School Attendance Bill, 1942—Committee Stage.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
SECTION 3.

I move amendment No. 1:—

In sub-section (2), page 2, line 32 to insert after the word "following" the words "but no other."

The object of the amendment is to ensure that there shall be no ambiguity in the reasons given for the absence of children from school. It simply strengthens the clause.

A suitable school is defined as a school certified by the Minister as being suitable. Is that not so?

Does the Minister certify schools outside this State?

I do not think so.

If a parent in this State sends his child to a school in Northern Ireland, what is his position? Perhaps the Minister will tell me that.

I could not say. It is a hypothetical question.

Is the Minister joking? Did he ever hear of the Diocese of Derry, which has portion of its territory in this State and which has a school in Derry to which children are sent from this State? Does he know that children are sent out of this country for education?

No question has arisen under the School Attendance Act.

I wish the Minister would attend to what he is legislating. Here are parents who send their children out of this State to school. They are now committing an offence unless one of the excuses mentioned can be brought forward. Which excuse of those which the Minister prescribes can in that case be brought forward?

It is not my business to make an excuse.

The Minister has not the slightest sense of responsibility. That is quite obvious. He is legislating in this matter, and he must take account of that possibility and that actuality, but he does not do so. If he proposes legislation here, he is responsible for the effects of that legislation.

It is very surprising that the Deputy did not deal with the matter when he was introducing the Principal Act. He has allowed 16 years to pass without referring to it.

Excuse me; the Deputy did do that. If the Minister will look up the point, he will see that in the original Act the section says: "If a parent is providing suitable education otherwise." Now only these excuses set out are allowed, and it does not come under Section 4 of this Act, which defines suitable education otherwise than in a suitable or recognised school. There was provision for that case in the original Act, but there is no such provision here, and parents, if they do it, are violating the law and should be prosecuted, according to the Bill. The Minister has no answer?

I have no power to have schools outside the jurisdiction of this State examined for suitability.

I know the Minister has not, but does he not see that that is my point? He is making it an offence for parents to act as I suggest precisely because he has no power to act outside the State. It is an offence under this Bill and he makes no provision for it. People frequently send their children out of the State to school. They have a parental right to do so, and I do not think the Minister should interfere with it; but undoubtedly he is making them commit an offence if they do so, because, as he says, he has no power to certify any of these schools as a suitable school. That is his own statement. Which proviso of this legislation makes provision for such a parent? Surely not Section 4? I object to the amendment, and I say that the Minister has no conception of the rights of parents.

The Minister realises the difficulty in which the point raised by Deputy O'Sullivan has put the House in relation to his amendment. Could the Minister set the minds of Deputies at rest with regard to this point?

I have no means of setting the minds of Deputies at rest in the matter unfortunately, for the reason that I have stated, that I have no control over schools outside the jurisdiction of the State.

It is precisely because the Minister has no power, but he is now making it an offence. Will the Minister answer this question? Will it not be an offence if a parent does not send his child to a suitable school in this State?

In the event of such a parent being prosecuted, it will surely be a matter for the court to determine.

It is deliberately laid down here that the only excuses are the ones mentioned, and then the Minister leaves it to the court to disregard the Act. That is what we are asked to legislate. The thing is contemptuous and contemptible.

The Deputy has raised a particular case that he knows is a difficult case, a case that has come under notice before, and in another connection it was explained to the authorities concerned—they should understand the position, and I am sure they do—that outside this State the Minister for Education has no authority to inspect schools for suitability under this Act or otherwise.

The Minister either cannot or will not understand what is involved. I am not going to make up my mind which alternative is the true one. But he is now dealing with parents in this State, not outside the State, who send their children to schools outside this State, and he says that he cannot certify them. In other words, they are not sending their children to a suitable school within the meaning of this Bill. They come under none of the exceptions mentioned here; in other words, as a result of the legislation the Minister is proposing, they are committing an offence, and the only answer that the Minister gives when he does that is to say that, though they are committing an offence, it is to be overlooked. That is decidedly bad legislation.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 42; Níl, 23.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Corry, Martin J.
  • Crowley, Tadhg.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Friel, John.
  • Fuller, Stephen.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Humphreys, Francis.
  • Kelly, James P.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick J.
  • Loughman, Francis.
  • Lynch, James B.
  • McCann, John.
  • McDevitt, Henry A.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Meaney, Cornelius.
  • Moran, Michael.
  • Morrissey, Michael.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán. T.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • O'Sullivan, Ted.
  • Rice, Brigid M.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Laurence J.
  • Ward, Conn.

Níl

  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Byrne, Alfred.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Curran, Richard.
  • Daly, Patrick.
  • Davin, William.
  • Dockrell, Henry M.
  • Everett, James.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Giles, Patrick.
  • Hughes, James.
  • Keating, John.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • McEadden, Michael Og.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Mongan, Joseph W.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, Timothy J.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Sullivan, John M.
  • Pattison, James P.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Smith and Seán Brady; Níl: Deputies McMenamin and Hughes.
Amendment declared carried.

I move amendment No. 2:—

In sub-section (2), (a), line 35, page 2, after the word "child" to insert the words "provided however that whenever a child has been prevented from attending school by sickness for more than one week, the parent shall forward to the principal teacher a medical certificate or certificates covering the whole period of absence".

One of the reasonable excuses given for a child being absent from school is that the child has been prevented from attending school by the sickness of the child. I propose to add, after the word "child" the words "provided, however, that whenever a child has been prevented from attending school for more than one week, the parent shall forward to the principal teacher a medical certificate or certificates covering the whole period of absence". I submit that an amendment like that is necessary for a certain number of reasons. Firstly, we are dealing here with compulsory school attendance. I take it that we are dealing with that for a general, national purpose, and that you do not want to introduce another compulsion on parents, but I think that in so far as any additional influence can be brought on parents to see that children who are sick are medically attended, use should be made of any opportunities to bring about that influence, and therefore I think it is advisable, in the first instance, that a child who is sick for, say, a week, should have a doctor called in, and also that if a medical certificate is not produced, we should know up to what stage a certificate of the parents will be accepted that the absence of the child is caused by illness. I think that if the administration of the law is to be effective there should be no serious objection to the requirement, by statute, that absence of the child from school for a period of over a week, in the case of illness, should be covered by a medical certificate.

I am not prepared to accept this amendment. I think it would add great difficulties to the administration of the school attendance code. It would impose hardship upon parents of slender means, who would have to pay for these medical certificates. I do not think that any further steps are necessary, beyond the measures that have been laid down in the present Bill, and I do not think that this is one which should be added.

If the Minister considers that he has given a considerable amount of thought to this, I have no desire to press the amendment, but you have the situation that a very considerable amount of attention is being paid now to the question of public medical services for children, and the necessity for doing that is becoming more and more apparent. I do not quite see the Minister's point as to the expensiveness of having these medical certificates issued. I think that if a doctor is attending a patient of any kind there is no very great expense in providing certificates for various purposes, and I do not think there should be very much expense involved in providing certificates to cover the absence of children from school.

Is the amendment being withdrawn?

I have no desire to press it, if there is no support for it from the House.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That Section 3, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

On Section 3, Sir. Sub-section (2) says: "any of the following shall be a reasonable excuse for failure to comply with this section", and then paragraph (d) gives as one of the reasons that the child has been prevented from attending school by some other unavoidable cause. I should like to ask the Minister what he has in mind when he uses the phrase "unavoidable cause"?

It would be very difficult to lay down the different causes which might be regarded by the court and by reasonable persons as being unavoidable. Complaints have been made from time to time that the existing provision is not sufficiently rigid. On the Second Reading, Deputy Linehan suggested that if the day were a very bad one and the child had to travel a considerable distance, for example, in heavy rain, possibly not very well clad or shod, that should be considered as an unavoidable cause. As matters stand now, that question will be left to the determination of the court. It would not be feasible, I think, to put down an amendment setting out the different reasons, including even that particular reason of bad weather. We are not blest with a very good climate and any suggestion that bad weather conditions would be sufficient reason for keeping children from school would, I fear, be taken advantage of by those who are anxious to get some pretext to keep their children from school. I have given the matter a certain amount of consideration, but I have not been able to say what should be regarded as sufficient cause, so much depends on the particular circumstances, and I think that the court, which, presumably, will have all the facts before it, would be able to decide whether the cause in fact is unavoidable.

The position then is that this is the phrase which puts it in the power of a parent to come before a court and plead that a particular set of circumstances were an unavoidable cause for keeping the child from school, and the discretion is then left entirely to the court?

Section 3 (1) says:—

The parent of any child to whom the Principal Act applies shall, unless there is a reasonable excuse for not so doing, cause such child to attend a national school, a suitable school, or a recognised school....

I would like to ask the Minister if he would indicate the difference between a "suitable school" and a "recognised school" as referred to in this particular Bill. From the point of view of this Bill, does the definition of "suitable school" or "recognised school" exclude a school on the other side of the Border, say, in Fermanagh, Derry, Down or Armagh? Does it prevent a school on the other side of the Border being recognised as either a suitable school or a recognised school?

There are the ordinary national schools; there are other suitable schools, that is to say, schools which are certified by the Minister as suitable. There are recognised schools defined in Section 2 of the Bill. As regards the question of schools across the Border, that is a matter, as I have indicated on the last amendment, I fear it would be impossible to deal with, as far as I can see, in the present Bill. The position has been there for the past 16 years. I do not think it has given rise to any serious trouble and I do not anticipate that the present provisions are likely to give rise to any serious trouble either. As I have said, I think, if parents are prosecuted for sending their children to school outside the jurisdiction of the State, the court will have regard to the circumstances.

Under what section of this Bill can they have regard to them?

The court can always have regard to circumstances. It may consider clause (d) which we have just referred to—the unavoidable cause.

A parent sends his child across the Border to school, and the excuse is it is an unavoidable cause.

Like a wet day.

That is what we have got to now. The answer is quite as intelligent as what the Minister gave up to the present. The Minister says the position has obtained for 16 years, but the Minister does not recognise that he is now limiting and fixing what are recognised excuses. Before, there was a general clause as regards the child getting suitable education elsewhere. That is gone. Under this Bill if a person in Inishowen sends his child to Derry, he violates the provisions of this Bill, and is liable to prosecution, and the only thing the Minister can say is that the court will ignore the Act. I argued that already. I do not want to go into it again. There is no good in arguing the matter. The Minister says the position has been there for 16 years, when he is changing the whole business, and when he is limiting the power that was there under Section 4, sub-section (b) of the Act of 1926.

Mr. Byrne

Will the Minister say whether, in weather like this, a cold, damp, fireless school in the City of Dublin is a suitable school? Will the Minister say whether it is not possible to see that proper fires are maintained in the schools during this cold wet weather, so as not to have children, as he said, in some cases half-naked and not properly shod, going into cold, and in some cases damp, schools with fireless grates?

Those conditions are not relevant to this section, nor to this Bill.

Mr. Byrne

The word "suitable" is contained in the section.

The word "suitable" evidently refers to the curriculum of the school.

Mr. Byrne

Regardless of the building?

Mr. Byrne

Under what section could I ask that question?

That is not for the Chair to indicate. It was debated on Second Stage, and even then with questionable relevance.

Mr. Byrne

I thought on the word "suitable" I could draw attention to the fireless grates in some city schools.

The Deputy is mistaken.

Mr. Byrne

I hope the Minister will see to it that there are proper grants made to keep the schools properly heated.

We hear a great deal from time to time in this country about the curse of Partition, but here now, and almost unsuspectingly, this House is asked to pass a law under which if the Acts as we pass them were to be administered according to the letter and clear indication of these Acts, it would be an offence for a child to cross the Border to go to a school contiguous to its place of residence. We are putting it into the power and making it the duty of Civic Guards or school attendance committees to prosecute the parent of that child, and as far as the effect on the parent and child is concerned, we are leaving it to the district justice to shut his eyes to the wording of the legislation which is the only thing he is supposed to have regard to, if he wants to decline to penalise the parent for sending the child across the Border to school. I do not think the House should be asked to pass legislation of that particular kind. I ask the Minister has he anything more to say to the House about it, or has anybody else on the Government Benches anything to say with regard to it.

"That Section 3, as amended, stand part".

I want to ask is there any person on the Government Benches who has anything to say to us when the Minister for Education asks us to pass a law that makes it an offence for a child to cross the Border to attend school?

The Deputy should not repeat himself. That is the third time he has put that question.

I am risking even infringing the regulations of this House if the House is to be asked to pass legislation in this blinkered fashion which places another row of bricks along the Border. I think it is a shocking business. Is there anybody on the Fianna Fáil Benches who has anything to say about it?

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 45; Níl, 26.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Corry, Martin J.
  • Crowley, Tadhg.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Friel, John.
  • Fuller, Stephen.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Humphreys, Francis.
  • Kelly, James P.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick J.
  • Loughman, Francis.
  • Lynch, James B.
  • McCann, John.
  • McDevitt, Henry A.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Meaney, Cornelius.
  • Moran, Michael.
  • Morrissey, Michael.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Loghlen, Peter J.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • O'Sullivan, Ted.
  • Rice, Brigid M.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Laurence J.
  • Ward, Conn.

Níl

  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Byrne, Alfred.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Curran, Richard.
  • Daly, Patrick.
  • Davin, William.
  • Dockrell, Henry M.
  • Everett, James.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Giles, Patrick.
  • Hannigan, Joseph.
  • Hughes, James.
  • Keating, John.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Mongan, Joseph W.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, Timothy J.
  • Nally, Martin.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Donovan, Timothy J.
  • O'Sullivan, John M.
  • Pattison, James P.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Smith and S. Brady; Níl: Deputies McMenamin and Hughes.
Question declared carried.
SECTION 4.
Question proposed: "That Section 4 stand part of the Bill."

It is now some weeks since, on Second Reading of the Bill, I asked the Minister some questions. I was hoping that he might answer them in his reply, but he has not done so. Before I proceed to discuss the section, perhaps I might repeat the questions to him. The Minister has had a couple of weeks to get the information. Could he give me any idea in how many prosecutions under the Act of 1926 was clause 4 (b) pleaded as an excuse?

I do not remember the Deputy asking me to get that particular information.

Obviously, the Minister does not remember a single word of the speech that I made here on that occasion, because he did not deal with the points I raised. Although this is a very important matter, I am not aware that the Minister thought it even worth discussing it in his reply. What I have in mind is the rights of parents, guaranteed not merely by the Constitution, but the natural law. One of the matters that I was particularly keen on—and one of the matters which I have no doubt the Minister will not look up in my speech —was what were the practical reasons that might induce him to take what seems to me to be a dangerous step— I do not want to say it is a direct violation, but I think it is decidedly dangerous. It might have helped me in that case if the Minister thought it worth while to find out, when he was introducing Section 4 of the Bill as it now stands, how often, in fact, it had been pleaded that the parent was giving satisfactory education. Does the Minister know? I gather he does not— in other words, he does not know what are the practical reasons for introducing this clause, except a desire departmentally to tie up loose ends. If there was a very wide evasion I could understand his anxiety; but whether even then the means proposed would be justified is another matter.

Surely, when he was doing a thing of this kind, indirectly, as it seems to me —I may be wrong—cutting at the root of a principle formally proclaimed in the Constitution, and certainly, whether it was in the Constitution or not, a fundamental principle, as I hold, perhaps the Minister does not, of the natural law, he might, at least, have found out whether the clause as it stood had failed. Has it failed? The Minister does not know. He has no idea how often clause 4(b) of the Act of 1926 has been pleaded by a parent who does not send his children to school. He does not know, and yet he brings in an elaborate section here.

I asked him also, on that occasion, as well as my memory serves me, what precise test he meant to apply. Perhaps the Minister might tell me what is the educational test that the inspector has to apply to the child. Will the Minister give me an idea of that before I go any further?

I will deal with the Deputy's points when he has finished.

The British, when they were here, dealing with primary education, laid down a bad principle and established a rather good practice. Having laid down the principle that all education should be undenominational, as everybody knows, they set about establishing in this country what was, in practice, a denominational system of national education. What are we doing? It seems to me we laid down an excellent principle in our Constitution. I do not say that you are directly violating it and repealing it, but I think you are endangering it. When, in other countries, I see people in whose welfare and future I am—perhaps the Minister might not agree with me and he might say I have no right—intensely interested, pleading as a justification for the claims they make in educational matters the primary duty and the primary rights of parents, I make bold to suggest to the Minister that before he did anything that could even seem to lead and, as I hold in this case, quite unnecessarily to lead, towards endangering these rights, I thought he would have paused.

To tell me that the primary right is the right of the child does not bring me any further. It is not the child who decides in this case. According to my view, there are three people interested in the duty of educating the child. First and foremost come the parents, and then you have the Church and the State. I hold that the primary duty is on the parent and the primary right is the parent's right. I think the Act as it stood tried, as far as was possible, to recognise that right, not to endanger it, anyhow, and surely, before we should seem to run the risk of endangering it, a case should be put before us to show whether the Act in that particular matter had failed. The Minister has been unable to do that. He does not know how often that was pleaded as an excuse, namely, that the parent was providing sufficient education otherwise.

I do not often raise matters of principle in this House except when they seem to be very fundamental. I do not often speak of principles, but this is one of the principles to which I do attach great importance, because I see it violated, formally and openly violated, in many countries. Because I think the whole tendency of modern legislation is a violation of that principle, I thought it necessary to intervene and utter some words of warning. I am not pretending, as I said already, that there is an open kicking of the principle here, but there is a danger. Why not leave it as it was? You suspect that a parent is neglecting his duty. He pleads that he is giving sufficient education by, for instance, private tuition or otherwise. Let him make that case before the justice. On Section 3 (2) (d) which we have just discussed, the Minister had no difficulty in leaving the case to the justice. Why not leave it to him in this case?

I know that I am speaking, to some extent, as an isolated individual, judging from some of the speeches from different parts of the House, but I am not in any sense speaking on this matter as a person on the front Opposition Bench. I am speaking, if you like, as a private Deputy who has a keen interest in this matter and who, possibly, may be unduly nervous of certain developments. The Minister, possibly wisely, did not think it worth while to devote a line to the objections I put forward on Second Reading, but I felt it my duty to make them. I feel that there is a danger and I do not like his step in that direction. If this clause goes through, as I have no doubt it will, I should, personally, like to be taken as dissenting from it on the ground that it is unnecessary—at least, I have heard no case made for it—and, as I think, distinctly dangerous.

It is quite true that the Deputy referred to this matter on Second Reading. I do not think any other voice was raised in the same complaint, and, in any case, so far as my recollection goes, the Deputy was very careful to explain—I hope I am not misinterpreting him—that while he recognised that I was fully within my powers under the Constitution in bringing in this clause, its introduction and passing into law might, as he has just repeated, lead to certain dangers, in his opinion. It is always a question of opinion whether certain legislation will lead to certain dangers or not. I think a great deal depends on the motives of the Government of the day. If the Government of the day stands by the philosophy for which the Irish people are noted, and keeps in mind, as our Constitution does, these principles which are very sacred to our people, it is not very likely that any great dangers will arise, though I do not at all question that it is a very important matter which should be constantly kept in mind. I, personally, and the Government, generally, would certainly regard it as a very important matter. If there should be a Government not bound by these principles—I do not think there is much likelihood of such a Government—I do not think that the tendencies or nuances in the legislative Acts we now put through are likely to be the only excuses, if excuses are being sought. The dangers the Deputy apprehends would really seriously arise only if we have a complete change, a very revolutionary change, of feeling among the common people of the country.

May I suggest that the safeguarding of these principles is not entirely a matter for the Legislature? There are protectors whose special duty it is to see that these important principles are safeguarded, and who, I venture to suggest, will not be lacking in that duty, but will see to it constantly. The fact that particular things are happening on the Continent is not, I hope, to be taken as an indication that such things are likely to happen here. The principle is undoubtedly a very important one, and I think that the section we are now discussing, while endeavouring to see that the basic minimum requirements which the Constitution prescribes as necessary for our children, are satisfied, safeguards the rights of the parents at the same time.

There is the general right of the parent as laid down in the Constitution not to be compelled to send his children to schools or institutions established by the State or to any particular type of school, but, on the other hand, there is the provision that the State must see to it that, in view of actual conditions, a certain minimum education is required and is obtained by our children. There is also, of course, the duty of seeing that every reasonable aid is given in respect of our young people receiving proper education, always having regard again to the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child.

This section prescribes that a certain procedure has to be followed before a school can be recognised as suitable by the Minister. It provides that, before issuing such certificates, the Minister may satisfy himself, by way of inspection or by way of the submission of suitable evidence to him, that in fact the education given in a school is suitable. Should he consider that, on that evidence or on his inspector's report, he is not in a position to issue a certificate, he shall first, according to the present provisions, communicate to the manager or conductor of the school, before refusing to issue it, the ground on which he proposes to refuse such certificate, and must give such parent, or, where appropriate, such manager or conductor, a reasonable opportunity of meeting the requirements of the Minister for the purpose of removing the said ground of refusal.

I think that with the goodwill which that indicates, if there is corresponding goodwill on the part of the parent or parents, and the manager or conductor of the school involved, it ought to be the position, as the question will be a question of fact—whether the children concerned are actually receiving the minimum educational requirements laid down or not—that there cannot be serious misunderstanding. It will, I imagine, come down to a question of whether, in fact, the education given comprises the basic requirements which the Minister for Education would consider necessary.

The Deputy, so far as I remember, did not ask me how many cases there were. Had he asked me specifically, I would have tried to get the information, although it might have been rather difficult. He certainly did ask me what were the reasons for bringing in this proposal, and he now asks again whether the School Attendance Act might not be left as it is. The position is that, in my view, the School Attendance Act has been found wanting. The meaning taken out of it by the Department was that the Minister had power to certify, or to refuse to certify, whether suitable elementary education was given in schools which applied for certificates of suitability.

One particular case, at any rate, has arisen and has been the subject of legal proceedings, and a decision has been given upon it which suggests to me that the present provisions are defective. It may be a matter of opinion whether this situation should be remedied or not. In my opinion, it ought to be remedied. The decision in this particular case was to the effect that a child may be receiving suitable elementary education according to the provisions of the School Attendance Act, 1926, notwithstanding that the subjects in the ordinary curriculum, we will say, of the national schools are not being taught in such a school. According to the present programme, the primary school subjects are: Irish, English (optional for Standard I), mathematics, history, geography, needlework for girls, and music. Therefore, I conceive it to be the policy of the Ministry, in determining whether a particular school which applies for a certificate of suitability is suitable or not, to consider the manner in which it endeavours to provide a curriculum of this nature. If the basic subjects, for example, are not provided in the curriculum of the school, the question may very well arise whether the Minister would consider that he would be justified in giving a certificate of suitability. In this particular case there was no doubt but that a very important basic subject was not being taught in a way to satisfy the Department's representative, and therefore, the question arises whether State policy in a very important matter can be entirely set aside, or whether we have not, at any rate, reached this stage, that we can see that these subjects which we consider are fundamentally necessary from the State point of view are taught in the schools which are to be recognised as suitable.

It is very difficult to deal with this matter. It is a matter, as the Deputy has suggested, of great importance and a rather delicate matter. I fully recognise the difficulties of it. I would rather if it had not been found necessary to deal with it. But, in my opinion, no loophole should be left in this very important matter. The definition of elementary education received a great deal of consideration when the Bill was being considered for drafting, and it was found very difficult, in fact impossible, to arrive at a definition of elementary education which would be applicable and suitable in all the circumstances.

Therefore, alternatively, the present provisions have been drawn up by which, in brief, the Minister has the right to inspect or call for evidence as to the type of education which is being provided in the schools applying for certificates of suitability. He must then, as I have said, communicate to the conductors of the schools or managers that he is prepared to give a certificate or, if not, the reasons why, giving them in the latter case a reasonable opportunity of fulfilling the conditions that he considers necessary to enable him to grant the certificate. I think, as I have said, that having regard to the provisions of the Constitution and to the fact that I hope we are all at one in trying to safeguard these principles and trying to prevent any creeping in of these detestable and harmful foreign doctrines which have been referred to, there is very little danger so far as one can reasonably anticipate—one cannot prophesy as I said in the beginning what may happen in the event of very revolutionary changes—that the provisions which are now set out in Section 4 could of themselves lead to any such dangerous situation as the Deputy thinks might possibly arise as a result of them.

I asked the Minister a question and he said he would deal with it in his reply. What is the nature of the educational test in Section 4 (2) (a) to which a child in a school is submitted?

The inspector examines the school in the ordinary way.

I did not say the school.

In examining the school he examines the children in the school.

There may be no school at all.

In that case the inspector will carry out an examination of the child.

The result of that examination determines whether the education given is sufficient?

That is what I thought you had in mind. Therefore, there may be any amount of education given to the child, but the examination may show that the child has not reached a certain standard. Yet, the parent's right is denied in that case. Of course, the Minister has not even attempted to deal with the cases I put to him. I do not intend to go over his speech. It was quite characteristic and typical of the care that he has given to this question when he says that I did not raise that question or ask for information on the Second Reading. My speech was the first speech after he had introduced the Bill. In column 1558 of Vol. 88, of the Official Reports there is the following:

"I put to him this question first. Has this section been used? How many parents roughly—I do not want it in statistics—have been brought before the courts, have pleaded that they are giving an education in their own homes, and have been dealt with by the magistrate on the grounds that they are not satisfying what the State is entitled to demand—a necessary minimum of education?"

Yet, I am told by the Minister, who has given such great care to the objections made, that I did not ask him for that information, or otherwise in the interval he would try to get it for me.

If I had fears before the Minister spoke, they have been increased since. I take it for granted that it was not for mere show that this principle of the natural law was incorporated in the Constitution, that it was to see that it was observed. The Minister was the first to rely on the hope that nobody in this country would think of violating these fundamental principles. That is no answer. Others will determine whether this is a violation of the Constitution. I never suggested that it was. I gather that the Minister, at least, holds that it is the business of the court to decide these matters. I have heard a different view expressed in this House by a different Minister. However, I shall leave that aside. I am interested in the natural law, and I look upon this, no matter what confidence the Minister has—especially after his speech—as a decided step in the direction of interfering with the natural rights of the parent. I am afraid that in this matter, whatever agreement may be expressed between the Minister and myself, we are speaking in different languages. I have no hope of making him understand mine. I do not think it was any answer at all for him to suggest that I was the only Deputy to raise these matters. That has nothing to do with the case.

I stated, and I state it again now, that I considered it a matter of conscience to raise this matter, even if I were the only Deputy in the House to do so, and I repeat that statement. I gave examples, and if the Minister did not go to the trouble of listening to what I said, he can read what I said, and I think that if he were to do so he would realise the seriousness of the matters I have mentioned. If the Minister denies that I raised these matters, then I consider that I would be wasting the time of the House, and also would be lacking in respect for things that I hold dear if I paid the slightest further attention to the way in which the Minister is conducting this debate.

Is Section 4 agreed to?

No, Sir. Deputy O'Sullivan has raised a very important matter and has discussed, in a very clear way, the difficulty that he has in facing the passing of this particular section. He bases his objection to the section on a danger that he sees in it to a fundamental, constitutional right of parents in this country. He considered it a matter of conscience to deal with the question. I consider it a matter of conscience to deal with another matter that has arisen in this debate, and that is the position of this House in discussing these matters. Arising out of the discussion between himself and the Minister, Deputy O'Sullivan complaints that he and the Minister are speaking an entirely different language and, therefore, apparently do not understand one another. Now, we have a responsibility in this House, as representatives of all sections of the people, to understand one another when speaking of matters, generally, and if we cannot understand the Minister for Education when he puts a case before us in this House, then somebody else, on the part of the Government, ought to try to help the House to understand him. Every approach that the Minister has made to the various matters that have been discussed to-day has done nothing but increase our fears with regard to all kinds of matters. After the Second Reading debate the other day, I thought that we would be coming in here now simply to discuss the Bill from the point of view of making this measure a better piece of machinery for the purpose of administering the School Attendance Acts, but now, if, as it happens, we find ourselves up against some fundamental considerations with regard to education, why should we not discuss them? If also, we find ourselves up against what is perhaps not so important a matter, but still a vitally important matter to the country—that is, the proper carrying on of business in this House—then I think we should discuss that, too.

When it is proposed in a Bill to take powers to wipe out the rights that parents had in the past, I think it is a matter which requires discussion. The Minister put up one case of a school where, apparently, a decision was given that it was a suitable school for persons claiming that they were acting in accordance with the spirit of the compulsory School Attendance Act, and the Minister apparently, rather disagrees with such a judgement and implies that the work that was done in that particular school did not come up to the required standard. The Minister mentioned that, according to the present programme, the primary schools' subjects are Irish, English, mathematics, history, geography, needlework for girls, and, I think, music. He mentioned that these were compulsory subjects, but it seems to me that he rather implied that the Irish language was being left out. I am prepared to consider that the Irish language should have a proper position in education, but I would ask the Minister to consider the position of infants, in the infant standard in schools, who have been sent into classes where there were 111 children or 90 children on the roll. Is a parent to be forced to send children into a school like that in order to safeguard the Irish language? We still have a Ministry that is proceeding in that particular way, and apparently having the spread of the Irish language in view, utterly ignoring the position of the Irish language when it comes to the matter of administration in the Irish-speaking districts, where hundreds upon hundreds of official are being allowed to discharge their duties in these districts although they have not lived up to the qualifications that were required for these particular positions.

Does this matter arise in this connection, Sir?

The question of Irish was raised by the Minister himself.

I did not raise the question except by way of mentioning it as a subject.

Yes, the Minister tried to talk as mysteriously as he could, but I interpret his remarks with regard to such schools as meaning that Irish was not being properly taught in some schools. I am speaking of the question of the rights of the parent, and if the matter of the Irish language is involved there, then why not tell us so? I understood the Minister to say that he was dropping algebra and Euclid as subjects for entry to the preparatory colleges. Why is that being done? Is it because a number of schools in the country were not able to teach these subjects? Although the subject is called mathematics, apparently all that is left in some of the schools is arithmetic, and therefore, the Minister tells us that he is dropping algebra and Euclid as subjects for entry to the preparatory colleges. I should say that anything that could possibly be done to observe the issue here has been done by the Minister. Deputy O'Sullivan has been left to sum up the position by saying that the only reason he could give for this particular section is that the Department wants to tie up some loose ends.

I do not think that this House should be left in the position that Deputies have to sum up in that way, particularly a Deputy so notably conscientious as Deputy O'Sullivan, who for many years was Minister for Education in this country. It ought not to be left for any Deputy to endeavour to sum up out of his own imagination—in view of the lack of information—what the reason for this section is. I again submit to the Government that if the House is going to pass this section after the points that have been raised by Deputy O'Sullivan on it, then we should have a complete explanation as to why this section is being put before us in this way and, in particular, why the section in the 1926 Act, which gave the parent power to look after the education of his child other than by sending him to a school, has been dropped in the way in which it has been dropped. It is a vital thing that the Constitutional rights of the parent should be maintained, but in matters in which any Deputy in this House can say there is a vital principle involved, particularly when a Deputy who has been Minister for Education and who has served as a Minister of the previous Government can raise a question of danger to some vital interest for our people, it is of cardinal importance that there should be a clear statement of the position and the fullest possible explanation of the reasons why this question has been allowed to arise and the exact nature of the plans which the Government contemplate under the sections they present to the House.

I do not think it is necessary for me to add anything further except to put before the House the consideration, which perhaps has not been already suggested, that under this section the Minister has a very wide discretion. Section 4 (1) says:—

"A child shall not be deemed for the purposes of this Act to be receiving suitable education in a manner other than by attending a national school, a suitable school, or a recognised school, unless such education and the manner in which such child is receiving it have been certified under this section by the Minister to be suitable."

Sub-section (2) (a) says:—

"The Minister may, before giving such certificate in respect of a child, require such child to be submitted by his parent to such educational test at such time and place as the Minister shall direct, and the Minister may refuse to give such certificate if such parent fails or refuses so to submit such child."

So that the Minister has discretion in this matter, and I cannot see any Minister for Education in the near future or—I hope—in the distant future, interpreting this clause, if it becomes law, in anything other than a reasonable spirit. He will do what he considers himself in duty bound by the Constitution to achieve, that is, to ensure that all children attending such schools shall receive a basic minimum education. There would be no other consideration in my mind certainly, and I hope it will never happen that any other consideration would be in the mind of any Irish Minister. There would be no question whatever of interfering in any way with the legitimate rights of the parents or of inconveniencing them. I am fully aware of the considerations involved. They have always been referred to when this question of the recognition of schools has been under consideration. I am rather surprised that Deputy Mulcahy should gratuitously repeat that the Minister is out to take away the rights of the parents and to interfere with them. That is not so, as I have already assured the House.

"That Section 4 stand part of the Bill."

No, Sir. As a matter of fact, Deputy O'Sullivan has left the House because the Minister made it impossible for him to see things through to a definite conclusion in which he could understand anything about it. If I infer from the Taoiseach that the Taoiseach is now going to speak, my answer when you call the section is that I was going to call a division on this section as a protest against the way it has been made impossible for the House to discuss it because of the absence of reasonable explanation by the Minister.

The only reason that I intervene is this: I was here on the Second Reading and I heard Deputy O'Sullivan and, I think, after him, Deputy Dillon, speak about the rights of the parent and the danger there was in intruding upon these rights. The Constitution was referred to a few times, and I would like to bring to the attention of the House what is in the Constitution in regard to the matter.

Article 42 deals with education. Article 42, sub-section (2) says:—

"Parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes or in private schools or in schools recognised or established by the State."

Sub-section (3), 10 says:—

"The State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State, or to any particular type of school designated by the State."

That is the prohibition on the State's interference with the lawful preference of the parents with regard to the education of their children. That is Section 3, 10, but there is sub-section 2, which says:—

"The State shall, however, as guardian of the common good, require in view of actual conditions that the children receive a certain minimum education, moral, intellectual and social."

It is not merely that the State may, as guardian of the common good, require certain things, but that the State "shall", because there is an obligation on the State to look after the common good, in this particular case, in so far as it is affected by the proper education of the citizens.

Listening to the speeches that were made by Deputy O'Sullivan and Deputy Dillon on the last occasion, one would imagine that the State had no rights at all in the matter and, of course, the slightest thought would show that the State not only has the right, but that everybody agrees that the State has the right in a number of cases to interfere. One would imagine that it was a crime for the State to interfere if parents ill-treated their children. We do it. If parents do not do their duty by their children, the State interferes. In other words, the parents cannot do just as they please in an absolute way with the children.

We have in this case the same sort of thing that we have in a number of other cases. In the case of private property we have a similar position, in which the individual right and, what I may call the community right, that is the State right, sometimes cover common ground. In this, as in all other cases where rights overlap, if you can get both rights safeguarded at the same time, well and good. We should aim at that in so far as it is possible, but occasionally you cannot do it. If you have a parent who says: "He is my child; I have a perfect right to ill-treat him because, in my opinion, that is going to make a man of him," well, you are not going to permit that. Common sense revolts against it. The State, because it has a duty towards the child, can interfere and see that the parent will not ill-treat it. Now, either of these rights can be carried to extremes. You can carry the assertion of the parent's right to extremes. You can undoubtedly carry the assertion of the State's right to extremes. What we have tried to do here in regard to these rights is to walk on what is, on the whole, a fairly broad central path. What is indicated in the Constitution is that the State, in the actual conditions of the time, has the right to see that a certain minimum of education is attained by the child. The State has left to itself to decide, in the interests of the common good, what is the minimum standard which should be secured for the child. I take it that the purpose of this section is to see that the minimum education, as determined by the State in the interests of the common good, is given. It has a duty to see to that. If parents neglect to give that to the child, then it is the duty of the State to see that they will not be permitted to do so.

There may be a question of difference between Deputy O'Sullivan and the Minister as to the distance which you have to go in all this. The Deputy's position seems to be this: "If there are not too many cases of this occurring we had better take the risk and let individuals, if they are not in large numbers, go." I can see that a case can be made for that.

People, in trying to complete and perfect a scheme, sometimes do harm in other directions. That, really, is the case that is being made for it as far as I understand it. If the Minister, on the other hand, takes a different view and says, in effect: "I am not building on the cases that are occurring but on the cases that might occur. If one sheep gets through the gap, a number of other sheep might follow"—would not that be a very good reason for trying to close the gap? I take it the Minister's attitude is that, even though we will admit that many cases have not occurred, there is a gap there, a gap which could be availed of by others. What harm is there in closing that gap in time? I do not know if it is regard to the Irish language that Deputy Mulcahy said this gap is most apparent. Neither do I know if the Minister and the Department think there are a number of people who are not prepared to accept the State's view of the common good and of the minimum of education that should be given to the children, of people who say that they do not want the Irish language taught to their children. If the State, regarding the matter from the point of the common good and of the interests of the citizens as a whole, says that Irish ought to be, and is, a compulsory subject, and ought to form part of the minimum of education that is given to the children, then I think that is a perfectly good reason for doing this. Supposing there are parents who, through prejudice or some other reason, are not going to give their children an opportunity of learning Irish and of fitting themselves to be useful members of the community; and if we take it that Irish is part of the State policy, and if we regard it as part of the equipment necessary for a good citizen—if there are people who are likely to do that—then I think the Minister would be entitled to say that we are going to close that gap, and from the State point of view will insist on having a certain minimum of education given, in which a knowledge of Irish, which we think reasonable for children of that age, will form a part. If there was a disposition on the part of parents to put up their particular view of things as against the view taken for the common good, then I think that the State would be perfectly within its rights, not merely within the Constitution but even if it were not stated in the Constitution, in doing that.

I think I understand Deputy O'Sullivan's apprehensions that there is the modern tendency for the State to encroach more and more on things that formerly were regarded as matters for the private individual. I share his views and his philosophy, if you like, as to what would be the ideal thing, but I feel certain—I am sorry that he is not here—that he would not deny the propositions that are laid down here in the Constitution as being right. All he would say is that there are dangers—and we will admit that is a danger—but there is a duty on the State to see that a minimum of education is given. We may have different views on the question of education. There are no fixed principles as to what is the best education that can be given to the people. There are people who doubt the value of the type of education that is given in the modern world. I take, as I said here on a previous occasion, a very practical view of that. I said there is a certain minimum of information and knowledge which is required of every person who comes to adult life and who has to take part in the life of a community. There is a certain minimum required. One of the things which, I think, we all agree on is that we ought to go in the most practical way to get that minimum given. It is the duty of the Minister to see that the youth who are growing up will get that minimum, and that the very best type of machinery is there to see that it is given.

I know it is true, in the case of Deputy O'Sullivan, that he sees the two sides because he was very cautious in the manner in which he spoke. Deputy Dillon also spoke, and I am sorry that he is not here. I think he went to extremes because if his words were to be taken for their face value the State would have no right to interfere with the parent who ill-treated his children, or who did a number of other things in regard to which the State has the right to interfere. I think we ought to have a sense of proportion about this particular question and not exaggerate what is involved in it. As I understand it, it is a question of closing a gap. It is no answer to the Minister, if he wants to close that gap, to say that many sheep have not gone out through it. I say that if the gap is there it is a temptation and it is desirable to close the gap simply in order to remove the temptation.

I move to report progress.

Progress reported, the Committee to sit again.