The Deputy has given a fairly accurate version of what has happened. I should also like to put on the record, so that everybody concerned may know precisely what has happened, what are the facts in the case. An advertisement was published in the public press in April, 1974, and in it the County Laois VEC invited:
Applications from suitably qualified candidates for the position of principal of Portlaoise Vocational School.
It was also stated in the advertisement:
Qualifications and conditions of appointment as set out in paragraph 12 (b) and Appendix C (ii) Memo. V.7 of the Department of Education.
Memorandum V.7 is a document issued by my Department which governs the appointment, qualifications and scales of salary of permanent full-time teachers under vocational education committees. The memorandum also covers appointments in the case of whole-time teachers permanently established to posts of responsibility in such schools, including posts as principal and vice-principal.
The advertisement specified that the qualifications and conditions of appointment, as I said, for the post would be those set out in the paragraphs I have mentioned. Paragraph 12 (b) of the memorandum in operation at the time of the advertisement read as follows:
The person appointed to any post as principal should be a fully qualified teacher with a capacity for organising. The choice of teacher will depend on the requirements of the centre, but should be such that he can be employed at the centre for the appropriate number of teaching hours. In the case of a school with a points rating over 449, the person appointed should have not less than five years whole-time teaching experience preferably in the vocational education service. In the case of a school with points rating up to 449, the period of whole-time teaching experience should be not less than three years.
The points rating of Portlaoise Vocational School exceeded 449 at the time and still does and pursuant to the above terms of paragraph 12 (b) of Memorandum V.7 the requirements that a person appointed to the post should have not less than five years whole-time teaching experience in the vocational education service was applicable in the case.
According to information supplied to my Department, the County Laois VEC received nine applications for the post in response to their advertisement. In accordance with normal practice the candidates were called for interview by a central selection board on 17th May, 1974. In accordance with established practice, the central selection board consisted of seven members, four nominated by the County Laois VEC and including their chairman, one representative of the Irish Vocational Education Association and two officers of my Department.
The selection board reduced the candidates for that post to a first and second choice. The order in which these two candidates were placed by the four nominees of the VEC on the selection board was not acceptable to the other three members of the board, namely, the representative of the Irish Vocational Education Association and my two nominees, because the candidate placed first by the VEC nominees did not have the minimum of five years whole-time teaching experience required by the terms of paragraph 12 (b) of Memorandum V.7, whereas the candidate placed second by the VEC nominees complied with this and the other requirements for the post. In the event, the report of the meeting of the selection board on 17th May, 1974 was signed only by the four nominees of the VEC and also by the committee's chief executive officer as secretary to the selection board but not by the other three members of the board.
The first choice candidate of the members of the VEC on the selection board is a permanent whole-time teacher of English and History and has been in the whole-time employment of County Laois VEC since September, 1971. He was previously employed on a temporary basis as a teacher in Terenure College, Dublin from September, 1970 to June, 1971. He has not, therefore, the minimum of five years whole-time teaching experience required by the terms of paragraph 12 (b) of Memorandum V.7.
The second choice candidate of the members of the VEC on the selection board is a permanent whole-time teacher of Science who has been in the whole-time employment of County Laois VEC since October, 1963. He, therefore, complies with the requirement of five years whole-time teaching experience prescribed in paragraph 12 (b) of Memorandum V.7.
On 20th May, 1974 the chief executive officer of the committee wrote to the Department indicating that, notwithstanding the views expressed by the IVEA representative and my nominees at the meeting of the selection board on 17th May, 1974 the VEC members on the board had selected as their first choice the candidate who did not fulfil the requirement in respect of teaching experience. The CEO requested an indication of the Department's view in the matter in time for the meeting of the VEC on 9th June, 1974 at which the selection would be considered.
The Department replied to the CEO on 30th May, 1974 stating that the first choice candidate was ineligible for appointment as principal of Portlaoise Vocational School. The meeting of the VEC, at which the appointment was considered, was held on 12th June, 1974 and the report of their selection board, signed only, as I have said, by the four nominees of the VEC on the board was before the meeting, as was the Department's letter of 30th May, 1974. Two proposals as follows were proposed and seconded for consideration by the Committee:
The First: "That the report of the selection board be adopted and the Committee now approve of the appointment of (the selection board's named first choice) as principal of Portlaoise Vocational School from 1st September, 1974."
The Second (an amendment): That (the selection board's named second choice) be appointed to the post of principal, Portlaoise Vocational School as from 1st September, 1974.
The amendment was put and defeated on a show of hands by eight votes to four. The original motion was carried by the same majority. The chairman, accordingly, declared the first choice candidate appointed to the post as principal, Portlaoise Vocational School with effect from 1st September, 1974 "subject to sanction of the Minister for Education". My Department informed the VEC by letter dated 5th July, 1974 that it was not open to the Department to sanction the first choice candidate's appointment for the reason set out in their letter of 30th May, 1974, to which I have already referred.
In the minutes of the committee's meeting on 8th July, 1974 it was stated that the committee would not accept the fact that the first choice candidate was ineligible in accordance with the terms of Memorandum V.7. A motion at the meeting that the first choice candidate be appointed as principal teacher in charge was carried by nine votes to two, and an amendment that the second choice candidate be appointed teacher in charge was defeated by the same vote.
The next letter from the Department to the VEC in the matter was dated 29th August, 1974. This letter made it clear that there was not included amongst posts of responsibility in vocational schools a post carrying the title of principal teacher in charge and again pointed out that the first choice candidate was not eligible for appointment as principal of Portlaoise Vocational School.
The next proposal which my Department received from the VEC following the committee's meeting on 9th September, 1974—a proposal carried by nine votes to five—was that the first choice candidate be appointed as acting principal without remuneration as from 10th September, 1974. An amendment that the second choice candidate be appointed to the post of principal as advertised was defeated by the same majority.
The committee were informed in writing on 18th September, 1974 that this new proposal could not be sanctioned by the Department. The Department stressed in the same letter that it was essential in the interests of the pupils concerned that the vacant post of principal of Portlaoise Vocational School should be filled immediately in accordance with the provisions of Memorandum V.7 particularly paragraph 12 (b) thereof. It was stated, too, that the Department considered that as the first choice candidate was not eligible for the post, the candidate placed next in order of choice should be appointed since he was fully qualified and eligible for the post.
No further progress has been made in the matter despite further correspondence between my Department and the committee. The central point at issue, which was conveyed by my Department to the VEC in a letter dated 5th December, 1974, is that notwithstanding the availability of the candidate who fulfills the requirements for the post of principal in accordance with the Committee's own advertisement and in accordance with the relevant terms of the Department's Memorandum V.7, the VEC have persisted in proposing that the post be filled in some form or another by a candidate who does not comply with the requirement applicable to Portlaoise Vocational School that the person appointed should have not less than five years whole-time teaching experience. It has been stated unequivocally to the committee in that letter that while there is a candidate available who satisfies the conditions for appointment as principal in accordance with normal procedures, I, as Minister for Education, will not sanction the filling of the post on any other basis.
The present position, as I understand it, and I am not informed as to the events of today, which were brought to my attention by the Deputy this evening, is that the County Laois Vocational Education Committee are seeking legal advice as to the propriety of their own actions in the whole matter. I expect to be informed of the outcome of their inquiries without delay. When this information is conveyed to me I will then be in a position to make a determination in the matter.
The Dáil adjourned at 11 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 12th February, 1975.