Committee on Finance. - Vote 45—Office of the Minister for Education (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the question: That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration. —(Deputy O'Sullivan for Deputy Mulcahy.)

I was speaking on this subject when the debate was adjourned. As I pointed out, I was anxious that this matter would be considered as calmly as possible. I confess that at times I feel I was wasting my breath to a large extent, judging by the attitude adopted both by the Minister for Education and the Taoiseach. I feel that they are not alive to the situation, and it is because I was anxious that they might be induced to give some kind of consideration to the matter that I avoided anything in the nature of what might even appear to be strong language.

I cannot really believe, much as I should like to do so, that the attitude that has been adopted by the Minister for the last couple of years towards the suggestion of a calm and impartial inquiry into a number of things connected with the language holds out any promise either for the language or for the general level of education in this country. I cannot believe either that the statement to which we listened on the last occasion, especially the closing paragraphs of it, shows a realisation of a situation that to me at all events seems to be an increasingly dangerous one for the language.

I have confined myself up to the moment solely to the fate of the language. The Minister assumes that because a certain number of people in this country are very keen on the restoration of the language, therefore they must approve of the method that has been, with various degrees of intensity, enforced, say, in the last 15 years or more. The optimism displayed in the closing paragraph—it is a piece of rhetoric and perhaps I should not attach too much importance to it—of the Minister's statement seems to indicate to me that he is far removed from any grasp of the attitude of the people of the country towards the language. I think whereas a generation ago, or less even, there was a considerable amount of enthusiasm on the part of many people for the restoration of the language, that enthusiasm has now diminished.

That, in itself, need not be unhealthy if we had other efficient substitutes for that enthusiasm, if we had methods that we could be sure were carrying us towards our goal; but every evidence I come across from every walk in society and from every class of the community seems to me to spell danger to the language that was not there 20 years ago. There is no great enthusiasm amongst the great bulk of the people and there is a growing opposition, not perhaps very vocal, but one which I feel goes much deeper—to the particular method that we have tried. It is for that reason that I am urging strongly that if the Minister is both interested in the fate of the language— which I do not doubt—and can appreciate the danger, I would ask him once more to appoint a body to investigate a number of things in connection with it. First of all, that body would investigate what progress has been made; secondly, whether the methods that are being employed are those best suited to ensure progress.

I confess that I am completely in ignorance of the answer that could be given to these two questions. I doubt very much whether the advance made has been considerable in the last 20 years. I was always against a too premature inquiry into the results of the policy of teaching through Irish. You had to give the method adopted—in great hopes and in all good faith—a chance over a number of years; but I put it to the Minister, as it was put by those in closer touch, particularly with primary education, than I am, that the progress is disappointing and that the damage is considerable. I want that investigated. The mere piece of rhetoric at the end of the Minister's speech is no answer, so far as I am concerned, to that question. He speaks of the sacrifices that are necessary for the language. He himself uses phrases that I think are an exaggeration and go much farther than even the very determined—if if there are such people—enemies of the language would use. He is "waging a war against nature". Has the war been successful? That is what we want to know. Will he not investigate that?

There is a body of trained teachers who were certified by his Department to carry out this particular programme and a number of those teachers were questioned and their verdict on the whole was against the Minister's point of view. Is it safe to ignore that? Surely it is not. Is it not merely deliberately shutting your eyes to an unpleasant state of affairs in the hope that somehow or other that unpleasant state of affairs will vanish off the map? That is one reason why I ask for the investigation. I am asking for an inquiry into a policy that I myself sponsored and do so because of my interest in the language on the one hand, and in education on the other hand. I think the time has come for that inquiry. It seems to me that a great many people are becoming more and more conscious of the sacrifice and fail to see the advance. I do not say that there is no advance. In fact I am not in a position to judge it as the Minister will not provide the means to enable us to judge whether we are advancing or not in the direction in which the Minister wants us to advance—that is, to make Irish a real living language.

That is one of the reasons why I am anxious that this inquiry should take place without delay and that it should not be postponed until there may be a revolt not merely against the method but even against the aim which we have in view. That would be very serious. Luckily up to the present this question of the language has been kept out of party politics, practically altogether, but I fear the coming of the day when some person will make it an issue of party politics and I fear the support he might get would be considerable if the present policy of shutting our eyes to criticism continues, and might be fatal not to the method alone but to the language itself.

That is a brief summary of what I urged on the Minister on the last occasion and of what I urge on him once more. He is—or ought to be— perfectly aware of the difficulties. He is dependent on the schools for the success of making Irish a real living language. If for no other reason than that and apart altogether from the discourtesy involved, was it a wise thing simply to flout the considered opinion of the people on whose success in teaching the language he depends? I cannot see it. Full and cordial co-operation in all these matters between the Department—which is only in a position to order others—and those who do the real work, is necessary. I put it to the Minister that he has not taken the steps to get that co-operation. Would I be putting it too strongly if I said that he has gone out of his way to avoid getting that co-operation? I am not asking him to accept as a final word on the matter the conclusions arrived at by the committee set up by the Irish National Teachers' Organisation. It might be unreasonable to ask him to accept those conclusions but even if he does not accept them he ought to accept the claim that they have made an unanswerable case for an investigation— and an investigation by a committee that is anxious to restore the language but is not necessarily committed to any particular method of doing so.

It may be that the verdict of such a committee will be in favour of a continuance of the present method. We are sometimes almost forced to believe that the Minister does not think it would be in favour of this particular method. His refusal almost forces that view upon us.

The policy has now been in force for half a generation. It has been more and more stringently enforced as the years have gone on, and I would say, from what I can hear, that there is a more deeply-seated opposition to the method to-day than there was when it was first introduced. That and the extension of that feeling are among the things I fear.

Then there is the other extraordinary phrase used by the Minister in that paragraph of his, when he was soaring to the heights of eloquence, that not merely was he satisfied with making war on human nature, but war was to be made on the English language too. That is an entirely new policy for the Department. Is it a war of annihilation or what kind of a war is it? What does the Minister mean by that phrase? Does it mean anything in particular? Is it merely meant in a Pickwickian sense, or does he really mean it? Because if he means it he raises a very big question, now announced for the first time, that the aim is to abolish English as a living language in this country. Is that the aim of the Minister? If not, what does he mean by the phrase? I do not know whether the Minister wanted to go out of his way to give the people a shock in this matter—as if he had not given them enough already. I know the difficulties that face the revival of Irish. Why should the Minister, by a careless but calculated phrase of that kind, if it were a careless phrase, add tremendously to these difficulties? Is he putting it before the country that he wants to abolish the English language as a spoken language? I am not now referring to the cynicism that some people indulge in, that he is already pretty well near doing it. I do not believe that. Some people say that the level of the English language as spoken and written in this country has gone down. I do not know whether it has or not.

I hear conflicting reports as to that. As I have been hearing conflicting reports as to that for the last 30 years, I am a bit doubtful of the value to attribute to these reports on either side. But, again, it is a matter to be taken into account for we are concerned not merely with the fate of Irish, of which I have been speaking up to the present, but the general level of education in the country.

I said last night that when I took over the Department of Education and sponsored this particular method, one of the aims I had in view, apart from the preservation of the Irish language, was that I believed that if you could get a genuine second language you would quicken the minds and intellects of the people. Is that what is happening? I may have been unwise or unduly optimistic, but I did not contemplate the deliberate lowering of the standard of education. I heard recently from very high places of a policy of deliberate lowering of the standard of education; that if it is a question of teaching through Irish, whether that achieves its object or not, I have heard it enunciated that the standard must go. I should like to know is that the outlook of the present Minister? What is to be gained by it? I was, as I hinted a few moments ago, rather inclined to take with a considerable grain of salt many of the complaints that I heard about the deterioration of the standard. I heard similar complaints 15 years ago and they were then attributed to teaching through Irish, though how the introduction of teaching infants of the age of six through Irish could influence the standard of English of children then at the age of 14 I could not make out. I was, therefore, somewhat inclined not to attach too much importance to this. But, when I find in Government policy, and hear it enunciated, that the standard of education is a secondary matter, I feel much more uneasy about this complaint.

Let us make Irish a second language, but, for the sake of the language itself, apart from the general mentality and the education of the people of this country, let us not make it the badge of mediocrity at the very best—I do not say the badge of complete inefficiency; but it is sometimes almost coming to that. Is that the way to serve a language? I do not think it is. I still refuse to believe that the effort to restore Irish necessarily involves, or should even be accepted as involving, a deliberate acceptance of a lower general standard of education. Yet, I very much fear, so far as I can judge from certain things I have heard from high quarters, if I may use the expression, that that policy is being deliberately adopted.

I take all these things with considerable reservation, but there is one thing I hear now that certainly I did not hear a number of years ago. I am not blaming the Minister for this. I am trying to put a certain serious aspect of the case before him with a view to remedying it and with a view to saving the position of the language. You hear the charge made, and very often made by fluent Irish speakers, by men whose desire is to keep the language alive and to spread the language as a living language, whose desire cannot be questioned, that Irish has become—I use their phrase—a racket. Let us put things in their proper perspective. I do not think there is any movement, no matter how idealistic, no matter how noble, even almost sacred, in which that charge cannot be made against some of its followers. There is always that danger. It is inevitable, it is human nature; I am not blaming the Minister for this; but if you have a movement of this kind, if you deliberately, as is proper, take up a line that you will promote Irish by a certain policy of rewards and punishments, then there is the danger that a certain number of people will use the business as a racket. That applies, as I say, to a large number of other movements as well. It is certainly no charge against the Irish language, any more than it would be a charge against other great causes which are capable of being misused in the same way. But when you are offering large rewards to people, remember to be sure again that you are promoting the language.

I doubt if it is good policy on the part of the Government to make it clear that, so far as proficiency in any particular job goes, as between a first-class man and a man barely qualified, the first-class man is to be put behind the barely qualified man, merely because the latter has a knowledge of Irish. He might not ever use his Irish in the course of his job. It is merely a reward that is given to him not for proficiency in his subject, whatever it may be, but for proficiency in oral Irish. I doubt if it is fair to the language to put that burden, as well as any other burden, on the shoulders of the language. I warn the Minister particularly against the tendency to regard standard as of little importance —standard in Irish, as distinct from mere fluency, but particularly standards in other subjects. We have had a great deal of talk—I do not know whether the Minister's colleague, the Minister for Finance, referred to it in his Budget statement; I thought he did —about our having to depend on our training if we are to hold our position after the war. You are not going to maintain that position if you have a badly trained people.

What I feel, therefore, is: it is national policy to restore the language and it is wise to institute an inquiry into whether the methods you are using will achieve that end. It is also wise to see how far we have advanced —and here again I find it difficult to speak because I do not want to exaggerate. If I were to repeat the stories on one side or the other, I should feel I was indulging in exaggeration, and I want to avoid that. I will confess my inability to answer certain questions. We have before us the evidence of what seemed to me to be a genuine effort to reach the truth. There may or may not have been a little bias at the beginning, but certainly the National Teachers' Organisation put forward a case that should have been answered and should have led to an inquiry. I confess that I am not in the same position to speak about the secondary schools. I have no evidence whether, genuinely, the heads of secondary schools consider the policy of teaching through Irish educationally beneficial or otherwise, for they have not spoken out.

I do not think you are benefiting the language; I think you are putting the language in danger of its life by the attitude you are adopting of refusing an inquiry. These are matters which, I think, any Government ought to be quite willing and quite ready, if it was not afraid of the result, to inquire into. I do not know why the Minister should be afraid of the result. I do not want him to put on that inquiry people who are not keen on making Irish a living language. I want him to put on that inquiry people who are not fanatics for or against any particular method.

These are some of the matters I wanted to put before the Minister on this all-important question. For many years, as I pointed out to the Minister, I refrained from discussing the general policy of the Department because I thought the experiment—let me call it that; it is a neutral word—should get a reasonable trial. Two years ago, I came to the conclusion that sufficient time had elapsed to enable the Government, the Minister and the country to take stock and consequently I suggested two years ago—and I thought the Taoiseach who was present had adopted the suggestion—that an inquiry should be instituted, but—I say this without any desire to introduce a controversial note—like many of the reasonable things the Taoiseach seems to adopt, he seems always to argue himself out of them. Apparently his arguments have had effect in this respect. I fear that the language may have to pay for it.

There was another matter which I said I would raise, and I want to confine myself to those which I mentioned. There might be a number of things in the Minister's statement which might merit attention. I sometimes wonder whether one or two phrases which he uses were careless and whether people whose business it is more than mine to refer to these things will notice them. Probably not but I do not intend to deal with them. These were matters possibly involving great questions of policy, but I do not propose to go into them now. The other matter to which I want to refer is the question of the compulsory examination. I have heard complaints, and by no other person have I heard the complaint more eloquently put than by the Taoiseach, about the driving of children. Of course, one might think he spoke feelingly on the matter, obviously meaning to dissent. There was a general belief abroad— probably quite unfounded—that this particular child is the Taoiseach's own child—this compulsion in connection with the examination.

There is a lot to be said for and against it on general principles. A number of people think that its advantages are out-weighed by its disadvantages, that if, for a variety of reasons, the brains of the children of this country are being sorely tried and tested at present, to put a written examination before them is an additional strain and a strain that may not be worth the price. That is on the general question. It is a matter in respect of which I should have liked to have seen the case for and against, but there was no opportunity of doing so. As I understand it, although the matter had been under discussion between the Department and the Irish National Teachers' Organisation for some time, the public were given no opportunity of examining the case for or against. Incidentally the public are supposed to be interested in educational matters; that is one of the suppositions we labour under. Parents are supposed to be particularly anxious about the education of their children and supposed to be wrath at the damage done, for instance, by the teaching of their children through Irish. I have never seen them taking effective steps to deal with that particular matter. I often hear that the parents of a countryside, any particular countryside, are up in arms against the system. Yet, if their conscience, and as parents they ought to have a conscience, is so troubled in this matter, they have never questioned the right of the State in that way to maltreat their children, as they hold the State is doing. I would like that the public would get some chance to think over the merits or the demerits of making this leaving certificate compulsory, to see as I see it as a member of the public what is being done. Sometime after the opening of this year the Minister announced that on 1st of June there is to be a compulsory examination of all children in the sixth standard who have put in one hundred days. That announcement is made as a definite decision. There were hints of it, of negotiations and failure to reach agreement, I understand, before that. But to announce, after the opening of the new year, that in the following June this examination is to take place, seems to me eminently unreasonable.

I have heard these complaints from teachers whom I know and who are personal friends of mine—not necessarily political backers—men whose character and ability as teachers I estimate highly, and they are gravely perturbed at the idea and particularly the way in which the Minister has chosen to put it before the country, to spring it on the country. See the year he has chosen—a year in which he has drawn attention to the lack of kerosene and, therefore, to the lack of light in the case of a number of the children, who, therefore, teachers are told should be relieved of homework. He has chosen a year in which he has drawn attention to the shortage of paper to be used in schools; he has chosen a year in which there is a drive in the agricultural line and in which the district justices, I understand, will fine a farmer 1/- for keeping a child at home from school. The farmer may be shortsighted but the child's work is more than 1/-.

He has, at a time when the promotion in the schools has practically become automatic, insisted that all children who have an attendance of 50 per cent. must present themselves for examination. How is he going to ensure it? Perhaps he will tell us when he comes to reply. I am quoting the Minister's own words: "All children must attend the examination." Suppose they do not, what is to happen? I know the Minister can say "must, or be brought before the magistrates". They will impose another fine, perhaps, and if the children are numerous perhaps the farmer will not be fined at all. He wants to start this system. Leaving aside the general merits of making the leaving certificate compulsory—I am not debating the merits of the suggestion—I would like that more attention should be given to it, not merely by the Minister but by those interested in education, whether it is a good thing or not. But as to the way in which the Minister has chosen to introduce it, all I can say about that way is this: that if he wanted to ensure its failure, if he wanted to give it a really bad start, he could not have acted otherwise than he has acted. He has a pious—I wonder why these things are called pious?—wish expressed in the course of his statement that the teachers will co-operate. He has taken steps to make their co-operation almost impossible. That is what I do not understand about the Minister.

I do not understand him either in the way he treated the report on teaching through Irish; and remember, the success of Irish in the schools in the last resort will depend on the goodwill of the teachers. It is not he who is going to do it; it is the teachers in the different schools who are going to make it a success or a failure, and to treat a body like that with contempt is extremely unwise. He is doing the same thing when he glibly asks for co-operation and chooses a year like this to force this particular experiment of compulsory examination on every pupil in the sixth standard who has gone through 100 days, roughly 50 per cent. of the attendance —I forget the exact number of compulsory days there would be—at a time when he himself has knocked that down by ten days owing to the necessity of agricultural work, at a time when farmers, wrongly, perhaps, but owing to the shortage of labour, are keeping children at home to do agricultural work. That is the year he chooses, at a time when promotion is automatic. He may say that this will not influence the rating of the teacher. Of course it will. The inspectors of his Department may be almost supermen, but to suggest that the result of the examination will not influence them in the rating of a teacher is ridiculous. They would be more than supermen, they would be angels—and, mind you, I never heard that of them. There is again the same ignoring of competent opinion. I do not ask the Minister to surrender his views, but he should take some account of the views of others. These are the two matters on which I was particularly anxious to address the House and to put my views before the Minister. For the sake of the Irish language, the quicker he investigates the results and the capabilities of the methods we are using now, the better.

It is vital in facing the questions mentioned by Deputy O'Sullivan this evening to distinguish most explicitly between the teaching of Irish in the schools and teaching through the medium of Irish in the schools. Most unhappily this whole question of restoring Irish as the spoken language of Ireland has become the plaything of fanatics who seem to take a kind of diabolical joy in misinterpreting what any reasonable man says about the question and who start a heresy hunt in respect of any individual who dares to challenge the policy at present practised by the Department of Education. I and most Deputies of this House have expressed in public and in private for many years a desire to see Irish taught to the children of this country and to see a generation raised in this country ultimately who will speak Irish as fluently as they speak English.

It would be a catastrophe if our people, in the present state of the world, became monolingual. It would be a disaster if our children were forbidden to learn English and were left speaking Irish only. It would be a disaster if we were forced to contemplate a day when we could no longer hope to see the children of this country all speaking Irish with the same fluency as they do English. Ten years ago the hope that we should see the children of this country speaking Irish as fluently as they do English was strong in me. I believed it was possible to do it. In the last couple of years I have come seriously to doubt it. I think we are very near the conclusion that the Department of Education has killed the Irish language and, in saying that, one must bear in mind that one cannot say of them that they have killed it for our generation. If they have killed it for our generation, they have killed it for all time as a living thing and I think they have gone very, very near it.

I see throughout the country an atmosphere of unfriendliness towards the language, born of the experience that children have in schools where an attempt is made to teach them through the medium of Irish when they do not know the language themselves, born of resentment on the part of the parents who feel that their children's educational opportunities are being seriously interfered with by the insistence of the Department that their children should be instructed through the medium of Irish when the children do not know the language and when the teachers who are attempting to impart the instruction are not sufficiently masters of the language to qualify them to teach through its medium.

That is not happening.

It is certainly happening and, bear this in mind, that the Taoiseach speaking on this Estimate, two or three years ago, in the House, admitted that with such fluency as he was in a position to command in the Irish language he would be long sorry to attempt to teach anybody through its medium. Deputies will remember his saying that, having been a teacher himself, he appreciated the gravity of the responsibility of attempting to communicate knowledge to young minds, the flexibility of language which one would have to have at one's disposal and the wide choice of words so as to ensure the effective communication of a mature thought to an immature mind. Having discoursed on that aspect of the educational problem, he went on to say that, with the command of Irish he had, he would be long sorry to attempt to teach anybody through its medium. We can all appreciate the Taoiseach's limitations of speaking Irish. He certainly speaks it with a greater degree of fluency than 60 per cent. of the national teachers of this country.

While it is perfectly true that no national teacher is compelled to teach through the medium of Irish except in the infant classes, who will deny that the teacher who resolutely says, "I am not able to teach through the medium of Irish", and does not teach through that medium, is suspect in the eyes of the inspectors of the Department of Education? There is no more detestable tyranny than the tyranny that masquerades as justice. It would be honest of the Department if they came out and said, "we are going to penalise any teacher who does not teach through the medium of Irish", but it is not honest to say, "No teacher is required to teach through the medium if he is not competent to do so" and, at the same time, create an atmosphere in which every teacher knows that, though according to the letter of the law he is entitled to avail of that dispensation, if he does avail of it he is a marked man and he will be pursued vindictively by the inspectorate implementing the policy at present sponsored by the Minister for Education.

So far as I am concerned, in my judgment, the Irish language should be taught to every child in this country, in the Gaeltacht and outside the Gaeltacht, but, in my opinion, it is an outrage on education to be teaching children through the medium of a language which is not the vernacular of their homes. Therefore, within the Gaeltacht, I think children should be taught through the medium of the Irish language, which is the vernacular of their homes. In those areas where English is the vernacular of the children's homes they should be taught through the medium of English. In my judgment, to bring infant children, who have never before experienced separation from home, from the familiar atmosphere of the kitchen in a country house and lead them off to a national school where everything is new, everything is strange, the teacher a stranger, the children about them strangers, and invite that child to embark upon his school life restricted by a condition that it shall not hear from the moment it goes into school a single syllable that it is capable of understanding is so extravagant a travesty of education as to be an almost incredible proposition when formulated but, nevertheless, that is the declared policy of the Department of Education in this country.

Nonsense.

Is it not true that the infant classes have to be taught exclusively through the medium of Irish?

What the Deputy has said is not true.

Is it not true that the infant classes have to be taught exclusively through the medium of Irish?

I will leave it to the Deputy.

It is all very well to mutter denials while a Deputy is speaking and then to say he will elaborate his denial when the Deputy has sat down. The truth of it is the Minister is ashamed of his own policy.

Not at all.

And accordingly there is this continual wriggle and twist as to what exactly is the policy. I have never disguised what my view of this fantastic fraud has been since it was first inaugurated but I am not asking the House and I have never asked the House or the Minister to accept my view. There are others who take a different view. There are even people in this country who profess to know something about the science of education who maintain the thesis that it was a desirable thing to attempt to teach children through a language the children do not understand and who were prepared to defend a situation in which children were taught through the medium of a language the children did not understand by teachers who did not know the language. That being so, surely there is here a case for impartial examination. If there was nothing more than the existence of two strongly opposed schools of thought about this particular system of education, after it had been in operation for ten years, is not that in itself sufficient ground for the Government's saying: "Very well, let us have then a commission of persons who are extremists neither on one side nor the other but who are truly concerned to find out what the results of this system have been, to examine into the whole situation and report to Dáil Eireann and to the Minister the results of their inquiry. But there is a far better reason for that course than the contingency I outline. In addition to there being a clear cleavage of thought in the country between average citizens as to what is best to do, the teaching profession, the national teachers themselves, conducted an inquiry into the results and consequences of the attempt to teach through the medium of Irish generally in the schools. In a report which was characterised by extremely moderate language, and which breathed a very judicial atmosphere in its conclusions, they expressed the view that neither the best interests of the Irish language nor the best interests of the children were being served by this policy. Their argument was not that the cost of pursuing this policy which does serve Irish is too great, and that the children are being involved in too great a sacrifice for the language. What they said was that in their judgment neither the language nor the children were being served. That is my view. It may be that the teachers who wrote that report would have been prepared to say that it was a just and proper thing to demand a substantial sacrifice from a whole generation of children in order to serve the language movement, but they did not say that. They said they were quite satisfied that in imposing this sacrifice on the children it did not serve the language movement.

Now, I have never taken the view, and I do not now take the view—it would not be honest for me to pretend that I do—that you are entitled to serve the cause of the Irish language by sacrificing the educational opportunities of a whole generation of children. I have never shared the Taoiseach's philosophical view that you must break eggs in order to make omelettes. I do not like breaking human eggs, and I think one can carry that doctrine too far, particularly when it is somebody else's eggs you have to break in order to make the omelettes. What appals me is the picture of this immense sacrifice of education that is taking place throughout the country while the very object for which the sacrifice is being made is being hopelessly betrayed. Most of us in this House are well on the way to, if we have not passed, middle age. Can we, looking back 15 or 20 years, say that the attitude of the majority of our people to the Irish language to-day is what it was 20 years ago? When I was a student in University College I do not believe you would have found, outside of the Kildare Street Club and a few centres of ascendancy of that kind, a dozen people who would have expressed antipathy to the Irish language. You might meet with a considerable amount of indifference, but you would also have discovered a vast ocean of disinterested enthusiasm for the language. Actually, I remember in my salad days foregathering, with divers other persons, on the bandstand in Stephen's Green on a Saturday night for the purpose of talking Irish. How many would you get to come together on the bandstand in Stephen's Green on a Saturday night now to talk Irish if you did not promise them a job? Deputies here will remember the large numbers of young people who used to spend their holidays voluntarily in the Irish colleges in Ballingeary, Tourmakeady, Gortahork and other places to study Irish. When I first went to those colleges there was no one in them simply with the object of qualifying for a job. Is there a student attending them now who is not sweating in order to qualify for a job, to keep a job or recover a job? How many will you meet in them who are there simply to learn the Irish language?

The destruction of the desire to see the language alive and thriving amongst a considerable section of the community is a material loss to the language movement. Surely, these groups of young men who loved the language for the sake of the language were a far greater potential for good and of achievement in the cause of the language than the mob who, at the present time, are pretending to know Irish in order to qualify for some kind of lucrative position, the mob who claim to have a speaking knowledge of Irish in order to qualify as warble-fly inspectors under the Longford County Council, so as to be able to pick a warble out of a cow's hide. The same people would not speak a word of Irish, or care a damn about learning a word of the language, if payment for the removal of the warble was not threatened to be withheld unless they were in a position to sayGo raibh maith agat to the secretary to the county council. That is the truth, and we all know it. You have this extraordinary madness which seems to come down on people's minds when they begin talking about Irish. It blinds a great many people who, in other circumstances, are most reasonable. Deputy O Briain, for example, is generally a most reasonable kind of man. But the moment there is any difference of opinion on this question the eyes of the Deputy and of others who think with him blaze in indignation. They are convinced that the arguments used are not arguments against the method of achieving our purpose of providing the best educational facilities for the children but are part of a subtle dark conspiracy to destroy the Irish language. Why anybody should want to destroy it I cannot imagine. I could understand that people may be too lazy to learn it, but why anybody should want to destroy the Irish language simply for the sake of destroying it, I cannot imagine.

Therefore I submit thatprima facie the educational policy in regard to Irish is wrong for three reasons: (1) that it is destroying the disinterested enthusiasm of a great number of people typified by those who used to gather on the bandstand in Stephen's Green on Saturday nights years ago; (2) that it is creating a strong antipathy in quarters where that antipathy never existed before; amongst the children who are exasperated by the experience of being consistently addressed in school in a language they do not know, and amongst parents who believe that their children's educational opportunities are being seriously impaired by persistence in this policy; (3) I think it is doing, and has done, serious damage to the general standard of education received by children in the primary schools.

I believe that the children coming out of the primary schools at the present time are not as well able to write or do simple sums as they were 15 or 16 years ago. I believe that the result of this attempt to use Irish as the medium of instruction in a very large number of schools has not been interpreted in the way the Minister would wish us to believe it has been. The Minister would wish us to believe that all teachers who are as modest about their proficiency in the Irish language as the Taoiseach is forbear from using it as the medium of instruction. I submit that the truth is that any teacher who has a reasonably sketchy knowledge of the language makes an abortive attempt to employ it as a medium of instruction, in the belief that, if he does not so use it, the inspectors of the Department will regard him with suspicion.

I submit that there is a very large number of teachers throughout the country attempting to teach through the medium of the language, who have not got that command of it which would justify them in making the attempt. I further believe that there are virtually no children in the Galltacht, as distinct from the Gaeltacht, who are competent to receive education through the medium of the Irish language, inasmuch as that they themselves do not know it; and I consider it as great an outrage upon them to teach them through the medium of Irish as it would be upon the children of the Gaeltacht to impose education upon them through the medium of English.

Those views being held—I say no more than that—by a very considerable section of the people, and the judicial and detached report of the I.N.T.O. being on record, I ask for no more than an inquiry. I do not ask for a reversal of the present policy, nor for a surrender by the Department by a public declaration that they have been wrong, but that they should say: "Very well, let us have an inquiry of the character that will command general confidence; and, without undertaking beforehand to be bound by its report, let us at least invite an examination of the whole question in an exhaustive way." Then we will get the views as to what the true facts are in regard to (1) what service this system has done to the Irish language movement and (2) what additional cost, if any, in loss of educational opportunity, there has been to the children of the country who have been subjected to this system of education. Surely, to deny that opportunity, when it has been asked for again and again by the Opposition in this House, is in itself an admission by the Department that those who examine the question judicially and objectively will present a report of an adverse nature. I am puzzled as to why the Minister is afraid of that.

No one charges the Department or the Minister with some awful conspiracy to leave the children dull, stupid or uneducated. There is no loss of face. The Minister himself has frequently protested that he is doing no more than carrying on the policy initiated by his predecessor, Deputy O'Sullivan. An amendment or a reorientation of it now, without in the slightest degree mitigating the resolve of the Department to concentrate its energies on restoring Irish as the living language of the country, can involve the Minister in no loss of face, nor in any admission of failure. There is no desire to press upon the Government or the Minister himself any act which, in itself, would admit failure or which would give to any citizen of the State aprima facie case for maintaining that there had been failure. Far from it. If the Minister takes up the position: “Certainly, let there be an inquiry; perhaps it would be a very good thing; if it does no good, it will do no harm”, and if he has full confidence in his own policy, surely there is nothing to be feared in an inquiry? Does he doubt that there is a large body of the people, and of their representatives in this House, who want an inquiry? Does he not think it is a good thing, if that situation obtains, that a reasonable request of that kind should be readily acceded to? The Government must pursue its own policy and cannot afford to turn like a weathercock to meet every wind that blows, in regard to the execution of Government policy, but that does not mean that it must stand fast and refuse absolutely to consider or discuss any improvement of the method of realising what, in this case, happily seems to be the unanimous desire of every Deputy in the House—that is, to see the language restored and, if possible, restored in our own day.

I certainly think—and I hold this view after discussion with parents and children, and I also hold it as the employer of young boys turned out by the schools, and I hold it philosophically— that the system of attempting to teach children diverse subjects, through the medium of a language which they themselves do not understand, is an outrage not only on education but on common sense. When you add to that the knowledge that a very considerable number of teachers cannot themselves command the degree of fluency which the Taoiseach has described as being inadequate for the delicate task of instruction of the young, I think that the case is made out, incontrovertibly, for an alteration of the system and, undeniably, for at least an enquiry into how it has progressed.

Before I leave that point, I want to re-emphasise that, in all I have said, I have been speaking of the attempt to teach subjects through the medium of Irish to children to whom the vernacular of the home is English. The question at issue is not the teaching of Irish, nor whether Irish should be taught in the schools. So far as I know, the whole of Dáil Eireann is agreed that it should be taught. The issue is whether other subjects should be taught to children, for whom the vernacular of the home is English, through the medium of Irish, when those children themselves do not fully understand the Irish language.

There are two other minor matters to which I wish to refer. There is a great deal of talk about going back to the land and, although some of it is nonsense, it contains a grain of truth. I wish to invite the attention of the Minister to a small thing, the usefulness of which has often struck me, as a merchant. I am told that, 20 or 30 years ago, there was a reader in the national schools which dealt with elementary agricultural subjects. For instance, you will find frequently that a man of 45 or 50 knows all about perennial rye grass, Timothy, cocks-foot, and so forth, whereas a young fellow of 19 or 20 knows nothing about them. All he knows is "grass seed". I am speaking of the Province of Connaught and not of the east of the country. I remember saying to one of these fellows one time: "Is it perennial or Italian you want?" and his mouth fell open. He said: "It is grass seed I want." There was a man of about 50 beside him, who proceeded to reel off a paragraph about perennial and Italian, and to describe their comparative qualities as grasses for different kinds of land, whether for pasture or meadow—one variety enduring for one year, another for two years and the third so long as the land remained under grass. His knowledge came so readily to his lips that I asked him where he had obtained it and he said that it was all in the Fifth Reader. It was very useful information. He was quite an informed person who was coming to buy grass seed. He knew something about it, and if I tried to sell him Italian rye grass as a permanent grass, he could give the contents of the fifth book to prove I was wrong. He was looking for perennial rye grass and, if he did not get it, he would go elsewhere. But, to the poor gom of 18 or 19 years I could sell Italian rye grass. It was grass seed to him and that is all he knew about it. I spoke to a couple of intelligent men who had been at school in those days and who told me that there was a great deal of information in that agricultural reader which stood them in good stead.

It occurred to me that not only might a reader of that kind be revived, but also that the question might be further investigated to see if a wider field of suitable agricultural material could not be covered in the ordinary reader; because it seems to me that if you are teaching them to read you might as well teach them to read about agriculture as Rob Roy, Brian Boru or Ben Hur. It will preserve their attention and interest. After all, I suppose it ought to be as easy to retain the interest of children in the objects round about their own homes and the village schoolhouse as about heroic characters of 1,000 years ago.

There is another matter to which I want to refer, and that is the perennial question of school accommodation for children. I do not believe you will ever get decent schools in this country so long as the system of building bandboxes all over the country continues. Is there any other civilised country in the world that prosecutes our system of planting a bandbox in a bog every time you get a group of 20 children living in a district? If there is, I do not know it. It may be the practice in the backwoods of Brazil and the Gran Chaco. In every other country I have heard of they departed from that 40 years ago. I think the Taoiseach will confirm me when I say that in the remote parts of the United States the universal practice is to erect shelters in any district where there is a small group of children and to provide transport from those shelters to a well-equipped central school, morning and evening. That may involve expense and the employment of labour, and at present it would not be a practicable proposition, because the means of transport would not be readily available. But how can you expect to build decent schools in the congested districts of this country or in the areas with a scattered population, where the population itself is poor? I know that the Department in special cases can go to the length of giving 80 per cent. of the total cost of building a school to the manager where the area is a very necessitous one. But, naturally, the very places where children are poorest and the greatest solicitude should be shown for their proper education and maintenance are the areas where the small sum of money required is not forthcoming to get whatever grant the Department can provide. You are liable to have in those areas, where you should have really the best school equipment you can get, the least adequate equipment.

As I understand it, you have the difficulty that the manager must take the initiative to have the school repaired or replaced. The manager may feel that the people in the district are doing all they can by way of subscription to this and that and that it would be genuine hardship to ask them to put up 20 per cent. of the cost of the new school, or he may be an elderly man who may think the school is good enough. We all know how a thing can deteriorate under our eyes every day without our noticing it as much as a stranger would. He may say: "If it was good enough five years ago, is it not good enough now? If it was good enough for generations back, is it not good enough now? Many a good child was educated in that school." The general tendency, therefore, will be for a school in a remote area to become highly insanitary, inadequate and, in fact, a building to which no children should be compelled to resort. I do not know if the Minister can do much to prevent that in the existing situation, because if he is to be constrained to plant a school down wherever there is a group of 20 children available for education. it is simply not possible to provide the accommodation that ought to obtain in any place where children are compelled to resort for education.

I would, therefore, suggest that in every parish one or two centres should be chosen and that there adequate school foundations should be established, involving the employment of ten or 12 teachers, providing ten or 15 class-rooms, providing sanitary accommodation, playing fields, indoor playing facilities, and the other kinds of accommodation that one would like to be in a position to provide where children are to receive education. Then, where the schools now are, or where groups of 20 children happen to be, erect a shelter and let the School Attendance Act be interpreted to mean that school attendance involves being in the shelter when the roll is ordinarily called in the school at present. If children are required by the Act to be in the school at 9.30 a.m., make an ordinance in future that they must be in the shelter at 9.30 and that the roll will be called in the school at 10 o'clock. What insuperable difficulty is there about that? It may cost a little more money, but will it not be money well spent?

Taking the long view, and bearing in mind the replacement cost of these inadequate buildings at present masquerading as schools all over the country, would not a well-constructed, well-built central school probably last twice as long as any of these gimcrack buildings? Would not the facility of having the teachers gathered together in one centre where there would be some kind of intellectual life, instead of having them living in teachers' residences adjacent to the schools dotted all over the country, result in some additional amenity for the children attending the schools? Would not the possibility of having running water, proper sewerage, central heating and things of that kind which are now available in nearly every village, amply compensate for any increased cost involved in the maintenance of a bus service? If every other country in the world has adopted that system, surely there must be something to be said for it. I cannot conceive any Deputy arguing for the existing system of scattered schools and saying it is better. I should like to hear the Taoiseach give his view on the matter.

There is a case to be made for it, without doubt.

Now we are getting something. Possibly others prefer the scattered schools, but I find it very hard to understand how that could be. I was never taught in a national school. I remember the Taoiseach saying that he did go to a national school and could remember his time there. I cannot, therefore, speak with the same authority that he can. I never had the experience myself, but when I saw my neighbour's child trotting off to a national school on a wet day, as opposed to the advantage to be derived by a child going to a comparatively well-equipped school, I did not envy the poor child. He was perished with the cold, soaking wet, and there was no means of drying his clothes except the fire provided by the turf that the children themselves brought. Very often it made a good fire, but how is the child to hang up clothes to dry? The children are sitting on the benches and there is no place in which to hang clothes.

They have no place to wash themselves in and—let us not put a tooth on it—if they wanted to go to the lavatory on a wet day, they could take to the countryside, which they normally did in their own homes, except that they elected not to do it in the middle of a downpour. In a well-arranged school, there was proper lavatory accommodation, an opportunity for children to wash themselves and to keep themselves neat and clean, and, if they came to school wet, they could hang their clothes up to dry. You could reasonably stipulate for a certain standard of cleanliness and neatness in that school which you could not conceivably demand of the children who are going to the little rural schools with no amenities of any kind.

I remember a high civil servant of this State, when I challenged him that certain public servants who came in contact with the public did not keep themselves as neat as they might, saying that so far as he could see they were neat enough. That is a philosophy with which I do not agree. I think that neatness and a certain self-discipline are useful both in man and boy. I do not know whether the Taoiseach is going to get up and say that, so far as he can make out, neatness can be carried too far.

I did not say anything of the kind.

If he does, if that is his view, there is a definite cleavage between us. I think that discipline requiring a certain neatness and cleanliness—not richness of attire, but, whether the attire be poor or prosperous, it should be neat and tidy—and that the person of the pupil shall conform to a certain standard of pride are good things; but there is no use in making these demands on pupils who have not the facilities wherewith to carry them out and in the small rural schools these facilities most unquestionably are not available. I fear that there is a tendency for these small rural schools to deteriorate and that there is a very great difficulty in the Department's insisting on their being maintained in a reasonable state of repair owing to the present situation. I know no alternative system which would enable the Department to provide that standard of educational equipment which ought to be available, except through the medium of a centralised school, and I have never yet heard from the Taoiseach or anybody else any good reason against the system of central schools with bus services for bringing the children to the schools in the morning and from the schools in the evening. Nobody will argue that the bus should go from door to door and pick the children up for the school journey, and, on the homeward journey, land them all at their homes. The proposal is that the children should gather at a shelter, be brought thence to the school and in the evening be returned to the shelter, whence they could scatter to their homes.

I want, in conclusion, to say this final word. I think that at the present moment the question of whether the Irish language is not dead is open to debate. I think that is the tragic fact. Ten years ago, I should have laughed at anybody who suggested it was true, but to-day the machinations of the Department of Education have converted it into a very debatable question. Conscious of that, I would still fight to save the language, and I put it to the Minister that an absolutely indispensable pre-requisite for a successful effort at the present stage to save the language is substantial agreement among all Parties on the method whereby we are to do it. It is clear that there is a deep cleavage, not as to the objective but as to the method, and that the difference crystallises in the issue as to whether it is expedient or just to teach through the medium of Irish in schools where the vernacular of the children's home is English.

A pre-requisite for a successful effort to save the language is substantial agreement by all the people and an essential pre-requisite for that substantial agreement is a statement of the facts of where we stand at present. The only method I know by which these facts can readily be ascertained is an inquiry conducted by reasonable people, not by persons biased in one direction or the other. For instance, I would be a most unsuitable person to put on it because my mind is clearly made up on the expediency of teaching through the medium of Irish. I frankly admit that. I am sure it is wrong but I do say that if seven men, whose judgment I trusted, said: "After examining the whole question, we come to the conclusion that you are wrong," I would not be a bit afraid to change my opinion.

Would you? That is the trouble.

I do not know. If the Taoiseach approaches this whole problem from the angle that anyone who disagrees with him is not prepared to change his mind, but that he himself has a perfectly open mind and is always ready to change it, but never does change it, we are going to get nowhere at all. Listening to the Taoiseach two or three years ago, when, as Minister for Education, he was speaking on the Estimate, I found myself in very substantial agreement with all that the Taoiseach appeared to say. But, by jove, since then, listening to the Taoiseach on what he actually did say, I now discover that, like Deputy O'Sullivan, I did not understand him aright at all.

I thought he had become sweetly reasonable and I thought I had found a good many things in respect of which I could go a long way to meet him and that he was coming a long way to meet our view, that at least he was leaning to the view that the time had come when a general review and a taking stock of the whole position was necessary, so that we could make a new departure on the same lines, if these were the best lines, or on some amended programme, but that the vital thing was to get substantial agreement among us all on the best method of arriving at the agreed object. Since he made that speech, he has been back-pedalling like fury.

Where? How? When?

I can tell the Taoiseach why, if I cannot answer the others.

It is much more important to get the fact. Where?

The "why" is pretty clear and I hope that when the general election is out of the way, his sweetly reasonable accents will be heard from the Opposition Benches agreeing to the new departure adumbrated by the new Minister for Education. In the meantime, I should like to have his goodwill, just as I should like to have Deputy O'Sullivan's goodwill and the goodwill of everybody else, in the common effort, because I am quite certain that we shall get nowhere without it. I know of no other way of securing it than by some kind of objective report by persons who are prepared to examine the facts as they unquestionably are. The facts are that there is a cleavage of opinion and that between persons, who take diametrically opposite views—we might say, Deputy O Briain and myself who are poles apart—there is the objective report of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation who say that, in their judgment, the cause of the language, the children's education or the children themselves are not being served by the present policy.

All the case I am making is: let us have an examination of the state of affairs which evokes those three reactions and, on the facts revealed by a judicial examination of that situation, let us determine whether we cannot find a common policy to serve the language movement. Maybe we cannot. If we cannot, the language is as dead as a doornail. If we can, I believe there is still time to save it, but make up your minds to this: if the language is to be nailed to the flagstaff of a particular political Party and made the subject of political controversy, it is as dead as Queen Anne. It was that which damn nearly killed it in the last 20 years. Since the Gaelic League was taken over by a political organisation and made the toe-rag of every unscrupulous political "chancer" in Ireland, the language has suffered deeply from its association with the Gaelic League. Decent men do not want to be associated with the kind of lunatics who use the Gaelic League for every rotten purpose to which they can put what was once an honoured name and what is now a byword for chicanery and fraud.

Unless you can raise the language above that unscrupulous ruck whom it is fashionable to conciliate, whom a great many politicians think it is wise to keep on their hands, not excluding the Taoiseach on occasion; unless we can raise the whole language movement above the disgusting standard set by that contemptible body, then the language is dead. I still nurse a faint hope that it may be in the joint power of us all to do that. I think an agreed report on the position of the language, particularly in the schools, is essential. It is, perhaps, the last time I will ever ask it of this Government. We are very near the end. I have hopes that the language can still be saved. I have the strongest possible desire that it should be saved and that the generation which will come after us should speak it as fluently as they will the English language. It is in that spirit that I appeal to the Minister to accede to Deputy O'Sullivan's request to set up a commission which will go as near as can be to command the confidence of us all, a commission which will inquire into the existing state of affairs in the confidence that once its findings are faithfully recorded the vast majority of our people will combine in co-operating with whomsoever is in power in an effort to put right whatever is wrong and restore the language to the place it ought to occupy in this country. I observe the Taoiseach and the Minister for Education in consultation. I trust the Minister will allow the Taoiseach to speak. Do not stop him talking.

Surely I will be permitted to hear from the Minister what happened just before I came in.

I am sorry.

The Deputy very often does that. If the Deputy would only keep a hold on his words and express his ideas in more temperate language, he would get very many more people to listen to him, but, unfortunately, he does not do that. With regard to this question of education generally, as I said on a previous occasion, when I was Minister, this is one of the most important questions we could discuss and I think it ought to be discussed calmly, quietly, and temperately. It is not a Party question in any sense—at least, it ought not to be. I think that it is one of those questions above all others that can and should be approached reasonably and quietly. It is a very difficult matter to decide what, in modern circumstances, is the best type of education to give to our young people so as to fit them for the life they are later to lead. I tried in a rather long speech on a previous occasion to examine that matter closely and to indicate what we really want children to have when they have passed through the primary schools.

They leave school when they are 14 years and you may take it that it is the last three or four of these years that are really valuable. In the earlier years they are just getting to know how to use the instruments with which they have been furnished and, even when they are leaving school, the most you can hope for is that they will know how to read, write and do simple arithmetic. If I had children leaving school and knowing these things, I would feel that very good work had been done in the school up to 14 years; that is, that a child who had passed through the school should at least be able to read a newspaper. We are doing it in Irish as well and a child, therefore, should have a reading knowledge in both languages. For the present it seems to me that it is essential that a child should be able to read a book or a newspaper, to write a simple letter, a simple account of some information that he wants to convey to some other person. If we achieve that, we will have done a lot.

Is the Taoiseach leaving arithmetic out of it?

No. I have referred to very simple calculations. A child should be able to add and subtract, to multiply and divide, and to know when to use these operations. I would be quite satisfied if we had that. Of course, the child ought to have a knowledge of simple fractions as well. If we do get all that, I think we will have done a good deal. Then, of course, the child leaving the primary school should have a little knowledge of geography. I went to a national school, and I am very glad I did. I well remember the work that was done in the national school, and I know that all the geography that was of any value to me was the geography I learned from the third book and when I was doing the map of the world. Then we went into more detailed geography with reference to Great Britain and other countries and it was not of so much use to us at the time. I had to wait for many years before that knowledge was of any real value to me. I remember we did not do one thing which we should have done, and that was the reading of history. The first Irish history I read was O'Sullivan's "Story of Ireland". I had to wait for some time before I did that. Simple geography and simple history were different.

Now, on the question of agricultural knowledge, naturally one would think that in rural schools a certain amount of agricultural knowledge was being taught. I did learn something about agriculture from Baldwin's book on that subject. It was a very useful little book. My only complaint in regard to it was that it was based more on British methods of agriculture than on Irish methods. It contained, for instance, references to Norfolk rotations and other aspects of the British system of agriculture. I would have preferred to learn something with reference to our own rotations. That book contained a lot of information relating to the garden and my objection in that respect was that it was not so much the cottage as the kitchen garden—the kitchen garden in relation to a big mansion. It was possible, no doubt, to use a certain amount of the information contained in that book for a cottage garden as well, but I think that if it were based on Irish conditions it would have been much more practicable from my point of view.

I have that little book still. We had to learn it off by heart, a paragraph each day. I know perfectly well that I did not quite understand it at the time, but the information I gathered from it remained in my memory and years afterwards, when I was in this House, that information was of considerable value to me. With regard to education generally, I think there is to be learned from that a rather valuable lesson, and that is that a person can learn by rote a number of things which at the time he might not quite understand but in later years, when he would come to ponder them, they would become of value, so it would be by no means a waste of time. At the same time I do not think that would be accepted by educationists generally as a good principle.

I believe the education could have been made more real and vivid for me if it were given a more practical turn. I could realise the difference between Italian and perennial rye grass, because these were shown to me. There was an attempt made to show me what flax was like, but I never saw flax growing; I do not remember ever having seen a field of flax. An effort was made to show me what flax was like, but it gave me no picture of a field of flax. That was the extent of the education of these days. When people are criticising the education to-day, I remember the boys who left school with me. I happened to be continuing on, but I know that most of these would certainly not stand up to the test that Deputy Dillon would like to have put to them. They did not know their work after the 14 years any more than many of the people to-day know it and that is the great argument, in my opinion, for a continuation of our education from 14 to a later period. I believe that we are losing the money we are spending on education, bringing them up to 14. We are losing the value of that money because we have not in fact brought them to the stage in which there would be, so to speak, consolidation of the work that had been done up to 14. If we could afford to have extension of education to 15 or 16 years, I think it would be worth spending the extra money because it would be saving the money that had already been spent. Then you could hope to have people, when they left school, in a position in which it would be extraordinary if they could not write a simple letter correctly, where it would be strange if they could not do simple calculation or could not read. I do not think it is strange to-day, nor was it strange 40 or 50 years ago, when some of us were going to the national school, and when we did not have Irish to interfere.

We cannot deny, of course, that having an extra subject does mean that you cannot advance as far in each of the other subjects but a great deal of the position we find to-day was true before Irish was introduced in the schools and is not due to Irish but due to other conditions, the main ones being that the time in school is relatively short, the number of years is short.

I have not, I will admit, spent sufficient time with young people to satisfy myself whether my view is absolutely right or not, but I believe there is an attempt being made to reason with very young children long before reasoning is possible and, in my opinion, it is very much better to teach them the instruments, to give them things to memorise, and so on, than to try to reason with them at that particular stage. Therefore, I think that problems, and so on, that demand a use of reason should be put off to a later stage. In the introduction of these things very great skill is necessary. However, I say this by way of introduction to show that we have a very limited question here as regards the amount that can be done in the primary schools. When the Department is attacked and when I see the basis of the attacks on the Department, my belief is that they are based upon misunderstandings and misconceptions and that the people who are attacking do not know, in fact, what is being done in the schools.

I have to say for myself that, before I went to the Department of Education for the little while I was there, I was inclined to think there was more substance in attacks upon the system that were made from outside. I was not aware of the instructions that had been sent out with regard to the teaching of Irish in the schools. I was not aware that it was set down in black and white what were the conditions under which teaching through Irish was to take place.

Teaching through the medium of Irish.

Teaching through the medium of Irish, namely, that the teacher should know the language and that the children should be able to understand. Surely, if that is the rule, it is not the fault of the Department if something different is done.

Does that apply to the infant classes?

We will take the problem of infants separately. I am talking of the classes that are generally referred to when one is talking about teaching through the medium of Irish; it is generally those who are above the infant classes. It is laid down strictly in the instructions that went out many years ago that Irish was to be used as the medium of instruction under certain specified conditions and, of course, the inspectors were aware of that. In order to make his case, Deputy Dillon flatly tells us that the teachers are so afraid of the inspectors that, although they have the rule in black and white, they do something quite different from that which they are given definite instruction to do, that they will pretend to know Irish or they will pretend that the children know Irish and that they will try to do something which the inspector will very rapidly realise they cannot do—that they will do all that through some fear of the inspector.

Are not they bound to teach through the medium of Irish in the infant classes?

I will come back to infants. I am talking about the classes which we generally mean when talking about using Irish as a medium of instruction and that is those who have gone beyond the infant class, taking infants as being mainly from five to seven years or five to eight years. It is laid down in the instructions that Irish is to be used as a medium of instruction only where the teachers know the language sufficiently well to be able to use it and where the children know it sufficiently well to be able to understand. I would like to know what is the inducement to a teacher to contravene that? Would not one expect that the whole tendency would be in the opposite direction, that the teacher might feel the inspector might be severe on his methods, severe on the standard of knowledge that would be required, that he might find fault with the teacher's knowledge of the language or with the amount the children were able to learn from the teacher? Why should Deputy Dillon assume that it is quite the opposite? Why should other people assume that it is quite the opposite?

I think that we ought not form any judgments without examination of the schools. The Minister, at least, is in a position in which he has a number of inspectors and he can go out, and the chief administrators in the Department can go out and see what the inspectors are doing and check up on them. I think the reports from the inspectors are things very much more to be relied upon than the statements made by individuals who form ideas without any practical experience whatever or without any real knowledge of what is happening in the schools.

If the Taoiseach was an inspector, would he report to the present Minister for Education if he thought the system of teaching through the medium of Irish was all "hooey"?

I feel perfectly certain he would. When I was down there I did ask the inspectors with reference to this thing because I was interested, and from the same point of view that Deputy Dillon says he is interested— and I believe he is interested—from the point of view of the restoration of the language and using the best possible method to restore it. My information at that time was to the effect that the schools where the prescribed conditions obtained were doing the work. I went out to some of the schools at the time, not very far away from Dublin. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I gave it up was because I felt it was a whole-time job and that if I were to do the work of Minister for Education I would have to go out and see the schools myself so as to be able to form an independent opinion. At any rate, I did go to some and I was surprised how good they were. That is a fact. I was surprised how good these schools were and I believe the schools I have seen would compare with the schools in my time where they were doing English alone. In the particular schools I visited they were teaching through the medium of Irish while I was there.

Deputies say, "What is the objection to an inquiry?" I do not know what view the Minister would take of it, but I would be glad if an inquiry were made if it only laid these ghosts. I would be glad to see it from that point of view, because I believe most of them are ghosts, and to show that there is no stupidity in the methods that are being adopted, that if we want to get the language restored, if we are really serious about that, we will have to use Irish as a medium of instruction in the schools, and that if we put it back into the position in which it is simply a subject in the day, we are not going to achieve our main object, that is the restoration of the language as a spoken language. As I say, I do not know what view the Minister may ultimately take about this, but, personally, I would be prepared to consider it from the point of laying these ghosts. They are doing a lot of damage, and Deputies, like Deputy Dillon and others, who are speaking in this way, are doing a great deal of damage. I believe that if they examined the facts of these things, and did not take them from hearsay and did not form views without sufficient evidence, they would not make these attacks.

Does that stricture apply to the national teachers' report?

The national teachers' report can be examined. I think the Minister examined it and spoke about it in the Seanad. Is not that so?

Yes, and here.

He examined that report and pointed out that nobody was going to accept that as if it were an inquiry.

Agreed, but do the Taoiseach's strictures on comments on that situation apply to that report?

If I wanted to deal with the report, I would deal with the report as such. I am leaving that to be dealt with in detail, as it has been, by the Minister who is responsible. I am speaking about Deputies and others who say that they are interested in the revival of the language and who are parading these ghosts all the time. I believe they have not examined the question sufficiently to know what they are talking about.

Do your strictures apply to the teachers' report?

I say that that teachers' report would not be accepted by me, if I were Minister for Education, as an inquiry. I move to report progress.

Progress reported, the Committee to sit again to-morrow.

Would I be permitted to raise a personal matter?

It is related, I gather, to something said in the debate on the Finance Bill. I have had no intimation as to the exact matter which the Deputy desires to raise, but, if he sees me afterwards, an opportunity may be provided to-morrow.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.35 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday, 13th May.