INDEMNITY (BRITISH MILITARY) BILL. - COLLEGE OF SCIENCE.

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.

I have much pleasure in seconding Sir John Griffith's motion. There is no desire, as he has explained, to embarass the Government or any Government Department in any way by asking them to restore immediately the College of Science in its present condition. The equipment, as he has explained—and there is no use in my elaborating that explanation—is excellent. The equipment requires a special building and it is extremely valuable, and all that we desire is that that equipment shall be taken care of and that the College of Science shall be established and maintained and kept going with as good equipment, wherever that may be.

I am quite sure the Seanad will sympathise with our friend in the resolution he has brought forward, and in his anxiety even though we do not quite share it. I cannot conceive it possible that any Government in this country would ever entertain the proposal to make an end of so fine an institution as we have in the College of Science, or permanently stop in any way the development of chemical research and science in this country. Of course we make every allowance for the difficulties at the present time. Personally I think we ought to be very much indebted to the College of Science for their hospitality, because I understand we are more or less on their premises. None of us imagines for a moment that this can be anything else but a temporary makeshift, and by-and-by, when things get a little more cheerful in this country, we hope the College of Science will then not only resume its normal and proper position in the country, but that its sphere of influence will be very considerably extended and enlarged in every possible direction. We take great pride in these beautiful buildings, and we hope the day is not far distant when they will be restored to their proper occupation. I do not think that my honorable friend need trouble very much about the rumours he referred to. When he is as old in politics as I am he will give rumour its proper position in his mental pigeon-holes. I cannot conceive, as I have already said, that any Government would entertain the idea of making an end to the Irish College of Science, and certainly if they attempted to do so it would not be with our approval.

In spite of Sir Thomas Esmonde's confidence, it is common knowledge that the Government has contemplated such a move as Sir John Griffith mentions.

I would like to support the resolution, but I can hardly conceive the Government attempting the action suggested by Senator MacLysaght. Taking the record since the Government commenced to operate, its tendency appears to me to have been very much in favour of trying to help education in all its branches, and for that reason I do not think they would have any inclination to do anything that would injure the College of Science. It certainly would be fatal, even if they contemplated moving from the position they are in there, because there is an amount of machinery and equipment in the place that could never be put in the same position again, or at least utilised for a very long time. I do not think the Government would contemplate the change, but, at the same time, I think it desirable that a man like Sir John Griffith should move in a matter of this kind, because at the present time the Government may want help, and the very fact of the resolution coming from a man of the eminence of Sir John Griffith will show that there are people prepared to assist them in carrying out the difficult works they have to perform, one of which is to get the College of Science into working order again. There is no sound reason, I suggest, why it should be kept in an unoccupied state. It may be quite possible that with the encouragement and support of men like Sir John Griffith, the Government may be able to make a move in the very near future in the matter of having the College of Science re-opened. I beg to support the resolution.

I also desire to say that I strongly support the resolution.

I would like to say a few words in support of the resolution. I think there is no act of the Government which has met with more adverse criticism than the commandeering of the buildings of the College of Science. Amongst people engaged in technical and secondary education throughout the country, this interference is very much resented. The College of Science is engaged in work of a unique character. Its specially fitted laboratories, and their scientific equipment, make it capable of imparting a class of education for which no other educational establishment has any such facilities. If this college were to be incorporated with any other college, it would mean that all its expensive equipment would have to be transferred to that other college, and that teachers and professors would have to be found and trained to do the special work that the College of Science is eminently fitted to do. Past students of this college are to be found in every quarter of the world. Their knowledge has gained them eminent positions in their profession everywhere. Through Ireland, practically all the County Surveyors, and a great number of the Assistant Surveyors, as well as those engaged in scientific and agricultural pursuits, have all been trained, and qualified, in the College of Science. These men would look upon it as a great misfortune if this college were either abolished, or incorporated with any other college, and would regard the degrees which they so laboriously gained there, as being depreciated in value. The present students also have a grievance against any interference with the college. They have been driven out of its halls and sent abroad to get the education which, apparently, is denied them at home. That is not calculated in its way to help the present Government. This magnificent building, fitted with so much expensive machinery, is only used at present in the clerical work of the Government—in departmental work which might easily be transferred to other buildings. If such transfer were made, the College of Science could continue the admirable work in which it was engaged. Not only have the students been disturbed, but the professors, some of them men of European fame, have been disturbed in the great work of research to which many of them have devoted their lives—work which would benefit not only the people of this country, but, possibly, humanity. These men have been driven out of the College halls, and have been sent to look for positions elsewhere all over the world. I saw in the papers the other day where one of these professors, a man of thirty years' experience, who had done a vast amount of intellectual work in the college, had obtained a position in another country. That is a very undesirable state of affairs. There is a sort of underlying suspicion that this has been done in the interests of another college. That, of course, makes the grievance of the past students and the present professors much stronger. They consider that this is being done in the interests of a new college—a college not having by any means the reputation which the College of Science has. I hope, with Sir John Griffith, that the Government will reconsider their attitude in the matter, and that in the near future they will restore the college to the work in which it had been engaged, and which it had carried out with such a high degree of efficiency.

I think we should ignore rumour and suspicion. There is no grievance against the Government for occupying the College of Science under the necessity of war. There will be a grievance if the Government continues to occupy it after peace has been established.

Motion put and carried.