§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ *MR. SPEAKER
ruled that an Amendment by the hon. Member for Montgomery Boroughs raising the question of the disestablishment of the Church in Wales was out of order, because it would require legislation to carry out the proposals of the hon. Member, and legislation could not be discussed upon Supply.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member may ballot or bring in a Bill, but the question is not relevant to Supply as there is no Vote in the Civil Service Estimates relating to this matter. The 1373 Church in Wales can only be disestablished by legislation, and legislation cannot be discussed in Supply; the two matters do not come within the same category.
§ *MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Kildare, N.)
in moving to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the provision for primary education in Ireland is insufficient and unsatisfactory, and that the interests of the Irish people have been and are suffering most ruinous injury from the long delay in applying a remedy," said the Amendment was one in regard to which the people of Ireland were in common agreement; so also he believed were the Members of that House, seeing that the Opposition Whip, from whom they might have anticipated some disagreement in regard to concessions to Ireland, had not felt it his duty to issue a whip on that occasion. Primary education in Ireland—the topic on which he had to speak—had been shamefully neglected in the past, and a demand for its better treatment was made by persons of all classes and all creeds in that country. At representative meetings in all parts of the country resolutions had been carried declaring the present system to be defective, the management costly, and above all that the Government was unjust and illiberal to Ireland in this respect as compared with its support of education in other parts of the United Kingdom. For every £1 spent on education in England, 17s. was devoted to education proper and 3s. upon official machinery; while in Scotland the proportions were 16s. 2d. and 3s. 10d. respectively, and for Ireland 13s. 6d. and 6s. 6d. Did not those figures afford justification for the resolution, the terms of which he had quoted? The present Chief Secretary for Ireland had not occupied his present position long; it was not perhaps the most important one he would fill in the course of his career, but still it was one of great importance. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman had already investigated the administration of various branches of his Department, and by that time he must have found that in all of them there was an appalling neglect of the best interests of the country and that some radical change was needed. He sincerely hoped 1374 the right hon. Gentleman would be able to make some announcement that day in regard to primary education which would prove his appreciation of the urgency of the matter. There was indeed no Department of Irish administration where the consequences of the defects to which he had alluded had been so disastrous as in the Education Department. The Irish administration was not entirely at fault. The Government of the United Kingdom was largely to blame by reason of the unequal financial treatment it extended to Ireland. All Irish wrongs were deeply rooted in the past, although perhaps the wrong in regard to education did not date so far back as some others. In 1891 a special grant in aid of education was made in respect of the burden placed upon the people by compulsory education, a grant of 10s. per unit of attendance in all schools in England, and corresponding grants were made to Scotland and Ireland in proportion to their contribution to the Imperial Exchequer. That proportion worked out eighty parts to England, eleven to Scotland, and nine to Ireland. But if Ireland had obtained her share of the grant on the basis of attendance at school, she would have received one-twentieth more than she actually did receive for several years. Mr. Goschen was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, and he was asked by the hon. Member for Mid. Lanark to change the method of payment and to pay both Scotland and Ireland on the basis of attendance. He replied that, in view of the different educational circumstances of the three parts of the Kingdom, complications would undoubtedly ensue if the grant to Ireland was based on attendance at schools, instead of on the same principle as the Probate Grant, i.e., in proportion to the contributions of each country to the Imperial revenue. A few days later Mr. Goschen stated there was some doubt with regard to Ireland, and he was prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt, she being the poorer country. But Mr. Goschen's successors found that a time had arrived when such a distribution would be favourable to Ireland, and in the year 1897 the change was made. By that time compulsory attendance at school had told its tale in England. In five years the attendances had increased by 1,500,000, and in Scotland by 160,000, whereas in 1375 Ireland there had been a decrease of 5,000. If the contribution to Irish education had been continued on the basis of contribution to revenue it would have told in favour of Ireland. That would have been too good a thing to expect, although at that time it had been discovered by the Royal Commission on Financial Relations that Ireland was contributing one-ninth of the total revenue of the United Kingdom more than she ought to be called upon to pay. A new shuffle was therefore made, and the attendance of pupils at schools was made the standard of all three countries, notwithstanding Mr. Goschen's statement that the circumstances of the countries differed. The British Exchequer had to be saved, and therefore Irish education must be starved. What were the circumstances which accounted for the difference between Ireland and Great Britain? Passing by historical reasons, the effect of foreign rule and its effect upon character which developed carelessness as to education with the consequent non-attendance of children at school, and without dwelling upon the unsuitability of the teaching in the schools with its cold Saxon flavour, he would call attention to the hard fact of the poverty of the country produced by a constant economic drain of her wealth. That economic drain was traceable to two causes—to the exorbitant rents extracted by the landlords from their tenantry all through the last century, which Parliament itself had to interfere with and to check by legislation; and secondly, the excessive taxation, amounting in fifty or sixty years to hundreds of millions sterling. That drain still continued; there was no recuperative power in the country; it could not be expected any more than it could be expected from an invalid who had a quantity of blood drawn from his body every day. Under these circumstances the Irish poor scholar was not like the happy English child of whom he was compelled to read: he was ill-clad and ill-fed, living remote from the schoolhouse—cold, cheerless and insanitary, as he would show—and he submitted that under these circumstances to insist on equality of attendance with the highly favoured children of England and Scotland was a palpable injustice—and moreover an injustice which was a wrong of their own making, and by which, there- 1376 fore, they had no right to benefit. But in 1897 the basis on which the grant was made was changed, and 10s. per unit of attendance was the standard applied to Ireland. In consequence of that change, down to the year 1905–6, Irish education lost £263,000. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover was the first to recognise that the attendance of children was an unjust standard to apply to Ireland, and in the Ireland Development Grant Act he adopted the standard of population. That standard should be applied all round. In the Estimates of last year England received a grant of £13,139,600, or 91.2 pence per head of the population. Scotland's grant was £1,972,128, or 100.1 pence per head of the population, and Ireland's grant was £1,393,223, or 76.2 pence per head of the population. If Ireland's grant had been made on a population basis, she would have received, on the English scale of 91.2 pence per head, £269,815 more than she received last year, and if it had been calculated on the Scottish scale of 100.1 pence per head, she would have received £434,290 more than she received last year. They claimed that the population basis was the only just one. It had been accepted by the House in regard to the Development Grant, and if abandoned for one thing it ought to be abandoned all round. He would like to bring his figures up to date. The increase in school grants had been for England in the last two years, £744,270; Scotland, £205,264; and for Ireland, £16,639. Perhaps the House would allow him to present the matter another way. Since 1901–1902 the increase in English school grants had been 73 per cent. In Scotland the increase had been 51 per cent.; and in Ireland 1.5 per cent. It was not fair to inflict an injury upon the Irish children and teachers on account of a sparse attendance which was the result of an artificial poverty produced by England's wrongs. The whole system of grants for Irish education must be changed if justice was to be done. All that he had said dealt with the school grant, and before he departed from the financial aspect of the question, he could not help referring to the Irish Development Grant. That grant, created anew by an Act of Parliament passed by the right hon. Member for Dover, was before that time called the Equivalent 1377 Grant. It was a grant given under 2 Edward, Chapter 42, and it was converted into what was now called the Development Grant of Ireland. When the amount was fixed, the grant in aid in England, of which it was the equivalent, was £1,400,000, and it was now £2,485,000. In England the grant was constantly increasing, but in Ireland it was a fixed quantity no matter how taxation fluctuated. No matter how much Ireland might contribute to the Imperial Exchequer, she got no more in respect of the Development Grant. A Question was addressed the other day with respect to the grant, and the Chief Secretary said he did not see his way to reopen the question. He would have to reopen it. It was imperative that he should. He had a second observation to make with regard to the grant. No part of the corresponding grant made for England was used for any purpose other than education, and he wished to call the attention of the Chief Secretary and particularly of the Financial Secretary to the treasury to the fact that immediately following the grant in aid under the Act of 1902 which he had stated was £2,485,000 and which was this year increased by £11,000, was a grant of £100,000, "special provision for new schools." He wanted to know under what Act that was made. Was it under the 2 Edward or under the Act creating the Aid grant? Was it for buildings? It was an entirely new grant, and if the right hon. Gentleman would be good enough to tell him how it came to be included in that Estimate he would be thankful. He wanted to know where they were in respect of the Irish Development Grant. If it were for buildings, why was it not in the Public Works Department? As he did not get any reply from the right hon. Gentleman., he assumed that the special provisions for new schools meant for buildings. The £100,000 was not for education, it was for schools. Was that so? If it was not for education how did it come to pass that the Irish Development Grant was charged with £25,000 this year for the purpose of building schools? £70,000 had been granted for the past two years for the purpose of building a training college in Marlborough Street. That sum could not be justified. If it were under the Act of 1378 2 Edward they ought to be told so. Again, if it were for buildings then they also ought to be informed of it. He found charged against the Irish Development Grant the sum of £15,000 for Marlborough Training College and £25,000 for National School Buildings. He was sure these items would need some explanation. He also found grants for the training of teachers and maintainance grant £396,245, an increase of £53,486; that was an item which was separately charged in the English Estimates, but placed against the Irish Development Grant, and he would like to know on what ground these corresponding items were differently treated in the two Estimates. Under what Act had that figure been inserted? Then, again, they had the building grants for training colleges, etc., £150,000, or £135,000 more than last year. What were all these for? If they were for the purposes of primary education, then similar or corresponding items ought not to appear against the Irish Development Grant; because it was passed to enable the Lord-Lieutenant to apply the sum of £185,000, (a) for the purpose of education and (b) for economic development and transit facilities. Were the items he had read out for economic development? Were they for transit facilities? No. Were they for education? They could not be, because they did not charge corresponding items to English education. What was there in Irish Departments, and especially in this Department, that they should be treated so differently? He could not account for it except on the principle that "To him who hath much shall be given and whosoever hath not from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have." The Chief Secretary the other day said he did not see his way to re-open the question of the Irish Development Grant; but last year the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in reply to the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, said that he would see, in educational matters in particular—in which Ireland had a real grievance—that Irish funds were not unduly encroached upon, and that the Imperial Exchequer should contribute all they could be expected to contribute in justice to the special interests of Ireland. Surely the Chief Secretary would see his 1379 way in course of time to re-open the question. If £185,000 for Ireland was in 1902 the equivalent of a grant of £1,400,000 for England, then, if it went on in like proportion it should now be £328,475. There was thus a continuing loss to Ireland, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover was responsible for it. He no doubt had his defence, but the loss of hundreds of thousands to Irish education was a continuing loss, ever increasing in ratio to the increase in the English Grant. The Member for Dover, in fixing the amount, said that money was being wasted on ill-considered projects, and elementary education was not levelled up to the necessary standard. Money was lavished on intermediate education, and money was thrown away. That, however, was not the opinion of the National Board of Education in Ireland, for they, at the same time, were writing to the Treasury saying—That an equivalent grant for the purposes of education amounting to £185,000 per annum was passed for Ireland in 1902, but that it had been converted, and the consequence was that that immense grant which might have placed Irish primary education on a satisfactory footing had been of a positive disadvantage to Ireland.The Irish Development Grant from the very start had been a mockery to Ireland. Its provisions were first that the money should be applied to education, and secondly, to economic development and transit facilities in Ireland. The Report of last December did not show a penny spent for educational purposes save a few items for building Marlborough Street Training Schools and £28,000 for assistant teachers. But where had the rest gone? It had gone to the flotation of the Irish Land Fund in order to buy out the Irish landlords. Section 38 of the Land Act, 1903, provided that £50,000 a year for four years should be taken for the purposes of what was called the Land Purchase Fund. Thus, £200,000 had been swept away. £20,000 per annum was given to the Congested Districts Board and £5,000 to Trinity College subject to certain provisions. That was all gone, and even poor Trinity College would lose its £5,000. All the rest was guaranteed for loss incurred by issuing land stock at a discount. Inroads had already been made upon the fund to the extent of £70,000 in respect of that issue, 1380 and any further issue at 12 per cent discount would incur a charge upon the fund of £3,900 for every £1,000,000 issued. Let them see how that would work out. They had £20,000 for the Congested Districts Board, a charge of £5,000 for Trinity College, and £70,000 for discount upon land stock. That made in all £95,000 up to the present time. In that total he did not take into account the £50,000 for four years; he assumed that would come back during the present year because it would be exhausted. He assumed also that the £70,000 for land stock was charged on little over £20,000,000 issued. The issue had been at the rate of £7,000,000 a year. Supposing the Government issued at the same rate of £7,000,000 a year that would make £27,000 a year, and in three years there would be an additional charge of £81,900 per year. But there was only £90,000 already available. In three years therefore they would be left with £8,100 that would be gone in a little time, and where was the equivalent grant for Irish education? Where was the equivalent grant for the facilities of transit and economical development, and poor Trinity College's £5,000? All the money had gone to the landlords, and he was not surprised that the right hon. Member for Dover's noble friend (Lord Erne) had said—The landlords of Ireland should never forget that Mr. Wyndham was the only Chief Secretary of modern times who had troubled his head about them; and had worked like a slave to bring legislation favourable to their interests. It was only due to Mr. Wyndham that they should give him this recognition.He (Mr. O'Connor) had said that the Irish Development Grant was a mockery, when it was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, in 1903. It, however, would have been more honest if a Bill had been introduced containing only one clause. And if he had been asked to draft it he would have drafted it as follows: "That a certain sum of money, namely, £185,000, hitherto granted to Ireland out of the Imperial Exchequer for the purpose of primary education as equivalent to certain other sums granted to Great Britain for similar purposes shall be in the future applied to the relief of the Irish Exchequer in its efforts to provide Irish landlords who may sell their estates to their tenants at three years purchase more than their estates are 1381 worth." The Irish Development Grant had gone. There was no need to say any more about it. In a few years it would cease to exist, and in the name of the Irish people he demanded that day an equivalent grant to be placed on the Estimates every year according to full measure. He demanded that a further sum, by way of damages, should be forthcoming for loss in the past, and the Estimates made out accordingly in the future. He now had to say a few words about building grants, and here he was quite sure he would have the sympathy and the support of the Chief Secretary who, in a speech a short while ago, said it would take a million of money to put Irish schools in order. In former years grants were made for building improvements by the Board of Education, and the Board of Works prepared the estimates. But the usual niggardliness and cheeseparing went on, grumbling at the proportion of cost given to managers, until finally a proposal was made to shift the burden on to the good old pack-horse the Irish Development Grant. In a Report issued by the Board of National Education last year they found the following—Since the voting of the Development Grant the Treasury have repeatedly proposed that building claims should be placed upon it, and, when it was evident that it was well-nigh exhausted by non-educational services that the rates should be charged.The Board of Education had been corresponding with the Treasury for fully ten years upon the subject, and they laid before them revised plans; those revised plans had been under consideration for the past four years. On page 7 of the Report they came across the following paragraph—The revised plans and estimates for school building have now been under consideration for nearly four years, and we regret to state that so far from a decision having been arrived at the aspect of the question is even more serious than when we called attention in our Reports for 1903 and 1904 to the prolonged delay in its settlement. All grants for the building and improving of the national school-houses have been suspended since August, 1905, and as the Treasury have recently attached certain conditions impossible of acceptance by us, to their promise of funds for this service, it would seem as if the resumption of the rewarding of aid has been postponed indefinitely.1382 Then, again, later on, in the Report, they stated—Such is the deplorable position in which the question of building grants has been left after a discussion which has been carried on for ten years. During this long period, although in England and Scotland the principles of school architecture have been constantly improved, and buildings have been erected to suit the needs of any extended curriculum, Irish schools, which were in a much more unsatisfactory state, have been restricted to plans which suited the ideas of half a century ago. Insufficient floor space, insufficient seating accommodation, insufficient class-rooms, and no provision for encouraging cleanliness and sanitation by means of the simplest form of lavatories—such are the features of the Irish schools.Continuing, the Commissioners stated that, in order to enable them to deal with the large number of cases that had accumulated in consequence of the practical suspension of grants during the past four years, it was necessary that the sum of £100,000 per annum should be placed at their disposal for the next five years, and after that date a reduced sum, which could be decided upon beforehand, should be voted each year in the Estimates. That was the opinion of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland. But the Chief Secretary went one better, for he told his constituents that the Board of Education in Ireland demanded not £500,000 but £1,000,000. If the House would allow him, he would like to read a few passages from the reports of inspectors of the schools during the time the discussion had been going on, with a view to showing how the children of Ireland had been faring during that ten years correspondence. In 1897 the inspector of the North Dublin District, Mr. Purser, said—It is not an extravagant supposition that a large part of the sickness among the children of the country is brought on by badly-ventilated school-houses, combined with want of due warmth in wet and cold weather. It is downright cruelty to have a school-room for the poorly-clad children so cold that an inspector, oven with a heavy overcoat on, feels chilled in hands and feet.Mr. Sullivan, head inspector of the Galway District, in 1897, said—It is painful to see—as an inspector cannot fail to see—little groups of bare-footed boys and girls, miserably clad, trying to make their way, on a winter's morning, to the neighbouring school. In such cases one hopes that the school-room, when reached, may make these 1383 poor children warm and comfortable. Unfortunately, that is not the case. My experience, and it is extensive, is that the school-room which awaits most children, after their walk over bleak roads or paths, is a cold and cheerless apartment. Some sods of turf have been placed on the hearth and lighted, but as yet they give no heat, nothing but a mass of smoke. One day last January—and this day of the school may be taken as typical of many others—I was examining in such a cheerless room as that which I have above described. As the children came in they sat—quiet, melancholy, and miserable-looking—in the desks. I was glad to keep on my overcoat, and I also had the advantage of moving about.Dr. Beatty, senior inspector, Newtownards District, said in 1899—Another most serious defect arises from the almost indecent, and, with little doubt, unsanitary position of the out-offices. Their restricted use is sowing the seeds of disease in after-life. The school-houses, no doubt, help the work of disease. I can count up fourteen monitors who have retired through ill-health, and have, I imagine, all since died. Two young monitors, employed in an over crowded school, have died within a year.Dr. Moran, senior inspector, Belfast District, said in 1900—Out-offices, instead of being an advantage, are, in some instances, a dangerous source of disease and death.Mr. Hynes, senior inspector, Dublin Circuit, said in 1903—A considerable percentage of the school-houses must still be described as bad. Some are mere hovels, and were never suited for teaching purposes. The sanitary condition of the premises too often calls for complaint. This is particularly the case in the country schools, where very frequently the clearing of the cess-pits is neglected, probably because the cost of having it done devolves on the teacher, which is most unreasonable.Mr. Hogan, senior inspector, Dundalk District, said in 1903—A common feature is the bareness of whitewashed walls, unrelieved by pictures, charts, or maps. The furniture is old and meagre, desks notched and unsteady, easels broken, no clock, and insufficient blackboards. Fuel is generally supplied by the pupils and teachers jointly; there is often scarcity at the beginning of the cold weather, and I recently met with cases where no fire was lighted at ten o'clock.He apologised for having read these extracts at such length, but what an irony it was for the National Board under these circumstances to address a rule to the school teachers that they must promote, by precept and example, cleanliness, neatness, and decency, and to do this the teachers must set an example of cleanliness and neatness in their own persons. 1384 Were they speaking of a land inhabited by barbarians, or of a poor and civilised country which had enjoyed the benefit and blessings of British Government for 600 or 700 years? Or were they speaking of a poor country which was allied to a rich one that extracted from its poorer neighbour no less than £10,000,000 a year in taxation, of which £3,000,000 had been declared to be in excess of the amount it ought to receive? If he were an Englishman he would say, "The character of my country, such as it is, is at stake;" being an Irishman, he said the health of the young people of Ireland was at stake, the health of the men and women of the future was in danger, the health of the teachers in the schools was in jeopardy. He called upon those responsible for the Irish government to see to it. He called upon the Irish Chief Secretary to stand up to the Treasury and compel it to do its duty to the country which it robbed without scruple. He had referred to the teachers; it was now his duty to call attention to their condition as briefly as possible. The first observation he had to make was that the salaries of the teachers in Ireland compared most unfavourably with those of their fellows on this side of the channel. Why should that be so? Was their work inferior or of loss importance? He submitted that it was not, and upon that submission he called as a witness the right hon. Member for Dover, who on 1st April, 1903, said—The national teachers of Ireland have nobly sacrificed many of the ambitions of manhood in order to provide opportunities to others to win prizes that they dens to themselves the opportunity of seeking.The right hon. Member for Dover was not the only one who had given that excellent character to the teachers of Ireland. The late Chief Secretary for Ireland, now the Ambassador at Washington, paid a high tribute to the quality of the Irish teachers, and said that during his work on the Commission in the north of England he came across in the schools a number of young Irish teachers who, attracted by the scale of salaries on this side, had placed their services at the disposal of the school boards of this country. Mr. Bryce said that they were men who had the greatest sympathy in their work and were constantly obtaining the greatest success in this country. He had said that the salaries of 1385 teachers in Ireland compared unfavourably with those of their fellows on this side of the Channel. He saw from the Parliamentary Return issued in 1906 that the average scale of the principal teachers was as follows:—England: men, £160 15s. 9d.; women, £109 13s. 6d.; Scotland: men, £179 6s.; women, £90 6s.; Ireland: men, £102 19s. 6d.; women, £82 11s. 9d. The assistant teachers in England got: men, £114 17s. 10d.; women, £83 12s. 6d.; Scotland: men, £122 3s. 2d.; women, £75 2s. 10d.; Ireland: men, £73 2s. 4d.; women, £58 1s. 1d. It would therefore be observed that an assistant teacher in England got a higher salary than a principal teacher in Ireland, because an assistant teacher in England got £114 and the principal teacher in Ireland £102, while in the case of women the assistant teacher in England got £83, while the principal teacher in Ireland got £82. There appeared to be an enormous discrepancy which could only be ascribed to the parsimony that characterised the management of other departments in Ireland. But it must not be supposed that many of the Irish teachers got a larger salary by the change in the system from payments by results to a fixed salary. A change was made a short time ago by which payment by results was done away with and a fixed salary substituted, but all principal teachers were not to have £102 a year. Henceforward a principal teacher would begin his career at a salary of £56, or if a woman at £44. Was that an incentive to any young man or young woman to adopt the teaching profession as a career? In this country a bricklayer's labourer in constant work would earn double the amount in wages, while an ordinary mechanic would have much more than double. It might be said that the teachers in Ireland would rise to a good position. No doubt trained principal teachers with schools having an attendance of seventy or over might have salaries upon which they could live. But only 10 per cent. of the schools in Ireland had an attendance of seventy pupils, so that 90 per cent. of the Irish teachers were condemned to the lower grade and could not hope to obtain the highest salaries. Under the old plan of remuneration the teacher of the first division of the first class in a school with an average attendance of thirty-five could rise to the higher position. It was not so now. He must now have an 1386 attendance of seventy children. What was the qualification of the second division of the first class? That a teacher must have a school with an average attendance of fifty. Only 40 per cent. of the schools in Ireland had such an attendance, so that in 60 per cent. of the schools the teachers of first were condemned to the second grade. All those schools which had an average attendance of under fifty were rural schools, and the teachers of those schools were therefore condemned to remain in that position all their lives, with the result that the pupils attending those schools were being taught by men who had no incentive whatever to improve the teaching of pupils or strive to better their own positions in the future. Therefore 60 per cent. of the schools of Ireland must be content with teachers of an inferior grade. That was a very serious hardship. The teachers who taught in many schools under the old arrangement were reduced in their status. They would have to take a secondary place and lower salaries, and it would take them many years to regain the position they had in the past. On the change being made some were placed in a position where no increments accrued, so that a large number of teachers in Ireland had no increment going on to their salaries. Teachers in Ireland, if they had good luck, and succeeded in pleasing the school inspectors, would reach the magnificent salary of £127 a year in twenty-seven years, and they would reach the maximum of £170 in thirty-six years. But after forty years service they must retire, so that if they had good luck and there was no black mark against their name, and they happened to please all the cranky inspectors that were sent down to the schools, they would have four years in which to enjoy the noble and magnificent position which they had attained by a a life's devotion. But only 10 per cent. could attain that position; the rest must drag out their lives giving of their best, and, to use again the words of the right hon. Member for Dover, sacrificing many of the "ambitions of manhood in order to provide opportunities to others to win the prizes that they denied to themselves the opportunities of seeking," and devoting their lives to the public service. With regard to those who were in training when the change took place, a contract was entered into with them by the Board of National Education, and 1387 before coming to other matters he would like to show what that contract was. They were bound to sign agreements to follow the teaching profession within a certain period; thus they were prevented from seeking any post in any other branch of the Civil Service. In some training colleges they had to deposit a certain amount of money which was to be forfeited unless they received a teaching diploma, and that diploma was never granted until after two years satisfactory service in a primary school. After that, if they passed certain examinations in mathematics and literary standards, they could be placed in the second branch of the first division, and after that they were entitled to be placed in the first branch of the division. Those in training had specific rights, and those rights were secured to them by contract. That they had such rights was recognised, because he found in a note to Rule 200 a passage by the Commissioners to the effect that in the case of teachers who were candidates for promotion, and who had received their training in the colleges during 1899–1900, special consideration would be given to any promotion qualifications to which they would have been entitled when fixing their future incomes from the State. That was, that all candidates for promotion already in service, and who were not then in training, had their rights recognised. Were those rights carried out? In respect of teachers then in training and those who had been trained but not appointed to places, their rights were completely abolished. They were informed that they must begin service under the initial salaries of the new grade. He submitted that the low salaries were a great detriment to the service. What was the use of saying to a man that at some future time he would have a salary on which he could live and thrive? The consequence was that there was at the present time a great dearth of candidates for the teaching profession in Ireland. Cardinal Logue said last year, in a letter—That they would have no candidates for the office of teacher except such as were physically and mentally unfit for anything else; especially in their country schools it would become almost impossible to have efficient teachers; and the outlook for primary education was very dark indeed.Last year 242 of these young teachers, costing Ireland £20,000, had 1388 left the service and come over to England. He would like to give an instance which came under his own observation of a young man who left Ireland. Two years ago he was a teacher in Dublin at a salary of £56 a year. Had he stayed it would now have been £63 a year. He came to London. He entered the service of the London County Council, and was in receipt of £117 a year. This matter of teachers and teaching was a national one. Ireland must not be left with the refuse. They wanted the best men, men of resource and character, to form and equip the mind of the Irish youth, to enable them to meet and compete with those whom they were bound to meet in foreign lands—people who came from foreign countries where they were educated and where they were not cursed by foreign rule. As to the matter of pensions it was an intricate subject, and having already occupied a considerable portion of the time of the House he would pass it over. But before he concluded he must say a word or two on the subject of the teaching of Irish. There was a great Gaelic revival in Ireland which had excited much enthusiasm among the people for the restoration of the ancient language and its literature. That literature had nearly gone and the Irish language was fast fading away. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary knew that when a language was once lost it might be said to be lost for ever. Scholars had no certainty that they had the proper pronunciation of Greek or Latin. When languages fell into disuse it was very doubtful whether they could ever be restored again in their purity. The Irish language had had a very hard time of it in the past. Laws were made forbidding its use, and schoolmasters were forbidden under pain of death to teach it. It was a capital offence to have a piece of Irish manuscript no larger than the palm of one's hand in one's possession. Manuscripts, under these circumstances, were removed to foreign countries where strangers now studied the Erse and its beauties. Later on, speaking the Irish language was discouraged in the schools under the school boards, and children were punished for using a word in the language of their childhood. They had been sung to sleep in their mother's mother-tongue, but its use was punished 1389 as a foul word when used in the presence of the master. He had seen the language extinguished in two generations. He had known the older people to hold their conversation in it, to pray in it and to sing in it. He had seen their children who understood but little of it, and never used it. And he had known the grandchildren whose ears were familiar with the soft sounds of the mother tongue, but whose minds were blank as to the meaning of its words. In that way he had seen it recede from the centre of Ireland to the sea, until one had the sad fooling that the day was not far distant when the last sound of the Irish tongue would be lost in the moan of the melancholy ocean. That was the feeling of the young men of his day. But a new state of things had arisen. The ancient tongue had been arrested in its decay, and a now life had been inspired into it. A gallant band of enthusiasts had resolved that it should live and be restored to strength as a living language, not as a mere academic study, but as a part of the people's being, and they were succeeding. Even the National Board recognised the advantage of the Irish language. They—Are of opinion that in districts where Irish is the home language of the majority of the children attending primary schools, instruction in Irish and the teaching of English through its idioms are of great educational importance, and them is at present a strong sentiment in favour of Irish on a large scale in a large number of primary schools, and the Commissioners believe that the study of a language in which the teachers are keenly interested has an educational value, even though strictly speaking it may be considered outside the programme of an elementary school. Instruction in Irish as an instrument of mental culture for Irish children who speak English as their mother tongue, has long been recognised.In this connection, if a second language was an instrument of mental culture, here was a second language which alone they had the opportunity of using and which likewise was the one they wanted, and why should obstacles be put in their way? Everybody in Ireland was agreed that the Irish language was desirable for almost everyone, and the only enemy it had in the world was the Treasury. They entered on a long correspondence in 1904–5 in which, of course, the Treasury had the best of it. The National Board, in the course of the correspondence, recorded their belief in the value of bi-lingual teaching, but at 1390 the same time they surrendered to the powers at Whitehall, and what was more, they took their beating lying down, like the miserable persons the majority of them were. In June of last year, a grant of some £12,000, which had been made in order to assist the teaching of Irish, was discontinued. And let the House mark how the use of money had been accepted by the people of Ireland. In 1901 the fees paid for Irish amounted to £955 in 109 schools. In 1905, four years after, the amount paid for the teaching of Irish in fees was £12,000 in 1,204 schools. They wanted the grant restored—they wanted that £12,000, and more if necessary. The equivalent of the £100,000 which he spoke of a short time ago would be £13,000, and they ought to get the equivalent of the £100,000 if it was to be given. He was sure he addressed sympathetic ears when he appealed to the editor of Boswell. He knew what the great master thought on the subject. Dr. Johnson, writing to Charles O'Connor, author of a dissertation on the history of Ireland over 100 years ago, thanked Faulkener, the printer, for the book, and solicited O'Connor to prosecute his design, stated that Sir William Temple complained that the ancient state of Ireland was less known than that of any other country, and added—I have long wished that the Irish literature were cultivated. Ireland is known by tradition to have been once the seat of piety and learning, and surely it would be very acceptable to all those who are curious on the origin of nations or the affinities of languages, to be further informed of the revolution of a people so ancient and once so illustrious. I hope that you will continue to cultivate this kind of learning which has too long been neglected, and which, if it be suffered to remain in oblivion for another century, may perhaps never be retrieved.That was the opinion of a great man, to the study of whose character and writings the Chief Secretary had devoted a great deal of his very brilliant past. That was all he had to say in respect of those matters to which he had drawn the attention of the House. There were many other ways in which Irish education had been neglected, but it would be impossible for him in the time at his disposal to deal with them all. The teachers had many more grievances than those he had enumerated. The administration of the National Board had many faults which he could not now dwell upon. The subject 1391 had been brought to the attention of the Government more than once, and many promises had been made in regard to it. Last year the Chancellor of the Exchequer said—Resistance to the claims of Ireland, or anywhere else, does not in the long run rest with the officials of the Treasury; responsibility rests with us, by which I mean it rests with the Government of the day. I offer this assurance to gentlemen from Ireland, so far as my legal powers allow: I will see that in educational matters particularly, in which I think Ireland has a real grievance, Irish funds are not unduly encroached upon.That speech was made in the House of Commons in May, 1906. The Attorney-General for Ireland, speaking on the same occasion, said—Primary education has been neglected in a shameful manner in the past. It calls for action as soon as the House can take it. We are face to face with a great financial difficulty. If the position of primary education is to be improved and the schools are to be properly equipped, the teachers properly paid and the pupils given proper education, it will mean the expenditure of a large sum of money.Where was that large sum of money? Was it in the Estimates this year? He submitted that it was not. They had been treated for a long time to promises only, and they had fallen as thick as snowflakes. But they wereLike the snowfall on the river,A moment white, then melts for ever.They were not going to be content with such promises, more especially when the Government showed no signs of fulfilling them. In the vital matter of education the Irish Government had followed in the old groove of the starvation of Irish schools and Irish teachers. The position of the present Government in the matter was worse than that of their predecessors, because whilst they acknowledged the evil, they had failed to supply the remedy. In conclusion he demanded for Ireland equal treatment in all matters pertaining to education with England, Scotland, and Wales. More especially he demanded equality of treatment in regard to money matters. He demanded equivalent grants to appear on the Estimates each year in full measure. He demanded equality of schools by their being raised to a higher degree of comfort than was now their condition. He demanded equality of treatment for the teachers by their being placed on the same level as their brethren in Great Britain and given 1392 a wage upon which they could live and thrive, and provided with a retiring allowance which would enable them to end their days in peace and contentment. He begged to move.
§ MR. MURPHY (Kerry, E.),
in seconding the Amendment, said that a devoted adherent of a very distinguished man whom the Chief Secretary much admired, was in the habit of always expressing himself after his leader's speech by remarking, "I say ditto to Mr. Burke." After the strong arguments and the great detail and the elaborate statement to which they had just listened, he felt disposed to remark "I say ditto to the hon. and learned Member for Kildare." The unsatisfactory condition of primary education made it necessary, however, for him to refer to a few further details. In the first place the way they had been treated in educational matters illustrated the force of the advice they once received when they were told, "Don't make a union with us. We should only unite with you to rob you." Since those days many changes had taken place in the system and in those who administered and controlled it. But he could call up as witnesses, Mr. Bryce, the Attorney-General for Ireland, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose speeches during the past year fully admitted the strongest case that it was necessary to make in connection with primary education. In ten years the grant to England had increased by 45 per cent., to Scotland by 51, while poor Ireland lagged behind with an increase of only 1 per cent. during the same period. Even the other night when the House held one of the longest sittings on record a Bill was pushed through granting £100,000 in connection with English education. Ireland was entitled to, and should receive, an equivalent for that and many other sums. The present Chief Secretary had expressed many good opinions in speech and essay, and he had given promise of an inclination to act up to them. But it was performance that was required in Ireland, especially in connection with primary education, and when he tried to work the machine he would find it rusty and disjointed, and the chances were that he would be as likely to break it as to mend it. Last Tuesday the right hon. Gentleman wished for unity in making representations to the Treasury 1393 in connection with marine works. To-day he need have no such wish in connection with primary education. He (Mr. Murphy) had been at meetings all over the country, and from Belfast to Tipperary, and from Castlebar to Wicklow, the representatives of the people were absolutely united in their demand. The Catholic Archbishop of Cashel, the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, and the Presbyterian ministers, were all at one as to the backward conditions of the system. What had those meetings asked for from the Government? They declared that the constitution of the Board was bad. They illustrated that by naming the last two additions, Mr. Bagwell, a Tipperary landlord, and Judge Ross, who complained only a few years ago that the business in his Court was so great that he could not possibly perform it without assistance. Other members of the Board were Judges and clergymen, and whilst a Judge might be very well trained for sitting on the bench or sometimes on somebody else, he knew little of the real wants of the people in this matter of primary education. The policy of education was not a parchment scroll, bat a human document, and it could only be dictated by a body fully representative of the people, the managers, the teachers, and the commercial and working classes. At present the Board was neither responsible to, representative of, nor responsive to the people. It was in the hands of its officials. Dr. Starkie seemed its first influence. He cultivated the friendship of the Catholic managers by declaring that they took no interest in education. He sympathised with the teachers by refusing to give them an audience. He described the late Chief Secretary as a man who would go down to posterity as having clogged the wheels of education for a generation, and he was endeared to the public by the recollections of his Galway record. Around him he had a number of inspectors who were prone to fault finding, who had the fortunes of the teachers at their disposal, and who seemed over-anxious with little reason to make complaints and difficulties connected with the teaching profession. It was no exaggeration to say that these inspectors sometimes swooped down like wolves on the schools, and the poor teachers whom they met on the way got little mercy. The Commissioners thought they might get men of experience if 1394 they kept the age limit as of old, so they reduced the age for junior inspectors to thirty-five years in order to obtain nice, pliable, and inexperienced young men. It was only natural that Dr. Starkie and these gentlemen should for ever be playing tricks with education, and foisting new programmes, overcrowded and unsuitable, on the teachers. The last of those programmes, he was told, contained twenty-nine "etceteras." They looked very harmless, but it should be remembered that they gave the young inspector, who came into a schoolroom, great power of imagination in the way of making out that anything in the nature of a whim or fancy was contained in the magic "etcetera." The Commissioners and the inspectors seemed to be resolved to do all in their power to destroy the Irish language, a language in which even the late Duke of Argyle admitted there was a genuine literature. The fees for teaching the language were twenty-eight years in existence, but when a new spirit came into the people and the amount went up by leaps and bounds in consequence, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin took those fees away. Mr. Bryce promised to restore them, and when the Gaelic League submitted a reasonable scheme to him, he promised to consider it. Nevertheless, in the present Estimates those promises were not redeemed. The whole country was up in arms about the matter; the Irish Government were doing a foolish thing in trying to thwart national sentiment, and the Commissioners of Education were doing as bad in permitting junior inspectors in Mayo and other counties to obstruct the reasonable teaching of Irish. Then, again, there was the question of mathematics and Latin and French, which had been extras in the programme for thirty-six years. Last May the Commissioners told the Chief Secretary to say that these matters were outside the scope of primary education. But would it be believed that at the very moment they said so, they made them compulsory in the programme they issued about that date? Then there was the question of teachers and their average salaries. In England men got £160, in Scotland, £179, and in Ireland, £102 19s. 6d. Women in England got £109 13s., in Scotland, £90 6s., and in Ireland, £82 11s. The system of grading, staffing, and promotion had been made dependent 1395 on attendance and reports from the inspectors, which made the position of the teacher well-nigh hopeless. The teacher had to get three good reports in succession before he received any promotion, and when it was remembered that inspectors were changed frequently, and that even the same inspectors were liable to changes in their own opinions, it would be seen how difficult it was for teachers to obtain those reports. The inspectors had so many whims and fads that they could only be likened to Secretaries of State for War, the last one always differing from the methods and procedure of his predecessor. The commencing salary for a teacher was £56 for a man, and £44 for a woman, with a small capitation grant of about £7. Was that a fair inducement to foster intellect or to induce it to serve in the cause of primary education? Teachers trained in the year 1900 would have double the salary under the old rules that teachers would now have under the new. A further glaring anomaly in connection with such teachers was that if a principal and an assistant began work in 1900, the principal would now have £63 and the assistant £72. He would also remind the Chief Secretary of the way in which teachers' residences were let, and the manner in which teachers were dismissed for inefficiency. Whatever way they looked at it, the Commissioners could not possibly justify their action as to dismissals. They were either careless about efficiency before 1902, or unduly harsh since. The House had to consider not only the teachers who were victimised in this way, but the very numerous teachers who stood in constant fear of dismissal. He instanced the McCurdy case from Monaghan. Mr. McCurdy was dismissed after thirty years service, though his record was investigated and found to be fair, and the school in which he taught was declared to be no longer required. He did not get a penny compensation. In the last five years there had been 255 dismissals, the number for the previous five years being only 82. He asked the House to look at the case of assistant teachers. They received no increases of salary, whereas they should get increments and be graded. The assistant must remain in the third grade while he was an assistant, and if ever he got the chance of passing to a principal-ship he must begin at third grade, 1396 though his merit might entitle him to a far higher position. The question of the building of schools was of interest to all, and they were glad to see the sums voted for that purpose. But there was not a word in the Estimates about the maintenance of the schools. The Report of the Commissioners for 1905–6 contained numerous proofs about broken roofs and windows, about cleaning and heating, about earthen floors, and all such matters. Recommendations had been made time after time to the Treasury in connection with them; the only practical result up to the present time was that the Practical Rules for Teachers said that schools should be swept and dusted, white-washed and heated; but there was no information whatever as to out of whose pockets the necessary money was to come. The pensions allowed to the national teachers averaged £46 for men and £34 for women after thirty-five years' service. If they got disabled in the meantime, a male teacher got a pension of £11 15s., and a female £4 9s. 2d. The Actuarial reports supplied to the Treasury on this matter ought to have been forthcoming as promised before the debate, as it would have given the House most useful information as to how the fund stood, and the manner of putting it into proper condition. In Ireland the teachers were expected to educate the children in the duties of citizenship and public life, but they were unfitted for doing so as far as the Commissioners could make them, by the imposition of slavish and improper rules as to civil rights. Poets and politicians in this country praised the…village Hampden, that with dauntless breast,The little tyrant of his fields withstood.But when it was the case of the village schoolmaster in Ireland standing up for his fellow-men and the education of their children, he was fined and degraded by the Commissioners of Education; he was refused an audience to enable him to state his grievances, and he had no appeal from the report of an inspector, levelled against him very often without much reason. Nobody objected to the Rule 88a, which said that teachers were forbidden to engage in any occupation that would impair their usefulness as teachers. But why should the rule have a lot of unnecessary additions hampering and restricting the teacher in such a manner 1397 as to make him feel that he could not go anywhere or do anything without breaking the restrictions? It was said that there had been no local aid for Irish schools. Well, past Governments, as far as they could do so, destroyed local aid in Ireland. By the Act of 1892, result fees which amounted to £100,000, were destroyed. The Act of 1898 destroyed another £25,000 for which local bodies became contributary to primary education. And surely the 5,600 non-vested schools, built by local effort and maintained by it, were worth another £60,000? The fact was that everything about the system of administration by the Commissioners was muddled and confused, and the Treasury used that as an excuse for starving education. The right hon. Member for Dover, when Chief Secretary for Ireland, said that evening schools and extras would give teachers the opportunity of supplementing their incomes. But the Board killed the extras, and the inspectors killed the evening schools as far as they had the power. No doubt the present Chief Secretary for Ireland had little to do with the present Estimate. But the case that would be put before him would force him to conclude that a supplementary Estimate should be provided. Promises in this matter had been held out persistently for years. Let the Chief Secretary tell the House what he could do and when he proposed to do it. Last Tuesday the right hon. Gentleman admitted that the development grant had contributed to almost everything except education for which it was originally intended. If money meant for education was spent in other directions, the Government were bound to supply the deficit to improve education. The recent description of education in this country by the hon. Member for the St. Rollox division of Glasgow, an ex-Chairman of the London County Council, was—There is no child, however poor, who may not by dint of industry, obtain the best education the country provides.When they went to Ireland they found that no child had any opportunity at all. They would expect to hear from the Chief Secretary, therefore, something about proposals by means of prizes and scholarships and other means to give the children of the poor a chance in Ireland. They would wait 1398 anxiously to hear what reform of the Board was about to be advanced. The questions of the maintenance and the heating of schools, of the pay, the promotion, and the pension of the teachers, and of their civil rights, had been fully and definitely put before the Irish Government by the Irish people. In this matter all Ireland's representatives were united, and they spoke for a united Ireland. Moreover, they spoke in the interests of the greatest asset of the country in the future—the children of the people. Aid grants to English education had gone on increasing by thousands of pounds, while those in aid of Irish education had remained stationary. That was a direct breach of faith in every way, and the claim was now put before the right hon. Gentleman to apply a remedy in that and other respects. The Chief Secretary would see how anxiously his words were awaited in Ireland from a telegram which he had received that day from Tipperary to the effect that 10,000 teachers were closely watching the proceedings. But it was not only the teachers but the entire public—the brunches of the Gaelic League, and the public of Ireland generally, that would wait for what the Chief Secretary had to say. If the right hon. Gentleman took his courage in his hands and tackled the question in a satisfactory manner, he would be doing that which would bring as much credit to himself, and as much advantage to Ireland, as any matter that he could handle, except the great question of self-government itself, because improved primary education would cause a new light to sit in the eyes of the children of the people, and show them the way to grapple with problems that required to be dealt with for the improvement of their own future and that of their native land.
To leave out from the word 'that,' to the end of the Question, in order lo add the words 'in the opinion of this House, the provision for primary education in Ireland is insufficient and unsatisfactory, and that the interests of the Irish people have been and are suffering most ruinous injury from the long delay in applying a remedy.' "—(Mr. John O'Connor.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."1399
§ SIR THOMAS ESMONDE (Wexford, N.)
said that his hon. friends had spoken with such great ability that there was little for him to say. However, he wished to state that this was a question in which he had always taken a deep interest. His own belief was that it was a question which could be very easily settled, because it was largely a question of money, and of the details of administration, which could be rectified. One of the first points which had been raised was the teaching of Irish. The Treasury for the purposes of economy abolished the teaching of Irish in Irish schools a year or so ago, and thereby saved some £12,000 or £13,000 a year. There was a certain amount of excitement over the matter, and speeches were made in the House in regard to it. But that was not the only matter about which the Irish Members had to complain, although some explanation ought to be given as to why the grants for teaching Irish in Irish schools were withdrawn. Was the economy of £12,000 or £13,000 worth all the trouble taken by the Department? In view of the fact that everybody in Ireland was anxious that the ancient language should be revived, and that the £12,000 or £13,000 had given a stimulus to the teaching of Irish, he was sure that if the Chief Secretary looked into it he would, acting in the spirit of his predecessor, allow those fees to be restored. Until they were restored he was sure there would be no peace on the question. Another matter to which he wished to call attention was the condition of the teachers, which was the most important part of the education difficulty in Ireland. There was no more deserving body of public servants in Ireland than the national school teachers, and none who had served their country so faithfully and so well and got so bad a return for their services. They were miserably paid and received a miserable pension, while the work upon which they were engaged was exceedingly important. There was, indeed, hardly anything more important than the education of the children in the primary schools. It was not easy work, and the task was a thankless one. These men were under a considerable disadvantage in regard to State aid as compared with their brethren in Scotland and England, in which countries the State made very large 1400 contributions towards the salaries and pensions of both male and female teachers. He hoped that when the Chief Secretary went to the Treasury he would point out that there was a good precedent for increasing the pay and pensions of the Irish teachers who laboured under a great disadvantage as compared with English and Scottish teachers. Not only was the amount paid to England and Scotland very much larger than the amount paid to Ireland, but the equivalent grants had been made to England and Scotland long before they were to Ireland. For example, under the Act of 1902, something like £1,400,000 was voted to English education, whereas Ireland was given a grant of only £185,000. If the Irish grant had been fixed on the same basis of population it would have been larger. Since then the English grant had increased to something like £2,250,000, and if the Irish grant were made equivalent to the English grant they should get something over £400,000. The difficulty of the improvement of Irish schools was one of very long standing, and their present state was little short of a scandal. Some of the schools required to be rebuilt. When the case was replied to by the right hon. Member for Dover, he promised to do what he could with the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman, however, did nothing and his successor did nothing. He respectfully urged upon the present Chief Secretary that whatever he did in regard to education he should see that the question of the improvement of the schools was taken into consideration. It was nothing short of a scandal that a school should remain inefficient for four or five years, and that while successive Chief Secretaries said they would attend to the matter nothing whatever should be done.
§ MR. SLOAN (Belfast, S.)
complained that it was impossible to get information from the Chief Secretary for Ireland by putting down Questions to be answered across the floor of the House. Of course, the Chief Secretary could not be expected to know in detail everything about Ireland, as he had been so short a time in office. Last week he (Mr. Sloan) had put down Questions as to the proceedings of the National Education Commissioners, and had been told in reply that there 1401 was no official information. He found it difficult to see where the distinction between official information and other information connected with the matter came in. The Chief Secretary should have given what information he had. It was impossible to get redressed a grievance which teachers had against the National Commissioners, because the Chief Secretary was not directly responsible for the Commissioners to the House. That Commission ought to be abolished altogether and some responsible authority set up which could be answered for by the Minister of the day. Why could not the proceedings of the Commission be reported, and why could not Members be informed of what was being carried on in that "Star Chamber?" It was closed to the public and to the House, and he believed it was closed to the Chief Secretary. Instead of the Board being the servants of the Chief Secretary, it appeared that the right hon. Gentleman was the servant of the Board. The House should not tolerate such a position. With regard to the state of the schools, it was really heart-rending to one who had visited them, as he had, to see the conditions in which the teachers were not only expected to teach but the scholars were supposed to be instructed. The insanitary, unhealthy, and disgraceful state of the schools in Ireland was a disgrace to the British Government. The question of expense was a mere bagatelle to the question of the health and life of the children in the schools. All that Ireland asked was equal treatment with England and Scotland, and he did not see why she should have to come to the House and beg for that. It was inconceivable that English or Scottish representatives would tolerate for a moment that children in their constituencies should have to carry to school the coal required if they were to have a fire at all. The condition of the schools was best shown by the reports of inspectors. The inspectors were not biassed in any way, and their reports were worth more than the speeches of Members of Parliament in regard to the necessity for reform. The Chancellor of the Exchequer promised last year that the Government would this year go into the matter of primary education in Ireland, and seriously and with the best will in 1402 the world seek to find some means to amend the unsatisfactory and inequitable relations between Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. He trusted that the Chief Secretary's reply would be in accordance with the Chancellor of the Exchequer's promise. £250,000,000 were spent upon a war not very long ago, and if it were possible to find that money for a war, surely it was possible to find sufficient money for primary education in Ireland. The excuse that there was no money was an utter farce. There were teachers in the primary schools in Ireland who were living under a worse slavery than the Chinese in the compounds in South Africa. He knew of one assistant teacher who at one time was given £32 a year, and out of that sum had to pay the water rates, the plumber, and for the patching of the woodwork of the floor. Then the Board came down and said, "You have done this for four years and we do not require your services any longer." That teacher had now come under the County Council of Belfast, and was being paid twice the salary he received before. He demanded to know why the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland refused to receive a deputation of the teachers themselves. The action of Members of Parliament had sometimes been commented upon, but they did not hold a candle to the actions of the Commissioners, and while the Commissioners held their present power Ireland would always be the victim of the existing system, and the grievance would never be remedied. Nationalist Members imagined that the only remedy for all this was Home Rule; he believed that the remedy was equal treatment with England and Scotland. He protested against the bringing in of the cry for Home Rule on every occasion as though that were the only remedy. The whole of Ireland—north, south, east, and west—was united and was perfectly unanimous upon insisting that equal treatment should be given to Ireland as regarded education. The questions of Members in the House with regard to the proceedings of the Commissioners of National Education were deliberately evaded by that body. There were, no doubt, many honourable men on the Commission, and he had no criticism to make as to their 1403 personal character. He did believe, however, that they were in the wrong place, and it would not be a bad job to transfer them to some more congenial position, where they would be more adapted to the work they had to perform. They should give regular attendance to their duties, and let the House know what they were doing. He appealed to the Chief Secretary to make the matter one of urgency and really to move in the matter. In Ireland they were beginning to think a great deal of the right hon. Gentleman. He urged him to go to the Treasury and demand in the name of a united Ireland the necessary money. He submitted the situation to the right hon. Gentleman for serious consideration, believing that when he made his statement hon. Members would go away not disappointed, but fully satisfied. He believed that if the right hon. Gentleman gave this question his ardent support, it would mark his career in Ireland. He ought to step over the traces, and demand of the Treasury that they should give to Ireland that which all Irishmen in this House were agreed upon. By so doing he would not only assist, the teachers in Ireland, but stop the influx of Irish teachers into this country.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
said he had read with great interest recently in a Yorkshire paper a resolution passed by the County Council of the West Riding of Yorkshire in connection with a Catholic school where, through the want of the stoking of the fire, the temperature had been allowed to go down at night. That resolution, he thought, was a remarkable illustration of the zeal with which temperature and sanitation, and the health of school children, were looked after in England, especially when they knew what was allowed to exist in Ireland. He put it to the right hon. Gentleman that if such care was taken of Roman Catholic children in this country, there was no reason why the children in Ireland should not get as much consideration. The hon. Member for Kildare had quoted the remarkable figures which were laid down at the time compulsory education was extended to Ireland. He, however, had always felt that the Chief Secretary of 1404 the day had in this matter very little responsibility or power. In point of fact, the Chief Secretary might in truth be called the chief slave of the Treasury. He had no power, and Irish representatives knew he had no power. The right hon. Gentleman had to go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer said "No," the Chief Secretary was powerless. What would happen in the other departments under such conditions? Would the War Office get soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and commissioned officers, if it was laid down that when they were serving in Ireland their rates of pay were to be one-third less than when they were serving in England? The same argument applied to the Navy, the Coastguard, the Excise and the Inland Revenue. Nobody supposed for one moment that the regulation laid down for Ireland in this matter would be tolerated for a moment with regard to those services. What was to be thought when there was applied to the education of Ireland the principle that the Irish people were to be kept in ignorance, and their teachers were to be illiterate, because Ireland did not contribute to the Exchequer the same proportion of certain taxes as England and Scotland? The same remark might be made of all other matters in Ireland. For instance, they were told that there was a loss on the Post Office. The way that was juggled was that Ireland was debited with the whole charge of buying up the telegraphs. But were they to be told that the telegraphic and postal services in Ireland were to be more inefficient than in England and Scotland because the amount Ireland contributed of particularly selected taxes did not come up to that of England or Scotland? The hon. Member for South Belfast had complained that in all these matters Nationalists brought in the question of Home Rule. But that was inevitable. What they asked for was the control of the national "tin." Their money was spent on "Dreadnoughts," on Ambassadors in America, Berlin, and Bulgaria, and on other things with which Ireland had no possible concern, and they were asking for nothing but their own money. Therefore he did not see how it could offend a Belfast Protestant that South 1405 of Ireland Catholics should try and get 20s. in the £ of Irish money. Let the hon. Member call it fiscal reform if he liked. What they said was, "You take £10,000,000, and you can have it; but as to the balance, let us administer it in our own way." If the hon. Gentleman would devote his great Protestant mind to that point he would see that the proposal was not so alarming as he appeared to think. It was said that in England and Scotland there were large local contributions that were not made in Ireland. In a sense that was true; in a sense it was false. But if it were true, who created the system? The national education system was not framed by Irishmen; it was framed by England, Scotland and Wales for Irishmen, and if that was so, how could it be thrown in their teeth? It was created at a time when there was no popular representation, when the Government thought fit to try and introduce a Protestant system among a set of benighted Papists in Ireland. So far as Ireland was concerned, it remained in its old condition. It was no answer to tell them that they did not contribute in the same ratio, even if it were true—which it was not. There was not a town in Ireland in which the Christian Brothers, without getting 1s. from the British Treasury, did not give free education to the children. What kept the Christian Brothers? Local contributions. What built their schools? Local contributions. He did not know what number of children were on the rolls in Great Britain and in Ireland, nor how they compared with the number going to the national schools, but he ventured to think that if in efficiency and contributions they were placed side by side, the contributions of the Christian Brothers to education in Ireland were very creditable. He was informed that there was a valuable and efficient Protestant service of a similar kind, and he had no doubt there were large Protestant contributions other than from Imperial sources. Therefore, if they looked at the contributions from England and the contributions from Ireland itself, he thought it would be found that there was a much larger contribution in the latter country than was really supposed by Englishmen. The beginning of the movement with 1406 regard to the national teachers was about the year 1880–1;the teachers were reprimanded and charged with getting up a trade union, and two or three of them were suspended. They had the audacity to attend a dinner which was given in Dublin to try and get some improvement in the position of the teachers. The argument used at that time was this: "Take an Irish village, and take your contributions on the one hand towards education, and what you do for coercion on the other. The schoolmaster and his wife get £100 a year for teaching the school. You have, in the same village ten armed policemen, who are costing the country £1,000 a year as compared with the £100 that you spend on education." That made a tremendous impression upon the minds of the English people, and it was then for the first time that this gradual improvement, very slight, very slow, took place in the condition of the teachers. He confessed that he had not of recent years given the subject the attention which it deserved and he had thought, until he heard the hon. Member for Kildare, who spoke with very full information, that the improvement in the teachers' condition had been far greater than what he now gathered to be the case. In the matter of education they could not shut Ireland off. It was in the interest of England herself that the children of Ireland should have as good an education as the children of this land. They could not get it except by there being employed instruments as efficient and as well taught and trained as those who had to teach children in England or Scotland. But supposing they trained an efficient teacher in Ireland, would he remain in that country at £1 a week, if, by taking the train to Holyhead or to Glasgow, he could get £3 a week? Of course he would not. There was no business so laborious as that of the teacher. It was the most trying of all vocations to the temper. It was above all a profession which they ought to regard with tenderness. While some of the attacks on the national schools might be well-founded, yet there was a disposition on the part of officials to adopt a kind of hectoring tone towards those who were connected with the schools, instead of giving them helpful hints. There was a desire to report 1407 and to find fault. His own belief was that the intellectual pasturage in these schools was scant; what was taught in them was as a rule, of very little value indeed. Why should teachers set out to equip themselves for the intellectually higher and nobler part of their profession, when they knew that all they would be called upon to do for the remainder of their days was to put a series of little children through some ridiculous exercises, and that probably all those children when they came to the age of fifteen or sixteen would be seen no more by them, because they would leave for England, Scotland, or America, leaving an absolute chasm between the young population and the old population? The teacher practically had no connection with the pupils after they had left school. But that, of course, was part of a much larger problem with which they had not now to deal. The hon. Member for South Belfast had referred to the National Board. His own view was that it was really useless, and that it was not a mischief. At one time he had thought that it was purely a mischievous institutition, but he had rather changed that opinion, and had come to the view that it was totally useless. The right hon. Gentleman was asked to say what he would do with the National Board. Of course he would do nothing with it. These debates, which he had heard for the last twenty-five years, were forgotten in a day or two. The extraordinary thing about the National Board was that it consisted of those who took no interest in, and had never been at, the National Schools—Judges, landed gentlemen, one or two other persons, and, he believed, a Roman Catholic Bishop. As a rule, they were gentlemen who were too busy, or too ill-acquainted with the system. He would make one suggestion with regard to the National Board, if it was to be continued, namely, that the teachers should get some representation upon it, and, furthermore, that they should get some opportunity of rising to the position of National Commissioners. There should be some provision whereby these men could get promotion into that body; at all events, it would bring to the Board men of more sympathy and knowledge. His hon. friend the Member for Kildare had said truly that the 1408 Development grant had been largely drawn upon for the purpose of making up the difference between par value and the present depressed condition of land stock. Who was to be blamed? Had they not all assented to that provision in the Act? Was there a single provision in the Act, except the £5,000 grant to Trinity College, that they had not fought for? Did they not all come from their various constituencies, for piers, harbours and railways, and demand that they should get money from the Development grant? He had been asking for a pier for his constituency for fifteen years, and successive Chief Secretaries had promised it, but they had never got it. With regard to this equivalent grant, they were all participes criminis, and the demand now being made that a greater proportion of it should be spent on education was one which he should certainly heartily acquiesce in if he did not know that the money was already gone, and that the fund was depleted and had practically disappeared. He presumed the right hon. Gentleman would say that the position of the teachers and the condition of the schools would have his attention. Where was he to get the money from? He could not get it out of the Development Grant. Therefore it was necessary that a fresh provision should be made by the Treasury. He did not intend to say any more on that subject at present. He looked forward with interest to the larger Bill which the right hon. Gentleman intended to introduce. Now that he knew better the relations between the Treasury and the Irish Office, he could assure the right hon. Gentleman, in his new office, that the position of Irish Secretary was one in which he was rather to be pitied than attacked. It had taken them a long time to find that out. What was clear was that the Chief Secretary was the heir to a system which he could not improve without the consent of Parliament. He could not get reforms through that House, and in regard to executive reforms which were with matters of finance, he was controlled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Therefore, with all deference and respect, he did not look upon the Chief Secretary as the driving wheel of the coach of reform. The coach, in his opinion, must be driven by the Government as a whole. Their experience in the 1409 past had been that the Chief Secretary, when an Irish debate was on, was deserted by his colleagues; they left him to manage the whole burden himself; and then when it came to applying the financial solution to any difficulty, he was told that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had no money to devote to Ireland. This debate had been raised in front of the Bill which they were all expecting, and therefore was to some extent premature. But they expected from the Chief Secretary some statement in regard to the teaching of the Irish language, and the betterment and improvement of the teachers. No promise which the Chief Secretary could make would, in his opinion, provide a satisfactory remedy until that great measure was produced which would place the entire management of Ireland in the hands of the Irish people.
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
I was glad to hear the eloquent defence the hon. and learned Member has made with regard to the action of previous Chief Secretaries in the application of the Development Grant. In the past I have been severely criticised by hon. Members below the gangway for applying some of that money to purposes other than education. I will not, however, introduce into a debate which has been entirely free from ordinary controversial matter, anything which will disturb the even current of our proceedings. It is unnecessary for me to discuss the past history of the education question in Ireland, or to enter into the field of debate as to at whose door lies the blame for some of those unfortunate results which are to be found in the national system of education. What we are engaged in is doing the best we can to put the case for alteration in the Irish educational system before the Government of the day, and certainly if the Chief Secretary thinks it necessary or desirable to take steps in order to improve the present system without waiting for the larger policy I can answer for those who sit on this side of the House that anything which is done by him to advance the cause of Irish education will meet with our generous and very warm support. I do not believe anything better or more really in the interests of education can be 1410 done than to improve the system of primary education in Ireland. There are two or three subjects, however intent the right hon. Gentleman may be on his larger policy, to which he may well devote his immediate attention. The suggestions that have hitherto been made indicate that, nothing can be seriously done for elementary education, except by some large drastic reform. A great deal has been done, but a great deal more can be done without having recourse to what may be called organic changes. That view is hold by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Maynooth. There is no doubt that the condition of school buildings in Ireland is such as to call for serious consideration. Here again, as in almost every branch of proposed reform, we are faced with difficulties which are essential to the consideration and the proper treatment of the educational problem. Comparisons have been made between the salaries of teachers in Ireland and teachers in England and Scotland, and also between the school accommodation in those countries. It is impossible to consider either of these questions without having regard to the most difficult question of all, namely, the enormous multiplication of elementary schools in Ireland. In proportion to the population there is a larger number than in England and Scotland, and the cost, of providing proper teaching, and of building and maintaining proper schools, is a serious factor which any Irish executive must carefully consider before committing themselves to increased expenditure. It is idle to expect good educational results when we give children education in buildings which in any degree merit the description given by hon. Members below the gangway, and obviously there is a state of things which call for immediate solution. With regard to improvements in buildings, we have been much criticised in the past, and I listened with sympathy to the attacks on the Treasury, although I have no doubt the Treasury will be able to hold its own. I did something while at the Irish Office to try and improve the condition of things. I did something to increase the amount of money available for these schools, and I also arrived at an agreement as to the class of schools that ought to be built.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
I think I am entitled to say that I did the best I could, and I thought I had left the matter in a satisfactory position. I thought all practical differences had been removed.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
Then the credit belongs to the right hon. Gentleman, although I think he will admit that his predecessor in office did make serious attempts to remove the obstacles which tended to delay expenditure in this direction. With regard to the position of the teachers as compared with the teachers in England and Scotland, we must bear in mind the demands which are made on the various teachers and the work they have to do. I agree that the teachers' life is hard, and that their payment ought to be as liberal as possible; but, on the other hand, it must be remembered that the demands on the teachers in England are much greater than upon those in Ireland; and there is another factor—the number of children in the Irish schools falls far below the average number in schools in England and Scotland. Therefore, while I do not deprecate the case made on behalf of the teachers, I think it is fair to say that comparisons cannot fairly be drawn between teachers in the various parts of the United Kingdom without having regard to the great difference in the amount of work they are called on to do. There can be no doubt, in the case of teachers in the larger schools, that there is great justification for improvement in their salaries. The cases quoted by the hon. Member for Belfast show that teachers who have done great work have been driven by the necessities of self-preservation to abandon their work in Ireland and go to another part of the United Kingdom to improve their position. That ought to be avoided, because clearly Ireland suffers by such losses. In regard to the question of the teaching of Irish, that has not been very fairly raised. It has been discussed as if it were a question of teaching Irish, 1412 and not as a question of whether the teaching of Irish should be an extra subject. That is the real point. The claim has been put forward that Ireland should be treated similarly to England and Scotland. In regard to this particular question of the payment of fees for Irish as an extra subject, the treatment of Ireland has been on all fours with that of England and Wales. The teaching of a particular language is not a special subject, and when the Treasury decided that that money should not be so applied, grown enormously, as it had, from the sum originally granted by the Treasury for teaching Irish as an experiment, they consented, not to reduce the money provided by the Treasury by that sum, but to leave the money to be applied to some other purpose. The National Board of Education have promoted a reform which will be of the greatest possible value, namely, by the surrender of this money hitherto paid as extra fees, and by money out of the Development Grant, to provide assistant teachers in the smaller schools. All Parties will agree that that is a very valuable reform, because it is quite obvious that it is an inestimable advantage to have assistant mistresses for children of tender years. With regard to the teaching of Irish, it is difficult to discuss it without getting on controversial ground. I have no desire to say anything against the effort that is being made to keep up the Irish language; but, after all, the defence of those who have hitherto been responsible is that we are bound to weigh in the scales the comparative advantages of different educational subjects. It seems to me, if I may say so with great respect, that one of the blots of the system is that insufficient effort is made so to frame the educational system in the elementary schools as to give the children the best possible chance of being prepared to take their place in life and make a good living for themselves. Surely, when we come to weigh the advantages of the different subjects, for which money is to be expended, it is better to do all we can to give the children that kind of education which will help them afterwards in their fight for a living than to train them in a subject which, however valuable from a patriotic point of view, cannot be of the same benefit to them. I believe 1413 that the position of the teachers in the larger schools ought to be improved, and that there ought to be much closer connection between the three branches of education than there is at present. Holding this belief I was successful in securing the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry into that, subject, and I very much regret that the report of the Committee has never been presented to Parliament or made public. I do not know whether the Chief Secretary would be good enough to give the matter his own personal consideration with a view to seeing whether there are any circumstances justifying him in making the report public.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said that was a very interesting fact. They had never heard of that Committee. Would the right hon. Gentleman let them know when it was appointed and who constituted it?
§ MR. WALTER LONG
Perhaps I had no right to use the word "appointed." I think it was referred to whilst I was Chief Secretary. It was a Committee of representatives of the Board of Intermediate Education, the Board of Higher Education, and the National Board of Education.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
I mean the Department of the Board of Agriculture which deals with higher and technical education. My object was to ascertain whether there might not be some linking up of these Departments with a view to avoid overlapping, and to make the system of more general use. May I suggest that it would be of enormous advantage if it were possible to establish some system of bursaries which would provide a connecting link between the elementary and the higher grade schools? So far as I have been able to ascertain, the cost of this need not be excessive. I believe the sum of £2,000 or £3,000 would be sufficient to commence with.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
I am only endeavouring to make a very moderate demand. By all means let us have £50,000 for this purpose if we can get it. I have not the smallest objection to adhere to the original figure mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover. My object in dealing more moderately with the question is that I think we are much more likely to get a start made if our demands are of a moderate character. I believe that whatever the sum—and the bigger it is the better I shall be pleased—it would be a most valuable improvement in the system of national education, and would provide one of those steps which it is so desirable to provide in order to give Irish lads the opportunity of climbing the educational ladder. I hope I have kept my promise to abstain from saying anything of a controversial character, or anything which would in any way disturb the even current of the debate. I was not for a sufficiently long time responsible for the Irish Government to justify me in making more prolonged observations on this subject, and I think the Chief Secretary will acquit me of having said anything to embarrass him. I conclude with the expression of a warm desire that whatever may be the trend of Irish policy it will not prevent the Chief Secretary from giving immediate assistance to a cause which I can assure him will have the unanimous and hearty support of those for whom I speak.
§ *MR. GWYNN (Galway)
said it was gratifying that on the question of education all members from Ireland were practically in agreement. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin that they were much more likely to get £2,000 out of the Treasury than £50,000. At the same time he thought it was better to ask for the larger sum. As a matter of general principle, he would say that, at the present time, the question of education was one which appealed acutely and 1415 passionately to the Irish people, who were looking to the present Government to do something for them. They used to be told that Irish nationality was solely a question of land—merely a question of trying to get land more cheaply. The course of events had shown how little there was in that contention. There was no more vital political issue before the Irish people than the question of education. No question provoked fiercer passion. It was for this Government a question of good faith. The Irish people would find very soon whether they could or could not believe what the Liberal Government told them. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin was at the Irish Office they knew what to expect. He did not profess to administer Ireland according to Irish ideas, but the Irish people expected the Liberal Government to allow that the question as to what should be taught to Irish children in Irish schools was essentially one for Irishmen. That was to say, it was a proper subject for devolution, but while they were waiting for devolution, they wished that matters relating to Irish education should be administered according to Irish ideas. He associated himself with what had been said by his hon. friend the Member for North Kildare in regard to the financial injustice which had been done to Ireland in connection with education. The complaint of the hon. Member for East Kerry as to the status of the teachers was one which was easily and immediately remediable. Under the Code the teacher was forbidden to take part in political meetings or to hold positions in connection with local councils or boards. The result was that the teachers were influenced and deteriorated by the fact that they had to spend their whole time in association with children whose minds were less developed than their own. Apart from the fact that the teachers suffered in that way, he maintained that a public injury was done to Ireland through an educated class being cut out of the public life of the country. It was the commonest taunt brought against the Irish representatives that local affairs were managed by the local shopkeeper—some added by the priest and the shopkeeper. Was it their fault that the school- 1416 master was prohibited from having any concern in the administration of his district? The provision in the Code which disabled the teachers from taking part in the management of public affairs was contrary to the spirit of Liberalism, and no Liberal Government should allow that disability to exist any longer. The present state of teachers' pensions in Ireland demanded urgent reform; and, as one who himself had been a teacher for ten years, he felt that a sound pension scheme was the condition of efficiency. The maximum pension which any teacher could arrive at now was £60 if he retired after forty years service, and if he were sixty-five years of age. If he retired after thirty-seven years service he only got £46, and so on. In fact, the system was so arranged that the Treasury utilised every possible chance of discharging the teachers with from 20 to 30 per cent. less than they were entitled to get for ordinary and proper service. Indeed, the Treasury seemed to have arranged a money-saving device of the most discreditable kind, which invariably militated against the interests of the teacher, who, on all occasions, was treated with the utmost parsimony. He would put the case of a man who became a teacher in the year 1856 and served as a teacher until 1889 in four different schools, all of which he had brought up to a high state of efficiency. His actual service to the country was thirty-three years, twenty of which were in the service of the National Board. He, unfortunately, contracted consumption, and he decided to retire. He went to the Treasury, who offered him, instead of a pension, a lump sum of £129 to be done with him, which he accepted. That unfortunate man was still alive, but having made his bargain he had no further redress. Let the House contrast with that the treatment of another service. A policeman in Ireland was allowed to retire after fifteen years service on a pension that would keep him, but the teacher had to wait for thirty-five years. In every particular the way of the policeman was made easy for him and the way of the teacher was made hard. What could they think of a Government that pampered the police and starved its school teacher? All parties in Ireland were agreed on the necessity of reform in 1417 primary education, and as an instance of the unanimity that prevailed he might point out that the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin was just as strong on the subject as Cardinal Logue. As regarded the teaching of Irish, the right hon. Member for South Dublin had said that the Nationalist claim was an illogical one, because they were asking for Ireland that which was not given to either Scotland or England. No doubt they were, but should there be similarity only when similarity made against the advantage of Ireland The case against the teaching of Irish was sometimes based on the ground that it had no commercial value, and sometimes on the ground that it had no educational value. Educational experts like Dr. Starkie had declined to discuss the question of commercial value of teaching the Irish language. Education was not an apprenticeship, and when a man taught his boys Irish it was not that they might go out into the market and sell it, but that their minds might be developed and that they might be made efficient human instruments. He could not understand how anyone could seriously question the educational advantage of learning a difficult language which further possessed a merit and a value that in a most remarkable way lured the student to face its difficulties it made to him a peculiar emotional appeal. Where Irish children were taught their language they exerted themselves to acquire it more than any other subject. Irish linked them up with that greater educational movement of the Gaelic League outside, which perhaps was doing as much work as the Universities, and which had become a centre not only for language-study but for general culture. In another sense the study of Irish in the schools would advantage the pupils. If they contrasted the boys and girls who had lost the language of Ireland with the Irish men and women who talked the Irish language as still a living one, the result was striking. They would find these old men and women full of the words of the ancients and anxious to recite them. They were full of the culture which went far away back to the ages when English literature did not exist, and was not even thought of. They were 1418 familiar with words which were put together thousands of years ago; they would find old sagas, perhaps in ballad or prose form, living in the lives of these men and women. There was the old inherited culture which by means of the National Board was divorced from Irish education. They of the Gaelic League were trying to get the Irish nation back to its own life, and to get back Irish education to its most characteristic and its truest inheritance from the past. They justified their claim on that ground, and it was for that reason that they asked the Treasury to believe that they would not be wasting public money. But they did not ask for pity; they demanded it as a right. They claimed administration for Ireland according to Irish ideas. They said that the Treasury had no right to pick and choose and say "this shall and this shall not" be taught to Irish children. They wished that their children should be taught what their forefathers knew, and they demanded that they should be taught Irish. The Irish people had a strong desire to revive the public teaching of the Irish language, and for that purpose they claimed to use the machinery of the public schools. It was easy for the Chief Secretary or the Treasury to say to them that they could at present use the machinery of the public schools, and that they could at present teach Irish there as an "ordinary subject." But the reply was that they had a National Board in Ireland which displayed no real interest in this subject at all. The National Board, which was not in touch with public feeling, had been forced and pushed into making this claim under pressure. The National Board said that Irish should take its place as a subject with others; but in, fact they overloaded the programme with such a lot of obligatory teaching that it was impossible to teach Irish in ordinary school hours. What was more, the schoolmasters who taught Irish earned the hostility of the National Board and their inspectors. A good deal had been said about the bare walls of the national schools, but it was not easy to put up anything on those walls without breaking some regulations. In one case an announcement of the Gaelic League about scholarships was ordered by the inspector to be removed, and because the teacher objected he was reported for insubordination. They could 1419 not expect teachers to risk their professional advancement. In any case the present condition of things would not satisfy their demands even if fair play was given to the Irish teachers in regard to voluntary subjects. A public demand had arisen for the teaching of Irish, and the teachers were not qualified to give it. It was necessary to bridge the gap until a race of teachers was formed knowing Irish, so that the subject could then take its place in the normal curriculum. The Gaelic League was doing its best by establishing a college in every province to train teachers in teaching Irish, and by offering scholarships to induce native Irish speakers to become teachers. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin had withdrawn the fees which hitherto had been given to itinerant teachers who went round and taught Irish as an extra subject in groups of five or six schools. In consequence eighty or 100 men were driven out of employment. The late Chief Secretary, Mr. Bryce, expressed sympathy and offered an equivalent, but instead of 10s. he only gave back 1s. or 2s. 6d. Under this system in the course of the year these itinerant teachers only earned £13, and that was not enough to keep them. They demanded that the fees should be restored either on a sliding scale or in their original form. A great public demand had arisen for the teaching of Irish in all national schools, and if that demand were not soon met it would create the impression that this Government were lavish in promises but very chary of performance. It would even encourage the impression that the Irish people had been deliberately misled by expressions of sympathy. He hoped the Treasury would not put the Chief Secretary into a false position in regard to the matter.
§ MR. BIRRELL
Although a Saturday sitting is a sore infliction, it is fair to remember that neither the Irish Members nor the Government are in anyway responsible for this one, as we intended to have the discussion on Thursday. I am sure that everybody, wherever he sits, whether he is a Protestant or a Catholic, whatever the colour of his political opinions may be, will agree that the Irish Members are only doing their duty to their country in bringing before Parliament and before the "predominant partner," as he has 1420 been called, the present Motion in regard to the unsatisfactory and almost miserable plight of primary education in Ireland. Although, of course, all that I can say will be confined to primary education, I should like to say, having some small claim to be an educationist, that in my opinion it is impossible to sever higher education from lower, and that everyone who loves education will desire to see in Ireland, some day or other, some unification of authority, some welding and blending together of all kinds of education. What we call "lower education" is perhaps the most important, but in order to reach its full stature and glory it requires to be supplemented by that University education which will prepare the teachers upon whose shoulders will be cast the real burden of primary and secondary education. I have spent some time in reading the history of primary education in Ireland, and I certainly agree with what fell from the hon. Member for North Louth, that we in England ought to remember that the system of primary education in Ireland, poor as it is, is not a system which the Irish would have made for themselves. It is a system of education imposed upon them by England, and its origin was the famous letter written by Mr. Stanley, afterwards Prime Minister, dated London, 1831, in which he unfolded this scheme of education, which was not his, but which he had borrowed, without any acknowledgment, from somebody else, Sir Thomas Wyse—a policy adopted by most politicians, even those who were called statesmen, for they are, perhaps, the most light-fingered gentry to be found. The scheme superseded certain proselytising institutions in Dublin which received public grants, but were not a success, and established throughout the whole country elementary schools. They did not succeed, and Mr. Stanley, with that lordly contempt for his predecessors which is also, I think, a common attribute of most politicians, said that it was not surprising that the system failed. The determination to enforce the reading of the Scriptures without note or comment was undoubtedly taken with the best motives in the world, with a wish not to run the risk of wounding the feelings of any sect by comment contrary to their own particular teaching. It seems to have 1421 been overlooked that the principles of the Roman Catholic Church were totally at variance with these principles. Therefore those proposals he threw on one side, and in their place substituted the system which, in theory, exists in Ireland at the present moment. We still in Ireland publish rules and regulations for the use of the Commissioners for National Education year by year. Coming to these rules I rubbed my eyes when I read the first—The object of the system of national education in Ireland is to afford combined literary and moral instruction, as well as separate religious instruction to all children of all persuasions as far as possible in the same school, but the main principle is that no attempt shall be made to interfere with the peculiar religious tenets of any description of Christian people.Of course, I know that in these schools, in consequence no emblems or symbols of a denominational character can be shown during the hours of instruction. The regulation goes on further to describe that the principle of the following lesson, or lessons of similar import, should be strictly inculcated during the time of united instruction—Christians should endeavour, as the Apostle Paul commands them, to live peaceably with all men, even if they are of a different religious persuasion.There are other texts which I will not quote, because they are of too serious a character. All I would say of them is that they breathe a spirit of the Gospels which is apt to be conspicuously absent when the subject comes to be discussed on the floor of this House. I turn now from the theory of mixed education, against which I have not a word to say. It was a scheme which had a national character, which was held with great force by Roman Catholic Bishops and others, and was in the air when Mr. Stanley sat down in London and wrote his celebrated letter. At all events that scheme was then established, and we might have expected, therefore, as it had been in operation since 1834, to find all over Ireland Protestants and Catholics being educated together in mixed schools, and receiving separate religious instruction from the priests or ministers of their particular faith within the same walls. But, as a matter of fact as everyone knows, the system of education in Ireland has developed into as severe a denominational 1422 system as it is well possible to imagine. I have here the figures. Of schools composed exclusively of Roman Catholic children, there are 4,328. These educate Catholics exclusively, and have 386,000 scholars. Then there are 1,561 Protestant schools, educating 120,000 scholars. In the mixed schools under Roman Catholic teachers exclusively, there are 162,347 scholars, but of those nearly 8,000 are Protestants. In the mixed schools conducted exclusively by Protestants, there are 62,000 scholars, of whom 6,570 are Roman Catholics. Of the schools with mixed staffs there are only thirty-two in the whole of Ireland. Consequently we find that this system has developed an almost complete system of strict denominationalism. In that sense it may be against the wishes of the founders, but it may convey the national instincts of the people. I am not going to give an opinion upon that. I must say a word or two to bring before the hon. Members behind me the state of things that exists now in Ireland. In Ireland, with an estimated population of 4,399,000 there are 8,659 schools, while in Scotland, with an estimated population of 4,652,000, there are only 3,244 schools. There is thus an enormous difference in the number of schools. As to the reason for that I shall say a word or two in a moment. There are 804,000 scholars on the roll in Scotland, and 742,000 in Ireland. The average attendance in Scotland is 696,381, whereas in Ireland it is only 500,489. Therefore, you find in Ireland a necessarily very expensive system of education, owing to the large number of the schools and their comparatively small size. In Ireland, in more than half the schools, the average attendance is less than forty-five, and in more than three-quarters the average attendance is less than sixty. We have, therefore, in Ireland a great number of small schools. To some extent for that the National Board themselves, in times past, have been very largely responsible, because they did not exercise, as far as I can make out, any kind of check whatsoever upon them. Whenever anybody made an application for a school and for a school grant, it was given, and that without any consideration the question as to how far the school was necessary or not. Consequently we 1423 not only find the Roman Catholic schools multiplied but also schools of Presbyterian and other Protestant bodies. In fact, every church which can muster twenty-five or thirty children among the worshippers comes, almost as of right, to obtain a grant from the public monies. Therefore the number of teachers has been unduly increased, and the expenses of the work of education in Ireland likewise increased. These are facts which cannot be fairly overlooked. I have no doubt myself that in order to make any fair comparison between England, Scotland, and Ireland in this matter you must compare only those parts of the three countries which are similar one to another. And if you do make that comparison the significance of these figures very largely disappears. If you compare the remote parts of Scotland, or the intensely rural parts of England, you will find a very great number of small schools, and my experience at the Education Office last year was that when the county councils, animated, no doubt, by proper motives of economy and the lessening of school rates, sought to put an end to any small school which had existed in a village for any length of time, the local opposition became of the most violent description, and almost irresistible, and I found myself, in more than one case, overruling the county council and supporting the claim of the small school, and this upon the ground, not only of old association, but of the nature of the country the children had to traverse in all sorts of weather. This applies with very full force to Ireland. That is a country of a multiplicity of small schools, and must remain so if the children are to receive proper education at all. And although I still hope that it may be found possible to reduce this number of schools and to effect a combination of schools whose scholars are of the same religious faith, I still unhesitatingly say that Ireland must remain one place in our Empire where education will always be expensive in consequence of the necessity of having a large number of schools, if education is to be put within the reach of the children. A word must be said as to the irregular attendance in Ireland, be- 1424 because the average attendance is very low as compared with England. I am not sorry to have agricultural Members here, because they will at once admit that sometimes it is in Ireland as it is in England, namely, that during the summer months children would be found working in the fields to even a larger extent that in England, because in Ireland compulsory powers do not exist. In urban districts there maybe compulsory powers, but in the great majority of the schools in Ireland school attendance is not compulsory, and undoubtedly in the summer months you will find a very bad attendance in the Irish schools. But in the winter months you will find that the attendance has gone up to far beyond the average in England. In Ireland they have not vet got imbued with that regular school-going habit which has only become naturalised in England since the wholesale application of the compulsory law. Now in Ireland that habit does not yet prevail. It ought to be borne in mind, therefore, in considering the average attendance, that it is an average attendance throughout the whole year, and that very often throughout the winter months, when the children are not in the fields, the attendance in the Irish schools is very much higher than in any English or Scottish schools during that period, or indeed in any period. There facts ought to be borne in mind. We have in Ireland, therefore, imposed by English rule, a highly centralised system of education. You have a Board against whom I am going to say nothing. There they sit—in Dublin, I presume—and they control, as they are bound to do by the terms of their charter, the expenditure of public money on these schools. There is no local authority to contribute towards the expense. Although I will say a word or two about local contributions, there is no local authority to contribute out of the rates, and those sacred words "popular control," once often on my lips, do not reverberate through Ireland. Therefore you have a highly centralised system of education by a board which is not amenable in any sense to any responsible body so far as I can learn. Of course everybody, in some sense or another, is amenable to Parliament. I suppose 1425 the words of a Chief Secretary do count for a little, but that is the most that can be said in this matter. Therefore, with regard to the very sensible speech of the hon. Member for South Belfast, I would say to him, before he altogether disputes my right to speak, that in the matter of Irish education the patient must minister to himself, and in this respect I am afraid that Ireland will have to cure her own evils. I cannot pretend, and I do not think this House will ever pretend, to be able to pass a measure on the basis of local contributions. I cannot imagine any man, belonging to what Party he may, who will have the courage, if he have the opportunity and the power, to pass through this or the other House any measure whatsoever demanding local contributions from the people without at the same time securing something like popular control over the schools in Ireland. He could not do it. It could not be done. It would be bound to result in complete failure. If he were to succeed in passing it into law, its execution would be thwarted in a thousand ways by the feeling of the Irish people themselves. Therefore, in this great matter of securing an effective and economical administration of education in Ireland, the hon. Member and others in Ireland will have to work out the scheme some day for themselves. Now, I will say only a few words upon a particular matter. For example, there are the building grants. I have read the Reports of the Commissioners, and I have otherwise made myself acquainted with the facts. There is general agreement on all sides that the schoolhouse buildings in Ireland have got into a bad state, and that it is cruel to demand that children should attend them and that teachers should have to spend hours a day in them. Altogether they are in their present state and condition something like a disgrace and a scandal to a civilised community. I could easily detain the House, though I will not, by reading from the Reports words of condemnation, but I am quite content with the extracts given by my hon. friend the Member for Kildare in his most clear and persuasive speech. Therefore I pass away from that part of the 1426 case to see what can be done. I will not ask the House to listen to me, because I am no authority upon the financial relations between England and Ireland or the like; but at the present moment I am so anxious to get something done, to get some money spent, that I am almost willing to throw aside all principle as long as I can get cash down and the work done. From the unanimity which has characterised this debate, that seems to me to be the opinion of all of us. I do not know whether I can include my hon. friend the Financial Secretary in that category. For years past there has been a controversy between the Treasury and the National Board with regard to the money to be granted for buildings. It is the curse of Ireland that these disputes are always occurring between the Departments and the Treasury, and sometimes between the Departments themselves. I am sorry to discover since I have become Chief Secretary that I have been engaged, as I never was before, in angry controversy with myself. In this matter of building grants it has gone on, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin said, and very truly said, for some time. I think all Chief Secretaries do their duty, and I am quite sure that all Chief Secretaries when they go to Ireland fall victims to the charms of the country, listen to its complaints, and do the best they can. Their position is not as independent as one would like it to be, but at all events they have done their best. My predecessor did his best, and I have done mine; and I am glad to say that at last we have struck a definite bargain in this matter. I do not expect hon. Members for Ireland to cheer my statement in the very least. They look on me more or less contemptuously, but at the same time eagerly, to see what I can get out of the Treasury. I quite agree they can make me in no way responsible for the result of my efforts. What the Treasury are willing to do is to place at the disposal of Ireland an entirely fresh sum of £40,000 for a named period of three years. There is not the intention of ceasing the payment at the end of three years, but it is regarded as a sum which, with other sums that may be at their disposal, is as large as can profitably and usefully be spent in a year.
§ MR. BIRRELL
Yes; that is for the building grant; and they have come to terms after a certain amount of controversy as to the space to be allowed for the buildings. Of course, that is the subject on which the controversy arose, but I think, on the whole, the Treasury have conceded very liberal terms, namely, that there should be ten feet for each child on the mean between the number of children in average attendance and the number on the rolls. That will, I think, meet the necessities of the situation.
§ MR. BIRRELL
Yes, absolutely. Therefore on that point as to the building grant, although more money, of course, might fairly be granted, I do not know that more money could advantageously be spent, and I think that it is desirable that we should have an opportunity of seeing the product, the actual result of this expenditure before we commit ourselves to any more. I think to that extent we have succeeded. I know well that I have inherited the good-will of all my predecessors, and I was able to approach the Treasury supported by the previous statements they had made; and I am glad to think that at all events something has been done. The arrangement will at once be set in motion, because for years past it has been hung up in consequence of the warfare between the Departments. That has now been got rid of, and the matter can go usefully forward. So much for the building grants. Let me come now to the question, and in one sense a very difficult question it is, about the teachers. I quite agree, knowing something about the schools and the teachers' salaries in England, that the Irish teacher is paid at too low a rate. Of course, every man who has been poor knows that one of the disadvantages of poverty is that you always have to pay more and get less than the rich man; and when we are told that Irish teachers leave Ireland and come over to England because they can get better salaries, one is bound sorrowfully to remember that they are not the only professional men in Ireland who come over to this country 1428 animated by the same motive. Most of us in England have in our lives, I think, been doctored by an Irish doctor, and some of us have been cross-examined by Irish members of the Bar eminent in their profession. Therefore, wherever you find a rich country and a poor one side by side, you cannot help that there should be a difference between salaries and incomes of a purely professional character, unless they are charged upon the Consolidated Fund or are in some way official. But so far as open work, open professions are concerned, you will always find a difference between the poor country and the rich country in that respect. Therefore you must not press the claim too high. But there is no doubt that the teacher's lot in Ireland is a pretty hard one. He starts as a man with £56 a year during the first three years; then he leaps up to £63 a year and he gets that for three years; he then goes to £70 a year. He usually has to wait to get £77, the highest income of the third grade, so that it will take him fifteen years before he gets out of the third grade into the second; and the assistant teacher I think, is very seldom able to get into the second grade at all. He remains in the second grade, and for three years gets £87 a year; in the second period of three years, £97; and in the third period of three years, £107. He then gets into the first grade, and for the first three years has £117; in the second three, £127; and then if he is fortunate to live long enough, and to get into the first grade, after a period of twelve years, he may get up to £175. Ask yourselves the question, How long does it take to get from the £56 start into the first grade. Well, it takes thirty-six years.
§ MR. BIRRELL
Yes; if they get a big school. They never get there if they do not get a school big enough. He will not get the top salary if he does not get a big school. Men trained in training colleges have an addition, after five years, of £9, and some £10. I confess that what strikes me as being the most doleful and dreary aspect of the figures I have given are not so much the smallness of the income to start with as the poor chances 1429 of promotion. I am bound to say that speaking as a person cognisant of the ordinary aspects of human nature, this is not a scale of salary calculated to attract into the profession eager and active spirits. There I quite agree that the earliest possible effort should be made to improve that scale of salaries. Of course the difficulty hitherto has been that looking at these things from the English point of view the Treasury have always answered that you cannot make any substantial increase in these teachers' salaries until you get some sort of system of local control, and the people themselves in the localities contribute to the amount. Now, on that question of local contributions the hon. and learned Member for North Louth very properly referred to the great assistance which the Christian Brothers have rendered to the cause of education in Ireland by their wholly gratuitous efforts. They educate thousands of children without costing the United Kingdom anything whatsoever. Therefore, that is a local contribution. But it also must be borne in mind that the State grants for education in Ireland are almost all devoted to the payment of teachers. For example, salaries at present amount to £1,253,608, and there are retiring gratuities to a certain amount. So that £1,265,609 is the main cost of education in Ireland so far as school grants are concerned. Then there is the expenditure upon new buildings. I quite admit that the repairs of the buildings have been done on a poor scale; but they are paid from local sources. According to the returns by the school managers in 1905–6 there was spent upon the new buildings and additions £27,684 11s. 2d.;repairs, whitewashing, improvements, etc., £27,000; repayment of loans, £5,000; prizes or premiums to pupils, £10,000, and there was other expenditure to the extent of £20,000, making a total of £90,525 10s. 2d. Although I quite agree this is a most unsatisfactory system, the poor teacher beng actually expected to contribute to the miserable £5 or £8 per year spent upon keeping a roof over the heads of the children he instructs, still it must be borne in mind that there is that local contribution. The Treasury arrangement is not absolutely a good one. At the same time it is one which has prevailed for a very long time, and there- 1430 fore has the respectability of age about it, and does appeal to what may be called the English sentiment in this matter. The managers of these schools are appointed on the spot, and the National Board simply pays the salaries of the teachers. The appointment and dismissal of the teacher does not fall within the scope or province of the National Board at all. They have no authority over the schools, which is not considered consistent with English ideas. Therefore I and afraid that although I shall continue to press the case for an increase in the pay of the teachers as strongly as I can, and although I expect to get a contribution towards that object, I am afraid it will not be on a scale which will give satisfaction to hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ MR. BIRRELL
The hon. Member warned me against making promises, and I have not made any yet. All I can say is that I will continue to do the best I can to push forward the case of the teacher, because I am satisfied that it is at the very foundation of any real improvement in the spread of knowledge in Ireland. Then the bursary system has been referred to. That system, I think, has been overdone in Scotland, and, efficient as it is in England, it is miserably inadequate in Ireland. It is supplemented from private sources and private funds, and the schoolboy in Ireland is not wholly destitute of the means of climbing the educational ladder from the bottom to the top. Proper provision, however, has not been made and I shall continue to press the case as well as I can upon the Treasury. With regard to the civil rights of teachers, the rules provide, among other things, that the attendance of teachers at meetings held for political purposes or the taking part in any election for Members of Parliament or Poor Law guardians except by voting is incompatible with the performance of their duties and renders them liable to the withdrawal of their salaries. All I can say is that I shall never make myself responsible for the issuing of any such rules. The only prohibition which ought to be imposed is that teachers must not be members of bodies which 1431 would put them in the position of education authorities, because they must not be the authority to judge themselves; but to debar them from taking part in the ordinary intelligent life of their community seems to me unreasonable. I have sought information on this subject, and the only plausible reason I had given to me is that the teacher, if he is a quite peaceably-disposed person like myself and called upon to go to meetings to make speeches on behalf of friends, is very often glad to be able to excuse himself on the ground that he is prevented by these rules. [Cries of "No, no!"] That is the only reason I have heard alleged in favour of the rules. It does not seem to me sufficient, and therefore any influence I possess will be used to obtain a modification of these rules. With regard to the dismissal of teachers for inefficiency, the difficulty all arises from the lack of confidence which Irish people in different parts of Ireland may have in the National Board. If people have not any confidence in the executive discontent must arise, and, of course, everybody will agree that it is of the utmost importance that a really inefficient teacher should be dismissed. It is always a disagreeable thing to dismiss a teacher, and I do not think it is ever done without extreme reluctance, and I think hon. Gentlemen from Ireland ought not to press the case more severely than they can help. I have made such researches as I can into the past records of such few teachers as have been dismissed, and I do really think that publication of the facts in these cases would not be desirable in the interests of anybody, although I quite agree that it is most desirable that the question of general discipline should be entrusted to bodies in whom the general community has confidence. I do not think any great use should be made of the fact that during the last few years there have been a few more dismissals than in the years before.
§ MR. BIRRELL
I think the hon. Member who spoke earlier in the debate told us what they were. Although I promise to look into the matter I must 1432 ask hon. Members opposite to support the authorities, and until you get better authorities you must be content with those you have got, and support them in what is absolutely an essential piece of work if efficiency of education in Ireland is to be maintained even at its present standard, unsatisfactory as it is. I do not know that I have anything more to say except on the subject of teaching Irish. Everyone has been so pleasant that this is not an occasion for the expression of any very strong opinion. I do not know that anyone has disputed the entire right of the Irish people to require that provision should be made in their elementary schools for the teaching of the Irish language, and at all events the day has quite gone by when people in England or Scotland should take upon themselves to treat Ireland as if she were a naughty child—to find out first what she is doing and then go and tell her not to do it. That has been very much the fashion in the past, and I rejoice that that day has gone for ever. We can all remember what Archbishop Whately, one of the first Commissioners, did, when he struck out of all poetry books in Ireland the lines—Breathes there the man with soul so dead,Who never to himself hath said,This is my own, my native land!If such there be, go mark him well.Those lines were struck out because it was not thought desirable that the Irish child should read such sentiments, and I am not quite sure myself that there does not lurk within those words something of the larger policy. But what is an even more remarkable instance is the fact that down to the year 1868 in the music books in use in the Irish schools there was not a single Irish air. What would Scotland say to that? Now we have a demand made for the teaching of the Irish language in the Irish schools. The provision for the teaching of Irish was made a long time ago, and no objection was raised at the Treasury so long as nobody much wanted to learn Irish. But owing to influences which are by no means of a political nature, there has sprung up in Ireland, as similar movements have sprung up in other countries on the Continent of Europe, a desire to recall 1433 the past and to keep alive a language which, after all, must continue to express certain Irish emotions and feelings far better than any other language. Therefore we find that whilst in 1901 the Treasury was only required to produce £955 a year to meet these fees for Irish, in 1906 the demand had grown to £13,844. Then the Treasury stopped. They said, "Dear me! I thought this Irish was a sort of archæological fad, a small matter, a drop in the bucket, but now it is a national demand. The Irish people want to learn Irish, not merely one of them, but in their tens of thousands. This is a demand which must be stopped." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin stopped it, and he was going to apply the money to a very good purpose—the provision of assistant mistresses, an excellent purpose for the application of some money; but not the best purpose to which to divert this money. Thus the position stood when my distinguished predecessor left office. I desire to say with regard to Mr. Bryce that one of his few parting injunctions to me, one of his few valedictory remarks, was, "Do your best for the Irish language," and although he was not able to obtain the terms which he desired from the Treasury he certainly would be one of the first to rejoice if the Treasury saw its way to deal generously with this subject, for Mr. Bryce, a man of immense knowledge, was also a man of great sympathy with this object of the Gaelic League, and nothing would give him greater pleasure than to hear, as I hope he very shortly will hear, that the Treasury is prepared to reconsider its decision in this matter altogether. Now the reason why the Treasury is justified in altering its position is because it has become plain that the scale of fees which Mr. Bryce apparently sanctioned, that is the 1s. and 2s. 6d. scale, has broken down. It will not do. It will not meet the demand that Irish shall be properly taught in the schools, for, among other reasons, it does not make adequate provision for the itinerant teachers who go about from school to school giving this necessary tuition. The scheme which Mr. Bryce reluctantly sanctioned, for he was as anxious as anybody that a larger and more liberal 1434 scale should be adopted, having broken down, the time has come for reconsidering the matter with a view to sanctioning a scale which will be sufficient for the purpose. I am authorised by the Treasury to say they are prepared to do so, and that they will consider any scheme for the teaching of Irish, without regard to the question whether the result will not be to restore the fees to the amount they stood at in 1906. That is to say they will not look at such a scheme with a view to cutting it down, but will consider it in conjunction with the Irish Office on its educational merits. I hope also the time will come when the ordinary normal teacher in the schools will be able to give instruction in Irish. In the majority of cases he has not been able to do so owing to want of training. We must bear in mind that we want Irish taught educationally. We want it taught as a discipline of the mind, and as an enrichment of education, so as to provide a child all through its life with an instrument which will throw open to it the literature of Ireland. In the meantime we desire that the Gaelic League should not be interfered with in the good work it is doing, and in the maintenance of its itinerant teachers, and I am very glad to be able to make this announcement to the House, which I hope will be considered satisfactory. The question is one which has not excited any opposition in the House to-day, and I do not wish to introduce any controversial tone. For my part I rejoice to think that the Irish people have exhibited this desire to reacquire the Irish tongue. From all I have heard I believe the movement is a great and permanent one, and I believe it is a movement which will do much good to the mental calibre of the Irish people. I do not for a moment suggest that the statement I have made can be wholly satisfactory to hon. Gentlemen opposite, because it leaves, I quite agree, Irish primary education in an eminently unsatisfactory condition with regard to the salaries of the teachers. As to their pensions I ought perhaps to say that the actuarial report has not yet been completed. When that is completed it will be, of course, communicated, and action will have to be taken upon it. I mention this because it is a business point which naturally excites a great deal of attention. 1435 What that Report will be it is not for me now to say, but it will receive the closest scrutiny and the fairest attention of the Treasury, when it is laid before it. What I have said cannot be wholly satisfactory to hon. Members opposite, but I am glad to think that, at all events, during the short time I have been in office I have been able, through the kindness and generosity of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to do the little I have done. I can only assure the whole House that my interest and zeal in this question will know no abatement, and I am sanguine enough—though the last man to be sanguine—to hope that the measures we shall unfold to the House after Easter for the reform of the administration of Irish affairs will be found to contain within them the means of enabling the Irish people themselves to do that which all Irishmen agree pre-eminently needs doing, the overhauling from top to bottom of the educational system of the country.
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
All the speeches to which we have listened to-day, and notably that to which we have just listened, point to one conclusion, and it is that, however much we may differ from the proposals which the right hon. Gentleman has referred to, we all agree that something substantial should be done to better the condition of primary education in Ireland. I should be the last man to introduce into this debate any controversial note when there has been such unanimity expressed upon so important a subject. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that you will never be able to deal in a satisfactory manner with primary education until you have solved the problem of higher education. But however much we may differ upon this question of higher education, the obligation that we should seek to do something for primary education is all the greater. I hold also that primary education in Ireland must be denominational in its character. I am equally certain that you cannot make elementary education compulsory in some parts of Ireland, and you cannot put the Irish denominational system of education under what is called popular local control. That being so, we arrive at the explanation of the difficult position which Chief Secretaries invariably 1436 find themselves in. They know that money is wanted, and they find that they have to ask for it in respect of Ireland upon terms which are totally different from those which exist in England and in Scotland. They have had to ask the Exchequer to defray charges which in Great Britain are defrayed, not out of the Exchequer, but out of the local rates. That being so they were often driven in desperation to get rash down on any terms they could in order to save time. Perhaps I ought to be the last person to criticise my right hon. friend for having arrived at a temporary settlement of the building grants question. I dwell upon that word "temporary." I cannot blame him during the short time he has been in office for not having arrived at a permanent solution of this difficulty. I was Chief Secretary for four and a half years, and I was arguing it all the time, but I could get no solution. One of the reasons given was that there was always a grave objection to these temporary schemes. If you give a grant for a permanent purpose, and lay down that it is going to last for a number of years, your difficulty arises again at the end of that period. When I was Chief Secretary building grants had been given to Ireland for a nominal period of seven years. As the end of that period approached, I found that the financial relations between Ireland and England in regard to primary education would have to be thrown into the melting pot. The Chief Secretary of the day in this case will find himself in the same difficulty when he has to deal with the building grant. The hon. Member for North Kildare was good enough to give me notice that in the course of this debate criticism would be made on some points of my administration. I thank the hon. Member for that notice, but having heard the debate, I find nothing in it which makes it necessary to depart from a strictly non-controversial attitude. The hon. Member said I must be held responsible for the fact that the equivalent grant was not larger. I obtained a grant of £185,000, and must stand the racket of that. The hon. Member also said I was responsible for the fact that a large part of the equivalent grant was being devoted to purposes not of new work, but of defraying losses on the flotation of land stock. That is quite true. But we were all agreed at the time 1437 that the bargains between landlords and tenants should be made in cash, and should not be subjected to the fluctuations of the Stock Exchange. I maintain that we were right, and that experience has proved us to be so. If landlords are not to pay for the depreciation of land stock some public fund has to bear it. Like the right hon. Gentleman, I took cash down, and, considering that I got £185,000 for Ireland at the same time that the Land Purchase Act was passed, I consider that was a good bargain, the terms of which made it possible for purchase to proceed. But it is not right that purchase should proceed at the expense of the Irish child or the Irish teacher, and there is nothing in the bargain which the late Government made which lays down that if purchase is to proceed the Irish child is to have an insanitary school or that the Irish teacher is to have an inadequate pension. The Chief Secretary, in considering them, will have to suffer from the fact that there is no rate aid, but there is no reason why nothing shall be done to put the schools in a more sanitary state than English schools were in the early part of the nineteenth century. Something must be done somehow, and soon, to remedy the conditions of primary education in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman said he was pressing for an amelioration of the conditions under which teachers served, but I feel that the question of building grants must be decided by itself on its merits, and must not be merged into the question of the equivalent grant or put on that grant. The Development Grant must be kept for purposes new and distinct in the country which received it. It will be fair to defray bursaries out of the equivalent grant, and to improve what is called the ladder from primary schools to the University, or to set up a better form of technical education, but it will not be fair to use it to give the child a fire to warm itself by or to give the teacher better pay. I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has obtained the building grant as altogether apart from the Development Grant. I am sorry he has only got it for three years, because at the end of that period the old pressure will begin again and the Development Grant may be diverted to building purposes. I maintain that only new educational services should be served by the equivalent grant.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said he was not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, at the conclusion of his speech, stated that what he had said would not be satisfactory to the Nationalist Members. The only real satisfaction they had was at the frank confession that it was impossible for an English Minister to deal with this question, and that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to make it part of the measure which was to be introduced into the House after Easter. The speech of the Chief Secretary would cause great disappointment in Ireland on all except two matters. The right hon. Gentleman had met thorn fairly and satisfactorily in the restoration of the fees for the teaching of Irish, a subject to which he attached immense importance from the point of view of popular sentiment, and he had also been able to promise them some welcome relief in the matter of the building grant. That controversy had gone on for fifteen years, and the extraordinary and savage conditions which were described in the opening of the debate were gradually increasing their horror to the Irish people. At a meeting the other day in Belfast, it was said that the atmosphere was so fœtid that there was no wonder that spotted fever prevailed. The speeches delivered were almost blood-curdling in their nature. That awful disease had become a devastating scourge in Ireland, and had undoubtedly been increased by the horrible atmosphere, the want of sanitation, the want of ventilation, and the cold to which the children had been subjected. The right hon. Gentleman had come with a new plan which the Irish Members had asked for in vain during the last ten years or more. In the year 1902 a private Committee was appointed to inquire into the matter, and the Treasury asked them to report as rapidly as possible. That Committee sat in private, and they had never been able to see their Report until yesterday. That Report stated that such had been the accumulation of new schools to be built that it would take £100,000 to build the schools, spread over five years, and the Treasury authorised the right hon. Gentleman to offer £40,000 to make a start. Although he rejoiced that at last they had got some statement from the Department, he could not say 1439 that that statement was satisfactory, and the Irish Members must continue the campaign until the existing state of things in regard to Irish education, which was a disgrace to the country, was put right. The money was there; and it was Irish money. Irish schools ought to be kept in proper repair and maintained up to the proper standard of schools in this country. Throughout the controversy the obdurate persons had not been the Ministers of the Crown, but the permanent officials of the Treasury—men who never saw Ireland, who knew nothing about Irish education, who had been the slaves of the extraordinary system by which they in Ireland had been cursed in regard to the reconstruction and repair of Irish schools. Some little progress had been made in regard to school grants, but none had been made as to the condition of the teachers, and it was maddening to think that the Irish teachers could not get their due from the British Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman had admitted that the conditions under which the Irish teachers worked were deplorable; and that their chance of promotion was exceedingly bad. The old Treasury plea was again used that Irish education got no support out of the local rates, and that therefore it could not be expected that the salaries of the teachers would be raised. It was perfectly true that in Ireland education got no support out of the rates, but why was that? It was for two reasons. First of all, it was because this country, in pursuance of its policy of proselytising the Irish people, forced upon thorn a system of education which was in antagonism to their feelings and aspirations; and after having created and maintained in Ireland this strong centralised system, it was a cruel irony and injustice to turn round and say that the Irish people did not contribute out of the rates to the support of elementary education. In the second place, the reason why they did not contribute to education out of the rates was that the rates were already very high. How many famines had they had in England? For generations they in Ireland had had a famine every ten years, and the country was impoverished. The Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted no later than last year that it was the earnest desire of the Government to give effect to the recommendations in the Report of the Commissioners on the 1440 Financial Relations between England and Ireland, and offered the assurance that some restitution should be made to Ireland for the injustice which had been done to that country, especially in educational matters. He therefore insisted that the Irish Members were entitled to demand from the Imperial Exchequer a special grant for education on account of the high rates imposed upon the people, and on account of their poverty. It was said that because Ireland was poor, and her teachers were badly paid, and she could not afford to subsidise education out of the rates, therefore £300,000of the equivalent grant must be cut off. What objection could the Government have to putting on the Estimates £300,000, which would only bring Ireland up to the point of receiving her proper share of the subvention for this purpose? They not only had to do without the rates, but also their fair share of the Imperial grant. It was really deplorable. Then there was the unhappy circumstance in connection with the national school teachers in Ireland, that whereas in England and Scotland during the last ten years the tendency had been to improve the position of the teachers, in Ireland it had been exactly the reverse. The right hon. Gentleman had drawn a picture of the teachers that left the House under the impression that a teacher in Ireland would have to work thirty-six years before he could reach his top salary. That salary was not nearly so large as that of English teachers, but the great grievance under the new system was that the teachers' chances of promotion had been reduced almost to nothing. His experience had lead him to the conclusion that if good service was required the best incentive that could be given was hope of promotion, and he would rather have seen low initial salaries with hope of promotion than high initial salaries and no promotion at all. All zeal was killed when a man knew that however well he did he would be in the same position at the end as he was at the beginning. Before 1900 a quick teacher who came out of the training college, if he was a bright follow, could in ten years get classed as a first-class teacher, and the exertions the men made to better themselves and improve their education were simply marvellous. He knew in those days young men of twenty-five to be at the top of their profession. 1441 Under the new rules they had no chance of reaching the first grade until after thirty-six years service, and they could never reach the first grade unless they were in a school which had an average attendance of seventy. As only 10 per cent. of the schools of Ireland had that attendance, so only 10 per cent. of the men engaged in the teaching profession could reach the top. Then there was the wretched position in which the assistant teacher was placed. He was a very important man in a large school in the country, but so long as he was in the assistant grade he could not get into the best grade at all. In England the salary of an assistant teacher was £114, in Ireland it was £73, and the teacher could not get beyond it. The assistant teacher's position therefore was a wretched one as regarded the maximum salary, but it was infinitely more wretched by reason of the fact that the new system had barred him from all chances of promotion. So long as that position of things existed and no substantial improvement was made in the position of Irish teachers, it was impossible to expect anything like a good system of primary education in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had given as a reason for the discrepancies between salaries in England and in Ireland the multiplicity of small schools in Ireland. That argument was most unjust and unsound and ought never to have been used. Ireland must always be a country of small schools by reason of the fact that she was an agricultural country, three-quarters of the schools having an average attendance of between thirty-five and fifty. Therefore when the question was considered as it affected the people of Ireland, regard must be had to the fact that the schools affected are mostly those where the pupils were taught by one teacher. Would the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the man who, in a small school, taught all standards had a lighter task than one who taught one standard in a large school? The exact reverse was the fact, because he had to keep up every standard to a proper state of efficiency lest the inspector came down upon him. The low average attendance was not the fault of the teachers; they did their best to get the children into school. In two months from now there would not be a single man in the whole of East Mayo; they would be all scattered up and down Treat Britain earning their 1442 living in the fields, and the turf would have to be cut, and the work of the holding in East Mayo done by the mother and the children, while the father was perspiring in the fields of England. But did not that make the case much harder for the school master, who had often to face long absences on the part of his pupils, and then by hard work endeavour to make up for lost time? That had been sometimes used as an argument for cutting down the salaries of the teachers and reducing the grant. It was most unfair. Another point was the social position in Ireland, which bore the marks of long years of civil war and revolution. There were large districts where it was vital that the school master should be a man of high education and integrity, because he was one of the few educated men in the country. But any man among them who had any ambition and who desired to rise became an emigrant. He went to England or to America where he might better himself, declining to condemn himself to a life of toil and almost of want in a rural school. In dealing with the matter regard must be had to the particular character of the country, and the necessity of making up the long years of neglect to the teachers. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was unfair with regard to discipline. That had become one of the burning questions in Ireland. There must be some means by which a man could be dismissed who from drunkenness, idleness, or indifference was not fit for his work. But the people who were now being dismissed were men and women who had loyally served the State for twenty-five or thirty years. Was it not an awful thing for these unfortunate teachers to have the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads? If at any period they broke down through ill-health—and they had to remember the atmosphere and the condition of the schools in which the teachers had to work—they had to crawl out to the roadside to die like dogs unless they had other means available. That was a cruel thing. He wished to say just one word with reference to the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin. He must say that both the right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Dover had made speeches which were certainly a pleasant contrast to the general tone of 1443 Irish debates. They had put the case of the necessity for doing something generous for Irish education nearly as strongly as Nationalists could put it themselves. One thing the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin had said had surprised them very much. It seemed characteristic of the way in which the business of Ireland was carried on. The right hon. Gentleman had said that when he was in office about two years ago he appointed a Committee of three Departments to inquire into the reorganisation and linking-up of Irish education. He did not seem to remember what the Departments were. He spoke of the Board of Higher Education in Ireland, and it turned out afterwards to be the Board of Agriculture, which he did not admit to be a proper Board of Education at all. The right hon. Gentleman said, at all events, that he had appointed a representative Committee. None of them, however, had heard of it, and the House had never heard of it. It had been conducting its operations in secrecy. He thought it was a Committee which ought not to have been appointed without their knowing something about it. Who gave evidence before it? What inquiries did it make? He understood from the right hon. Gentleman that it had reported. He was very curious to know what Report it had made, because the question of the reorganisation and the linking-up of Irish education was an exceedingly burning question. He certainly protested—and he thought he spoke for the whole of the Irish Party—against secret Committees conducting investigations into Irish education behind the back of Parliament and without letting the public know what was going on. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover had made a speech with reference to the Irish Development Grant. He rejoiced to have heard that speech. It laid down principles in regard to the equivalent grant for Irish education which he most heartily endorsed, and he trusted and hoped the Treasury would adopt them. The right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right when he said—it was a view he himself had often urged—that to shove on to the equivalent grant any charge which in the ordinary course would have been cast upon the Treasury was to rob the grant and to carry out a 1444 fraud upon Ireland. That was what had been done with regard to the building grant of the last two years. They had shoved a portion of the building grant on to the Development Grant, and by stealing the money from the equivalent grant had rendered the equivalent grant nugatory. Where they got the equivalent grant for the new service in England it ought to be devoted only to analogous service in Ireland, such, for instance, as the institution of scholarships and for the co-ordinating of Irish education. He did not want to take up any more of the time of the House, but he confessed he was disappointed with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He knew from the tone the right hon. Gentleman himself adopted that he was aware of their disappointment. The matter had entered upon a very serious phase. It was not often that any subject could be started in Ireland which would collect upon the same platform absolutely every section of society. For six months there had been, he might almost say, raging in Ireland—at all events, there had been going on an agitation on this question, and the limit of human patience in that country had been reached. The agitation had been going on in every part of Ireland, from Belfast to Cork and from Galway to Dublin, and on the platforms there had gathered Protestant Bishops and clergy and Roman Catholic Bishops and priests, Unionists and Orangemen, Gaelic Leaguers and Nationalists. He had attended at several of these gatherings, and he had never seen such meetings. The demand was universal that an end should be put to the scandalous system by which the intellect of the Irish children was cramped and the health of the Irish people destroyed, and that they should be put in a position to use their own resources. They were not asking for English money. They simply asked to be placed in a position to use their own resources for the education and elevation of their own children without having to come to the House of Commons to beg for leave to do so. The movement, he believed, would not be allayed by the speech the right hon. Gentleman had seen his way to make that day. If they should be so fortunate as to pass the Bill which was to be introduced after Easter, 1445 he hoped it would have the effect of transferring the whole of the question from London to be settled in Ireland itself. That would lift the burden of it from the Chief Secretary's shoulders and from the shoulders of the Treasury; but if that should not be the case he begged most respectfully to warn the right hon. Gentleman that the present agitation would go on in Ireland, and they would look forward confidently to a period in the near future when the Chief Secretary would be able to give them a very different answer.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT (Down, N.)
said he did not think the debate ought to come to an end without some Member of the Irish Unionist Party saying, as he did, that they had no quarrel with the words of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kildare. He had a strong case to put before the House, and he thought the Chief Secretary had shown in his reply that he felt it to be a strong case. There was no one more qualified than the hon. Member for Kildare, whether the case was a weak or a strong one, to put it forcibly, and he only regretted that the appeal which might have been unanimous on the part of Irish Members had been mixed up by the hon. Member for Galway with what he could only call the foolish fad of teaching Irish. The hon. Member had said that he wanted to make the children of Ireland more efficient human instruments. Certainly, so far as any efficiency for the real battle of life was concerned, it was very difficult to conceive how teaching the children Irish would equip them any more efficiently to fight that battle. He had no doubt that the foundation of the Gaelic League began with a number of gentlemen who were inspired by a certain amount of Liberal enthusiasm; but he thought it fair to the House to enlighten them a little as to what that league had grown to be. One prominent member of the league, the chief organiser of it for Munster, had said that the real object of the Gaelic League was firmly to establish Ireland as a separate nation amongst the nations of Europe. He was not sure whether that would 1446 commend itself to the Chief Secretary or to the member of the Government who had lately joined the United Irish League. Then another prominent member of the Gaelic League, writing to the Irish Independent on 18th May, 1905, said—The Irish youth who quits school without realising his duties as a rebel, is, or should be, a discredit to his school-master.The writer added that, after half-a-dozen years school mastering, he felt his conscience easy in the knowledge that his salary was well-earned so far as the stirring of discontent and the stirring of rebellious feelings were concerned. That was a fair sample of what the Gaelic League and the teaching of the Irish language really meant, however innocently the matter might be brought forward in that House. Putting that aside, and coming back to the points on which they were agreed, they all felt that there was a real grievance in Ireland. The figures were absolutely conclusive as to the real claim of Ireland for a larger grant than she had hitherto had. The fact was that in the past seven years the education grant in England increased by 43 per cent.; in Scotland by 51 per cent.; and in Ireland by only 1.5 per cent. He thought those figures were almost conclusive in themselves. The salaries of teachers had already been dealt with. It might be said that living in England was more costly than in Ireland; but when they compared Ireland with Scotland they found that in the latter country the assistant teacher got £122 a year as against £73 in Ireland, and no one could contend that that was a fair rate of payment. The salaries paid in Ireland were in absolutely miserable reward for the members of a great profession—one of the greatest and most inspiring professions full of the greatest possibilities. It was said that the future of a race largely depended upon what the teachers made of the children. In Ireland they got poor encouragement for the work they were doing. Miserable pay, insanitary school-houses, and all those things of which complaint was made, were sufficient to move all Irish Members, at least all who desired to do their duty, to see what 1447 could be done to remedy existing evils in connection with education in Ireland. They cordially welcomed the statement in regard to the large grant towards remedying that portion of their claim, but he was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman had not seen his way to deal with the salaries. As for the teachers, he was amazed that such an able and devoted band of men and women were to be found ready and willing to work on at such miserable salaries. It was not fair or just to allow them to go on under such conditions, and he hoped that grievance also would be remedied before very long. With regard to the power of one manager arbitrarily to dismiss a teacher, the teachers had again and again stated that it lowered their status and took away from them their independence to place them at the mercy and caprice of one manager who might possibly control three or four schools, and who had the power to dismiss them without a word of explanation. He wished to join in the appeal which had been made by other hon. Members in reference in the salaries of the teachers, who were a body of men and women thoroughly deserving of some improvement in their conditions of service.
§ MR. HUGH LAW (Donegal, W.)
said that so long as the teachers were engaged upon such an insecure foundation and their position depended upon the favourable report of one inspector it was perfectly impossible for them to give to their work their full energies and abilities. With regard to the building grant and the promise which the right hon. Gentleman had made he would like to ask whether the £40,000 a year was to be spent upon the buildings and improvement of school-houses in Ireland for three years. He found that a large number of urban schools were entirely without play- 1448 grounds, and he hoped that that matter would receive attention. He had heard with the greatest pleasure the words of the Chief Secretary, because in the past they had been far too much inclined to treat the different parts of education as though they were separate and distinct. Their inter-dependence was complete, and in his view they could have no real life in any part of educational work in Ireland unless they had at the same time that culture which University influence alone could give it.
§ *MR. JOHN O'CONNOR,
in asking leave to withdraw his Amendment, said that, with one exception, he was entirely dissatisfied with the statement of the Government with regard to the grievances he had endeavoured to lay before the House. But having regard to the terms of his Amendment the division would be no indication of the views of the majority of hon. Members who had done him the favour of listening to his observations.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.