. So that in all, more than £1,000,000 of money of the British taxpayer was going to this Board every year, and it was a startling fact that the Board should be under no Parliamentary control whatever. What other Board receiving a similar grant of money was in a similar position? Were there any exceptional circumstances that this, of all Boards, should be free from control? In England there was a Minister responsible to that House for all matters of education, and by the Elementary Education Act of 1870 regulations for the conduct of elementary schools in England were laid down by Act of Parliament and could not be altered except by Parliament. There were 711 many other ways by which elementary education in England might come under the cognizance of Parliament. The promoters of this Bill wished to apply a similar principle to elementary education in Ireland. They had in Ireland a Board called the Board of Intermediate Education. It was different from the National Education Board and was subsidized, not by a grant from Parliament, but out of the Church Surplus Fund.
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON
Yes, but not voted annually by Parliament. The Board of Intermediate Education had not the powers of the National Board, but was principally a mere certificating and examining Board. Yet in the case of that Board Parliament provided that the rules should be laid before it for approval or disapproval within a reason able time after they were made. If that were so, as they knew it was, how could It be reasonable to refuse to apply a less stringent regulation or provision to the National Board of Education which had, he would say, far more important duties to discharge. They had also the case of the Educational Endowments Commission. Under the Educational Endowments Act, the Commissioners were empowered to make certain schemes; and it was provided that if the schemes were not satisfactory they could be brought before Parliament, which reserved its right to approve or disapprove. The provisions of this Bill were not so stringent as that. They did not suggest, or provide, that every rule should be laid before the Houses of Parliament—
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON
said they did not provide for so stringent a course. They were willing that the Bill should he modified to meet the—
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. JOHN MORLEY,) Newcastle-upon-Tyne
All rules are pro-Tided for.
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON
said that it was provided that all rules should go before the Lord Lieutenant, but that the rules should not be brought before Parliament unless on the representation of a Commissioner. He had no objection to require that a Petition from two Commissioners should be requisite. 712 As he had said, they only wanted that the fundamental rules should come before Parliament, and they based their claims on the precedents to which he had referred.
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON
said the fact that they had such a Board was not sufficient reason why resolutions passed in a private room in Dublin in reference to a whole system of education should not be subject to the control of Parliament. They knew that the Powis Commission, which hon. Gentlemen behind him (the Nationalist Party) were never tired of recommending, recommended the laying of all rules before Parliament. What did the Powis Commission say on the subject? Why, that "no alteration of any rule, regulation, or bye-law should be put into operation until such alteration had been before Parliament for one month." This Commission reported in 1870, and it was always referred to by the Nationalist Members as a specially high authority. It might be asked, "Why has this question not been raised before?" and he could give an answer to that in the words of the late Chief Secretary, when moving for leave to introduce a Bill for National Education in Ireland. Referring to the National Board of Education and its past history, the right hon. Gentleman said—So far as I know there has never been any occasion on which difficulties have arisen either from politics or religion in connection with its administration.That, on the whole, was a correct statement of the history of the Board. They had not hitherto travelled outside their functions as an Adminstrative Board. As an Administrative Board they had performed their duties, and so long as they confined themselves to administration nobody wished to interfere with them; but within the last few months they had set up an entirely new claim to be a legislative as well as an administrative body, and they desired to alter the whole system of education in Ireland. And it was on that ground that he and his friends had to appeal to Parliament. It might be said that the system of mixed education had not been a success in Ireland. Well, facts, he thought, 713 went to show that the system had enormously developed, and improved education in that country. It might be useful to give the House a few figures from the last report of the Commissioners. Of the schools under the National Board, 45 per cent. were mixed schools. It was said, "You should denominationalize the Board, because 55 per cent. of the schools are unmixed in their attendance. On the other hand, it was plain from those figures that the Board had not exercised its functions in an irksome or harassing manner, and that wherever the natural development of the localities had tended in the direction of denominationalization, the Board had not attempted to force the mixed system on the people. But there were 3,792 mixed schools in Ireland, and 450,000 pupils in them, and when these facts were mentioned no one could say that the mixed system had broken down, or, on the other hand, that it had been forced on the community in a harassing manner. There were 18,000 Protestant children in schools under exclusively Roman Catholic teachers; and there were 13,000 Roman Catholic children in schools under purely Protestant teachers; the rest of the 450,000 children in mixed schools being under Protestant and Roman Catholic teachers conjointly. It could not be said in face of these figures that there was no necessity for taking measures to protect the consciences of the children, whether Protestant or Catholic. He had heard a Roman Catholic clergyman admit that even from his point of view something was necessary to be done for the protection of the children of his denomination in districts in which they were in a minority. And if that were the case, it was still more necessary that something should be done for the protection of the Protestant children, as the area in which they were in a minority was larger. There could be no question that at the present moment there was great necessity for steps to be taken for protecting the consciences of children in schools under teachers of a different creed. He wished in his argument to avoid all contentious matter. The Bill had been introduced in no spirit of hostility to the Chief Secretary, or the Government, or the Nationalist Members. He did not blame the Nationalist Members if they opposed 714 it, but he certainly should be unable to agree with them if they said it was an unfair Bill, as it merely proposed that there should be an opportunity given of ventilating educational questions openly and in the light of day, instead of allowing them to be settled at a secret Board in Dublin, where the public could have no knowledge of what was going on. These gentlemen sitting in Dublin could alter the whole system of education in Ireland without anybody being any the wiser.
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON
said he did not pretend to be a greater democrat than the right hon. Gentleman, but he did ask whether they were to be told in the present day that the only protection against the secret doings of a secret body in Dublin was to be the Lord Lieutenant, who could only obtain information as to what was taking place by private communication from the Board? The Lord Lieutenant was uninformed by public opinion. The Chief Secretary might say that those who were in favour of this Bill had not suffered recently, as the Lord Lieutenant had refused his sanction to rules recently proposed. The right hon. Gentleman deserved all credit for his action in that case. But it must be remembered that by an accident public opinion was informed and aroused. The facts had leaked out. Fortunately, the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) happened to obtain a copy of the proposed rules; a letter was written to The Times: meetings were held all over Ireland, and resolutions were passed by Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Dissenters alike. No one who had read the writings of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary could say that he was not in favour of religious liberty. Well, that was all the promoters of the Bill wanted. They said, "Parliament may alter the system of education, but let us be subject to the action of Parliament." Religious liberty ought to rest on the protection of Parliament, and not of any Lord Lieutenant or of any Chief Secretary. During the Debate on the Education Bill last Session the admission of the Christian Brothers' Schools to the system of education in Ireland was frequently proposed. There had been no expression of 715 opinion in the House adverse to those schools, and everyone would have been glad to see them obtaining the grant, if their attitude had been consistent with the fundamental principles of National Education in Ireland. Nothing had been said contrary to this, and the Christian Brothers, as a teaching institution, had never been disparaged. But surely it was not unreasonable to ask that they should obey the regulations of the National Board, especially as those regulations were obeyed by other Roman Catholic teaching orders, who received the grant. No less than 33 Monastic and Convent schools conducted by the Franciscans, the Marists and other Bodies were content to be bound by the regulations. Therefore, this was not a Catholic grievance. It was purely the grievance of one Body—the Christian Brothers, though they, no doubt, were an important teaching body. He did not think there was anything unreasonable in the attitude the late Government took up. Let the Christian Brothers obey the rules and regulations of the National Education Board—do not let those rules and regulations be destroyed to suit the wishes of one Catholic institution when all the other Catholic institutions of the country were ready to accept them. Only two proposals were made during the Debate last Session. One was that the rules should be relaxed in favour of the Christian Brothers, and this by general regulation. As he understood, however, this request was not countenanced by anyone save those who put it forward. The second proposal was that possibly an alternative Conscience Clause in an Intermediate Education Act might meet the difficulty. There was something to be said for that as the Christian Brothers did come under the Intermediate Act; but, unquestionably, if there had been any proposal to relax the regulations of the National Board the Bill might not have passed. Nothing of the kind was suggested. The right hon. Gentleman, who was at that time Leader of the House, came down and distinctly said that nothing of the kind was intended, and that the religious emblems and observances, to which objection was taken, were not to be allowed in the National Schools. The Bill passed in accordance with that statement—it would not have been passed unless those assur- 716 ances had been given. Well, the Board of Education met in Dublin, and he did not know what influences had been at work upon them. A distinguished member of the Board had proposed a new rule which proposed to do the very thing which the late Leader of the House had said was not to be done. It proposed to break the very terms upon which the Bill had been passed. A new rule was introduced, the object being the alteration of the whole system of education in Ireland, or taking a long stride towards it, and introducing rules inconsistent with the fundamental principles for which they contended. It was proposed by these rules that in a large proportion of schools it was to be permitted to exhibit religious emblems, and to use school books of a sectarian and partizan character.
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON
did not wish to say a word objectionable to the hon. Member, but the hon. Member would agree they were not the books of the National Board, and were objected to by Protestants; they were books that no Protestant parent would allow his children to vise. Certain religious observances would also be permissible.
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON
said he had done so, and no doubt it was true that the Authorities of the Christian Brothers said, that in reference to the religious observances, if a Protestant parent objected they would have the religious observances stopped. What they meant was that a Protestant child must become a sort of pariah in a State-aided school, from causing the whole school system to be dislocated, or else he must take part in the observances which he ventured to say no fair-minded man would think it right a Protestant child should be subjected to. What they said was that the children of these working people and of the lower middle class should not have this alternative put upon them, either to go to the schools where there were these emblems and religious observances, or by their presence object to their continuance. The Chief Secretary himself, in his work on Compromise, expressed the point very forcibly. If a Protestant child went to one of these schools he was in danger of 717 being either proselytised by these emblems and observances, or boycotted for objecting to them. Of course he might stay away, but why should the son of any citizen be told he must not go to a particular State-aided school, but must go to one that was inferior. These schools were supported by public money, and these alternatives should not be put before the children who were in a minority. If they did, then they struck at the root of religious libery. He would not follow through the whole correspondence and the matters set forth in it, as they were not material to the issue; the real question was whether Parliament ought to have any control, however slight. How had the Board proceeded in the recent case? The Board passed the proposed change by 11 votes to 6. Three Protestant members were absent, and one Protestant member, as he afterwards explained, by inadvertence, voted with the 10 Catholic Commissioners, and the change was carried by 11 to 6. The Lord Lieutenant, fortunately in this case refused to sanction the change, and it was by the merest accident it was ever known to the public. The Board immediately set about making another rule, which was worse than the first. Their second rule was open to all the objections in principle which characterised the first, because not only did it alter the system by which Parliament originally gave the grant from year to year, but it did what Parliament practically agreed should not be done. The rule was passed by 12 votes to 7, and he had heard that two Protestant Commissioners voted for it, but it could not be said that they represented Protestant opinion on the subject. The rule was protested against by resolutions passed by the Methodists, the Presbyterians, and the Episcopalians; therefore it was idle to say that it was not strongly protested against by the Protestants in Ireland. He could only repeat they would accept any Amendment, for the convenience of the National Board in their routine work, which the Tight hon. Gentleman might suggest. If they wished to protect religious liberty in Ireland it was absolutely necessary to place this Board under Parliamentary control.
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
Mr. Speaker, we are accustomed in this House to find the Mover and Seconder of a Bill 718 in agreement, whatever may be the opinion of the rest of the House in regard to the measure. I think it will be admitted, in regard to the present Bill, that even at this early stage of the Debate a curious—indeed, I might almost say unexampled—situation has been developed. The noble Lord (Lord F. Hamilton), the Mover, and the learned Gentleman (Mr. Dunbar Barton), the Seconder, of the Bill, do not stand upon common ground.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. SEXTON
I had said, Sir, and I repeat it now that the learned Gentleman (Mr. Dunbar Barton) has returned, that the noble Lord the Mover of the Bill, and the learned Gentleman the Member for Armagh do not stand upon common ground. The noble Lord, less experienced than the learned Gentleman, has stood firm by his Bill, but the learned Gentleman, more ingenious than the noble Lord, and less bold, has run away from the main propositions of the Bill. Sir, the proposal of the Bill is with regard to every rule and with regard to every amendment or alteration of a rule, that the Board of National Education in Ireland, even though the Lord Lieutenant—the chief of the Executive Government, the representative of the majority of this House—should agree with the Board as to the necessity of making or altering a rule, that the Board should be obliged to come to this Parliament, and even if the Representative Chamber should agree with them, the House of Lords, a totally non - representative Assembly, should have power, by objecting to the rule, to overbear the opinion, first, of the Department of State created by Royal Charter; secondly, of the chief of the Executive of Ireland; and, thirdly, of this Representative Chamber itself. Well, the learned Gentleman readily perceived that that issue could not be defended, and now he prays not that every rule, but that every fundamental rule, or that every change and amendment or repeal of a fundamental rule, should come within the scope of this Bill. I ask the learned Gentleman to tell the House who is to determine what is fundamental and what is not. This House even if it adopted the Bill would lay up for itself a store of 719 trouble, because if the National Board of Education in Ireland adopted or altered a rule, no matter how ordinary or trivial, if it touched the susceptibility of any Member of this House, or any constituency, or any person whose influence a Member was inclined to admit, it would be open to any Member in this House to rise up and occupy time with a discussion as to whether the alteration made by the Board was a fundamental alteration. I venture to think, Sir, that troublesome as the Irish Question has been hitherto to this House, it would become in the future, even in an attenuated form, a source of greater trouble. The second point on which the noble Lord and I are not agreed is as to the means by which the subject is to be brought under the notice of Parliament. The proposal in the Bill is that any one Commissioner out of 20, notwithstanding that the other 19 are agreed, and the Lord Lieutenant has approved—any one Commissioner—and we know, Mr. Speaker, that in Boards as in Legislatures a crank may occasionally be found—any one Commissioner would be entitled to hale up before the Imperial Parliament his 19 colleagues and the chief of the Executive Government of the country. The learned Gentleman, who professes to speak the universal feeling of the Protestants of Ireland made a most fantastic suggestion. He had to admit that the Board of Education, composed of 20 members, has upon it 10 Protestant gentlemen, and 10 others who are Catholics, but he evidently is not inclined to rest the protection of Protestant interests in the matter of education upon the fact that half the Board is composed of gentlemen of that creed. No, Sir, he raised the question that only two are Methodists.
§ MR. SEXTON
Are we to understand then that Protestants who are not Methodists, Protestants constituted by Royal Charter, appointed by the Lord Lieutenant himself, that Protestants who are not Methodists are not to be trusted with the protection of the interests of education or any other matter of Protestants who are Methodists? Why, Sir, the tone of the Debate, the speeches of the noble Lord and the hon. and learned Gentleman, asserted the solidarity of Protestantism. 720 They spoke, they said, for the United Protestant Body, and yet because the whole 10 are not Methodists—because the whole 10 do not belong to some particular Protestant sect—it is to be inferred that 10 Protestants belonging to various sects are not to be trusted to defend the rights of Protestants as a whole. I say that suggestion would be spurned by the Protestants of Ireland. They do stand together on this question, and I think the contention put forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman would not be accepted by them. I think he is not a faithful and trustworthy spokesman of their views. The speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he will forgive me for saying so, was in no way reliable as a statement of facts, but I confess it was remarkable as a work of imagination. He spoke, Sir, as if some secret plot had been put forward. I may turn aside for one moment to say that if any secret plot has been going forward, and if the interests of any section of Irish Protestants have for the moment been placed in danger, which I emphatically deny, that danger has arisen from the initiation of the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, who looked extremely uneasy during the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman. And if there was danger, which I again deny, the gentleman who interposed to avert the danger was the right hon. Gentleman the present Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. What has been done in secret? How did this affair begin? The subject was raised in this House last year on the First Reading of the Irish Education Bill. It was debated again on the Second Reading; it was thrashed out in Committee, and it was raised again upon the Report. There were four different Debates on the subject in the House last year, and the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant gave a public pledge that with the view of making an effort to introduce certain rules into schools under the jurisdiction of the Commissioners he would invite the Commissioners to consider whether they could not embody in their rules and regulations the Conscience Clause of the Intermediate Education Act. The right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary wrote a letter in consequence. That letter is dated 11th 721 August, and in it the right hon. Gentleman stated—During the passage through the House of Commons of the National Education Bill, 1892, attention was called to the position of certain schools, which from not complying with the existing regulations with regard to religious instruction did not participate in the grant made by Parliament for elementary education in Ireland. On behalf of Her Majesty's Government, I promised that you should be invited to consider whether, in the rules and regulations of your Board relating to religious instruction, the clause on that subject in the Intermediate Education (Ireland) Act, 1878, could be embodied.I am not an advocate of the secret proceedings of the Board, or of any public Boards, and if any public inconvenience arises from the secrecy of the proceedings of this Board I should say that the way to end any inconvenience would be to oblige the Board to publish the Minutes of their proceedings relating to any public matter, and not to take away from the Irish Department and the Irish Executive a question which, if any question does, concerns the people of Ireland, and which some Irish authority ought to determine. I should have no objection if the Board were obliged to publish the Minutes of their proceedings and any correspondence between the Lord Lieutenant and the Board with regard to alterations, or suggested alterations, of rules. The remedy, in this case, of the evil, if there is an evil in secrecy, will be to abandon secrecy and let everybody be aware either that the Board wish to alter an important rule, or that the Lord Lieutenant proposes to give his consent to an alteration. One would have supposed, from the eloquence and fire of the speech of the hon. and learned Memberx2014;qualities which I must admit were absent from the speech of the noble Lord—that some grievance had been suffered. I ask what is the grievance, and who has suffered any wrong? The Commissioners no doubt proposed to alter a rule. The Lord Lieutenant declined to accept the alteration. He did so upon the ground that there was no near approach to unanimity. If the condition of a near approach to unanimity be necessary for the making of a rule in a case where 10 Protestants are members of a Board composed of 20 members I should say that the protection afforded by the present system is complete. The decision of the Commis- 722 sioners was not accepted. The Lord Lieutenant interposed his veto, and it is upon the interposition of that veto, which prevented the resolution taking effect, that hon. Gentlemen proposed to take away the power of the Lord Lieutenant, and provide that upon the objection of any one gentleman out of the 20 comprising the Board the power of the Imperial Parliament should be called into requisition. I contest the claim both of the noble Lord and the hon. and learned Gentleman to speak for the Protestants of Ireland. I say that if we are to touch the question of denominational education the whole course of the administration of the system in Ireland shows that the people of Ireland where they have the choice, whether Protestants or Catholics, do prefer the denominational system. And all over Ireland the practically denominational schools have grown in number, and they are now in a majority. Why, in the Province of Ulster, for which the hon. and learned Gentleman professes to speak, the desire for denominational schools has been most emphatically expressed. The effort, as the Chief Secretary expresses it, has been continuous and successful, and the number of denominational schools in Ulster under the National Board compared with the number 25 or 30 years ago is actually five times as great. The facts cited by the learned Gentleman, that there are only 80,000 Catholic children in Ireland in schools taught by Protestant teachers, and only 30,000 Protestant children in schools taught by Catholic teachers, shows that where-ever the most energetic effort can secure it, denominational schools are substituted for mixed schools. There is another reason why I say that they do not speak for Protestants. The hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that the Rev. Dr. Stubbs, in sanctioning the proposed change, had acted through inadvertence.
§ MR. SEXTON
Why the hon. and learned Gentleman says the second change is worse than the first. The first change was comparatively trivial, and then the rev. gentleman acted through inadvertence, but the second change was worse, and then the rev. gentleman acted deliberately. The second change was; carried by 12 gentlemen, of whom 723 10 were Catholics and two Protestants. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) was ever an earnest champion of Protestant rights, but I doubt whether he is as earnest, and I do not think he is as competent, a champion of these rights as the Rev. Dr. Stubbs, Senior Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, a gentleman living in Ireland all his life, an eminent ecclesiastic, a distinguished scholar, and a gentleman who has all his life been engaged in the work of Protestant education.
§ MR. SEXTON
Episcopalian, the noble Lord says; I thought the noble Lord claimed to speak the universal feeling of Protestants. If the Protestants of Ireland are so split up between themselves that there is no feeling of solidarity amongst them how can the noble Lord or any other man profess to speak on their behalf? I think it will not be seriously contended that the Senior Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, is not as careful a guardian of the rights of any Protestant subject as even the noble Lord. If we take the other Protestant gentleman who voted for the change, who is he? He was a man than whom there is no more distinguished lawyer nor clearer thinker to be found in Ireland, Lord Justice Fitzgibbon, the Lord Justice of Appeal in Ireland. Now, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Armagh (Mr. Barton) is no doubt a distinguished member of the Irish Bar, but I doubt whether he himself would claim either in regard to the question of the administration of the question of education, or in regard to any interest of the Protestants of Ireland, to set himself up against the head of his own profession. I think even this House will agree that Lord Justice Fitzgibbon is at least as trustworthy and competent a judge of the interests of Irish Protestants as even the hon. and learned Member for Armagh. Upon these grounds I dispute the claim of the noble Lord and the hon. and learned Gentleman to speak for the Protestants of Ireland. I say the Protestants of Ireland are united on this matter. I say they are united, and their practice proves it, in preferring denominational education; and where they can have a denominational system they have strained every 724 exertion, especially in Ulster, to substitute for a mixed an unmixed attendance in the schools. While the Protestants of Ireland are united in opposition to the noble Lord and the learned Gentleman, I say that the pretext of the learned Gentleman that the interests of no Protestant sect in Ireland can be protected except by the members of that particular sect, is a theory advanced for the first time in this House; it is a theory at variance with the whole history of the question as between Catholics and Protestants, and it is a theory which I think the Irish Protestants in general will emphatically condemn. Now, Sir, I must observe that this proposal is put forward at a very singular time. It is put forward upon the eve of considering a Bill which proposes to give the Irish people legislative control of the administrative care of the affairs of Ireland. Of course, my learned Friend is not responsible for that Bill, but my learned Friend and his Party are responsible for this, that the alternative which they offer to the Home Rule Bill is to extend to Ireland a Bill which will give her extended powers of local administration, and they now propose to remove the making of a trivial rule out of the sphere of Irish administration, and to place it in the power of one or two members of the Board, to drag the whole Board here, even though the Lord Lieutenant may approve of the rule they pass.
§ MR. SEXTON
I will not quarrel with the hon. Gentleman about the terms. I said dragged. If he likes to say drawn, or invited, I do not quarrel about the word, or to be brought here—is that an objectionable word?
§ MR. SEXTON
I do not suggest that the Commissioners are to be brought here. The rule they make is to be brought here, and their authority and the authority of the Lord Lieutenant is to be set at nought; and one man—any one crank—may be at liberty to disregard the opinions of his colleagues, and be at liberty to take the initiative. I think that is an unreasonable proposition, and what is additionally unreasonable is that, even though this Chamber should unani- 725 mously agree to the rule, the House of Lords, which may be constituted by three Members—any two Peers—may upset it. It is surprising to me, considering what happened last year, that any Tory Member should have the audacity to rise up in this House and make this proposition. Who is the architect, the apostle of the situation, who proposed a fundamental change in the system of education in Ireland? The right hon. Gentleman, who sits so meek and modest on the Front Opposition Bench, the late Chief Secretary for Ireland. So far from finding fault with his action I say it was essential to this case. For what is the case? The House has passed an Act for free and compulsory education in Ireland. That only applied to the cities and towns in Ireland, and in these cities and towns the Catholic boys are taught by the Christian Brothers. The Catholic parent has no option but to send his children to the Christian Brothers schools or to a school to which he has a conscientious objection, and it was pointed out that in these cities and towns the Education Act, if it does not become a dead letter, will be fatally hampered in its application, because when you have established free education the Catholic parent will say that he will not send his child to the Christian Brothers schools, where, in the absence of any grant, he would be called on to pay a fee, and that, on the other hand, he will not send his boy to a school to which he has a conscientious objection. There are two schools in the place, to one of which he is willing to send his boy, but at which a fee must be paid, and the other is one to which he has a conscientious objection; and the end will be that the Free Compulsory Education Act so far from assisting the interests of education in Ireland will very seriously prejudice them. The right hon. Gentleman saw that prospect, and he invited the Commissioners of National Education to consider whether by a certain alteration in their rules the schools of the Christian Brothers could not be brought into conformity with the national system, and placed in line with the other schools. But the right hon. Gentleman not only acted in accordance with the reason of the case but in accordance with the principles of his Party. Might I remind the House that the right hon. Gentleman 726 the late Leader of the House, in a speech delivered on the latest day of the Session of 1889, speaks in regard to the rights of Ireland upon primary education in a manner which is totally irreconcilable with what is laid down by the noble Lord and the learned Member to-day. I would cite the speech of the late Leader of the House delivered in 1889—There was one principle which the Tories held as earnestly as the Party to which Mr. Parnell belonged, and for which they might well be found fighting side by side"—we are not fighting side by side to-day, we are fighting face to face—and that was the principle of religious education, and on that question the Tory Party and the Parnellite Party were absolutely at one, and united as they were on that subject they were divided by a wide impassable gulf from the Radicals.We shall see now, when an effort is being made to fit education in Ireland to the local circumstances of the country without prejudice to religious principle, whether the Radicals are not those who reasonably recognise the principle, and not the Party represented by the gentleman who made that speech. We are told that the Member for South Tyrone is the real author of this Bill. After hearing the speeches of the noble Lord, and of the learned Gentleman, I am inclined to think that they are not the authors, because neither betrayed that acquaintance with the scope of the Bill which would be naturally supposed to belong to paternity. Now, I believe that the hon. Gentleman opposite is a Member of the Party led by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. I ask him to apply himt self to this public utterance of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham—I believe that there are two questions not local in any narrow sense which require local and exceptional treatment in Ireland, and which cannot be dealt with to the satisfaction of the Irish people in the Imperial Parliament.The proposition made to-day is that in the ordinary alteration of the rule of a Board in Ireland the intervention of the Imperial Parliament should be invoked—And amongst these questions are the education question and the land question, and I would not hesitate to transfer their consideration and solution in Ireland to an Irish Board, altogether independent of English Government and influence.727 The proposition of the Leader of the Party to which the Member for South Tyrone belongs is this: that the Irish Board ought to be allowed to make rules even without the assent of the Lord Lieutenant; but the proposition made to-day is that even when the Lord Lieutenant agrees with the Board, and even when the House of Commons agrees, the House of Lords may be in a position to overbear the will of the Irish Board, of the Lord Lieutenant, and of the House of Commons. What were the opinions of the Member for South Tyrone on this subject in the long past days? His recent career has so obscured them that they are forgotten. When he was the Radical candidate for Preston he said—If there is any man in this town not a Catholic himself, knowing Catholic scruples upon the matter of education, I am that man. I have lived amongst Catholics. Many of my dearest friends are Catholics. I know what their views are about education, and I respect them. Let there be no mistake about this matter. I repeat, I am not in favour of divorcing education from religion.And, again, upon the same subject he said—I will frankly concede the demand of the Catholic Bishops in the matter of education. In brief, upon the education question I say you must have respect to the people of the country, no matter what your own individual theories may be. I wish to see the substitution of Local Authorities all over the country more in touch with the people, and though I am certain that many blunders will be made at first, still I recognise that the only way the people can be taught in these matters is to allow them to have the chance of trying.What chance does it give to Irish opinion, to Irish administration, or to Irish Government, if you allow one crank Commissioner and two torpid Peers to make void the decision of 19 Commissioners out of the 20, the decision of the Lord Lieutenant, speaking for the Executive, and the decision of the House of Commons? I say that a more fantastic proposal was never brought to the notice of the House. Suggestions have been made that some injury is intended to Protestant interests. What is the proposal made? It was pointed out in the Debate last year that the primary schools in Great Britain received aid from the public purse, and were conducted upon a principle substantially identica 728 with that under the Irish Intermediate Act. The schools of the Christian Brothers do work under the Intermediate Act. They satisfy the regulations of the Statute, and both the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Leader of the Tory Party in the House avowed in speeches last year that the Conscience Clause in the Intermediate Act was as stringent as need be desired, and that it was impossible to suggest that any danger could arise from the Conscience Clause then suggested.
§ MR. JACKSON (Leeds, N.)
Neither of the speeches bore the interpretation which the hon. Member suggests. What we did say was that we could see little difference between the Conscience Clause of the Intermediate Education Act and the Conscience Clause of the proposed Bill.
§ MR. SEXTON
I have not the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, but I have the speech of his Leader, and what his Leader said was—That he did not here express an opinion upon this Conscience Clause, but that he might say that no one had pretended that the Conscience Clause embodied in the Act of 1878, which was accepted by all sections of Irish opinion at the time, and which had not been criticised by any section of Irish opinion—no one had pretended that this was a clause less stringent in its character, or less capable of affording protection to children of whatever denomination.That was the testimony of the Tory Leader, and it received the universal assent of the Tory Party. What will the House think of the statements that have been made to-day, when I say that the effort, the sole effort, of the National Board was to substitute that clause in their rules and regulations for certain existing rules which were in operation. I shall read the proposal which was made by the National Board. I find at page 10 on the paper—No pupil attending at school shall be permitted to remain in the school during the time of any religious instruction which the parents or guardian of such pupil shall not sanction.There the absence of the pupil from religions instruction is secured unless the parents or guardian consents; and, secondly, the time for religious instruction shall be so fixed that no pupil remaining in attendance shall be excluded directly or indirectly from the secular instruction given in such school. That is substantially the principle of primary 729 education in Great Britain. But the Commissioners were not satisfied with that, because they proposed to retain a rule to the effect that no pupil registered as a Protestant should remain in attendance in a Catholic school during the time of the religious instruction, and that no pupil registered as a Catholic should remain in attendance in a Protestant school during the time of religious instruction, and that in no case should any pupil remain in attendance at any religious instruction to which the parent or guardian did not agree. That was the gist of the proposal. That was the protection which the new rule intended to afford, by which the interests of the Protestants were to be guarded, and I invite any Member of this House to show in what respect that rule is defective, or anything calculated to displace the contention of the present Leader of the Tory Party in this House last year, that that rule is as stringent as could be devised and that no injury can arise out of it. As I have said, the Lord Lieutenant declined to accept the suggested rule on the principle that there was not as near an approach to unanimity as the nature of the case required. I submit that if that is the principle on which the Irish Executive acts upon a Board composed of 20 gentlemen, 10 of whom are Protestants, that that principle affords the most complete protection. I invite Members on the opposite side of the House who may speak on this question to point out if they can in what way the application of that principle would leave open any source of danger. The gentlemen who have spoken on behalf of this Bill profess to speak on behalf of the Protestants of Ireland. I must point out that the second proposal of the National Board was considered by a Committee, and this Committee, composed of six gentlemen, three Catholics and three Protestants, were unanimous on the matter. The Catholics were the Lord Chief Baron of Ireland, the permanent head of the Department, the Resident Commissioner, a man of unequalled experience, and Mr. Sheridan, for many years Inspector or Secretary to the Board. The Protestant members were the Lord Chief Justice of Appeal, the Senior Fellow of Trinity College, and County Court Judge Shaw. That Committee of six gentlemen, not debating 730 the matter briefly upon a Wednesday afternoon, but after devoting five long sittings to it, after correspondence with the Church Education Society and the Christian Brothers, came to the unanimous conclusion to make the second suggestion.
§ MR. SEXTON
Well, perhaps not quite unanimously, but I think what I am about to say will convince the House that the decision of the majority was more significant even than if it had been unanimous, because on one side we had the Lord Chief Baron, the Resident Commissioner of the National Board, the late Secretary of the National Board—Catholics; and then you had the Lord Chief Baron and the Senior Fellow of Trinity College—Protestants; and upon the other side we find a County Court Judge. [Nationalist cheers and laughter.] It is an interesting fact that the County Court Judge was the gentleman who by placing 360 votes upon a certain register presented the hon. Member for South Tyrone with a seat in this House.
§ MR. SEXTON
The Revising Barrister has the power to amend or not to amend; and he declined to amend and to allow the Court of Appeal to consider the case. His refusal to amend put the question outside the Court of Appeal.
§ MR. CARSON
I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, is it permitted by the Rules of this House for an hon. Member to attack a County Court Judge in Ireland.
§ MR. SEXTON
The learned Gentleman (Mr. Carson) is new to this Assembly. He has not yet apparently realised the fact that this is not a Coercion Court.
§ SIR THOMAS LEA (Londonderry, S.)
I rise to Order, Mr. Speaker. Is the hon. Member entitled to discuss the decision of a County Court Judge on a Debate on an Education Bill?
§ MR. SEXTON
I was quoting, when I was interrupted, one or two general facts to show that the solitary dissent of this County Court Judge ought not to sway the judgment of the House, and I repeat, whether I look at the gentleman as a Revising Barrister, as a County Court Judge, or as a Commissioner of this Board, that his opinion must command no weight when we consider the character and position of the five gentlemen opposed to him. The object of the regulations was to bring the Church Education Schools and the Christian Brothers Schools within the National system. The Church Education Society informed the Board that they will be satisfied with a strictly religious system. I wish to make the case of the Christian Brothers quite clear, because I think the Member for North Armagh obscured the case to some extent. These zealous and most successful instructors of youth, these precursors of the primary schools, these men who for 30 years before ever a National Education system was started, gave the rudiments of instruction to the children of the Irish people, these men who formed the link between the old lady's school where the children bawled the alphabet exposed to all the inclemency of the weather—who formed the link between those two systems of education—these men who developed their system and made it successful; and what is the provision now respecting them? I say that in dealing with them regard must be had to the fact that they were an established body. Remember that they teach 30,000 children, and remember that if some arrangement is not made to bring them into line with the others it may lead to complications, because other schools may not be open to them, and remember that the conscience of an Irish peasant is as much entitled to be considered and respected as the conscience of the hon. Member for North Armagh. What was the offer made on behalf of the Christian Brothers? They offered, first, to have their schools inspected by officers of State, to have their pupils examined, that in future members of their Institute should be examined and classified. They offered to separate secular from religious instruction, and that in any case where a Protestant appears in any of their schools they are 732 willing to provide that the religious instruction shall take place before the secular instruction. They further agreed that the practice of prayer at the strike of the clock at certain hours shall not take place. With regard to the books used in their schools, they are willing to submit them to the Board of National Education, although the Rules of the Board do not require them to use any particular set of books. They are willing to remove from their books any matter which might be considered to be controversial, and to make special regulations wherever Protestant children attend their schools. I am anxious to hear how much further they should be asked to go. With regard to the question of religious emblems—such, for instance, as the crucifix or a picture or statue of the Redeemer—I would be surprised to hear that these emblems should properly be held to exclude a primary school from assistance by the State, if the regulations of that school were such as to give conclusive security against any invasion of the rights of conscience. One of the proposals in the Bill is that any fundamental rule may be voided by a dissenting Commissioner. The position taken up by the gentlemen who support this Bill is this: that one Englishman (the Lord Lieutenant), sent over to Ireland as the representative of a political Party in this country, shall have the power to overbear the opinions of the 10 Protestant representatives on the Board, and that there shall be no appeal. I say the men who take up that position are not entitled to speak on behalf of the Protestants of Ireland. Power is given in the Bill that when the Lord Lieutenant does agree a dissenting Commissioner may compel him to bring the matter before Parliament. If the rule is brought to Parliament it must lie for 40 days on the Table of this House, which alone has to spend the public money, and the House is of opinion the rule should stand, a majority of the House of Lords, no matter how constituted, may bring the rule to naught. At this stage of the 19th century, at this stage of political ideas and when the continuation of the House of Lords is a matter of acute criticism, and its prolonged existence is a matter of doubt, I think any gentleman who makes such a proposal shows more courage than discretion. Suppose 733 the House of Lords and the House of Commons make different amendments. I can well conceive that what is called a fundamental rule coming from Ireland in existing religious conditions may be amended in one sense by this House, and in another sense by the House of Lords, and it may be turned into nonsense by irreconcilable amendments, and the Lord Lieutenant has no option except to take that nonsense and make it the law of the land. The gentlemen who propose this fantastic system for furthering the growth of Irish education propose in the 8th Clause of the Bill that every rule hitherto made in the 50 years of the existence of the National Board should have the force of Statute Law. There are 250 rules of existence, and these rules are hanging on supplemental regulations, some of them very curious in their provisions. The Board was infallible in the past and down to the present day, but for the future they are to be regarded with fundamental mistrust. Everything that they have done up to the present day is right, but with regard to the future the rift within the lute has become so wide that they must be regarded with deep distrust; and for the future any rule which they may make, or any suggestion or amendment of theirs, is not to be trusted without the concurrence of both Houses of Parliament. This is a most fantastic and most inapt proposition. I can only suggest to the gentlemen who are concerned in this folly, that when next they occupy the time of the House with any legislative proposal, that whatever their proposal may be they will, at least, propose some rational mode of carrying out their objects. What would be the effect of this proposal? You passed an Education Act last year. That Act comes into force next year. These Commissioners have power under that Act to make rules upon various important subjects. The proposal now is to repeal that Statute in that respect. That power was deliberately given them by the Statute passed last year, and it is proposed now to take away that power. Very well. That Act does not come into force until next year. It is highly probable the Commissioners would not be in a position to make rules until the summer or autumn. If they make rules in the summer or autumn, what happens then? Instead of putting rules into 734 force with the concurrence of the Lord Lieutenant they will be obliged to wait till next year, because they could not be confirmed until they had lain for 40 days upon the Table of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and thus they could not come into force till March or April. But the Education Act comes into force on the 1st January, and the first result would be, that having last year deliberately passed a Statute to bring into force an extension of the primary system on the 1st of January next year, and having confided that power to an Irish department, subject to the revision of the Executive Department, you are now asked, half a year afterwards, to pass a Statute by which the former Statute in that respect is to be repealed, by which the power of the Irish Department, the power of the Lord Lieutenant, and, I may add, the power of this Chamber itself, is to be set aside by a chance majority of the House of Lords. The proposition is entirely fantastic and intolerable, and it is made in the face of the declaration made on this subject in this House and in the country by the leaders of the Party to which the promoters of this Bill belong. I therefore feel I shall carry with me the full concurrence of the House when I move that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said that if the hon. Member who had just spoken had stood there as the representative of West Belfast he might have been considered to have some title to speak for the Protestant community of Ireland. But since he was relegated to the other end of the country, where there were hardly any Protestants, it required a good deal of something resembling assurance for the hon. Member to stand up and deny to the 23 gentlemen elected by the Protestants of Ireland the right of representing them in the House on this question. He thought that would be too much for even the majority on the Ministerial side of the House to swallow. Who, according to 735 the hon. Member for North Kerry, represented the Protestants of Ireland on this question? The promoters of the Bill were elected, at all events, by the votes of the Protestants of Ireland. Neither Lord Justice Fitzgibbon nor Dr. Stubbs held his position on the Education Board by the votes of any body; both were simply appointed by the Lord Lieutenant. But matters were rather worse than that, for the action of Dr. Stubbs and Lord Justice Fitzgibbon had been disowned by the Protestant community of Ireland. These nominated gentlemen had been disowned by the people they professed to represent on the Board, and when they found that the whole of the Presbyterians and the Methodists of Ireland had condemned these gentlemen in common with the Episcopalians, he wanted to know what right, or title, or claim they had, disowned as they were by those supposed to be their constituents, but over whom their constituents had no power, being nominated and not elected. What right, or title, or claim, he asked, had these two gentlemen to represent the Protestants of Ireland, and not the twenty-three gentlemen who represented them in the House of Commons? Dr. Stubbs had openly avowed that in all he had done on the Education Board he had been acting in the interests of the Church Education Society. He had not a word to say against the Church Education Society, but the House should know there were 15,000 children in the schools of the Society throughout Ireland outside the National Board, because they would not comply with the rules of the National Board. They wanted to teach the Bible and the Catechism to the children at all hours of the day, and under all circumstances, and they refused to be bound by any rules whatever that would restrict them in that right. Dr. Stubbs had, therefore, joined the Roman Catholic Members of the Education Board simply and solely with the object of getting public money for these schools which were sectarian and Protestant in education, and those who represented the Protestants of Ireland in the House of Commons had quite as much objection to sectarian Protestant education as to sectarian Catholic education in schools supported by public money. That was what Lord Justice 736 Fitzgibbon and Dr. Stubbs aimed at, and they had never made the slightest secret of it. He wanted the House fairly to consider what the real question at issue was. The question was not whether denominational education was right or wrong, it was a simple question, and the House would not be able to escape from it. The question was this: was the National Board of Education in Ireland a purely administrative Board, which had no legislative powers whatever, not elected by the people, but nominated by the Lord Lieutenant, and which carried on its work by virtue of the grant of a million of money from this House, sitting in a back room in Marlborough Street, Dublin—had such a body the right to upset the fundamental principle on which National Education in Ireland had been carried on for 60 years, supported by this House? and was it to be said that this non-representative and non-elected body had power to do this without legislation and behind the back of Ireland? That was a question from which the House could not possibly escape. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had said that the proceedings of the Board in this matter were not held in secret. They were not held in secret, but they would have been if the Board had had its way. What took place? A letter addressed to the Board of Education by the late Chief Secretary (Mr. Jackson) was sent to the Commissioners; nobody outside the Irish Office or Dublin Castle had known that that letter had been sent— nobody could, in any way, have known; it—it had been entirely, so far as the public were concerned, a private communication. There had been no public notice of it in any way whatever. On the receipt of that letter the Board of Education proceeded to consider it in private, and the Lord Chief Baron of Ireland gave notice of a resolution in regard to that letter. That resolution of the Lord Chief Baron might have been considered in private, a decision might have been arrived at in private, and the powers of the Lord Lieutenant might have been invoked in private, and the public would never have heard of it save for an accident by which a copy of the resolution had reached them.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said the hon. Member had made a statement that he could not substantiate in the House. The first notice of that resolution was not in The Freeman's Journal at all, it came out by a pure accident, and beyond all doubt the whole question might have been considered by the Board in private; the Lord Lieutenant's action would have been private, and the public would have known nothing about the matter, only, as he had said, for an accident.
§ MR. SEXTON
The proceedings of the meeting of the Board were sent to the Press by one of the Commissioners.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said the hon. Member was usually accurate, but sometimes he fell into a slight inaccuracy, as he did on the present occasion. What the Commissioner, Mr. Inglis, did was that he declared that if the Board did not publish the proceedings he would take the responsibility of publishing them; but that was after the Board had considered the matter, and after the whole thing had come out in the public Press. He would ask the House to get rid of the question of denominational or mixed education, and let them consider fairly and squarely whether a public body not elected by the people, but nominated by the Lord Lieutenant, had a right in private—behind the public and behind this House, which supplied them with the money for carrying on the work—the right to upset the fundamental principle of this system of education which had existed in Ireland for 60 years under the control and sanction of Parliament. It would be necessary to assume that hon. Members knew nothing about the system of National Education in Ireland. The fundamental principle of the National system of education, as contained in the first rule of the Charter granted in 1831, was that there should be combined secular and separate religious and moral instruction in the same school. Under Rule 4 it was enacted that there should be no change made in the fundamental rules without the sanction of the Lord Lieutenant. He did not question the right of the Board to change the fundamental rules with the sanction of the Lord Lieutenant, but he contended that the principle upon which the system was founded could not be con- 738 strued as a mere rule. He considered the whole of the proceedings of the Board were ultra vires. He would now consider how the whole question arose. At the close of last Session the Education Bill, introduced and carried by the late Government, was under discussion. Nearly the whole of the Ulster Members were absent from the House—a great but unavoidable misfortune — and the Government were pressed—he did not say unduly—to admit the schools of the Christian Brothers to the benefits accruing from connection with the National Board. No one then or since ever said a word against them or their schools in the House. He, himself, said he considered that the education given by them was a sound education. The right hon. Gentleman who was then Chief Secretary undertook to send a letter to the Board of National Education in Ireland, and did so. It was dated 11th August, 1892, and read—During the passage through the House of Commons of the National Education Act, 1892, attention was called to the position of certain schools which, through not complying with the existing regulations of your Board relating to religious instruction, do not participate in the grants made by Parliament for Elementary Education in Ireland. On behalf of Her Majesty's Government, I promised that you should be entitled to consider whether, under the rules and regulations of your Board relating to religious instruction, the clause on that subject contained in the Intermediate Education. (Ireland) Act, 1878, could be embodied.He did not blame the right hon. Gentleman for writing that letter, nor did he blame the House, constituted as it was, for sanctioning it.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL,
continuing, said it was so, but it was undertaken to be written during the Debate on the Education Act. But it might have occurred to the right hon. Gentleman that, even had the Christian Brothers, consented to adopt that Conscience Clause, the mere adoption of it—[An hon. MEMBER: They have consented]— brought them not one step nearer to the National Board, and the Commissioners pointed that out in their answer to the right hon. Gentleman who is now Chief Secretary. What, he asked, were the rules and regulations at present in use by the 739 Board? In the first place, there was a complete separation by a time-table of the secular and religious instruction for four hours on five days in the week; secondly, the use of school-books sanctioned by the Board and free from the tinge of sectarianism; and, thirdly, the prohibition in all national schools during the hours of secular instruction of the use of denominational emblems and images, and the religious rites and ceremonies peculiar to any Church. The Christian Brothers had not, up to that very moment consented to remove the images. He thought the right hon. Gentleman might have known that would not settle the question. The moment that letter came before the Board there was an absolute resurrection of dead men to consider it. Every Roman Catholic member turned up for the first time almost in the history of the Board. But instead of considering the letter they at once proceeded to consider something very different. The Lord Chief Baron proposed a rule, which was not passed by the Lord Lieutenant, dealing not only with the Christian Brothers' schools, which was the only thing referred to in the letter of the Chief Secretary, but proposing to introduce fundamental changes in the whole system of education in the national schools. The claim advanced by the Roman Catholic hierarchy during the last four or five years had been that where schools were denominational in attendance they ought to be denominational in theory. In fact, that was what the Chief Baron's resolution came to. Here was a system sanctioned by Charter and by Parliament, which was not a denominational, but a mixed system; and a proposal like this, made by a non-representative Board in a back room in Marlborough Street, ought not to have been made. He had never held that they must stick resolutely to the mixed system in Ireland, but he had, in and out of the House, maintained that if denominational education had to be adopted it should be done fairly and above-board, and that Parliament should have the right to discuss it. Here was a Board absolutely proposing to take a balance of £800,000, granted, for mixed education, and apply it to denominational education. That could not be tolerated. He admitted that the system was becoming largely denominational, in so 740 far as, in all parts of Ireland, there were thousands of schools where the attendance was purely Roman Catholic, or purely Protestant; but if a school was made denominational where the attendance was denominational, men would practically be debarred from going to those districts to earn a livelihood, or could do so only at the cost of having their children educated in a Roman Catholic or a Protestant atmosphere. The State had no manner of right to say that the children should be educated on any such terms. A State school here should be like a State school in America —free and open, without prejudice to the faith or morals of any child in the United Kingdom. Hon. Gentlemen talked about the emblems used being Christian emblems. [Mr. SEXTON: They are used in England] Take a national school in the South of Ireland with a small Protestant minority: Protestant children had to attend these schools; there were emblems on the wall to which the Catholic children did obeisance. He had seen it, and he knew it; and he said a Protestant's child's life would not be worth living if he did not do the same thing. They were not going to allow a Board meeting in a back-room to subject the Protestant minority to any such thing. He gave the Chief Secretary for Ireland every possible credit for the action he took upon the Chief Baron's resolution. They felt grateful to him for the courage he displayed. There was no question in Ireland that touched the people so quickly as this. He would call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to an article which appeared in an organ of Catholic education after this resolution was passed, which he knew to have been written by an official of the Board. That article said that the Chief Baron had done nobly; that the Commissioners had done well; but that the man who really deserved all the credit, who laid the mine and fired it, was not the Chief Baron, but Archbishop Walsh. The Protestant minority in Ireland had a right to be protected from intrigues of this kind. They were thankful that the veto of the Lord Lieutenant had been between them and the resolution, but he did not think it was too much to ask the House, seeing that it supplied almost the whole of the money, to demand that, if the 741 fundamental principle of the system was to be altered at all, it should have something to say to the alteration. The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Kerry was entirely in error in supposing that he had anything to do with the Bill. It was drawn in his absence. His name was not even on the back of it. [An hon. MEMBER: You inspired it.] He had not even inspired it, but he cordially supported the principle of it. He desired to see the authority of the House thrown over the minorities in the South and West of Ireland. The House was prodigal in its promises to protect minorities in Ireland. Here was a test case, and he put it especially to the Nonconformist conscience to-day. The Government might consider the Bill defective, but the Mover and Seconder had offered to accept any Amendment that would preserve the right of Parliament to stop any fundamental change. He hoped the House would not refuse that offer. The question was one of the most important that could come before the House, and he hoped it would not allow the minority to be sacrificed to a body of men sitting in a back-room in Marlborough Street, in Dublin, who claimed to go behind the back of Parliament.
COLONEL J. P. NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, any new Member would fancy that the back-room alluded to by the hon. Member was inhabited by a body of wicked Home Rulers who wanted to crush education in Ireland. But the fact was the whole of this idea was initiated by the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, whom the hon. Member sedulously followed into the Lobby on almost every Division in which Ireland was concerned. The hon. Member spoke four times of the National Board of Education sitting in a back-room. He gave him his back-room; if necessary they could have a proviso that It should be a front one. The hon. Member for South Tyrone had never fairly stated the case. The fact was that the Conservatives had a very popular Bill in Parliament for freeing education, from which, though it had been suggested largely by the Liberals, they drew, and deserved some credit. It was pointed out to them that this free education would not really apply 742 to Ireland so long as the Christian Brothers were excluded from the benefit of the public moneys. The Chief Secretary said that could not very well be dealt with in the Free Education Bill; but there was a provision by which the Board of Education in Ireland could so change the rules that the Christian Brothers, emblems and all, would be admitted to the benefits of the Bill. Nationalist Members had stated that they would give way on certain points, but they did not say they would give way on the point of emblems, to which they attached considerable importance, and which were allowed under certain School Boards in England. The Chief Secretary referred to the Board of National Education in Ireland, and it happened, as happened very often in Ireland, that some of them wanted to get a little more out of the promise, so as to procure an additional amount for denominational education. A resolution to that effect was passed by the National Board by a narrow majority, and rejected by the Chief Secretary. He did not say the Chief Secretary was wrong, and did not ask for more than the fulfilment of the promise made to the Christian Brothers. The impression which was left on his mind as to what the late Chief Secretary said was also the impression which was left on the minds of other hon. Members. He could not say that the present Chief Secretary had come up to his expectations, and he did blame the right hon. Gentleman to a certain qualified extent for not having given effect to the last resolution of the National Education Board. That resolution was passed by a majority of very nearly two to one, and its effect would be practically to admit very few except the Christian Brothers under this new rule. What was the Bill they were now discussing? It was simply to destroy what the Chief Secretary promised. The Conservative Party, as represented by the late Government, promised the Irish Members one thing when they thought such a promise might have some effect on the elections; but now that the elections were over they had the Ulster Conservatives coming forward, and not only recognising that the promise had not been redeemed, but actually attempting to pass a Bill to prevent it ever being redeemed at any 743 time. That he considered to be an unfair use of Party warfare. If they were to have the regular troops in the shape of the Front Opposition Bench promising them one thing, and then to have the Ulster Tories coming forward like a detached body and engaging in a guerilla warfare to prevent that promise being given effect to, it would be a most unfair state of things. He considered that the Conservatives ought to feel themselves bound by the statement of the late Chief Secretary. It had been urged that the members of the National Board of Education were not an elected body. That was true, but still they were elected in one sense, for they were nominated by the Chief Secretary, who, however, before he could exercise such power of nomination, must have been himself elected and returned to Parliament by some constituency. But what did the Bill before the House propose to do? It proposed to leave to a purely non-elected body like the House of Lords the power of granting this money. Surely, if it was an argument against the 20 gentlemen in Dublin that they were not elected, the argument would apply with even greater force to the House of Lords, not one of the Members of which was elected, not one of whom was appointed by a majority of votes, but the preponderating majority of whom were hereditary legislators. The hon. Member had stated that a Protestant child attending a Catholic school would have to make an obeisance at religious pictures. Now, he had never at any time seen any boy kneel or make an obeisance at any picture or statue in any school. Such a thing would be quite exceptional. The Irish were a practical people, and could not, for one thing, spare the time to go down on their knees or make an obeisance every time that they looked at a picture or a statue. If Catholic people were to go down on their knees or make an obeisance every time they saw a picture, say of the Apostles, how could they ever get through a foreign Picture Gallery? Really, there was no such custom. It was admitted that the Christian Brothers gave a sound and non-political education, and because of this superior education Protestant children occasionally went to such schools. The Christian Brothers did not wish for one moment to proselytise any of these Protestant 744 children; and even if they did, it would be impossible for them to do so. The Christian Brothers were doing excellent work in the cause of education, and they were willing to remove certain of the rules, and make it still better for any of the Protestants who desired to attend such schools. He would point out that in the South and West of Ireland the Protestants had got very considerable endowments; they had the Erasmus Smith and other schools, and were very favourably situated for educational advantages. The Catholics, on the other hand, were rather badly off in this respect. They had got no endowments, and they had nothing except the ordinary National schools, supplemented by the schools of the Christian Brothers. The latter Body, although they imparted a thoroughly good education to the children entrusted to their care, received no assistance what ever from the State beyond a trifle from the Science and Art Department, which was so insignificant that it was not worth counting. Why should the Christian Brothers be thus tabooed? If boys wished to be educated in these schools, why should they not be allowed? The Christian Brothers were willing to submit to any examination; and if the boys could pass these examinations, why should these schools not receive the money to which other schools were entitled? Because it was said a few Protestant boys might attend such schools. But, as he had pointed out, they had already got capital schools of their own, and, in addition, they had got considerable endowments. The Catholics, on the other hand, were without endowments, for they had been taken from them 200 years ago and handed over to the Protestants. It was unfair and unjust to exclude the Christian Brothers from all the benefits which other schools received. As to the Bill before the House, it was an unfair one, and he trusted it would be rejected. He hoped the present Chief Secretary would give effect to the recommendation of the late Chief Secretary, and that in future he would see that schools conducted by the Christian Brothers received the money to which they were as much entitled as any other schools.
§ MR. CARSON (Dublin University)
I do not intend to occupy the time of the House at any great length in going into 745 this which is for Ireland a very important question. I wish distinctly to make my own position in the matter clear, because I think people may naturally come to an erroneous conclusion unless one is very specific as to the reasons which influence ones votes on the present Bill. Now, Sir, I would just ask the House for one moment to go back to what is the real question involved in the Bill under discussion to-day. For my own part, I do not intend to say one single word for or against denominational education. I am aware that in the constituency which I have the honour to represent there are many of my own religion who are sincere advocates of denominational education in Ireland; and whether there ought to be a system of denominational education pure and simple, or whether there ought not, is a question which I, for my part, do not at all wish to discuss upon the occasion of this Debate. But, Sir, what is the real question before the House? We have had for 60 years in Ireland an Administrative Board of Education—an Administrative Board formed to carry out a system of undenominational education, an Administrative Board solely without any legislative functions whatsoever; and, Sir, it does occur to me to be somewhat of a startling proposition to ask that this House should for one moment sanction that a Board, formed and framed for carrying out a certain system of education sanctioned by this House—is to have power, in what I would call a breach of the trust which they are formed to carry out, to change that system from an undenominational into a denominational system. And all that the present Bill provides is this: that if the Board is to carry out a system of denominational education instead of a system of undenominational, instead of doing that of their own free will they are to come to the House of Commons and ask the House of Commons for its sanction. That seems to me to be the net question, and I would like to ask hon. Members below the Gangway, who are opposed to this Bill, do they think that the present method of sanctioning the rules of the Board is altogether satisfactory? Why, what has occurred? The majority of that Board have come to the conclusion —and I do not say at all improperly— that there ought to be a change in the 746 system of education in Ireland. That majority was composed, as the Member for North Kerry has said, amongst others, of two eminent Protestant gentlemen, against whom I should be sorry that one single word should be said in this House. And what is the state of the facts? That recommendation is approved of by hon. Members below the Gangway and by a majority of the Board. It is submitted to the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary, and against the will of hon. Members below the Gangway, and against the will of the majority of the Board, that Resolution is thrown out and not adopted; and I would like to know if hon. Members below the Gangway think that satisfactory. If the present Bill were carried, the whole obligation of approving or disapproving of a fundamental change of that kind would be shifted from the Lord Lieutenant—who might well say, "I will not take upon myself, against the will of the Board and of a large number of the Representatives of the Irish people, to throw out the resolution of the Commissioners; I shall sanction it, and let it then come before the House of Commons, who can at once either affirm or disaffirm the resolution so passed." That occurs to me to be a method entirely superior to the method that is at present in force, and which absolutely throws it upon the Representatives of the particular Government which is in power for the time being to say whether or no there shall be denominational education in Ireland. I should like just for one moment to call the attention of the House to the particular facts which led to the necessity, as we conceive it, for this particular Bill. During the Debate on the Education Bill towards the end of last Session the question arose as to the demands of the Christian Brothers to the benefit of the education grants granted by this House. Now, I wish distinctly to say that in my own opinion there is not in Ireland a more useful educational system than that pursued by the Christian Brothers; and, so far as I am concerned, I do not for one moment wish it to be supposed that I would oppose any grant to the Christian Brothers for carrying on their very useful system of education. But then let us see if the method in which this is proposed to be carried out is entirely satisfactory, or one which will meet with the 747 approval of this House. The method by which it was assumed that could be done was by making the clause known as the Conscience Clause applicable to the rules of the Board of National Education in Ireland. That clause, as I would remind the House, prevents any religious instruction being given in a school at variance with the particular religion of any of the pupils present, except at specified times. Now, the whole question in the present instance is as to the meaning of religious instruction, and that is what appears to me to have been left entirely out of consideration in the Debate this afternoon. The Board of Education Commissioners, when this matter came before them, saw at once that making the clause in the Intermediate Education Act applicable to the Education Commissioners would not get over the difficulty; and instead of adjudicating on the matter which was specifically referred to them by my right hon. Friend when he was Chief Secretary for Ireland, they proceeded not merely to make this particular Conscience Clause applicable to the educational system they were carrying out, but they proceeded, for the purpose of bringing in the Christian Brothers, to abrogate certain rules which have been fundamental rules since 1830, when first this Charter was granted to the Education Board. What would be the result of that? It would be this: that you would have a State grant given to schools at which you would have children of all denominations coming in, where you could not prevent the children of a particular denomination receiving what must amount to religious instruction in another religion to which they did not belong; and I say, while there is a great deal to be said in favour of denominational education pure and simple, I think it would be an intolerable system that Protestant children or Catholic children should be allowed to go to schools where they would get what practically amounts to religious education in a religion different to that to which they belong. To show that I am right in saying these emblems amount to religious instruction, let me call the attention of the House to a statement made by the Superior of the Christian Brothers in answer to a letter from the Board asking him whether the Christian 748 Brothers would agree to forego these religious emblems. He says—With regard to the religious emblems in our schools, and which have sometimes excited adverse comment; with reference to this point I wish to say we have had religious emblems in all our schools from the very beginning of the Institute, a period of over 90 years. I could not think of making any change in this time-honoured custom, and I do believe the removal of these emblems from the Christian schools would have the most injurious effect on the religious instincts and the susceptible minds of the children attending these schools, and, to quote the words of a respectable Protestant gentleman in a letter to a newspaper, 'to do so would be a kind of apostacy.'I entirely approve of the Superior of the Christian Brothers adhering to the regulations as regards these emblems. Why should he not? But what I do object to is this: that our Protestant children should, under a system of State-aided education, be compelled to go to a school where they would be met by emblems which, to use the words of the Superior of the Christian Brothers, have an effect on the religious instincts and susceptible minds of the children attending these schools. And, Sir, while I at once admit, as I have said, that there may be a great deal to be said in favour of denominational education pure and simple, when you would have Protestant children at Protestant schools and Catholic children at Catholic schools, I cannot conceive how any Member of this House would sanction a system at which Protestant children would be brought up at a school where these emblems form part of the religious instruction, these emblems having, as the Superior points out, an effect on the religious instincts and susceptible minds of the children attending the schools.
§ MR. DIAMOND
(interposing): Might I point out that in many Catholic schools in this country a large number of Protestant children attend them from choice, and these emblems are in the schools.
§ MR. CARSON
Whatever a Protestant child might do from choice is one thing; what he may have to do by quasi-compulsion and under a State-aided system of education is entirely another thing. But, Sir, it really occurs to me all this brings us back simply to this: if we had the power of having these rules laid upon the Table of the 749 House we might make suggestions and put in protective clauses to protect Protestant and Catholic children. And what I cannot see for the life of me is why, if there is to be a grant by the State for these Christian Brothers' schools, Parliament should not say there is to be that right; and if there is not to be a grant sanctioned by Parliament for these Christian Brothers' schools, why should a Board in Dublin, formed for the administration of an entirely different system, have the power which it would be admitted on that argument Parliament would not have sanctioned? A great deal was said by the Member for Kerry as to the opposition of Protestants to this system of denominational education. As I said before, I do not conceive that question is before the House at all. I would like to point out, when it is alleged, as it was in a recent Debate in this House, that the Unionist Members from Ulster do not represent the Protestant or Unionist feeling of Ireland, that we are not merely driven to rely on what the Unionist Members say—though I really think the Unionist Members ought to have the same attention paid to the matters they put forward on behalf of their constituents even as well as hon. Members who are, perhaps, elected in an entirely different way. But, Sir, I would ask, What is the opposition to this system of changing fundamental rules without discussion and without the interference of Parliament? As regards the Episcopalians, the general body of the Synod in Ireland have passed an almost unanimous resolution not against denominational education, but against the framing of these rules behind the back of Parliament and in favour of the present Bill. Lord Justice Fitz Gibbon has been quoted. He is a most eminent man against whom not a word should be said in this House without a protest on my part; but he must not be taken as the only, or even chief, representative of the Episcopalians in this matter. The views of that Body are expressed by the general Synod, which has almost unanimously agreed that the Education Board in Dublin ought not to be allowed to make this fundamental change. The General Assembly of the Presbyterians have passed an exactly similar resolution, and, indeed, have gone further still by declaring against denominational 750 education altogether. The hon. Member for Kerry has referred to a very distinguished Presbyterian — County Court Judge Shaw. I am not going into the question raised in regard to him; I will only say it is at least ungenerous to take advantage of one's privileges as a Member of this House to attack in this Debate a gentleman so high-minded and high-principled as Mr. Shaw for the purpose of what seemed to be a mere momentary flash in the pan. I think it is a most cowardly system of attack, and one which ought not to be persevered in.
§ MR. CARSON
The Methodists as well as the Presbyterians have passed a resolution in favour of this Bill. Is the House, in the face of all these opinions, going now to say that the educational system in Ireland shall be fundamentally changed? No doubt a large body of Catholics are against the Bill, but it is because they do not believe they will ever be able to persuade the House to grant them a denominational system. The hon. Member for Kerry suggested that this was an inopportune time to raise the question when the Home Rule Bill was before the House; but he seems to have forgotten that there is a provision in the Bill specifically put in to protect minorities which would prevent the Irish Legislature from dealing with this matter, even if the Home Rule Bill should become law, which I hope it will not. I do not believe it ever will. But, suppose it passes, Parliament will have enacted that an Irish Legislature shall have no power to deal with the matter, and yet a Board sitting in Dublin will pass a resolution and submit it to the Lord Lieutenant, who, acting on the advice of the Irish Privy Council, will approve it, unless this Bill is passed to prevent such a thing being done. I say nothing as regards denominational education, and I have not a word to utter against the Christian Brothers. All I ask is that, if these fundamental changes are to be made, let us—the Unionists on one side and the Catholics on the other—discuss them before the Imperial Parliament.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
The House may be somewhat surprised at seeing two hon. Members 751 rise from this Bench in immediate succession, so I will at once explain that my remarks will be in diametrical opposition to those of the hon. and learned Gentleman who last spoke, and who, although he gave expression to many liberal sentiments, is unfortunately going to give an illiberal vote. I have often wished that the Tory Party in this House, on these minor Irish questions, would endeavour to study how they can, as far as possible, make concessions which can do no harm whatever to Protestant interests, and can remove grievances under which Roman Catholics sometimes suffer, and indeed bitterly suffer. I have always wished that the Tory Party would give way to what I feel certain is, so far as English sentiment is concerned, their natural tendency; but, unfortunately, from time to time, with some exceptions, they yield to powerful influences which prevent them from giving way. This is a very peculiar case in which Protestants of high authority wish to make a concession. The Bill is an innocent-looking measure on the face of it. Clauses 2, 3, and 4 practically leave the law as it is, and I do not find in them any proposal to make a change in the working of the National Board; but Clause 6 provides that any new rules which may be made by the Board shall be laid before the Houses of Parliament before they become operative in Ireland. That appears to be a very large change to make. The bases of the national system which obtain to-day were laid by the greatest Chief Secretary the Tory Party ever gave to Ireland, the late Lord Derby, when Mr. Stanley; and the Board has conducted the system of national elementary education with perhaps more conspicuous success than has attended any Department entrusted with education in any part of the United Kingdom. I may be wrong, but I cannot help reflecting that in all the difficulties which have attended Irish government, no serious difficulty connected with elementary education has ever arisen. Of late years, under the experience and ability of Sir Patrick Keenan, the head of the National Board, all sources of trouble have been avoided. Irish education has developed and progressed even to a greater degree in some respects than education in this country; and in the 752 whole career of the National Board, through bad times and through good times—and there have been both—the success of that Board has not only covered them with credit, but is a credit to the people over whose education they preside, for it shows that in educational matters the Irish people seek for tranquillity and peace. It is a great thing thus to administer a Department without troubling either Parliament or the country. What is now proposed? It is proposed in recognition of the services of the Board, particularly of their services under Sir Patrick Keenan, to place their proceedings with regard to the making of rules under the immediate control of Parliament. That seems to me to be a gratuitous slur on the National Board. For the best part of 70 years the National Board has administered this education grant; and now for an object, about which I shall have a word to say presently, it is proposed to place all the proceedings of the National Board in the way of the making of rules under the control of Parliament. The proceedings are, in fact, to be inoperative until sanctioned by Parliament. We could not take a more invidious step, quite apart from any question of Home Rule. It seems absurd to drag in Parliament to look after what are purely Irish matters which have never been brought under the control of Parliament, and to invite either one Party or the other to endeavour, if they see any chance of success, to embarrass the National Board in Ireland. Yet that is what this Bill will do. It seems to some a very grand thing to assert the control of the Imperial Parliament, as if it would give security for religious liberty. But under this Board religious liberty has been most carefully protected, and it will not be endangered by any change which the National Board wish to make. The very object of this Bill is to prevent the great educational institution of the Christian Brothers from sharing in the State grants given for the subvention of education in Ireland. That is the whole object of the Bill; but the Catholic party, assisted, I am glad to say, by one of my greatest friends (Lord Justice Fitz Gibbon) has at last induced the National Board to consider rules which will obviate the difficulty under which the Christian Brothers have hitherto laboured with regard to getting 753 assistance from State grants. I hold that if that proposal is carried out, and the rules are adapted to the end in view, no change whatever will be made in the educational system of Ireland. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Trinity College has stated that a great change will be made. With great respect to my hon. Friend, I will say that he has greatly exaggerated. No change whatever will be made. The system of education in Ireland is nominally a system of mixed secular and separate religious instruction, but such a system has never been carried out. Schools may be produced here and there in which there is a system of mixed education, but all over Ireland the system has been purely denominational. What have the Christian Brothers done to prevent them from deriving any advantage from the State grants.? The Christian Brothers, as I have said before, are a very remarkable Body. They educate many thousands of Irish children. They have been working for over half a century in Ireland. There is a great attraction about the Christian Brothers. It happens that I have been connected with a Commission appointed to inquire into the endowed schools in Ireland. The Christian Brothers had some of the endowments which we had to inspect, and I consequently became acquainted with their system. Their peculiar life— so simple, so frugal, so tranquil—attracts not only the young, but the traveller who may happen to be passing by. They have a most wonderful method of teaching, which I should say is superior to the ordinary teaching in Ireland, whether under Catholics or under Protestants. There is a cleanliness, an order, a regularity about their schools which is very remarkable, and what is equally remarkable is their success in winning the affections of the children who go to their schools. Now, that is a general outline of what the Christian Brothers are. The success of their pupils in the intermediate education examinations has, I believe, been most remarkable. They have gained—although they do not profess to give any very high standard of education—both scholarships and prizes in the intermediate examinations. And what is the fault found with the Christian Brothers, who have conferred such great educational benefits on Ireland? 754 Their fault is that they will not give up —and I think it is greatly to their credit —their religious instruction. They have never been accused of proselytism. What charge is brought against the Christian Brothers in this 19th century—this day of liberality and toleration? That they have, with a tenacity that does them credit, adhered to the practice of decorating their school walls with holy pictures and with images of the Crucifixion and other emblems, not of a sectarian, but of a general religious character. Because they will not give up this habit, this Body, which has educated thousands of Irish children, in the best manner in which Irish children, or any other children, can be educated, have been excluded from the benefit of the State grants. I thought it would have been for the credit of a Tory Government to remove that grievance. Not a single person in Ireland could have been injured by its removal. I had hoped that that would have been done, to the credit of a Tory Government—that they would have made a concession with grace and liberality which would have been welcome to the people of Ireland. They began, but too late, for their tenure of Office was ended. That chance having been gone, I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is not going to throw away his opportunity. It is a grand opportunity, the settling of this old grievance of years. It has nothing to do with Party politics, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman, on the principles of religious toleration, on the ground that the practice of Ireland in the matter of education has been purely denominational, and on the ground of justice to the great public services rendered by a poor community to the Irish people, to come to some agreement with the majority of the National Board of Education to include the Christian Brothers in the participation of the educational grants, and to remove a disability which no British Government, be it Tory or Liberal, ought to allow to continue any longer.
THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MOKLET,) Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Mr. Speaker, in all quarters of the House hon. Members are familiar with the enormous difficulties of this subject, and I am sure in all quarters we are glad to recognise the enlightened 755 and statesmanlike tone, if I may say so, in which the noble Lord (Lord R. Churchill) has just spoken. As from time to time it has been my duty in this House to be the spokesman of the National Board, I welcome with special gratitude the language he has used in respect of that Board. If the noble Lord had been present during the earlier part of the Debate he would have heard hon. Members below the Gangway admitting that the National Board had gone good work for Ireland, yet using phrases about the Commissioners which are incompatible not only with the recognition of their services but with any respect for their public spirit. I will imitate the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Mr. Carson) in declining to discuss the question of denominational or undenominational education. The hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) promised to stand aloof from the question, which is really not germane to the Bill before the House, but he did not keep his promise, and his speech was neither more nor less than an ultra-Protestant tirade against the system of education which, in fact, is now prevailing in Ireland, and the noble Lord did good service in reminding the House that the system of education in Ireland now is not the system founded in 1831—a mixed literary and religious system—but a denominational system. I was brought up to think that the foundation of that system was one of the most hopeful things for the future harmony of all classes in Ireland that an English statesman ever devised, but we know well it has broken down under the stress of Irish National feeling and the instincts of the Irish people which led them to combine religious with secular teaching. The hon. Member for South Tyrone is full of suspicions of the National Board and what it has done since the late Chief Secretary opposite set this controversy going. I cannot forget that no longer back than 1891 the hon. Member for Tyrone taunted the then Irish Secretary with giving a blank cheque to Archbishop Walsh and Archbishop Croke. This shows the preternatural suspicion which resided in the breast of the hon. Member, and which I hope the House will entirely disregard. I have never heard in this House a debate 756 characterised by more extravagant exaggeration of language. The noble Lord who introduced the Bill said the new rules which had been under the consideration of the National Board and the Executive Government were rules which would have introduced a system that would have kept alive the spirit of religious animosity and religious faction.
§ LORD F. HAMILTON
I only said that was the fear of the Protestants, not that they would necessarily have had that effect.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
What the noble Lord said was that the Protestants feared that if the rules in the spirit of the Lord Chief Baron's motion were acted upon, the children would be taught from their cradles to live in a spirit of faction, and would grow up to hate and loathe one another. It has been said that under the present system there is no Parliamentary control, and the justification of the Bill is that it is to enact that control. I cannot imagine a more unreal account of the matter. Look at what has happened in this particular case; and the same thing would happen in any case of a similar kind where a great change of a fundamental rule was proposed. What has happened is that the Executive Government — the Lord Lieutenant and myself—have refused to accept a proposal twice made to us by the National Board. Does any hon. Member suppose—do the promoters of the Bill suppose—this was not done without a full sense of Parliamentary responsibility? I should like to know what state of mind a Chief Secretary would be in if in giving his decision upon a question of this kind he should entirely leave out of sight what the probable opinion of the House of Commons would be? The hon. Member for Dublin University said it was merely a representative of a particular Government who said "aye" or "no" to these fundamental proposals, but the Chief Secretary and Lord Lieutenant of the day, whoever they may be—however representative of a particular Party—are also representatives of a Government which represents a majority in this House, and that represents, in its fullest sense, Parliamentary control. It is indirect, but that is all the better. At all events, it has the great merit of relieving the House of Commons of what this 757 Bill endeavours to foist and intrude upon it—the minute consideration of all the rules the National Board may have before them. If we had assented to the proposals made last October and in January does anyone dream that our responsibility to the House of Commons would not soon have found us out? Does anyone suppose any Chief Secretary or any Lord Lieutenant deciding a question of this kind does not have the wish of the House of Commons fully before him? He may not have the wish of the House of Lords before him. And here we have one of the worst features of the Bill. It proposes to transfer to a Chamber in which there is not a single representative of that Party in Ireland which sends a majority of Irish Representatives to this House, and submit to the fiat of that non-representative House the passing or rejection of a rule which has been accepted by the National Board, and may be demanded by the needs and sentiment of Ireland. There is a great deal to be said for the practice existing as to the Intermediate Education Act, the Judicature Act, the Land Act, and the English Education Code, which prescribes that the rules under those Acts shall be laid on the Tables of the two Houses. There is a great deal to be said for that as a general principle, and if a good way of applying that could be devised, and a proper occasion could be found, I, for one, should have very little quarrel to begin with with such a proposal; but this Bill is the most unworkable scheme that could have been brought before the House. It is unworkable at every point. I wish hon. Gentlemen who are thinking of voting for the Bill to remember exactly what it is that it prescribes. No new Rule is to come into force until it has been passed by the Commissioners, submitted to the Lord Lieutenant and approved by him, and been placed before a special meeting of the Commissioners in whose office it has rested a month. And then one of the Commissioners—nobody else—must ask the Lord Lieutenant to lay the Rule before Parliament. Occasions constantly arise in the proceedings of the National Board to which the dilatory, cumbrous machinery contained in the Bill would be wholly inapplicable. And however much it may be desired, the Rule may be 758 blocked by one Commissioner petitioning against it. The Bill is unworkable, and even if less unworkable than it is, I should object to it on the present occasion. Why is this Bill introduced now? There is no practical grievance, because the proposals of which you are so bitterly afraid have, under the existing rules, not received the necessary sanction of the Irish Government. This Bill has not sprung from any reasonable or well-founded apprehension of a practical grievance. It has been introduced, as every speech made to-day shows, to put a slight and affront on the National Board for doing what they have every right to do, what they were fully justified in doing, and what they were invited by the late Chief Secretary to do. It is quite true, as the Member for the University of Dublin says, that the proposal went beyond the reference of the right hon. Gentleman's letter of the 11th August. But that letter was an invitation to attain a certain end—namely, the inclusion of the Christian Brothers. That was a laudable object; and it was a certain method of attaining that end that he invited the Commissioners to consider. The Commissioners saw at once that the acceptance of the Intermediate Education Conscience Clause would not attain the end in view. It was, therefore, no trespass or going beyond the fair significance of the reference for them to cast about to find a rule which would attain the end the right hon. Gentleman had held out to them. They made this proposal accordingly. I am afraid this Bill is not only meant to put a slight on the Board, but to be a rebuff to all the school managers in Ireland of a certain religious community by politicians who use the, no doubt sincere, apprehensions of another religious community for the purpose of a Party assault. The names on the back of the Bill show the quarter from which it comes and the motives that inspire it. The speeches made on the other side show exactly the same thing. For my own part, I am quite ready to consider modifications of the present system; but I will not consider them in connection with a bad and unworkable Bill like this, and I will not consider them on an occasion of this kind. Something has been said as to the character of the Board—much has been said 759 on that head. It has been pointed out that there is no unanimity on the Board. That is quite true; but what does it show? It does not show what the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Tyrone endeavoured to deduce from it, that if you had a Legislative Chamber of Catholics you would necessarily have an ultra denominational code. I see no reason to apprehend anything, so far as my experience of the Board has gone. Quite the contrary. The authority of the Board is due to the fact that it represents all shades of religious communions in Ireland. It does not represent them perfectly or directly, and they are removable by the Lord Lieutenant if he thinks fit. The confidence felt in the Board is shown by the reception which its working constantly meets with by its dealing with what, next to the Land Question, is the most difficult of all Irish subjects, by the success with which it has avoided friction and conducted its work in Ireland. I know the Board has its critics, and that some of them are very severe, but this House will judge it by the Board's achievements, and I do not think anything that has happened this winter need shake the confidence of this House in that Body. Everybody knows that the Board enjoys full consideration on the part of both Protestant and Roman Catholics, and that it secures agreement amongst Presbyterians, Unitarians, and Methodists alike. I think that a Body like the National Board is a hundred times more valuable as an administrative machine than a mere Department of the Government; it is more elastic and more useful, because it contains men of various opinions who are responsible to those who share their opinions. That is the reason why on both occasions I have felt it my duty to advise the Lord Lieutenant to send back for further consideration the proposal made by the Board. I entirely concur in what has been said, both by the hon. and learned Gentleman and the noble Lord, in favour of having as many primary schools as possible brought within the scope of the National Board. Though I cannot respond to the appeal that has been made to me, I can certainly say that if in the interval between now and January, 1894, when the compulsory Education Act comes into force, the Board hammers at—and if I were a member of the 760 Board I would not despair of hammering at—proposals which are not open to the objections which can be urged against those now submitted to us, I am certain there will be no difficulty in meeting that which all Parties in the House admit to be a claim it is desirable to have met. In the meantime, I, for one, shall vote against a Bill which, if carried, would impose new burdens upon this House, which would give new and illegitimate power to another House, and which, of all things, would tend in the direction of that centralization which gentlemen of all Parties—Liberal Unionists and Conservatives, as well as ourselves—desire to moderate, and some of us wish to bring to an end.
§ MR. JACKSON (Leeds, N.)
In the two or three minutes that are left to me, I should like to say that I do not understand that my hon. Friends in bringing forward this Bill desire to cast any slight upon the Education Board. I am quite prepared to endorse everything the right hon. Gentleman opposite has said as regards the administration of the Board in England. They have done a great work in the cause of education, and I think they have done that work extremely well. I did not understand that the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) said a single word with regard to the Board's past administration, or that that was at all the question that was raised by the Bill. Nor did I understand that any charge or complaint was made against the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary himself. On the contrary, his conduct in this matter has been spoken of in terms of approval by my hon. Friends. If I may say so, the only complaint made against the right hon. Gentleman was that made by the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill), that he has not gone further than he has done and accepted the new rule instead of rejecting it. With regard to the admission to the benefits of the grant of all primary schools in Ireland, it was my duty on a former occasion to express the views of the then Government on that subject. I said distinctly that they thought there could be no exception made especially in favour of the Christian Brothers' Schools, and that any rule or 761 alteration that was made must apply to all schools alike, and not give any exceptional advantage to any one. I admit that those who were charged with the responsibility of administering the Government of Ireland desired to find some plan by which the Christian Brothers and other schools could bring themselves in connection with the Department. As far as I was concerned I was quite prepared to do what I could, in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Board and without departing from the fundamental principle of the rules, to build a bridge by which the Christian Brothers' Schools and all other schools might be brought under the grant. To return to the Bill. I understand the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Morley) does not take up the position that no change ought to be made. I would point out that one of my hon. Friends in charge of the Bill said he did not tie himself to a particular clause, and that he was willing to accept Amendments that would bring it into a form that might suit other hon. Members. As I understand him, the broad principle he contends for is that, before any rule is passed altering the fundamental conditions of the administration of the National Board's education, there should be some publication of it, so that Members of this House might have an opportunity if they desired of bringing the subject before this House. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman would go so far as to say that he would object to such a plan as that being adopted, and I may point out that the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Sexton) himself took up that line.
Mr. T. M. HEALY
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, as it appeared to him that the House was prepared to come to an immediate decision.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 166; Noes 247.—(Division List, No. 16.)
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Second Reading put off for six months.