When this Stage had been reached on Tuesday, 20th April the amendment we were discussing was an amendment in the name of Deputy FitzGerald:
In subsection (3), page 4, line 10, to delete "with the consent of the Minister" and to insert "for causes stated".
Deputy FitzGerald seemed to express surprise that I should be unable to be in sympathy with this. He seemed to suggest that I was, in some way, falling down on my trade union responsibilities in not feeling that causes should be stated. I profess, quite frankly, that at that point my degree of exasperation at the protraction of this debate and with arguments of this kind did rather boil over in me but may I recapitulate on the three arguments I was making at that time?
First, I do not think it is in any way useful to introduce the phrase: "for causes stated". It could be highly invidious that this should be so. There is a matter which may come up on the Adjournment tonight and which we have been discussing in this House fairly extensively—the dismissal from employment of an employee of the National College of Art. The Minister refused to state precisely on what grounds the person in question had been dismissed. In my opinion he refused, quite correctly, because it could be highly invidious to have the terms of disemployment of a person stated in this House. That is one reason why I see Deputy FitzGerald's amendment as having no particular value.
Secondly, I am quite unable to understand the neurosis about the role of the Minister and the Department which seems to inform an awful lot of Deputy FitzGerald's thinking here. I belong to a party which is consistently urging greater Parliamentary control of the State-sponsored bodies through committees and responsibility to the Dáil and that kind of thing. I do not see how I, as a member of such a party, can argue that the Higher Educacation Authority should possess such a degree of autonomy as to hire and fire its servants for causes stated without reference to the person who is, in the eye of the community, its paymaster. Personally, if I were in the position of being an employee of the Higher Education Authority I would much rather feel that I could fall back on the interest of the Minister than that I was simply bound by the authority's capacity to state for what causes I was being dismissed. As a university employee, I would much rather be in a position in which I had recourse to the Minister than in the position of quasi-autonomy which I am supposed to enjoy at the moment.
Thirdly, I agree with Deputy Tunney's remarks in that discussion. We are all treating this debate as if we were debating whether Ireland should declare nuclear war on Russia in the morning or something like that. Let us keep firmly in our minds that public money is being spent here on the work of this education authority and ultimately, no matter how much I may from time to time criticise the Minister and his Department, the fact remains that the final and ultimate buck stops on that Minister's desk and that is as it should be, in my view, whether it is Deputy Faulkner, Deputy FitzGerald in years to come, myself or Deputies who will be born after we are all dead. It remains true that the Minister ultimately has the sanction of the endorsement of, let us say, in effect, half a million people. He is perfectly entitled to maintain an ultimately controlling interest in issues of this kind. At the moment we are reaching a point of the exclusion of the Minister from this authority which I think is quite ridiculous. I think Deputy FitzGerald is becoming totally neurotic about the Higher Education Authority here. He is trying to have it both ways. I agree with the Minister. At one point he wants to increase the autonomy and power of the authority if he thinks that will diminish the power of the Minister; at another point he wants to diminish the autonomy and power of the authority if he thinks that will enhance the powers of the university. This is totally ridiculous.
My colleague, Deputy O'Donovan, and myself have agreed to go our separate ways on this. This is fair enough. This is not a Bill involving matters of major principle which should be necessarily Whip-bound. Let me say here that I think remarks referring to the members of this authority as "Quislings," are quite wrong. I regard them, on the whole, not in every case, as a well-chosen body of men doing an excellent job of work. There are a couple of major exceptions in this Bill with which I disagree, as, for example, the issues on which we have divided this House and matters like student representation. Apart from that, I regard this as a relatively minor Bill simply to give statutory existence to a body which has already been in existence for some considerable time and has been doing a good job of work during that time. Anyone who argues that the Minister should have come to this House first to appeal for statutory recognition of the authority and then establish it knows little of the academic mind because if he had done so he would still be in this House and we would still not even have a named authority. It is the hen and the egg situation and I think the Minister went the right way about it. I wish the members of this authority good luck in their work.
I should like to say one thing that is not intended to be personal to my colleagues—colleagues both in the sense of being fellow Dáil Deputies and colleagues also in the sense of being university academics, Deputies O'Donovan and FitzGerald. I think we should at all times remember that we are not here as spokesmen for our universities and I think a discussion which shows an over-familiarity with the needs of any particular university is not one which should be paraded on the floor of this House. Certain points of this debate reached a level at which I could practically make a speech about my own salary in Trinity College and why it should or should not be increased. I have no intention of sinking so low as to do that. I cannot support this amendment because at this point Deputy FitzGerald has reached a level of nit-picking——