HC Deb 20 August 1894 vol 29 cc15-6
MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland is he aware that the Trustees of the Erasmus Smith Endowment do not know whether they are fulfilling any part whatever of the one essential and primary obligation under which alone they have received the endowment—namely, to give free intermediate and University education to all the children of all the tenants on all the Irish estates of Erasmus Smith, and to 20 other poor children within two English miles of his schools at Galway, Drogheda, and Tipperary; whether, if the Protestant Judicial Commissioner refuses to sign a Draft Scheme, the endowment will remain in exclusively Protestant hands, as it has remained during the last 225 years; and whether, in view of the fact that the Governors of the Erasmus Smith Schools put before the Educational Endowments (Ireland) Commissioners in 1886 a Draft Scheme containing a Conscience Clause, which exempted Catholic pupils attending the Erasmus Smith Schools from receiving Protestant instructions, he can take any steps to a Scheme being agreed to under which, if the endowments are vested in Catholics, the Protestants may be protected by a similar Conscience Clause?


It appears from the Reports of the successive Commissions which have inquired into the case of the Erasmus Smith Endowments that the education which the Governors are under an obligation to provide is subject to religious and denominational conditions and restrictions which prevent Roman Catholic pupils from availing themselves of it. It is a question upon which the Executive Government has no means of forming an opinion how far these religious restrictions and conditions must prevail, or must be regarded as essential and primary, in order to give effect to the intention of the founder. If the Judicial Commissioners under the Educational Endowments Act of 1885 do not concur in signing a Scheme, the endowments will continue to be administered in accordance with the existing Charters and Statutes and the Rules framed by Erasmus Smith in his lifetime, until altered by lawful authority such as an Act of Parliament, Charter, or Decree of the Court of Chancery. The Executive Government has no authority to interfere with the Judicial Commissioners in the discharge of their duties, and, I am advised, has no means of ascertaining whether the endowments of Erasmus Smith can be vested in Roman Catholics, or subjected to a Conscience Clause, without vitiating the intention of the founder.