HC Deb 09 July 1897 vol 50 cc1523-40

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £2,450, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898, for a grant in aid of the expenses of the Queen's Colleges in Ireland.


called attention to the claims of the Roman Catholic population of Ireland with respect to University education. Looking to the Estimate, he said, it might be imagined that the annual expenditure on the Queen's Colleges only amounted to £33,000; as a matter of fact, it amounted more nearly to £38,900. The explanation was that a sum of £5,000 had been eliminated from the Estimate and been transferred from the Irish Church Fund to the expenses of the new institution of which the Queen's Colleges were nurseries, the Royal University. In other words, the English Government, while pretending to do justice to Ireland, had appropriated £5,000 of Irish money which used to be taken out of public funds. The question of University education in Ireland was of intense interest at the present time. The Irish case was this, that a large sum of money had been expended uselessly on a University system which the Irish people would nut take, while everything like University education for the Catholic people of Ireland had been starved out. There was given out of public funds towards University education a sum annually of £168,000. What was given to Catholics out of that sum? £3,000 a year only. It was worth while showing the way this £3,000 came to them. It was given in an indirect way. There were certain fellowships established under this grant in the Royal University. The holders of these fellowships, 14 in number, were asked to lecture in University College in Dublin. They lectured there and likewise examined in the Royal University, and their whole income for lecturing and examining was the £3,000 referred to. Now when it was considered that the Catholics were four-fifths of the whole population, this was an intolerable proportion. For 30 years absolute promises had been made across the floor of the House on this subject. In 1868 Lord Mayo expressly promised in the strongest terms a Catholic University. Twelve years ago the gentleman who was now, as then, Chancellor of the Exchequer, expressly promised that he would bring in a Bill to establish a Catholic University, but nothing had been done, and still they had the same miserable round of promises. Even in the present year the Chief Secretary reiterated words which he and Lord Cadogan spoke outside the House. The Chief Secretary was a firm upholder of the Union, but he had always thought that his policy in that respect was based on some foundation of this kind—that the English Parliament would give to the people of Ireland what was just and reasonable. Did the right hon. Gentleman know that it was owing to the direct action of the English Government that the Irish people at the present day were proscribed from all the benefits of University education. It was no myth that before the English came to the country at all there was a college at Lismore, in which there were 1,400 students from every country in Europe, and it was no secret that here was the nucleus of a university. And let him tell the right hon. Gentleman that if the Protestant Parliament of Ireland had not been destroyed it would have granted a Catholic University to Ireland. In 1793, in the first Relief Act for Catholics passed by the Irish Parliament, there was the provision that if a new college should be affiliated to Trinity College, Dublin, every Catholic should be eligible for scholarships and fellowships, and even the professorships of the college. He recollected too, that in the Debate on the Irish University question which took place in 1885, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when the extravagant expenditure of the Queen's College was brought up, said that so far as he could see, he could not defend that expenditure, and that the Government would carefully consider how the sum, whatever it was, appropriated to Irish University Education, could best be appropriated. Let them see if it was appropriated in the best way. The Catholic University College had to provide all its buildings and all its apparatus, and yet it was able to surpass and to win university prizes from the pampered students of the Queen's Colleges in Cork and Galway. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Walsh, had watched the progress of the University question in Ireland with very great attention, and he had within the last few days published a book, in which he showed that during the last 12 years the Catholic College had beaten absolutely the colleges of Cork, Belfast, and Galway in carrying off the first prizes, and in the matter of honours, both the Cork and Galway colleges. In honours, during the past 12 years, the Catholic Colleges had passed no fewer than 926 men, whereas from the combined colleges of Cork and Galway there were only 382 passed.. When they came to first honours, the pre-eminence and distinction of this Catholic College was still more markeds. In the Catholic College 324 men had passed in first honours, whereas from Galway and Cork there were only 97.

MR. RENTOUL (Down, E.)

From how many students?


said he was glad of that interruption, because it enabled him to strengthen his case. The number in the Catholic College was, he thought, about 150, while the number at present in Queen's College, Cork, was 212, and in Queen's College, Galway, about 200. This showed that, with a lesser number than either of these two colleges, the Catholic College had taken a greater number of prizes. Then, when they came to medicine, they found that the Catholic College was able to compete not only with Cork and Galway, but with Belfast also. In medicine, during the last 12 years, 71 men had gone out of the Catholic College with first-class honours, while from the Belfast College only 53 men had gone out, 24 from Cork, and eight from Galway. Scholarships and exhibitions were lavishly strewn upon the floor of these colleges for anyone who chose to take them. They were simply a bribe to induce the intelligent sons of small farmers in Ireland to adopt a system of education which their Church disapproved and to become bad citizens and bad Irishmen. Men who had been plucked in examinations elsewhere had gone back and obtained these scholarships in the Queen's Colleges. He had gone through the report furnished to Parliament every year by the heads of the Queen's Colleges in Cork and in Galway. He left out of consideration the Queen's College in Belfast, because it was a great success, and, like Trinity College, was exactly suitable to the requirements of the pupil; but they were both sectarian.

MR. LECKY (Dublin University)

said it was untrue to say that Trinity College was sectarian.


maintained that it was, at any rate, true to say that the tone and feeling were thoroughly sectarian. In Cork College there were 212 pupils and 16 Professors. The Greek Professor with £366 a year had only 12 pupils; the Professor of political economy with £167 a year had only four pupils; the Professor of law with £175 a year had five pupils; and then there was the president of the College who had a safe and snug berth. There was one professor, the Professor of moral philosophy, with £335 a year, who had no pupils at all. [Laughter.] The Professor of foreign languages combined in his curriculum French, German and Italian. In French he had three pupils, in German two, and in Italian two, and his salary was £241 10s. The Professor of law with £150 a year had eight pupils. He should like to hear the First Lord of the Treasury defend this system. He maintained that at the head of these colleges there ought to be men of moral weight. Who, he asked, was the President of Queen's College, Cork? It was Sir Rowland Ponsonby Blennerhassett, who possessed no educational degree and who had no qualification for the post. He was, however, the paymaster of Pigott, and he was given the post because he financed that infamous man. Pigott's last despairing telegram for money was addressed to Sir Rowland Ponsonby Blennerhassett, and when he was unsuccessful in destroying the Irish people he ran away under the assumed name of Rowland Ponsonby Blennerhassett. Nothing more scandalous had been perpetrated since the Union than the appointment of a man of that character to be the head of youth. ["Hear, hear!"] He had now come to the question of the establishment of a Catholic University. The Chief Secretary gave a specific pledge on the 22nd of January last that there should be a Catholic University and so did the First Lord of the Treasury on the same night. If there was any security in the promise the Leader of the House was pledged up to the hilt. The right hon. Gentleman practically put a series of questions to the Catholic hierarchy. He asked whether they would be content that the clergy should not have a predominant voice in the institution, whether they would be content that an ecclesiastical or divinity chair should not be endowed out of public funds, whether they would be content to make an arrangement like the conscience clause, so that a youth not belonging to the Catholic faith should not be interfered with. The Catholic Bishops had given three specific answers which must have thoroughly satisfied the right hon. Gentlemen. This was a matter upon which all Ireland was unanimous. There was not a single dissentient voice—["Oh !"]—except, perhaps, a few gentlemen in Belfast. Trinity College was very anxious for it; and he was not revealing any secret when he said that one of the most eminent Professors of Trinity College said to him, only a short time ago, "Wouldn't you think such and such a building in Dublin would be a right good building for the Catholic University?" He would ask the right hon. Gentleman seriously, now that the Bishops had given these assurances, would he take the great majority behind him, and use it in accordance with the wishes of the Irish people, and with his own feelings—which, in this matter, were theirs,—and grant the people, who were thirsting for knowledge—["Oh!"]—yes, thirsting for knowledge—for they were refused knowledge when it was divorced from their religious instincts. [Cheers.] Would he give them now the university education they were so unanimous in demanding? He had it in his power; he had an unrivalled opportunity; such an opportunity had not offered itself for the last thirty years. ["Hear, hear!"] What they now wanted to know was the day—they would all be there at the wedding. [Laughter and cheers.]


hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give them some definite assurance. When he spoke in January last in the Debate on the Address, the Irish Members firmly believed that that speech gave them a promise more definite than any of the numerous previous promises they had received. It was a promise that if the Bishops of Ireland and the Catholic laity would give the right hon. Gentleman the information he then asked for he would practically settle this question. What had happened since January last? The Bishops had considered the question, and had made a public declaration within the last month, which in that House the right hon. Gentleman had accepted as thoroughly satisfactory, and in every way calculated to remove any of the difficulties that were supposed to lie in the way of the Government. The Bishops had been led into making this declaration by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and he knew that he could receive at any moment from the Irish representatives any information he desired which it was in their power to give. He wished to direct the attention of the House and the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that immediately after the declaration of the Irish Catholic Bishops the Dublin Daily Express—which spoke, he thought, he might fairly say, for the whole body of Anglicans in Ireland—published an article which did the greatest possible credit to that journal, and in which it stated that the declaration of the Bishops did them honour, and was entirely satisfactory; and that, for their part, speaking for Irish Protestants, they trusted there would be no further delay in dealing with the question. ["Hear, hear!"] The representatives of Trinity College held the same view. In fact, there was not a single representative Irishman—except perhaps one of the Members for Belfast, who held very strong opinions, and who had gone to Belfast to celebrate the 12th of July. [Laughter.] With this solitary exception not a single individual amongst the whole of the Irish Members had stood up or would stand up and say that he saw any reason why this question should not be settled. ["Hear, hear!"] Surely the demand of the young Catholics of Ireland, made generation after generation, must be acceded to. Whether they were right or wrong was no longer a question to be argued, because the right hon. Gentleman had admitted the fact—he had admitted that they had no right to inquire whether the demand was justified or not—he had admitted that after so many long years of trial they had proved that the present system would not, and could not, meet their wants; and surely the young Catholic men of Ireland, after having suffered for generations from what the right hon. Gentleman himself had characterised as cruel disabilities in this matter of education, had a claim upon the right hon. Gentleman and the Government and that House that they should be no longer subjected to such disabilities, and that no further delays should be imposed. (Cheers.) This was a question, one would suppose after what had occurred in that House within the last fortnight, that had been once for all lifted out of the region of Party politics. The leaders on both sides had declared that the question ought to be settled, indeed ought to have been settled long ago, and he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman no longer to meet them with evasion, but to state specifically that he would next Session—if it could not be clone this Session—introduce a Bill that would settle finally this question of a Catholic University for Ireland. (Cheers.)


said the hon. Member who had just spoken had told the House that no protest had been raised, except by one hon. Member of the House with regard to this proposal. Certainly he was not in a position to raise any protests on the facts, because he did not know what the facts were. But he did reserve the right of himself and his constituents, if they were to have proposals which had been previously made in that House reproduced—a right which they would certainly exercise—of criticising and opposing those proposals if they thought it their duty to do so. ["Hear, hear!"] He wished to point out that an attempt had been made, which would no doubt be repeated, to represent those who did not go with the hon. Member to the full extent as being illiberal and retrograde. The Universities which had been alluded to by hon. Members were the institutions of an age gone by, and in some instances such Universities had been removed by Government because they were not considered essential to the civilisation and the education of the countries in which they were situated and were not thought to be compatible with the best interests of the places in which they carried on their operations. The University of London had not been such a success that they were warranted in creating a similar institution in Ireland. He objected strongly to such a University as had been suggested unless on lines he considered compatible with absolute freedom to those who desired to attend it, and he was sure he should be misrepresenting the views of a large number of his constituents if he did not enter his protest against it at the present moment. He did not know what negotiations might have passed between Her Majesty's Government and those on behalf of whom the Member for East Mayo spoke, but, at any rate, he could not stand by and be taken as acquiescing in what the hon. Member had put forward.


said he had already expressed his views on the subject. He entirely agreed that Trinity College was an unsectarian institution, and he understood that the Catholics of Ireland were willing to have a university which would be unsectarian in the same sense. At the same time, it would, of course, be folly to deny that Trinity College was a great centre for the Protestant Church in Ireland, and that there was also connected with that college certain services which he hoped would always continue there, and which would always give a certain Protestant aroma to the precincts of that great institution. The one main contention that his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House put forward was that this Question could not be dealt with until the Catholics of Ireland manifested to the Government that they were willing that, so far as these matters were absolutely unsectarian in Trinity College, they should be unsectarian in the proposed new University, and that, so far as the use of public funds went, they should be devoted to unsectarian purposes alone. If that was what the Catholics were willing to accept, let them not talk of this matter as if it were a bugbear of a purely Catholic University where there would be exclusion of all religious liberty as far as Protestants were concerned. ["Hear, hear!"] Let them start with what the Catholics offered to accept—namely, what Protestants had got. [Nationalist cheers.] What he had always said and adhered to was this—would he as a Protestant in Ireland, who believed in the value of University education, deny for a moment to his Roman Catholic fellow citizens exactly what he enjoyed. ["Hear, hear!"] That proposition would be absolutely unarguable. He did not know that there might not be some persons in his own constituency opposed to granting a University on these terms, but so far as the internal Government of Trinity College was concerned, he did not believe there would be any objection. ["Hear, hear!"] Having done all they could to attract Catholics to Trinity College and failed, ought they to say that because they would not come to them they should have no University education at all? He had never hesitated to put forward the view that it was the best interest of Ireland that this question should be settled, and when the Government saw their way to bring the matter before the House for settlement, he could only say, on his own behalf and on behalf of his right hon. colleague, that they would welcome a fair solution of the question on the lines lie had indicated. ["Hear, hear!"]


An appeal has been made to me from both sides of the House, and by more than one speaker, upon a subject winch has become more identified with my own individual utterances than any other question in connection with recent Irish policy. A question has been asked me as to whether it is intended that a Bill dealing with higher education in Ireland shall be introduced in the course of next Session. I feel certain that the hon. Gentleman who asked the question and the others who have spoken upon it must all be aware that at this time a forecast can scarcely ever be given by the Government with regard to the coming Session. A pledge has been distinctly given that one great Irish Measure shall be brought in next Session, and the fact that that promise has been given shows that the complexion of next Session will be largely—I will not say predominantly—Irish; and that I should mortgage the rest of that Session to another Irish bill goes beyond anything I could promise on behalf of the Government. ["Hear, hear!"] There is no doubt in the minds of hon. Members who initiated this Debate a desire to know what the views of the Government are with regard to the recent declarations made on high authority by the Roman Catholic Bishops in Ireland. The hon. Member for Donegal said that the declarations of the Irish Bishops were made in response to a speech which I delivered in the Debates on the Address. That, as I gather, is a large approach to the truth, and if I am responsible for the declarations of the Irish Bishops on this subject I have to congratulate myself the more for having made the speech to which the hon. Member referred, for everybody must feel that the Roman Catholic Bishops have on this occasion made declarations of the utmost importance, showing that a great change has come over public opinion in Ireland on this question, and that they are not only ready but anxious to have a University started which Roman Catholics might not only attend, but which should harmonise generally with the views of Roman Catholics, and which should have its doors as widely open to members of all denominations as Trinity College, Dublin, and which should be as open as any other University in the land to everything connected with the progress of knowledge and to the advancement of all the liberal arts. That declaration, I think, must have a great bearing upon public opinion both in this country and in Ireland. ["Hear, hear!"] Those exponents of Irish opinion who were supposed to be most hostile to these modern views have now declared in favour of them, and we have it specifically on their authority that they welcome, as understand, a governing body on which laymen shall predominate, and that they are prepared to safeguard the interests of the professors and to accept in the fullest sense those very statutes which in the cases of Trinity College, Dublin, and of Oxford and Cambridge insure that the emoluments and teaching of those great seats of learning shall be open to men of every religious creed. I think that is a most important declaration, and I think I may almost gather from the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast—studiously guarded as that speech was—that he himself would not be averse for a settlement of this difficult subject upon the general lines thus laid down. But when the hon. Member for Donegal and other hon. Gentlemen sitting upon the other side of the House told us that public opinion is so far advanced that it rests simply with the Government to bring in a non-contentious Measure of one clause—that, I think, was the happy solution suggested the other day across the floor of the House—a non-contentious Measure of one clause which should for ever settle this question, I think they hardly reckoned with every phase of public opinion in Ireland, in England, and in Scotland. ["Hear, hear!"] I have made myself, perhaps to my own detriment, somewhat a missionary in this matter. I have done my best for many years, and if, as I trust will not be the case, the question is not rapidly solved, I shall continue to make myself the strong and earnest advocate of opinions which I hold to be of the utmost importance in the interests of higher education and in the interests of the whole social life of Ireland. I hold those views with the utmost strength of conviction, and nothing will induce me to go back on one word which, as far as I remember, I have ever uttered upon this question. But I do not conceal from myself that there is a process of conversion to be effected in connection with this matter. There are many persons holding quite honestly the view that to establish such university would be a retrograde measure—["hear, hear!"]— and that it would be a concession to opinions with which they profoundly disagree. I confess that though I understand those views I do not sympathise with them. [Nationalist cheers.] I am a Protestant. I fear that some people would even regard me as a bigoted Protestant, and it is partly because I am a bigoted Protestant that I hold the views that I do in this matter, for I cannot help picturing to myself what course I should take if I were responsible for a young man of 17 or 18, and had open to me for his university training no college except one in which the general current and trend of opinion was Roman Catholic, in which the majority of the teachers were Roman Catholic, and in which the public services were celebrated on the Roman Catholic system. Greatly as I believe in the value of higher education, that a university training is one of the greatest blessings any man can have on the entrance of life, I, holding the Protestant opinions I do, should hesitate to send to such a college any ward of mine for whose education I was responsible. Holding these Protestant views, am I not to be permitted to credit Roman Catholics with similar views? [Irish cheers.] With regard to places of worship, every word of the description I have given about a Roman Catholic University might be applied, with the substitution of the word "Protestant" for Roman Catholic. ["Hear, hear!"] I confess that no argument, no casuistry, to which I have listened has been able to shake my conviction that it is a hardship—I do not like to use the word "injustice" because we might argue for ever about what is just or unjust—a hardship on the great majority of the Roman Catholics in Ireland that they are not to be allowed to have a place of higher education which harmonises with their views in the same sense in which Trinity College, Dublin, Oxford, and Cambridge (the great traditional Universities of England), harmonise with the general views of Protestants in England. Holding the views I do, I shall do all I can in accordance with them. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know perfectly well when they talk of carrying a non-contentious clause, when they assume opinions, however strongly held by individuals, whatever position those individuals may occupy in their Party—that does not carry with it any remedy or cure for the Parliamentary difficulties to which controversial questions give rise. But I think I see symptoms—not small symptoms—of a change of public opinion in this country on the subject. I believe the views I hold with such earnestness are beginning to penetrate in many directions where they had but little foothold some years ago, and certainly the action of the Catholic Bishops has done a great deal to forward a cause which is not, I believe, the cause of any one special form of religious denomination, the cause of Roman Catholicism against Protestantism, but is emphatically the cause of higher education against that want of higher education and culture under which we have, unfortunately, for many years condemned so many persons in Ireland. [Cheers.]


I do not propose to make many observations after the interesting, eloquent, and important speech we have just heard from the First Lord of the Treasury. But I think the Committee ought to realise where it is. With what the right hon. Gentleman has said on the urgency of the matter, and the grounds upon which he has defended his own views I venture humbly, but most entirely, to agree. He has stated the case for dealing with higher education in Ireland with a force and breadth that leaves nothing to be desired. I also agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he warns my hon. Friends from Ireland, that this will not be a one-clause or non-contentious Measure. As I have said, I cordially and entirely agree with the views of the right hon. Gentleman. But if the Benches behind me were more populous than they are, I am not at all sure I should find a majority of those who sit behind me in agreement with me. I have always taken care, in speaking on this subject, to say that I spoke for myself only, and it is clear from what has fallen from the hon. Member for Belfast, that the Government in dealing with this question, will undoubtedly find a great many serious difficulties. As the right hon. Gentleman said, next Session is pledged to an Irish Measure of the first importance which will no doubt occupy a great deal of Parliamentary time, and when he says it will be impossible for the Government to add to the Measure for Local Government in Ireland a second Irish Measure bristling with controversy of every kind, and which would involve a large amount of detail, I cannot deny that there is a good deal to be said for the right hon. Gentleman's position. But here is a Measure which the right hon. Gentleman argues for as being of the most urgent importance for the well-being of Ireland which cannot be taken next year. Then will it be taken the year after?


I did not say the Bill could not be passed next year. What I refuse to do is to make any further pledge.


I am glad the right hon. Gentleman takes a more hopeful view of what may be done next year. So do not let us suppose that because the Bill promised bears on the controversy of the government of Ireland that time cannot be found next Session reasonably to deal with the question we have been discussing. Then it will be argued by the Government, and very reasonably, that it would be unfair, having devoted the whole or the larger part of the Session of 1898 to an Irish question, to devote to another Irish question of great importance the whole or part of the Session of 1899. Therefore it comes to this, that a Measure which the right hon. Gentleman has given the House such enormously powerful reasons for thinking is urgently demanded for the well-being of Ireland, a Measure upon which Irish opinion, I will not say is unanimous, because it is not quite unanimous, but which I suppose 95 out of the 103 Members for Ireland will cordially and earnestly support—["hear, hear!"]—that a Measure of that kind demanded by the great bulk of opinion in Ireland, and of the Members representing Ireland, is in effect, postponed sine die, and certainly postponed during the probable duration of this Parliament. I think, apart from the merits of Irish University education, that that is a very striking lesson which English and Scotch Members may well lay to heart, that this Parliament has not time to deal with this matter, and that apparently Englishmen and Scotch-men, according to the First Lord of the Treasury, have not the inclination to do so, either through failure to comprehend the conditions of the question or through a determination to assert their own prejudices against the wishes of the majority of the people of Ireland. This Parliament is, in effect, to deny to Ireland the boon which the right hon. Gentleman, on the one side, and I myself, from my Irish experience and approaching the the question from an entirely different point of view, entirely concur is desirable. We know quite well that a demand of that kind is not likely to be satisfied or conceded during the duration of the present Parliament, and I think it is fair for one like myself, who agree with Gentlemen below the Gangway in their desire for this reform- -at some detriment to myself—to warn the Irish Bishops that if they think they will get a Roman Catholic University from the present Parliament they are much more sanguine than I should have expected.


said the whole Presbyterian Church of Ireland was opposed to this university. The Presbyterian clergy were singularly free from bigotry, but they were persuaded that a mixed education would be more conducive to harmony among the people. Nineteen-twentieths of the Presbyterian clergy were followers of Mr. Gladstone down to 1886, and were at the present time Liberal-Unionists, and Presbyterian ministers had again and again stood on platforms shoulder to shoulder with Roman Catholic priests in discussing the Irish land question and in supporting the cause of tenant right. There was no church that was freer from the odium theologicum, but they were opposed to a Sectarian University. They believed that to have sectarian Universities would bring about an unhappy state of affairs in the country.

And it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee also Report progress; to sit again upon Monday next.