§ MR. O'MARA (Kilkenny, S.)
The question to which I propose to draw attention this evening has been before the House on several occasions; it is not for that reason an old grievance, but it is a comparatively new one, for previous to 1898 we had no complaint whatever to make of the way in which the industrial schools of Ireland were conducted by the Government. I hope when he makes his reply this evening the Chief Secretary will not treat this matter in the stereotyped way in which complaints made from these Benches have been treated in the past. In the year 1868 the Industrial Schools Act was passed. It was an Act fraught with great benefit to Ireland, and it was taken up by the people and looked upon by them as of the greatest possible advantage; they subscribed generously to the fund required to build the schools, and a large amount of money is now invested in these schools; the schools were added to year by year, so that in 1898 there were no fewer than 71 schools, accommodating 8,715 children. I claim, therefore, that the Industrial Schools Act for thirty years worked with magnificent success. This success has been acknowledged by every one. The official reports year after year passed very high compliments on the working of the Act in Ireland. Crime among juvenile offenders has decreased to an enormous extent. For thirty years the clause for the non-committal of childrtn to industrial schools has been interpreted by the magistrates in Ireland in a certain way; interpreted from a common-sense point of view, and, as I am informed, from a strictly legal point of view. They have interpreted that clause as meaning 1006 that children who are destitute and who have no visible means of support may be legally committed to these schools. And the system by which that committal takes place has worked splendidly. Some time in 1898, a new inspector, probably an English importation into Ireland, who wished, no doubt, to distinguish his career by some striking reform—
§ MR. WILLIAM JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
May I inform the hon. Gentleman that he was an Irish Roman Catholic.
§ MR. O'MARA
At any rate, he was a new broom, and this new broom set about sweeping the industrial schools. He immediately got it into his head that these committals were illegal, and, probably having consulted the right hon. Member for Central Leeds, who, being an Englishman and unacquainted with the working of the industrial schools in Ireland, was made Chief Secretary for Irish Affairs, he got permission to issue a Circular in regard to these schools. This was a circular to the magistrates stating that only destitute children who were charged with an offence against the law could legally be committed to an industrial school. It is this Circular that we have protested against and that we protest against to-night, and I say distinctly that if this Circular is not withdrawn you will destroy the whole system of industrial schools which has been built up at so much expense, and turn out into the streets thousands of children who, but for the issue of this Circular, would have been brought up as honest citizens, but who now will be cast back into the vortex of crime, and will eventually cost the country much more money than if they had been brought up in these schools. There is one point before I pass from the issue of the Circular, and that is whether the Irish Government had any right to issue a Circular interpreting the law to the magistrates of Ireland. I think everyone will agree that for the Executive Government of Ireland to interfere with the law is a gross breach of constitutional usage. If the Executive directed a Circular of this character to the magistrates of England, there would be a protest raised immediately, and I maintain that the Government of Ireland had no right to issue this circular to the magistrates 1007 at all. As those acquainted with this subject are aware, inquiries have been made of all the industrial school managers in Ireland, and the industrial school managers all protest against this Circular. They say that the number of children who can now be committed will not enable them to keep open these industrial schools, and they will have to be closed. [The hon. Member read, from the Report issued in 1899, figures proving a considerable decrease in the number of boys and girls committed to industrial schools.] I submit that if you decrease the number of children committed to these schools by a third, and if these schools are maintained, as they are, by a capitation grant upon the number of children with which they deal, then you will have to close a third of the schools; and that one-third of the schools, which all Chief Secretaries of Ireland, and all the officials, admit have done so much good should have to be closed is a sign of gross mismanagement. The number of children committed in Dublin in 1897 was 377; in 1898, 219; and in 1899, 94, only 25 per cent. of the number which were committed in 1897. What has become of the other 200 odd children who have not been committed? Do they still unhappily run wild in the slums, contaminated by the criminal and immoral class which inhabit them, or are they sent to the workhouse? I submit that it is not to the public interest that these children should not be taken care of, and that they should be deprived, by the closing of these schools, of the means of earning an honest livelihood. The Circular says that only children on the verge of criminality are admissible. The Chief Secretary says, "If you break the law I will provide for you, but if you keep the law and are destitute you can do as you like—you can go to the workhouse!"
Now, before schools such as these, which have been so far reaching in their effects, are done away with, one would have thought that very careful inquiry would have been made, and that very good reason would have been given for their ceasing to exist before they were closed. But when the subject came up in the House one defence was that the O'Connor Don had said that the Act was passed to deal only with children who were 1008 in danger of falling into crime. It shows how hard pressed the Executive Government were that they should have had to put forward the opinion of a private member in defence of the Circular, but even that defence has since been contradicted by the O'Connor Don. Another defence was that for thirty years the method adopted by the magistrates in so committing children had been a gross abuse of the law, and that the Circular was intended to ensure that the law should be properly administered in the future. It is very strange that for thirty years the Government did not see that children were being admitted illegally, and still more strange that the Attorney General should have been three years finding it out. Yet another defence was that under the former system there was no room for children who ought properly to be admitted under the Act. That statement has been made over and over again, but no concrete case of children being refused admission has been put forward, and until concrete instances are given, I, for one, shall refuse to believe that such was the case. The real reason for the issue of the Circular was, even at the risk of destroying the industrial school system in Ireland, to save the Chancellor of the Exchequer the expense of contributing 5s. a week towards the maintenance of these unfortunate children. Such a defence would not have the support even of this House, and I submit that no sufficient reason has been given in any of the debates to justify the Circular and the enormous injury it has already done to the industrial schools. We consider that the question urgently requires to be dealt with, and that view is evidently shared by the inspector of the schools, for the Report for 1899 says—It is hoped an effort will be made by those interested in the moral well-being of neglected children, so that those in immediate danger of falling into crime will be brought within the influence of the Industrial Schools Act.That quotation shows that even the officials in Ireland are aware of the extreme urgency of the matter; that they are frightened at the fewness of the committals of children under the new regulations, and that they are anxious that more children should be committed, in 1009 order to save the Government from shutting up the schools. They even go so far as to suggest that committees of the new county councils should be appointed in order to collect children from anywhere and everywhere to fill up the vacancies. The Chief Secretary, when pressed, would not promise to bring in a Bill dealing with this matter, and I personally do not think there is any real necessity for a Bill. Had the Circular been withdrawn the matter would have ended before, and things have gone as formerly. I recommend the Chief Secretary to adopt a courageous attitude in this matter. He is not in the habit of taking a courageous attitude in this House; he is rather fond of expressing sympathy with us, and doing nothing in the matters of which we complain. He ought to acknowledge that a gross mistake has been made in the issue of this Circular, that it was a needless interference with the magistrates, and that it was against the well-being of these excellent institutions, and then I think he ought honestly and straightforwardly to withdraw the Circular. I beg to move the resolution standing in my name.
§ MR. CULLINAN (Tipperary, S.)
I beg to second the resolution. I am sorry that in the opening of this important debate there are—as is usual when Irish matters are discussed—empty benches on the other side of the House. If it had been a question affecting the directors of railway companies, or the owners of collieries, or a question of subsidising shipping companies, or any of those matters which would send money into the pockets of the wealthy in England, the opposite benches would have been full. Simply because it is an Irish question, dealing with the poor and the miserable, we find the Chief Secretary alone with the hon. Member for South Belfast. I regret also that the opening of the debate should have been marred by the introduction of sectarian feeling by the venerable and hon. Member for South Belfast, when he reminded the opener of the discussion that the inspector of these schools in Ireland was a Roman Catholic. We speak on this matter, not from the Roman Catholic point of view only, but from that of the general community. Protestants as well as Roman Catholics are affected by it. The hon. 1010 Member opposite has done the same to-night as he did two years ago, when a similar debate took place in this House, and I will quote a remark he then made in order to justify the quotation of some figures with which the Chief Secretary supplied me a few days ago. The hon. Member for South Belfast said—While we are perfectly prepared to justify an Imperial grant for the reform of the criminal or semi-criminal class, I, for one, am not prepared to cast upon Imperial resources a charge which should fall upon the Irish poor-rate.We are not asking that he should.Unquestionably attempts are made in various parts of Ireland to send out children to beg in order to qualify them to become inmates of industrial schools," he said. "I should like to allude to the fact that in some parts of Ireland the object of sending children to the industrial schools is to bring them under the influence of the Roman Catholic church.I certainly think it is rather unpleasant that a gentleman who, one would think from his venerable appearance, ought to have some sense of decency should introduce the sectarian element into such a matter as this. According to the figures supplied by the Chief Secretary, it appears that the Protestants have suffered by the issuing of the Circular almost in the same proportion as Roman Catholics. In 1894 there were 1,093 Roman Catholics and 134 Protestants in the schools; in 1899 there were 839 Roman Catholics and 116 Protestants, and in 1900 there were 901 Roman Catholics and 121 Protestants. That shows that the numbers of Protestant inmates of industrial schools have fallen in almost the same proportion as the numbers of Roman Catholics have. The late Attorney General for Ireland, The MacDermott, stated—The Act indicates an intention to include a large class who have no visible means of subsistence—that is the destitute poor—but in my opinion it does not include them.The effect of the Castle Circular has been to deter magistrates from sending children to industrial schools, fearing they would be sent out again, as was done by the Castle twice in succession in the Abbefeale case. Now in my own constituency there is the Tipperary Industrial School. In 1893 the number of children certified was 15 in excess of grant number; in 1895, 10; in 1898, 3; and in 1901 the number had fallen to 4 under the certified number. In Cashel 1011 all the vacancies were filled till the issue of the circular in 1898. Last year there were 38 vacancies, only 9 children having been admitted during three years, while 20 were admitted in previous years. I need not go further into detail on this point more than to say that in Clonmel, Thurles, Templemore, and other schools exactly similar effect has been brought about. By a copy of the magistrate's order which has to be sent when children are committed to industrial schools in which the classes of children to which the Act applies are set forth I see that they include children found wandering and not having proper guardianship, and children found wandering and not having visible means of subsistence. Those statements are plain enough, and they surely do not mean that a child must commit a crime before it is entitled to admission? Take the case of a poor widow who does not wish to go into the workhouse, and her friends send the children to an industrial school. Although those children may have no means of subsistence, down comes an order from Dublin Castle ordering them to be sent out from the schools to starve. I say that a Government who lend themselves to treating children in that way are unworthy of the name of humane. This is only one of many similar cases, and if the widow chooses to remain outside to starve she has no alternative but the workhouse for her poor children. Can the right hon. Gentleman opposite defend for one moment this state of things, for if that woman remains moral and religious her children must starve. If she becomes immoral, then she can get her children into the industrial school. I find that in the last debate we had another Chief Secretary for Ireland, and he quoted some statistics to the House. The late Chief Secretary said that in the year 1897—before the issuing of the Circular 924—children were committed for begging. In 1898 the number was reduced to 676, and in 1899 the total was 232. The number of children admitted for other causes were 486 in 1897, 562 in 1898, and 723 in 1899. Those figures, I think, speak for themselves.
There is one thing which I wish to draw: the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to, and 1012 it is in regard to the industrial system generally. When the Local Government Act was passed in 1898, a resolution was adopted by the Board, of which I happen to be a member, asking that a clause might be inserted in the Bill which would give the option of creating industrial and educational schools in each county or group of counties. One of the most important questions concerning the necessities of the children of Ireland would be to take them out of the surroundings of the workhouse altogether. I find that last year there were in the workhouses of Ireland the extraordinary number of 36,000 children. Of course, this number includes tramps and casuals. Here are these children, most of them orphans or deserted, left in these institutions to be contaminated and demoralised by evil associations. No better work could be done than to permit the councils of Ireland to amalgamate unions, so as to have one special workhouse for these deserted and orphan children where they could live together under such conditions as would prevent them being contaminated. I have taken a very great interest in the welfare of these children. The poor orphan and deserted child, as well as the children of the class known as tramps, who are sent to the workhouse sometimes for a month, occasionally for a week, and sometimes only for a night, are housed together. The children of these tramps are brought up in vice from their earliest days, and they are put amongst those poor orphan and deserted children to contaminate and demoralise them. I say that these children should not be left in such a position, and under the system I suggest they would be free from anything like this contamination. At present in these institutions it may be said that the children do get some training. I may point out that only a few of them are employed, and then only for a very limited time. We should have what we have already upon a small scale established from private sources, namely, regular industrial training schools where boys and girls are educated properly and taught trades, and then they are able to sustain themselves in after life and become useful members of society. I will take the case of two of these institutions 1013 in Ireland, Glin and Trim. Take the Glin Industrial Schools in county Limerick. In this case a number of unions agreed to establish one of those institutions, and each union was to contribute so much in proportion to the number of children sent there. The result is that numbers of these children have turned out to be useful members of society and they are now earning honest and decent livlihoods. I find that in the year 1898–99 the number of children in the Glin Industrial School was 255. The cost of provision for these children was 2s. 3½d. each, and the cost of their clothing 7¾d. each, making a total cost for the maintenance of each child of 2s. 11¼d. per week. In those industrial schools the children could be maintained on far cheaper lines than by keeping them in the workhouse. I certainly think that the industrial school system in Ireland ought to be considerably extended and enlarged. The county councils and district councils of Ireland willingly contribute at the present time to the aid of the industrial schools in their different districts. Not only do the ratepayers of Ireland contribute to the public exchequer, but they contribute privately, and also substantially, out of the rates to these schools. But although I would advocate the extension of the industrial schools system and give the councils the option of establishing industrial schools for the children, I certainly say that I am not prepared to accept any suggestion from the Chief Secretary to give us control of those institutions and at the same time putting extra taxation upon Ireland to maintain them. We are entitled to aid upon a larger scale from the Government for this purpose. It is an extraordinary fact that in reference to the issue of this Circular we have in one paragraph a complete contradiction of the way in which that Circular might have been interpreted. Sir David Harroll says—The Act was devised for the saving of children who, if not rescued from their surroundings; would grow up in vice, and add to the criminality of the country.I will ask the right hon. Gentleman if there has ever been a child sent into those industrial schools who does not come under that heading. Here is another statement made in support of the policy 1014 which I am advocating. We have the authority of Cardinal Logue, who says:—The only resource now open to children who are not criminals, but who are thrown amongst the criminal classes, would be the workhouse, and I believe that every child who is brought up in an Irish workhouse is a potential criminal; they commenced life in a workhouse and ended it there.That is the experience of Cardinal Logue. The McDermott says:—The Act indicates an intention to include a large class who have no visible means of subsistence, and they are the destitute poor. In my opinion it does include them.In the face of these opinions it is most extraordinary that the Chief Secretary, who is at the head of the Department, takes the responsibility upon himself of sending out from the industrial schools the children sent there by the local magistrates, who ought to understand the need for sending those children there. What are the facts? The magistrates feel after the issuing of this Circular that if they continued to send those children to the industrial schools they will be immediately pounced upon by the officials at Dublin Castle. After the many months we have been here now, receiving nice civil answers from the Chief Secretary, who gets up in his rollicking, humorous sort of way, and gives us his winning smile and answers in such a sympathetic manner, I have come to the conclusion that he has kissed the Blarney Stone. I think it is full time, in a case of such urgency as this, for the Chief Secretary to free himself from the inertia he seems to be under, and to approach the matter with something like pluck and courage, so that these poor children may be relieved. Children brought up in the workhouse were left with the brand of the union on them. A stigma was placed on them which was objectionable in Ireland. The attitude assumed by Dublin Castle was that they must commit a crime in order to qualify for the reformatory. The reformatory is as objectionable to the Irish people as the poorhouse. This is a non-contentious matter, and notwithstanding what was said by the hon. Member for North Belfast it is a non-sectarian matter. I would certainly ask the Chief Secretary to take the matter seriously in hand, in order to relieve the poor children of the stigma they labour under, 1015 and give them the opportunity of earning a livelihood and becoming decent and respectable members of society.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, in the opinion of this House, the Circular issued by the Lord Lieutenant, in October, 1898, has seriously interfered with the usefulness of the Industrial Schools, and ought to be withdrawn."—(Mr. O'Mara.)
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. WYNDHAM, Dover)
The mover and seconder of this resolution have twitted me for a certain exuberance of nature, and I will endeavour to curb my propensity in that direction. I can quite understand that even the milk of human kindness is apt to be somewhat insipid if it carries no practical benefit with it, and may seem a kind of sterilised milk from which all the nutritive properties have been extracted. Approaching this question in the spirit hon. Members expect of me, I will try to deal with it in a practical and business-like manner.
The resolution urges upon the Irish Government the expediency of withdrawing the Circular which was issued many years ago to the magistrates in petty sessions. Before I come to the terms of that resolution and incidentally to the terms of the Circular, I will ask hon. Members to bear with me if I say a few words on the general subject of industrial schools in Ireland. I feel that I must ask the indulgence of the House if I make that proposition, because there are not many British Members in the House, and I dare say I have no news to tell hon. Members from Ireland. Still I think it is my duty and for the convenience of the debate that I should state the view I take on the question of industrial schools in Ireland. It is a question of great and, I would say, peculiar importance to Ireland. I say "peculiar" advisedly, because in this, as in many other material and economic questions, Ireland differs profoundly from Great Britain. It differs, I hold, in respect of the need which has called these industrial schools into being, and it differs also in respect to the conditions which have in Ireland enabled those industrial schools to meet that need and confer great benefit on the country. I have no hesitation in saying that the 1016 industrial schools in Ireland have conferred great benefit on that country, with accompanying advantages on the taxpayers. They have conferred on Ireland the benefit of saving many children from a condition which might have precipitated them into crime, and of, I think, in all probability saving the taxpayers large sums, since, if these efforts had not been made by private individuals, they might have had to pay for the melancholy duty of keeping a greater number of criminals within prison walls. Ireland is pre-eminently a poor country. The rateable value of Ireland over wide districts is very much lower, I think, than many people in this country realise. At any rate they do not realise all the indirect consequences of such a low rateable value. For example, the poorhouses, as they are called in Ireland, are not in any case the best ports from which to launch citizens on the voyage of life; but in Ireland, owing to the fact that the rateable value is so low, the poorhouses are often less desirable, more depressing, and more enervating than elsewhere, and certainly they are not the places in which anyone would wish to see a large proportion of children, and yet it is a fact that the percentage of children in Irish workhouses is a very large one. Then again, over the greater part of Ireland there are no industries. There is not in Ireland that opportunity of industrial employment for children which, at any rate, does place around boyhood conditions preferable to the conditions of vagrants. We often hear complaints in this country that children are sweated, and that is very deplorable, and it is the duty of the Legislature so far as it can to strike at this objection; but it is better that children and young persons should be able to earn a livelihood, and that they should be housed and sheltered, and engaged for many hours of the day, than that they should wander about without any visible means of subsistence. Again, if I may point it out, there is another thing we have in this country. We have had compulsory education for more than thirty years. I think everybody must have noticed the disappearance of the ragged school. When I was a small boy one used to see ragged-school boys going about with banners and so forth. They have almost 1017 disappeared, because the need for them has ceased to exist, largely on account of compulsory education and the spread of educational institutions in this country. But we have not had compulsory education in Ireland. It only exists there now in a tentative and permissive form and it would have been impossible to introduce it earlier. It is difficult to introduce it now, because in many parts of rural Ireland the population is widely scattered, and it is impossible to enforce or expect regular attendance from all the children.
Well, all these differences which exist between Ireland and England have, I think, made the need of these institutions and called them into being. Then, again, I was asked a question this afternoon with respect to emigration. In this country it is migration, and there is a migration of able-bodied men from all the purely rural districts; but in Ireland the evil is greater and more deplorable, just because so much of Ireland is purely rural. The result is that in many parts of Ireland which I have visited you only find old people and young children, and you are struck by the absence of able-bodied men in good circumstances, who could give proper guardianship to children. Therefore the natural consequence in Ireland is that you have a greater number of children who have no proper guardianship, in the sense in which we understand it in this country. On the other hand, Ireland is a very charitable country. Private individuals and private communities do come forward in Ireland in a very remarkable degree to supply this public want, and I think I might almost say to avoid what would be a public scandal. Under the Industrial Schools Act of 1868, these institutions grew up in Ireland. They conferred a boon upon Ireland, and they redounded to the credit of the country. I will ask the House to note that that Act was purely preventive in its intention. It was not a disciplinary or correctional measure. I think its preventive character appears from the provisions of the Act. It contains many provisions, and, so far as I am able to discover, it only contains one provision, in Section 13, which authorises the committal of a child who has committed any 1018 offence to an industrial school, and that is carefully guarded by the stipulation that the child shall not have committed any serious offence, which means, shall not have committed felony, and only children who have committed minor offences are to be committed to industrial schools. These schools have existed in Ireland for years, and a grant of public money has been made to them in return no doubt for the services they have rendered, and do render, to the State and the community. I have listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for South Tipperary, who suggested, at least in outline, that the county councils might take over the industrial schools, and in a measure substitute them for the poorhouses. I think that was the general outline of his suggestion.
§ MR. CULLINAN
I suggested the establishment of industrial training schools under the management of the county councils.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
It would be impossible to follow that up in detail this evening, but I think the suggestion is one which deserves consideration if it be practicable. It is clear that a child is better out of the poorhouse than in it. But if I understood the hon. Member, he suggested that no part of the burden should fall on the ratepayers. Evidently, then, any such proposition is one which would have to be carefully gone into, in order that the incidence of the charge might be fairly apportioned. It might be proper to take into account the large private funds given to the industrial schools, as indeed they are taken into account now, because any institution which depends in part on a public grant—as any one who takes an interest in the schools in this country will bear me out—which is earned by capitation has to make up a budget showing how the money has been dealt with. I think we are all agreed that this Industrial Schools Act was passed as a preventative measure. It was not intended as a substitution for, but as an addition to, the Reformatory Schools Act, passed in the same year. In Ireland a child cannot be sent to a reformatory school unless it has been sent to prison for a few days. That is, I think, very regrettable.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
It is a thousand pities that the stigma of the prison should be given to a child in order to benefit it. It is a most ironic way of benefiting a child. My hon. friend the Member for South Belfast says that was corrected by an Act passed in 1899; but I regret to say that the intentions of that Act could not be carried out owing to some sections in a previous Act not having been repealed. An attempt was made in the Youthful Offenders Bill, introduced last year, which, unfortunately, did not become law, to do away with that deplorable stipulation. The Home Secretary intends to reintroduce that Bill during this session, and I have caused clauses affecting Ireland and embodying suggestions made to my predecessor by the Philanthropic Association to be inserted in it. I hope that that Bill may not be involved in the massacre of the innocents, but if it were I will do my best to get a small measure through embracing these clauses.
I would like to remove a misconception, as I hold it to be, regarding a speech delivered by my right hon. friend the Attorney General for Ireland two years ago. This Circular, with which the resolution deals, was not intended to affect the responsibility of magistrates to interpret and administer the law of the land. It pointed out that certain abuses had grown up, that children of parents who ought to support them or to make some effort to do so were sent out fictitiously to beg. The Circular only brought this matter of fact to the knowledge of the magistrates. The hon. Gentleman who moved the resolution asked me to withdraw the Circular. But I beg him to consider what interpretation would be given to such an act. The withdrawal of the Circular would be taken as a direction to the magistrates to ignore evidence of these matters of fact. The magistrates have nothing to do but to interpret and administer the Act of 1858, which declares that, if children are found begging or wandering without a settled place of abode or under proper guardianship, or without the means of subsistence, they should be sent to an industrial 1020 school. I am not prepared to interfere with the discretion vested in the magistrates, and I do not believe, as a matter of fact, that there has been any error or fault on their part in carrying out the Act. It may be that, owing to the fact that a child cannot be sent to a reformatory school until it has been convicted and sent to prison for a few days, a point has been stretched here and there, and that a child which ought to have gone to a reformatory school has been sent to an industrial school. The temptation to do that is very great, and no great fault can be found with a magistrate for having succumbed to the temptation. But on the evidence which I have examined I cannot come to the conclusion that the Circular obviously led to the results suggested. It is quite true that there was a decrease of 272 in the year 1897–98, and that there was a further decrease in the next year. But in the year 1899–1900 there was an increase of admissions of no less than 167. Therefore, it is quite clear that these fluctuations are due to other causes. I think hon. Members who represent Irish constituencies must allow me for a little longer to cherish the hope that the prosperity of Ireland may increase, and that elementary education in Ireland will increase. If that were so, the time must come when the need for these institutions will not be so great as it now is, and it would not be reasonable to ask any Government to pledge itself to the proposition that under no circumstances should the number of admissions to these institutions be decreased.
It seems to me that there are only two points which have to be considered. The first is—Does the correct interpretation of the statute imperil these industrial schools? If the law does imperil the existence of these industrial schools, the law must be carried out, no doubt; but as a matter of sound administrative common-sense steps ought to be taken in order to see that these institutions are not imperilled so long as the need for them exists. That is a question of administrative examination to which I shall apply myself. The only other point does not seem to me to have any substance. Of course it is possible that this Circular may have led to misconception—[An HON. MEMBER on the Irish Benches: 1021 Mis-administration]—but I do not believe that that is the case. The document may have been misunderstood, but I have no evidence to that effect. I do not believe that that is so. I ask hon. Members to recollect that the duty placed upon magistrates by this Act is not a very easy one. It is not easy to distinguish between the case of a child begging by what I may call force of circumstances and the case of a child who is sent out to beg by its parents. It is quite possible to make a mistake in deciding so nice a point as that. But that is not the end of the difficulty. It would be harder still to decide whether the fact that the parents habitually forced or encouraged the child to beg constituted improper guardianship or not. These are points of law and interpretation which must arise in these cases, but, for my part, I have absolute confidence in the discretion of the magistrates. I do not think it would be wrong, in fact it would be proper for me to discover whether there has been any misconception upon this point. That being so, I am unable to accept the resolution that has been moved. If I accepted the resolution I should countenance a charge for which there is no foundation, namely, that the Executive has sought to influence the administration of justice by that Circular, which was merely intended to bring before the magistrates certain facts. But I am prepared to legislate in order to remove the obligation of sending a child to prison before sending it to a school; and upon looking into this matter, if I find that the law has imperilled an institution so useful as this, then it will be my duty to take whatever administrative measures may e necessary in order that it shall continue so long as it may be necessary.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said he had no hesitation in saying that if the right hon. Gentleman would really act in Dublin Castle in the spirit of the speech which he had just heard there would be no need for legislation to remedy the condition of things of which they complained. But some of them who had watched with interest the development of this case must be pardoned if they said that in their opinion he had not completely mastered the history of the case. Small blame to him, in a sense. He had had many things to face since he 1022 went to Ireland, and this was a subject of great complexity. He seemed to be under the impression that whatever mistakes were alleged to have been made by the magistrates before the Circular, they were rather in the direction of giving to poor children the benefit of the doubt and sending them to industrial schools. Well, it was really rather the other way about. The complaint that was made was this—that magistrates had, for thirty years, acted in a broad and liberal spirit, holding that the Act was not a punitive, but a preventive Act, and that destitute children, without proper guardianship, should be, if possible, saved from vice. That was the point, but in order to bring these children within the purview of the Act it was interpreted that they must be guilty of an act against law, and it was alleged that an abuse had arisen by children being sent out to beg. But that was only a technical abuse, because it was to save destitute children that the Act was passed. Yet what had the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor said in February last year? He said, "The real object was to prevent destitution being brought within the purview of the Act." And he also remarked that a number of children had been sent to these schools whose parents were able to support them. As to the latter point, the Irish Members had been willing to meet him by the method of providing that such parents should be compelled to contribute to the support, or rather to pay for the support of their children in these institutions, and would be punished if they did not. In his (Mr. Dillon's) opinion it would be highly injurious to say that there could not be committed the children of drunken parents in order that they might be saved from future ruin. Why was this Circular passed? The Industrial Schools Act was extended to Ireland in the year 1868, when Ireland held a high place as regards immunity from brutal crimes of a more disgusting character, as indeed she still did. But juvenile crime was greater at that period than in England. No wonder. It was due to the fact that after the terrible periods of distress there were tens of thousands of poor children homeless, without parents or anyone to look after them in any way. It was to meet that state of affairs that the Act was passed, and there had never 1023 been an Act better justified by its results. Whereas there had been 1,000 children sent to reformatories in some years, last year there were but 500. Half the institutions had been shut up, and he hoped the day was not far distant when one-half of the remainder would also be shut up, as was not unlikely if this Act was only allowed to go on doing its good work. No doubt, of course, reformatory schools were only a degree better than the prisons, but society owed something to these children. What had been the result of the working of these schools? There was very little criticism, it must be admitted—he was speaking of the schools of Ireland—that was not favourable. It was admitted on all hands that they had done wonders. Whereas thirty years ago juvenile vice was so rife, now when in England they were deeply engaged in discussions as to how the growing evil of Hooliganism should be dealt with, in Ireland no such question presents itself for solution. Now, why could not the Government have let the system alone? They could not, however, do that. They had, on the contrary, struck a blow at the very existence of the system. There was no doubt about that, for they had letters placing the facts beyond doubt from nuns and members of various religious bodies who were interested in these questions, and who knew what they were writing about, showing actually how the matter stood in relation to the effect of the Circular upon these institutions. He did not know whether it was known to the House that most of those magnificent buildings, which were splendidly equipped with all the resources for teaching the various branches of industry to the pupils, had been built at enormous expense by private enterprise on the faith that they would be administered in the same spirit that they were for the thirty years past, in which those things had been undertaken. The Circular which was issued in recent years would have the effect of destroying the whole of this great work, and the real object to be achieved by that Circular had been admitted—the saving of a portion of the capitation grant to the Treasury. In view of the uncontroverted and admitted good work which these schools were doing towards the prevention of crime and vice, could anything be imagined 1024 more shortsighted and more unwise than this policy of trying to save five or ten thousand a year at the expense of manufacturing criminals for the future? A nun at the head of one of these great institutions in Dublin told him (Mr. Dillon) of the case of two girls whom she was endeavouring to get into her school. They were the children of parents who were confirmed drunkards, and to so terrible a condition were they reduced that frequently at night they had to fly from their home and wander about the streets in order to avoid violence at the hands of their father, and these children were refused committal to the industrial school because they were not associated with criminals. They should be proved by the police to have been associated with criminals, and in horror at the fate that was before these two girls, this lady was obliged to get these two little girls to associate with criminals for a moment, and to get a friendly policeman to swear that he had seen them in the association of criminals, and in this way, by a kind of pious fraud, these poor children were saved from the horrors of the streets and placed in the school. The Chief Secretary stated that the Castle had no power to direct magistrates. That was not the view removable magistrates entertained in Ireland, for one might as well try to move Nelson's Pillar in Dublin as to induce a resident magistrate to go behind a Castle Circular. In many cases, in order to override the decision of magistrates who had independently exercised their rights and sent children to the industrial schools, an order came down from Dublin Castle, and the children were at once driven out of the schools into the workhouses, which, whatever they might be for adults, were the gates of hell for those poor children. For children entering the workhouse what Dante said of hell was really true, "All hope abandon ye who enter here." Was not that nice work for a Government to engage in? He (Mr. Dillon) was glad the Chief Secretary had given a promise to look into this matter, and he felt confident that if the right hon. Gentleman did so he would see that it would be impossible from any point of view to embark on a worse course than to check or mar or limit the work which these industrial schools were doing in the guardianship of destitute children 1025 in Ireland. It was the object of the best administration of the industrial school system to catch hold of the children before they were tainted with crime. The object from the beginning of the best and most skilful administrators of the system was to catch the child before it became tainted. He frankly admitted that a large proportion of the children in these schools in Ireland were innocent children—children not tainted with vice. He was speaking to a very enlightened lady recently who was at the head of a great industrial school in his own constituency. Those sympathetic people who worked these industrial schools were very much wiser as regarded the training of children and knew a great deal more about it than any minister. That lady informed him that one really bad child brought into that school of 120 girls would poison them all, and she added that the girls in the school were as innocent of evil as any average collection of girls throughout the land.
There ought to be classification. One industrial school in Ireland would probably be enough for a certain class of children, but at all events there should be some intelligent classification. In his opinion it would be wrong, and indeed criminal, to force the hand of those intelligent trained and experienced educators and reformers of youth without giving full weight to their views, which were not the views of the people who hesitated to deal with the worst forms of criminality, for those sisters and brothers in Ireland were prepared to undertake the reform of any criminal child with a view to producing the best results, and were also prepared to protect the innocent children entrusted to their care. He was sure the Chief Secretary would approach the subject in a broad spirit. He had always been proud of the industrial schools in Ireland. He took a very great interest in them, and he did not think a more difficult problem could present itself to the mind of man than the best way of dealing with them. He believed there was no country in the world where a wastrel or guardianless child was better cared for than in Ireland. There was an industrial school in Galway managed by that admirable and great body of men, the Christian Brothers, the greatest body of men in their own way in the world. He went into that school 1026 very often not long ago, and he ventured to say that in the whole of England a happier, healthier, and more cheerful body of boys could not be seen. One of the saddest things in most of the great schools of England was the listless melancholy of the children. But in that school in Galway the boys had no sense whatever of inferiority or pauperism, and were not in the least ashamed of their position. That was a great triumph for the Brothers. The boys had a beautiful brass band, as good as many military bands, and once a week it played in the square of the school to the delight of the whole town. The boys were proud of their school, and now the people of Galway had invited the band to play twice a week on the promemenade outside the town. These were all small things, but they were most important things. The head of that school informed him, and he was struck with astonishment at it, that he had 150 boys in the school, and had no difficulty in placing them out. There were good carriage builders and excellent tailors among them, and they were engaged in every form of human industry. Attached to the school was a farm for all kinds of farm work, and an excellent football field. The boys were full of the enjoyment of life. The superior said that for every boy he could send out he had twelve applications, and that he never bad to wait a single week to place one of his boys in a good situation.
He asked the House could there be any better work in any country in the world? This work was well done in Ireland. By all means they invited the Government to test it by the strictest inspection, and also to enforce the law in order to put down any attempt at fraud on the part of parents to have their children cared for at the public expense. When the children of drunkards were taken from them and put into these schools to be away from the contaminating influence of their parents, then let them make the parents pay, and punish them if they would not pay, but let them not destroy the children. Let the children have a chance, and let a work as great as it was beneficent continue unhampered and untrammelled by the law, or by restrictive circulars from Dublin Castle. These poor children had been left waifs and trays in the world through no fault of heir own, and let them be handed over, 1027 as they had been handed over in the past, to the charitable, sympathetic, and marvellously successful care of communities of men and women who in Ireland had devoted themselves through charity to the service of the poor.
§ *MR. WILLIAM JOHNSTON
I congratulate the hon. Member who introduced this motion on the temperate speech in which he brought the subject before the House. The subject is a very important one, and I have great pleasure in co-operating with hon. Gentlemen opposite in any practical effort to remove the grievances and improve the condition of our native country. I should like to correct a mistake which the hon. Member made when he spoke of the Inspector of Industrial Schools. So far from that gentleman being a stray or a wanderer, he is a Roman Catholic and an Irishman. I have no desire to speak in any obnoxious or hostile way of any Irishman or Roman Catholic, and I should like to say that Dr. John Pagan, the Inspector of Industrial Schools, is an extremely able and intelligent man, and I would commend to the consideration of hon. Members his report for the year ending 31st December, 1899, which can be read in the library. I think the hon. Member went somewhat away from the Circular of 1st October, 1899. That Circular was preceded by one which was issued on the 22nd May, 1896, which was intended to correct abuses that were well known and recognised in many parts of Ireland, where children were sent out to beg in order that they might be sent to these industrial schools. That Circular stated that—orders for such commitals should, whenever possible, be made upon evidence given in open court, and only after remand and inquiry by the police.The Circular issued on 1st October, 1898, stated—The constabulary are to make inquiries with regard to children brought up for committal, and the member of the constabulary making the inquiry in each case shall attend before the magistrates and make a deposition, giving the result thereof in detail, so as to enable them to decide….in the interests of the poor children for whose benefit the Act was really intended, but many of whose places in the schools are now filled by quite another class.The Circular proceeds—The practice of sending out children to beg or receive alms….is calculated to defeat the intentions of the Act, and is an abuse of its provisions.1028 Surely hon. Members will not advocate sending children into the streets to obtain money under false pretences, in order to get into industrial schools? May I be permitted to quote from the report of Dr. Fagan for the year ending 31st December, 1899. It states—The class of children at present being committed is of a character more in accordance with the spirit of the Industrial Schools Act than has hitherto been the case, and I am pleased to find that managers have not objected to receive such children.We all desire to see these industrial schools improved and extended, and I am sure the sympathetic way in which the Chief Secretary has treated the subject shows that he will go thoroughly into it and do what he can, in consultation with both sides of the House, to make the Act even more satisfactory. I have some knowledge of the industrial schools of Belfast, and I should like to quote a few words regarding one of them from the inspector's report—The Balmoral Institution is eminently adapted for its purpose. It is a well-built, well-arranged structure, having most of the essentials required for a school, without any useless adjuncts. There is sufficient land attached, and it is exceptionally well situated, being within easy reach of the city, from which it gets an abundant water supply, gas, etc. The school committee is composed of a most capable and zealous body of gentlemen who, with the aid of their excellent manager, will I am sure make their institution one of the most successful in the country.I will not detain the House longer, and will only say that I desire to co-operate with hon. Members in developing and improving these industrial schools. I hope, however, hon. Members will disabuse their minds of any feeling of mistrust in the inspector of these schools because of the few words of commendation which have fallen from me.
§ MR. JORDAN (Fermanagh, S.)
I hope the Chief Secretary will permit me to congratulate him on the sympathetic tone of his speech to-night. Lately my faith in the Chief Secretary has gone down very low. I thought he promised a great deal and did nothing. To-night, however, my faith in him has considerably increased, after what he has said on this question, and I believe that he will fulfil the promise he has given. I fully agree with everything that has been said by my hon. friend the Member for South Kilkenny in relation to the Circular. The administration of 1029 statute law in Ireland is bad enough, but circular law is a hundred times worse. Ireland is largely ruled, in my opinion, not by law but by officialism. I want to know who interpreted this law. I cannot see why an interpretation of an Act of Parliament which has been accepted for thirty years should now be upset by the interpretation of some official, and why that interpretation has been given the force of law. One would have thought that no change would have taken place without some Parliamentary inquiry, but all we have had has been the issue of the Circular. Such a great change would not have been made in England without inquiry, and probably not without legislation. Ireland, however, is not ruled as England is; she is ruled in an arbitrary way, legal or otherwise. So far as my experience goes, the magistrates exercise a wise discretion in sending children to industrial schools. When this Circular came to the Enniskillen bench of magistrates, commanding us to change the course of our procedure without any change of law, if I had had my way we would have ignored the Circular, and allowed the authorities to take their own course. I am very glad to be borne out in that view by the Chief Secretary, who says that if a case came before him as a magistrate he would consider it on its merits, irrespective of the Circular. But he is not an Irish magistrate, with a resident magistrate over him. That is the course that I advised my brother magistrates to follow; but we calculated too soon. We had a resident magistrate in the court, and he directed us to obey the unauthorised and unparliamentary Circular. As a matter of course, the magistrates took the law from the resident magistrate, and the resident magistrate took the law from the Circular, and the Circular, over-riding and ignoring the law of the land, was issued by some unknown authority. Under these circumstances, the best thing the Government can do is to withdraw at once this objectionable Circular. The Chief Secretary says that abuses have arisen. If abuses arise they should be corrected, not by a Circular, but by law. I am glad to hear that in the Bill which the Home Secretary is to bring in clauses will be introduced that will to a large extent clear up the matter of the Circular 1030 and remedy these abuses. It is very hard that magistrates, who are sworn and are endeavouring to perform their duty, should be compelled to take the interpretation of the law from a resident magistrate, who is paid to carry out, whether right or wrong, the will and behests of Dublin Castle. In view of the tone of the reply of the Chief Secretary, I think we ought to trust him before we take any further drastic action.
I think, especially after the remarks of the last speaker, that hon. Gentlemen opposite will consider that they have served their purpose in having had a full discussion and obtained acknowledgments from all sides of the House as to the value of these institutions. If, however, this matter is pressed to a division, we shall be obliged to vote against the resolution. ["Why?"] Simply because a very wrong construction would be put upon our action—namely, that Dublin Castle had issued a highly improper Circular and one attempting to interfere with the administration of the law. The notice of motion was "to call attention to the question of industrial schools in Ireland." That has been done very thoroughly, and I think with great advantage to all present. But then the motion goes on to say—That, in the opinion of this House, the Circular issued by the Lord Lieutenant in October, 1898, has seriously interfered with the usefulness of the industrial schools, and ought to be withdrawn.That is a thing that some of us, at any rate, do not in the least degree believe. It seems to me that some hon. Gentlemen who have been talking about this Circular have not actually read it at all; their remarks cannot be accounted for in any other way. The Circular is simply "to call the attention" of the magistrates—there is never any harm in calling the attention of any man to a subject—"to the fact that these schools are in some instances being used for children for whom they were never intended." That is admittedly the case. If the schools were not intended for children who ought be admitted, then the law requires to be changed, but certainly to teach children a lesson of downright dishonesty as a foundation to teaching them honesty in these schools is an absurdity indeed. The Circular then suggests that thorough inquiry should be made into each case, and 1031 that the result of the inquiry should be placed before the magistrates. There can be nothing wrong from any possible point of view in that.
Certainly—In order to carry out the Act more effectively His Excellency desires me to repeat the suggestion made to the magistrates by the Circular dated 21st May, 1896, that detention orders should, whenever possible, be made upon evidence given in open court.
The hon. Member may call it whatever he likes, but it is a very peculiar bench of magistrates who would regard that as an interference. The hon. Member who spoke last said that he agreed with the Chief Secretary that magistrates should have ignored the Circular. Therefore an intelligent magistrate like the hon. Member understood at once that the Circular was not law, because we all know that he would be the last to defy the law of the land. He simply regarded it as a suggestion. The hon. Member for East Mayo referred to the effect of the Circular upon the magistrates. He divided magistrates into two classes—the resident magistrates and the ordinary magistrates. He certainly placed a very low estimate on the intelligence of the ordinary magistrates. As far as they were concerned, he took them to be a very unintelligent lot of men who would misunderstand this Circular; while with regard to the resident magistrates, he suggested, not that they misunderstood the Circular, but that they were afraid to disobey it as it came from Dublin Castle. We are told that Dublin Castle desired improperly to influence these resident magistrates. If the Lord Lieutenant had any such desire, it seems to me that he could have secured his object in another way rather than by a Circular published in the face of the country. The hon. Member speaks of this Circular as an interpretation of the law. It does not contain a single word which can be said to interpret the law in any way whatever. It seems to me that to withdraw a perfectly harmless and very useful Circular would be a course which could not for one moment be supported on this side of the House, and, therefore, if the motion is pressed to a division, the mover will seemingly get a vote against the administration of the 1032 industrial schools in Ireland, which is certainly a thing none of us desire to give.
§ MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)
The hon. Member who has last addressed the House generally lectures us upon our want of understanding, and he says that we do not understand this question. But some of us do understand the subject. I was on the deputation to the Chief Secretary last year, and I remember distinctly that this matter was brought forward not alone by the Catholics, but also by the Protestants, and the head of the Protestant school of Belfast made a very bitter complaint about the Circular. The result of this Circular has been enormously to decrease the number of committals. In 1897 there were 1,415 committals in Ireland; in 1899 there were only 955. In Dublin City in 1897 there were 337 committals; in 1898 there were 219; and in 1899 there were only 94, or just one-fourth of the number in 1897. I have no intention, of travelling over the ground which has already been covered, but I wish to give the House the benefit of my personal experience, as one who takes an interest in this subject. I believe the Circular was an undue interference with the authority of the magistrate. I do not care what view is put forward by the Chief Secretary or by any legal gentlemen; the fact remains that this Circular was looked upon by the magistrates in Ireland as an order from the Lord Lieutenant to stop the committals of children to the industrial schools. I agree with the Attorney General that in some instances there may have been abuse, but let us look at the question in its larger issues. What is the fact? There never was an Act of Parliament passed by this House so beneficent in its results to Ireland as this Industrial Schools Act. As a result of its operations child crime in Ireland has been almost entirely stopped. The Lord Lieutenant is a common-sense gentleman—more so than most Lord Lieutenants—and I believe that he was led into the issue of this Circular by some officials who did not exactly understand what they were doing. For my part, I would say that if the Chief Secretary will give a definite undertaking to have a full, clear, and public examination into this matter we will not press the motion to a division; but, assuredly, unless we receive some such promise we will not 1033 withdraw the resolution. The Chief Secretary has stated that the number of committals last year was greater than in the previous year. The reason of that is that in the previous year there was a debate on the subject in the House, deputations waited upon the Chief Secretary, the press took the matter up, and public attention was focussed on the subject. We have nothing to conceal, and if hon. Members are prepared to advocate that the Circular should be upheld, let them have the courage of their conviction and stand up in favour of it in this House. I am quite sure that the Chief Secretary had no idea that the consequences of issuing this Circular would have been so serious. As I have pointed out before, every class of industrial school has been more or less affected, and surely a Circular of this kind should not be allowed to interfere with the law of the land. I hope we shall have some assurance from the Chief Secretary or the Attorney General that a public examination of this question will be held, and if such an assurance is given we shall have no desire to divide the House. Unless some definite assurance is given, of a satisfactory nature we are pledged to follow this matter to an issue.
§ *SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
As an Irish magistrate, perhaps I may be allowed to say one or two words on this question. The motion before the House is that a certain Circular issued by the Lord Lieutenant in October, 1898, has seriously interfered with the usefulness of the industrial schools, and ought to be withdrawn. The reason why we are asked to vote for this motion is that we have no assurance from the Government that there will be an inquiry into the working of the Industrial Schools Act. I fail to see the connection between this argument and the motion. All I know is that the Circular was very necessary. [Nationalist cries of "No, No."] I am only expressing my own opinion, and I say that it was a very necessary Circular because both the taxpayers and the ratepayers in Ireland were beginning to find themselves over-burdened by paying rates for industrial schools in support of children who should not have been sent to those schools at all. That was the complaint of the ratepayers. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER; It was not.] I am simply speaking of my own experience, and I assert that it was the complaint of the 1034 ratepayers that they were unduly taxed in this respect. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: Where?] In Kerry, in the Kenmare district. The Circular does not tell the magistrates how to interpret the law, and it merely draws attention to complaints made from certain districts. The Circular does not affect the interpretation of the law in any way. It merely draws the attention of the magistrates to the necessity for very careful inquiry before they commit children to industrial schools. That is the whole pith and gist of the Circular. The hon. Member who has just sat down spoke of this Circular as being an instruction to the magistrates not to commit any children to industrial schools, but there is not a word in the Circular to justify such an assertion. The hon. Member for South Fermanagh said the magistrates took their law from the Lord Lieutenant, but that is not so. I have met a good many magistrates in Ireland, and I am sure they would resent any interference with their own interpretation of the law. Irish magistrates can read for themselves, and put their own interpretation upon the law. While I admit that there is some necessity for an Inquiry into the whole question of industrial schools in Ireland, I shall most cheerfully go into the lobby against hon. Members opposite, because I am of opinion that the Circular should not be withdrawn. On the contrary, I believe it is a proper Circular, issued in the interests of the Irish people.
§ *MR. HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
I think the argument used by the hon. and gallant Member for Yarmouth demonstrates clearly the effect of this Circular upon magistrates. One of the main arguments in favour of this motion is that the Circular prevents magistrates doing what they have been in the habit of doing.
§ *SIR JOHN COLOMB
The gist of my argument was that the Circular merely called attention to what the law was, and called upon the magistrates to see that the law was carried out.
§ *MR. HEMPHILL
The magistracy of Ireland are a very intelligent body, and if they were not they would have no business to be magistrates. There is no question that the effect of the Circular is to tie the hands of the magistrates, and prevent them administering this useful Act in the manner which they have previously done. There is one passage in 1035 the Circular to which I do not think sufficient attention has been called. The Circular sets forth that—In order to remove any misunderstanding his Excellency desires me to explain that he is advised that the Act was designed for the saving of children who, if not rescued, would grow up in vice.That is completely out of place in a Circular issued to magistrates. Their jurisdiction ought to be altogether independent of Dublin Castle. The law invests them with certain powers, and it has not invested Dublin Castle with any control over them. If the magistrates go beyond the law or disobey it, the remedy is in the Court of King's Bench, and a Circular like this, giving instruction upon an Act of Parliament nearly twenty-eight or twenty-nine years after the statute was enacted, is obviously issued with the intention of swaying the Bench, and interfering with the free exercise of their jurisdiction. In England magistrates would never tolerate a Circular from the Home Office telling them what an Act of Parliament meant. If they require assistance they can get it, and they can state a case for the opinion of the Court of King's Bench if necessary. This Circular gives a particular instruction to the magistrate not contained within the limits of the Act, and it goes behind the statute in order to state what the design of the statute was, although it is the duty of the Bench to interpret the statute as it is written. There never was a simpler statute, and I do hope that many hon. Members opposite will have the courage to vote in support of the authority of the magistrates in Ireland, and declare that the officials at Dublin Castle have no right to interfere with the construction which they in the exercise of their judgment may place upon any statute. There is not a word in the Act which states that the intention was simply to rescue children from evil surroundings. It is the function of a magistrate to satisfy himself upon the evidence, and no one ought to interfere with the exercise of his judgment upon that evidence. Even supposing that a particular case was included in the particular categories mentioned in the Act, the magistrate has still to determine whether it is expedient to deal with the case under the Act. Undoubtedly the words of the Circular are calculated to influence the magistrates, and since it was issued the manner in which the 1036 Act has been administered for the last thirty years has undergone a change. The figures quoted by the hon. Member who moved this resolution show what the effect of the Circular has been. There were 1,400 children, male and female, in the industrial schools in 1897, but after the issuing of this Circular that total fell in 1899 to 900. That speaks far more conclusively than any argument which has yet been put forward by hon. Members opposite. We have also a further statement that the number of children in Dublin sent to the industrial school after the issuing of this Circular was reduced by 75 per cent. I am willing to believe that the intention of the Government was not to divert so far the Act from its original intention. One of the things we are continually complaining of is that in Ireland the law is always being meddled with, and it is not allowed to take its natural course. The House of Commons often passes good and reasonable laws, but when they get across the channel they are interfered with by Circulars from the castle. The stipendiary magistrates are given all the power, and the unpaid magistrates are mere puppets in their hands. Like many other Circulars which have emanated from Dublin Castle this Circular interferes with the proper exercise of judicial discretion by the magistrates of Ireland. Undoubtedly the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland to-night was most sympathetic, and I believe that the most irreconcilable of the hon. Members below the gangway would be quite satisfied if the Chief Secretary could have his own way in the management of the affairs of Ireland. If this Circular is an innocent document why not withdraw it? If it is not intended to control the magistrates why leave it in force? There is more in this than hon. Members from England can appreciate. This interference, this meddling with every department in every way, and with the administration of justice in Ireland is the radical cause of all the troubles and misfortunes of that country, and of the irreconcilable discontent, which to my knowledge, instead of being diminished as time goes on, is burning more intensified from year to year.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
I think everybody interested in the existence and welfare of the industrial schools system in Ireland has reason to congratulate himself upon the course of this debate, and certainly hon. Members 1037 on this side of the House and my hon. friend who initiated this debate have reason to congratulate themselves. I listened with the greatest possible interest to the speech of the Chief Secretary, and I have come to the conclusion that this debate is likely to have a beneficial effect upon the subject in question. There is no Member of the House more alive to the fact that "soft words butter no parsnips" than I am, and certainly hon. Members on this side of the House have in recent years, while receiving many soft assurances of sympathy, got very little practical benefit for their country; and in listening to the Chief Secretary's speech I endeavoured to extract as far as I could something practical out of it. We have had from beginning to end sympathetic speeches—we have been accustomed to them; but I saw in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman something practical; and it is because I think I detected some practical promise on his part that I believe we are likely to derive some benefit from this debate.
If I understood the right hon. Gentleman correctly, he has given to the House and to Ireland what amounts to three practical promisesor assurances. The first is with reference to the law dealing with reformatories. He has stated that the Home Secretary is introducing a Bill, and that he has induced the Home Secretary to introduce into it certain clauses dealing with Ireland which will remove the hateful state of the law which necessitates the sending of a child to prison before it can be sent to a reformatory; and he has stated further that if through pressure of business the Home Secretary is unable to pass that Bill into law this session, he will embody these clauses in a separate Bill, and will then use his influence to have that separate Bill passed into law this session. That, of course, does not go very far, some people may think; but it is, so far as it goes, a valuable promise given by the right hon. Gentleman. The second promise which, as I understand, he desired to make was this. He contends that this Circular has not been misunderstood in Ireland by the magistrates, and his second promise is that he will institute some inquiry—I do not ask him to state in what way—to ascertain whether our contention is right or not, and if he finds we are right in the matter he will take such action as may be necessary, either by the issue of a new Circular or in some other way, to 1038 remove the misapprehension or to set the matter right. I gather that I have not misrepresented the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman has given on this point to the House and to Ireland a promise which I regard as of very great importance. The third promise which I understood the right hon. Gentleman made to the House was, if possible, more important than either of the first two. It was this. He declared, of course, that the law must be maintained, but he said it was his firm conviction that the institution of these industrial schools was a most valuable institution, and one which should not be allowed to be destroyed, and if he found by the operation of the law that these institutions were being destroyed, that it would be his duty, by some such administrative action as was open to him, to preserve these institutions from destruction. I regard that also as a very important promise made by the right hon. Gentleman, and one that will be taken note of widely in Ireland, and one which, I think, justifies me in the statement with which I commenced—that this debate has been productive of a good deal of benefit. We will now await the development of the question. We will see what the right hon. Gentleman will do, and how soon he will take action in order to redeem his promise. Having made these clear and definite promises to us, I do not think we would be right if we went to a division, and I would suggest to my hon. friend who moved this motion, and who was instrumental in raising this valuable debate, that he should withdraw his motion, and I would recommend the friends of the industrial schools in Ireland to carefully watch developments in the future, and see how soon the right hon. Gentleman will take practical action to carry his promises into effect.
§ MR. O'MARA
In view of the promises that have been made by the Chief Secretary, and on account of the appeal made to me by the leader of my party, I beg leave to withdraw the motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.