§ Mr. KENDAL O'BRIEN
asked the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Ireland) whether he has directed the County Committee of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for North Tipperary to dismiss their secretary, and refused to assign any reason for his action when requested by the committee to do so; if he is aware that the secretary, Mr. Walsh, has held the position for the past nine years, and at the end of the first six years got an increase in salary for his efficiency, with the approval of the Department; whether he will state what has since taken place to justify its change of attitude; whether it is usual with his Department to dictate to the elected representatives of the people whom they should employ; whether he will state if the work of the local committee is at present at a standstill; and, if so, from what cause?
The HON. MEMBER
further asked whether the North Tipperary committee has refused to dismiss their secretary at the instance of his Department; if the local committee requested the Department to state its reasons for desiring the dismissal of Mr. Walsh; if so, what reply the Department gave; and whether there is any, and, if so, what, objection in this case to confer with the local committee on matters affecting the future progress of the Department's work in their district?
§ Mr. T. W. RUSSELL
I will answer both these questions together. From time to time during the past seven years the Department have had occasion to bring under the notice of both the Agricultural Committee and the Technical Instruction Joint Committee for North Tipperary the very unsatisfactory manner in which the duties of secretary to both of these bodies were discharged. The committees in question, however, appealed that the secretary should be given a chance to improve, and the Department accordingly did not press for his removal, in the expectation that such an improvement would be effected. As, however, his methods of working did not improve, the Department, having regard to the obligations imposed on them by Statute, considered it desirable in 1908 to send three officers to investigate on the spot his work generally.820W A copy of the report furnished by these officers was forwarded in July, 1908, to the Committee with an intimation that, as a result of a review of his work from 1902, the Department were quite satisfied that the secretary was incompetent for the position, and that, accordingly, they could not agree to his retention after September following. A deputation, consisting of 19 members of the two Committees waited on the Department subsequently, and made an ad misericordian appeal on behalf of Mr. Walsh, which was acceded to in the view accepted by the Department that a continuance in office for six months would give him an opportunity of resigning instead of being summarily removed from office. This understanding, however, was not carried out, and accordingly the Department during the present summer notified the county committee that the secretary must definitely go out of office on 30th September, 1909. Mr. Walsh then resigned the appointment of secretary to the technical instruction committee, but declined to relinquish the post of secretary to the agricultural committee. The latter committee did not dispense with Mr. Walsh's services, and, consequently, the Department notified the committee that all the agricultural schemes would cease to be operative on 1st inst. At a special meeting of the county council, however, held on 19th inst., the chairman of the committee of agriculture was directed to issue advertisements for the appointment of a new secretary, in accordance with the Department's regulations, and it is hoped that agricultural schemes will be put in force again at an early date. With regard to the grounds on which the Department formed their opinion of the late secretary's incompetency, they are well within the knowledge of practically every member of the county committee, the majority of whom are also members of the county council, as they were communicated to the committee by the Department on many occasions. The Department have shown every consideration for the views of this committee, with two deputations from whom they have already conferred. They are always prepared to confer with county committees when any useful purpose could be served. Three years ago the committee recommended that the secretary's salary be increased by £30 to enable him to employ an assistant, and the Department agreed. This increase was not asked for nor granted on the ground of efficiency of the secretary.821W