Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 8 Jun 1961

Vol. 189 No. 12

Committee on Finance. - Vote 30—Oifig an Aire Oideachais (Atogáil).

Debate resumed on the motion:
"Go gcuirfí an Meastachán siar chun a athbhreithnithe"—Risteárd Ua Maolchatha.

Deputy Loughman.

Deputy Giles reported progress.

Deputy Giles did not report progress; it was Deputy Loughman who reported progress.

I was dealing with this statement by Deputy Flanagan——

Now, do not start on Deputy Flanagan again. Let the Deputy leave me out of his speech and make his own speech.

The only reason I am speaking is the many things the Deputy said. Quite a number of points have been covered already by speakers, but Deputy Flanagan's speech is typical of a number of speeches made here, speeches which do nothing to help the restoration of the Irish language. I believe Deputy Flanagan's speech and others of a similar character are anything but helpful. They are in fact, destructive. That is the reason I have risen to speak.

I was saying, when Deputy Flanagan interrupted, that in his speech he said that the vast majority of Irish people were against compulsory Irish. If it is a fact that the vast majority are against compulsory Irish it is also a fact that the majority returned this Party to power, and this is the Party which sponsors the particular system and has done so over the past 30 years.

And the living language was left to die out in County Clare.

The Deputy should be allowed to make his speech.

The Deputy said we were spending £7,000,000 a year on it.

No, £7,000,000 since 1935. The Deputy was not listening.

I withdraw the misinterpretation.

How much is it costing in children's tears?

Will the Deputy dry up? We are sick of listening to him. If he would make a sensible speech for once, we could tolerate it, but we would be even more pleased if he would allow someone else to make it.

It is very hard to tolerate you anyway.

Talk to the Chair, please. If Deputies would realise how funny we think it is to see Deputy Lynch on the front bench, they would not laugh so heartily.

The Deputy has some nice boys on the front bench over there.

Deputy Flanagan said children were being taught in the schools to hate England. That is a monstrous error on the part of the Deputy. Like every other parent, I read the history books given to my children. I am sure the Deputy does likewise. Perhaps he would show us the parts of these books which are supposed to propagate this hatred of England. That demonstration would be an education for me at any rate. The teachers do no such thing as inculcate a hatred of England. They teach Irish history. They do not dwell on the things of a vicious nature which occurred in the past.

They teach the children to be proud of the history of their country. Deputy Flanagan talked about the people of Britain suffering for the Faith. The peoples of every country in the world have at some period suffered for their religion. I cannot understand why these statements should be made in a speech on education in this House. I think we can be well satisfied with the history taught at the present time. If that history helps our children to a proper appreciation of their country, its history helps our children to a proper worth while. If it makes them proud of their Irish origin and makes them feel this is a country worth living in——

Worth living in, and they have to work in Conventry.

If the people who do so much to discourage the propagation of Irish would bend their energies in the other direction, much good could be done. First, they state they love the language and they make an apology for attacking it. They say it is a beautiful language.

Why does the Deputy not speak it?

They say they would like to hear the language spoken by the people generally. Then they add a "but"—but so and so, and so and so, and so and so. If the people who attack the system would support the system, we could get somewhere. The system has been accepted. When people like Deputy Flanagan and Deputy Wycherley condemn the system, it is only natural that the children, and some of their parents, will follow the example set here and use it as an excuse. Youngsters going to school are anxious only to be free from learning. Any excuse is good enough for them to condemn Gaelic, mathematics or English is, of course, compulsory in our schools.

Deputy Flanagan paid a glowing tribute to the French language. He wanted children in the national schools to be taught French instead of Gaelic. Did anyone ever hear anything more ridiculous? The bread and butter, of course, cropped up once more: what will they get out of Gaelic? I have never known any great battle fought on the issue of bread and butter. Perhaps the Deputy does not realise that, but it is a fact. People have fought and suffered and endured for culture and tradition. I would remind the Deputy that even in the Famine days, the people refused to be bribed with soap, and other things, to make them forfeit their heritage. They preferred to suffer. I venture to say that, if the same issue were involved today, the people would likewise prefer to suffer and endure, if, by doing so, they would help in restoring the language.

I should like to put one grievance before the Minister with regard to teachers who came out of training schools in the late 30's and early 40's and who had to sign an agreement that they would remain in this country for five years. Some of these young teachers could not get a position in this country in that five years because there was a surplus of teachers. They want now to see if the Minister will review the position and give them added years' service for those five years during which they were forced to remain in this country when they could have sought employment in other lands. I would ask the Minister to take note of that. These people have a genuine grievance.

The Estimate for the Department of Education is one of the most important votes. The debate on the Estimate is one to which all Deputies should contribute and on which they should not try to score politically over one another. We spend up to £17 million on education. It is not half enough. Unfortunately, this country at the moment, cannot afford any more. I should like to see the Vote stepped up immensely if we could save in other directions. Instead of £17 millions, I should like to see £30 millions being spent on education.

There was a time when education did not count so much in this or many other countries. Nowadays, education is of primary importance. A man without education is an ignoramus, good for nothing but to be a hewer of wood and drawer of water. An educated man can always find a niche for himself in life. I do hope that as time goes on more money will be spent on education.

At the present moment the Minister has a serious responsibility because we are at the crossroads. A complete review of primary, vocational and secondary education is required to see how they can be dovetailed. Vocational education is most important. It is growing by leaps and bounds but it is very costly. A review is necessary because those of us who are on education committees do not know where we are going and are anxious to avoid taking a wrong step. We want to provide the education that the country needs.

Primary education is the foundation of all education. After the home, it is in the primary school that character is formed. Almost 75 per cent. of the pupils leave the primary school at 14 years of age and get no further education. We want to change that position and to see 50 or 75 per cent. of the pupils of primary schools proceeding to other schools.

It is time that the Minister made a decision to raise the school leaving age to 15 or 16 years. These are the most formative years. A child who leaves school at 14 years of age is not fit for employment and is hanging around for a couple of years, not learning anything good. It would be of immense importance if he could spend two years at some type of education, whether vocational or otherwise. I would ask the Minister to review the position and if at all possible to raise the school leaving age.

There are many people leaving school at 14 or 15 years of age and going to blind-alley jobs in England. Many of them do not get proper positions there and almost lose their character and their religion because they are too weak and their character is not sufficiently formed to enable them to combat pagan philosophy. We should ensure that people who have to leave this country will have a reasonable education so that they can hold their heads high and be able to take any position that offers. We shall have to spend a great deal more money on education, we must appoint many more teachers; we must raise the school leaving age, if we are to give these people a chance in life in this or other lands.

A great deal could be done in the provision of scholarships. There are many pupils leaving school at 14 years of age who have plenty of ability and brains but who do not get a chance to go further because economic necessity forces them to take up positions even at £1 or £2 a week. We have to adjust the economics of the country before we can get very far.

I regret that the present year was not a very harmonious one. The Minister must be feeling very concerned. A few years ago, under the late Seán Moylan, and under Deputy General Mulcahy, there was great concord and peace created in the teachers' organisation. There was peace and ordered progress. We are back in the melting pot again. The teachers do not know where they stand. They are in a fairly subdued frame of mind, but are not very happy about the position.

There is the question of parity. The national teacher is a fully qualified person and in most cases a more educated person that the vocational teacher. National teachers are fully entitled to parity and if they get parity it will ease some of their grievances. They are fully entitled to fight on that issue. They are a strong organisation. They do not want to go too far, but expect the Minister to go a fair part of the way to meet them. I hope he will.

There is an unfortunate position in Ballina, where there is now a strike and upheaval between the Bishop, the people and the national teachers, which is something we do not want in this Christian country. If these things are allowed to go too far, there is almost the foundation of a communist cell. If you start dividing the people from the teachers and the teachers from the priests you are starting an unhappy trend. I would ask the Minister to make every effort to get the position eased. The teachers are people who are well educated, who know what they are doing, who know their rights and their grievances. They are fighting a fair and honest case. I think the majority of people in this House will be behind them. I shall say no more on that because the situation is too critical but I would ask the Minister, if he possibly can, to get that position eased so that we will have harmony and unity of purpose, with Church and State and teachers working hand in hand to turn out a better type of citizens.

The various branches of education must be more closely integrated. They are poles apart. Vocational education is miles away from primary education. The two branches should be dovetailed so as to be indistinguishable from each other and they should be on an equal footing.

Everybody in this House knows where I stand in connection with the Irish language. I stand foursquare for the revival of the language. I have always done so and always will. I am glad to say that all the people I know on both sides of this House who took part in the national struggle in earlier years stand foursquare for that. That was the ideal that Pearse, Connolly, Plunkett and all the others down along the line fought for and it is the ideal that I hope we will get our people to adopt so that this country will be an Irish-speaking nation at some period. It is not expected that after 700 years of conquest or semi-conquest it would be possible to revive the language in 30 or 40 years. That just will not happen but I do believe it will be revived in perhaps 100 or 150 years and that it will be revived in the normal way, by creating a proper public spirit so that we will revert to the old spirit of the Gaelic League whose founders wanted to make this country a Gaelic nation.

I do hope there will be very few people in this House, on this side or on the other side, who will make little of the language. I quite agree that there should be a review of the position to see if progress is being made. The Leader of my Party stands for that. He is quite right to suggest that there should be a complete review to see whither we are going, is the language being saved or is the position deteriorating. There is no reason why there cannot be such a review. That is a normal thing in all spheres of education.

Having listened to Deputy Manley and other Deputies here, who are teachers, I am quite satisfied that the teachers have no grievance and do not air any grievance about the revival of the language. They do not find that it is interfering with their school work. I have as much contact with teachers as anybody else. There is no such thing as compulsory Irish or if there is, there is also compulsory English, arithmetic and everything else. We all know it is a case of compulsion to get a child to go to school at first; everything is compulsion, if you wish to look at it that way. I hope we have heard the last of that kind of talk. There is no such thing as compulsory Irish. The teachers are able to fulfil their programmes and are doing so. You may get a few teachers who do not want to teach Irish but, taking them all in all, they are quite happy to do good work and they are not just pushing Irish down the children's necks.

I do not agree with Deputy Flanagan's suggestion that we should have French here instead of Irish. That would be an intolerable insult to the nation, although I do not think he meant it that way. If people want French or German or Latin, let them pay for it. If there is to be a second language here, it must be the Irish language; we must aim at making this country Irish-speaking. Not only do we want the Irish language but we also want Irish customs, pastimes and characteristics revived, all the qualities that the best Irishmen had in the past and we want to discard the things which were bad in the past.

In looking back, we can see much that can be improved and much that should be cut out, but there should be no such thing here as snarling across the House at each other about the language. In 1916, 1918 and 1921, we had to fight that sort of thing not only on the platforms but with the gun and we found almost a majority of people who did not understand the thing at the time but who, when we won, almost fell over us and became all great Gramachrees and Gaelic Leaguers. Now, when they find the going a bit hard, they get cold feet again. We did our duty almost to our last breath in an effort to hand on something noble to the younger generation. Those are my sentiments and, I hope, the sentiments of all the people who are worth anything. I trust no minority would make little of the Irish language or suggest that there is compulsory Irish. It is no hardship on anybody to know two or three languages.

The question of punishment in the schools is a hardy annual here. There may be one in 500 teachers who will go too far and he might be a man suffering from a bad head from the night before. Taking them by and large, the majority of the teachers, 98 or 99 per cent. of them, are decent, honourable men, fully qualified, and if they find boys unruly and not amenable to control by means of lectures and so on, they must use the can on the hand or the buttocks or somewhere. I believe that is the most healthy thing that could be done to anybody. All of us had that experience in the past and it was not with the cane but with a hard stick, an ashplant with a knob on it. That is what we got and we often spent the best part of the day sucking our hands afterwards. The goody-goodies of today cannot stand up to anything. We hear of cases in court where there is a complaint against a teacher. That happened years ago and it will happen again. One out of thousands of teachers may slightly overstep the rules and then we are told the dirty kind of brute he is and how he maltreated the children.

We in country areas realise that family control has been very much relaxed as compared with 30 or 40 years ago and that young children are allowed to do things they should not be allowed to do at the ages of six and seven. Parents make very little effort to control them and they are not called in at 6 o'clock for the Rosary. Instead, they are out running to the pictures to see cowboy films. These are the factors forming the characters of young children now coming to school and if a teacher finds the children unruly, what can he do but try to acquire some control when the parents will not do it? He is perfectly right in giving them a good scalding, whether it be on the hand or on the tail.

You will not find children who are well brought up in trouble because they get plenty of the belt and the stick and hard work at home. It happens only in the case of goody-goodies, children perhaps of people who have spent half their lives living on the State. They come along with complaints if their dear darlings are touched and say what they will do to the teacher, running in almost with their coats off to fight him. They do not realise there would be no need to fight if they did their own duty at home.

I agree that economic necessity over the past 20 or 30 years has had a good deal to do with delinquency. In many cases the fathers and, in some cases, fathers and mothers, were away from home or in England and young fellows became unruly. There must be proper discipline up to 15 or 16 until the child's behind is developed. We must stand behind the teachers in these things and I hope the Minister, the Department and the vast majority of the people will also stand behind them in seeing that a proper type of youngster will form the future generations.

Something that has been happening for a number of years—and it is something I do not like—is that a large number of young girls get a sketchy education and then go into factories where they get very low wages and are hardly able to dress themselves and are never able to put any money aside to help them in later life. We should train more young men and compel State-controlled institutions or factories to employ male labour. I believe that where females can work, males can work and there should be standard wages. If we had male labour employed where scores or even thousands of girls are working, these girls would all be married in a short time because men in constant employment at £7, £8 or £10 a week would soon get married and settle down.

That does not seem relevant on this Vote.

I think it is essential——

It may be essential but it is not relevant.

One of our greatest troubles is that we must allow the majority of young men to emigrate while young girls are forced to work as cheap labour in order to make big money for industrialists. When those industrialists are State-protected, it is our duty to see that they pay a living wage to the male population to give them a chance of earning a living at home.

Our educational system, despite what may be said, is not so bad, as you can see when you read about other parts of the world such as India or the Congo or elsewhere. You find whole peoples semi-illiterate, apart from the few living around the big towns who have been educated by Britain and other colonial powers of their own purposes. When we realise that this country was subjected to every possible trial and torment for 700 years, it is a tribute that we have the standard of education we have reached today. There is no need for anyone to say that he cannot read or write or add because a knowledge of all these things can be acquired in the national schools. Many of our men have gone no further than the national school but they are able to take their place in this country, or in other countries, set themselves up, rear families and lead comfortable and prosperous lives.

We live in a mechanised age and we must further our education by every possible means so that we will keep up with modern trends. Therefore, we should give the majority of our people a vocational education. I am a member of a vocational committee and I feel there are many things we could do to save money. We are building large, beautiful schools— there is one such in Navan which will cost between £120,000 and £125,000 —and I often wonder if that is good policy. Would it not be better that every three or four national schools combined to have a decent class-room attached to one of them where vocational education could be taught to the people of the area?

I do not like to see people travelling seven or eight miles on a bicycle, or an auto-cycle, or perhaps in a hired motor car, to get to that centre. They are there for two or three hours looking around the town and chatting with the people and this is not conducive to getting young people to stay in the country. They get big ideas and when they leave school, very few of them come back to work on the land. I believe that vocational education should be spread more evenly around the country. If one classroom were set aside as I suggest, the different facilities could be provided there, whether it be in regard to some mechanical vocation, woodwork, shorthand and typing, or such subjects. That should be done in the country areas. We are giving far too many facilities to a minority, while a majority are left out in the cold and their parents are paying for other people's education.

There should also be a closer cooperation between the different counties. In my area, we have built a school practically on the Cavan border and now we find that in Cavan they are going to build a school some one and a half miles across the border and all the people who came to Meath will now go to the Cavan school and perhaps leave our school half idle. We should look 20 years ahead. The position in County Dublin is the same. A school is to be built a few miles from the Dublin border and people who previously went to another school will now go to the new school. It is time to review vocational education and see where we are going. All our people are entitled to the same rights but a majority of them are not getting their rights in regard to vocational education. In my own area, I see four or five young fellows going on push bikes to a vocational school but there are scores of the same type who do not go. If they had vocational education at home, they would avail of the opportunity to receive a proper finishing education and fit them selves to work in this or any other country.

I would ask the Minister and his Department to see where we are going in vocational education and to try to dovetail these aspects of education and also to give parity to the teachers. In this way we would have peace and concord. I believe the present year will be a critical year for any Minister. The Minister is a good Minister and a genial and understanding man, but he has many obstacles in his way and the first thing he should do is to restore peace among the primary teachers and also see that there is no trouble here between the clergy, the people and the teachers. If there is not harmony and concord, then there will be disrespect for both teachers and education in general and the people will drift as they did in other countries, to the left. We do not want a drift to the left but we do want a good, Chirstian philosophy of a high standard and if we see anything of a dangerous nature, we should nip it in the bud immediately. If we do not do that at once, we will regret it. I say to the Minister that he has a job on hands and he should do it and do it well. We have trouble where we should not have trouble. The teachers have a grievance both in respect of parity and infringement of their rights.

In conclusion, I say that education in general is making fair strides, but if we want to make further strides and have a better educated people, we must spend more money, spend not £17,000,000 but £30,000,000. If we do that and cut down in other places, whether it is in the Army or elsewhere where money is being wasted, we could do good work for this country.

One of the few brief remarks I want to make is in regard to compulsory Irish. Some people think Irish is compulsory. It can be compulsory only so long as teaching certain subjects through the medium of Irish is compulsory. That is as compulsory as it need be. I have spoken on this subject before and while my own knowledge of Irish is, I regret, very limited, I am one of those who would like to see the Irish language established. After all, it is our language and not the language of any other country. I regret that the methods taken so far seem to have been fraught with failure the whole time. Anything that has the faintest tinge of compulsion in this country, or indeed for any people, is rebelled against because it is human nature to do so and it is sure to bring about the defeat of its objective. I suggest to the Minister that surely it must be within the competence of the educational officials to devise some means of inducing people to foster the language rather than set them against it. That is where the crux of the whole matter lies.

Nowadays most youngsters have some vocation to look forward to. They aim at that vocation and if they knew in time that they had not got an adequate knowledge of Irish to get a particular job, it would be an incentive to them to learn it. My opinion is that teaching through the medium of Irish is damaging not alone Irish but other subjects. In my own county, I meet children coming from school and I put simple questions to them, according to the class they are in, and their lack of knowledge appals me, so much so that I think we are turning out children who know everything off by heart but do not know the meaning of it. They know that two and two make four and ten times two are twenty, in Irish, but they do not know what it means in actual practice. The whole standard of education is being lowered by this system. The time has come to review the whole matter seeing that our present method is a failure, and I believe it is a failure. We must have a fresh look at the whole thing and see if some other method will not achieve better results.

Coming from the West of Ireland where there is a large number of Irish speakers, I think the greatest blow to the Irish language is the failure to keep at home many of these native Irish speakers who have had to leave these areas. In the Gaeltacht areas the population is thinning out and the departure of these native speakers is a big loss to the nation. We are spending huge sums in trying to retain the Irish language and we should try to hold on to the few native speakers that are left. They have been brought up with the language from the cradle and English is something they absorbed only when they went to school. Some schemes of employment should be embarked upon to keep them at home. They are more of an asset than people who have been reared in English-speaking households and who have learned to read and write the language at school.

In regard to vocational education, Deputy Giles mentioned there should be a classroom attached to every second or third national school in central areas where pupils within a reasonable radious could attend for vocational education. That is an excellent idea. While it is a grand thing to see the big vocational schools in the towns, these are far removed from a great number of pupils. We should give a chance to as many children as possible to take advantage of vocational education when they come to a certain age. The suggestion that a classroom should be made available in every second, third or fourth national school in an area is one that should be adopted. Even though an area may be backward it does not mean there would not be brilliant pupils from it.

I wish to inquire from the Minister what is the position in regard to the proposed vocational school in Charlestown, County Mayo. There is a dense population within a radius of five miles of Charlestown and there are five or six national schools, including the school in Charlestown itself, that is taking a piece of County Sligo as well. I have been told the national school population in six schools there comes to 1,288. A vocational school is needed for that area. The nearest one is in Ballaghadereen which is 11 or 12 miles away. There is another one in Swinford which is overcrowded because that is another densely populated area. I do not know what is the cause of the hold up. I am not a member of the Vocational Educational Committee myself but I would ask the Minister to iron out the situation and to provide a vocational school for Charlestown as soon as possible in view of the urgent need for it.

I should like to agree with the Deputies who have said that this Estimate in relation to Education deals with one of the most important matters that can be dealt with in this country. More people are beginning to realise that in this technical age in which we are living a small country such as ours must devote more and more attention to the subject of education and must, even if it involves greater expenditure, equip its people in order to enable the country to meet the problems of the future.

It is disturbing that, largely speaking, under our educational system, whether it is contrived or merely exists, higher education is largely depending on the few who are fortunate enough to be able to pay for the higher education of their children. This country cannot afford a continuance for much longer of that approach. In relation to secondary and more advanced education, we must sooner or later make opportunities for such education more readily available to people. It is quite wrong that at the moment the scientists and many of the professions are recruited from perhaps 15 per cent. or 20 per cent. of the population. I do not think we can afford to continue that at a time when the requirements for greater scientific knowledge and knowledge of new techniques and matters of that kind are becoming more and more important. Accordingly this country will have to take another look at its educational system. That is as much as I want to say on that as I know it is a subject which at the moment is getting a great deal of thought and consideration, certainly on this side of the House.

There has been an exchange of views with regard to the Irish language and the Irish language policy. I agree largely with what Deputy Giles has said in this regard. I do not think we solve anything by an exchange of very hot incivilities in this House as to who has demonstrated higher regard for the language. In fact since this State was established in 1922 the language policy initiated by the then Government has continued over the years. It has been adopted by successive Governments and, as far as the policy in relation to the revival of the Irish language is concerned there has not been any very marked division in the House in regard to that.

I fear, therefore, that that unanimity of view has inclined towards complacency with regard to this difficult question. Now 40 years after the State was formed it is reasonable to say, as has been suggested from time to time by the Leader of the Opposition, that we should take stock as to whether progress has been made or whether, on the contrary, reality may not have disappeared from our language policy. It is disturbing that even on a very general examination of what progress has been made with regard to the revival of the language we find, 40 years later, there appear to be fewer people in the country with an ability to speak the language and certainly fewer people in the country who use the language as a means of communication.

It is disturbing also that there has continued a dislike, if you like, certainly a feeling of hostility, towards the language revival policy. Also it is disturbing that, during the past 40 years, the parts of the country that we would regard as within the definition of "Fior-Ghaeltacht" have become fewer and have shrunk. The Breac-Ghaeltacht is more frequently to be found. The position through those years has evolved that there are fewer parts of the country in which the ordinary medium of expression is the Irish language.

All that leads one to some doubt as to whether the means adopted in the past 40 years have in fact been the best means. It is hard to know what the alternative should be. I am not a specialist in this matter. I have no particular knowledge. I speak as an individual but, like many Deputies of my age, I am the product of those 40 years since the State was formed. I was born in or around the period the State was founded. I went to different schools as an infant and later on as a young boy and grew up under the revival policy.

At school, I do not recollect any particular antipathy towards Irish. Certainly I did not have it. I was very proud to have the gold Fáinne. I was interested in Irish and in the speaking of the language. I achieved a certain degree of fluency and I am proud of that fact. Now I should be considerably embarrassed in endeavouring to speak Irish. I feel that the fluency I had on leaving school has been lost, perhaps because, in endeavouring to speak Irish now, I should be far too concerned with the grammar, the syntax and the speaking of it correctly. I mention that purely as my personal experience. I am sure it must be multiplied hundreds of thousands of times.

We, of my generation and people who are younger should represent the evidence that we have succeeded in making progress in the revival of the language. In fact, it is not so. I wonder if the reason might not lie in an understandable desire over the past 40 years to achieve too much too quickly. Is it not possible that we have not faced up to the fact that the Irish language has a variety of differences and a variety of dialects? Is it not possible that, though the Irish language has not any generally recognised grammar or syntax, we have tried to treat it as a universal living language? Is it not possible that we tried to teach it in a way to which it did not readily lend itself and that, therefore, perhaps we exaggerated the difficulties in its learning—and difficulties undoubtedly there are.

I should think—again, this is my personal view—that greater progress might have been made if there had been a concentration in the school curricula of speaking the language purely as a background to education in Irish schools. My view is that better progress would have been made if we had never had Irish as a necessary subject in our public examinations. Just like wearing a reasonable suit of clothes going to school, washing oneself, saying one's morning prayers, eating, sitting in a reasonably decent school room, if the fact that Irish was taught as a spoken language was part of the background it would have made better progress.

The real trouble in relation to Irish is not so much its teaching or the fact that it is taught in the primary schools—and very properly taught there—as that it has become one of the great terrors for young boys and girls in the Intermediate, Matriculation and Leaving Certificate examinations. It is a difficult language when it is an examination subject. It is difficult in its grammar and syntax. It is difficult for a young boy or girl to approach an examination in Irish with equanimity. Most of these examinations must inevitably be regarded to some extent as competitive. The ordinary experience in relation to Irish is that the young people dread the Irish examination and when eventually the necessity to do it disappears they tend to turn their backs upon it.

Whether or not the reasons I have advanced are sound I have no particular belief that they are sound because I know absolutely nothing about this subject. As an ordinary person interested in the country and as a parent I know that we must regard the past 40 years spent in an attempt to revive the Irish language as being not particularly successful. If we are sincere about the Irish language we should have a very definite stocktaking now. We should turn ourselves inwards, consider the means that have been adopted and find in what way these have been defective.

One of the great dangers to the Irish language revival movement is the fact that there are people—I am not saying this of the Minister or his advisers—who have such a closed mind on this subject that they will not listen to any other view. Unfortunately, that has lead to some of the weakness in the revival movement. There must be other ways, other alternatives. I feel that these have not been pursued as fully as they should have been.

Here is a matter on which I feel very strongly. Probably it has been mentioned already in the debate: I hope so. That is, the kind of subject brought to our young boys and girls in the formative years—six, seven, eight and nine. I find there is one tremendous omission. Certain teachers recognise it, but it is rather an individual selection. I am referring to the question of teaching in the school the responsibilities and duties of citizenhood. There is a considerable amount of teaching about what the Constitution and the Irish Flag mean. That is all very well, but those subjects are only part of the trappings. A great deal more could be done to teach our young people that, when they grow up and leave school, they are not individuals but are members of a community and that they owe a duty not merely to take from that community but to contribute towards it.

We should devote a great deal more time to this subject of citizenship, which is recognised in the educational systems of most countries. If we had a little bit more of that we would not have the disgraceful spectacle we see from time to time in this city when there is a little bit of disorder. An unfortunate Garda tries to deal with it and people stand by, often obstructing him and certainly not assisting him. If those people knew what it meant to act as citizens, they would be very quickly on the scene to help the administrative arm of the State and preserve law and order. I would suggest to the Minister—I am sure it is a matter of which he is probably aware already—that a great deal more could be done in the schools to remind the young people—in fact, you have to teach them—of their responsibilities in that regard.

Having said that, may I conclude in a parochial matter? I know the Minister may not be able to have the information now, but perhaps he might be able to tell me after the debate, if it concludes this evening, what is the position in regard to the national school at Ballycumber, which I have raised on a number of occasions by Parliamentary Question here? As far as I know, the problem which has been the subject of the questions I put to the Minister has remained unattended to. Perhaps the Minister would let me know later on if any progress has been made?

We are spending £17,000,000 on this Vote. At first sight it may look a lot, but it is not when you compare it to what is being spent in the Six Counties. It is a great credit to the Department that we are getting our education for so little. I do not think there is very much between the figures for both parts of the country. Last year, I think, the difference would be about £1,000,000.

The matter of school transport in Connemara leaves a lot to be desired. In areas where you have windswept roads and no shelter for the school children, I think the Minister should give a concession in the matter of the numbers attending school. In districts where the children have to go long distances over bad roads, there should be improved forms of transport.

We have a sum of £10,000,000 for primary education. When one considers that in primary education we are dealing with the raw material for the future and shaping the citizens of to-morrow, it is not such a large sum. Much more could be done if more money were provided, but we must go according to our means. The primary schools could play a bigger part in developing civic spirit amongst the children. You just have to look around the areas adjacent to schools and see the roadway covered with sweet papers and so on. The teachers should bring home to the children the desirability of improving in that regard and should inculcate in them a better civic spirit. These children will be the citizens of to-morrow, and these are the little things that count.

I should like to draw the Minister's attention to a matter which I feel is of the greatest importance—the changing of text books. I raised this question in the past, and I shall continue raising it while I am here. It is ridiculous in the case of a big family that the children's text books must be changed each year and that the book for one member of the family cannot be handed down to the next member of the family. It is causing a lot of unnecessary expense and I appeal to the Minister to give it his attention.

We have heard a lot about Irish. I know cases in my city and the surrounding district where children with a very good knowledge of Irish are deprived of the £5 grant. I know that is a question for the Department of the Gaeltacht, but the fact is that these children come from homes in which the parents have not a working knowledge, or have no knowledge, of the Irish language. It is to the greater credit of those children that they have such a good knowledge of it, and they should qualify for the £5 grant. It is all right to say they must come from Irish-speaking homes but there again you are up against the fact that children in Irish-speaking homes have got—if I might put it this way—Irish in their milk. They cannot but have Irish, because the atmosphere is all Irish. I appeal to the Minister to put that point to the Department of the Gaeltacht, and to ask that Department to extend the £5 grant to such cases.

On the question of compulsory Irish, we must weigh the costs against the returns. We are not making the progress we should make. There was a time when we learned Irish for one purpose—to spite the British. If we made it compulsory not to speak Irish, we would all try to learn it, agus is mór an náire. If there were a voluntary effort in this respect, it would be more helpful. Many of the greatest achievements of this country have been attained by voluntary effort. Compulsion is a bad thing.

I was taken to task last year when I raised the question of punishment in schools. I know there are a certain group who set themselves up as authorities in this matter and I do not know how they describe themselves. There should be no slackening off. If punishment is needed in the schools, it should be given. Of course, I agree there is a limit. I recall the day, and some of the older members of the House may recall the day, when, if we went home and told them we had got a whacking in school, we would get another whacking. We were afraid to tell it at home. The boot is on the other foot nowadays. The child goes home and tells and the parent comes looking for the teacher's blood. I have children and I would prefer them to be whacked now rather than later on in life. Nowadays, teachers dare not look crooked at the pupils. No wonder there is such a lack of discipline in public life at the moment.

The Minister should give recognition for pension purposes to teachers for time spent in Northern Ireland. Do we recognise the Border? We say this is a Thirty-two County Republic and we should recognise all those in it.

On the question of university education, it is rather amazing that a week before the Minister stood up here to make his statement, I was informed of one part of his statement that was made known to students in University College, Galway, to the effect that they would have to spend some time in the Gaeltacht. I am prepared to stand over that. I want to know how there can be a leakage beforehand or before the Minister's statement reached this House. Possibly the suggestion came from University College to the Minister but the fact remains that the students should not have been able to say it was going to happen. I am prepared to stand over that. Of course, it is not a Budget leakage——

The announcement referred to training colleges, not universities.

It leaked out to the students of University College, Galway, not necessarily that it would affect them, but that the policy was to be adopted.

Intelligent anticipation.

It is very laudable indeed that those in training colleges should go to the Gaeltacht. I am not finding the least fault with that; what I am finding fault with is that there should have been this advance knowledge.

I should like the Minister to use his good offices to have the demand for new B. Comm. classes in University College, Galway, met. Many young men and young women in offices were very keen to have these classes started but it seems there is a dead hand somewhere along the line. Something should be done to meet this demand. I do not think it is too much to ask, in view of the fact that so much money is voted for university education.

Another burning question is technology. It is time steps were taken to bridge the gap between technical and university education. I should like the Minister to play some part in helping our industrial drive, on which we are all united, by seeing that the product of the technical schools, labour, will have its dignity raised by the bridging of the gap.

I welcome the increase in the grant to University College, Galway. I hope it is only the beginning of many more grants to that area. I should like to draw the attention of the Minister to the vast wilderness, if I may put it that way, in regard to technical education. Oughterard, in County Galway, has not been catered for and the pupils have to come into town, quite a long distance. That is unfair. We talk of trying to get people into the Gaeltacht and if they have to emigrate, they become the hewers of wood and drawers of water.

I do not think we can over-stress the importance of the teaching of domestic economy. Perhaps we take it for granted but it is the subject that plays such an important part in assisting the mothers of tomorrow to play their part in life that we cannot go too far in that direction.

With regard to secondary schools, there have been complaints from parents that children are prevented from sitting for the Intermediate Certificate and other examinations. We talk of parental rights under the Constitution. If the parents feel that the child is fit—and they are often good judges—the child should be allowed to sit for the examination. I have known cases where parents were led up the garden path. In some cases, they had even paid the fee and when it was too late for them to see to it that the child sat for the examination, the fee was handed back. That is wrong and should not be allowed. There are schools which advertise the fact that 20 of their pupils sat for an examination and 20 passed with honours. Now, I view such a school with suspicion because I believe they pick the 20 at the expense of the not so bright. Every child is entitled to a fair break. I suggest the Minister should direct his attention to schools which advertise in that fashion.

I should like something to be done in regard to career guidance. A child with a certain aptitude should be guided. The teacher can play an important part in that. I have known many cases where the square peg was put into the round hole. The parents were anxious perhaps that their son should be a doctor or a priest. I believe the teacher could be an invaluable help in career guidance and I should like the Minister to let us know if the Department has anything in mind in that direction. Guidance is becoming increasingly important nowadays. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the Minister and his officials for the courtesy they have always shown. This side of the House are in general deeply appreciative of it.

Most of the points I wished to make have already been dealt with more than adequately by other speakers. There are, however, a few specific points I should like to put to the Minister. I am reluctant to advocate any drastic extension of the school curriculum, but in the recommendations of the Council of Education, we find such things as health, citizenship and deportment recommended. Several speakers have already referred to civics. Juvenile delinquency is a world-wide problem and it is essential that children should be instructed in good citizenship. My profound hope is that we will not be called upon to cope with the problems of juvenile delinquency which have arisen in other countries. At the same time, we must recognise that there is a loosening of parental control and a deterioration in the conduct of young people. Realising that, we must ensure that everything that can be done to deal with the problem will be done.

The problems of the teachers are aggravated to some extent by the disinclination on the part of parents to do their duty. During school hours, the teachers are charged with the care and education of the children. They are faced with certain difficulties because the children are not am enable to discipline. I think that teachers ought to be commended for the way in which they exercise restraint and, at the same time, succeed in some measure in disciplining the children under their control. Human nature being what it is, and knowing that restraint does not always endure, it is not surprising that sometimes undue physical force is exercised. When that happens, I believe the matter should be dealt with immediately. If it were, all the undesirable subsequent publicity would be avoided.

There are organisations on the prowl waiting to pick on the exceptional case and build it up as if it were something of general application, the aim being to denigrate the school managers and the teaching profession. Accepting that we have such people in our midst, we should take action immediately in these isolated cases. That would obviate the withdrawal of children from the school by parents and their subsequent prosecution for the non-attendance of their children. Instant action would obviate all that unfortunate publicity. It would prevent a situation developing in which considerable local concern is created.

More attention should be given to physical training in schools. There are many trained instructors available throughout the country. The problem in the vocational schools, and elsewhere, may be one of accommodation. I do not think it is an insoluble problem. With a little understanding and co-operation, I cannot see why any difficulties that exist should not be overcome. From the point of view of protecting property, it would be an excellent idea if the Garda Síochána lectured in the schools.

I commend the educational tours that are being run specially for children. Travelling by train, one frequently meets groups of children, and it is obvious from the replies they give to questions and the information they give about their experiences and impressions that these educational trips are most beneficial. There were days when our people were allowed to grow up with a better knowledge of countries other than their own. These facilities help to instil in our children a pride in the achievements of our own people and certainly brighten their outlook. It must be of educational value to them to have visited other parts of the country and to have seen the conditions in which other people live and work. Certainly, those of us who have met and questioned them on their return journey are quite impressed by their response to what they have seen and learnt even in such a short time. I am glad that the facilities provided by Coras Iompair Éireann in the matter of transport and catering are so well availed of. This is a very fine development which it would be well to maintain and to expand, if possible.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

In view of the arrangements that are being made for the provision of a television service and having regard to what we know of the effect that television has had on the youth in other countries, it would be desirable that the Minister and the Department of Education should maintain close liaison with the Television Authority to ensure that programmes arranged by the Television Authority would be such as to augment school education and combat the unfortunate effects that television has had in other countries on the minds of the youth. Television is a medium that has an immense potential in relation to education and the conveying of fresh ideas.

Television, of course, presents a problem in relation to home study but, with proper liasion with the Television Authority, it should be possible to use the service for the improvement of the youth of the country and as a help in the education of the children.

I would enjoin upon the Minister to ensure the development of the proper level of co-operation among the three teaching services, as was advocated by other Deputies. If that could be achieved it would improve the prospects of education as a whole.

As one who has close touch with the administration of vocational education, I am very gratified at the progress made in that sphere. Our vocational headmasters are dedicated men who have obtained outlets for many of their pupils and have gone to extremes to equip them for the vocations to which they were best suited. They are deserving of congratulation for the efforts they are making in that respect.

We have succeeded in providing well-diffused vocational schools throughout the country and there are not many places left where it is necessary to erect new schools. There are some proposals before the Minister, one in regard to Millstreet, which is the only town in County Cork which has not a vocational school. I would ask the Minister to expedite sanction for the erection of that school and to realise, in doing so, that he writes finis to the very great problem presented to the Cork Vocational Education Committee when it launched its campaign for the provision of adequate schools in that large county. If the Minister gives due consideration to the many points that have been made in the course of the debate he will be doing a good job as head of his Department.

Ba mhaith liom, i dtús báire, mo bhuíochas do ghabháil le na Teachtaí go leir mar gheall ar an gcurchuige a bhí aca agus iad ag cur síos ar na Meastacháin seo. Go h-áirithe, molaim na Teachtaí sin a labhair as Ghaeilge agus na Teachtaí eile a labhair ar son na Gaeilge. Ba chóir go dtiocfadh deagh-shompla 'na thaobh san ó'n Teach seo. Admhaím go bhfuil daoine sa Teach nach bhfuil taithighe aca ar labhairt na Gaeilge agus, mar sin, tá nós agam ar an bpointe seo den ghnó an méid atá le rá agam a rá as Bearla, ós rud é nach bhfuil seans agam aistriúchán a ullmhú, mar a bhí i gcás na h-óráide a rinne mé i dtosach.

I believe that, not having the opportunity of preparing a translation of what I have to contribute at this stage, it is better that I should conclude the debate in English because there are very many Deputies, I know, who have no practice in or knowledge of the Irish language and in the very serious and very fundamental problem of preserving our language we should have as few artificial causes of complaint as possible.

I believe the preservation and the restoration of the Irish language is very much a fundamental matter as far as the Irish people are concerned. That should be remembered by all those who feel there may be occasional transitory waves of popularity on which one could ride by making disparaging remarks about the Irish language and people concerned with it in matters as fundamental as this. While we may have a loud-spoken minority complaining, the people of Ireland have always been sound and I have no reason whatever to believe that they will be any less sound now. In fact I think they are, more and more, gaining an identity for themselves as a nation and the Irish language will be one of the very proud possessions, of which we have so few, from our ancient past, that I think the people will want it preserved.

In another debate in the House, I explained how the Government stood on the question of the Irish language. At the moment we have a Commission which is expected to report soon to the Government. I do not want to anticipate—nor could I—any recommendations of that Commission but we must accept that the nation places a duty upon the State to take certain steps in regard to the language. While I do not want to argue—there may be arguments that could be used on the broad question whether the language should be revived—I am concerned with my duty as a Minister of State to take whatever steps are necessary to protect and preserve the language. These are mainly the steps which are being criticised, I think, in this debate, the steps taken to have the language taught in the schools.

I referred here before to a campaign against the language. We heard echoes of it today from the long past, echoes tying jobbery to the language. Someone said that anybody on a platform talking Irish is getting something out of it. It may also be said that anybody talking English on a platform is getting something out of it.

A big question mark.

These are accusations which are made against people in politics and against their motives. They are old-fashioned accusations. People are beginning more and more to realise that such accusations do harm to everybody and good to nobody. Those who are now using these considerations and linking them to the language should consider very carefully what they are doing. Anything that has been said in relation to Irish could be said in relation to any other language——

Does the Minister not agree that a third-class professional man with Irish has a better chance of getting the job than a first-class man without Irish?

The Minister should not be interrupted.

I am trying to keep him on the right track. There was peace until the Parliamentary Secretary came in.

It was the Deputy who began it.

There is a point that should be considered by people in responsible positions who talk, somewhat on the lines suggested by the Deputy, about people associated with Universities. They seem to imply that a person can get a job on a knowledge of Irish against a man without Irish even though the man without Irish is better qualified. Allowing a certain amount for exaggeration, they usually imply that the person getting the job, whether a dispensary doctor's job or any other, is only able to talk Irish. The reflection of those examples is not on the policy of the Irish language revival but on the Universities or medical schools or whatever is supposed to produce this type of individual who is dependent on his knowledge of Irish. I do not know if I have made myself clear——

It is sometimes suggested that a man who is appointed to a post and who has a knowledge of Irish is not well qualified——

——as well qualified.

The fact remains that he must have the basic qualifications needed for the post——

The minimum.

——the qualifications essential to carrying out the duties of the post very well. After that, if he has a knowledge of Irish, he has preference, but to suggest he has nothing but his knowledge of Irish is a reflection on the people who graduated him.

We are allowing for exaggeration, as the Minister says.

I was about to quote from Volume 179, Column 847, of the Official Report what I said when a motion was being considered about the Irish language. I was referring to the people conducting a campaign against the language:

Part of their campaign against the Irish language is to befog the issue, confusing compulsory teaching of Irish with compulsory teaching of other subjects through Irish. I think I should state the position about compulsion and the teaching through Irish of other subjects. Outside of the Gaeltacht, in the national schools, for many years it has been the policy of the Department of Education to have the children in the infant classes and the first classes brought as rapidly as possible to a knowledge of Irish so that the work in those classes could be done through Irish.

I think it is necessary to say, for those who do not know the working of a school, that the work done in the infant class and in the first class does not involve the teaching of specific subjects except a little informal arithmetic and if the manager of the school wishes, the teaching of English, but the type of work done is not the teaching of subjects. The work done in those infant classes is merely to familiarise the children with school. In the higher classes of the national schools, the medium of instruction in the various subjects is left to the teacher, that is, of course, except the teaching of Irish, which is done through Irish and the teaching of English which must be done through English.

That is the extent of compulsory teaching through Irish. There is no teaching of other subjects in a formal way through Irish, except where the teacher selects Irish as a medium of instruction. There is, I know, a widespread idea that Irish is a compulsory medium in the primary schools but that idea is absurd. To a great extent, I think it might be due to the imaginings of people who have not been able to ascertain the facts. In regard to secondary schools, they are independent institutions and I suppose the best evidence that they are not compelled to teach through Irish is the fact that the majority of them do not teach other subjects through Irish. In vocational schools, the medium of instruction in any particular subject is a matter for the local vocational education committee.

I quote that now so that Deputies may think again on what they mean when they are criticising compulsory Irish. While the teaching of subjects through Irish is not compulsory, such teaching is available. That leads me to one of the problems raised by an Teachta Ua Maolchatha, what he described as the problem of parents in Dublin who wish to have instruction in Irish for their children in the national schools.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
The Dáil adjourned at 5 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 13th June, 1961.