§ 1. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £787,503 (including a Supplementary sum of £95,434) 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, 1901, for the 674 Expenses of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, including a Grant in Aid of the Teachers' Pension Fund, Ireland."
§ * MR. O'MALLEY (Galway, Connemara)
I rise, Sir, for the purpose of bringing before the Committee the unsatisfactory condition of primary education in Ireland. This House has given, and rightly given, a great deal of its time and attention to the question of education in Great Britain, and it will be admitted that vast progress has been made for the last thirty years towards educational perfection in England, Scotland, and Wales. Old methods and old systems have given way to new methods and now systems, and although the change has been slow, it has been sure and steady, and to-day the British people of all grades, and especially the poorer portion of the people, enjoy an excellent, if not a perfect, system of education. I believe that England is. still behind the Continental countries in educational matters, but from year to year this House gives effect to legislation in the direction of improving it, and it may be said with truth that to-day the people of England, Scotland, and Wales have little to complain upon this question. But, Sir, how stands the case of Ireland? That is the question I wish to bring under the notice of the Committee, and I ask for its indulgence while I attempt to do so. I have seen what has been done for education in these countries within the last thirty years—old ideas and systems, as I have said, giving way to new ideas and systems; but in Ireland I have seen, during all those years, old-fashioned ideas and old-fashioned and stupid systems maintained and adhered to with, I may say, surprising tenacity and obstinacy. The same books that were in use in the so-called National schools when I was a boy are in use there to-day. One set of school books, one system of examination, one narrow set of ideas, one narrow groove. It is true that in their new rules just laid before Parliament the Commissioners have some important and satisfactory changes; but while the countries of the whole world have been for years alive to the necessity and importance of education, the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland have remained ignorant or indifferent to the necessity and importance of having the people of Ireland properly and intelligently educated. But, 675 Sir, I do not purpose discussing in detail the out-of-date and stupid National school system of education in Ireland, nor shall I criticise the new rules. There is one phase of it, and one alone, that I want to dwell upon to-day, and that is the policy of the Commissioners of Education in ignoring the advantages of the bilingual system of instruction in those parts of Ireland where the Irish language is in general use and may be said to be the home language. Hon. Gentlemen in this House who know anything of the Welsh educational system, or who have acquired other languages than their own, will recognise the necessity and the advantage of the bilingual system, and although its importance has been urged, and strongly urged, upon the Irish Educational Commissioners, this old-fashioned and obsolete body ignore the representations made to them on this matter; and therefore, Sir, we are compelled to bring this all-important and vital subject for the proper education of our people before this Parliament. Hon. Members may be aware that this Irish language question has engaged and is engaging the anxious attention of the people of Ireland. It is a most important question, and the sooner Parliament realises that fact and deals with it the better.
We look at this question from two standpoints. We believe that as a separate entity, if I may say so; as a separate and distinct nationality; as a Celtic people, we should speak our own Celtic language. I shall not go into the policy and the methods adopted by this country in the past in penalising the Irish language, but the Irish people are now determined to restore that language as far as it is in their power to do so, so that future generations of Irishmen will be able to speak their own language just as the people of Wales to-day speak their Welsh tongue. This Parliament can help in that direction, and this Parliament is bound to recognise and respect—if it acts constitutionally—the wishes of the Irish people. That is our first standpoint. The second standpoint from which we view this question is the urgent necessity for properly educating our children in those Irish-speaking districts where Irish is the home language. The present system is altogether wrong in principle and most pernicious in its effects. It is utterly im- 676 possible to acquire a proper knowledge of the subjects taught in those schools in the Irish speaking districts unless the bi-lingual system is adopted. I want that fact to be thoroughly realised by the Committee, and to enable the Committee to fully appreciate it, perhaps it will allow me to quote a few passages from the report of Mr. Leggard one of Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors of Schools in Wales. I believe efforts have been made to teach the Welsh children through the medium of English, but it has been fully recognised of late that that system was a hopeless failure, and now I believe that the bilingual system is universally adopted in the Principality. What does Mr. Leggard say in his report for 1898?No system can really flourish unless it is supported by national sentiment and unless it has won the affections of the people. In the case of Wales, it is clear, I think, that education has got a real hold of the popular sympathies, just as it has in the northern part of Great Britain.It would be well to bear in mind that in some of the Welsh-speaking districts the children never hear a word of English outside the schools, and so the English language is something quite apart from their daily life and interests, and is merely a vehicle for school lessons. … Should it not be frankly recognised that English is a foreign language, and that it should be taught by the best methods of teaching foreign languages? Welsh children should not merely learn bookish English, but they should be encouraged from the infants' school upwards to talk in the foreign tongue about things that interest them—their homes, their games, their pet animals; and when a vocabulary is acquired simple rules of grammar will gradually be deduced, and the children will be trained in due course by speaking correctly to write correctly. Instruction in English on the lines I have indicated should help Welsh children to appreciate better their own mother tongue. …For Welsh-speaking districts such explanatory instruction (on other subjects beside reading) should in the earlier years of school life be to a great extent given in the vernacular, and the children will thus be able to assimilate what they hear. This they cannot do while they are puzzled by the unfamiliar sounds of an unknown tongue.Mr. L. J. Roberts, one of Mr. Leggard's colleagues, in his report for the same year, remarks—The use of bilingual reading-books systematically throughout a school helps to do away with the difficulties of the Welsh child. He gains self-confidence, he sees delicate varieties of meaning which he could not otherwise grasp, his taste for reading in both languages is developed, and the mere practice of comparing the idioms of two languages is itself a valuable mental exercise.677 Mr. Jones, another colleague of Mr. Leggard, says in his report—The future of Welsh education is very promising, and the Welsh people have now placed within their reach educational advantages which were undreamt of at the beginning of the century.Can that be said of Ireland? I ask again: Can that be said of Ireland? and if not, why not? That is the question.
I now come to a report by Mr. Darlington, another Welsh school inspector. Mr. Darlington says—I feel strongly that reading as at present taught is not doing as much as it might do in the direction of stimulating the general intelligence of the scholars. The fact that in teaching a Welsh child to read English we are really teaching him the use of a foreign language is at present not sufficiently taken into account, and one feels too often that a mechanical fluency in reading English is accompanied by the vaguest possible notion of the sense of the passage read. The use of bilingual readers has done much to make the reading lesson a more intelligent exercise. Still more satisfactory results are obtained in schools where the practice of oral translations forms a regular part of the reading lesson.These reports, from which I have given only, a few extracts, are taken from the general report of Mr. Leggard, the Chief Inspector. Mr. Leggard concludes his enlightened and interesting report in these words—I will only say in conclusion that the state of elementary education in Wales is full of encouragement, provided those concerned with it do not rest contented with their achievements in the past, but endeavour to make steady and united progress in the future.I am sure hon. Members will agree with me that there should be no further necessity for me to argue the point as to the advantages of the bilingual system where English is not the home language. I have quoted from the reports of several Welsh school inspectors in support of my case, and now I shall quote from a solitary Irish Commissioner—Dr. Starkie, who stands alone, or almost alone, in the wilderness of prejudice, ignorance, and antediluvianism which surrounds the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland. Dr. Starkie, in a speech last February, used these words—The National Board had made a disastrous blunder in thrusting on a Gaelic-speaking race a system of education produced after a foreign model and utterly alien to their sympathies and antecedents. The attempt was unsound (he continued), both philosophically and practically. The Board were guilty of narrow pedantry in neglecting as worthless the whole spiritual life of the pupil, and the multitude 678 of associations, imaginations, and sentiments that formed the content of his consciousness. To this unhappy blunder may be attributed the want of initiative and independence, and distaste of knowledge, which so hamper the industrial development of Ireland—qualities so alien to the quick sympathies and alert intelligence which are the most salient characteristics of our race.It is quite refreshing to come across an Irish official with such broad, enlightened, and patriotic views. As far as I know, there is only one Nationalist on this educational board—Archbishop Walsh, and not only is he a Nationalist but he is a man of great culture, and he is a strong advocate for the bilingual system. Who are the other Commissioners? The present members are the following—
|E. G. Dease, D.L||1880|
|W. L. Newell, LL.D., C.B., J. P.||1886|
|J. Malcolm Inglis, J.P.||1887|
|Sir Percy R. Grace., Bart, D. L.||1888|
|G. F. Fitzgerald, F. T. C. D., F. R. S||1888|
|Sir H. Bellingham, Bart., D. L.||1890|
|Center Hon. Christopher Palles, Lord Chief Baron||1890|
|Rev. Henry Evans, D. D.||1890|
|Sir R. Blennerhassett, Bart., D. L.||1891|
|Rev. Hamilton B. Wilson. D. D.||1892|
|Archbishop Walsh, D. D.||1895|
|Stanley Harrington, J. P.||1895|
|W. R. J. Molloy, J. P.||1895|
|Edward Dowden, LL. D., D. C. L.||1896|
|Rev. J. H. Bernard, D. D., F. T. C. D||1897|
|Center Rev. Mervyn Archdall, D. D||1897|
|W. J. M. Starkie (Resident Commissioner)||1899|
§ In that list of twenty gentlemen, I venture to say that with the exception of Dr. Walsh there is not a man amongst them who is not a Unionist. They are men who have a horror of every Nationalist sentiment, who are steeped to the lips in bigotry, prejudice, and intolerance, men who see in this Gallic League movement, the Scarlet Lady of Rome or a Republican Ireland. These are the gentlemen the Government of this country entrust the education of the Catholic and Nationalist people of Ireland to! Is it any wonder that the Irish people hate your modes of governing their country?
§ Well, Sir, school inspectors have strongly recommended the use of bilingual systems in several parts of 679 Ireland. The Bishops of Ireland have recommended it. Cardinal Logue, the head of the Irish Episcopacy, is a missionary in the work. Over 200 school managers—representing over a thousand schools—Protestants as well as Catholics, have petitioned the fossils in favour of it. Public bodies, such as poor law guardians, county councils, district councils galore, have passed resolutions in favour of it. In fact, Sir, practically the whole of Ireland is most earnestly in favour of the bilingual system; and I suppose it is because they are in favour of it that the Commissioners are against it. Such is the way we are governed in Ireland.
§ I am now, Sir, going to toll the Committee what, I suppose, I should have told it in the beginning of my observations: that we have still in Ireland a large number of people who speak only the Irish language, and still a larger number who speak both languages—Irish and English. Along the coast from Donegal, round west to Waterford, there are at least 30 per cent. of the people speaking the Gaelic tongue. I hold in my hand a table showing the population in 1891— the last census—of eleven counties, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, and Waterford. The total population in these eleven counties in 1891 was 2,004,193, or nearly half the population of the whole of Ireland. The number of Irish speakers as given in the census list was 638,821, so that the percentage of persons speaking Irish in 1891 was 32. The total number of children in the primary schools at that time was 308,269, and 32 per cent. of that number would give 95,734 children as speaking the Irish language in 1891. That is under the estimate, because a great many of them will not admit that they speak Irish. In many of these counties Irish is the home language—that is, the children never hear a word of English spoken except while they are in school. I know this to be a fact, for throughout the whole of Connemara, my own constituency, the people invariably talk to each other in Irish. Is it not monstrous to think that these children are handicapped in life by this stupid unilingual system, which not only leaves the children uneducated, but positively works mental and moral destruction upon them? I daresay the superior Englishman will only see another 680 sentimental Irish grievance in this. Be it so. Your attitude will only add another link to that long chain that binds, not England and Ireland in loving brotherhood, but adds a link to that chain that binds the people of Ireland and the people of the Irish race in a bond of hatred and ill-will to your infernal system and methods of governing our country.
The Chief Secretary is reported to have stated in this House, four years ago—
He could not see that it was desirable to artificially stimulate the study of Irish. If there was a national desire to do so, he would not stand in the way of it. There were, it is true, districts in Ireland where the national language was the language of the people, and where that was the case it was probably true that the best way to teach the children was to teach them in the language that they naturally spoke.
These were his words, and I thank the Chief Secretary for having uttered them. I hope he will see the necessity of pushing these sentiments into effect. What has he done to satisfy the national demand? Does he want further evidence before he is satisfied that there is a national demand? The Irish Members to a man support this claim. But of course they do not count. Does Cardinal Logue count? Do the Bishops of Ireland count? What of the 200 managers that memoralised the Commissioners? Do they not count? What of the public bodies? Do they count? I will give the right hon. Gentleman something that may perhaps count—that certainly should count. I have here a. resolution from the Central Executive of the National Teachers' Association, and with the permission of the House I will read it—
That as practical educationists we heartily endorse the statement made by Dr. Starkie, the Resident Commissioner of National Education, in his speech at Glasnevin on the 19th February last, that the National Board was guilty of a disastrous blunder in thrusting upon a Gaelic-speaking race a system of education produced after a foreign model and utterly alien to their sympathies and antecedents. In order, therefore, that tardy justice might be done to tens of thousands of children in the Irish-speaking districts, we hereby demand that in all places where Irish is the home language pupils shall be taught to read and write Irish from their first entrance into school," etc.
I will quote one other authority. At the National Teachers' Congress, recently held,
the following resolution was unanimously passed—
That we cordially recommend all National teachers to use their opportunities on behalf of the preservation of the Irish language. Being an important aid to a proper elementary education throughout the country, and its use in instruction being recommended to teachers by the Commissioners of National Education, we deeply regret the want of provision for the instruction of teachers, and request the Commissioners and the managers of the training colleges to have professors of Irish in those colleges. That while not desiring to reduce the extent of the programme for a certificate of competency to teach Irish, we believe that in the matter of text-books the programme could be considerably improved. We are also strongly of opinion that the programme for pupils should he so altered as to extend over five years, be more suitably graduated, and be freed as much as possible from impractical matter. That in all places where Irish is the home language, the pupils shall he taught to read and write Irish from their first entrance into the school," etc.
I shall trouble the Committee with one more quotation. Father O'Leary, the parish priest of Castlelyons, co. Cork, writing in the Freeman's Journal of last Tuesday, in reply to Lord Russell of Killowen, who unfortunately is one of the very few educated Irishmen who do not see eye to eye with us in this matter. Father O'Leary puts the case admirably, and I shall only quote a few lines from his argument proving the evil results from the unilingual system. Father O'Leary says—
I will ask his Lordship to accompany me in spirit while we pay a visit to a 'National School' situated in one of the Irish-speaking districts of this country. There stands the teacher. He never speaks a single word of Irish to any of his pupils. Look at the faces of the children, especially those whose home speech is Irish unmixed. They are like French children who never spoke a word of English, placed in an English school, and forbidden to speak a single word of French. There is a fixed, dull, closed-up expression on their faces. Examine them in their lessons. They repeat syllables of words, but you can see at once that the words are not for them the expression of ideas. Ask the meaning of a word. They repeat the syllables of the meaning exactly as given at the head of the lesson, but for them the meaning has no meaning. Ask for the sense of a sentence. The answer is dead silence. A parrot is not capable of giving the sense of phrases which he utters. Follow those children home. Hear them plunge into their native element. The dull, fixed expression disappears from the face at once. All the varying beams of keen intelligence shine forth at every word and at every turn of expression. The following day they put on again the mask of dulness.
If the right hon. Gentleman, and if this House is not satisfied with the volume of public and enlightened opinion which I have referred to, upon the necessity and urgency of introducing a bilingual system in certain districts in Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman and this House will never be satisfied with any further evidence on the matter, unless, indeed, they got some outward and visible sign of the indignation and disgust that will fill the breasts of Irishmen if their reasonable and moderate claim is not soon recognised. But I do not despair that this House here to-day will mark its appreciation of our just claim in this language question. The speech of one moment from those benches opposite would be worth more than all our speeches put together. I hope we shall have some speeches from those benches in our favour to-day. I would appeal to the Committee to listen to us for once while we make our most moderate claim. We have heard a good deal in the last few years of your having robbed us of two and a half millions a year for many years. That may have been to your material advantage. But in robbing us of our native language you have robbed us of that which has not enriched you, but has made us poor indeed. In conclusion, I say, give us back our language. Revise your educational systems in Ireland, so that our children, in those Irish speaking districts that I have referred to, shall be enabled, as Welsh children are enabled, to acquire a proper knowledge of English, which is now more necessary than ever for their equipment in the battle of life. Do something genuine and substantial to promote and encourage the revival of our Gaelic tongue in our primers and intermediate schools. It will cost you little or nothing to do so. And if you now respond to the universal and passionate demand of the Irish people and of the Irish race, although you will be doing but simple justice, you will be going a long way towards making reparation for the countless wrongs your country has inflicted upon Ireland. Sir, I move to reduce the Vote.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
I desire to second the motion which has been made by my hon. friend in the admirable speech which he has just delivered. I confess that I regret that there is such a scanty attendance in the 683 House, because it is impossible to conceive a subject which more deeply interests the people of Ireland than the one which is now under discussion. Sir, Ireland takes a keen interest in this question, because Ireland believes that the whole future of the Irish race may be said to be largely bound up with this question. In the whole history of English misgovernment in Ireland I believe there is no such glaring instance as this of flagrant disregard of the unanimous public opinion of the country and of obstinate stupidity in a disastrous course. This matter concerns the people of Ireland vitally, because it concerns the education of the great mass of the poorer children in Ireland—that is, those who will be the future Irish nation. Now, Sir, allow me, without repeating any of the arguments used by my hon. friend in moving this motion, to state in my own words as concisely as I can what the case is we desire to present to the House. Roughly speaking, it is estimated that there are some 700,000 Irish-speaking people in Ireland, and it is estimated that there are some 70,000 Irish children attending the National schools who do not know one single syllable of English. Now, Sir, for these 70,000 children there is no provision whatever.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. G. W. BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
Do I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that there are 70,000 children in Ireland at the present time who are unable to speak a word of English?
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I say it is estimated that there are 70,000 children attending these National schools—perhaps I put it a little too far in saying that they do not know a syllable of English— who know little or no English, and whose home language is Irish.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
According to the census of 1891 the total number of Irish-speaking persons in Ireland was only 31,121.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I still maintain that the figures I have given to the Committee are correct. But, after all, it is a question of degree; and if the right hon. Gentleman supposes that his figures are right and the figures supplied to me 684 are wrong, how far will that bring him in refusing? Because if it is only a question of 36,000 children, or of 30,000 children, or of 20,000 children, still the case would be a monstrous one if no provision whatever is to be made for the proper teaching of these children. But it is not merely that there is no special provision whatever for the teaching of these children, whose home language is Irish, but there is no provision whatever in other districts, where Irish is not so much spoken, to enable Irish to be taught as a remunerated subject in school hours. The case which we make is this: that in all places—I speak not now of children who cannot speak a word of English—but in all cases, in all districts where the home language is Irish, the children from those homes going into the National schools should be taught to read and write their own language, and should be taught English through the medium of their own language; and in the second place that Irish ought to be taught in all schools of Ireland as a remunerated subject in school hours wherever the circumstances of the school, in the opinion of the managers, warranted it. That is the demand, stated as concisely as I think it is possible to state it. Let me ask now who makes the demand. Sir, I believe it would be impossible to find a demand made with more complete unanimity from the people of Ireland than this one. In the first place, let me point out that the demand has been formally brought before the Board of National Education in Ireland on a memorial from the managers of 1,200 National schools in the Irish-speaking districts. It is supported, as my hon. friend has mentioned, by the declarations of the Irish bishops. I may be allowed to repeat what the Irish bishops have said. This is the unanimous resolution passed by the Catholic bishops of Ireland—We strongly recommend that in the primary schools in all Irish-speaking districts the instruction should be bilingual, English being taught through the medium of Irish. We also regard it as most desirable in the primary schools of other districts that the Irish language should be taught to the children in the third and the higher classes wherever the managers of the schools deem it advisable, and the parents make no objection.And in addition to the unanimous declaration of all the Catholic bishops in Ireland, there are members of the Protestant Episcopacy who take the same 685 view; and some of them—one of whom has recently passed away (I mean the late Dr. Greaves)—take a most passionate interest in this question. Almost all the public-elected boards in Ireland have made similar expressions. Corporations, county councils, district councils, town commissions, urban and district councils, who have spoken—and many of them have spoken on the question—have given expression to the same view. There is also the unanimous declaration laid before the Board of National Education from the clerical managers of the schools in the province of Connaught, which is the province chiefly concerned in this demand. Then there is the declaration which has been alluded to by my hon. friend, made by the executive of the National Teachers' Association—that is to say, the men who are engaged in the practical work of teaching in the schools, and who, so far from raising any objection, desire that this concession should be made, and that Irish should be taught in their schools. The same demand comes from the National Teachers' Congress, held the other day in the city of Derry. The Irish Members of Parliament are unanimous in supporting this demand. I do not know whether there is any individual Irish Member of Parliament who has any objection to Irish being taught in the National schools, but I have never heard of one; certainly it is safe to say that the overwhelming majority of Irish Members of all parties in this House take the same view. Perhaps the most remarkable testimony that this view is a sound one has come from the ranks of the National Board itself. Dr. Starkie has been alluded to, and my hon. friend has quoted some of his words. I am not going back upon them now, although perhaps I may have again to allude to them before I conclude; but I would point out that this demand conies from the most responsible Commissioner of the Board of National Education in Ireland, backing up the unanimous request from every public body and every representative of public opinion in Ireland. And, Sir, I can quote the Chief Secretary as a friend to this demand. My hon. friend quoted a declaration which the Chief Secretary made some years ago; but this very session the right hon. Gentleman, if I am not mistaken, in answer to a question across the floor of the House, made a 686 most friendly declaration. He did not perhaps go the extreme length that some advocates of the Gaelic revival in Ireland go, but he made a most sympathetic-answer, because he said first he fully believed that where Irish was the language of the children their education could be more fully carried out through the medium of their own language.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
That, no doubt, refers to children who come from Irish-speaking homes. In the second place, the Chief Secretary went on to say—While I could not undertake to artificially stimulate the study of Irish, yet if there is a widespread demand for its teaching I would not stand in the way.Therefore, Sir, I think I am justified in quoting the right hon. Gentleman himself as a friend to the demand which is now made. Now, Sir, I think I have said enough to show that it would be quite impossible to conceive a demand more influentially put forward and more universally supported in Ireland than this demand which we put forward to-day. It is supported by every class of the population; it is supported by the hierarchy and the clergy of not one, but, I believe, of all denominations in Ireland. It is supported by the managers of the schools, by the teachers of the schools, by the elected representatives of the people, whether in this House or in the public boards, throughout the country, and I think I am justified, therefore, in my assertion that no more influential demand was ever made in this House. Having stated what the demand is, and why we are making it, let me consider whether the demand is in itself reasonable, moderate, and based upon precedent, and whether it is not really one which, from an Irish point of view, should be considered in the general interest of the country. Is it reasonable. The present system of teaching in the Irish-speaking districts has been proved by bitter experience to be useless, and that is the explanation of the alarming proportion of illiterates which obtains? in many districts of Ireland. The whole experience of this attempt to teach English through the medium of English to children who come from Irish-speaking homes has been to show that these children, after they leave school, 687 rapidly lapse into illiteracy. All experience proves that the bilingual system of education for such districts is the best. I am loth to trouble the House, but I would like to read one or two sentences from a very weighty memorial which has been presented to the National Board of Education from the managers of 1,200 schools. That memorial has been treated with the scantiest courtesy, and so far as I can see has received no answer at all. These gentlemen, Protestant and Catholic alike included in the list of the managers of 1,200 schools, say—The children of these districts come from Irish-speaking homes, where all the familiar converse of life, and, still more, all the higher and more spiritual ideas, are habitually expressed by their parents and elders in Irish. The first foundations, and the most important part of the mental development of the children are thus naturally made in the Irish language. We consider it to be a radical error, on the entrance of the children into school, to completely ignore the natural foundations thus laid, and to commence de novo their education in an unfamiliar language. To ignore the utility of Irish in teaching these children from the out-set, is, in our opinion, a primary blunder for many reasons. It is in itself an unnatural and irrational method of education. It deliberately puts on one side all that the children may have learned not alone of the vocabulary of common life, but of the finer shades of thought and feeling which are eminently characteristic of the Irish language. It also puts aside the spiritual traditions of the Irish language, leaving their place to be supplied by what should only supplement them, and could be made to supplement them, in Irish as well as, or better than, in English—namely, direct memorised instructions. Experience has shown that the native traditional taste for poetry and other forms of literature and for music is taken away from the people along with their native language. A still more grievous evil is that their respect for home, parents, national traditions, and the past of their own people is undermined by the present system, and thus the foundations of the civic virtues of self-respect and self-reliance, so conducive to the welfare of a people, are shaken from the commencement. It often happens under the present system that after a number of years at school young people practically lapse into illiteracy, and forget how to read and write simple English. Even of those who may seem to have profited more a large number have little better than a mechanical proficiency, and from the standpoint of material advancement are hardly to be distinguished from the class of illiterates. We believe that these defects in education will be removed by teaching the children to read and write, and utilise to its fullest capacity the language in common use among the grown people in these districts. This belief is not grounded solely on a priori reasons, but is fully borne out by the experiences of primary education in Great Britain, where for some years the Welsh language has 688 been employed in education in the way in which we seek to have Irish employed.I ought, perhaps, to apologise for reading so lengthy an extract, but the sound reasonable argument contained in it deserves the serious attention of all interested in the education of the young in Ireland. For my part I do not know what is the answer to it. Dr. Starkie, Resident Commissioner of National Education, has spoken much to the same effect. He says—The cause is not far to seek why the National system has not had the full measure of success which its friends would desire for it. From the first its besetting sin has been centralisation. From the centre in Dublin the National Hoard, disregarding all differences of race and creed and local prejudices, has imposed on all parts of the country a rigid programme, perhaps ideally satisfactory, but in many cases ludicrously ill adapted to the needs of the backward districts of Ireland, and to the capacities of the pupils. As an illustration of my meaning I may refer to the treatment accorded to what seventy years ago was really the national tongue. Without committing myself to the extravagances of some of the enthusiasts of the Gaelic League, I fancy few practical educationalists will deny that the National Board were guilty of a disastrous blunder in thrusting upon a Gaelic-speaking race a system of education produced after a foreign model and utterly alien to their sympathies and antecedents. Such an attempt was unsound, both philosophically and practically. Neglecting the principle of continuity which pervades all human things, it disregarded the home training and associations of the children, and thus rending in twain the nascent intelligence, rendered all real development impossible. True education is a refining and developing of the whole intellectual life and character, and I think there can be little doubt that the Hoard were guilty of narrow pedantry in neglecting as worthless the whole previous spiritual life of the pupil, and the multitude of associations, imaginations, and sentiments that formed the content of his consciousness. The consequences of such a system are inevitable. To this unhappy blunder may be attributed the want of initiative and independence, and distaste of knowledge, which so hampers the industrial development of Ireland—qualities so alien to the quick sympathies and alert intelligence which are the most salient characteristics of our race.I saw yesterday in The Times a most interesting letter from Mr. Edmund Gosse, in which he speaks of the Irish language in this way—Irish has been in literary use for centuries, which has held the thoughts of generations of great men, which has preserved a poetry of singular mystery and tenderness. Whether we read Irish or not—for my part I am with the Saxon majority—that tongue has been for centuries an unseen but priceless appanage of 689 British literature. The language of Ireland has been blossoming there unseen, like a hidden garden of roses, and, whenever the wind Has blown from the West, our English poetry has felt the vague perfume of it.It is interesting to know that even the most vehement opponents of the study of Irish, such as Dr. Atkinson and others like him, still admit that children coming from whore Irish is the familiar language ought to be taught English through the medium of Irish. Dr. Atkinson went before the Commission as the great opponent of the Gaelic revival, and yet he used these words—These children should be taught Irish, and they would learn it with very great advantage because they speak it from their childhood …If they spoke it, then it would be right to teach them in their own mother tongue. It is wrong to children not to teach them in their mother tongue … If they know Irish better than English coining into the school, let their education be Irish. If the child thinks in the Irish language, let him be taught in the Irish language.Surely I have said enough to show that the demand which is made is in itself a reasonable one, and that it has the support of the most eminent educational authorities in Ireland. Let me ask for a moment whether the demand is without precedent. We are not asking for anything strange, extravagant, or unheard of. As a matter of fact, we are asking for that which is to-day possessed by Wales, and not more than is possessed by the Highlands of Scotland. I want to know by what constitutional theory can this demand, put forward by practically every class and creed in Ireland, and proved to be reasonable in the opinion of skilled educationalists, is to be refused, and why an irresponsible body of men nominated by the Crown, or a majority of them, is to insist in excluding this Irish language from our schools in spite of the universal desire of the people of Ireland? What we ask for to-day is less than exists in Wales. In the Welsh Code for 1900, it is set forth that the Welsh language is one of the subjects which may be taken up if it suits the circumstances of the schools, and the managers approve. Then, in the standard of examinations on elementary subjects there is dictation from Cymric reading-books. In Welsh translations from English, the written examination may be in both English and Welsh, and there is history reading both in Welsh and English. Further, I find 690 that English is to be taught bilingually. Special provision is also made for the training of the teachers in Welsh, and in their examinations they are obliged to be able to read Welsh and recite Welsh poetry. Under the head of history, the teachers must show a knowledge not only of English history, but of the history of Wales prior to the union with England; and further, submit to a test of their knowledge of the history of Wales generally. I want to know why all this should be given to Wales and denied to Ireland. All that we ask is that the bilingual system of teaching should be set up in Irish-speaking districts where the children come from Irish-speaking homes, and that in other districts Irish may be one of the remunerated subjects taught, if the managers so desire it, in the school hours. The Scotch Code makes almost precisely the same provision. In the Gaelic-speaking districts, that is, in the counties of Inverness, Argyll, Ross and Cromarty, and Sutherland, an extra pupil-teacher is allowed in respect of bilingual teaching, and provision is made also for the teaching of Gaelic in the training colleges. It seems to me that a demand put forward as this has been, and supported by all classes of the people of Ireland, proves to be reasonable and based on the precedents of Scotland and Wales, and that the contemptuous rejection of that demand by this nominated, irresponsible, and intensely anti-national Board is a most monstrous thing, which the House of Commons ought not to tolerate for one instant. There is another aspect of the question which appeals to us Irishmen, however it may appeal to English Members. At this moment—and there is no use of the Chief Secretary underrating the feeling of the Irish—an intense and passionate movement exists in favour of saving the remnants of the Irish tongue for the Irish people of the future. It is natural, because to all Irishmen, whatever their class, or creed, or politics, who are proud of their country, of its history, of its traditions, when in the old times, almost alone among Western nations, Ireland held aloft the lamp of learning and cherished the truths of religion, this neglect of the ancient tongue of their forefathers must seem an unpardonable wrong; and I say in a special way to 691 all those who love the songs and stories and folk lore of Ireland, to all those—Who love a nation's legends,Love the ballads of a people,That, like voices from afar off,Speak in tones so plain and childlike,Scarcely can the ear distinguishWhether they are sung or spoken "—to all such who treasure poetry, the romance and the music of their country, as things which give individuality and character to their race, and almost a soul to their nation—to all such men, this wanton attempt to destroy the Irish tongue must seem an outrage and a sacrilege. The injury to Ireland is a material and a moral one at the same time. This system undoubtedly dwarfs the intellects and stunts the minds of the young children of Ireland, on whom will depend the future well-being and prosperity of the country. It deprives them of all knowledge of a glorious past, and shuts them out from the slightest glimpse of the poetic and romantic literature, and it places upon them the humiliating badge of inferiority. This authority in Ireland must not be permitted to do this wrong, and we are here to appeal to every independent Member of the House to aid in preventing this wrong being perpetrated in future. We appeal in an especial way to those kinsmen of ours of the Celtic race who are here from Scotland and Wales. We ask them to assist us in putting an end to this wrong, and in helping us to do for our country what they have succeeded in doing for their own—to protect the ancient tongue of our forefathers, in which is enshrined so much of the glorious heritage that has come down through the centuries to Ireland from her sages, her poets, her scholars, and her statesmen.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £787,403, be granted for the said Service." — (Mr. O'Malley.)
§ * MR. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
This is in no sense, in my opinion, a political question, but one which we may discuss quite freely, although we may take different views upon the subject; and I must say that with the views which have been expressed upon the opposite side of the House I disagree in every particular. That being so, I desire to put before the Committee the reasons which have led me 692 to the conclusion at which I have arrived. The hon. Gentleman who moved this motion said everything that could possibly be said in its favour from that side of the House, and, although the seconder of the motion made an eloquent and most powerful speech, he did not add much, if anything, to the arguments already urged by the hon. Gentleman whom he supported. The mover of the motion made an attack on the books used in the schools of Ireland, and in that respect I entirely disagree with him. I have studied those books as a boy, and have since compared them with the books used in English schools, and I have come to the deliberate conclusion that there are no books anywhere which are better than those used by the National School Board of Ireland. There are several of the Irish school books which could not possibly be beaten for the purposes for which they are designed. But the question before the Committee is the question of the Irish language, and I only refer in passing to the books, and I say that I have not been able to agree with the observations with regard to them made by the hon. Gentleman. Coming to the Irish language itself, I think the bilingual system is an excellent one, and to learn two languages perfectly is far better than to learn half a dozen imperfectly. For a man to be able to speak two languages is a very great advantage; it broadens his mind, and enables him to enlarge his knowledge and acquire other subjects. But are two languages, properly learned, possible for the poor people of any country? Are there any countries where the working classes learn two languages? [A VOICE from the Irish benches: Yes— Wales.] In many parts of Wales it is true that Welsh is spoken as the mother tongue, and the people as they grow up acquire English; but take France or Germany, or any other Continental country. Are the poor people of those countries able to speak two languages? Docs such a thing exist anywhere?
MR.: T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
What about Antwerp?
§ * MR. RENTOUL
I should certainly like to see that assertion proved, and Antwerp does not prove it. Those 693 who have lived among Continental nations will admit they have never come across anything of the sort. Yon may go through the city of Paris, or Berlin, or other Continental cities from end to end before you find two mechanics who have really learned more than one language, and it is not for us in this House to make statements which are not borne out by the facts. [Interruption from the Irish benches.] Hon. Gentlemen will have an opportunity to prove the statement they make; but surely it is only fair that a man should be allowed to express his opinions with regard to the teaching of a language, even if they do not coincide with those of the hon. Gentleman opposite. I do not believe it is possible for the working people of any country to learn two languages, and I have not come across any who have. They have neither the time nor the inclination. But supposing it were possible for two languages to be taught, would it be wise for the Irish people to make the ancient language of their country the second one? Do the Irish people who send their children to expensive schools in Ireland make the Irish language one of the languages to be taught to their children? They have them taught French or German, but do they have them taught the Irish language? And is it wise to try to encourage the lower classes in a study of a language which the higher classes themselves have not learned and do not teach their children? If it were possible to learn any number of languages one would be very glad to have Irish taught as one of them; but the time for learning spoken languages is limited, and the number of languages one can learn is limited, and human intellect is limited, everywhere except among Irish Nationalists. Now, speaking of this particular language, we know that men and women of the better classes do not have their children caught Irish [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] I ask what member of the Irish party in this House is having his children taught Irish? I am very far from making an attack upon the Irish language. The hon. Member for East Mayo alluded to a man who spoke of Irish literature as disgusting and abominable. That is certainly the last charge I would make—for one reason, that I am not sufficiently familiar with Irish literature to make such an attack—nor do I think that any good is done by making an attack of that sort, especially as all 694 Celtic scholars admit that the ancient Irish literature is much richer and more beautiful than the literature of any of the other five Celtic languages. We know that there are historical documents in the Irish language of the highest possible order, and poems—epic, lyric, and didactic—of unrivalled beauty and marvellous pathos: but there is a difference between teaching a language to a whole people and preserving the ancient documents of that language. Is anyone taught in Italy to speak the Latin which was spoken in ancient Rome? Yet it is not as a dead language, but as a living one, that hon. Gentlemen wish Irish to be caught. The mover of the motion spoke, in reference to the teaching of the Irish language, of its value. If he refers to its value to philologists, no one disagrees with him: but if he refers to its practical value, then I assert that it has hardly any value. It seems to me that the practical value of a language depends entirely upon the number of people who speak it.
§ * MR. RENTOUL
I am glad to be able to answer the hon. Gentleman upon that point. Only some two years ago a movement was started by many leading men in London to try and get Chinese taught even in preference to French or German, because of its greater commercial value. Of course, if a language is only to be learned for mere sentimental reasons, and not for reasons of travel, trade, or other practical purposes, we can well understand that a language which is spoken at the top of a mountain in Russia by about 150 people altogether would 'be the most valuable of languages, because it is one of the rarest and most peculiar. Speaking of European languages, would any man wish his children to be taught Portuguese in preference to French or Italian or Spanish? And yet Portuguese is an excellent language. Is not the feeling of all men who have to do with the study of modem languages to go in this direction when they say that the more a language is what they call a world speech or umgangsprache language, the more is that language one that ought to be learned? Discussion is often carried on as to whether German or French is the more valuable language—that is, 695 which affects the larger number of people? If a man is to have only one language, I think it is clear-to everyone that the most valuable language he can have is English, and next to that is French, because French will serve you in a greater number of the countries of the world than any other language except English. Except for sentimental reasons it would be absolutely valueless to teach the Celtic language in Ireland. The value of a language depends not merely on the use you can make of it not in your own country, but of the use you can make of it when you leave your own country. [Laughter.] I must say that I fail entirely to see what is in the minds of hon. Members. If I were going to travel I would certainly very much prefer that my own; language was English rather than Portuguese. Portuguese may be a better language from the grammarian's point of view than English, but it would not serve me one-twentieth as much as English would do. If a language is to serve the purpose for which it was intended—namely, that men may convey their ideas to the men whom they meet — necessarily, the greater the number of people who speak a language the more the value of that language to men who are going about the world and doing the business of the world. The mover of the motion spoke of the value of the Irish language. But what real value has it? If he wants the people of Ireland to learn a Continental language he will recollect how much they would be handicapped from the entire absence of books for teaching French, German, or Italian, or any Continental language through the medium of the Irish language. It has been argued—I do not know whether it was referred to in this debate—as one strong reason in favour of teaching the Celtic language that the Jews, who are passionately attached to their own religion and nationality, teach the Hebrew language as well as the language of the country in which they are placed. That is easily explained. They never teach colloquial or cursive Hebraic. They teach the language of their prayers and of ecclesiastical documents, but they do not teach their children colloquial Hebrew as they teach them French or German. So that if any argument is to be drawn from what the Jews do, it would prove that the Irish people should teach their children Latin, 696 that being the language of the prayers and ecclesiastical documents of the Church of the large majority of the people of Ireland. The first question to settle is, what is the purpose for which you desire the second language? Is it for sentiment or for practical purposes? If it is for sentiment, can Ireland in her present commercial and financial position afford to sacrifice practical utility to sentiment'? If the second language is wanted for practical purposes, then comes the question, what do other nations do which have an ancient language still lingering among a few of the lower orders of the people and yet have as the real language of the people some imported tongue? What do practical and prosperous peoples do in such circumstances? Take the case of the Belgians. Their ancient language is Flemish. They do not teach French through Flemish, they do not teach Flemish at the expense of French. I had an opportunity, when in Belgium not long ago, of hearing a number of classes examined, and I was told that there is a desire there on the part of educationists to relegate the Flemish language to the category of ancient history, and to make the French language the speech to be used in the country. We know that the Belgians are, perhaps, the most practical people in the whole of Europe. We are told that there are no people so successful according to their numbers, or who make so good a use of life's opportunities generally. That is the experience of highly practical men in connection with an extremely energetic people, and the example of the Belgians is very much in point when Irishmen are discussing this question not from a political but from a purely practical point of view, as showing what is best for the country in its practical interests. If Irish were spoken as much as English in America, Australia, and other countries where Irishmen go, I should certainly think then there was something to be said for making Irish the language of the country. I do not suppose Irish is a worse language from any point of view, but I look at this question from the practical side, and we cannot get over the fact that Irish is not spoken elsewhere. A good deal has been said about the advantage of teaching English as far as possible through Irish to the pupils in Irish schools. I may be in an extreme minority in this matter—I fancy that the Chief Secretary is probably against me—but 697 that would not he my aim. If I were to-morrow going to loam a foreign language I should prefer to be taught that language through itself, and to make what effort I could to understand it. I believe I would arrive at a knowledge of that language quicker in that way. The hon. Member for South Donegal seems to be highly amused by that statement, but after all, a great many Members of the House have done exactly what I have said. Numerous Members of the House have gone to foreign countries without knowing the language at all. They did not go to lodge with an English family to learn French, or German because they were English-speaking people. No; they plunged into a foreign house altogether, and picked up the language as well as they could, that being the quickest way in which the language could be acquired, so that by only teaching English through Irish in the schools in Ireland yon would not adopt the quickest mode of acquiring a knowledge of English. The people of Ireland, as regards their relation to the Irish language, are of three classes: first, those who do not know Irish, which is nine-tenths of the people; second, those who know and speak both English and Irish; and thirdly, some thirty or forty thousand who know only Irish. The first class had better leave Irish alone; the second class had better cultivate the English, and the third class had better learn English by mixing with English-speaking people. The hon. Member who moved the reduction of the Vote made what appeared to me to be a very extraordinary statement. He said that the teaching of the Irish language would bind the Irish abroad more closely to the Irish at home. No doubt he believed that was an argument, but I could not for the life of me see how it could possibly affect that question. For example, the Irish people who are scattered abroad in America and Australia do not know the Irish language. How the teaching of Irish as their mother tongue to the people of Ireland could draw them closer to the Irish people in America who do not know that language, and never desire or try to learn it, I fail entirely to understand. Indeed, it seems to me the very opposite would be the result. As a matter of fact, very few people in Ireland speak Irish alone. Very few indeed are dependent on the Celtic language, and very few of the peasantry 698 are proud that they speak the two languages. The tendency is rather the other way—rather to deny that they know the Irish language than to admit that they do know it. Since so few people speak the Irish language in Ireland would it not be a monstrous thing to fetter the educational energies of the country by trying to revive a language which, if it once became the sole language, would be of the greatest disadvantage to the people of Ireland in their intercourse with other nations? Wales and the Welsh language have been referred to. But in Wales the Welsh language is spoken by the bulk of the people. Almost every Welsh Member addresses his constituents in Welsh. What Irish Member addresses his constituents in Irish? In Wales it is simply the question of keeping alive a living language, which the bulk of the people and nearly all the educated classes can speak and read; but in Ireland it is the question of reviving a language that is practically dead. You might as well try to make Latin the spoken and living language of Italy along with Italian. This idea of reviving the Irish language is an idle dream. Scholars may explore the treasure-houses of its literature, but it never can and never ought to be the language of the whole people. Lord Russell of Killowen is always a useful man to quote on your side, but he is not useful to quote on the other side. In this particular instance, as he is so strongly on my side, I may refer to a statement he made lately which has been published in all the papers. Speaking at a meeting of the Gaelic League he said the attempt to revive the Irish language was foolish from every possible point of view. My hon. friend asked—Is not this demand reasonable? I say, No, it is not. That is the point on which we differ at the very start. There are many demands which the Irish people could make with regard to education with which I might not be able to agree, and yet I would not say they were unreasonable. It docs not seem to me to be a demand that will ever be entertained by the Government. It may be discussed on antiquarian grounds in the House, but it is not one that will over be carried into force. I think it would be a very bad thing for the people of Ireland. The gentleman who opened this debate said that some of us opposed the Irish language because we thought that 699 if the Irish people were to learn the Irish language Home would have more power over them. I cannot see how for that reason Rome could have more power over them, seeing that Rome does not know Irish. If Irish were the language of Rome I could understand it. We are not discussing a question of religion, but a question of language on its own merits, no matter how it might bear on any particular cause. It seems to me that one of the best possible tests of sincerity in this matter is to ask, what do hon. Gentlemen opposite do in the case of their own families? What does an educated, enlightened Irish Nationalist do in regard to his own family? That is the test of the whole thing. What has been done in his own education in this matter? The value of a foreign language, especially French, to anyone who has the opportunity of going abroad is immense, and if, though it would not be perhaps practicable, a demand were made by the Irish Nationalists in this House for a further sum in order to encourage the teaching of the French language I would be with them. My hon. and learned friend the Member for South Donegal knows the difficulty which travelling abroad involves. He knows perfectly well that even his immense knowledge of the Celtic language does not serve in the slightest degree. he knows try well how one of his countrymen—shall I say one of his own colleagues?— some time ago wanted to leave his luggage in the cloak-room at a railway station in Italy. This gentleman did not know Italian: he knew simply English and Irish, and a little Latin learned solely in graveyards. He procured the attendance of the station-master by the use of the word generalissimo, which he saw signed to a printed notice, and which he took to mean station-master, and he thought that the intelligent station-master would be so fond of the ancient language of his country that he would understand Latin. The traveller on the arrival of the station-master pointed to his luggage and said "Requiescat in pace," and then, pointing to himself, said "Resurgam." By this device ideas were exchanged—the luggage was "to rest in peace" till the traveller "rose again," or, in less poetic words, "came back to claim it." A little Italian would have been very valuable to the traveller, but not Celtic. In that case the Irishman knew the 700 Celtic language, but not the language of the country he visited. I would advise my hon. friends opposite, instead of demanding to foist an impracticable language on the people, to turn their attention to other matters which would do a great deal more for the people. I would remind them that certain districts to which the hon. Member referred, where the Irish language is almost exclusively spoken, are also the poorest in Ireland. Was that in favour of the Irish language or against it? There are a great many districts in Donegal where a great many people speak the language, but does that save them from the poverty that exists in that country? I would feel myself in a far more happy condition if I wore able to support hon. Members from Ireland in something that would be for the good of the country, instead of having to take part in a debate year after year on an entirely worthless and foolish demand by gentlemen very few of whom understand or speak five sentences of the language about which they indulge in a long and empty and ludicrous debate.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I hope hon. Members from Ireland will not object to a Member from another part of the kingdom taking part in the debate for a few moments. The question they have raised is one of very wide and general interest to all parts of the United Kingdom. The question really has absolutely nothing to do with politics. It might have been a political object, or had some political influence and importance sixty or seventy years ago. I believe that Daniel O'Connell used to address large mass meetings in Ireland in the Irish language, and I rather think that the great gathering on the battlefield of Clontarf was to have been so addressed; but we know that now you could not find anybody speaking Irish alone within fifty miles of Clontarf. I do not think any newspapers are published in Irish. [AN HON. MEMBER: There are three newspapers.] Are they daily newspapers? [AN HON. MEMBER: Weekly newspapers.] A weekly newspaper nowadays is apt to be more in the nature of a magazine. There are no daily newspapers, and I have never heard of a vernacular press. [AN HON. MEMBER: Daily papers have columns in Irish.] I am glad to hear that. I was not aware of it. The vernacular press 701 has, at any rate, never been supposed to be in any way a cause of political agitation. The other remark I want to make is that this is not a question of promoting the Irish language at the expense of the English. I do not understand that that is for a moment intended. The whole argument of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has been directed to that point, and is therefore quite irrelevant. I do not think the Chief Secretary supposes that it is intended the teaching of English shall be in any way sacrificed to the teaching of Irish, or that anyone who does not use Irish as the home tongue shall be taught Irish in the schools unless be desires to learn it. It is not suggested that anywhere except in the Irish-speaking districts should the teaching of Irish become a regular part of the school work. Of course, obviously it is for the advantage of the children that they should be able to speak and read and write English. English will open for them a wider career in life than Irish possibly could. I believe that the Welsh Members think—and so far as I know, the Irish Members also think— that English will be positively better taught and understood if taught through Irish. I am not going to argue this question as a matter of national sentiment, or what you would call the sentimental value of language. Personally, I am under the influence of that sentiment. I own that it would seem to me a great misfortune if the ancient Celtic languages were altogether to disappear. I would be sorry to see Irish disappear and should have the same regret were Gaelic or Welsh to vanish. I know that in France there is the same wish not to let the ancient languages die out. There is a desire to keep the Breton and the Basque, and there has been an important revival of Provencal. One of the finest poems France has produced in the last fifty years is a poem, "Mireio," written in the old Provencal language. Therefore there is a great deal to be said for keeping the old language. At the same time I am bound to say with all respect to the distinguished Irish literary man who wrote an interesting letter to The Times a few days ago, that I do not think there is much prospect at this time of day of our succeeding in making the ancient Celtic language a vehicle for modern literature. It is a dangerous experiment to try to turn an ancient 702 classical language into a modern one as respects either syntax or vocabulary. The genius of a modern people is too different from that of the ancients. The experiment has been tried in Greece, and modern Greek is not nearly so natural and self-consistent a language since they have endeavoured to make it classical and to bring in the old classical forms of expression. They would have done better to develop a good modern language out of their Romaic. However, I shall not attempt to argue this question upon these sentimental considerations, because although they appeal to some of us very strongly, and although I have the warmest sense of the splendour, the brilliance, and the imaginative power of the ancient Irish literature, an imaginative quality quite unique, and with a wild charm of the Western sea that is all its own; still I think these are arguments that do not appeal to everyone here; and if we have got a strong practical case—as I believe we have—for teaching the old Celtic languages, I would rather argue it on that basis and put considerations which may appeal to persons like the hon. Member who has just sat down. I come to the practical question, and that is this: can anything be done—usefully and practically done—to meet the demands of the Members from Ireland? My excuse for interfering in the debate is that I once had some experience on this subject. I had, thirty-four years ago, the honour of being assistant commissioner of a Royal Commission which was to examine into the endowed grammar schools of Wales. I had to make inquiry there as to the best way of dealing with a large number of Welsh-speaking boys in order to teach them both English and their own language. The testimony was that you teach English better and stimulate the general intelligence more if you use Welsh as well as English in the teaching, and if you teach Welsh as a cultivated language side by side with English. I dare say some of the Welsh Members present can give in their own experience a better illustration of this than I can. However, the Welsh clergymen and schoolmasters whom I consulted were all agreed that the bilingual system not only taught the children English better, but was useful in other respects. It is easy to see why that should be to, because when you take a child and begin to teach it another lan- 703 guage in addition to its own language the child is obliged to transfer thought from one set of words to another, and in doing so is obliged to get a much move exact idea of the meaning of words, of the genius of a language, and of the nature of the transference of thought than it is possible to get in one language only. That is what we all do in learning Latin. We are obliged to turn our thoughts which we form in English into the form which the same thoughts would take in a different language, and that is one reason why I think no kind of instruction is more valuable than the writing of Latin prose, and the same thing applies in the case of English and Irish. Now I come to the hon. Member for East Down, who asked why we should begin to teach children a language which might be of no use to them. He asked whether there were any countries in Europe where the people speak two languages. Why, it is hard to find a country in Europe in which there are not many people using two languages.
§ MR. BRYCE
There are a great many parts of Europe where the working classes speak two languages. In Belgium a large number of people of the humbler class speak Flemish and French; in Denmark a large part of the peasantry speak German as well as Danish, and in France many of the population speak two languages. In Germany there are large districts where the national language of the population is Slav, but where many also speak German, and it is the same all through the Austrian Empire. In Hungary and Croatia and Dalmatia there is a large bilingual population.
§ MR. BRYCE
If the hon. Member thinks that the language of Catalonia or Galicia differs no more from classical 704 Castilian than the Yorkshire speech differs from classical English, he is much mistaken. The hon. Member for East Down says he cannot see why two languages should be taught when English is the language to be used. I would remind the hon. Member that the proposal is to teach English through the medium of the native language. The question is whether you should not make the best possible use of their native language. The hon. Member's idea is that you ought to teach English through English, which means that you are to address a child in a language which he does not understand. The truth is that it is a great piece of good fortune in training the minds of children that they should have a language already which they can use to enable them to compare the English, and they will not learn English any more slowly or any less thoroughly if they are taught it through Irish than if that language is neglected. Irish ought to be taught not as a vernacular, but as a literary language. You ought to have reading books in Irish, and the children ought to be accustomed to translate the Irish reading books into English and vice versa. In the training colleges in Scotland and in Wales special instruction is given to the teachers who are going to teach in the districts where Welsh or Gaelic is the common tongue to enable them to use Gaelic or Welsh as the vehicle of instruction. This ought to be done in Ireland also. I submit, therefore, that the demand which the Irish Members make is a very reasonable and moderate demand As for Celtic philology, that is rather a matter for higher secondary schools and universities, but I may point out that the larger the number of people to whom instruction is given in Irish, the more prospect is there that in after life some of them will avail themselves of it to study the language scientifically and to make use of the abundant and rich materials which exist for the study of ancient Irish history and Irish literature, materials which have been very sparingly and inadequately used so far. Many years ago I happened to spend a summer vacation in Ireland, where I obtained lessons in Irish—lessons which, to my regret, I have now forgotten—from the son of an Irish peasant who had developed a remarkable talent for philology, and who at that time promised to become—(he died long ago, before that promise could be fulfilled)—one of the 705 ablest philologers in the United Kingdom. The instance of that man makes me believe that if we were to give the Irish-speaking population a chance of studying Irish as a literary language we might have a much larger number of persons studying Irish history and literature; and I think that it is an object with which everybody in this House who takes an interest in history and literature, whether he be an Irishman or not, will deeply sympathise. I must apologise for having detained the House so long, but without venturing to express an opinion upon the precise rules which ought to be made to meet the wishes of the Irish Members, I do think that they have made out a case for a much wider teaching of Irish then now exists, and I would suggest to the Chief Secretary that he should go fully into the subject. I think we are particularly fortunate in having a Chief Secretary who is himself a man of high literary ability and attainments, and who has, I feel sure, every sympathy with the study of Irish literature. If the right hon. Gentleman feels any doubt as to the best way in which this can be done, I hope that he will refer it for inquiry to those who have practical knowledge of the subject either in Wales or in Scotland, who are themselves men of educational experience, and that he will endeavour to induce the Commissioners to frame a scheme which will go far to meet the complaints made to-day, and thus turn the opportunities which Ireland offers in this matter to far better account.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I find myself in such distinct agreement with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that I have hardly any criticism to offer to his very valuable contribution to the debate, except in one particular. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has fully realised the nature and extent of the demand which has been made. The hon. Member for Waterford began his speech by saying that the whole future of the Irish race was bound up in this question. I think that statement alone will indicate to the right hon. Gentleman that he has somewhat minimised what is now being asked for. I think the right hon. Gentleman will hardly be prepared to say that this is a question involving the whole future of the Irish race. The reason why the hon. 706 Member for Waterford dwells so much upon this question, involving the future of the Irish race, is because he believes that the large mass of the children in Ire-land speak the native language. When the hon. Member for Waterford quoted statistics upon this point, I interrupted him in the middle of his speech, because I thought the numbers which he gave to the Committee on this subject were extremely misleading. I have here an extract from the Report of the Census Commissioners of Ireland. From table 155 it will be seen that in 1881, 64,167 persons were returned as speaking Irish only, and that in 1891 the number so returned was 38,121, or 26,046 less than in 1881; also, that in 1881 the number of persons returned as able to speak Irish and English was 885,765, and that in 1891 it was 642,053, or 243,712 less than in 1881. It is perfectly clear that if the number of children affected by the changes asked for is confined to Irish-speaking districts it will not be anything like what the hon. Member for Waterford appears to imagine. The problem is not, therefore, such a very extensive one, and it must also be remembered that the numbers are diminishing at a very rapid rate. What, then, is the existing state of affairs? Since 1883 there has been a note in the Code of the Irish Commissioners which declares that where there are Irish-speaking pupils in the school a teacher acquainted with the Irish language should, wherever practicable, be employed, and that inspectors are at liberty to employ the vernacular if they think it desirable to do so. That note has been in the Code ever since 1883, and if it be true that, notwithstanding that, a knowledge of English has not been imparted through the vernacular, I think the managers must bear the larger share of the blame. The teachers are not appointed by the Board of Education, but by the managers, and, so far as I can see, there is really nothing in the old Code or in the new rules which have lately been issued to prevent the teaching of English through Irish. The hon. Member for Connemara has complained of the constitution of the Board of Education, but if anyone looks at the list of names upon that Board he will see that it includes some of the most distinguished men in Ireland, and for the hon. Member for Connemara to say that he does not know more than three or four 707 of them is to argue himself unknown. If it he true that there is nothing to prevent bilingual teaching, we must hold that if there is any difficulty about it it is largely due to the fact that the matter has not been pressed at all because the managers do not care about it, or because they were not able to find teachers who could speak Irish. I now come to the question of what it is that is being really asked for. It is very important that we should answer this question very clearly and precisely. I think that the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford threw a certain ambiguity over the question as to what the demand really was. If I am to judge from the pamphlet sent to me by the Gaelic League, the demands which are made are—(1) That in all places where Irish is the home language pupils shall be taught to read and write Irish from their first entrance into the school, and that a knowledge of English and other useful subjects shall be imparted through the medium of Irish.That is the point to which my right hon. friend the Member for South Aberdeen alludes. The second demand is—That in all places where Irish is not the home language it shall be lawful to teach Irish as a remunerated subject within school hours, and at the earliest stage at which children are capable of learning it.Now if Irish under that Code was a remunerated subject it would become a compulsory subject, and it means that wherever the managers in either an English or an Irish-speaking district think fit Irish might be made a compulsory subject. We ought, therefore, to keep these two demands strictly apart. As regards the first demand, which asks for something which now exists in Wales, I cannot see any great harm in it; on the contrary, I think from the educational point of view we ought to grant it, for I believe it would have good results. I entirely agree with all that has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen upon that point. The hon. Member for East Down gave a very misleading analogy when he said that when anyone went abroad in order to learn a foreign language he was careful to go into a country where only its own language was spoken. But a man travelling abroad for this purpose is very different from poor ignorant children going to school. So far, then, I find myself quite in agreement with the demand put forward, and I believe that it would be better for the 708 English itself that it be taught through Irish. As I have already said, I do not think that there is anything in the rules of the Commissioners, either in the new rules or the old rules, which would preclude this from being done. In the new rules there is nothing of a positive character upon this subject, and if the Commissioners see fit to propose a rule of a more positive character assimilating the rules in Irish-speaking districts to those in Welsh-speaking districts I should not oppose it. But as far as I am concerned, I have no actual power in the matter beyond making suggestions, and I cannot promise whether they will accept my suggestions or not. I may point out that Irish is now, and will be in the future, an extra subject taught out of school hours, and I think that is a very desirable thing, and I should be very sorry to see it omitted. The hon. Member for Waterford has Spoken of a strong national feeling in favour of a revival of Irish in order that it may become the national language of Ireland.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I thought the hon. Member's remarks tended in that direction, but if I am wrong I apologise. If it is to be suggested that Irish should be a compulsory subject, whether in Irish-speaking districts or not, as far as I can see, the result would be to re-create Irish as the national language of Ireland. That I believe to be an impossibility, and I am not prepared to encourage it. Notwithstanding the numerous resolutions of public bodies and the expression of opinion from the benches opposite, I wish to point out that there is not in any private schools a real demand for the teaching of Irish as a compulsory subject. I do not find on the part of parents who send their children to secondary schools a demand that Irish should be compulsory. In the higher colleges in Ireland is Irish a compulsory subject? I can find absolutely no trace of anything of the kind. Take the case of Queen's College, Galway. In 1897–98 there was only one student who attended the lectures on Irish; in 1898–99 nobody attended, and no one has attended this session. The fact is that there is no real, genuine, spontaneous desire in Ireland to revive Irish as the national language. I am glad of this, for 709 it would be a retrograde step, doomed to failure. These remarks I merely make by the way, because it seems to me that the important question, after all, is whether it is desirable that the bilingual system should be applied also to Ireland. Personally I have no objection to bilingual teaching in Gaelic districts, although I foresee great difficulties in the way of providing teachers competent to instruct in the vernacular. I do not think, however, that very much time should be spent upon teaching children to write Irish, but I hold that where Irish is the home language it would be better that instruction in that language should be given.
§ MR. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
I do not think that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is satisfactory. Although he has declared himself in favour of the first part of our proposal, I may point out that he did not tell us of any means by which his sympathy can be carried into effect. It is idle to throw upon the managers the responsibility for not having this bilingual system of teaching put into force. The whole scheme is devised upon lines which render it impossible for school managers to get teachers who can teach that system. There is not one word in the curriculum to compel teachers to learn Irish, and no reward is offered to them for doing so. The whole question is absolutely ignored in the training colleges. What we want to know is whether the Commissioners of Education are going to encourage the teachers to learn Irish, and to impart a knowledge of Irish to such pupils as may desire to learn it. I do not want to make any attack upon the Commissioners of National Education, and I do not agree with the attacks which have been made upon them. I believe the Commissioners are being hampered by other difficulties, and the reason why they have not a better system is the fault of the Government. I know the gentleman who presides over the National Board would never have delivered the speech he did upon the question of teaching Irish if he had not the assent of his colleagues, and if he had not believed that his words might' have some effect when the rules were revised. I do not share the view that there is no strong national demand in Ireland in connection with this question. In my opinion no movement has made such pro- 710 gress during the last ten or twelve years as the teaching of the Irish language. I remember when it was a rare thing in the city of Dublin to hear a man speaking Irish; now it is common to hear men conversing in Irish, who learned it either by their own industry or through some Gaelic association, and without having had any particular assistance from any educational source. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the fact that no attention seemed to be given to the teaching of Irish in the colleges in Ireland. But how can Irish be taught in the colleges if you do not begin with the junior pupils in the primary schools? Surely it is not at college that the study of Irish should be commenced, and it is not likely that any number will devote themselves to Irish when no inducement of any kind is held out to them. The right hon. Gentleman throws the responsibility on the managers of schools for not having teachers who can teach in Irish in the Irish-speaking districts, but I know very well that managers would be extremely glad if they were able to get teachers who would be able to teach children through the medium of Irish. But they are restricted to teachers trained under the National Board. They have no choice. The moment a manager appoints a teacher not classed by the National Board the grant to the school ceases. The managers have not a free hand, and there is no endeavour made by the Commissioners to prepare teachers in Irish, which is the natural language of a great proportion of the people. I have been in districts in the west of Kerry where you could not find half a dozen persons who could speak English. I have seen the children in the schools, and it was positively painful to hear them reading pages of English not one word of which they understood, and then the moment they found themselves in the playground they addressed each other in Irish. These children could not explain what they were reading, and if you addressed them in English they would not understand what was said. Surely the Commissioners cannot contend that they are carrying out the trust placed in them as long as there is a large number of children in such a condition as that. I would say that the hon. Member for East Down was in himself a deplorable example of what the system of national education 711 can do in Ireland, for there was neither sentiment, nor soul, nor nationality in his speech. He might have belonged to any nationality in the world. Education from his point of view is education that will enable a person to get on in the world, and which has neither traditions, nor memories, nor sentiment, nor soul. The hon. Member spoke of its being a disadvantage to the children to be taught anything at all of their own natural language, and, according to him, it would be better if they were transferred to a portion of the country where they could speak only English. That is not the view of persons who have studied this question, and that is not the opinion of the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman was sympathetic, and we could expect nothing more from him, so far as giving an expression of opinion, than we had from him this evening; but a more pious expression of opinion on the part of the National Board that English may be taught through the medium of Irish will have no practical result unless an effort is made to provide that that opinion is carried out. The teachers must be prepared, and there must be some inducement held out to them to learn Irish. It is not a remunerated subject now, and the teacher is supposed to be such an enthusiastic lover of the Irish language that when the work for which he is paid is done, and when his duty to the State and his pupils is discharged, he will gather the pupils around him and deliver his soul to them in Irish. The teachers must have an extraordinary amount of enthusiasm and zeal if they take up this subject after their ordinary work is done. Surely the National Board ought to be able to devise some means to reward teachers for a knowledge of Irish in districts where it is essential for carrying out their work. Then, as to the other demand, I would inform the Chief Secretary that he entirely misapprehends the position if he thinks that the Gaelic League or any hon. Member in this House has the slightest intention of displacing English and getting the people of Ireland to speak Irish only. Lunacy has not increased to that extent. What we demand is that in districts where the children hear nothing but Irish in their homes they should be taught English through the medium of Irish, and that in addition to teaching them English some effort should be made at the same 712 time to give them a literary knowledge of the Irish language. The Chief Secretary spoke of placing schools in Ireland in the same position as schools in Wales as regards the national language. He will not do that by a mere expression of opinion, or by a mere permissive authority on the part of the National Board, that if teachers know Irish, and can teach it, the Board have no objection. We want something more. We want the books in use in the schools in Irish-speaking districts to be Irish books, just as in Wales the school books are in Welsh. The National Board know perfectly well that the note they have placed in their Code can have no effect. Teachers will not devote their time to teaching Irish after ordinary hours without pay or reward. That is not putting us in the same position as Wales. Welsh is a remunerated subject in Welsh schools, and the school-books are printed in both Welsh and English. Let the right hon. Gentleman place us in that position, and the whole of our demand will be conceded.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flintshire Boroughs)
Frequent reference has been made in the course of this debate to Welsh experience, and perhaps, therefore, it may not be unbecoming for a Welsh Member to say a few words on this question. I would venture to say that all my hon. friends from Wales heartily concur in the reasonable and moderate request which has been put forward by the Irish Members. The Chief Secretary has, I think, exaggerated to some extent the nature of the demand that has been made. I will not enter into the question whether his assurancesare sufficiently satisfactory; that is a question for the Irish Members; but I am heartily glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman does intend practically to apply to Ireland the system that prevails in Wales, and that should prevail in Ireland also.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
All that the Irish Government can do in the matter is to suggest the change to the Commissioners, and to sanction it when it is proposed.
§ MR. LEWIS
I can only hope, then, that the Commissioners will take the same enlightened view of the question that the right hon. Gentleman takes, and that his great influence will be used to introduce 713 into Ireland a similar system to that of Wales. As far as the Welsh system is concerned, we can speak in the highest terms of the success that has attended it. The, Welsh language is an admirable educational instrument. The difference in idiom, construction, and forms of expression are much greater between the Welsh and English languages than between English and French or German, and it adds enormously to the mental culture of a child to be taught a language which is as essentially different from English as is Greek or Latin. The fact is that modern European languages are too much on the same plan; but when we come to the Celtic languages the difference between them and the Teutonic languages is so immense that they improve very greatly the mental faculties of the children who study them. I might quote the Report of the Central Board of Education in Wales in confirmation of that view, which states that the bilingual training involved in the parallel study of two languages so dissimilar as English and Welsh must be of marked value to the pupils. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that Irish was not largely taught in the colleges and universities of Ireland. I will tell him why. The hon. Member who spoke last offered a perfectly adequate explanation of that. You do not begin at the bottom, and you cannot expect this kind of instruction to come from the top. We have Welsh taught in our elementary schools in Wales, and we have it taught now, not only in the intermediate schools, but also in the university. I may mention also a fact that may be of interest to hon. Gentlemen, that Welsh is even recognised in the local examinations of Cambridge University as a specific subject. Looked at simply from the point of view of its educational value, one could not possibly find for Welsh children a better vehicle of instruction than their own tongue, and I see no reason why the same process should not apply in every respect to the Irish language. The hon. Member for East Down asked hon. Members from Ireland on this side of the House whether they taught their own children the Irish language. All I can say in regard to that is that twenty or thirty years ago in Wales the Welsh language was considered a rather unfashionable and even a vulgar language, and people in the upper ranks of society were rather more ashamed of it 714 than otherwise. What is the case at present? Why, peers and M. P.'s and people belonging to other ranks of society take the greatest care to have their children taught the language of the country. Well would it be if that were the case in Ireland; because, after all, the language of a country is one of the shortest ways to the hearts of its people. A few weeks ago I travelled in Brittany, and in diligence and railway carriage I often conversed in the Breton language as far as I could. The Welsh and Breton languages are much more similar than the Welsh and Irish languages, and by conversing in the Breton language I found my way at once to the hearts of the people. Their faces lighted up with interest and admiration when they found a foreigner speaking a language which they supposed was their own, but which was the language of a country beyond the seas as well. I saw in a leading journal this morning the following statement—To provide for the efficient teaching of Irish in the Ireland of the present day would be to subsidise the study of a dead language under great difficulties and without any of the advantages of the cultivation of classical literature.The gentlemen who write for the newspaper from which I have quoted are all men of great ability and great culture, but there was never a greater mistake than to say that the Irish language is a dead language. I hope it is no more a dead language than is Welsh. Perhaps we in Wales have had certain advantages. Our Sunday schools have kept the Welsh language alive, and at the present time a larger number of people speak it than in any previous period in the history of Wales, and a greater number can speak it and write it grammatically than ever before. I should like to refer to another statement in the newspaper from which I have already quoted. It is as follows—Neither in Wales nor in Brittany have the consequences of fostering the Celtic dialects been such as to encourage enlightened men to labour for the artificial creation of a similar state of things in Ireland.I will tell the House how the Welsh language was "fostered" early in this century, and, I believe, also very considerably into the latter half of the century. It was the custom in Wales 715 to give what was called a "token "—a very heavy wooden billet—to a boy who spoke the Welsh language in a day school, and he was obliged to carry it on his back as a token of disgrace until he had found some other boy who had broken into the Welsh language also, and then it was transferred to him. I know perfectly well that the Irish language has been discouraged in similar and, perhaps, more cruel ways than that in the past, but I think we have now arrived at a state of things when the Philistinism which Mathew Arnold denounced so fiercely is passing away. We have now arrived at a more enlightened state, and we now recognise that the languages of the smaller nations have their part to play in the economy of the world, and that it is not right to trample them out of existence. I think the Irish child ought to be taught to respect the language of his hearth and home, and ought to obtain a grammatical and literary knowledge of that language. It is true we have in Wales a large number of magnificent publications in the Welsh language, £200,000 worth of Welsh books being published every year, and so far as modern literature is concerned, undoubtedly we will not yield the palm to any branch of the Celtic race. But in ancient literature we must acknowledge that Ireland is richer than most countries, although little is known of it at the present time, and even that little is only known to the cultured few. I hope the day is not far distant when every Irish child will be taught his own language in his own elementary school and will be able to read the classics of his own land, and then we may see Irish scholars taking a deeper interest in their own language and conferring fresh honours on it. I did not intend to trespass so far on the patience of the Committee, but I must say I was to some degree inspired by the magnificent peroration of the hon. Member for Waterford. After all, a language is a precious possession of a country. I put it to English Members, supposing the English language was in the same position, supposing, instead of being the language of the world, it was the language only of the Home Counties; does any one suppose that they would not cling to it, although it was only the language of the few, and perhaps of the despised few? There are other than mere material considerations. You cannot measure every- 716 thing by a cash value, but you can attach even a cash value to the training of the mind, and believing as I do that the study of the Celtic language by the children who speak it in their homes is a valuable method of training the mind, I heartily support the motion.
§ SIR THOMAS ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)
We have all listened with great interest and pleasure to the speech of the hon. Member. For Irishmen it is a great thing to know that there is at all events one part of the world in which the Celtic: tongue is so cherished and so vigorous. The statement of the hon. Member about the punishment inflicted on the Welsh children in days gone by for speaking their own language comes quite home to us, because not so long ago children in Ireland who spoke Irish were immediately punished. The speech of the Chief Secretary was, on the whole, unsatisfactory. I have no fault to find with its tone, and I have no intention of falling foul with the right hon. Gentleman on that score. But his speech was exactly the same sort of speech to which we have listened for years. This question of the encouragement of the Irish language has been raised on these benches as long as I can remember, and although the present Chief Secretary was a little more conciliatory and slightly more sympathetic in his remarks, his speech was exactly the same as the speeches of his predecessors. It loads to nothing of a practical nature. The right hon. Gentleman tells us he sympathises with us. We are much obliged to him. Then he tells us he has no power to give practical effect to his sympathy; that he has no power to deal with the Commissioners or to make any change whatever in the scheme under which education in Ireland is administered. I think the right hon. Gentleman has a very easy way of giving effect to his good wishes. All he need do is to bring in a Bill making the encouragement of the Irish language in the Irish schools not only permissive but compulsory. If the right hon. Gentlemen would bring in such a Bill even at the present period of the session, I can promise him it would be passed in three days. Therefore there is no ground for the attitude which the right hon. Gentleman has taken up. The right hon. Gentleman laid some share of 717 blame for the condition of the Irish language in Ireland on the attitude of the managers of Irish schools. As far as I know, there is no body of men more anxious that Irish should be properly taught in the Irish schools than the managers. The Irish hierarchy, who I presume may be trusted to speak for the Irish managers, have emphatically pronounced the opinion that the Irish language ought to be encouraged. Not many days ago we saw an interesting statement signed by the managers of National schools in Con-naught, in which they unanimously expressed the desire that the Irish language should be encouraged in the National schools, and in my own constituency the managers are also unanimously in favour of this movement. So far as the managers are concerned, the right hon. Gentleman would find no difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that there is nothing in the rules of the Board of Education to prevent the study of the Irish language. The great difficulty, in my mind, is that, under the old rules, and still more, under the new, there is no inducement given to Irish teachers to teach the Irish language in their schools. They are supposed to teach it out of school hours, and they get no remuneration for it. That is much worse than no system at all. The right hon. Gentleman made a strong point when he said that educated people in Ireland do not insist on their children being taught Irish. Well, the reason of that is exceedingly simple. There is no opportunity for teaching children of the upper classes in Ireland Irish, and no assistance is given by the Government for teaching Irish in the lower schools; and under the intermediate system the study of Irish is not encouraged. The result is that there are practically no grammars and other books for teaching Irish. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned, as an instance of the small interest taken in the Irish language, that there was only one student of Irish in Queen's College, Galway. That case is an unfortunate one, because the right hon. Gentleman knows that very few Catholics in Ireland will send their children to be educated in Queen's Colleges. The right hon. Gentleman has reiterated his sympathy with this question, but I hope he will go further, and, instead of having it brought up year after year in this extremely unsatisfactory fashion, that next year he will be in a 718 position to introduce a measure, supposing the National Education Board do not take proper steps meanwhile, to encourage the study of the Irish language. I have no cause of complaint for the very cautious manner in which the right hon. Gentleman gave us some of the reasons for the faith that is in him. He told us it was monstrous to attempt to revive a dead language. Thank God, Irish is not yet a dead language, although at the present moment it is in danger; and that is one of the reasons why the Irish Members want some means taken by which it will never become a dead language. The point which the right hon. Gentleman overlooked, and which is persistently overlooked in this House, is that the people of Ireland are determined that the Irish language shall be assisted, and as far as possible revived. This is a repetition of the whole question of ninety-nine years ago, that the people are determined to be governed in accordance with their own wishes. The people of Ireland are unanimous in their desire for the revival of the Irish language, and no matter what arguments, based on so-called justice and common sense, may be brought against us, we are determined to maintain our position. I am not, however, afraid to meet hon. Gentlemen on the grounds of practical common sense. One hon. Gentleman asked whether there was any country in Europe where more than one language was spoken by working men. There are, as a matter of fact, so many countries in Europe whore they speak two languages, that the difficulty is to find a country where only one is spoken. The hon. Gentleman was particularly unfortunate in his reference to Switzerland, because in most districts in that country two languages are spoken by all the people, and in many, three. In the neighbouring country of France, in every single Department, two languages, at least, are spoken. In fact, there are more patois and dialects spoken in France than in any other country in the world. For instance, in the South, Bernaise and French are spoken; in the West, Breton and French; in the East, German and French in Alsace-Lorraine; in the North-East, Walloon and French.
MR. ARNOLD-FOESTER (Belfast, W.)
Are these taught in the schools?
§ SIR THOMAS ESMONDE
I never was at a school there, and I cannot tell; but I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can say, of his own knowledge, that they are not. I go to Belgium, where I have lived, and there Flemish is taught in the schools in the same way as French—the two languages go on side by side. Then take the case of Hungary, which is peculiarly interesting, because we Irish are constantly reminded that there is so much that is generally characteristic in the history of the two countries. In different parts of Hungary Magyar and German are spoken; Magyar and Roumanian, Magyar and Polish, Magyar and Russian, Magyar and Czech, Magyar and Croat, and in every one of these districts they get on extremely well with the two languages. Another point in connection with Hungary is of extreme interest, and that is that not so very long ago, not two generations ago, the Hungarian language was forbidden, and the official language of the Diet and the courts of law was Latin; and if any other language was spoken it was either German, Wallachian, or a Slav dialect. The Hungarians fought the battle of their language in the same way as they fought their political battles, and now all over Hungary Magyar is spoken, although seventy or eighty years ago it was said to be a dead language. An hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House talked of the difficulty of reviving a dead language, but the great advantage in regard to Irish is that it is not a dead language. It is spoken by, at all events, half a million of people in Ireland, and there is no difficulty whatever in preserving it, if the Government will only give us some small assistance. I am very sorry to say that I cannot speak Irish myself. I have not had the opportunity of learning it, as I do not come from an Irish-speaking district; but I take a great interest in this question on literary, historical, and national grounds. I do not suppose that the last of these grounds commends itself to our opponents. But I represent a constituency where there is a very large Irish-speaking population, and I should be wanting in my duty to them if I did not intervene in this debate in behalf of the Irish language. The Chief Secretary objects to the programme laid before hire by the Gaelic League. He says it is too 720 extensive, and not of a practical nature; but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the League speaks for the people of Ireland. The sentiment which is behind the Gaelic League, and from which they derive their great influence, is spread all over the country, and is daily increasing in strength and volume. Their first proposal is that there should be the teaching of the Irish language in the Irish-speaking districts. The right hon. Gentleman agrees to that, although he says that he has no power to give effect to it. But I hope he will discover before next session some way of giving effect to it. The other proposal is that Irish should be made worthy of study by the teachers in the Irish schools, so that they might be better fitted to teach it to their pupils, and that they should be given an opportunity of teaching it to pupils in other than Irish-speaking districts. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman has not adopted a more sympathetic attitude in regard to that point. I think it will not be necessary, at the present stage, that the teaching of Irish should be made compulsory in the non-Irish-speaking districts; but the people of Ireland have a fair right to claim that when they wish their children to learn Irish they should get teachers qualified to instruct them. I do not think that is an impossible demand. I would like to reassure the right hon. Gentleman that this is not a question with which, after all, the people of Ireland do not feel sympathy. It is emphatically a national question, and representatives of every school of politics and creeds have expressed themselves in favour of it, from the hierarchy down to boards of guardians. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should consider this matter seriously, as a question which recommends itself to the Government on grounds of policy, if for no other reason. It is a question that can very easily be settled, and it would be judicious and wise on the part of the Government to do so. All we ask is similarity of treatment with the other parts of the United Kingdom, and that the principles of Unionism should be put in force. Before the last general election we heard a great deal about the equality of treatment of all parts of the United Kingdom, but we did not hear so much about it afterwards. Another election is approaching, and the Government should give some proof of i their desire to afford equality of treat- 721 ment in Ireland with that of the people in Wales and in the Highlands of Scotland. The people in Ireland will be very easily satisfied on this point. Probably there may be some trouble in certain parts of Ireland, unless some steps are taken to meet the feelings of the people in this matter. At all events, the feeling is strong enough to make the carrying on of the National School system a matter of difficulty, unless the teaching of the Irish language is conceded. I appeal to the right hon. gentleman, however, on much higher grounds than that. The government of the British Empire is committed to many educated and intellectual men, and no higher duty can fall upon them than the encouragement of the mental training and culture of those over whom they rule. Behind this question of the Irish language there remains that of cultivating the minds of the Irish people by enabling them to enjoy the beauties of their historic literature, their poetry, and their native traditions. On these high, and perhaps ideal, grounds it is the duty of the Government to support the teaching of the Irish language. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the English Government has in other countries done very much to encourage and preserve native languages. In New Zealand the Maori language would have died out long ago had it not been for the action of the representatives of the British Government, who had books published in the Maori language, and the Maoris were taught to read and write in their own tongue. The same may be said of the language of Samoa, and many other places which, either permanently or temporarily, have been brought under the British Government. Surely if it was worth while to preserve the language and literature of the Maoris it is much more worth while to preserve the language and literature of Ireland. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman once again that this is a most important question, that there is an immense amount of popular feeling for it, and that it would be wise for the Government to concede something to that feeling.
MR. T. M. HEALY
It is a rule that when any question is brought forward by the Irish Members and resisted by the Government, that 722 resistance is based either on the ground that the demand will cost money, or that the result will have some effect on the Act of Union. Now, Nationalists in Ireland, or most of them, can already speak English, and they detest the system of English government quite heartily enough already, so that it cannot be suggested that a knowledge of the English language or acquaintance with the abuse which is cast on the name and fame of Ireland, on its literature and its religion, has in any way increased the attachment of Irishmen to the system of government established in that country. Consequently it is absurd to suggest that any further culture or extension of the knowledge of Irish would in any way militate against the continuance of the existence of that system. So that we may dismiss from our minds the idea that the Government would receive any help for their case from the fact that the Irish speak English. Indeed I can conceive that if we only used the Irish language our detestation of the English would never have been half so great as it is, because we could never have understood what was said. I take as an instance of the reason which exists for our detestation the sentiment expressed in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for East Down. As I understood him he put his case altogether on the fact that English is a practical language, and that what we have to do with is the practical affairs of this life; and in hard and bitter language he complained that we and our teachers encouraged nothing but sentiment. I am always glad to get information, and I bow before the pundit opposite; but, if there is a great deal of practical advantage to be got from the knowledge of the English language, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman is so much better equipped in that respect than our poor selves, why should he not turn his great genius to some better account than looking for an English County Court judgeship? We always find the Government putting up on these occasions some one to express their real sentiments who is on the cadge for a job. The line taken by the hon. and learned Gentleman, who is used on every occasion as the merest utensil of the Government, and who is put up as a so-called independent Member to express his own opinions, but who, of course, speaks the real sentiments of the 723 Government, is really one of the reasons why I say the knowledge of English possessed by Irish Member's occasionally adds to our detestation of the established system of government in Ireland. Even so, the fact that the hon. Gentleman's English is so admirable, is supported by his statement that nothing was more valued by him in his domestic home and in the educational circumstances of his home, than "The Spelling-book Superseded." As I thought, that was the measure of the Philistinism of the hon. and learned Member. As a vehicle of knowledge, of learning, and of the higher thought, the hon. and learned Gentleman recommends to all his friends and following the constant use of "The Spelling book Superseded"! He has told us that Irish was absolutely unknown abroad. I will not go back to the days of the Comarba, who made the Irish tongue familiar from Norway in the North to the Mediterranean in the South. There are names in Norway of churches called after Irish saints; and Irish saints are venerated in every little hamlet in Germany, France, and Italy. I will not go back to these ancient days, but I will come to a later period when French generals and the Emperor Napoleon found no difficulty but great value in using a few words of the Irish language, especially when they were backed up by the bayonets of the Connaught Rangers. No doubt the Irish language was necessary in South Africa when the Irish Fusiliers sprang to their heroic deeds. At all events, we are living in the year in which we have been graciously permitted, both for ourselves and our soldiers, by Her Majesty the Queen to wear the shamrock; and we have been favoured in the same year by the gracious visit of Her Majesty to Ireland. That has not cost the English a single halfpenny; and in a similar economic frame of mind it would not have added the burden of one sixpence to the Educational Estimates of this country if the demand now asked for from those Irish Benches had been granted. I think I have demonstrated two facts—first, that the knowledge of English does not increase the love of English Government in Ireland; and, second, that the teaching of Irish to the children of Ireland would not add to the expense of the English Government. There is no expense at- 724 tached to that demand. How, therefore, can you on that ground resist a proposal put forward in the name of at least three fourths of the people of Ireland? Supposing the Government were dealing with an island in the southern seas which they were anxious to retain, and they found the entire, people of that island had put forward an humble demand that they should be allowed to use their tongue, which was in sympathy with the religion and sentiment of the country, would anyone say it would not be wise on the part of the Home Government to consent and tolerate it? Take Jersey, where the French language is still spoken in all its native purity, and where the French language is taught in the schools at the expense of the local rates. Would it not be considered madness if the Government which is established there adopted the same attitude towards the people of the Channel Islands as that which is taken up by certain persons here? I think that attitude is especially injurious upon the part of those who come from districts which would not be affected by this demand. Why should they raise any objection with regard to us? They say it is for our good, and that we should be wasting our time. Surely if we want to waste our time it is no affair of theirs. We do not take any money out of their pockets. We leave them in the enjoyment of the "Spelling-book Superseded." Why they should desire that the bishops of Ireland should be flouted, or that the people of Connemara, Donegal, or Kerry should be deprived of the knowledge of their ancient tongue, I leave to the wisdom of greater men than I. I was in Donegal some little time ago, and I heard children reading English, and they could read it perfectly; but when I asked them the meaning of the commonest words they did not understand them—they did not even understand the ''Spelling-book Superseded," and the British Government, forsooth, maintains that system of education as if it was in some way appropriate to bolster up the Act of Union. But the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said—and I think it was somewhat mean for a man of his talents—" We throw no obstable in the way." Quite so; but what does he do? He further says, "It is not any fault of ours at all; it is the fault of the school 725 managers." The managers do not pick out whom they choose to teach the children. This was the system which the Catholics established for themselves. They established Catholic colleges for the training of teachers, and the Protestants have done the same thing; and then the true instinct of the Presbyterians, which is to pay nothing if it can be avoided, was discovered, and it is they who are really running the whole show. The training college for teachers in Dublin at the present moment is the training college for the Presbyterians. The right hon. Gentleman having established that system, and having provided that the teachers shall have no training in Irish, and shall not have the moans of getting hold of it, and as the school manager must take one of these men who are called "classed," says, "You can get whom you like." It is nonsense; we demand something more. It is something to bewail in any country that one should not know the meaning of the names of the rivers and town lands and common things which affect the life and history of the country, more especially when in many places—and not only places, bat personal names—the easier and shorter names have been changed and demoralised into what they now are. May I ask this of the bread-and-butter test Gentlemen: do you not teach Anglo-Saxon in one of your colleges? I understand that there is in one even a chair for Sanscrit, but I am not aware that anybody now asks for tea and sugar in Sanscrit. That, I understand, is the new test, but I wish to put it on a higher level than a question of a tea and sugar policy. It is a portion of the national life of the country, and it is a loss by the people of Irish music through the loss of their native language. Irish music has perished among the Irish people because it was set to Irish songs, which were sung at the fireside, and when the language of the land passed away there were no English words set to this music. We know a great deal about Irish music, but supposing Moore had not written three-fourths of the songs, Irish music would have disappeared. Does the Government owe Ireland no compensation for having destroyed her music, her monasteries, and her woollen manufactures? I do not suggest it even as a matter of sentiment, but as a matter of right. We do not ask for a costly thing, we do not ask for an 726 additional bawbee; but is it not worth while to placate the sentiment of the country? It is not a case which assails the Nonconformist conscience; it is not like the great University question—there is no undue contact with Rome. There is no going back to what have been called the glorious days before the Union. I wonder sometimes that the English do not feel that this is their duty. Irish Members are constantly told that this is a Unionist Parliament, and that in all things in connection with local affairs this Parliament is willing to give them absolute satisfaction. We do not ask for the time of Parliament; we do not ask for a Treasury Bill, or any other which would occupy five minutes consideration. The whole thing could be done by a rule which does not even require Parliamentary sanction. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said—and this is what makes the British Government a matter so hard to explain—that he was not responsible; it was all the National Board. What is that Board? In the first place, in a country three-fourths Catholic, the constitution of the Board requires that half the members should be Protestants. One would imagine that the Government, having put down its hand, would say that the National Board should be in consonance with the complexion of the country; but they first stuff the Board with half their own kind, Protestants, and then they bring in a few weak-kneed Catholics as stuffing for the others. There was a vacancy upon the Board, and, as I said yesterday, there was a scheme to fill that vacancy with a judge, and they put in Mr. Justice Gibson.
MR. T. M. HEALY
Why does not the Government play the game with the cards upon the table? What is the use of making such an observation as that? It deceives nobody. I repeat what I said yesterday, that an Irish judge has quite enough to do to attend to his judicial duties, and I respectfully submit that he has no right on a Board of Education. He was not put there to see that educa- 727 tion was properly conducted, or that the proper subjects were taught; he was put there as the sentinel of the British Government to prevent Irish history and the Irish language being taught in the schools, and then the English Government, when they have packed the jury, say they are not responsible. It is absurd to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman can put upon the shoulders of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland the responsibility which belongs to the British Government itself. Everybody knows that in Dublin Castle, if the smallest wish were expressed for anything which a Government Department wants, they would have it the next afternoon. How is Ireland managed? A few dinners at the Castle, a few Orders of St. Patrick, a few knighthoods, and a few advances in salary. There is not a man in Ireland honestly attached to the system. The landlords stand up for you because of their rents; if they were sure of their rents under a Nationalist Parliament they would join us in a moment, especially if they could see their way to 5 per cent. extra. All the official class are on the make. They are not satisfied with their salary, they want an advance, and when they get that they want a pension, and when that is provided they want promotion for somebody else. I wonder if there is any one in the world who despises the Irish more than a Chief Secretary for Ireland. I would like to see the diary of an Irish Secretary, stuffed with the letters he has received, and the applications for advances, baronetcies, and promotions, and the miserable intrigues that are carried on in order to obtain these things, with the great majority of the Irish population standing sullenly aside and looking on with absolute contempt and derision of the whole system. Does the right hon. Gentleman say he could not have Irish taught? He could do it by telephone. Call up the Education Board: "'Are you there, Education Department?' 'Yes, your honour.' 'Have Irish taught in the morning. ''Yes, your honour,'" and it is done. Why can it not be done? Because it would have to go through the whole list of the right hon. Gentlemen's appointees, and you would find that everybody wants something else. Independence of character in the official classes is entirely absent. There is no freedom of thought, except among the poor class. The rich are 728 either running after invitations to dinner or the Order of St. Patrick. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that our views cannot be met. I want to know the reason why. You have got the Army, Navy, and Volunteers to uphold your system. You have the tax-gatherer coining round to collect the taxes, and we should still be paying £3,000,000 too much, and for what earthly reason our views cannot be met, except the bottom hatred that prevails against everything Irish in the minds of our rulers, I cannot see. But it is because you refuse to accord to us these small matters, which you say are more matters of sentiment, but which are the just demands of our country, that the connection between the two countries is, and will always continue to be, one of hatred and mistrust.
§ * THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE FOR IRELAND (Mr. PLUNKETT,) Dublin Co., S.
I wish to say a few words in this debate, because the question on which we shall divide is one which might make a man appear to be voting against his convictions. I entirely associate myself with the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who appears to me to have approached this matter in the most sensible and practical manner. I went into these districts, for the purpose of satisfying myself upon this question, and my mind is fully made up upon it. I can give the Committee one curious instance of the necessity of teaching in bilingual districts through the medium of the Irish language. Some of my friends were anxious to introduce the Gorman system of agricultural credit, and in these districts we found it absolutely necessary to teach that, system through the Irish language. We had to employ an Irish organiser and have our leaflets translated into Irish. That is a good practical illustration of the bilingual teaching which many of us are anxious to see. Coming to the question of what can be done and what is best to be done, what are the facts that prompt hon. Members opposite to say that a minority of the Commissioners of Education have overruled the majority in the matter of teaching the 729 Irish language? I am informed that the matter has never come before the Commissioners at all except in the shape of resolutions in identical terms from a large number of public bodies. The only way that it seems to me that the matter can properly come before them is through the managers, and no manager, I am informed, has made any request to the Commissioners upon the subject; when they do it will be quite time to rate the Commissioners upon their inaction. The Commissioners, in the meantime, have adopted a new rule that within the limit of the curriculum the managers shall arrange the programme of their schools to suit the needs of the locality within which that school is situated. That is a very sensible endeavour to do away with that rigidity of programme and over-centralisation to which the hon. Gentleman who opened this debate made reference. The object of this rule is to introduce that elasticity into the programme which, I take it, we all desire. Many hon. Gentlemen coming from those districts will be able to say better than I, but the impression I gained in many of those districts was that the people themselves were not strongly in favour of Irish being taught. Those of us who have travelled in America are aware that a large number of emigrants have been prejudiced owing to their want of familiarity with the English language, and in some districts it is believed that the bilingual system may lead to less teaching of the English language. We do not agree with that, but that is in the mind of the people. Another difficulty is that the managers say they cannot get Irish teachers. It was suggested by an hon. Member opposite that that difficulty would be easily overcome by the training college. I do not myself think it would, because it seems to me that the English-speaking teacher who had merely acquired a smattering of Irish, which is all he could acquire in a year, would not be much use in conveying to the minds of children the English tongue through the medium of the Irish language. What we want to abolish is the system of people teaching through a language with which they themselves are not familiar. The teachers should be Irish speaking in order to do what we wish to see done effectively. An hon. Member had complained that Irish had ceased to be a remunerative subject; it always was an extra subject, 730 and can only now be a remunerative subject by being an extra subject. I do not now wish, to occupy the time of the House further, for many hon. Members I know have come over from Ireland especially to debate this question, and therefore I only say in conclusion that, although this debate has no doubt done good, I believe that this question can be very much more easily dealt with by public opinion in Ireland. I believe the Chief Secretary in the speech he has made will have largely influenced the managers if they are not already converted to that view.
§ * MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
said he was personally interested in this question, as in the county of Donegal, one of the divisions of which he represented, there were no fewer than 60,000 Irish-speaking people. It had frequently been said in the House that there was a larger percentage of illiterates in South Donegal than in any other constituency. If that was so it was absolutely due to the system of education which did not enable Irish-speaking children to be educated in the English language through the medium of the Irish language. He could not help thinking that the English Government had by that system perpetuated as far as they could the brutal proscription of language which remained on the Statute-book from former times. The habit of teaching children who could only speak Irish through the medium of English was so humorous that if it were not wicked it might well form part of the travesties of Mr. Gilbert. It was a curious thing that in this district, which through the operations of the English Government had been practically denied education, there were, when Ireland had a control of her own in educational matters, men who were famed throughout Europe for their scholarship. They founded monasteries on the Continent of Europe, and in England they founded Durham cathedral. The children of Donegal were now denied learning through the vile system of the English Government. The Chief Secretary had been told again and again of the evils which the system produced. By a stroke of his pen he could completely alter the system. All he had to do was to say that there should be Irish- 731 speaking teachers, and that English should be taught through the medium of the Irish language. It was a subterfuge to say that it was the fault of the managers of the schools. It was nothing of the kind. Managers had a most limited selection, and the number from whom they must select were not necessarily Irish-speaking teachers. He remembered that recently in the Transvaal one of the great grievances was that the Uitlanders were not allowed to address the Volkraad in their own language; but in Ireland the English Government did not allow Irish-speaking children to be taught in their own language. Could they not do in Ireland exactly what they had done in Wales? What was the great difficulty or distinguishing feature which precluded them from giving to the Irish-speaking people a chance of succeeding in the race of life? He confessed there was nothing more melancholy than to see, as they might in some parts of Ireland, men and women who could neither read nor write—splendid specimens of manhood and womanhood. They contrasted with all their ignorance and illiteracy most favourably with the Stock Exchange "bulls" and "bears," who could both read and write. On these grounds he hoped the hon. Gentleman would make a comprehensive change in the system. It could not but be said that so long as the system lasted and children were taught in school in a language different from their own vernacular, they were really proscribing the education of an entire race of people. They were denying them learning just as they endeavoured in former days to turn the Catholics to Protestantism. Although illiteracy had been truthfully charged against the peasants of Donegal, he felt that it was one of the meanest and vilest charges ever uttered, for the illiteracy had been forced on the people who had not only the greatest desire for learning, but also a natural capacity for it. What was asked was that all Irish-speaking children should be given teachers with whom they could communicate and should be taught in their own language. He had placed the question of the Irish language on a practical basis, but at the same time there were matters involved which wore not of a merely material character. "Man doth not live by bread only." While these people had been shut 732 out of all the benefits and chances of promotion in life, there was inflicted on them a still more grievous calamity—they were shut out from the intellectual delights to be found in the fields of knowledge which proper education would confer. What was asked would not increase the expenditure of the Government. He would urge the right hon. Gentleman to use his influence with the Commissioners to give the people the benefits of education through the medium of the Irish language. Of course, the right hon Gentleman dominated the Irish Commissioners and they would give the greatest consideration to any advice he would give. To deny to the people of the Irish-speaking districts teachers who understood the language was to carry out a barbarous penal system. They asked for an act of the very purest justice. His own constituency in Donegal had been proscribed from education long enough, and he hoped the English Government would now grant the request that was made.
§ MAJOR JAMESON (Clare, W.)
said the right hon. Member for South Dublin had conveyed to the House an absolutely wrong impression in suggesting that if knowledge of the Irish language was not imparted it was the fault of the managers of the schools and not of the Government. Within the last three years the number of marks at examinations for Irish had been decreased, while the number of marks for Greek had been increased, and this notwithstanding hon. Gentlemen opposite twitted them by calling Irish a dead language. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin was right in saying that he had made a few friends on that side of the House. The reason was that he had won for himself the hatred of many of the officials of Dublin Castle, and the hatred of the community in Ireland who disliked everything that was Irish. That was the reason why they thought something more of him on that side of the House. He could quite understand the position of the right hon. Gentleman, the Chief Secretary. They looked forward to the day when the Chief Secretary should be an Irishman, but he thought there would be no necessity for the present Chief Secretary to learn Irish. They 733 looked forward to the day when the officials would have alone the desires of the Irish people at heart. They did not ask hon. Members opposite to put their hands in their pockets for one sixpence; they merely asked to be allowed to carry out the wishes of the Irish people in regard to this matter. If the right hon. Gentleman refused this very small boon he would refuse what was the wish certainly of three-fourths of the Irish people.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN (Donegal, W.)
felt bound, as knowing the intensity of the feeling amongst bishops, priests, and people in favour of the contention the Irish Members were putting forward, to give some brief expression to the views he knew to obtain among the people. The most rev. Bishop O'Donnell, Bishop of Raphoe, was an ecclesiastic of high attainments and high culture, and he was one of the most devoted friends and earnest advocates of the principle being contended for that evening. The priests were men who spoke the Irish language, but there were numerous schools in his district taught according to the system of the National Board, which, instead of expediting education, was an obstacle and an obstruction. The most rapid way in which one could get a language, and the ideals represented by the language, into the minds of boys and girls was to explain them to them in a language they understood. It was simply cruel to hold young people back from the degree of advancement they would gain in coming time if they were rightly treated. They were told the present system was due to a desire on the part of their beneficent British rulers to give the young people a chance of an early start in life, to make their way in the world when they left their native soil. If it was the well being and advancement of the Irish people that were desired by the English Government, that desire could have been shown in many ways, but it had not been done. The claim for a Catholic University might be taken as a test. If the Government wanted to cultivate the flower of Irish intellect, genius, and scholarship, they could have acceded to that fair and reasonable request of the Irish people of all creeds and classes. There were no doubt a few bigots who made a 734 little noise, beat drums, and pretended to be much greater and more powerful than they really were. But they were a mere handful and a small minority. They had, however, succeeded in frightening the British Government, which professed not to be afraid of any race or people. The Government were afraid of the Orange drum, which had been beaten in Ulster, but why not in this matter have regard for Irish sentiment? Why not show some sense of gratitude? Although a long story it was a true story, and not a legend, that Irishmen educated and Christianised a great part of England. In their great schools the Irish gave free education and free food to the students who came across from England. In the great city of Armagh there existed one of the great Irish schools to which students came from England to learn knowledge and civilisation. What better could Ireland do for England than make Christians of Pagans, and make ignorant people intelligent? But what reward did they get? They had this national system, which was not carried out, devised, or designed according to the views, wishes, or feelings of the Irish people. It was a foreign institution; a foreign spirit ruled it from first to last; and it was high time the Irish people rose in revolt against it. There was now a revolt in Ireland against this cruel system, and it need not be imagined that it was a little sentimental outburst, coming up like a flower, which would wither away again very shortly. It was the commencement of a great national movement, and the movement was growing, increasing, and strengthening every day. Young men and women were joining Gaelic classes who had never heard Irish spoken before, and they were learning the Gaelic tongue with enthusiasm. He knew young people who had never heard Gaelic spoken in their own homes, but who were now teaching Gaelic classes in Ireland. That showed how the movement was growing, and he claimed for it the fair play and sympathy of a cultured and enlightened people. Everybody knew how it broadened a man's intellectual power to learn another language; if he knew but one tongue he was cabined, cribbed and confined in his search after knowledge. There were many arguments which might be advanced in favour of this moderate demand of the Irish nation. He had no doubt the 735 English rulers had hoped to kill out the Irish language; they thought it was doomed to death; but it was fated not to die. England was always robbing Ireland of one thing or another, but this was something the English did not want for themselves, and yet would not allow the Irish to have. Irish lands were confiscated, Irish manufactures destroyed. Ireland was robbed of her Parliament, and the English did their best to rob her of her religion, but in that they were defeated. She was plundered by over-taxation, but after all these grabbings and takings she asked only for fair play for her young people in keeping alive and cultivating their mother tongue. He pleaded that no obstacles should be thrown in the way, but that the movement should be helped and encouraged. England would be no poorer or worse for it, but Ireland would be much happier. At present the language was one of the relics of the past; Ireland's ancient history was bound up with it, and she would not part with it. He was thankful and proud to have lived to see the day when there was a great movement in that direction, and a revival of Irish feeling in that respect, and he was confident that the movement would thrive, prosper, and succeed. Some speakers had treated the subject as though it was desired to banish the English language from Ireland. No such proposition or suggestion had been made. It was a gross misrepresentation to pretend to the English people that that was the object of the movement. It was essential that the Irish people should be able to speak the language spoken on the great continent of America among that friendly, free, and sympathetic people. It was also necessary that they should know the English tongue when they went to the great new Commonwealth which had just been constituted and formed by the people of Australia. It was, therefore, absurd to make the suggestion to which he had referred. No harm would be done to any English interest; England would lose nothing by it. Whatever concession the Government might make, the Irish people were determined to keep this subject going until their object was attained. It was not necessary for him to argue the matter further, but he felt bound to lot his voice be heard on the subject, as otherwise he would feel he had not done his 736 duty. The speech of the Chief Secretary had been sympathetic, and if he would pluck up heart and go a little further, he would win for himself a grateful and kindly feeling on the part of the Irish people. The nation meant to alter the condition of things under which numbers of Irish people never heard a word of Irish in their lives, and every word of sympathy and help in that struggle would be repaid with affectionate and friendly feeling by the people of Ireland.
§ MR. DALY (Monaghan, S.)
said the directions he had received during the last few days were to the effect that the people of his constituency were anxious that the Government should introduce the teaching of the Irish language into the schools. To his own knowledge, in the district where he came from, in which English only was spoken, he could assure the Committee that there were a great number of classes where Irish was being taught. He was rather disappointed with the reply of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, for he had always been under the impression that the right hon. Gentleman was accountable for the entire government of Ireland. If any hon. Member put a question in the House about education they would put it to the Chief Secretary. The Chief Secretary had stated that he had no power over the Education Board, and yet he answered for them in this House. Such an argument was entirely inconsistent with the office which the Chief Secretary held. Therefore he was greatly surprised at the statement which had been made, for the right hon. Gentleman had tried to place the entire blame upon the shoulders of the managers of the schools. If a manager of a school in Ireland wanted a teacher who could teach Irish, where was he to get that teacher? There were no training colleges, to teach them, and if a teacher were appointed who understood Irish probably an inspector would be sent from this country to award marks for the teaching; of a subject about which he knew absolutely nothing. It was a very remarkable fact that, in the west of Ireland, where the Irish language was so largely spoken,. out of 1,300 schools no less than 1,164 of them were anxious that Irish should be taught in those schools. Could there be anything more conclusive than that fact? 737 The right hon. Gentleman had been met by arguments from the Irish Members which could not be controverted. The speech of Dr. Starkie, the new Resident Commissioner, had been placed before the Committee. The Chief Secretary had just made a speech, and he scarcely knew whether the right hon. Gentleman was for or against their demands. He stated that he had no power with the Commissioners of National Education, and yet he had to answer for them in the House of Commons. All the same, he believed that if the right hon. Gentleman stated to the Commissioners for National Education that it was his wish that they should introduce the teaching of the Irish language in Irish-speaking districts, that statement would take away a great deal of the soreness of the Irish people upon this question. It was very remarkable that while the Irish people could not get permission to have their own language taught in their own schools, the Welsh people obtained that concession long ago. There were only about 2,000 Jews in Ireland, and yet their language was fostered and allowed to be taught. The Jews were allowed this privilege, and yet the Irish were not. This was another Irish grievance which had been put forward so often in this House with the same inevitable result. The Chief Secretary said that there was no desire on behalf of the Irish people to have their children taught the home language, but he was quite wrong. There was a convent where he came from where the children were sent to be educated, and one of the subjects taught there was Irish. He knew that thirty-five young ladies from that convent competed at the intermediate examinations last year. Those children came from the most respectable class of people in Ireland, and if the parents of those children were not anxious that their children should learn their native language, was it likely that they would; send them to schools where Irish was taught? This was a very strong argument, showing that Irish parents of the most respectable class were anxious that their children should understand and be able to converse in the tongue which the British Government had done so much to remove and stamp out in Ireland. The Commissioners of Education had put in kindergarten, singing, and other matters 738 to be taught, but the Irish language was not there. Although the right hon. Gentleman had stated he had no power over the Commissioners, he believed that if the Chief Secretary only gave that body a hint they would not be very long before they acted upon it, and he was sure that by so doing he would earn the gratitude of the Irish people. It was not the slightest use delaying this matter, because the Irish language would have to be taught in the Irish schools. The people of Ireland were determined to know their native tongue, and the right hon. Gentleman might as well at once give the Commissioners instruction to do something which would eventually have to be done.
§ MR. J. F. X. O'BRIEN (Cork)
Whilst listening to the sympathetic speech made by the right hon. Gentleman, for some time I could not tell whether he was for or against us, but when he denied responsibility for the policy of the Education Board in Ireland that satisfied me that he was not to be trusted in the matter. When the Chief Secretary denies responsibility for men whom he has himself appointed I decline to accept his denial of responsibility. What has the right hon. Gentleman done to remove this disability? I certainly have seen no action at all on his part in this direction beyond a few words of sympathy, which, as far as we are concerned, means nothing at all. We intend to test the genuineness of the sympathy of the Chief Secretary upon this question. We want him to carry out the same system which has already been granted to Wales. I feel it my duty to state that I believe there is a conspiracy existing between him and the Education Board against our native language. If the right hon. Gentleman means to put himself right with the Irish people lot him tell us plainly that he means to carry out in Ireland the bilingual system which is already in operation in Wales.
MR. FIELD(, St. Patrick) Dublin
There are a couple of points which, to my mind, have not yet been advanced in this debate. This is the only opportunity afforded us in this House on the Estimates of criticising the action of the 739 National Board of Education. It has always been a puzzle to me why certain gentlemen are called the National Board, because I have always regarded them as an anti-Irish Board, and I think even the dual occupants of the Treasury Bench this evening can hardly contradict that statement. It is because they are anti-Irish that they have this extraordinary objection to the teaching of the Irish language. Any literary man who has studied this subject must know perfectly well that a language is distinctly a part of the nation, and a great scholar once said that the nation which loses its language loses the best part of its existence. If that is true of other nations I can hardly understand why it should not be applied also to Ireland. To my mind, that is precisely the reason why the National Board of Education do not desire to teach the Irish language in Ireland. I have had some experience in this matter, although I do not pretend to be a profound Irish scholar. I have spent some time in Connemara, and I know that the children who used to attend the schools there were only taught English, and the Irish language was discouraged as far as possible. Not only this, but it was made absolutely penal to speak the Irish language. That was an absolute fact. I was told it by hundreds of people in Connemara, and in that district there was actually a penal law against speaking the language of the people. I challenge any hon. Member to contest my statement and to inquire whether such a thing ever took place in Connemara. I regret to find that these old bad traditions are apparently still a working factor in the minds of the National Board of Education. I would appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite whether we have not arrived at a different stage of civilisation, when we ought to be more in accord with the spirit of the times, and when we ought not to revert to the old bad system of coercion. What is the raison d'être of constitutional government? It is that it should be administered in the spirit of the community it governs. We have now a manifestation all over the country in the shape of a Gaelic revival, and it is one of the most vaunted of constitutional maxims that public opinion ought to be the breath of the law. But in this matter the spirit of the law is absolutely opposed to popular opinion. Why do I say 740 that? Only last night an enormous meeting was held in the Round Room or Rotunda—the largest hall in Dublin. It was a public protest on this very question. I received an invitation to attend, but was obliged to decline it because I had to come to the House of Commons. Cardinal Logue wrote a letter which was read at that meeting, and letters were read from other public men, and a resolution was passed calling on the Irish Members of Parliament to resist the proposals of the Commissioners until they had been amended by making provision for bilingual education in Ireland as in Wales. There is a manifestation of public opinion in Ireland, and here to-night we have the Chief Secretary telling us that he has no control whatever over the so-called National Board of Education, and that even the House of Commons has no power, although the taxpayers of Ireland provide the funds whereby education is carried out. That would not be allowed to exist in any other constitutionally governed country in the world. If the Chief Secretary wants philosophic, educational, or literary reasons why the bilingual system should be adopted in Ireland, he will find them in a short practical pamphlet issued by the Gaelic League. I have been requested by the branch of the League to which I belong to speak in this debate. The other evening we had a meeting in the town hall of Blackrock. I was in the chair, and the enthusiasm evinced at the meeting was something extraordinary. The right hon. Gentleman may tell us that there is no spirit among the people as regards this movement, but in Black-rock the urban district council—formerly a Conservative body, but which has lately assumed a Nationalist complexion—has put the names of the streets in Gaelic, so that we are Irish still, notwithstanding the efforts of the National Board; and it seems to mo that if the right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench would approach this question in a philosophic spirit, they would recognise that fact. I want to argue this question not from an extreme Nationalist point of view, but from an educational, practical, common-sense point of view. I would put this to the right hon. Gentleman: is it a wise thing to provoke friction between the people and the National Education Board, when there ought to 741 be co-operation in the fullest sense of the word? That is not a proposition that will be contradicted even by those who hold the opposite view on this question. Our people are very much in earnest, and unless the demand of the Irish Members is assented to the attendance in the schools may possibly be reduced, which would be an unmixed evil. I have always been in favour of carrying out the clause for compulsory attendance at schools, because, unless the children attend school regularly, there cannot be any educational progress in the country. Some hon. Members opposite—possibly the Chief Secretary, and undoubtedly the majority of the National Board—think this is a sentimental question. Granted that it is. But you want the children to attend school, and anything that would bring about friction and lessen the school attendance would be nothing less than a national evil. In conclusion, I will only say that the National Board—which is a nominated Board, which does not represent the people, and which is out of touch with popular opinion—is the worst body you could have to carry out what is called national education, and if the Chief Secretary declares in this House that he is unable to control the Board, then I think it is time it was brought under the control of somebody. Mr. Butt once declared that the worst system of government was government by irresponsible nominated Boards, and I think this Board of Education ought to be elected, or at any rate responsible to the elected representatives of the people. There can be no question of such importance to the community at large as the question of education, and yet in Ireland we put the whole management of the education of the country into the hands of seven gentlemen who are responsible to nobody, and over whom the taxpayers have no control whatever, and who have chosen by their unwise action to introduce friction between the people of Ireland and the system of education in that country. I hope the arguments I have advanced will be considered by the right hon. Gentleman. I have endeavoured to put them forward in a reasonable way, and without introducing any extreme political tinge, because I think this is a matter we ought to approach in a calm spirit of considera- 742 tion, for there is nothing more important to a community than its system of education.
§ * SERJEANT HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
I am not satisfied with merely giving a, silent vote on this motion. Speaking as the representative of an Irish constituency and also as an Irish Protestant, I wish to express my entire agreement with most, of the arguments I have heard from below the gangway. It seems to me that neither of the right hon. Gentlemen who spoke from the Treasury bench treated the question in a very ingenuous manner, for while both of them expressed strong sympathy with the general object of the motion, they each endeavoured as it were to divert the mind of the Committee from what the real issue is. The Chief Secretary endeavoured to convert this question as to the teaching of Irish in National schools in Ireland into a question of far greater and wider application. I do not understand that the object of this motion is to substitute Irish for English as the spoken language of the Irish people. That is a much larger question which can be dealt with if ever it arises. The question we have to consider to-night is the Vote for the National Education Board. The right hon. Gentleman while expressing sympathy with the object of the motion tried to shirk all responsibility and to throw it on the National Board. I am not going to say one word with reference to the component members of the Board. For many of them individually I have the highest respect, but the fact that Protestants and Catholics are equally balanced on it indicates to mo that it is a Board not for the purpose of considering what is best in order to promote the education of the country, but what is best to enable the balance to be maintained without any great outrage to either side. It is quite a fallacy to say that the Government or this House has no control over the National Board. But the House of Commons has to vote the money for the Board, and on this motion the House of Commons have to take the responsibility of deciding on which side the merits of the question rest. Therefore it is vain for the right hon. Gentleman to say in one breath that he is quite in accord with Irish Members below the gangway, and then in another 743 breath that he is utterly powerless to further his own view. I also think that the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture was not very ingenuous, because he seemed to convey to the Committee that the Board of Education in their new rules had initiated something which was in the direction aimed at by this motion. In that he was quite under a mistake, because the insignificant note to which he referred is merely the repetition of a note which has appeared in the rules of the National Board since 1883. What then becomes of the entire argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture? He endeavoured to smooth down the hon. Members below the Gangway—which is not very easy to do—by stating that the National Board had initiated a new rule which would probably lead to what was desired by hon. Members, but he must not have been aware that that was a mere repetition of a note which for seventeen years has appeared in the Code, and which has led not to the promotion but to the gradual extinction of the teaching of the Irish language in the National schools. What is the real issue? It is not the absurd idea that at the end of the nineteenth century the 4,500,000 inhabitants of Ireland should at once begin to learn Irish, and that all our business and all our litigation should in future be carried on in Irish. That is not the intention of any rational man. The object and intention is to teach the rising generation Irish, and through Irish to teach them English, and to educate their minds in order to fit them for the struggle of life. That is the question at issue, and also whether it is to be done in the manner which is commended by the hierarchy of Ireland and by 1,200 managers of schools and which was voiced at the meeting at the Rotunda last evening. What could be more reasonable? The demand is that in all places where Irish is the home language pupils should be taught to read and write it, and that other useful subjects should be imparted to them through the medium of Irish. It appears that the number of Irish speaking people in Ireland is at present 630,000, who reside principally in the West, within a line drawn from Donegal—whose claims have been so eloquently expressed by one of its representatives to-night—down to Waterford, and the 744 question is whether in these districts every facility should not be given to the young people to be taught through the medium of Irish. I recollect once when travelling in Kerry I stopped at the village of Sneem. I went into the National school, and on one side were drawn up about forty little boys, their bright black eyes and dark hair rendering their nationality unmistakable. On the opposite side was an equal number of boys not quite so dark. I asked the teacher what it meant. "Oh," he said, "these boys to the left can only speak Irish, and those to the right can speak English, and my plan is to teach the Irish-speaking boys through Irish, and also to endeavour to teach the English-speaking boys some knowledge of the Irish language." That is the style of thing I would like to see prevailing in all National schools in Irish-speaking districts. What a lamentable thing it would be if the Irish language, for want of encouragement, was really to become a dead language! The language of every country is an historic asset, and how sad and lamentable it would be if, through the neglect of the Government of the country, a language which by common consent and tradition embodies in itself poetry and matters of historical interest, were to be wholly lost. If that language were to become a dead language where it is now the language of nearly a million of people, what responsibility would rest not merely on the Government, but on the representatives of that people! I think we are bound to use every exertion to keep alive that language. What would we not give to have languages which are dead revived again! What would we not give if the great Latin language were a spoken and written language again! What would we not give if the language of the magnificent sublimity of Socrates and Homer were alive again! Anyone who does not try to arrest the decay of a language is in my opinion guilty of a great historical crime. We seek, therefore, that the National Board should be compelled to make this change, and that English should be taught in Irish-speaking districts through the medium of Irish. Is not that the obvious way to teach the youth in these districts? If you want to teach an Irish boy English you 745 must teach him through a language he understands and in which he thinks. Otherwise he will only learn English like a parrot, by rote. In old libraries are to be found Latin grammars in which not only the grammatical part but also the explanatory part is in Latin. That idea is exploded now, because it was found to be such an enormously difficult way of teaching the language. Now, in all Latin and Greek grammars the explanatory part is in English, and the grammatical part in the language which it is sought to teach. For the Irish-speaking districts the grammatical part of an English grammar should be in English and the explanatory part should be in Irish. It is vain and absurd to try to relieve the National Board from responsibility on the ground that they cannot get teachers to teach Irish. I deny that altogether. We know that in everything—educational as well as commercial—the demand always creates the supply. Do not tell me you cannot get plenty of Irish teachers. In fact, in my boyhood days there were several what were called "hedge-schoolmasters" in Tipperary. I remember myself learning the Lord's Prayer in Irish, which was, I suppose, what made me such a good Christian. When I heard the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for the Flint Boroughs, to whom we all are indebted, I had in my recollection an old teacher who endeavoured, when I was very small indeed, to instil into me a knowledge of the Irish language, and if I had had the opportunity afterwards I am not at all sure that I would not have been able to orate much better in that language than I can ever hope to do in English. Then the other part of the demand is equally reasonable—namely, that a knowledge of the Irish language should be made a necessary subject of examination, and put at least on a level with the dead languages. I am a great admirer of the dead languages. I studied them very much, and I would not give up my knowledge of them for any earthly acquisition. Many people find great difficulty in learning Latin or Greek, but give a young Irishman an opportunity of learning the language of his own country, of reading the legends of his own country, full of heroism, and full of that spirit which still breathes in the pages of immortal Homer, and you will not only elevate his character, 746 but make him a better citizen than he is at present.
§ MR. DILLON
This has been an extremely interesting debate, and for more reasons than one. For myself it has been exceedingly interesting because it affirms a prophecy I made two or three years ago in this House, when we listened to a less sympathetic speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary—a prophecy that this was a genuine national movement, and would spread. It has spread and increased in strength so largely that he will find it a more popular movement than he even now seems to think. I desire to say in regard to the speech delivered to-night by the right hon. Gentleman, that, although he undoubtedly exhibited considerable sympathy with the cause we advocate, he minimised and underrated the importance of the question. He commenced by finding fault with the hon. Member for Waterford because the hon. Gentleman spoke of this question as involving the whole future of the Irish race in its higher and spiritual sense. Now, I think that language is justified, and that the considerations involved do seriously affect the whole future of the Irish race. Although the right hon. Gentleman has shown a considerable advance on the subject tonight—and I recognise the sympathetic tone of his speech—I think he has still failed to understand and appreciate the full bearing of this question, and the value placed upon it by those who are advocating it in Ireland. This is a question which is not at all exhausted when we deal with the considerations as to teaching the children in Irish-speaking districts the use of their own tongue, and instructing them in the English language and various subjects of education through the medium of their own tongue. That is a pressing and urgent question; but it is small compared with the great subject of the value of the language itself, and all that is contained in it, to the spiritual condition of the Irish people. Before dealing with the more practical part of the question, I desire to say that I hold diametrically opposite views from those expressed by the hon. Member for East Down. He thinks that in encouraging the Irish language we are engaged in a foolish and mischievous task, and he gave us the 747 reasons for that opinion. First of all, he laid down the doctrine that the value of a language was to be estimated by the number of people who spoke it, and that without any qualification whatever. And he went on to say that if a language was spoken by few people it was practically valueless. I would point out that by that canon of criticism Chinese is by far the most valuable language spoken by the human race. See where that proposition carries us! If the value of a language is to be estimated by the number of people who speak it, then the Greek language is the most valueless, because the number of people who spoke the language of Homer never exceeded two or three millions. According to the hon. Gentleman's argument the Greek language was contemptible, and ought to have been wiped out in favour of the Persian language. To come to the Latin language, which spread all over Europe and some parts of Asia, the same argument could have been used with even greater force in the days of the supremacy of the Empire of Rome in favour of the obliteration of the language of Greece, because the latter was only spoken by a despised, an insignificant, and a conquered nation. And yet that language and literature have carried down the stream of time the most precious portions of our civilisation. They remain, and will not be dislodged even by the hon. Member for East Down. We are more indebted to the spiritual power of the language and literature of that little conquered people of Greece than to the great Empire of Rome itself. I need not point to the history of the Hebrew race. According to the argument of the hon. Member for East Down, the Bible and the language of the Hebrews, who were a conquered race, would come under the same law as the language and literature of the Greeks. The fact is that the whole course of history shows us that the greatest spiritual lessons of mankind and the greatest literatures have sprung from small peoples and from languages spoken by a comparatively insignificant portion of the human race; and that there is no comparison between the value of a language and the number of people who speak it. Therefore there is no force in that argument. The hon. Gentleman, and I must say to some extent others who have spoken from the Government Benches, seem to think that 748 they have settled this question when they look upon it from a purely utilitarian point of view. But I utterly repudiate that criterion of judgment. I say that while it is perfectly legitimate to argue this question from a utilitarian point of view, you cannot exhaust it and arrive at a proper judgment from that single standpoint. The hon. Gentleman opposite talks about trade, and says that no language is of value except English, then Chinese, and next German or French. [An HON. MEMBER: No.] I understood him to say that Chinese was one of the most important languages if we are to be guided by the amount of trade. But that is a principle which we cannot and do not accept. We base our demand for the preservation of, and fair play being given to, the ancient language of our people on higher considerations than mere utilitarianism. We hold that we have a right to reinstate the Irish language and literature in the place of honour from which they were driven in the days of conquest and persecution; because we believe that if you interrupt the intellectual life of the people, if you tear them out by the roots, as it were, and plant them down in the midst of an alien civilisation, and. of a race with whose traditions and history they are unacquainted and entirely out of sympathy, you will effectually dwarf their intellectual growth and injure the moral fibre of the entire race. Viewed from that point, the subject is one of infinitely greater importance and deeper and more philosophic weight than the right hon. Gentleman seems to recognise. What is the history of the Irish language? Down to the time of the famine the Irish language was the habitual speech of the south and west of Ireland, and, although I do not believe in any of the figures on the subject taken at that time, at least three millions of the people of Ireland used the Irish tongue as the habitual means, of social and commercial communication. All the small gentry in the part of the country I come from spoke no other language. At that time there was a great movement in Ireland to revive the literature and songs and music of Ireland, and there were in Dublin scholars who from their various acquirements could bear comparison with those of any other country in Europe—Currie, O'Sullivan, 749 O'Kelly, and others, who have hardly left a successor. These men, had they lived in a normal condition of things, would have been founders of schools, and I venture to say that had it not been for the famine and the vile persecution to which the language and literature of Ireland were subjected, these Irish scholars would have now hold as high a position in the learning of Europe as any of the great scholars who now stand in the forefront of philological learning and folk-lore. But what happened? The National movement was more or less identified with the study of the language, folk-lore and music of Ireland; and the whole of the men then engaged in Irish studies were isolated, divorced from support, and viewed with evil suspicion by the Irish Government. The great seats of learning in Ireland discouraged Irish scholarship and started a crusade of | the most atrocious character against the Irish leaders. That is a part, and a most vital part of this question, and I could undertake to show that all the great seats of learning in Ireland, including Trinity College, boycotted Irish learning and Irish scholars, so that to become an Irish scholar was synonymous with starvation. And so the last great race of Irish scholars died in a state of the most miserable poverty—a scandal and a disgrace to the Government of the day and to the seats of learning. What was the consequence? In the days when we were young we could not learn Irish; there was no opportunity for doing so; and those who took any interest in the subject were condemned to the cruel humiliation of seeing the whole traditions of Irish scholarship pass away to Germany and Franco. To-day's Times newspaper is filled with admiration at a German coming over to Ireland and publishing a great work on the Irish language, and it goes on to say that "more had been done for Celtic studios by a few Gorman scholars from the time of Zeuss down to the present day than by all the vain chattering of Irish literary societies." That only exhibits the gross and savage ignorance of the Times in regard to the Irish language and literature; and I venture to say that if Zeuss had been living to-day he would have been the first to condemn that insult to Irish scholarship. Zeuss did, no doubt, a great deal, but nothing compared with O'Kelly, 750 O'Sullivan, and others, who, had they lived in Germany or France, would have been honoured, and their lives made comfortable; but because they lived in Ireland, and were Irishmen, wore starved and made scarecrows of, to prevent other Irishmen following in their stops. When the right hon. Gentleman, I am sure without the intention of inflicting pain upon us, pointed to the fact that Irish was an unpopular subject of study in the higher colleges and universities of Ireland, he forgot why that was. It was because to be an Irish student, an Irish scholar, was enough to shut to a man every avenue of success in Ireland, and because, owing— to its shame be it said—to the bigotry of Trinity College, which has in its library some of the finest monuments of Irish literature and art in the world, and of the other great learned bodies in Ireland, and to the persecution of the Government, Irish scholars of a past generation, giants as they were, were condemned to poverty and misery, and had to trust for their living to a few private patrons. That is the reason why Irish is not a popular study in the great seats of learning in Ireland. That is the A B C of this question, without which all that is involved in it cannot be understood. The language and literature of Ireland—which, by the admission of the greatest European scholars, is the richest, most valuable, and most varied of all Celtic languages and literatures—has been, down to our time, subjected to a persecution unparalleled in the history of our race. They have been banished from our universities, banned in our intermediate colleges and schools, and proscribed in the primary schools. That policy was the idea of the Government of the day. It was alleged that the study of the antiquities and history of Ireland was calculated to foster the national spirit, and they banned them both. That is the full explanation of why there should exist a certain lack of popularity, as has been the phrase, for Irish studies in the higher seats of learning. But in these modern times a new movement has sprung up. Like many other movements, it has sprung up from the people themselves. When the language was banned by all the great and wealthy societies like Trinity College, and outlawed by the Government, these associations sprang up among the people themselves, 751 and commenced, in a small way for many years, to try and bring the language and literature of Ireland to the front. When I was a student I was one of the very first to form the old Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language. We did not make much progress to start with, and received absolutely no encouragement from the Government or the seats of learning. But the movement has grown and has been taken up afresh by the Gaelic League, who have aroused the strength of the Irish people in favour of their own tongue and literature. I congratulate that league on the success of their work, because it is due to them that this debate has been so prolonged, and that it has been supported by the vast majority of the Irish Members. When the right hon. Gentleman came to the practical bearing of this question he said he was in sympathy with the Gaelic League as regards their first claim—that in Irish-speaking districts Irish should be used in teaching English; but he said he had no power. I was acquainted with that. I knew that the National Board of Education was perfectly independent, except that the Lord Lieutenant may refuse to sanction new rules. That is the extraordinary thing. I do not know if in the whole civilised globe you can point to a body of men who have control over the education of the country, and for whom a Vote of £12,000 a year is passed, but over whom Parliament has absolutely no power. The Minister of Education in this country has control over the sums voted by Parliament, and is responsible to the people; but it is not so in Ireland. What are we to do % The most irrational thing would seem to be to endeavour to cut off a small portion of the provision for public education in Ireland, and I point out the absurdity of that. The Government deal in all kinds of absurd devices to dodge round the difficulties of the situation; but if the Government were to get the Irish Members together in Grand Committee we could settle all these matters from year to year. The reason why these matters are so perniciously arranged is that the views are consulted of High Churchmen in England, Nonconformists, and other people who do not know the facts of Ireland. That is what has destroyed Irish education, and has rendered it impossible for us to get the education of Ireland on a sound basis. To show 752 the extreme vitality of the old language, a Danish professor, who went down to the west of Ireland a year ago, and lived among the people to study the old language, records this most remarkable fact. He went down and lived among the peasantry of Arran, and he says after living there for a short time he was able to write down 4,000 words "which I have heard them use in their everyday life." I venture to say that if any gentleman interested in linguistic studies goes down to Somerset or Kent he will not find 500 words used by the people in daily conversation. Yet in Ireland this gentleman asserts he put down 4,000 words. What do you substitute when you go teaching the English and banning the Irish language? You give them a vocabulary of 200 or 300 English words, with the meaning of which they are not acquainted, and is it any wonder that you make them stupid? You first reduce the vocabulary enormously, and the vocabulary you give them is not understood by the people who speak it. I only allude to that to show how enormously important the question is with regard to the intellectual equipment of these Irish-speaking peasants. The truth is that there has been a deliberate attempt to destroy the Irish language. The result is to keep these children in a state of ignorance and stupor, and we have to sit hero night after night and year after year and listen to the taunts which are levelled at the illiteracy of our people, who have been kept illiterate by the State policy, and largely by this infamous campaign against their native tongue. This system has again and again been condemned by Government officials, but still the studied, dogged policy of the Board has been to ban the Irish language, and that has been carried on by successive Boards, supported by successive Chief Secretaries. It seems to be desirable to right it, but how is it to be carried further? We do not know. The Chief Secretary has no power and the Board refuses to move. I have no hesitation in characterising that as adding insult to injury. The right hon. Gentleman will admit that it is desirable to point out his own powers in the matter. I notice that he always seems to enlarge upon the difficulties. First of all, he made out that there was a difficulty in getting teachers. I am not surprised that 753 there is after what I have described. Knowledge of Irish has been made the badge of inferiority and the object of oppression. How could there be a supply of teachers? There is no room for the study of the Irish language in the training colleges. It has not been encouraged in any way. It has always been given the cold shoulder, and how can you expect to get teachers when in the training colleges the subject is banned? It is nothing short of an outrage that at the training colleges of the State the Irish tongue should be completely ignored. The Gaelic League have displayed admirable activity in pushing this question as they have done. I am informed that there are 250 teachers who are conversant with the Irish tongue, but they get no engagements. But why are steps not taken to teach the Irish language in the training colleges? If it was made a subject ranking with the teachers among other subjects, would not the demand of a certainty create the supply in a short time? Does the right hon. Gentleman forget the memorial of the managers, representing well over 1,000 schools? As I understand the programme at present, there is no room for teaching Irish. What is the use of managers making provision for teachers of the Irish language if the Irish colleges have thrown it out? There is really no footing in the Irish schools for the Irish language, and I do not see how there could be a supply of teachers if the subject is not put upon a level with other subjects. We know perfectly well that in the Education Code the subjects that are to be taught are carefully set forth, and that Irish is put into the background, and that until quite recently, when some slight change was made, there was no encouragement. Therefore it is not fair to cast upon the managers the blame for a state of things which is the outcome of a long, continuous, and deliberate conspiracy to put the Irish language down. But there will be no fault hereafter if the teachers are forthcoming. I now turn for a moment to the question of the second demand of the Gaelic League. I think there is a good deal of vagueness in the nature of this second demand. The right hon. Gentleman said he took the second demand to imply that Irish should be made compulsory in all schools whether parents liked it or not. I do not think the matter is placed so high 754 as that, nor have I ever gone so far. I think it would be an absurd thing; but, of course, in all movements like this there are enthusiasts, I know that there are persons in Ireland, with whom I differ, who suggest that we should take to the Irish and abandon the English tongue altogether. I do not go that length, nor do I believe that any great body of the people would agree to enforce Irish upon unwilling people. I would never be a party to it, and it has never been put forward. Neither of these reforms would be forced upon the schools; they would be introduced at the discretion of the managers. It is not to be supposed that a manager would force upon an unwilling school a subject that was distasteful to the people. As I understand it, it is a claim to restore the native language to a place of honour in all schools in Ireland, and I tell the right hon. Gentleman and the Board of Education, that, unless I am greatly mistaken, there never will be peace in Ireland until that is done. I conclude with the statement that my deep conviction is that until Irish language and Irish literature are raised to a position of equality with other subjects, in all the primary, and secondary schools of Ireland, this agitation will never cease. We do not want to enforce it on any unwilling body of men, but we do insist, and we shall continue to until we succeed, upon the fact that the language and literature of our country shall occupy a position of honour in the primary and secondary schools and university collages in Ireland. We want a university where Irish shall occupy a place of honour. We ask that the scarcity of teachers shall be met by the study of Irish literature and the Irish tongue, which shall lead on to chairs and fellowships, so that the students may have an opportunity of living; because students cannot live on suction, and if you tell a young man in Ireland that if he devotes himself to the study of Irish he must starve, you pursue a policy of proscription and persecution, which is a policy which we will never sit quietly under. We do not wish to attempt the impossible task of banishing the English tongue from Ireland, and depriving ourselves of the advantage of speaking that tongue, but we do insist upon the right of those who teach the Irish tongue being placed upon an 755 equality with the teachers of other subjects, and we insist and demand that Irish scholarship in the future shall not be treated as it has been in the past as a badge of inferiority and contempt; but, on the contrary, that the Irish language and literature of the country shall be so treated that men may devote their lives and labours to that study, without having their footsteps dogged as the footsteps of Sheridan and O'Connell were dogged by the spectre of starvation.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
expressed satisfaction at the fact that the hon. Member for East Mayo disclaimed the extravagances which no doubt would cast some little ridicule upon this movement, and had not added to its strength. Irishmen could not be asked to give up speaking the English language and separate themselves from the great civilisation of the world which it represented. That was the most grotesque proposal that could be contemplated, and it had brought many persons to doubt the sincerity and reality of the movement in favour of the Irish language. Neither did he look forward to the production among present-day literature of a work in the Irish language; but for all that he maintained that there was reality and reason behind this movement. There were instances in the present century of a language almost dead having been revived, notably in the case of the Zcech language in Bohemia. So that the proposal to revive the Irish language was not without precedent. He was old enough to have seen a very great change in Ireland. He remembered in his childhood when the Irish tongue was a great deal more spoken than it was to-day. In this connection he had a very curious experience in California. While in California he was the guest in, Los Angelos, of a gentleman born not far from Athlone. This gentleman described how when a boy he saw a youth wandering through the market place in Athlone, but no one who met the boy understood a word he said, and whether he dropped from Heaven or came from some other region was a matter of doubt. This gentleman went up to him and found that the strange tongue was the Irish language. That would show how the native language had died away in Ireland. While in 756 Boston he was presented with an address, he thought in poetry, but he candidly confessed that he did not understand a word of it, because it was in the Irish tongue. The curious thing, however, was that some of the gentlemen who read the address to him and who composed it were men of Irish descent who had never been in Ireland. He also heard a lecture on the Irish language at the Royal Irish Academy by a German philologist—a most interesting lecture— and in recent years some of the highest authorities on the Irish tongue had been men of German birth. He was familiar with the bread-and-butter argument, which he did not entirely disclaim, but he recalled the labours of Professor Max Müller and the statement that the whole science of philology had been revolutionised by the discovery of Sanscrit, which was of still less bread-and-butter value than Irish. He wondered if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had read the essay of the Professor on the science of language. He understood that Sanscrit remained the ancient classical language of India, the value of which was not only as a key to the Indian languages of to-day, but also as the great link which bound together the Aryan languages of Europe and the Semitic languages of the East. Sanscrit played an important part in the study of philology, which was one of the greatest and finest of the now sciences of the age, and in the same way the right of the Irish language to survive and to be encouraged might be based alone on philological grounds. His hon. friend the Member for the Flint Boroughs had spoken of how his knowledge of Welsh enabled him to reach the inner hearts and minds of the Breton people. He might shew how the Irish language could act as a sort of rough interpreter between people of different nationalities. He met a gentleman in Los Angelos who left Ireland when quite a boy. He heard a fragment of conversation that passed between that gentleman and a shepherd who was tending sheep outside of Los Angelos. The shepherd spoke Basque, and that was another of the great Celtic family of languages. His friend was able to carry on a certain amount of conversation with that Basque shepherd from the north of Spain. The renaissance in connection with these languages was headed by 757 some of the keenest and greatest intellects of the present day. There was one famous person, a Breton writer, who, although one of the greatest living masters of French prose, did everything in his power to encourage the Celtic revival among the Breton people. His hon. friend had not in the least exaggerated the depreciation and discouragement with which certain studies were visited between 1860 and 1870 in Ireland in Queen's College, Galway. The whole spirit of that unhappy period in Irish history was against the study of Irish. He was not without hope that this debate would bear good fruit, and he would like to impress on the Chief Secretary the fact that it was not enough for him to take up a position of neutrality on this question. The Irish language had been so discouraged and looked down upon that something like a serious effort was required to bring it back to its just and proper place in the education of Ire land. Coming to the second, and, to some extent, the more important branch of the question—the part which the study of Irish took in the education of Irish children in English as well as in Irish—he said the Chief Secretary had recognised that in the bilingual regions the study of English would be very much facilitated by the use of Irish as a medium. There was some striking testimony on that point, some of which had already been quoted. He understood that the Member for Waterford had quoted the remarkable speech of Dr. Starkie, and therefore he need not repeat it. There was passage after passage to prove that the result of trying to teach Irish-speaking children English through an English speaking teacher was that the unfortunate pupils forgot Irish, and did not learn English, so that really there was a double disadvantage. They deprived the child of anything like a scientific and grammatical knowledge of his mother tongue, and at the same time they did not supply the hiatus by a knowledge of the English tongue. A great deal of stress was attached in that House to the vast amount of illiteracy in Ireland, but the explanation was simple. Taking the throe counties where illiteracy was highest—namely, Kerry, Donegal, and Galway—which were also the counties where Irish was still largely spoken, the 758 number of those returned as illiterates and as speaking both languages very closely approached each other. In Kerry the number of people who spoke both Irish and English was 69,701, and the illiterates 58,744. In Galway the number who spoke both languages was 107,029, and the illiterates 87,573. His explanation of this was that the children who went to the schools forgot their Irish while they did not learn English. He believed there were official statements to show that a large number of the best trained educationists of Ireland were of opinion that the want of teaching Irish-speaking children by the Irish medium was largely responsible for the vast and tragical amount of illiteracy in these counties. Thus by the mere fact of their inability to learn English they became illiterate. Apart, therefore, from questions of philology and literature, the teaching of children by the medium of Irish and through an Irish-speaking teacher was an urgent, a vital, and a crying necessity of education in Ireland. The Chief Secretary had urged that the duty of encouraging the study of Irish lay not so much with him as with the managers of schools, and that the managers had not shown as strong a desire in this direction by the engagement of Irish-speaking teachers as might have been expected. If that statement were true the right hon. Gentleman would be entitled to say that he had shifted the responsibility from his own shoulders to that of the managers, and that pressure ought to be brought on the managers of schools to supply Irish-speaking teachers. Was the right hon. Gentleman quite right in his statement of facts? He had before him a terse statement of facts prepared by the president of the Irish League in London. He said that 188 school managers, representing 1,075 schools in Irish-speaking districts, had signed a memorial in favour of the training and sending down of bilingual teachers. The memorial was addressed to the National Board of Education. He understood that, as a rule, a teacher was trained in a training college. If a teacher had a colloquial knowledge of Irish there ought to be the means in the training college of making his colloquial knowledge grammatical and scientific, so that he could go down and teach the children. One of the objections raised on this question was that if they sent a teacher 759 to a training college to be taught Irish he would be in the same position, because he would be learning Irish as a foreign tongue. That was not the proposal. The proposal was that the teacher sent to the training college should have a colloquial knowledge of Irish, which could be turned into a grammatical and scientific knowledge. He thought they had a right to demand the assistance of the Government not merely on the grounds of science or literature, but by way of meeting a crying evil in the education of Ireland. It would be the duty of the Gaelic Society and of other societies interested in the question to put pressure, wherever and on whomsoever pressure was needed, in order to bring this question to a practical issue, and to give the people of Ireland the same advantages as the people of Wales, and even the Hebrew children dwelling in Ireland, enjoyed at present.
§ MR. BUTCHER (York)
said the hon. Gentleman had spoken of his desire for the increased study of the Celtic language. He ventured to suggest to him that if the Irish language was to be made the subject of study it must be as a matter of higher education in the universities and not in the primary schools. The discussion had turned on two subjects. The first was whether there should be bilingual education—in other words, whether the Irish language should be used in Irish speaking districts as a means of education. The second demand was that Irish should be encouraged as a separate and distinct branch of learning. Upon the first of these questions he was in entire sympathy with hon. Members from Ireland, and he gathered that the Chief Secretary was of the same view. It was quite obvious, from an educational point of view, that if it was desired to impart instruction in English or in anything else to a boy brought up in an Irish-speaking home, it could be done satisfactorily only by addressing him in the language with which he was familiar. He trusted that as the result of the debate effective steps would speedily be taken to carry such a desirable proposal into practice, and that the bilingual system of instruction would be established in the se parts which were characterised as chiefly Irish-speaking districts. But when one came to the 760 question whether Irish should be made a separate and distinct branch of study, that was a different matter. It was not so much a sentimental as a practical business question connected with primary education. Was there time to teach Irish as a separate and distinct branch of education? He conceived not. Effective attention could not be given to a second language in addition to the other subjects which it was necessary boys should be taught. But supposing there was time for a second language, the practical question arose whether it should be Irish. With the greatest possible goodwill to the Irish language, he honestly did not think it would be a business-like operation to teach boys in non-Irish-speaking districts the Irish language. If they had the time and talents to acquire a separate language, French or German would be much more useful to them. From that point of view he could not support the contention that Irish should be taught as a separate and distinct branch of learning; in the primary schools of Ireland. Reasons had been advanced why the Irish language should be revived, one of the se reasons being that the English language was effete, and that it was unfit to express the great, original, and beautiful ideas of the writer of the letter in which this plea was advanced. He wished that that gentleman had been present and heard the speeches of the Irish Members that night: he would not then have been able to complain of the weakness of the English language. When it was said that the English language was effete, and that the language of Shakespeare was not suitable to convey the beautiful and original thoughts of a man, he had some suspicion that it was not so much the language as the thoughts that were at fault. The question really was a purely educational and business one, and when they had the openly-expressed conviction of the Chief Secretary that for educational purposes it was desirable to insist on the bilingual instruction, they had got as far as they were likely to get with advantage. The debate which had taken place would probably do a great deal of good in enabling the Government to insist upon increased efficacy in the bilingual process of instruction, and with that Irish Members should be content, as it was not possible to push the question further in the direction they had indicated with 761 any advantage, either educationally or commercially, to the people of Ireland.
§ MR. CREAN (Queen's County, Ossory)
complained that Members aid not fully realise the demand of the people of Ireland. They did not desire to insist upon Irish being taught to all children; it was to be optional for the se attending the schools whether or not they received the instruction. The people had a right to demand the particular studies they wished to have taken up, and the reasonable demand they now made should not be denied. If the English people demanded with the same unanimity as the Irish people had done the encouragement of any particular study, neither the House of Commons nor any Board subordinate to it would dare to withstand that demand for even twenty-four hours. Were the Government going to deny that which would raise the social standing of the Irish people in the world? Why was not a similar course adopted in regard to Scotland and Wales? What reason was there for treating Ireland differently from the se two countries? Fifty-seven per cent. of the people on the western seaboard of Ireland were Irish-speaking people, and why should their native tongue be treated in this way? If the House of Commons had not the power to compel the National Board to adopt a different policy in this respect, the sooner a Bill was brought in for the purpose the better. That fossilised Board should be done away with, and a representative Board established which should be responsible to the country, and then the people would be able to get that education which would raise their social and educational standing, and make them what they should be and were before the English nation took them in hand—namely, as intelligent and as educated a people as were to be found in any civilised country on the face of the earth.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork County, Mid),
as representing the district possessing the largest number of Irish-speaking people, supported the demand now being put forward. There were places in county Cork where as many as 92 per cent. of the people were Irish-speaking, and to whom, therefore, this matter was one of 762 very considerable importance. He had again and again come across cases in which the children did not understand what was attempted to be imparted to them by National school teachers who were not versed in the Irish language. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was supposed to "boss" the National Board, but, apparently, the National Board "bossed" the Chief Secretary. It was merely another case of the tail wagging the dog instead of the dog wagging the tail. The hon. Member for York had urged that French or German, rather than Irish, should be taught in primary schools. But who ever heard of any boy learning French or German systematically, and in such a manner as to be able to speak the language, even in the great public schools of England? The classes in which the se languages were supposed to be taught were usually the romping-grounds in which the boys made game of the masters, French or German, as the case might be It was, therefore, absolutely ridiculous to suggest that French or German could be taught in the National schools. He was surprised that the hon. and learned Member for East Down should run down the teaching of Irish, seeing that he had been at Queen's College, Galway.
§ MR. RENTOUL
said there was a Chair of Celtic at Queen's College, Galway, but there were no students, and the professor ultimately died in the workhouse.
§ DR. TANNER (continuing)
said that Irish was deeply studied in most of the universities in Germany, many of the very best scholars coming from that country, and it was time something should be done in Ireland itself. Was there always to be this vendetta? Was it simply because it was Irish that it was not taught? Was there some malign underhand influence at work? Was the object to crush out the language? If that was the case the purpose would never be achieved, as the movement in favour of this demand was growing day by day. At the present time numbers of people who had never given much attention to this matter were now taking it up heart and soul, and although the right hon. Gentleman might affect to despise the 763 minority in the House of Commons, he would not be able to despise the aspirations of a united people to preserve their beloved and living language.
§ MR. FLAVIN (Kerry, N.)
I would not be doing my duty if I did not express my opinion on this subject in company with my colleagues on this side of the House. Two hundred and seventy qualified teachers of Irish are now available in Ireland. But, apart from that, we have a number of the higher classes in Ireland who are qualified to teach Irish. The Gaelic League have done me the honour to elect me one of its vice-presidents. I regret that I was not able in my younger days to learn Irish, but within the last two or three months, I am not ashamed to say, I have received my first lessons in the Celtic language, and many of us wish that such opportunities had been available in the past. It is said that this is a very mischievous movement for labouring men. I know a case of a labouring man who is an honorary member of the Gaelic League, and who, when his day's labour is over, gives his services gratuitously in teaching Irish to the boys and girls of his neighbourhood. I think the time has tome when the Government should make some concession in this matter. I do not believe there is a single parish in the county of Kerry in which public meetings have not been held in favour of the bilingual system of education. I believe the discussion to-night will do good yet; and the Irish Members have done their duty nobly in pushing forward the claims of the Gaelic League.
§ MR. SHEE (Waterford, W.)
On very few subjects has there boon displayed such intimate knowledge in reference to the question at issue, or with the facts connected with the movement, as has been shown in the course of this debate. The hon. Member for Mid Cork referred to the fact that in his constituency there are 14,000 Irish-speaking people, and claimed that that was a higher number than in any other. Although I represent a constituency in the centre of the south-west of Ireland, the number of Irish-speaking people is double that of Mid Cork.
§ MR. SHEE
In West Waterford the total population is 35,000, and the number of Irish-speaking people is 28,000, or 75 par cent. and there is a very great desire on the part of all these people to be educated in their own language. I am afraid I cannot coincide in the praise given to the speech of the Chief Secretary. I think a too liberal interpretation has been given to it. As I understand it the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to concede bilingual teaching, but only to concur in any action of the National Board of Education which will permit the use of Irish in Irish-speaking districts for the purpose of enabling pupils to get a knowledge of English. That is an altogether different thing from a bilingual system of education. The demand is, that not merely shall instruction be given in English through the medium of Irish, but that Irish shall be taught as an independent subject. I believe that the Chief Secretary has not said one word in the direction that he is prepared to encourage the teaching of Irish in the schools as a separate subject; and if that is true it is apparent that a malign influence is at work and a desire to prevent the education of Irish children in their own language. A protest should be made from these benches against the scheme of the Government, and I hope that that protest will be made effective I have boon in the House for five years, and for the first time during that period I have received pressing invitations from my constituents to be in my place during this debate. That is only one of the evidences of the fact that there is a very widespread desire that this subject should be treated as one of importance, and that the Government should, with all the energy at our command, be urged to bring about what we aim at. If the right hon. Gentleman has no power at present to do what we want, he has the whole strength of the Government at his back, and there is nothing to prevent him from enforcing his opinion on the Board by a Bill of one clause. There is no parity between the question of the study of French or German in schools and that of the study of Irish. It is not a question of compelling 765 any child to learn Irish, or the parents of the children, or the managers of schools, to provide for the study of the Irish language; but simply of enabling the children to be taught in Irish, if they and their parents wish it. I am sorry at the narrow view taken by the right hon. Gentleman, but we have been accustomed to attach too much importance to the allegations of the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Government on these occasions. Although he declared there is no political element in this matter, the right hon. Gentleman takes a very narrow view of it. His
§ view is steely cold, and his attitude cannot be described as sympathetic. I hope the right hon. Gentleman has gained a little education this evening, and that when he addresses the House on this subject again he will be able to adopt a more sympathetic attitude.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 70; Noes, 104. (Division List No. 228.)767
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I think the Committee will agree with mo that it would be futile, at this time of the morning, to inaugurate a discussion on the new scheme of primary education in Ireland. Up to the present we have discussed only one point, and the broad scheme has not been discussed at all. We are in an unfortunate position with reference to these now rules. As a matter of fact, we have not yet had them in full. We have had what may be described as a summary of the rules, but even that was only put into our hands a few days ago. I make no accusation against the Irish Government in the matter. I think they desired to give us the information as early as possible, but still we did not receive it as early as we ought to have received it. It has been practically impossible for us to gather opinion in Ireland in reference to this new scheme in the few days that have elapsed since the summary was published, and to imagine that we can usefully initiate a discussion now on the new scheme of primary education in Ireland is absurd. A number of very grave questions arise in connection with the scheme which affect not only the general interests of education in Ireland, but also the position of the National teachers, which we naturally ought to protect, and it would be impossible at this hour to adequately discuss them. I would repeat to the Government a suggestion which was made in connection with the subject of Intermediate education in Ireland yesterday—namely, that ample opportunity should be given to us to discuss this question also. I would make an earnest appeal to the Government to give us an undertaking that we shall have an opportunity of discussing what amounts 768 to a revolution in the system of primary education in Ireland. If we get that undertaking I would be in favour of taking no discussion on the new rules to-night. I do not think we have sufficient information to enable us to usefully discuss-them. The discussion could not be reported, and would not give any satisfaction to the classes interested in this subject in Ireland. We are discussing not a political question at all, but a change in the whole primary system of education in Ireland. It is essential that this discussion should be taken under conditions which would render it useful and effective, and I would most earnestly appeal to the Government to give us an assurance that an adequate opportunity will be afforded us to discuss this revolution in the system of primary and intermediate education in Ireland. I would suggest that we ought to adjourn the discussion, on the primary education changes, and wait for that adequate opportunity when we will have sufficient information about the changes in our possession to enable us to discuss them reasonably. I have always found that the First Lord of the Treasury has been anxious to take a reasonable view, and, so far as consistent with his position, to meet the convenience of Irish Members. I would press upon him that our claim is reasonable, and might fairly be met. A discussion taken now would necessarily be imperfect, and inevitably followed by further discussion later on. I would put it to him that it would be to the interest of the Irish Members, and of general education in Ireland, to accede to our request.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I had hoped that opportunity might have been found for discussing 769 what I recognise is a most important question, but I am aware that another topic will occupy the attention of the Committee. I also recognise that possibly this is too early a stage on which to take a useful discussion of the rules, which have not been in operation for any length of time, and are not in the hands of hon. Gentlemen. I have no doubt that when the next session comes round hon. Gentlemen will have the advantage of a more intimate acquaintance with the wording of the rules, and some experience of how these rules have been working. Under these circumstances I admit there is a great deal that is reasonable and impressive in the appeal of the hon. Gentleman. I cannot make a definite promise for next session, but I do admit that the subject is of great importance, and one on which hon. Gentlemen from Ireland may well be anxious for an opportunity of expressing their opinion; and I shall be glad to do everything I can, at a more convenient period, to give every facility for that discussion. With that assurance perhaps the hon. Gentleman will now allow us to take the Vote.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
The point is this, that these new rules have to be on the Table for a certain time, and it is within the province of any Member to raise a discussion upon them then. I think that a whole evening might be adequately devoted to the discussion of the new rules on primary and intermediate education. The right hon. Gentleman says he is not in a position to give a definite pledge for next session. Possibly not; the next session may be the first session of a different Parliament. If I understand his statement aright, subject to that limitation, he recognises that my request is a reasonable one, and that such adequate discussion as I have indicated will be granted. If so, I would express myself as satisfied.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
What the hon. Gentleman has asked for is practically that the discussion should occupy a whole night. I will do what I can to prevent the intermediate education rules being discussed at the fag end of the evening. The new rules for primary education would come on in the ordinary course.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do now report this Resolution to the House."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
There are other Votes on the Paper; and I did not understand that these would not be taken. According to the prevalent idea this is the last occasion on which we will have the Irish Estimates in Committee. But if the right hon. Gentleman is in a position to give us an opportunity to discuss the other Votes on the Paper we might report progress. The next Vote deals with the industrial schools, in which profound interest is taken in Ireland. If the motion to report progress is made I shall oppose it.
MR. A. J. BALPOUR
It is possible, of course, that some further opportunity might occur before the present session closes. But I do not know that it is very probable, and I cannot hold out any pledge. If the hon. Gentleman desires any further discussion to-night I will meet his wishes; but I am very unwilling to ask the Committee to sit up late.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
It would be better if the right hon. Gentleman could hold out to us some hope that some time would be given before the end of the session to discuss this Industrial School Vote. I do not say that a whole evening should be devoted to it, but if he would give us some opportunity we might adjourn now. It would, however, be better to have some discussion now than none at all.
MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary made a statement early in the session in regard to this Industrial Schools Vote, and I understood that he undertook to look into the matter to see whether some amelioration of the circular in regard to Industrial schools could not be made. We have not had an opportunity of learning his views on the subject. If he could make some statement on the position now we would 771 be thankful to him, and it may be that it would obviate the necessity of any lengthened discussion.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have no objection to this Vote being taken, provided the discussion is not too long; and therefore I will not now move to report progress.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.