§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £110,406, be granted to His 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, 1905, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Agriculture and other Industries and Technical Instruction for Ireland, and of the services administered by that Department, including sundry Grants in Aid."
MR. J. P. FARKELL (Longford, N.)
said he rose for the purpose of drawing attention to the working of the Agricultural and Technical Instruction (Ireland) Act passed in the year 1899 for the purpose of advancing the agricultural interest in Ireland. He believed the intention of the Government also at the time was to create some new industries, or at least to protect those that remained in the country. The Board was 1016 to include a President, a Vice-President, and certain elected and non-elected members. Although the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was the President of the Board created by the Act the Vice-President was really the be-all and end-all of the Department. He had no desire to make any personal attack on Sir Horace Plunkett, and if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary thought they were criticising that gentleman too strongly he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that no one could say that too much criticism had been bestowed upon the working of this Act, considering that for the last four rears it had escaped criticism altogether, although the House had voted large sums for its working. He did not doubt that this Department was set up with good intentions. He would be very slow to assume that the intentions with which it was set up were altogether bad, although they were opposed to those ideas which the Nationalist Members held, but at the same time he believed that the idea underlying the establishment of this Department was anti-Nationalist and to draw another red herring across the path of Home Rule. No one could say that the Act had not a fair trial, but so far as the result of its working was concerned it was, in his opinion a ghastly failure. The Vote for the purposes of this Act was £196,406, in addition to which the counties provided a penny rate, so that in addition to the Imperial contribution Ireland contributed a very large sum for the working of this Act—a sum of nearly £400,000 a year. Of this amount £43,402 was for salaries paid to officials; for greasing the wheels of this machine; paid to a number of people who were believed to be experts in agricultural and technical sciences but who had been far from giving value for the salaries they received.
It might be said that because this Department was spending £400,000 a year on its work in Ireland they ought to be grateful for the sum that was spent upon this scheme, but that was not the view of the Nationalist Members. England had undertaken to rule Ireland and do everything for her which she could do for herself, and when some portion of the over-taxation which was extracted from her was given back in this way they did not look upon it as a favour. Further 1017 they were entitled to say the money should be spent in the way which would give the greatest benefit. He asserted that this Department was run according to the worst traditions of Castle Rule in Ireland. He had studied its work in his own bailiwick and had some personal knowledge of it, and he knew that on every occasion when the local County Committees, whether of Agricultural or Technical Instruction, with their better local knowledge of the necessities of the district, set their backs to the wall in order that certain concessions should be granted, they were told by the secretary of the Department that if they persisted in making these claims the Agricultural and Technical Instruction Grants could not be paid. He had read a book in which great claim had been made for the advance of democratic thought, but if this was a specimen of democratic management of the Department by Sir Horace Plunkett, then it would be a very good job if they had never seen the Department. Everything had been done by the people to give the Act a fair trial, but, although that was so and this Department had the assistance of all the expert local advice it could reasonably be expected to have, on every occasion that it was necessary for a committee to draw a line for themselves and not go according to the inspectors of the Department, they were threatened with these serious results unless they fell in with the wishes of the Department.
The Agricultural Committee under this Act devoted itself to improving the breed of cattle, swine, horses. and poultry. He had it on the authority of the largest farmer in county Longford, who was chairman of the county council, that the horse breeding scheme, so far as county Longford was concerned, was the very worst that had ever been invented. It had cleared the district of a strong native stock and had resulted in a positive injury to the farmers of the district. The same might be said of the pigs. Pigs. pigs were a very important item with the small fanner in Ireland. The Department had introduced a breed of pigs—"technical pigs" they called them in Ireland—the progeny of which was better fitted for a coursing match than 1018 fattening for a cattle show, long thin things which never fattened and one became tired of feeding them. More important still was the evil which hid been done to the cattle; several classes of cattle had been introduced into the country not one of which had been suitable to the locality. At the end of last session political business took him to county Meath, and during his visit there he came across a large number of the grass farmers of that country, who assured him that before the institution of this blessed Department there was a good strong healthy native breed of cattle, but since the introduction of the new breeding stock the cattle had been much disimproved.
The Act, therefore, was an absolute failure and a loss to the farmers of the country. They complained loudly that they were already taxed to the extent of 1d. in the £ for the purpose of working this Department, which, so far from being of an assistance to them, caused injury. After having done all they could during the last four years to assist the working of the Act, and to extract all the good they could get out of it, that result was very disappointing, and he considered that they were entitled to complain that they did not receive value for the money expended nor was there any likelihood of obtaining value at the hands of this Department.
The same remark applied to the technical instruction side of the working of the Act. That was designed to give young lads and girls some training so that the eye and hand could work together and they might become something more than mere "hewers of wood and drawers of water." The complaint made with reference to this sort of instruction was that it was very good whilst it lasted but the results were not permanent. The proper facilities refused by the Department for the creation of a central school to which the best boys could be sent was the cause of this complaint. He did not like to introduce the question of sectarianism or religion in the House. Whatever the feelings of Irishmen might be towards their opponents as politicians, they had always been tolerant towards them as 1019 Protestants. But Sir Horace Plunkett had written a book which he regretted had ever been published. The right hon. Gentleman, whilst professing a very great interest in their moral and material welfare, had gone out of his way to insult the feelings of the people of Ireland. No doubt he had bestowed credit and blame impartially, and seemed to find salvation in no place in Ireland. As much fault was found with hon. Gentlemen from Ulster as was found with the Nationalists. But it was a different thing when the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to criticise the clergy of Ireland. In the work of this Department the Catholic clergy had given the right hon. Gentleman a great deal of assistance, and they deserved better treatment at his hands. Sir Horace Plunkett said—A charge of another kind has of late been brought against the Roman Catholic clergy, which has a direct bearing upon the economic aspect of this question. Although, as I read Irish history, the Roman Catholic priesthood, had, in the main, used their authority with personal disinterestedness if not always with prudence and discretion, their undoubted zeal for religion has on occasions assumed forms which enlightened Roman Catholics, including high dignitaries of that Church, think unjustifiable on economic grounds, and discourage even from a religious standpoint. Excessive and evtravagant Church building in the heart and at the expense of poor communities has been objected to on, the surely not irreligious grounds that the best monument of any clergyman's influence and earnestness must always be found in the moral character and spiritual fibre of his flock, and not in the marbles and mosaics of a gaudy edifice. If, however, in some cases the sense of proportion has been obscured by a misdirected zeal, the excesses complained of cannot be fairly judged without some reference to the past.This was an insult of the gravest character. The right hon. Gentleman must know that when Ireland had its own churches and when Ireland had built up a great national system of churches throughout the country, the class to which he belonged came in and confiscated it. It was an insult of the very gravest character to now taunt the people of Ireland because they were trying to undo the work of centuries of Protestant zeal and Protestant confiscation. Another passage from the book was as follows—It is not alone extravagant church building, which in a country so backward as Ireland, shows the economic sense. The multiplication 1020 —in inverse ratio to a declining population—of costly and elaborate monastic and conventual institutions, involving what in the aggregate must be an enormous annual expenditure for maintenance, is difficult to reconcile with the known conditions of the country.Would it not be time to say this when the Catholics of Ireland made a protest? If the Catholic people of Ireland were willing to maintain their convents and monasteries, what had that to do with the right hon. Gentleman or with any Protestant so long as that Protestant was free and was not asked to contribute to their fund? The publication of this book was an insult to the Catholics of Ireland, and, after the help and assistance which the Catholics of Ireland had given, it was most ungrateful of the right hon. Gentleman to insult them in this unpardonable manner.
One would imagine from reading the book that everyone was treated on a broad and liberal basis by this Department, but he would call attention to the manner in which the Catholic and Nationalist clerks were treated by permanent Government officials. He would convince hon. Members that this liberality was not so-real as it appeared. The Department was run by a great number of officials the heads of which received large salaries. Mr. Cautrell was a first-class clerk with a. salary of £850, first-class railway fares. 21s. for lodging allowance, and 7s. per day of seven hours spent away from home. He was in charge of six clerks, to whose case he (the hon. Member) desired to call attention. These clerks, who constituted the main staff of the Veterinary Department, had all been in the service at least ten years, and yet their salaries were under £90 a year each. According to a statement prepared by these gentlemen, which he would be glad to send to the Chief Secretary, they conducted the administrative work of the branch practically on their own initiative; they had repeatedly asked the Department to give them salaries at a reasonable figure, but the request had always been refused, notwithstanding the fact that inexperienced persons, generally English or Scotch non-Catholics,were constantly being brought in to do exactly the same work at three times the salary. This was the broad-minded liberal Department which was to be a substitute for Home Rule in Ireland! Moreover, these 1021 clerks had received an intimation from Mr. Cautrell that if they pressed their application they would be removed from the Department altogether. He submitted that it was grossly unfair that such a man, brought in and placed over the heads of others, should be permitted to address these gentlemen in such terms, or indeed to refuse the revision of their salaries at all when Sir Horace Plunkett was at the head of the Department. The clerks had endeavoured, without success, to see the chiefs of the office, and they remained with wages practically equivalent to those of day labourers.
It would probably be said that it was very easy to criticise and condemn this or any other Department, but that they never put forward an alternative constructive policy. It was not his place to propound policies, but he might express his individual opinion. The hundreds of thousands of pounds spent by this Department had been badly spent, there was no value to show for it, and he believed there never would be. The predecessor of the present Chief Secretary, when introducing the Rill by which the Department was created, prophesied that the working of the Board would be of so beneficent a character that emigration would cease. The Board had been in existence four years, during which time 160,000 people had left the shores of Ireland. So far from anybody having been kept in the country through the work of the Board, he believed it had prepared people to seek their fortunes elsewhere. There were many ways in which the money might have been spent, with less waste on officials and more benefit to the country. If one-fourth of the amount wasted under the Act had been spent on the railway system of Ireland, the whole condition of railway transit might have been altered. Many Acts for the benefit of the labourers had been passed, but they were starved in their operation by the refusal to grant money for the relief of rates. The drainage of the country and the amelioration of the condition of the congested districts afforded great fields in which this money might have been much more usefully expended. But it all came back to the old point. The Government were ready to take the advice of everybody except the elected representatives 1022 of the people in preparing their measures for the Government of Ireland. The only remedy for all this maladministration, the foolish expenditure of public money, and the bolstering up of officialdom, was Home Rule. The people had the right to work these things themselves without the control of imported inspectors or of men who neither knew nor wished to know the true wishes of the people. As a protest against the working of this Act, and as an evidence of his belief in its failure, he moved to reduce the Vote by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £110,306, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Farrell.)
§ MR. COGHILL (Stoke-upon-Trent)
said that with reference to the particular office under discussion, he thought a great breach of faith had been committed by the Government towards the House. When the then Chief Secretary for Ireland brought in the Bill creating this office he gave a distinct pledge that the office of Vice-President should be a Parliamentary office. When Sir Horace Plunkett was first appointed, he was a Member of the House of Commons, but at the election of 1900 he lost his seat, and in view of the Chief Secretary's pledge he ought to have ceased to hold the office. Since then he had stood as a candidate for Galway, and he (the hon. Member) was bound to say that the programme put forward by Sir Horace Plunkett on that occasion made it very hard indeed for any Unionist Member to support him. He wished also to refer to the appointment of the secretary of the Department, Mr. Gill. He did not wish to say anything about the merits or demerits of Mr. Gill, as he knew nothing about him; but he did say it was extremely hard, seeing that in the year 1887 they were asked to vote for the imprisonment of Mr. Gill, that they should now be asked to express their confidence in him as the secretary of a public Department. He wished to ask how long the present state of things was to continue, and when the pledge given by the late Chief Secretary was to be redeemed.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork County, N)
said that they had tried to give the Department 1023 the fullest possible chance of promoting the material and moral welfare of the people of Ireland, but it had absolutely failed, and the Department was now in a woeful state. There was not a practical man in Ireland to-day outside the small coterie of officials who had any confidence in the Department. All along the Members of the Nationalist Party had mistrusted its ability to work out the millennium or to settle for ever the great political questions upon which the people of Ireland had set their hearts. After four years experience of this Department where did they find themselves? They found that they possessed in Ireland a Department as much overmanned as any Department that ever existed in Ireland. The Board of Agriculture had secured the hearty assistance of the various localities all over Ireland, and the co-operation of the county councils and the district councils, and these public bodies had raised rates and taxed themselves to further the work of the Department. Notwithstanding all this, after four years, the only result was that everything was centralised in Dublin in the hands of a few people, who were utterly ignorant of the public opinion of the rest of Ireland. Until the recent Return was issued, few people had the faintest notion of the manner in which this Department was overmanned. In the administrative branch they had five gentlemen with large salaries and an assistant costing £5,450 a year. Now, if there was one thing which the Vice-President of that Board had pleaded for more than another it was efficiency and economy. Then there were five other gentlemen, whose salaries came to £1,220 with travelling expenses. In the agricultural branch there were fourteen inspectors and assistants, costing £3,711, and the technical instruction branch employed nineteen inspectors and assistants, at a cost of £4,060. This Department cost £190,000 and the main result of four years labour was that no man or county in Ireland was one penny the better. His hon. friend had referred to a very lamentable fact. It was thought when this Department was started and thoroughly supplied with funds that it would effect such improvements in the condition of the people that the terrible drain of emigration would have been 1024 decreased, but this had not been the case, for no less than 160,000 young men and women had left Ireland since this Department was established. Consequently, it had not had the slightest effect in checking emigration.
He had heard it stated publicly by the Vice-President that in selecting gentlemen for appointments under the Board no regard was paid to nationality or creed, but it was a fact that nearly all the "plums" in regard to the chief appointments were given to gentlemen from England and Scotland, and from anywhere but Ireland, of whose experience they knew nothing. They were men of whose attainments they knew nothing, and yet they were paid those very fat salaries which they had hoped would never have been paid by the Board. In the fisheries branch there was an officer who was described as a temporary inspector, and he knew from his own knowledge that this gentleman was trained as a brewer. He believed this official had had some yachting experience but that was all. He should not have referred to this case except for the fact that he was anxious to show the system of jobbery which underlay these appointments in Ireland. The Chief Secretary had informed him that this gentleman was only appointed temporarily, but he noticed that when the Department took him over he was appointed at £500 a year. This official might be an excellent judge of porter and beer, but his knowledge of deep sea fishing was very small. He noticed in the list of officials that there was a Viscount at £250 a year. Viscount Ikerrin was appointed as an inspector in the Veterinary Department, and his qualification was that he had been the manager of an engineering firm. Therefore in Ireland they had veterinary inspectors trained in engineering works and fishery inspectors who obtained their experience in breweries.
Referring to the technical instruction branch of the Board's work, the hon. Member said the Irish people were told that they ought to depend more on their own energies instead of eternally crying to Parliament for this grant and that subsidy. They thought that was the spirit with which this Department was 1025 animated. The fact, however, was that it was the most centralised Department in Ireland, with the exception, perhaps, of the Prisons Board. A congress on technical instruction was held recently in Dublin, and good friends of the Department had sturdily denounced the centralisation connected with the work of the Board. A resolution was carried urging upon the technical department of the Board of Agriculture to secure a full share of the science and art grants and expressing regret that secret and exclusive meetings should be held between the Department and the county technical officials. This referred to the extraordinary action on the part of the Department in sending out to the principal teachers what appeared to be a secret circular inviting them to attend a conference in Dublin. Great dissatisfaction had been expressed by the local bodies that with the exception of a limited number they had been ignored. At the congress in Dublin one gentleman after another got up and complained of the action of the Department in utterly ignoring the local bodies with which they were connected in the sending out of that circular to the teachers, who were employed and paid by them, inviting them to meet in secret conclave in Dublin, in order to discuss some kind of curriculum. This was not the way to develop either self-help or the energies of the Irish people.
He wished to refer to what in the South of Ireland—which was largely agricultural—was regarded as a mistaken policy on the part of the Board. The Board seemed to distrust the system of home dairying in Ireland, and had given an unfair preference to the system of creameries. That was not the place to discuss the relative merits of home dairying and of creameries, whether proprietary or co-operative, but he might say that there were many who thought it was a misfortune for Ireland that expert skill in dairying should be lost by the people on account of the milk being sent for treatment at creameries. They held that if proper dairy arrangements were made at the farms better butter could be produced there than at the creameries. It was stated that the skim milk which was returned from the central creameries was most deleterious. One 1026 would have thought that, in a matter of this kind, the Board of Agriculture would have acted impartially, but they had encouraged the system of creameries, and discouraged the legitimate growth of home dairying. In a matter of this kind the Department should hold the scales fairly, and not throw in the weight of its authority and officialdom in favour of one particular class connected with the agricultural industry when there was among the people a marked division of opinion. The scheme of the Board's work had been a woeful, grievous, and disappointing failure. When it was proposed many of them looked upon it with distrust, and did not believe it was going to perform the extraordinary miracles in connection with the condition of Ireland which Sir Horace Plunkett so sanguinely predicted. It had had a fair trial. It had had the loyal and active co-operation of the best intellects of Ireland; it had secured the co-operation of the county and district councils, the clergy of all denominations, and particularly the Catholic clergy, but notwithstanding all that it had caused a woeful waste of public money. The extravagance that had marked other departments of Dublin Castle had been manifested in this Department in an alarming degree. If hon. Members from Ireland had not criticised it before it was because they wished it to have a proper trial.
§ MR. ELLIOT (Durham)
said he did not wish to enter on that fertile field of criticism which was always very much before the House of Commons in connection with the administration of Irish Departments—the subject of appointments. The hon. Member had criticised the appointments made by Sir Horace Plunkett. It was not disputed, he believed, that the appointments made by that man were extremely satisfactory from the point of view of the interests of the Department and the welfare of Ireland. In the case referred to, a man had been appointed who had been an extreme political opponent of the Unionist Party. He looked at this from an English or Scotch, rather than an Irish point of view, and for his part he rejoiced to find that the Government was able to let bygones be bygones, and to appoint a man who was generally considered to be best 1027 fitted to do the work. The Government might have preferred some one else on account of his partisanship. It was a little characteristic of an Irish debate on the Estimates that when the hon. Member behind him sat down after criticising that appointment, an Irish Member on the other side got up and proceeded, instead of defending the appointment, to criticise the appointment on precisely opposite grounds.
§ MR. ELLIOT
said it was rather hard that they should always have disapprobation of appointments. It would be sometimes advantageous if those who approved of an appointment were to stand up for it. He wished in all seriousness to call attention to the way in which Sir Horace Plunkett's recent expression of opinion had been treated in this House by the hon. Member who brought forward the Motion. It had been the spirit of Sir Horace Plunkett for years past not to work for Ireland as a mere politician. Looking at his work from that point of view, and remembering that it was his desire to promote the welfare of Ireland generally, he should have expected to find him supported instead of being attacked by Irishmen of different creeds and of different politics. It was Sir Horace Plunkett's desire to work for Ireland as a whole, and not as a mere politician, or as the representative of one religious persuasion. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: We could do very well without him.] He had succeeded beyond his predecessors in rallying to his support those who took different views in politics. They had been able to work together on non-Party and non-political lines for the good and welfare of their country. The hon. Member for Long-ford accused Sir Horace Plunkett of having insulted the Roman Catholic religion or the priesthood. He had said things about Roman Catholics which were not dissented from by all Roman Catholics, and which were in the nature of criticism. He had made remarks of the same kind regarding the Unionist Party in Ireland which must have come 1028 home to some members of that Party Was it not right that he, from his great experience in Ireland, should speak out frankly and point out the defects he might find on one side or the other instead of saying, as some people did, that which was only pleasant. When he was told that Sir Horace Plunkett had made an attack on the Irish priesthood he should like to read a few words from a work by him when referring to the great services rendered to Ireland by the priesthood. He said—From such study as I have been able to give to the history of their Church, I have come to the conclusion that the immense power of the Irish clergy has been singularly little abused.Then he went on, in the very next passage to that referred to by the hon. Member, as to the educational work done by the Christian Brothers and other associations. He was speaking as an educationist and gave full credit for the good work done by the Christian Brothers and other associations, and said—Personally I do not think that the people who have retired from the world are the best moulders of the character of the youth who will come into direct contact with the trials and temptations of life.Now, though Sir Horace Plunkett was a Minister of the Crown, it was of great use and importance that such views, expressed in quiet, temperate, almost judicial language should be laid before the public. Sir Horace Plunkett had been working hard with this great object in view. He believed in and greatly appreciated certain distinguished qualities in the Irish people. In some respects he considered that Irishmen were considerably in advance of Englishmen in natural gifts, and he singled out the one quality which the Irishman possessed in a higher degree than the Englishman—the power of working in association. He gave a certain advantage to the Englishman in regard to individual character, but he believed the genius of the Irish people would enable them to do better work associated together. Accordingly he had gone to work in that spirit with a system of agricultural reform which would call out those qualities which showed the merits of the Irish people in competition with the English and Scottish nations. Having acquired the habit of working together 1029 Sir Horace Plunkett wished his fellow countrymen to take a further step onwards in the direction he wished them to take. These views deserved the earnest consideration of Parliament. Were they an insult to the Irish people? He maintained that they were nothing of the kind. He had no sympathy with those who said that because Sir Horace Plunkett was a Minister of the Crown he should not express his opinions. In this country, which was governed by public opinion, it was not only the right but the duty of a man of experience and of a judicial mind to come into the open and show what he thought. Sir Horace Plunkett said that it was not only Irishmen who wanted teaching but Englishmen who wanted teaching, too. The latter had not understood the peculiarities, the merits, and possibly the defects of the Irish people. Sir Horace said that what was wanted was a better understanding between the one race and the other. He maintained that Sir Horace was doing a certain work such as had never been dreamed of in England or Scotland. He was taking the Irish people in hand, showing them how to help themselves and putting them in the way of developing their good or strong qualities. It was, he must say, a little disappointing to find that, when a man was animated by such admirable motives, the criticisms of his work assumed almost a captious character. Sir Horace Plunkett was an Irishman who was working to do good to Ireland, and if he had any extra-official criticism to offer he should say that it was necessary for the people at the Treasury to keep an eye on Sir Horace Plunkett. Instead of that the critics of the hon. Gentleman were in quarters where his best friends should be found. He hoped that as the debate went on there would be no condemnation of Sir Horace Plunkett because of the language he had held on political and religious topics. That gentleman had treated these matters in a judicial spirit and was an example to all of them. He had criticised the Irish Unionists in a way they did not like. He might offend one section or the other, but he had told what he believed to be the truth; and as the reader followed his words he came to believe that it was the truth that he was reading.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said that although the Department had been at work for a considerable time, and had done good work, it was a fair subject for discussion and criticism. He could not agree with the hon. Member for Durham that Sir Horace Plunkett should be relieved from criticism. He was sorry that Sir Horace Plunkett had written the book which had been referred to, because it could not but create ill-feeling and coldness among the people with whom he was working. It was not very pleasant for the Catholic clergy to be attacked for extravagance in chapel building. He did not think there had been extravagance in this respect. During the last half-century they had been simply restoring and recreating chapels which had for three hundred years either been left to go to ruins or been smash d up. Sir Horace Plunkett had one disqualification—he was an Irish Protestant, and was not, therefore, qualified to criticise Catholics any more than he, Col. Nolan, was to criticise Protestants. He had attended every meeting of the Council and of the Board of Agriculture except when Parliament was sitting, and he knew the tone of these bodies. If it was wanted to find out what the public opinion was as to the working of the Agricultural and Technical Act, the meetings of the Agricultural and Technical Councils should be attended to. These Councils represented the opinion of the people, because two-thirds of them were elected by the county councils. Sir H. Plunkett had placed a very large number of Catholic clergymen on the Technical Committees, but the reason of that was that they took more interest in technical education than any other people. As to the Agricultural Department and its operations, people took very different views in regard to the breeding of horses and the rearing of cattle. Complaints had been made as to the bulls which had been purchased by the Department. There were 6,000,000 cattle in Great Britain, and 4,000,000 in Ireland, and although the Agricultural Department had done good work so far as it went in introducing bulls from first-class herds, too few had been purchased and it would be years before a full improvement could be made in the strain 1031 of cattle in Ireland. The reason for this was that the supply of good bulls in Great Britain was limited. As to horses, it was impossible to have any agreement. It was a vexed question as to whether hackney or thoroughbred sires should be employed'; but he was sure that Sir Horace Plunkett had shown that he was most anxious to pay attention to the opinions of the county council committees. Sir Horace Plunkett and his Department had endeavoured, as far as possible, to steer clear of politics; but that did not always keep the Department in smooth water. Politics were all very well in their proper place. Irishmen should endeavour to obtain Home Rule, which would be for Ireland than any Department; but it was absolutely impossible to run Department politically. That had always been the policy of Sir Horace Plunkett, and he had been abused on all sides because of it. He was abused for appointing Mr. Gill. They had heard from the hon. Member for Stoke his opinion of Mr. Gill, who he said was an Irishman of the highest type. But, as a matter of fact, Mr. Gill was one of the mildest Irish Members who was ever in the House of Commons. A large number of Unionists in South Dublin were opposed to the appointment of Mr. Gill; and the result was that his hon. friend the present Member for South Dublin was returned in his stead.
Sir Horace Plunkett, undoubtedly, had great difficulty in selecting his staff. There was no first-class agricultural college in Ireland, although there were several in England and Scotland. Consequently Sir Horace Plunkett had to appoint Englishmen and Scotchmen although, doubtless, he would have preferred to have appointed Irishmen. Mr. Greene, whom he knew, was a man of first-class ability. He agreed with many of the remarks of the hon. Member for North Longford. He thought that the case of the clerks ought to be reconsidered. Sir Horace Plunkett only appointed clerks who had passed a Civil Service examination. That acted against the interests of his own province of Connaught because they had no available first-class educational establishments there; and, therefore, students had to go to Dublin to be trained. Sir Horace Plunkett's action was, however, 1032 proof that he had no desire to either use or abuse patronage. He endeavoured to get in touch with the people. He initiated a scheme by which every county could to a great extent manage its own affairs; and on the whole the scheme was working fairly well. Some counties wanted to purchase their own animals in England; but if that were allowed they would have thirty-two gentlemen from Ireland bidding against each other in the English markets. That could not be tolerated by the Department. Up to the present, however, Sir Horace Plunkett's relations with the county councils had been very satisfactory. He was attacked because he was too economical and had not spent all the money at his disposal; but his explanation was that while the Department was still engaged in the work of organisation he could not spend the money properly. But the money would eventually be useful. He himself hoped that the Motion would be discussed dispassionately, as, otherwise, it might have the effect of impairing Sir Horace Plunkett's authority in Ireland. He devoted himself to his work with great pains, and in a manner which on the whole was very successful.
§ SIR JAMES HASLETT (Belfast, N.)
said that it was a matter for congratulation that this debate had been conducted in a kindly spirit. He joined with the hon. Member who had just sat down that they should not approach the subject in a carping spirit. He believed the right hon. Gentleman sought in the work of his Department to produce the best and kindest results to Ireland. He was somewhat surprised to hear from the hon. Member who moved the Amendment that the efforts to improve the breed of cattle had not only proved utterly abortive, but that the character of the cattle had deteriorated. He did not think the statement was borne out by the facts. Certainly it was not borne out by the exhibitions at the shows, nor by the cattle exported, nor by the Scottish demand for young Irish cattle. In all these respects it was universally stated that the quality of the cattle had appreciably improved. He was speaking only of the North of Ireland. Unfortunately, he had no personal acquaintance with the South; but he was quite free to confess 1033 that outside the immediate prize counties of Antrim and Down there was a great improvement in the breed. In the North, farmers found it more profitable to breed young cattle for the Scottish and English demand than to fatten them themselves. Scottish buyers complained that the cattle were large in bone and correspondingly large in flesh, and they required them to be small in bone and large in flesh. The Ulster farmers were, as men should, endeavouring to meet that demand, because they must cater for the market and try to produce goods which would bring in the best possible prices. It had been said that after three or four years they had not had the result that was expected. He could quite realise that. But supposing they took the ordinary cow, the property of the ordinary small farmer, and tried to produce a superior calf by a superior bull. They had then only got one generation. It required three or four generations before they could rise to the higher scale in the animal creation and produce the highest I class of animal. In the same way with regard to pigs. In Limerick they had a pig to which there was none superior in the kingdom. They had catered for the market both in the curing of the pork and the production of the pigs, and it was desirable that that practice should become universal in Ireland. The class of pig known as the "greyhound" had had its day. It would not put on flesh, though it was a splendid animal for grazing on the neighbours' farms. That, however, was not the class of pig wanted for the market in competition with America and the countries of Europe. With regard to horses, Ireland had produced, and he hoped would continue to produce, the best hunters in the world. The question was repeatedly being asked as to what class of animal could be best produced. If they went in for an extremely tine animal, such as was found on the racecourse, it would probably turn out deficient in bone and general usefulness. Personally, he believed hackneys would yield the best results. But, inasmuch as every hon. Member would have his own favourite, surely the proper policy to pursue was to try each and find out which yielded the best results. The West of Ireland would produce the best horses. He had been told that if a horse 1034 was taken from the West of Ireland and grazed in county Down or Antrim on what was generally conceded to be better grass, the horse would not turn out so good an animal as it would if kept on its native soil. These were matters for careful study and keen competition, and the Department, if it did nothing else, would have set men to think out the problem of the best way to make agriculture successful.
He was specially interested in certain matters connected with technical instruction. Technical instruction, like the breeding of animals, must be slow. It was necessary to begin with the youth of the country. Old men in businesses of any kind could scarcely adapt themselves to new forms and ceremonies. Therefore, the youthful mind should be grappled with, and moulded for greater usefulness in the society into which it would ultimately enter. The technical schools had produced certain results. Creameries had been established to compete with the creameries abroad, but they required very delicate handling. Everything started by Tom, Dick, or Harry, and calling itself a creamery, was not to be taken into one's arms as though it were certain to be a success. Creameries might be damned by bad management, therefore it was of the utmost importance that when they started on the principle of co-operation—for that was what a creamery practically meant—the creamery should be managed on the best possible business lines and according to a system that was economically sound. Unless that were done, farmers would find they had lost their money, and in consequence would look with suspicion upon everything which arose out of the system of creameries. He was not at all certain that Ireland could ever develop into a cheese country. It was strange that it should be so, seeing that Ireland was one of the best butter countries in the world, if only the manipulation of the butter progressed as it ought to do. But the old-fashioned arrangements with the midden outside the window of the building in which the cream and milk were placed to mature, and all that sort of thing, would have to give place to something better, and if the technical schools taught the 1035 people that "something better" they "would have done good service.
The next point to which he wished to refer concerned the technical schools. Be hoped the schools throughout the country would be generously treated, and that the scholastic work would be carried on without fear or favour. In Belfast they were establishing a technical school at a cost of £100,000. They received their share of the grant for technical instruction, amounting to £9,000 or £10,000 a year, and they raised a penny rate, which yielded about £4,500, but that was swallowed up by the interest on the cost of the building. Therefore, they were depending upon the grant in aid for technical instruction, and he hoped that that would man them fairly well for grappling with the entire subject of technology as necessarily applied to a manufacturing district like Belfast. In technology each district should try and adapt its technical instruction to the general wants and needs of the district. He was a Home Ruler in that respect. He held that they must of necessity take note of their instruction and bring it near to the people and let it be in sympathy with the wants of the particular district. But they must not stop there. They had passed the day when they could expect five or six sons of one farmer to vegetate about one farmstead; a number of them would necessarily go elsewhere. In that respect emigration was not to be deprecated. They were not to say that a man who sought a better outlay for his capital should not be allowed to go abroad. It was that which was the curse of Ireland in the old times—when a man with fifty acres had five or six sons, and as each of them got married he gave them a slice off his farm until he brought it down to five or six acres, upon which no man could live and prosper. Therefore, they must educate the men in their position, but they must not expect to fix them there, though in the long run he would hope that the technical instruction and general instruction would so open up the industries of the country that emigration might be stayed and that they might rather have immigration than emigration in the future.
1036 As regarded the Belfast Technical School, it would occupy a postion of general instruction on all mercantile and general subjects. But there was a sphere beyond what a technical school could and should aim at, viz., the sphere of higher inquiry that belonged properly to a college. They would educate in technology through a college. in Belfast, which would be second to none in the kingdom; but technical instruction or technology proper as applied to general instruction could not go up to the higher departments of inquiry in order to continue instruction given in the lower departments of technology. In chemistry, for instance, they taught all that at present was known as chemistry, but they would not begin to teach in a technical school the subject of research in bacteriology, though they might incidentally teach it in the ordinary lectures. But that was a necessary inquiry, because their health depended upon inquiry in connection with that great science. What he wanted to bring to the knowledge of the Chief Secretary and of the Attorney-General was that Queen's College at Belfast got its £10,000 a year. The wealthy citizens of Belfast had subscribed £40,000 or £50,000 in an endeavour to bring that Queen's College up to a high standard. In a year or two when the technical school or college in Belfast was fully equipped it would be in many respects superior to Queen's College, and that was the fault of which he complained. It ought never to be so. Queen's College should be the aim of the higher students, and the higher knowledge of Queen's College should be disseminated through the technical college. They had appealed to the Chief Secretary, who was always most kind and assured them of what he was going to do; but he had never brought that assurance down to the £. s. d. What they wanted was that they should have a fair and reasonable proportion of this technical grant given for special work in the higher departments connected with such subjects as chemistry and engineering, and plans worked out in connection with the great industries of the North of Ireland, which he hoped would be spread to the South and West of Ireland. He desired to see those departments fostered 1037 and matters so arranged that Queen's College would be no longer starved, the students no longer left craving for this higher instruction, and the professors no longer left hungering for the best powers of higher research. He did not grudge the higher school in Dublin; it was a centre which he hoped would prosper; but surely the North of Ireland should also have brought nearer to it an institution which would enable the authorities to supply what the Dublin Central Board supplied to the South of Ireland. He appealed to the right lion. Gentleman to give the matter favourable consideration.
§ MR. MOONEY (Dublin County, S.)
said that one of the reasons the Nationalist Members criticised Sir Horace Plunkett's book was that Members representing English constituencies took it as representing life in Ireland as it really was. Four years ago, when the Board was created, the hope was held out that through its agency Ireland would once more take her position as a manufacturing and farming country. The Board was to be absolutely non-sectarian and non-political, working solely for the better education of the people, and the retention of the population in the country. Many people never believed the hope would be realised; but in view of certain events they abstained from evincing active hostility to the Board. The amount of money spent had been variously estimated, but, whatever it was, what had the country to show for it? Nothing but a tract from Sir Horace Plunkett, If the right hon. Gentleman were not Vice-President of the Board, nobody would have said a word about his having written the book complained of; but the ground of complaint was that Sir Horace Plunkett, holding a position supposed to be non-political, had stepped down into the Party arena, written a Party pamphlet, and thus abused his position as Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture. Personally, he (the hon. Member) would not exclude a man from an appointment on account of his political or religious beliefs; he did not care what a man's religion was, provided he was the best man for the post; but in a country where the majority of the people were of a certain belief, he did object to outsiders of another belief 1038 being brought in to take positions which native-born persons were competent to fill. He admitted that for some of the higher appointments it might have been necessary to import these foreigners. But the right hon. Gentleman himself did not practise what he preached, because, while it was constantly urged that the religious belief of the servants of the Board were absolutely unknown, Sir Horace Plunkett in his book made references "to notorious bigotry," and carried out his doctrine of recreating Ireland from within by importing Scotsmen from without. The whole spirit of the book was that of a superior being who had come down amongst the people, telling them that they possessed no moral character, no self-reliance, that they were deficient in all national qualities, and that they ought to forget their history and imitate English models. Sir Horace Plunkett might be proud of his connection with Ireland, but he knew very little of the Irish character if he thought that upon his ipse dixit the Irish people were going to forget either their history or their nationality. Long after Sir Horace Plunkett and his book were forgotten, the doctrines which the Irish people held to be right would remain. The right hon. Gentlemen had had to find some excuse for the failure of his Department to stem the stream of emigration, and he had turned on the Roman Catholic clergy, stating that—No man can get into the confidence of the emigrating classes without noticing that it is largely due to the feeling that the clergy are taking all innocent joy from home life.That was the return the Catholic clergy received for helping Sir Horace Plunkettin the work of his Department. If the Board was to do any good work it would have to be run on the theory with which it was supposed to have been started, viz., that it should be non-sectarian and non-political. At present it was neither the one nor the other, and for that reason the Nationalists had felt compelled to bring forward the present Motion.
COLONEL SAUNDEESON (Armagh, N.)
agreed that hon. Members had every right to criticise the book written by Sir Horace Plunkett, but personally he had never read a less one-sided work. The writer certainly spoke his mind with regard to the Nationalist Party and the Roman Catholic clergy—though he (the 1039 speaker) could not find anything in the book insulting to their religion—but he also strongly criticised the Unionist and Orange Parties. It had been suggested that Irish landlords must have felt their plumage ruffled by the book, but he assured hon. Members that Irish landlords had had all the feathers plucked out of their plumage long ago. The Party opposite regarded any criticism of the Church to which they belonged, or of its clergy, as necessarily insulting to that Church. It was nothing of the kind. It was impossible to avoid criticising the clergy of the Church of Rome, not because of their religion, but because of the political attitude they had assumed. They were criticised not as Roman Catholic priests, but as political priests, and the criticisms which had been levelled against them were eminently such as any man with the slightest pretence to statesmanship would write when dealing with the condition of the country, to the improvement of which Sir Horace Plunkett had undoubtedly devoted his life. The Vice-President of the Board was not at present a Member of the House of Commons, but his rejection was mainly due to his sympathies with the Nationalist Party, and the present debate was the return they made. Both in his appointments and in his administration Sir Horace Plunkett had shown that his sympathies were largely with the Party opposite, and now to a man they rose to abuse him. Sir Horace Plunkett's work was work with which every Irishman who understood the requirements of his country would entirely agree. Who could read Irish history, either past or present, without realising that the one great obstacle to Irish growth and to Irish social happiness and prosperity was the gulf that was dug in the past, and which was kept wide open in the present by bigotry and political rancour? [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: On your side.] He did not for a moment deny that there was bigotry on his side, but could hon. Members opposite say that bigotry was not also to be found on their side. [Cries of "Yes"] He knew hon. Members opposite would say anything. Whether Nationalist Members agreed with him or did not altogether agree with his policy and procedure, he believed that Sir Horace Plunkett had done a most excellent work 1040 for Ireland. Whatever the result of this debate might be he was sure it would not be a condemnation by the House of Commons of Sir Horace Plunkett for having put down in black and white what he conscientiously believed to be the great crux of the Irish question.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite objected to some of the appointments made by the Board because some of those appointed got too much and some too little salary, but as to the work of the Board itself they did not pass any very scathing criticism. Hon. Members opposite did not like this Board, because it originated in the House of Commons. They said it had done no good. If they could trace the origin of a pig, or a cow, or a calf, to the action of the House of Commons, or even the money the House gave, it had a flavour that destroyed its pleasant taste to hon. Gentlemen opposite. That, however, was not the view of Irish farmers. He could give one instance which came to his own knowledge. Hon. Members opposite were good enough to set him down as a bigot. He should like to throw down a friendly challenge to hon. Members opposite. A bigot, he supposed, was a man who not only held very strongly to his opinion—he did that, and was proud of it—but allowed his religious feeling to affect the justice of his dealings with other people. He challenged hon. Members opposite to appoint a small Committee. Let them visit estates of Roman Catholic gentlemen in the South and West and put on a piece of paper the number of Protestant labourers on those estates. Then let the same committee go to the county in which he lived, visit his estate, and find out how many Roman Catholics he employed as labourers and workmen on his demesne, and they would find three-quarters of the labourers on his estate, in Ulster, Roman Catholics. They all went against him solid. Politically, he was sure they disliked him very much, but, personally, he was glad to say they were on most excellent terms. The case he wished to bring forward was this. The Board of Agriculture sent round to various counties in Ireland lecturers who spoke on the way of cultivating the soil and bringing up crops. He knew a farmer, a most excellent man, a Roman Catholic, 1041 who attended those lectures, and put in practice on his own farm the lessons he learned, and the result was that he trebled the amount of crops he grew on his land Hon. Members laughed but they probably grew no crops. He had done this simply by learning from a lecturer how those things ought to be done. And the crops were so good that people came from the whole surrounding district to look at them. There was no politics in that, there was no religion m that. It was nothing but simply improving the Irish tenant by teaching him how to cultivate his land—a sort of humdrum policy which did not commend itself to excited political patriots. That was going on now all over Ireland, and as the Irish people learned, as they must learn soon, that by paying attention to the scientific cultivation of the land they would be able to compete with Denmark, France, and other agricultural countries, they would have learned a lesson that would do more to make Ireland a happy and prosperous country than all the politics that had ever been fulminated in their ears either south or north of the Boyne.
In regard to technical education he had always been told that Ireland was an agricultural country, and not a country that could carry on great manufacturing industries. It had not got coal and iron, true, but the great asset of Ireland was not a matter of horses or pigs or sheep or cattle; it was the brains that had been bestowed upon her people. He did not believe there was any other country in the world with which they did not compare favourably in that respect. How were they to develop the brains of the Irish people? One thing must be done. They must divest technical education of the flavour of religious intolerance or bigotry. Unfortunately that was not always done. In one case that came before him it struck him that the technical education authorities had not learned it yet, a case in which Sir Horace Plunkett, he was afraid, was very considerably to blame. In the town of Lurgan, where undoubtedly the majority were Protestants, although there was a considerable Roman Catholic minority, the local authority determined to set up a technical school; an inspector went down and the result was a grant of 1042 £850 was made to that school. But a gentleman who had been once a Member of the House, sitting on the Nationalist Benches, discovered a great difficulty in the way. He wrote a letter to say that to carry on a technical school in the town of Lurgan without separating the Roman Catholics from the Protestants was impossible. He stated that the Roman Catholic children could not leave the part of the town in which they lived and go to the part of the town in which the schools were situated without insult and injury. There never was a greater invention even of an exuberant Irish mind than that. The children in Lurgan lived on friendly terms. Certainly stones had been thrown in Lurgan—he did not deny that.
§ MR. JOSEPH DEVLIN Kilkenny, N.)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman was this ex-Member of Parliament an Irish Protestant?
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I do not think he has much religion of any kind. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were no doubt acquainted with him and knew his profession of faith.
§ MR. JOSEPH DEVLIN
I say the statement that he has no religion at all is a foul slander. He is as good a Protestant as you are.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said he had not the least idea whether he had any religion or not. All he was dealing with was the letter he wrote pointing out the probability of the children being assaulted coming out of school. It was true that at one of his elections his speech was interrupted by one of the co-religionists of hon. Gentlemen opposite—some admirer of his—who threw a stone weighing 4 lbs. 8 ozs. which hit him on the head. Luckily his head was pretty hard. He now used the stone as a paperweight. If any hon. Member who doubted the accuracy of his statement would call at his house he would show him the stone. But that fact did not make the streets of Lurgan unsafe for children. After the representation made of the great danger run by children in going to and from school the grant of £850 was divided 1043 and £250 was given to the nuns' school, so that there might be two technical schools in Lurgan, one Protestant and the other Roman Catholic. He looked upon that way of working out the salvation of Ireland as absolutely and hopelessly bad. He contended that the Government and the Irish Board dealing with this matter should invariably see that the sectarian and religious element did not come into play. The facilities offered by the Board of Technical Education in Ireland ought not to be given with the view of keeping alive the hideous gulf between the denominations. There were two ways of getting rid of a gulf. It could be bridged or it could be filled up. Hon. Gentlemen opposite withed to fill it up by putting all the Protestants into it. He wanted to bridge the gulf, for he was certain that if Irish men and women were brought up together they would see, without any injury to their religion, a diminution of that spirit of hatred which had been kindled by bitter memories of the past and was now kept alive by the Irish politician. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: By Orangemen.] If they pleased. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: Why don't you say that in Portadown?] He had said it there a hundred times, and would say it again. That was his view. To fill up the gulf they must first bridge it over and bring people together. If the Irish people would learn that they were brethren, although they differed in religion, their children would grow up good citizens of Ireland, a credit to their country, and would make their power felt not only in this country but all over the world.
§ MR. CULLINAN (Tipperary, S.)
said he had listened with very great pleasure to the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. It was almost a revelation to find him speaking so liberally with regard to his Catholic fellow-countrymen. He spoke with great anxiety apparently with regard to bridging over the gulf which separated Catholics and Protestants. That reminded him forcibly of the way they tried last year in that House during of the passage of the Land Act to bridge over on, fair and reasonable terms, by means of a bonus to the Irish landlords, the gulf that separated them from the tenants. What did they find? The 1044 gulf was being filled up by putting the tenants into it. He thought the effect would be somewhat similar if they were to attempt to bridge over the gulf to which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman referred. He had spoken of the intolerance and bigotry of the Catholics in the South of Ireland, and contrasted the disinclination on the part of Catholic employers there to engage Protestants with the spirit prevailing in his own locality in the North, where many Catholics were employed by the Protestants. His answer to that was that the Protestants in the North employed Catholics because they found it convenient to do so. He very well remembered when there were published in the Tipperary Press advertisements by Protestant landlords for grooms, stableboys, and ordinary workmen, the announcements stating that no Irish and no Papist need apply. Where was the bigotry then? That state of feeling had prevailed until quite recent times on the Protestant side. He was glad that the Catholics had had the courage to defend themselves against that kind of bigotry. Why did they find it necessary to offer adverse criticism of the proceedings of the Board of Agriculture? It was because when the Bill establishing that Board was passing through this House Irish popular sentiment was altogether ignord. The administration of the Board was carried on altogether from a partisan point of view. In regard to the importation of Englishmen and Scotchmen to fill appointments in Ireland, he and his friends did not object to that, when Irishmen could not be found for the performance of the work, but in many instances posts which were given to outsiders could be equally well filled by Irishmen.
The hon. Member for North Galway had stated that the scheme of the Board had not yet been given sufficient itme to accomplish the good results which might be expected from it. What had the scheme actually done? To his mind it had done more to help emigration and to send the youth out of the South of Ireland than any other method introduced in recent times. An attempt had been made to establish cooperative creameries in Ireland. He believed this huge co-operative system 1045 would have meant the disappearance of towns and villages, but, thanks to the good sense of the farmers interested in these places, the game did not succeed. They were told that the different breeds of cattle and horses had been considerably improved since the Board of Agriculture was established. As a member of the committee of the county council with which he was connected, he had been able to observe the working of the Board's scheme, and he must say, that he had not seen evidence of the great benefits in which they were asked to believe. The hon. Member for Galway had referred to the buying of bulls. He was mistaken if he thought they were going to pay fictitious prices to English and Scotch breeders. When representatives of the county councils were sent to the English or Scotch sales they should be allowed to buy the animals they considered best suited for the localities from which they came. But they were not allowed to buy these animals, for an official of the Board of Agriculture walked round and selected a certain number. Whether the representatives of the county councils approved or disapproved of the selections, they had to take the animals and pay for them, not at a fair and reasonable price, but at the price fixed by the representative of the Board of Agriculture. He insisted that the local man, the practical farmer who knew the class of stock that would be useful for fattening purposes, was the man who was the best judge of the wants of the district. He was sure that hon. Members from the North of Ireland would not be very much out of line with him in that respect.
After the famine, when the landlords cleared the people out of the land and prices went up, they thought that they were going to make huge fortunes; but before many years had passed they found that estates cleared of people were not gold mines. Then they did not reinstate the Irish peasantry on the land, but introduced men from England and Scotland; but these experts, who were to remodel Ireland, all came to smash. He had been a member of a technical education committee which had been most anxious to develop a scheme of technical education; but after going to the expense of pro- 1046 curing a building, the Education Department refused to give them the necessary equipment. It was that sort of cheeseparing that they had to complain of. It was a waste of time to go on with technical or agricultural education because it was not done satisfactorily. Some of his own friends, including clergymen of all denominations, were anxious to promote technical and agricultural education in Ireland, but when a pupil had received his training there was no opening for him in his native land, and he had to go to a foreign country. He had always held that the system of education should be such as to confer a benefit on Ireland itself, and should be in accordance with popular sentiment and popular experience. For twenty-five years those who had contended for a reform of the land system in Ireland had been denounced as agitators, thousands had been sent to gaol or shot down in the streets of Irish towns; but the end of it all was the Land Bill of last year, which justified the whole action of the Irish people. The English Parliament would have to realise that the wishes of the Irish people to manage their own affairs must be conceded.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said he was not competent to express an opinion in regard to the administration of the Irish Board of Agriculture and Technical Education to which most of the speeches that afternoon had been directed. But two topics had been touched upon as to which he wished to say a few sentences. One of these was raised by the hon. Member for Belfast, who adverted to the desirability of connecting technical instruction with the existing institutions for University education. He should like to express a strong concurrence with that view. He was persuaded that if they wanted to make technical instruction useful, it could not be better done than by connecting it with the hierarchy of University education. Therefore, he supported a very liberal treatment of the Queen's Colleges in Cork, Galway, and Belfast, and the institutions in Dublin which gave technical and scientific instruction. He did not mean to suggest that such institutions should be multiplied. The modern apparatus necessary for proper scientific instruction was costly, and it would be impossible to have them 1047 installed in too many centres. He thought it would not be wise to spend money over too many institutions, but they should have a few and make them strong. Subject to that condition, he believed a great deal could be done by giving promising young men, and, for that matter, young women too, an opportunity of obtaining a good technical education, and by training them in the study of the applied sciences. He was persuaded that that would be a great benefit to Ireland. Not so much had been done in Ireland for higher education as had been hoped for fifty years ago; but, nevertheless, we lived in an age when the methods of science might find means by which Ireland would suffer less from her want of coal and minerals than in times past. Any money spent in the furtherance of technical instruction would conduce to the development of her natural resources by her own children. He would like to see a liberal treatment of Ireland in that direction. Much had been done in England and Scotland by private liberality, but that could not be expected in Ireland on account of the poverty of the country. He did not think that in these matters they ought to adhere to the principle of exact equality of treatment between the three parts of the United Kingdom. He, for one, would be glad to see Ireland receive more than she had done in that direction; and he was sure that it would be good for Ireland and for the United Kingdom as a whole. Reference had I been made to a book published by Sir Horace Plunkett. He thought that there was an excess of courage shown when any official attempted to write a book about Ireland. He did not mean to express any view as to the opinions enunciated in that book by Sir Horace Plunkett. He was quite sure that the whole tenor and spirit of Sir Horace Plunkett's life showed that he was quite free from any political or ecclesiastical bigotry, and that he approached these subjects as a friend of his country and as a patriot who had laboured very sedulously for many years in reference to the development of Irish industrial resources. Even those who thought Sir Horace Plunkett would have done better to have left this matter alone would feel that he deserved credit for having bestowed his criticisms im- 1048 partially, and, whether he had written prudently or not, he had not written with a desire to censure any Party, but merely to express his honest opinions.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG (Antrim, S.)
said that the hon. Member for South Tipperary had stated that technical instruction was not for the benefit of Ireland as a whole but for the benefit of the individual. That was one of the most extraordinary criticisms he had ever heard. He did not think the resources of the Technical Board in Ireland would be sufficient for a good many years to come to provide more technical instruction than the recipients would be able to find ample opportunity to make use of in their own country, without going to America. He thought the technical side of this work was the more important of the two. In places like Belfast, Dublin, Limerick, and towns of a similar size there would always be a large number of trades in which technical education would be necessary, and for anyone to get up in the House of Commons and say that the country would not benefit, and the individual would, by technical education was, to his mind, nonsense.
§ MR. CULLINAN
said he never said any such thing. What he said was that it would be more of a personal benefit.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
considered that technical education would be quite as much benefit to the country as to the individual. In Belfast there had been a very great demand for technical education; only last year they had started upon the erection of a fine technical school, and he anticipated good results in a few years time. They had just listened to a dissertation on the breeding of pigs which was very interesting, and he only regretted that the hon. Member opposite did not continue his dissertation on cases other than "technical" pigs, and he might have introduced the "technical" bull. With regard to Sir Horace Plunkett's book, he had not read it, but he had seen a considerable number of excerpts from it, and a good many had been read in the debate, and judging from those he did not think there was much in them to which Nationalist Members had 1049 any right to object to. As the hon. Member for North Langford had rightly said, the book was simply an expression of opinion. They had all got fairly tough skins, and the book would not do any of them any harm. He was, however, surprised at the action of the Nationalist Party in regard to this matter, because Sir Horace Plunkett was more of a Nationalist than a Unionist. This Board was bound to do some good in the future. Nobody except a lunatic could be entrusted with the spending of such a large sum of money in Ireland upon these objects without doing some good. Whether this money was at the present time being spent in the most beneficial manner, the data before them were not sufficient to decide. The hon. and gallant Member for Galway was of opinion that a great deal could be done. Several Nationalist Members had expressed an opinion in the opposite direction. Personally he could say from his own experience that already a very considerable amount of progress had been made. The initial stages had been passed and the Board had settled down to its work. It was impossible to undertake work of this kind without a certain amount of experiments. After a few more years, when they had come to look at this matter from an absolutely non-political point of view, he believed this Department would do more to make up for lost time in Ireland than any other Department, and, with the operation of the Land Acts as well, Ireland would be placed on a footing which they were all desirous of seeing. With regard to Queen's College, Belfast, sight would not be lost of the great necessity of co-ordinating the work of technical education. He wished, however, to point out that the Technical Schools of Belfast could only serve those who lived in Belfast itself. The Queen's College was intended to serve the whole of the North of Ireland and not Belfast only. There were a large number of people who lived at some distance from Belfast who would not be able to take advantage of this technical school, but who would be able to take full advantage of Queen's College when it was properly equipped. It was most absurdly equipped at the present time, and suffered from want of funds and insufficient buildings. The whole question 1050 was so intermixed and dovetailed that he hoped the Chief Secretary, in replying to the remarks addressed to him, would be able to give some satisfactory assurance that the present unsatisfactory state of affairs in connection with Queen's College, Belfast, would be put an end to.
§ MR. HAVILAND BURKE (King's County, Tullamore)
regretted that the question of religious differences had been introduced into the discussion. As a Protestant, in reply to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh, all he could say was that so far as bigotry was concerned in Ireland the whole of the blame did not rest upon Catholic shoulders. When the power of the Catholic clergy was alluded to he said that those who made the Catholic clerical power were those who forbade Catholic education, who hunted Catholic priests, and who threw people wholesale into the arms of the parish priest as their one guide, philosopher, and friend in times of tribulation and oppression. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh had alluded to Irish ingratitude in moving this Resolution. But the constitutional form of attacking a public Department was to move a Resolution to reduce the salary of some official. They all knew that the Chief Secretary was only the nominal head of this Department and that the responsible head was Sir Horace Plunkett, who held the reins of government and had all the patronage which the Department commanded. So far as his personal feelings towards that Gentleman were concerned, he recollected the time when he was a Nationalist candidate against him for South Dublin. The contest was conducted with good feeling and temper, and both sides fought hard, but Sir Horace said that the fact that there was no incident to regret was due to the manner in which his opponent had acted. He had no feeling of antagonism towards Sir Horace Plunkett, and he would further say that so far from it being a case of Irish ingratitude, it was a case of Unionist ingratitude towards that gentleman, since the managers of the Unionist Party did not avail themselves of the opportunity to enable him to be present in the House and reply to the criticisms directed against 1051 his Department. It was almost a constitutional grievance that the head of a big patronage and paid Department should not be in the House to answer any Question of which he, above all others had the most practical and intimate knowledge.
He was not among those who believed that the Department was going to make a sort of millennium for Ireland; he always had some scepticism of the Irish Board, but, the Department having once been constituted, he was entirely in favour of giving it the fullest and fairest trial, and he ventured to say that in the whole history of this House there was not an instance on record in which a great Government spending Department had a better start or a freer hand or a more prolonged freedom from criticism than this Department had had for the past four years. If the Irish Party had committed any fault at all it was that it had been too charitable to a Department which was costing £194,000, of which £43,000 went for the payment of official and odd expenses. This Department was not a philanthropic institution, or a gift horse that ought not to be looked in the mouth. They were perfectly entitled to criticise it without being told that they were political beggars who refused ungraciously the alms thrown to them. The Board had no fixed standard of fitness for its employees, and it subsidised the Agricultural Organisation Society, whose lecturers were as much Government employees as if they were appointed directly by the Government. He would ask for a recognition of the principle of popular control in the working of this Department, and he desired particularly to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Irish county councils had distinguished themselves beyond all expectations by the completeness with which they had discharged their duties. They had the official statement that from the very first the county councils of Ireland had done their work to practical perfection, and yet it was to those bodies that power was refused when they came into collision with the Agricultural Department. The people of Ireland were anxious and willing to give the Department every 1052 possible chance of doing good, but those possibilities absolutely depended upon the recognition of the principle of popular control.
With regard to what had been said about Sir Horace Plunkett's book, he had never regretted anything more than that gentleman's allusion to the clergy, because he knew full well that four-fifths of the work done was owing to the aid rendered by the Catholic priests. In this position, the right hon. Gentleman would have been well advised to have abstained from criticism of the character used. In voting for this reduction he was not reflecting upon the character or the honour of the right hon. Gentleman as a politician, but was simply supporting the great principle of popular control.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said there seemed to be an idea that the discussion of the affairs of the Department necessarily involved a root and branch condemnation. That was not so, and he thought that neither Sir Horace Plunkett nor the Agricultural Department had any reason to complain of anything that had been said. Three objections had been put forward. First, the expenditure of the Department had been challenged; secondly, the appointment of officials had been challenged; and, in the third place, a good deal had been said about the book written by Sir Horace Plunkett. To deal first with the book, he had himself said, written, and done so many unpopular things that he had very great difficulty in condemning a man who felt strongly, because he happened to write what was unpopular. Let him put this case as fair-minded gentlemen anywhere would put it. They were dealing with Ireland, not with England or Scotland. Sir Horace Plunkett referred to the question of undue church building so far as Roman Catholics were concerned, to the large amount of money spent on conventual institutions, and to the employment of religious orders as teachers in contradistinction to the employment of laymen. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh said he knew many Roman Catholics who agreed with him. If a Roman Catholic had said it, nobody had a right to object. It was altogether 1053 different when a Protestant in Ireland criticised Roman Catholics. What right had he as a Presbyterian to object to the expenditure of the Roman Catholic population upon church building? They did not ask anything from him or from his. They did it at their own expense. Let it never be forgotten, too, that in the past history of the country Protestants took all their churches from Catholics, that up to a hundred years ago their religion was practically proscribed, and that if they worshipped at all it was in many cases under thatched roofs. Because Roman Catholics emerging from that state went to what many might think excessive church building, surely it was no concern of Protestants. It was done with the loftiest motives, and it did not lie with Protestants to complain. Much less did it lie with a Minister of the Crown. Sir Horace Plunkett ought to have sat down and asked himself plainly whether, engaged as he was in a work which he believed involved the regeneration of the country, writing of this sort, would be more likely to hinder and impair his work than to promote it. When a man became a Minister of the Crown the less he took part in these fiercely contested questions in Ireland the better. Sir Horace Plunkett had made a mistake in this instance, and he thought in his calmer moments he would admit it.
The charge had been made that aliens had been brought in to fill these positions under the Board, but they must look facts in the face. With regard to Mr. Blair's appointment, it was true that he was a Scotchman, but it was a strong proof of the wisdom of this appointment that Mr. Blair had just been appointed by the London County Council to the highest position in the administration of the Technical Education Act in London. Mr. Blair had been given this high appointment on no other ground than that of merit. That was a strong point in favour of this particular Scotchman. There had never been any Proper system of technical education in 1054 Ierland, and therefore it was impossible to find in Ireland a man who had had sufficient experience to qualify him for such an appointment. Like hon. Members opposite, he was in favour of Irishmen being appointed to these positions, even against Scotchmen. He agreed that, all other things being equal, or nearly equal, Irishmen ought to have the preference; but there were exceptions, and he thought that in regard to the appointment of superintendent for technical education the Board made an excellent choice.
In regard to the expenditure, the estimate roughly was £200.000. He should not consider twice that amount excessive for this great work. There was £43,000, for salaries, but this money was not all for clerks, for it included inspectors, lecturers, and teachers all over the country. He knew that some interesting experiments were being carried out for encouraging the growing of early potatoes for the London market. Early potatoes now came from Guernsey, Jersey, the Scilly Isles, and Malta, but there was nothing to hinder Ireland engaging in this competition, and a teacher under the Board was now engaged in that work with success. Look what could be produced per acre on a farm in this way. Although mistakes had made—it would be a great wonder if a new Department did not make mistakes—they would do well to give the Department time to grow before they condemned it. The plea was all the stronger because of this. He remembered one of the lecturers coming to South Tyrone and lecturing in his constituency. He asked a number of his friends what they thought. They said it was very fine, but so-and-so, naming a certain person, got up to move a vote of thanks at the end, and told the lecturer they would be a great deal more glad to see him after the Land Act was passed. What did that mean? They were asked to put money into the land and improve it, and, if they did, then the Commissioners would come round and raise the tent. Farmers in South Tyrone did not take any action upon that lecture, bat what was now the case? A very large number of the farmers of Ireland would probably in a few years own their holdings. He was told there were £6,000,000 of applications before the commissioners now. 1055 When the farmers became owners of their holdings they would listen to these lectures. All that could be done to bring scientific education to these men was for their good, and although he thought Sir Horace Plunkett made a mistake in his book, and although the Department had made mistakes, he thought it should have a chance of living. He told hon. Members frankly that in the only bit of business he had had with the Department he was totally unsuccessful. He thought them absolutely and totally wrong, but he had been in a Department himself and he did not condemn a Department for one thing although he was the sufferer himself. The Department had been doing good work, and he thought it was capable of more. Though he thought nothing but good could come of a discussion like that, still he should be sorry to see a division against Sir Horace Plunkett's salary.
§ MR. JORDAN (Fermanagh, S.)
said he agreed in many things with his hon. friend who had moved this Motion, especially when he said he did not desire to say anything against the work which Sir Horace Plunkett had done nor against Sir Horace himself, nor against the Department. He agreed with the hon. Member for Longford that with regard to the money spent by this Board they did not get full value for their money. He believed they did not get fair value for their money. It cost too much. In every department the salaries were too high. In the counties the minor officials got more than was necessary. He thought a great deal of economy could be effected by proportioning the salaries and expenses to the work which had to be done, and to the capacity of the parties doing it. He could not agree with his hon. friend who said that the Department was a ghastly failure, and that the country was not a penny the better for the whole expenditure and the whole machinery. He thought it had effected some good. While he admitted that there might have been mistakes and errors he did not see how a new and complex Department could be initiated without them. He thought the Department ought to be kept strictly under supervision, and that it ought to be under popular control. The hon. Member for Longford had referred to the disagreements between his county 1056 council and the Department in connection with their scheme of technical education. That was not his experience in the county he came from. Their scheme was formulated by a much respected Catholic clergyman, passed almost unanimously by a Unionist county council, and sanctioned without any material change by the Department. It had been working well ever since. He objected, however, to the too high salaries paid to the lecturers who were going about the country. He thought the Department had come to stay, but moderate criticism of its work such as they had had that day would not militate against, but rather promote, its efficiency.
MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanarkshire, Partick)
called attention to the cattle trade between Ireland and this country, and to the necessity of seeing that the cattle were taken proper care of. He had had the honour of sitting on two Committees appointed to look into the condition of things. They found that great injury was frequently done to cattle in transit, and it was felt that the state of things ought to be remedied on two grounds, namely, the cruelty to, and suffering of, the cattle, and the pecuniary loss to those concerned in the trade on account of the injury done to the beasts. It was estimated that the injury the cattle suffered in the course of a journey from an Irish fair to Glasgow or Liverpool, ran frequently to £1 per head or even higher. The Committees had made a good many recommendations both in regard to the conduct of those concerned with the cattle in Ireland and with the steamers coming to this country. The Board of Agriculture took charge of this matter in Ireland, but great difficulty was found in dealing with, it so far as the steamers were concerned, because several Departments were concerned. It was very hard indeed to get hold of the person responsible where several Departments were concerned. The Irish Department did not interfere too much with the discretion of the ship owners so long as they succeeded in landing the cattle in a comfortable condition; but where serious mischief was done to the cattle, of which the Commission had been told terrible stories, then it was time to intervene and prosecute by course of law, so as to secure that that should not be repeated. The great difficulty experienced in initiating prosecutions in such cases was the divided responsibility 1057 as between the different Departments. In Scotland, when they endeavoured to prosecute, they were met by witnesses from Ireland who said that the cattle were in a perfectly satisfactory condition when they were put on board the steamer. The result had been that prosecutions, even in bad cases, had altogether failed in Scotland. On this Vote there was a considerable sum for inspectors whose duty it was to see the cattle actually on board the steamer. He thought that that was a mistake, and that the duty of inspection in Ireland ought to be limited to the treatment of the cattle so long as they were on the quay. There was strong reason for throwing the responsibility on a single department, the officers of which should have charge of the steamer and all that happened to the cattle during the voyage. He was very glad to welcome the new Order issued by the Board of Agriculture. It would be very valuable, but he did not think it would cover the treatment of cattle on board ship.
§ MR. FFRENCH (Wexford, S.)
said as this debate had covered such a wide field he would merely refer to what the Board of Agriculture had not done which it might have done. When the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade was Chief Secretary for Ireland, he (Mr. Ffrench) remembered making a speech in that House in which he recommended that something should be done for the inland fisheries of Ireland. That was many years ago, but nothing had been done, and the rivers of Ireland were becoming depleted of salmon. The Canadian Government was spending £100,000 a year on their inland fisheries, and the American Government were also spending large sums of money in the development of their inland fisheries. They had established not only salmon hatcheries, but hatcheries for small fish which served as food for the salmon. Then something should be done for the sea fisheries of Ireland. Many of the small fishing harbours were becoming silted up with sand. He suggested to the Chief Secretary for Ireland that two small dredgers should be purchased—they would cost only about £2,000 each—to dredge these fishery harbours in order that the fishermen should have security for their boats. Something should be done to 1058 encourage barley-growing for malting purposes. Some weeks ago he had put a Question to the Chief Secretary for Ireland in which he pointed out that the farmer's profits were becoming diminished, owing to the use of patent spirit in the production of whiskey, and the right hon. Gentleman said that there was no proof of that. That reminded him of Mark Twain's story of a certain gentleman who was trying to prove that there was no such thing as pain, and happened to tread on a cat's tail. The cat yelled, and Mark Twain said, "I wonder what is the matter with that cat." What was the matter with the Irish farmers? They were becoming poorer and poorer. Last year there were 10,000 acres less under barley than in the previous year. He recollected before patent spirit was used for the production of whiskey that the price of barley was 22s. a barrel, that is 2 cwt; whereas the price was now only 12s. or 13s. in the Wexford market for the same class of barley.
There was another matter to which he called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman a few days ago; and that was foul brood in bees. Bee-keeping was being introduced into his constituency, but it was being destroyed by foul brood. He would suggest that a Bill of a few lines might be passed through the House making it compulsory to destroy bees affected with foul brood. Then there was the question of remounts for the Army. Wexford was remarkable for the breeding of horses; and there were more horses in that county than in the county of Dublin including the city. Some time ago, dealers were sent to Enniscorthy to buy remounts for the Army; this was one of the principal fairs in the county. They, however, only bought three or four horses, whereas the ordinary dealers bought 150 horses on the same occasion. Afterwards the Government dealers actually turned round and bought from the ordinary dealers the horses they required. That meant a considerable loss to the farmers; and he would, therefore, suggest that in future the Government dealer should deal directly with the farmers. The Department was striving to make good farmers in Ireland. They were sending lecturers all over the country; and he did not say that they 1059 were not doing good. If, however, the Government desired to have good farmers in Ireland, they should give every farmer security in his holding. Even if the Department were able to make two Blades of grass grow where only one grew before, if they could make every cow have two calves instead of one, how would it benefit the farmer when his judicial term expired? The only way to make good farmers in Ireland was to make them the owners of the soil they tilled. Why did an Irish farmer stick to his holding, and borrow, wherever he could, in order to stave off the evil day of eviction? It was because the improvements and the buildings and the very hearthstone spoke to him. They were the work of himself or his predecessors in title. If his house were secured to him, if he were the owner of the land he tilled, the Irish tenant would be a good farmer; otherwise, all the theories of the Board of Agriculture would not be successful.
§ ME. MURPHY (Kerry, E.)
said it was desirable that an expression of opinion from all parts of Ireland should be uttered in this debate. There had been, however, such an unnecessary amount of laudation of Sir Horace Plunkett and his Department that he was afraid he would strike a jarring note. He hoped the Chief Secretary would be able to give a record of some substantial work carried out by the Department, having regard to the vast sum of money spent in connection with it. The Estimate of the present year amounted to £190,000, of which £74,000 was for salaries. It did not require any very strong argument to show that there must be something wrong with a Department which produced so little of a substantial character and cost so much. Schemes in connection with technical instruction had been beneficial to some slight extent in some parts of the country; but the whole administration was worked in an un-businesslike way, and for ulterior purposes. Sir Horace Plunkett stated in 1895, when he was inviting persons to participate in his Recess Committee, that if his policy were carried out the Irish people would cease to desire Home Rule. The Government had placed enormous sums of money at his disposal, and it 1060 was being distributed in a very peculiar manner, but still Home Rule remained as the demand of the Irish people. It had been said during the debate that Sir Horace Plunkett did not desire to exercise patronage; but if precedent were to be followed, some of the relatives of hon. Gentlemen who had spoken would be given appointments.
§ And it being half-past seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again this evening.