I shall endeavour not to keep the Seanad very long with my motion, which I hope will be acceded to. It is as follows:—"That the Seanad urges the Government to restore to its legitimate use the College of Science, with its unique and splendidly equipped laboratories and workshops, at the earliest possible moment, consistently with the exigencies of the Government service, and to maintain it at its highest efficiency for technical education and the scientific requirements of the Irish Free State."
To prevent myself diverging into directions that my own inclination might tend towards, I shall stick to notes which I have prepared, and thus abbreviate the proceedings very much as far as I am concerned. In moving this resolution I wish to disclaim any intention of adding to the difficulties of the Government at the present time. I have brought it forward in the hope of obtaining from the Government an assurance that they have no intention of allowing this College, with its magnificent equipment, to be lost to the service of the Free State. It is common knowledge that the College was closed last September on the advice of the military authorities, and that ever since rumour has been busy with suggestions that the College should be permanently closed, and its equipment dispersed or distributed amongst other training institutions.
Recently a question was addressed to the Minister for Agriculture by Deputy Darrell Figgis as to some students of the College having to leave for England to complete their training. The Minister's answer gives the impression that the Government views the College merely as a technical school, and does not realise its value as an institution for research, forming a foundation upon which may be built a department for scientific and industrial research in the nation's interests. The College has for its chief objects not only technical education, but also research in applied science. It has been built and fitted out for this purpose, and is in itself a complete machine, the several parts of which are organised and co-ordinated for the purpose in view. Its buildings have been planned and erected with this object, and its equipment is of modern character throughout and equal to that of any engineering college in Great Britain.
This equipment cannot be removed and re-erected in another building unless specially prepared for the purpose. In fact, a duplicate of the present building would be necessary. It is worthy of note that the educational engineering work at the College of Science has been complementary to that dealt with in the Engineering Schools of Trinity College and University College. The College of Science deals mainly with problems of mechanical and electrical engineering, while the schools of Trinity College and University College devote their attention chiefly to survey work and structural engineering. I may be allowed to mention that two of these Colleges are generally referred to as civil engineering colleges. The words "civil engineer" means a civilian engineer, and was originated in contrast to military engineer. Civil engineering under our Great Charter of 1828 covers all mechanical work, and therefore it is really a very great acquisition to Dublin to have a mechanical and electrical school within its borders to which students from those two great colleges have access to complete a really civil engineering training. That has been, fortunately, taken up recently, and the most harmonious mode of work has been initiated. University College has sent a considerable number of its students to the College of Science to take up courses in electrical engineering and mechanical engineering in the workshops which are in existence there. Co-operation of this kind has to a certain extent taken place in the past in the manner I have mentioned. The College of Science has also played an important part in the national life by training teachers for technical and secondary schools throughout the country, and in this respect it is regarded as the keystone or apex of the Department's scheme of scientific education.
The principal ground, however, upon which I plead for the efficient maintenance of the College of Science is that it is specially suited to form the centre or nucleus of an Irish Department for Scientific and Industrial Research. The great war proved of what advantage such an establishment was to Germany. It was not until the war had begun that England wakened up to the need for such an organisation. This led to the formation of the Committee of the Privy Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It has carried out its work by giving assistance to Industrial Research Associations by work done at the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington, and by Boards and Committees under its own organisation. In one special branch it was of use to Ireland, namely, by appointing and defraying the expenses of the Irish Peat Enquiry Committee. Further assistance from this source is, however, no longer available. Ireland must in future carry out and pay for such work herself.
The Free State Government will require scientific advice on many problems of national importance. The buildings, laboratories, workshops and equipment of the College of Science belong to the State, and provide the Government with the necessary facilities.
For these reasons I believe we are justified in using our influence to safeguard this great institution in the interests of our country and its industrial development. I can hardly express my own views sufficiently strongly on this very important subject. Many of us are intensely interested in the future prosperity of the country and the promotion of industrial work. I know no better school and no better laboratories or workshops in which research work can be carried out than in those belonging to the College of Science. All I wish the Seanad to do is to endeavour to get an assurance from the Government that the College of Science equipment will not be broken up or distributed. It may not be used for some time until we get a settled country, but I would wish to press the Government to give an assurance that these valuable assets to the future development of the country shall not be lost. I beg formally to move the motion.