HC Deb 09 June 1898 vol 58 cc1166-8

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether his attention has been called to the suit of O'Sullivan v. Hunt, tried before the Lord Chief Baron and a special jury at Dublin on the 20th ult., in which the plaintiff, who was head mistress of the Leislip National School for 28 years, got a verdict of £221 10s. for wrongful dismissal and slander against the Very Reverend Canon Hunt, P.P., manager of the said school; is he aware that Mrs. O'Sullivan was dismissed at a moment's notice without any justifiable complaint against her as a teacher, and thus deprived of her means of living and the opportunity of completing the three years' time qualification to entitle her to the maximum retiring pension; whether, in view of the very high certificates as a teacher which Mrs. O'Sullivan holds and all the circumstances of the case, he will see that the Board of National Education will allow her the full pension to which, but for this illegal dismissal, she would have become entitled in a few years; whether under the rules of the Board of National Education in Ireland managers have this power of dismissing teachers without any right of appeal; if so, whether he proposes to make any change in the system for the protection of teachers against the exercise of that power?


My attention has been directed to a report of the proceedings in the case mentioned in the first paragraph. The teacher was dismissed by the local manager in pursuance of Rule 99 (b) of the Regulations of the Commissioners of National Education, which provides that the local manager is the person who is charged with the direct government of the school and the appointment and removal of teachers. The official agreement executed in this case gave the manager absolute power to determine the employment of the teacher at any time without previous notice to the teacher, but in every such case he was bound to pay to the teacher three months' salary. The manager was also empowered to determine the employment without previous notice for misconduct or other sufficient reason, in which case the teacher would not be entitled to any compensation. The Commissioners could not continue grants to the teacher after her discontinuance of school duty, and, considering her age, should she not find re-employment as a recognised National teacher, she could not claim the maximum pension. It is understood from a letter to the Press, signed by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, though there is no official information on the subject, that Mrs. O'Sullivan will be reinstated in the position of teacher. The amount of the pension which she could now claim would be £20 12s. 8d. a year, whereas if she be reinstated as teacher, either at Leislip or other National school, she would be in a position to qualify for the maximum pension of £35 a year. As regards the last paragraph of the Question, I am informed that in 1895 the Commissioners deemed it desirable to afford managers and teachers who might desire it a means of appeal to a third party, so as to guard more effectively against the possibility of inconsiderate action on the part of teachers or managers, and accordingly new forms of agreement were introduced providing for the appointment of a referee, without whose consent in writing a teacher cannot be dismissed. I have no power to make any change such as suggested in the concluding paragraph.


Is the right honourable Gentleman aware that since this case was decided there have arisen several other cases of dismissal without right of appeal to any authority? Will he get Parliamentary power to protect teachers against the exercise of this arbitrary power?


If the honourable Member means will I introduce a Bill on the subject, my reply is that I am not prepared to do that; any alteration of the rule should be initiated by the Commissioners themselves.