HC Deb 20 April 1910 vol 16 cc2236-59

11 P.M.


moved, "That the Rules of the Intermediate Education Board for Ireland for the year 1910–11 be not sanctioned by Parliament till they are amended in the following particulars ":—

Section 1: (General provisions regarding the examinations)—courses for exhibitions and prizes; (2) the modern literary course —Division 1, Division 2.

Amendment proposed: To leave out "Division 1, Division 2."

Rule 42: (Courses for exhibitions— special paper for exhibitions, prizes, and medals).

A Special Paper will be set in each of the following subjects in these Rules called main subjects:—

  1. A. In the Classical Course.
    1. (a) Greek.
    2. (b) Latin.
  2. B. In the Modern Literary Course, Division 1.
    1. (a) French or German.
    2. (b) Irish.
  3. C. In the Modern Literary Course, Division 2.
    1. (a) French.
    2. (b) German.
  4. D. In the Mathematical Course.
    1. (a) Arithmetic and Algebra.
    2. (b) Geometry or (for Senior Grade) Trigonometry.
  5. E. In the Experimental Science Course.
    1. (a) One of the preliminary courses in Experimental Science (for Junior Grade only); or a special course in Physics, Chemistry, or Mechanics: or (for girls) in Botany or Domestic Economy and Hygiene.
    2. (b) One of the subjects in D.

Amendment proposed: To leave out from "Division 1" to "German" ["(a) French; (b) German"] and to insert "Irish, French, German."

Rule 47 (Number of exhibitions allotted to each course). Amendment proposed: To leave out "The exhibitions allotted to the Literary Course will be divided equally between Divisions 1 and 2."

The motion I move here to-night is one which is practically similar to the one which I moved on this subject about four years ago. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Birrell) was not then the Chief Secretary for Ireland, but Mr. Bryce sat on the Treasury Bench opposite, and after having heard the arguments from these Benches he was satisfied that we had made out a case for the alteration of the rules which had been presented by the Intermediate Board. He therefore asked his colleagues to vote for disallowing, and therefore altering the rules which had been presented to the House. The history of what followed is very interesting, showing as it does the contempt with which most Irish Boards, and especially our Education Boards, treat public opinion in Ireland, and even as they did in this case, the opinion of this House. After a Resolution had been unanimously passed by this House, and sent to the Intermediate Board of Education directing attention to the fact that the House requested them to alter their rules in regard to a few very simple matters, the Board met. Let the House consider for a moment what it was they did. This Board in Dublin —which ought to be under the control of some public authority, which one would suppose would be responsible to some Minister in this House, which is financed by Irish money, and which is supposed to take charge of and conduct the interests of Irish education—was asked by this House to alter their rules for the benefit of Irish students. They met a few days after they received this request from the Chief Secretary, and passed the following Resolution:— Resolved, that this Board feel themselves compelled in the interests of intermediate education in Ireland to decline to amend their rules in the particulars mentioned in the Resolution of the House of Commons.

Let English members picture to themselves what would happen if an Education Board, or any other Board, after a Resolution of this House had been passed declaring that certain things should be done in the interests of education or any other branch of the public service, flatly refused to carry out the directions of this House of Commons. I think there would be something heard of it. A considerable correspondence followed this Resolution, and it is very interesting to note the rather strong language which Sir Antony MacDonnell found himself compelled to use in order to deal with this Board. He had to tell them in the end that the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the House of Commons were responsible for carrying out the wishes of the people as expressed by the Irish representatives, that it was the Chief Secretary who appointed the Board and had the power of dismissing them, and with this threat he hoped to be able to bring the Board to its senses. Instead of getting more frightened, or becoming more loyal, the Board replied that they knew their own business, that they would continue to act as they had formerly acted, that they would not alter their rules, and had not the slightest intention of doing so.

The Debate, when that Resolution was unanimously passed requesting the rules to be altered, was very interesting. Mr. Bryce read a communication from the Board in which they pretended to state their objections to the alterations which were requested to be made. They tried to defend the rules on educational grounds, and they tried to show that the alterations would make a very serious alteration in the body of the rules, and could not be done in the limit of time that then remained. There was, however, one very interesting paragraph in that statement presented to the House, which I suggested was the sole reason why they refused the request I then made. They said:— The Board are of opinion that for intermediate students the study of French or German is of greater educational value and likely to be of more use in after life than the study of Irish.

Hon. Members above the Gangway who cheer that statement undoubtedly think it correctly expresses the comparative educational value of these languages to Irish students, but I have given some study to this question, and I differ fundamentally from them in that view. No small nationality in the world has progressed materially if at the beginning it has abandoned all that made for its independent nationality. I therefore say, that the views put forward by the Board, antagonistic to the study of our native language, instead of being for the material advantage of our country, are reactionary and are not based upon a wide and broad knowledge of the progress of nationalities throughout the world, but that the views we in our humble way put forward are far more likely to stimulate enthusiasm and interest in education and make for progress. Mr. Bryce, who it will be admitted was well-known throughout the educational world wherever the English and indeed the Irish language are spoken, and who was no mean authority to speak on the relative importance of Irish and German to Ireland, did not share the views of the Board. He heartily disagreed with their views. He thought them most reactionary and opposed to the interests of education. He said:— There was no reason why Irish should not take its place among other languages; and, as to its practical value in after life, certainly no language could give the student a more severe mental training. It was a language far more difficult to learn than French or German.

That was the opinion of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I will not quote some of the most eminent educational authorities from Berlin and Copenhagen, but these men have one and all stated that the Irish language as more difficult to learn than Latin, French, or German. And for Irish boys whose native language it is, and whose interest it would stimulate, it is infinitely more important and more useful from an educational and material standpoint than any other foreign language. Yet this was the response of the Intermediate Board to the request we made at that time. One would have thought that when this House by a unanimous resolution told them this opposition should cease, they would have climbed down. But they did nothing of the kind. Where do we stand to-day? They made some slight alteration in their rules, but they did not attempt to do as we requested. In the Rules first published by the Intermediate Board of Education they divide the studies into four courses—Mathematics, Science, Classical and Literary. With the three first we are quite satisfied. Our difficulty is with the Literary Course. The modern Literary Course is now divided into two divisions. They do not find it necessary to do that in any of the other courses, but because they have been compelled to acknowledge that Irish is one of the modern languages, they make a special division so that French and German may be classed by themselves, and there shall be no competition between Irish speaking boys and girls from the hills of Kerry and Connemara and the better class of boys and girls who will study German and French in the Intermediate Schools.

I have not the slightest objection—on the contrary, I am most desirous that French and German should be taught in the best possible way in our Secondary Schools. I am most desirous and anxious that our Irish boys should learn these languages as fully and completely as it is possible for them to do. But I think most educationalists will admit that where there are two languages, as is the case in Ireland, it is far more easy to learn three and four languages than it is in the case of a nation with only one language. Educationally, it is an admitted fact that the possession of a second language makes it more easy for a boy or girl to learn a third and fourth language. Therefore in order to make our children linguists, begin with their home language, and encourage them to do so. But instead of doing that the Intermediate Board— instead of encouraging Irish boys to learn their own language—have created a system of Protection for German. English members now engaged in the fight between Free Trade and Protection will, I think, admit it is intolerable that in this matter Protection should be set up for the foreigner as against the home article. This is exactly what this code is doing. They make a special Division in which only boys compete and where exhibitions are given for those who only take French or German. Then they take another division in which the boys take either French or German or Irish, and they pass a rule in which they say that exhibitions will be divided equally between those two classes of boys. The making of those two classes is bad enough, the giving of protection to foreign languages is bad enough, but the worst is done when they make the absurd, unfair and unjust rules to divide exhibitions equally between those two divisions. Will the right hon. Gentleman believe that last year the number of boys who took Irish was 4,389 and the number who took German was 333, and under this rule the 333 would be entitled to as many exhibitions as the 4,389 Irish boys. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks that is a fair way of treating our own country's language in our own country, and I trust, when he comes to speak on this question, he will tell these gentlemen who, for the moment, mismanage our educational affairs in Dublin, that they really are not carrying out the views of the Irish people nor, I trust, his own views either.

The claim I make is a simple and just one, and is based on educational grounds. Even if this House passed a unanimous Resolution, probably the Board would snap their fingers at it, as its predecessors did in a similar case. But this House ought to be masters of the situation and we, the representatives of the Irish people, having expressed our views upon this question, feel very deeply and keenly upon it. We resent this slight upon our country's language, and whether it is the Government or this Board which casts that slight they will have our most determined opposition. I trust the Chief Secretary will not think that in speaking as I am upon this question to-night I am in any way dealing with the agitation which went on last year with regard to the examination papers in Irish. I have nothing to do with that, and no one is more concerned than myself in seeing that the examination in Irish shall be a real and a thorough one. My friends and myself do not ask that the examination in Irish shall be a farce or a sham, we do not want that the teachers in schools should earn money by mere sentimental education, and we want as severe a test applied to Irish as to any other language. This Board is practically independent of this House, and is nominated by the Chief Secretary.

The House spent some time last night in discussing judges who spend half their time asleep, but some of our judges do not do so—they spend it in charge of various Irish Boards. I do not wish to say anything about these gentlemen except that education is not their line, and men far more capable, and suitable for dealing with the work of Irish education can be got than judges who are called to the work at seventy or eighty years of age. If the Chief Secretary has not already come to the conclusion that this Intermediate Education Board is a farce and a sham, and that the time has come for giving the Irish people some representation and some control over it, if the system is to continue, I trust that when appointments have to be made the judges will not have a preference. English secondary education is differently controlled, differently financed, and differently managed. You give out of the Treasury every year about £800,000 for English secondary education, you give to Scotland nearly £300,000, to Wales nearly £100,000, and to Ireland you do not give a penny. Every single penny of money devoted to secondary education is Irish money, and it is all the more important that we should require that it should be spent, in some measure at least, according to the wishes and demands of the Irish people. I do not know whether the Chief Secretary will be able to change the rules in the direction that we request, but I think the House will admit that it is a fair and just request and one which ought to be conceded. The fact that we have to discuss so important a subject as secondary education within such narrow limits and at such a late hour shows that there is something wrong with the system. There is another matter I wish to press on the right hon. Gentleman. The income of this Board is extremely small—£30,000 from the Church Fund and a variable income from the whisky tax.


That does not arise out of the Motion.


I beg to move.


I beg to second the Motion, and I fail to see why it should not have the support of every section of this House. That it should have the support of the Irish Members is a matter of course. After the hon. Gentleman has shown so clearly that this is a question of the abolition of a sort of preference in favour of the foreigner, that ought to secure him the support of the Tories, and I think he might fairly claim the support of the Liberal and Labour Members in opening up and maintaining a sort of system of Free Trade in foreign languages in the intermediate. We are familiar with the old wheeze that the study of French and German are of greater educational utility than the study of Irish, but this is a question which might safely be left to be solved by the boys and girls of Ireland, assisted by the advice of their parents and school teachers. It has been found impossible in these regulations to drive the boys and girls into the study of French and German. They have chosen Irish and a foreign language in preference to the two foreign languages, and this alone ought to justify us in placing the three languages upon a level. Moreover, I must remind hon. Members that this is rather an important question, because upon the choice of foreign languages depends the exhibitions. It is three times more difficult to obtain an exhibition or prize if you choose French or German, and the importance of getting an exhibition is very great in. the school life of an Irish boy or girl. Many an Irish boy or girl is helped on to a university education by gaining an exhibition. If I might notice my own case, I would say that but for these exhibitions I would not have been able to obtain a university education. Therefore the maintenance of this unjust regulation deprives a great many Irish pupils of the advantages which they might otherwise obtain. Surely it is a strange thing that a board should be able not only to snap its fingers in the face of the Chief Secretary—I am not referring specially to the right hon. Gentleman who at present occupies that position—but also to snap its fingers in the face of the Irish Government and the House of Commons. When we look into the constitution of this board we find that, as usual in the latter days of Irish administration, there are two permanent officials and members who are nominated by the Crown. This board contains perhaps three or four antiquated judges, but there are, in addition, some real educational authorities, who see clearly in educational matters, and one is inclined to wonder how this unjust regulation receives the sanction of these educational authorities. I think the explanation of that is pretty simple. It has been the policy of the Government, especially in recent years, to cloak over as it were the bureaucracy, which we knew of old, by associating with the bureaucrats gentlemen whose nomination might be more or less popular with the people of the country.

There is, therefore, in several Irish public departments a sort of advisory committee who meet for a couple of hours once or twice a year. At these meetings they have to sanction rules, payments, and the making of appointments. The permanent officials turn up at these meetings with all their schemes cut and dry, and nothing is wanted to make them legal but a couple of signatures. The real mind expressed in the rules is the mind of the permanent officials. I have read somewhere that in the green room of the mediæval theatre there was always a cloak which was donned to make it known that the wearer was invisible. When an actor donned this cloak the audience understood that the actor was moving about unseen by the other actors. It seems to me that the popular members of the Irish boards are like these actors with the right to go invisible, so that their actions may be less unpalatable to the people of Ireland. But still as the robe to go invisible did not deceive the audience so we are not deceived, and we still see the narrow-mindedness of the bureaucrat behind all this. We still see the imperviousness to public opinion, and the same old policy of which we are sick. In this case we appeal, with a certain amount of confidence, for a rectification of the abuses which have been pointed out.


I do not propose to follow the two hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in criticism of the Intermediate Education Board or any other education board in Ireland. I certainly, at one time, did my best to secure for the Irish people absolute and complete control over their own educational system, and I look forward to a time when they will possess it. But I may point out that this is not a matter merely of the Intermediate Education Board. This is a Government matter. The rules of the Intermediate Board have received the sanction of the Irish Government, and therefore I am standing here responsible for them and defending them, at all events for the time being, as an act in which the Irish Government have participated. I should like also to point out that the situation is very different now from what it was when my distinguished predecessor took part in the Debate to which reference has been made. He spoke then with a great authority which I cannot claim, but I associate myself with every word he said in favour of teaching the Irish language in Ireland and giving every facility for it and every proper reward and encouragement. That has been done to a very remarkable extent, and as I think, happily successfully.

But the real object of the Motion is to alter an educational scheme of which the Board of Intermediate Education, with the sanction of the Irish Government, have approved, and the whole question comes to this. As the hon. Member who moved very accurately pointed out, there are four courses in the scheme, and one course, namely, the modern literary course, has been divided into two divisions. In the first division you take Irish and either French or German, and in the second division you take French and German. Now the proposal is to throw all those three languages together and to allow the young men and maidens of Ireland to choose of their own choice which two of these three languages they will take. There is no doubt whatever that in the opinion of the Irish population French and Irish are the two most popular languages that they can take up. Last year 2,950 boys and 3,126 girls, who must not be omitted in this matter, took up Irish, while only 270 boys and 107 girls took up German. Looking at this from the educational point of view, if these three languages were left to the free play of these young people's minds or that of their teachers' minds German would disappear altogether. It would have hardly any hold on the educational system.

There are intermediate schools in Ireland where German is taught most admirably. According to the reports of the inspectors excellent provision is made for the teaching of that language, and if it were left to the popular mind, I am afraid it would drop out. That, I consider, would educationally be a great disadvantage. I am not speaking of the future of Irish, which has been safely secured, and will, as the years go by, be much better taught than at the present time. Therefore, I do not feel in the least anxious about Irish, but I feel exceedingly anxious about German. Without going into the question which language is best or which is commercially useful, or any consideration of that sort, which I should not allow to enter very materially into my mind, I only wish to say that the teaching of Irish, from an educational point of view, is encouraged by the course of action taken now. At some future date perhaps the effect might not be produced, but were we now to proceed on the view which the hon. Gentleman put forward, the German language would immediately suffer most deplorably and would almost altogether disappear from the curriculum of the intermediate system of education. I think that would be a great blow. I certainly know of no better cure for Germanophobia than a knowledge and love of the German language, and I think it would be a most desirable thing, even if we have Germano-phobia and believe that we are going to have an invasion, that we should know the language of our opponents. Therefore I think the Board are quite right at the present time in making this division. It is all very well to say that the popular demand ought to dictate the educational policy of the education authority in Ireland. I really cannot agree to that. If that were the policy put to the popular vote, I am afraid that the classical course with all its exhibitions would disappear altogether, because it would have very small chance as compared with the literary course, and it would not have the number of exhibitions which it has at present. We should give that protection to the classical course which it ought to have. I think the education authorities are bound to consider and survey the whole field of subjects of education; they are bound to consider what is the best thing to be done in the interests of education in Ireland, which certainly does not occupy the position that it ought, having regard to the love of education and the passion for it which undoubtedly exists in that country.

It would be an unfair thing to Irish, and lovers of Irish, were you now at this stage to proceed to give it such a predominance as to allow the popular feeling with regard to it to thrust out of consideration a language like German—so important in the education curriculum. I am quite certain that it would not be desirable at the present moment, in the interests of Irish itself, because Irish is not now well taught. There is nothing to be surprised at in that. You have not got a sufficient number of Irish teachers properly qualified to teach Irish, which is an extraordinarily difficult language, and the result is that an enormous number of persons fail to pass the examinations, or at all events to get exhibitions. In putting all these three languages together, and allowing people to choose two, I am not at all sure that the people who stick to French and German would not succeed in getting a great deal more than their share of exhibitions and of students, because they are better taught, and better able to face the formidable risk of examination than are the persons in Irish.

I think, therefore, at the present moment it is very doubtful whether Irish students would gain a larger number of exhibitions were they brought into competition with those who would take up German. At all events, I think in the present position of affairs that the Intermediate Board of Education are quite right in adhering to the decisions that they have made. Nobody can say that they have dealt unfairly with Irish, or that the Board of Intermediate Education is unfriendly to Irish. It is all very well talking about old judges. A man may be an old judge, and yet be quite favourable to Irish. That is quite possible. There are certainly on the Intermediate Board some very good friends of the Irish language, and they have appointed as their examiners one, at all events, and I do not doubt others also, of the most learned and distinguished Gaelic scholars that are to be found in Ireland. All their examiners are members, I believe, of the Gaelic League. Therefore they are in their own way enthusiasts about Irish. It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite to have a proper zeal for the Irish language. They have not always had the opportunity of learning it themselves, but they have a great and genuine zeal for it, and so have many members of the Board of Intermediate Education.

No useful purpose is served to the Irish language by sneering at the Intermediate Board as if they were hostile. They really are not, and I would not say so much in their defence if I thought they were. They are nothing of the kind. They feel that as trustees of Irish moneys which are placed at their disposal they are bound to give fair play all round alike to the Irish, to the French, and to the German. They are perfectly wise in resisting a policy which would for the present have the effect, I am afraid, of driving German out of consideration altogether, and schools which teach German, and have German teachers, and our inspectors tell us it is done exceedingly well, would undoubtedly drop the study of the language, and it would go out of use to a large extent. I therefore think in regard to this purely educational question, and it ought to be regarded as that, Irish ought not to be allowed to push its way at the expense of other elements in a good rational education. I am very glad to see the people taking it up as they do, and very glad to think that great encouragement is being given, to the teaching of the teachers of Irish. I have very little doubt that after some years have passed the Irish language will play, as it is entitled to do, a very great part in the genuine education of the children going to intermediate schools. I think now to adopt this course would be to carry the desire—my desire at all events—to an unreasonable pitch. Therefore I am bound to say I think that for the present those rules are right and wise, and rules which the House would do well to support, and I do not in any way regret the sanction which the Irish Government has already given to them. I therefore hope this matter will not be pressed forward at the present time. These rules are made each year, and can be reviewed from time to time when the Irish language occupies an even stronger position educationally than it is enabled to play at the present time. I ask the House to reject the Motion of the hon. Member and to allow this literary course to be divided in this way that everybody who likes can take up either Irish or French and German. [Mr. HAZLETON: "Why penalise Irish?"] The exhibitions are divided equally between them or very nearly. Last year in Division 1—Irish and French or German—there were thirteen first-class and thirty-one second-class exhibitions; while in Division 2—French and German—there were twenty-three first-class and twenty-six second-class exhibitions. There are rules under which when two or more candidates are equal in merit and exhibition may be given to each, and that may slightly increase the number. The Intermediate Board keep the exhibitions equally divided between the two divisions, and I think that, for the reasons I have given, the rules are for the time being good and sound educationally.


Does the right hon. Gentleman think it fair to give 323 boys £840 in exhibitions, and to 4,389 boys who took Irish £640 in exhibitions?


Yes, I do.


Is that equal division?


I think it is perfectly fair. Take the classical schools. There are comparatively few persons go in for the classical schools, and yet they get as large a number of exhibitions as any others. You cannot count these things entirely per capita.


I regret exceedingly the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, because he has given us an opportunity to do our best to establish a strong school of Irish study in different university centres, up to which the intermediate education of the country ought to lead. The great majority of us are agreed that we want every boy growing up in Ireland and getting a reasonably good education, to include the Irish language as a portion of his education. How many languages does the right hon. Gentleman think an ordinary schoolboy ought to learn? Most of us think he ought to learn Latin, and, if possible, a second and a third language as well. There will always be a considerable minority who will not conform to our assumption that every boy ought to learn Irish. I am desirous that they should learn French and German as well. But you cannot expect everybody to learn three modern languages, and as far as possible, it should be our idea to bring Irish into the education of every educated Irishman.

The Intermediate Education Board have taken a most definite stand on this matter. They have deliberately used their power to drive people into learning German. They have offered a bribe to those who will neglect to learn Irish. That is what it comes to. They have said that they will divide the exhibitions equally between the modern languages group, in which the students take French and German, and the other group, in which they may take either French and Irish, or, I presume, German and Irish, knowing well that the group in which Irish is taken will be three or four times as numerous as the other. They do not even stand by their own rule. They establish an absolute equality of division, but numerically there are forty-nine exhibitions in the smaller group as against forty-four in the larger, and in point of value also the smaller group has an advantage. I am quite prepared to admit that possibly there should be more second-class exhibitions in the Irish group, because the teaching of Irish is not yet on a satisfactory basis. I am glad that a rigid standard is insisted upon in that matter. I was delighted to see a fierce attack made on the teaching of Irish by the examiners of the Intermediate Education Board, who were leading persons in the Gaelic League. That makes for good sound education. But I say we ought to have a reasonably fair system of distribution between the two groups, and that the number of exhibitions ought to be proportionate to the number of youths in the two groups. That seems to me to be common fair play. I am bound to say that I cannot at all enter into the notion of justice which seems to have regulated the Chief Secretary's action on this occasion. I rise here simply because we have no control in this matter, and because all that we can do in this House is to give utterance to public opinion. I wish to put on record my view that the Intermediate Education Board have in this case deliberately done an unfair thing.


The hon. Gentleman the Member for Galway City (Mr. Gwynn) has just told the House that he desires to put on record the opinion of the Intermediate Education Board held in his part of the country. I desire to intervene very briefly to respectfully put on record what I believe to be the opinion of the Board prevailing in other parts of Ireland. That is that we entirely approve of the firm attitude that the Government have taken up under the pressure that has been brought to bear upon them during the last four years to give special facilities for the endowment of the Irish language. May I remind the House that there were some interesting figures read out this afternoon in answer to certain questions. These proved that, whatever may be the explanation or the reason, the standard reached by the students of Irish at the present time in Ireland is utterly inadequate to qualify for any grants whatever of public money. I entirely agree that the reason that has been given by the Chief Secretary partly, at least, explains the matter. It is this: That this sentimental demand for the teaching of Irish which has come to the front so much of recent years is in advance of the number of Irishmen and Irishwomen qualified to give proper tuition in the language. I hope that that is rapidly being overtaken. Whilst, too, we treat the teaching of Irish as a sentimental subject, we do not wish to be taken as at all hostile to it in its higher standards.

But there is a larger question behind. I very respectfully put it to the House, and more particularly to hon. Members below the Gangway, if in pressing this question forward they are really doing their best to equip the young men and women of Ireland for the battle of commercial life that we are anxious they should be fully qualified for? Take our great cities in Ireland—not to speak of those in Scotland and England. We want there a continued succession of young men coming forward well equipped for modern commercial requirements. I respectfully ask: Is the knowledge of Irish a commercial requirement? I entirely agree with the mover of this Resolution in the suggestion that he made that so far the State has not done its duty financially to Ireland as regards secondary education. So long as the amount available for secondary education is so miserably inadequate surely we are entitled to see that the commercial requirements of the times are first dealt with, and fully and adequately dealt with, before we allocate a larger proportion of that inadequate sum to the teaching of what I have already described as a sentimental language?

I remember the discussion that took place on this matter four years ago. I remember Mr. Bryce, in his sincere sympathy, I believe, with the desire for the teaching of the Irish language yielded to the demands of our friends below the Gangway. We all know the sequel? We know that the Commissioners were legally right, and notwithstanding the threat of Mr. McDonnell they stood to their guns, and the House had finally to recede from the position it took up. I am delighted that the Chief Secretary is not going to make a similar mistake. I find little to complain of in the statement he has just made to the House. I congratulate him upon realising where his duty lies in this matter. I only regret that he should have proclaimed, in the course of the statement he made, that the Irish people if they had adopted a certain measure might have had by this time control, not only of their educational affairs, but of other affairs also. I venture to ask Members of the House to take note that if we had in Ireland at present that control to which the Chief Secretary looks forward so cheerfully and so hopefully we would have the teaching of Irish going on first and the teaching of commercial languages coming next.


I venture to think there is no greater humbug and sham than to pretend that in Ireland German has any value in connection with what is called modern commercial training. You can always hire a German waiter for about 15s. a week. Taking the whole of Ireland, it must be remembered that so far as the commercial business of the country is done, German—I am speaking of its commercial value as a language—is absolutely unnecessary. All our commercial life so called— because we are merely the handlers of English goods—is done by middlemen, who do all their work from London, and the notion that German is of the smallest value for any purpose except when you go abroad, if you do go abroad, to be able to pretend to ask for a plate from a German waiter is the most absolute absurdity. In Belfast I once met a German. I think he was the only German there—he was the local Consul—


The Lord Mayor.


Was it the Lord Mayor? I never met him. In Belfast, no doubt, they are very anxious to show their sympathy and they could not get an honest Belfast man to oppose this motion. They got a Scotchman who has a respect for German. I will not say any more as to his antecedent roots or origin, but so far as he is concerned he is the only relation that exists between Ireland and Germany. It is not that these Gentlemen above the Gangway desire to have German. If Irishmen engaged in studying Chinese or Hebrew or Choctow or Sanscrit, they would say what splendid workers they are in the field of philological research. But the moment they begin to study anything concerning their own country, then the Undertakers — I mean the Undertakers in the sense of two or three centuries ago — those who have lately come hither into the land, and who hate the native race, and desire to drive them out, and whose ignorance gives them a contempt and bitterness for everything that was great and glorious in the past—these gentlemen think that modern German, which is probably as contemptible a language as you could possibly have, and in which I defy any gentleman in this House, except the Secretary of War, to express himself intelligibly for five minutes, pretend that the great thing for young Irish boys in Connemara or Donegal or Moville or the Island of Achill is to be able to translate Schopenhauer.

12.0 M.

The view I take of the Irish language is this: It divides itself into two considerations. In the first place, it is an absolutely unsoiled language, it has nothing of the commercial or modern research, or spiritualism, or Christian science, or anti-vaccination, nor even could you state the current price of rubber in it. The reason why we venture to press it is because it brings you back to ancient times, ancient days, and ancient people, to the chivalry, gentlehood, kinship, and the liberties of past centuries. It does not connect us with county councils, it does not connect us with gas or water, but it brings to the people who study it free air, and the very times and the very men of 2,000 years ago. Its proverbs, its songs, its speeches, and its poetry breathe of a past time when Ireland was great, and was not subjected even to Scotchmen, when our breed sent the men across to Scotia who made Scotland great, and whose descendants perhaps are not as great as their ancestors. Sir, that is the reason why the Irish people desire to be brought into touch with those past days, and that is why we are content to leave the language of the German and the Choctow, yes, even the language of the invaders with whom we are threatened—the gentlemen of the "Dreadnoughts"—that is why we are content to give them a lesser position than the language of our country. Nobody is more conscious than I am—and I rejoice in it— of the fact that the English are beginning to discover their own country. I think it is a new discovery for most Englishmen.

When I came into this House first every Englishman thought the beginning of England was the time of William the Conqueror, and you were all proud of thinking that you had been soundly thrashed by a pack of Frenchmen from Normandy. Even you of the rubber estates are beginning to discover that you had a past before the eleventh century, and Englishmen are beginning to find that there is something behind nationality: race, blood and all that ancient thought descending from father to son. I have accordingly been glad to notice again and again within the last ten years, no matter who has been in power, no narrow or restricted gospel proceeding from the Government Bench as to Irish, but that a desire that in the past of this ancient race you should find something to admire, and from which to draw instruction. I think with regard to these restrictions, of which my hon. Friend behind me complained, we are not altogether free from fault ourselves. The gentlemen who are concerned with teaching the Irish language might separate and divide it into two categories, and give prizes for Irish music and Irish songs. They can be taught apart. Even those who know nothing of the language will be struck by the beauty and the liquidness of Irish songs and Irish music. Let them treat that as one subject, and then deal with the grammar in a wholly different fashion.

You must remember, when you attack the Intermediate Education Board, and when you deal with men who probably draw their inspiration from a prior generation, that the notation of Irish which is treasured and cuddled by those who think it a thing of wonder is the most repellant and least attractive thing connected with it. It is really these precisions which are at the bottom of the repugnance of the gentlemen connected with the teaching board. No Englishman now thinks there is any learning in being able to spell, and the thing which is keeping back Irish lore and learning is a matter largely in our own hands. You can learn German and French in less time, and I can well conceive the gentlemen connected with the Intermediate Board telling these gentlemen who are pushing on the question of Irish learning saying "Bring us decent grammars, bring us a decent system of spelling which will not waste the time of our pupils on absurd knowledge which merely consists of knowing whether ' B' should precede 'E,' neither having anything to do with the sound," and insist that we should first put our own house in order. That view does not at all relieve the Government from the argument which has been put forward by my hon. Friend behind me. He has shown that in a country where Irish ought to be the subject of special consideration, three, if not four times—perhaps I might be right in saying ten times—as much money is allotted to the student of one of the foreign tongues as is allotted to the student of the native tongue. That is the reproach. You may say you want to encourage German and you may want to encourage French. But how much advantage have hon. Gentlemen derived from reading French novels. How has the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War advantaged himself by his translation of Schopenhauer? The teaching of Irish means the teaching of the life of our own country, and I do respectfully urge that all the present talk about Colonial Preference should yield to Irish learning and Irish preference.


After fifty years experience in the commercial capital of Ireland, I have no hesitation in saying that German is the most important language for a young boy or girl coming into business life. French comes next and after that Spanish, and these are the three most important languages for business purposes in a city like Belfast. I remember the time when French was the most important, but to-day it is German, and anyone who wants to succeed in business in Belfast must have a knowledge of two languages, German being the most needed. To learn Irish, so far as Belfast is concerned, would be a sheer waste of time from a business point of view. It would occupy, as is admitted, a great deal of time. Young men and young women with a knowledge of German and French can always command much larger salaries than others who do not know the languages, and who can simply do shorthand and typewriting. I was delighted to hear the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who seems to understand the wants of a progressive country. I happen to be a governor of the Campbell College at Belfast, which is largely endowed, and which has a large number of pupils. I was asked by the managers, as a business man, to give the benefit of my experience in regard to the languages which the pupils in this college should be taught, and I put the curriculum as I have put it to-night—German first, French second, and Spanish third. I think those are the languages which any young man, and any young woman either, should learn if they wish to make progress in the City of Belfast, and after the remarks of the hon. Member for North Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) I could not refrain from expressing the necessity for a knowledge of French and German.


I am entirely in favour of the Motion of my hon. Friend, but I have not arrived at this decision hastily; there was a time, probably up to a very recent period, when I should have been opposed to or hesitating in regard to it, not on account of under-rating Irish, but because I believe that in our whole modern education science should bulk much more largely than it does. After all, however, that is a question of competition between language on the one hand and science on the other; but in fining it down to the issue of one language against another, I would venture to think that the whole pith of this matter is to be found in one phrase of the Board itself. They say:— The Board are of opinion that for intermediate Students the study of French or German is of greater value and likely to be of greater use in after life than that of Irish. Irish has been called a sentimental language, but I thoroughly agree with the hon. Member for North Louth, that in this particular regard, as this question applies to Irish boys living in Ireland, it is French and German which are sentimental languages. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has spoken of the great advantage of French or German in commercial life, but I ask whether those who are capable of conducting a commercial correspondence have learnt their French or German in intermediate schools.


The foundation was laid there.


It may have been, but when I went to Universities abroad I discovered that, although I had been trained in school in regard to them, I know little of French or German which would be of any use in that way, and I actually had to devise means of my own for instructing myself in those languages, recognising for the first time that French and German were really living languages, and spoken by men of flesh and blood. I remember the First Secretary of the American Embassy in Paris who said to me:— Our Government make a great mistake when they send our Ambassadors here for four years, and when they are beginning to pick up French nicely they take them away. That was his experience after living in Paris fox forty years—that a residence of four years enabled men to begin "to pick up French nicely." I do not think after that four years' training the Ambassador would have been competent to conduct a correspondence in French. If it were not for Irish, one might question the advantage of any study of language at all. The Greeks were the brightest minds of all antiquity, but not even their greatest men knew any language other than their own; and those in our modern day who most resemble the Greeks, and stand on the very highest flight of intellectual merit, the French, are the most signally ignorant of modern languages of any people in the civilised world. Although the Germans are proficient in modern languages, and astonishingly so in French and English, perhaps in regard to their past history it may be with certain ulterior motives. Those motives may be put forward as a reason why we should learn German. That is perhaps at the back of the minds of the Germans in their study of modern languages. M. Rochefort, the former editor of the "Intransigeant," who lived in London for a great number of years, refused to learn English because he said it would spoil his style. I am inclined to think, when I listen to gentlemen from Belfast, who live in the ambiance of beautiful things out of touch with all that is vivid in the life of Ireland, that one of their objections to Irish may be that they are afraid it may spoil their style.

It is said that these modern languages, French and German, are better taught; but that again, to my mind, would be a reason for the preference of Irish. No matter how well these languages are taught, they can never be well enough taught to be of great service to a boy or girl in Ireland. I do not speak in any disparagement of these languages. Not a day passes but I refresh my memory of French. I never go a long journey without taking a German book in my pocket—a book of science. Science, after all, is the only motive whatever which should induce anyone to study German, except, perhaps, for two or three names in literature—Schiller, Goethe, and Heine. With regard to commercial advantages, I would take the challenge up directly. I say Irish may be in indirect effect of greater commercial advantage than German. After all, Ulster is not the entire world, and Ireland is not the entire world of Irishmen. Irishmen may emigrate to Australia, to South Africa, to the glorious Republic of the West, where floats the Stars and Stripes. I never utter the name without a thrill of gratitude in my mind at what has been accomplished under the Stars and Stripes, knowing that there are many Irish exiles there. You will find more Irish spoken in the streets of New York or Chicago or St. Louis than you will find in many towns in Ireland. Irish even becomes a useful thing when the people emigrate, for it immediately forms a bond of brotherhood among exiles. In all those immense tracts I have mentioned French and German are of absolutely no use at all. Even in Germany itself I venture to say that German is of very little use to the English-speaking visitor. If a visitor from an English-speaking country wishes to learn the language, one of the disadvantageous things which he finds in connection with living in Berlin is how many Germans know English and that they are more concerned to speak English than German.

I have pointed out where the advantage of Irish comes in. You cannot measure the advantage of a language merely by saying that the use of it in a commercial sphere will bring so many shillings a week more. Irish, after all, is the native language of the people. It is of their blood and bone, and it is distincive of their race. Many of the authors whose names adorn English literature have sprung from the Irish race. I happened to talk to a French lady some time ago, and she informed me that the English authors she admired were Sheridan, Goldsmith, and Sterne. While they have brightened English literature, they drew their inspiration from an Irish source. I maintain that the study of Irish would be a better preparation for Irish boys and girls than French or German given in little snippets, badly taught, and easily forgotten. "Leicht bei einander wohnen die Gedanken" —"Easily one with the other dwell the thoughts." I quote these words of Goëthe to enforce this argument. Two languages, he said, are necessary to an educated man, because the man who knows only one language does not know that language

properly. Some of us remember those dreadful years at school when we tried to pack into our brains Latin declensions and Greek irregular verbs, which leave very little trace behind. I say again you cannot measure the advantage of a language by merely commercial considerations. The Irish language is redolent of the spirit, the history, and the genius of the country.

There is another reason which might make us respect the claim for the teaching of Irish. In Bohemia all the arguments which are used against the teaching of Irish were used with even greater force against the teaching of the Czech language. I believe it was said there that if a certain roof had fallen the Czech language would have been lost; but the roof did not fall, and there is not one boy in Bohemia now who does not learn his native tongue. Has that been to the disadvantage of Bohemia? No. It has given new life and spirit to the country, as I know from my intercourse with Bohemians. It has given a new soul, and a new impetus to that country and it has made a literature. As to this Motion of my hon. Friend, there are considerations far beyond mere commercial considerations. Man does not live by bread alone. Man cannot subsist merely on ledgers. There are other considerations besides these, and it is very intimate to the point we are now discussing to put in a word for the Irish language; and in spite of the opposition of those who are unfriendly to that language, as they are unfriendly to the advancement of everything national in Ireland. If there were no other reason that consideration alone would make me support the Motion of my hon. Friend. The question has been held up as a banner, and once it has been held up as a banner, we Nationalists are all anxious to rally round the standard and to enter into the fight for the language of Ireland.

Question put.

The House divided: Ayes, 46; Noes, 75.

Division No. 56.] AYES. [12.30 a.m.
Barry, Edward (Cork, S.) Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Hogan, Michael
Bowerman, Charles W. Flavin, Michael Joseph Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)
Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) Gill, Alfred Henry Joyce, Michael
Brady, Patrick Joseph Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway) Kennedy, Vincent Paul
Burke, E. Havlland- Hackett, John Lardner, James Carrige Rushe
Crean, Eugene Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) Lundon, Thomas
Cullinan, John Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Lynch, Arthur Alfred
Dairymple, Viscount Hazleton, Richard MacVeagh, Jeremiah
Doris, William Healy, Maurice (Cork, N.E.) Meagher, Michael
Duffy, William J. Healy, Timothy Michael Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)
Muldcon, John O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.) Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
Mannetti, Joseph P. O'Shaughnessy, P. J. Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)
Nolan, Joseph Phillips, John (Longford, S.) Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)
O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Pointer, Joseph
O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) Scanlan, Thomas TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Thomas O'Donnell and Mr. Kelly.
O'Doherty, Philip Seddon, James A.
O'Dowd, John
Adkins, W. Ryland D. Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Ainsworth, John Stirling Haworth, Arthur A. Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Armitage, Robert Helme, Norval Watson Sanders, Robert Arthur
Attenborough, Walter Annis Higham, John Sharp Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Baker, Harold T. (Accrington) Hindle, Frederick George Seely, Col., Right Hon. J. E. B.
Balcarres, Lord Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. Shackleton, David James
Barclay, Sir Thomas Horner, Andrew Long Soares, Ernest Joseph
Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.) Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Spicer, Sir Albert
Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.) Jackson. John A. (Whitehaven) Summers, James Woolley
Beale, William Phipson Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil) Tennant, Harold John
Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, S. Geo.) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Thompson, Robert
Bentham, George Jackson Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Keswick, William Toulmin, George
Carllie, Edward Hildred King, Joseph (Somerset, North) Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Chapple, W. A. Lewis, John Herbert Verney, Frederick William
Clough, William Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Mond, Alfred Moritz Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Courthope, George Loyd Morpeth, Viscount Watt, Henry A.
Crawshay-Williams, Eliot Muspratt, Max Williams, Aneurin (Plymouth)
Dawes, James Arthur Neilson, Francis Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)
Falconer, James Newton, Harry Kottingham Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)
Grant, James Augustus Paget, Almeric Hugh Willoughby, Major Hon. Claude
Grenfell, Cecil Alfred Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)
Gulland, John William Pickersgill, Edward Hare
Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B. Pringle, William M. R. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Master of Elibank and Mr. Fuller.
Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale) Raffan, Peter Wilson

Question put, and agreed to.