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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 3 Feb 1943

Vol. 27 No. 12

School Attendance Bill, 1942—Report.

I move amendment No. 1:—

In page 2, Section 3, before sub-section (2), to insert a new sub-section as follows:—

(2) A child who is receiving education in a school situated within the State shall not be deemed for the purposes of this Act to be receiving suitable education within the meaning of this Act unless such school is a national school, a suitable school, or a recognised school.

This amendment, as will be noted, is self-explanatory. I think that the amendment is necessary for the sake of clarity and for the information of the enforcing authority, as well as for the information of those who have set up or propose to set up private schools within the State. I should like to stress again the fact that once this measure is passed into law, for all practical purposes it passes out of the hands of the Minister into the hands of the enforcing authority. The Minister has taken power, of course, to go into private schools and to make such inquiries and investigations as he thinks necessary, but it cannot be expected that he or his officials will be, as it were, looking for these schools. If that were to be the case it would put an undue burden on already overburdened inspectors. How this will work out in practice will be that the enforcing authority, whether the schools attendance officer or the Gárda, will know that a school is operating in their particular area. It will be their duty to make inquiries as to whether it has obtained a certificate from the Minister as a suitable school. If it has not, it will be clear that children between the ages of six and 14 attending that school will not be complying with the provisions of the Act. No doubt, the conductor or the manager of the school will then take the necessary steps to get it certified. If it is not certified then, as I say, the children who are attending that school will not be attending school in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

Reference was made here to a case which happened down in Wexford direction, I think, some years ago, where children who had been attending a school which had not received a certificate from the Minister were brought before the court and the justice decided that, in fact, they were attending a suitable school or, at least, that they were getting suitable education. I feel that this amendment of mine would clear up that position, because it says definitely that if they are not attending one or other of the types of schools specified they cannot be deemed to be receiving proper education. I am not now referring to, nor does my amendment deal with, children who may be educated in their own homes or who may be sent outside the country to be educated. The amendment deals entirely with what are called private schools within the confines of the State. When we were debating Section 4 here, I asked the Minister whether this individual examination which is provided for in Section 4 applied only to children who were being educated outside the State or who were being educated in their own homes by tutors or governesses. I understood him to say that that was the case, so that those who are being educated in a school within the State must be educated at one or other of the schools set out in the amendment. I consider that if the amendment is accepted it will simplify matters very considerably for the enforcing authority, the Minister and his Department. Those people who have set up private schools or who are contemplating setting up private schools will know exactly where they stand in the matter. They will know that if they propose to take in children between the ages of six and 14 it will be necessary for them, in order to comply with the law, to apply for and obtain a certificate from the Minister.

There is just one point I want to make clear. It was suggested, I think, on the Second Reading that something I had said indicated that I was opposed to private schools and, in fact, it was suggested in a certain publication that I and other speakers on these debates attacked the right of parents to send their children to private schools. Of course, I did no such thing. I do not think anybody here attacked the right of parents to send their children to private schools, or to have them educated in any way they wished, so long as the law is complied with. I may question their wisdom, from their own point of view, and from the point of view of their children, in sending them to schools where they may not get as good education as they get in the regular schools. That is another question. It is not interference with the right of parents to send their children to private schools. During the debates on this Bill we have heard a lot about the principle of that kind of thing, but the main principle is already in the Bill and also in the Principal Act— the principle of compelling parents to send their children to school. In this measure what we should concern ourselves with is its practical application, and its efficacy towards solving a particular problem, and the problem we are facing is the fact that we have 65,000 daily absentees from our national schools. If we could settle that problem we would have gone a long way towards dealing with the question of school attendance. Of course some people objected to the principle of compulsion altogether, but, as the Minister rightly pointed out, not only have parents rights but children also have rights, and are entitled to protection also. I appeal to the Minister to accept this amendment. It would clarify the whole position with regard to these private schools, and the necessity for Section 4 will be largely obviated. If it is accepted it will simplify very considerably the whole administration of the Act. I strongly urge the Minister to accept it.

In this amendment it is proposed, in effect, to make eligible a private school coming under the category of "a suitable school." In so far as it proposes that I have pleasure in supporting it. I think the private school, which is merely a private enterprise set up as a means of livelihood by well-meaning but unqualified people, is a considerable evil or may at any rate be so in practice. If, therefore, "a suitable school" could comprise the private school in the ordinary sense as the expression is used in the Constitution all would be well, but I respectfully suggest to Senator O'Connell that another amendment would serve his purpose. I do not mean the amendment I have in mind would be a perfect substitute for the Senator's amendment. It would be more correct to say that it would be a collateral aid. What I have in mind is a closer and fuller definition of "a suitable school." Anyone who is minded to be cynical could say on reading the Principal Act and the Bill that there are three types of school which would be acceptable as instruments for imparting elementary education in the State — the national school, the suitable school and the recognised school; that the suitable school is a school that the Minister thinks suitable; the national school is a school which the Minister says is a national school; and that the recognised school is one to which the same description applies. When I last had the pleasure of addressing this House on the Bill Senator Douglas was, I recollect, misled by the term "a suitable school" and I venture to suggest that a great many people not so remarkable as he for clarity of mind and perspicacity would have been deceived in the same way into thinking that "a suitable school" means one which has all the requirements anyone could conceive for making a perfect school, housing, sanitation, equipment and staffing being all that would be desired.

I had the temerity to pencil down as a humble suggestion a definition of "a suitable school" as a substitute for that in the section of the Principal Act. It reads somewhat this way: "A suitable school for the purpose of this and the Principal Act means a school other than a national or recognised school in which a child, to whom the Principal Act applies, is receiving elementary education and in respect of which the Minister has issued to the managing authority thereof a certificate of approval as to the syllabus of instruction and the satisfactory nature of the school equipment and the staff." If that were the definition of "a suitable school" on the basis of which the Bill as an Act would work, then Senator O'Connell's amendment would be that a child who is attending a school situate within the State shall not be deemed to be receiving a suitable education within the meaning of the Act unless such school is a national school and so on, and the term "suitable" would be perfectly intelligible in the light of that definition. I may add that I was waiting carefully to note how the Senator read his amendment relative to Section 4 which provoked so much debate. The section says: "A child shall not be deemed for the purposes of this Act to be receiving suitable education in a manner other than by attending a national school, a suitable school, or a recognised school." He did deal with that, perhaps, to the extent which is required, but it is in Section 4 rather than in the amendment that the unsuitability of the description of "a suitable school" comes in. I feel that in addition to Senator O'Connell's amendment, where he uses the term "a suitable school" he should put in an explanation, not necessarily the words that I have suggested, but something of the same signification. The application of the Act is only to the school which is situate within the State, bringing it into the class of suitable schools.

We then secure this amount of uniformity—that the test to be applied by the Department of Education shall apply to all the schools. A pupil, who is between the ages of six and 14 years, attending a school inside the State is subject to the educational test which it is incumbent on the State by the Constitution to apply, so that the State shall be satisfied that the minimum of proper education is being given.

My remarks will be largely interrogative. As regards the last remark of Senator Magennis, that the Constitution makes it incumbent on the State to subject children to a certain examination, I do not read that into the Constitution. I think that the State is said there to have an interest, in relation to the promotion of the common good, in demanding that a certain minimum amount of education be operative. It does not follow from that that the State must necessarily examine the children. On the previous occasions on which I have spoken on this Bill, I made it abundantly clear that I recognise the reasonableness of that sub-clause in the Constitution which affirms the interest and right of the State with regard to the minimum of education required for the promotion of the common good. At the same time, I have sought, over against that, to argue the rights of parents and the priority of those rights.

With regard to this amendment, I do recognise that the State has an interest in taking, and a right to take, the necessary steps to see that a minimum of education is available to children. I can see that the State has a duty to protect children from being sent to a school where the influence may be definitely adverse to their welfare or may be adverse to the extent of wasting their time and their parents' money. I can see that the State is entitled to intervene to prevent people receiving money under false pretences by purporting to educate children and failing to carry out their side of the contract. Therefore it seems to me that, if an incompetent or dishonest person establishes a school and misleads a number of gullible parents into sending their children to that school, the State, once it is clear that the school is unsuitable, might take some steps in regard to it. As I read this amendment — here I become interrogative to Senator O'Connell — a child receiving education in a school within the State shall not be deemed to be receiving suitable education within the meaning of the Act unless such school is a national school, a suitable school or a recognised school.

I can understand the negative veto— that, when it is abundantly clear that the school is unsuitable, the State might step in and say: "We are not going to allow the person running this school to swindle parents who send their unfortunate children to it." Here, the matter is put the other way round. Nobody can establish a school —again the right is caught up and contained entirely within the State authority — no matter how well it may be adapted to the child's well-being and no matter how exactly it may provide what the parents want, unless the Minister takes the necessary steps to make it a national school, a suitable school or a recognised school.

In this proposal, Senator O'Connell, who magnificently fought against State arrogance in Article 4, which he proposed to eliminate, is presupposing that certain remarks of the Minister, just because they were made by the Minister, are essentially right and that, because certain things are in the Principal Act, they are immutable law and eternal truth. I am not so accommodating as Senator O'Connell. As an American would say: "I come from Missouri and you have to show me." I cannot see why parents should not be at liberty to make an arrangement with a suitable person to give their child the education they, the parents, want, that education fulfilling those minimum requirements which the Constitution says the State has the right to require. Once those requirements are fulfilled, I cannot see why the school should not carry on. As I read this amendment, it means that nobody has a right to teach children unless the almighty Minister has previously come along and bestowed his blessing on the school. It seems to me that it is humanly possible for a school to be a good school, providing all that the parents require, even though the Minister who happens to be in charge of this Department at the time, by the accident of election and Party, withholds his blessing.

As I have said, I can see that the State has a right to intervene to prevent a child and its parents being wronged by being misled by dishonest teachers, but to say that every school must be assumed to be unsuitable until the Minister says it satisfies him, whether it satisfies parents or not, seems to me to be part of that arrogance of State to which I so strongly object and to which most right-minded people object. I should like to know from Senator O'Connell if I read this amendment aright and if it means that there must be this prior blessing and sanction by the Minister before any school can be recognised or if it is really a negative veto on the part of the State, for cause shown, to prevent the setting up of bad schools for the swindling of parents and children. If I am right in my reading of the amendment, I shall have much pleasure in voting against it.

With regard to the schools to which Senator Fitzgerald referred as bad schools, I should like to ask what proof has been given to the Seanad that private schools, heretofore used as an alternative to national schools, are bad schools, or that any private schools are bad? Senator Magennis spoke about the prevalence of private schools being a considerable evil — I think that is the phrase he used.

The possibility.

There are all kinds of possibilities, but there is a suggestion running through this debate that there is something undesirable, if not positively evil, about the existence of private schools. Senator O'Connell spoke at length in the previous debate as to the teachers involved in such private schools. I should like to know what evidence there is of the existence of bad teachers and, secondly, in what the danger consists. If parents send their children to private schools, presumably they have to pay for so doing; and any normal parent who has to pay out of his pocket in that way can be relied on to see that the education the children get is suitable education, without the Minister being called in at all. I do not want to raise now the question of the rights of children, about which Senator Magennis has said so much, but I intend to devote some little time to it at a later stage. Before we agree tacitly on the prevalence of a danger or that the existence of private schools is an evil, we should have some evidence as to how many such private schools exist and in what exactly the evil consists.

Speaking from experience, I know that there were certain types of schools which were definitely not evil but subversive of sound education. People who intended to become teachers, and who failed to get called to a training college, had some experience of teaching under the monitorial system or some other system, and they set up private schools which were called "select schools". These were availed of by parents of the middle class who preferred to send their children to such schools, in order to avoid association with poor children. It was a form of class distinction which was most undesirable.

There would be ten or 12 such children in a drawing-room or sitting-room of the house occupied by the teacher; they ranged from three to seven years of age, or whatever the period of compulsory education was; they were of different degrees of efficiency and the teacher had to devote to ten or 12 pupils a certain amount of time — perhaps three or four hours. There were no regulations, and as a result the elements of education were very badly attended to. The time for miscellaneous repetition and revision of work was not available in such schools, where the teachers had to try to keep eight or nine children working at the same time in different degrees. There was no spirit of competition or rivalry amongst the children, to make any one desire to be as good as the others. The teachers in the national schools found, when such children came to them, that they had to go back to the A, B, C. With very few exceptions, these children never reached the same degree of efficiency in reading, writing, or arithmetic, as the ordinary pupils. In mathematics they were extraordinarily slow. In other words, the teachers looked upon these students as rather hopeless. That is the type, I think, that Senator O'Connell had in mind.

In every profession in the world— solicitors, doctors, and even university professors — one has to show something on paper to prove that one has the necessary qualifications; one has to have some formula of learning, apart from the inherent gifts one possesses. Some hall-mark of efficiency should be on the teachers of such schools before those schools are considered suitable.

It might shorten the discussion if I recall to the minds of Senators that this is an amending measure. It merely effects some changes — improvements, in my opinion — in a law which has been there for the past 16 years. That law, presumably, was intended to cover the education of all children. For example, Section 2 says:

The expression "child to whom this Act applies" means and includes a child who has attained the age of six years and has not attained the age of 14 years.

I think there is a general belief that the intention undoubtedly was that the School Attendance Acts should apply to all children between the ages of six and 14. During the course of the debate, an effort has been made to argue that something entirely new is being introduced in regard to school attendance. I say that anything now introduced is merely by way of improvement or amendment of this principle, which is well recognised, and that the particular aim of the present measure is to improve Section 4 of the Principal Act.

I should like to point out that that suggestion was made in the Dáil, and that that was the case made by the ex-Minister who introduced the Principal Act and who made that case with such vehemence that he left during the course of the debate.

According to Section 4, sub-section (2) (b) of the Principal Act, one of the reasons which may be given as an excuse for failure to comply with the section is "that the child is receiving suitable elementary education in some manner other than by attending a national or other suitable school." I explained to the Seanad that there was no method laid down in the Principal Act to determine that. It was suggested that the court was the proper authority to determine that. I submit that the Minister for Education is the proper and rightful authority to determine that question, more particularly under the provision of the Constitution which imposes upon the State the duty to see that every child shall receive a minimum education. That education is not merely intellectual, but "moral, intellectual and social".

Are those the words of the Constitution?

Yes — moral, intellectual and social. How is a district justice to determine whether a child is receiving suitable education under the Constitution? Why is it assumed that the Minister for Education or the ordinary enforcing authority — about whom there never has been any question, so far as I know, in regard to compliance with the Principal Act — should be set aside and that, to deal with some theoretical position, some special way out should be made for a special type of parent? The principal object of this measure is to make the Minister for Education the authority to determine whether the child is getting the minimum education or not. All that is being asked for under the vexed Section 4, so far as the parent is concerned, is simply that, if he is not sending his child to a recognised school, a suitable school, or a national school, to inform the enforcing authority of the kind of education he is receiving. Apparently, it is a grave interference with the rights of parents to ask a parent who is sufficiently interested in his child's education, or who thinks, for one reason or another, that the child might not benefit by education at one of these schools, to inform the enforcing authority that his child is receiving such other education. I say that that is anticipating that such parents are not educating their children within their lawful rights at all, but that they are the type of people who are seeking to evade the law in some way. If there are parents who are providing for their children in some way other than by having them educated at one of these schools, we must assume that they are doing it for the children's benefit, and that they are not going to refuse to inform the enforcing authority.

There was no provision under the Principal Act — and that was a very serious defect within the Act — by which the education of a child outside a suitable or national school could be brought to the notice of the enforcing authority. Therefore, as regards the 65,000 children who are absentees from schools, there may be a larger or a smaller proportion of them who are not receiving education, but there was no compulsion whatever upon parents, if they sought to argue that the children were receiving suitable elementary education in some other way, to inform the enforcing authority. I think that the provision that a parent, if not sending his child to one of these schools, ought to say what is the position, is not too much to ask. We are not depriving parents of any rights, or bringing them under the control of the Minister in any way. The Minister for Education is not seeking to impose anything upon the parent. He is simply asking him to carry out what must surely be regarded as an elementary duty of citizenship and membership of the State — to inform the enforcing authority in the matter of school attendance in what way he is providing education if his child is not attending one of these schools.

As regards private schools, I do not think the amendment is really necessary. There is virtually no doubt that it simplifies matters, perhaps, but I think we cannot simplify matters to that extent here. Under the existing law, "a suitable school" is a school which, for the time being, is certified by the Minister under the Act to be a suitable school within the meaning of the Act. Under Section 5 of the Principal Act there is a provision by which the conductor or manager of a school may apply to have the school certified. I have not sought to interfere with the domestic arrangements of parents or imposed upon them anything other than what I think reasonable persons would consider to be a basic duty in fulfilment of the law of the land. I have not sought to interfere with the rights of private schools. I know very well that a strong case can be made for bringing these schools more within the purview of the inspection system. Under the present measure there will be inspection of these schools where they come under notice, and a penalty may be imposed upon conductors or managers of schools if they refuse to give information which is reasonably required by the Minister or his servants. But we are not imposing upon the conductors or managers of such schools the necessity to apply for certification from the Minister. We are leaving them in the same position in which they were under the Principal Act — that it is a matter for discretion. A number of them, no doubt, will apply and some may choose not to apply. The Minister will inspect the school if it comes under notice. He can ask for any information, if the measure becomes law, which he may consider necessary, but he is not imposing on them a legal compulsion to seek a certificate.

Senator O'Connell probably feels that his method is more logical. It is important that we should move cautiously in this matter, and I want to make it quite clear that the private schools are quite free to apply, or not to apply, for a certificate from the Minister, and that there is certainly no compulsion upon them. Section 4 will cover the children of these schools, children who are being educated outside the State, or children who are being educated at home, as well as children who are in schools which have not received the Minister's certificate; and while we are not compelling these schools to apply for a certificate, I think it would be accepted as a more reasonable alternative by those genuinely interested in this matter of the rights of parents, that we are justified in asking the parent to inform the enforcing authority.

Inform the local Civic Guard sergeant about what he is doing with his own child as if he were a criminal under ticket-of-leave.

There is no use in indulging in this language about criminals. The Oireachtas placed upon the Civic Guards, rightly or wrongly, many years ago the duty of enforcing the School Attendance Act. According to Senator Tierney, the Oireachtas then put the citizens of this country in the position of being persecuted, or something else, by the police. In my opinion the argument is absolutely nonsensical. We have had the police dealing with this. I have not made the police the enforcing authority. The police have been the enforcing authority under the Principal Act, and no question was raised here — except, incidentally, by Senator O'Connell perhaps, and Senator Magennis, I think, adverted to it also — that there was another way. The other way of enforcing school attendance would be to appoint school attendance officers all over the country, and to set up entirely new machinery. I think most people agree that the police have been reasonable in this matter. I do not think that they have imposed upon parents in any way. Besides, the police are our own, and I have always understood that since the Irish State came into being the police rather took pride in the fact that they were not in the position of their predecessors— servants of an alien Government — but were the friends and advisers of the people, that it was their duty to prosecute persons who broke the law, but that they certainly were not going to go beyond their plain duty, and that their general attitude has been one of friendliness.

Their general attitude has been one of friendliness, and I rather deplore this effort which has been made to suggest that there is some analogy between the work which the Irish police do in enforcing this Act and what Continental police may be doing at the present time in entirely different circumstances. If Senator O'Connell's amendment were agreed to, it would compel all schools for children from six to 14 years of age which are not national schools or recognised schools to apply to the Minister for certification. As I say, I think it is better that the schools should be free in that matter. When I was interrupted, I was going on to explain that the method which I have adopted in order to meet the Constitutional position is that I am merely asking the Oireachtas to put into law a provision that, where a parent is not sending his child to one of these schools, he shall at least inform the enforcing authority. He need not apply to me for a certificate.

If it is a case of a private school, the Minister has power to have the school inspected, but there is no compulsion on the school to apply for a certificate. I want to make that quite clear. There is upon the State the duty of seeing that all children receive this minimum education, and I propose to enforce compliance with that by making parents who are not sending their children to these schools inform the enforcing authority of what the position is. Senator Magennis was not present on the last occasion, and I should like to explain to him that the manner in which Section 4 of the present Bill is drafted is really an effort to meet the special position of parents who may be educating their children in some manner other than by sending them to one of these schools.

While the general burden of the argument has been on Clause 1 of Section 4, if Senators had taken the trouble—it was admitted in the House that they had not taken the trouble— to read the whole section, they would have seen that the remainder of it, sub-section (1) with its five clauses, are in the way of safeguards for the parent, to ensure that, if the Minister should propose to refuse to grant him a certificate that he is having his child educated in a way which is suitable, other than by sending him to one of these schools, at least the parent shall receive every possible notice and facility in trying to meet the reasonable requirements of the Minister. Therefore, if that section had been studied and appreciated, it would have been seen that there are no grounds for the contention that it is in some way a violation of the rights of parents. The Minister, with the enforcing authority, will take whatever steps may be necessary. If the enforcing authority is informed by the parent that he is providing for the child's education, and if it is not satisfied that that is so, it may communicate with the Minister, who will then take steps to have the school inspected. There will be no compulsion to apply for a certificate, but if a certificate is applied for and the Minister, for example, thinks that the school is suitable for some children but not for other children, he can, if he wishes to pursue the matter, take it up then under Section 4. Section 4 does not deal only with children who are being educated at home; it deals also with children who may be educated away from home, outside the State, or it may deal with children who are going to those private schools which may or may not have applied for certification.

One of Senator O'Connell's difficulties was: Why should the Minister have to certify each child? But the Minister need not do so; he may certify the whole school. If he proposes to refuse to certify the whole school, he will, under a new amendment which I have on the Paper to-day, give the school ample opportunity to try to meet his requirements. If, in the long run, the school fails to meet those requirements, and the Minister is not able to grant a certificate and there are children in that class who are attending schools not certified by the Minister the enforcing authority may take up the matter. I hope I have explained that this measure is an effort to close a gap that was there; if parents pleaded that they were providing elementary education for their children in some way other than by sending them to a suitable or a recognised or a national school, there was no method of determining whether that was so or not, and we did not know what number of children, of those who are absent from school, come into this class. I believe the number attending private schools is rather small.

I may say that my attention has also been called to the fact that there are cases where children, through ill-health, are kept at home by their parents, who feel that the education in the local national school, for example, would not be suitable to them. They may have physical or other defects, for example. In certain cases it is a very serious thing for those children if knowledge of their existence is not brought to the attention of the authorities. Obviously, it is a very delicate question for the parents, but I have heard of cases where the education of such children could have been looked after fairly well, and they could have been given a sufficient education to enable them to meet the special difficulties that they will be faced with, but that education was not given to them because their existence was not known.

Their parents kept them at home and sent them to no school. There is also the case of the vagrants whom I am trying to deal with under a special section, by registration, but it might happen that the vagrants also, or any other class not sending their children to the schools I have mentioned, might have to be dealt with through Section 4. We are not dealing with the question of the particular parent in a special position who has the means and the capacity to educate his child at home, and does it satisfactorily, but we are dealing with a large number of children — I do not know how large it may be, but certainly it runs into many hundreds—who, for all I know, are not receiving any education at all. Senators who wish to have that position continue simply mean that rather than interfere with what they think to be the rights of the parents, they would prefer to have all these hundreds of children remain in the position they have been up to the present, with nobody to see that they receive a reasonable amount of education.

What the Minister has just said about one section of children has brought me to my feet. I am concerned with the position of defective children. The Minister has mentioned that some of these children were not attending school.

What section are we debating now?

We are discussing amendment No. 1.

I merely want to ask a question arising out of the amendment.

I do not think that this arises on the amendment before the House. We are not debating Section 4. We are debating Senator O'Connell's amendment.

I will hear Senator Mrs. Concannon.

I am merely asking a question in reference to the position of children who are not attending school because of some defect and for whom, perhaps, it would be detrimental if they were compelled to attend these schools. I should like the Minister to take their case into account. I should also like to ask a question strictly on the amendment about private schools. I believe in these private schools. I myself got the most vital part of my education in a private school which could not possibly be certified under this Bill. It was in an old town hall. A few of us gathered there to receive instructions from a teacher who had no paper qualifications whatever, but who nevertheless stirred our imaginations. She interested us in books and did more for me than any other teacher I ever had. I, therefore, am not going to be one who will turn down the private school. There are, however, certain inquiries we should make about private schools from the public health aspect. If there are epidemics, is there any power at all in this Bill to compel the private schools to allow the children to disperse? One often hears that schools are closed because of an epidemic but how can these private schools be compelled to close? That is a question of some importance. There is also the position of these schools in case of fire to be considered. A school might be in a building where the children would be in great danger. I do not know whether these matters could be covered by the sanitary laws or the local administration but I want to put them to the Minister as questions that are very important.

The Minister has convinced me that this amendment would not help. It would only make the position more rigid and possibly render it impossible for him to carry out what he has made pretty clear to be his intentions. His intentions are not in my humble opinion — I accept his statement in regard to them without question — in accordance with the powers which have been taken in this section. He is quite entitled to exercise all these powers. He says that he will not require any school to ask for a certificate that it is a suitable school. That is, of course, quite correct but there is power in the Bill to put the school into the position that if it does not apply for such a certificate or if the children attending it do not get certificates, it would have to close. Therefore the Minister, by a combination of the powers taken in the Bill, can force a school to close if it does not get a certificate. I am satisfied that that is not his intention. On the other hand I am afraid that if Senator O'Connell's amendment were inserted, the Minister might be forced to make private schools apply for a certificate when they did not wish to do so. I am not in favour of the amendment as in my opinion it might be almost impossible for a private school to get a certificate if the amendment were adopted.

Might I ask a question in order to clear our minds? Does the Minister definitely contemplate the existence of schools within the State which are not certified as suitable and which may never be certified as suitable?

Yes. They will not have to apply for a certificate if they do not wish.

And the only way of seeing whether the children attending these schools are receiving a suitable education is to examine them individually.

The Minister will inform the parent whether the education is suitable or not.

That is not sufficient unless they are examined individually.

Professor Magennis rose.

This being Report Stage, Senators, apart from the mover of the amendment who has the right of reply, may speak only once.

Before Senator O'Connell replies, I am not clear as to what the position really is in this matter. I am in favour of the right of a parent to send his child to any school he pleases, but I am not so sure that it should be possible for anybody to set up any and every kind of private school, without fear of interference. Teaching is very important; it is as important as medical treatment. It is the treatment of children's minds and you cannot have in that particular matter complete licence. There is a good deal to be said for seeing that no school is opened unless the teachers have certain qualifications — I am not speaking of actual training or academic qualifications but certain qualifications — and can pass certain tests. The Minister in this Bill under Sections 4 and 20, has power to inspect a school but, in spite of having listened to him with very great care, I am not clear yet as to how this is going to work. The Minister said that a private school will not be obliged to apply for a certificate and Senator O'Connell's amendment has the effect of rendering the parents of every child, who is attending a school which has not been certified, liable to prosecution. The Minister says that he is going to allow private schools to function, but if a parent is summoned because his child has not been attending school and if he pleads that he is providing suitable education within the meaning of the Act under paragraph (b) sub-section (2) of Section 3, then presumably the Minister is empowered to examine the child but not to examine the school.

If the parent says that the child is attending school, the Minister can have the school inspected and he may within his discretion inform the parent that he is satisfied that the minimum requirements of education are being provided in that school without even raising the question of giving the school a certificate at all.

I understood that the parent cannot plead that his child is receiving education unless he can produce in the court a certificate from the Minister.

Under paragraph (b), sub-section (2) of Section 3, it shall be a reasonable excuse to plead that the child is receiving a suitable education within the meaning of this Act in a manner other than by attending a national school, a suitable school or a recognised school.

But Section 4 provides that a child shall not be deemed to be receiving suitable education in a manner other than by attending a national school, a suitable school or a recognised school, unless such education and the manner in which the child is receiving it, has been certified by the Minister to be suitable.

That is what the Minister has said. This is a very elaborate machinery. The Minister will then inspect the school under the provisions of Section 20 and he will certify that the child is receiving suitable education but he will not certify that the school is a suitable school.

I have been at very elaborate conferences and I have had to consider some very complicated positions and some very peculiar legislation but this beats them all. I do not understand the position at all. What the Minister has said, taken in conjunction with sub-section (2) of Section 3, and with Section 4, is going to lead to an extraordinary situation.

He may inspect the school and then he has power to examine the child, which I think is a most unsatisfactory business. In spite of all the objections, I would rather adopt Senator O'Connell's amendment and jettison Section 4, although I know I have got to argue that on a different basis, on the ground that there are people who want to send their children outside the State or keep them at home, and I would leave it at that. This procedure is most elaborate for getting at a very small number of children. If you are not going to take some steps to ascertain that schools are going to give a minimum of education, why should you have all this elaborate machinery for getting at a small number of children? Honestly, the more I hear of it, the more confused I get.

I want to point out, having regard to the first portion of the Minister's speech; that this amendment does not suggest that the authority of the Minister or the enforcing authority should be in any way set aside. Rather, it would be inclined to give more authority. I have no hesitation in saying that it is not proper that there should be institutions set up calling themselves "schools" providing education for these little children if they do not come under the supervision of the Minister, and if they have not a certificate given by him that they are suitable schools. I have no hesitation in saying that institutions of that kind ought not to be recognised or be allowed to function in the interest of parents who send their children there, and for their protection. Why do we insist that a chemist must be qualified and that doctors may not practise unless they are qualified? Is not it for the protection of the public? Parents are not always the best judges of what is good for their children, and I repeat why should they not be protected from people who may want to impose on them? The State steps in between the parent and the child so far as its physical interests are concerned. Parents are not allowed to starve their children, to beat them unmercifully or to injure them. The State has some authority and it does not hesitate to step in and to protect them. I do not want to go into nice points of principle. My purpose in moving the amendment was for the simplification of the Act.

I believe that this is a much simpler way out of the difficulty the Minister has in mind than this most elaborate Section 4, which I feel may not be operated at all, or to any great extent. We have certain types of school to which parents may send children, or they may educate them at home. There is provision for that both in the Principal Act and in this Bill. For the sake of the administration of the Act the Minister should accept the amendment. He will be bringing a lot of trouble upon himself if he proposes to work the Act in the way he suggested rather than to accept the simple solution I suggested.

Is the amendment being pressed?

If the Minister is not prepared to accept it I do not wish to press it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 5 could be discussed together, if the House so desires.

The only objection is if you take amendments of the same kind together we are limited to one speech.

Very well; we will take them separately.

I move amendment No. 2:—

In page 2, Section 3, sub-section (2), after paragraph (c) to insert a new paragraph (d) as follows:—

(d) that the child is receiving education outside the State.

I should like to make it quite clear at the outset that I am confining myself solely to one matter in this amendment, a relatively small number of children, that is, those who, for what we must assume to be good reasons, parents feel it is their duty to have educated outside the State. I spoke at some length on this matter on the Committee Stage and it is unnecessary to repeat the point of view I put to the House. There was one thing that was clear from that debate, and that was that there was an admission from every side of the House that there might be, and in fact that there were, a number of cases where, owing to special circumstances, a parent might have to send a child outside the State. I am not going into the merits of that, but I think that was admitted. I would be surprised if the number of children was much more than 100. It might be a little more but certainly it does not represent any large number. It does represent a minority and includes a certain number of people who might feel strongly on this question. My reason for proposing the amendment is this: as Section 3 stands, the position is that sub-section (2) paragraph (b) would provide a reasonable excuse for such parents, and if Section 3 stood without Section 4 there would not, in my opinion, be any need for this amendment. As the Bill now stands, Section 4 is in it, and we find that there is a limit placed to sub-section (2) paragraph (b). The Minister said and, as far as he stated it, it was correct, that there is nothing in this Act to prevent a parent sending a child outside the State. That is true. Although the Minister said, more or less by way of a gibe, that certain Senators had not read the other sections or tried to understand them, I can assure the Minister I have read the whole Act, at least five or six times, and the particular sections considerably oftener, and I have done everything possible to understand them. That does not mean that I claim any kind of infallibility, but the fact is that, as to the actual legal meaning, I differ from the explanation that has been given by the Minister. It would be as fair for me to say that, on these grounds, the Minister did not understand the Bill.

We must debate this not on the basis of anybody's intentions but on the basis of what we believe to be the meaning of the sections as they are in print before us. My understanding is— I am fairly well satisfied regarding it and I have taken good advice outside —that when a parent sends a child outside the State to be educated, the parent is a defaulter under this Bill; he is not sending his child to a national school, a suitable school or a recognised school. He has not got a reasonable excuse. He may acquire a reasonable excuse after he has sent the child outside if he gets a certificate from the Minister. But if he fails to get the certificate, he will not at any time have a reasonable excuse. In the period from the time he sends his child to a school outside until he gets the certificate, he is a defaulter. It may be that, in the case of a child sent outside the State, the Minister would not apply Section 4 (1) but, if he did, it would mean that before the parent could obtain the "reasonable excuse" to bring him within the law — until he gets the certificate he is not within the law — the child would have to be brought back, perhaps from England, so that one of the tests could be applied. Some of the other tests which the Minister might apply before deciding whether or not he would grant a certificate could not be enforced in the case of a school outside the State. The Minister could not compel a head master there, or other responsible authority, to reply to his questions. He could do that inside the State but not outside it.

I suggest that, the number of children affected being very small, the simplest and best method of dealing with the matter is that which I propose. If that does not appeal to the House or to the Minister, I have a further amendment which proposes another method. That amendment would not be necessary if this amendment were carried. I should prefer to explain later the alternative method. I am now proposing to deal with only one question — that of the relatively small number of parents who may find it necessary, for religious or other reasons, to have their children educated outside the State.

I feel that the Minister might accept the Senator's amendment. The numbers in question must be very small and, in ordinary human affairs, nothing can be decided on the basis of strict logic or strict consistency. In respect of nearly everything, exceptions must be made to bring about working propositions. If this power is evaded to any extent, the Minister can always come along and get supplementary legislation. This does seem to be the best way out of a position which is very limited in scope.

I advocate the acceptance of this amendment. It puts in the simplest possible form the principle urged by many of us on the Committee Stage — that it is the inalienable right of the parent to decide the form of education which his children shall receive and that, if he feels so disposed, he should, for reasons which seem adequate to himself, be entitled to seek that education outside the jurisdiction of the State. I do not want to go over the arguments again. I think that Senator Douglas' method of guaranteeing that constitutional right is much the simplest way in which it could be guaranteed. If the House accepts this amendment, I shall have pleasure in withdrawing my amendment, which is designed to meet the position in a different and, perhaps, more cumbrous way.

To test this matter out in practice, perhaps Senator Douglas would follow me patiently if I put a few questions to him. To whom is this excuse to be pleaded as a reasonable excuse? Ostensibly, to the enforcing authority. Is the enforcing authority to accept the excuse, once it is made, because it is made, as a sufficient reason for proceeding no further? Is that the mind of Senator Douglas? If so, in addition to the enforcing authority we set up a deciding authority over and above the Minister for Education, who represents the rights of the State and, consequently, the rights of the child, who is not in a position to protect his own claims. I put this matter on the last occasion in another way, which I may be pardoned for repeating. Is it for the parent to say the final word? To begin with, the parent exercises his undoubted right not to send his child to one of these schools. Very good. In exercising the right, he is bound by clause 5 — the final clause of Section 4 — to notify the authorities that the child is sent outside the State for the purpose of receiving education.

He must give that notification under the penalty of a fine. I direct Senator Douglas' attention to that point. Therefore, as a condition precedent to being allowed to have a child receive elementary education outside the area of the State, there is this requirement of the law — a requirement that must be met. Otherwise, the parent is fined. We are up against that solid fact.

I wish there had been also something to the effect that the parent should notify the proper authority of the attainment of the age of six years by a child in his custody. Otherwise, much time will be lost in discovering that a child of school-going age is not going to school. However, that is incidental. If the parent is not to be the deciding authority as to whether or not the school to which he sends his child for education provides a suitable education, within the meaning of the Act, how is the question to be decided? Senator Douglas will admit that that is a practical question. We get down to brass tacks on that question. Is the possibly arbitrary declaration of the parent that he is satisfied to suffice? Surely this is a claim of privilege, no matter how plausibly it is urged by Senator Sir John Keane. Everybody must satisfy the Minister that the requirements of the Constitution are being met except the parent who has sent his child outside the country. Why should that privilege be sought? According to Senator Sir John Keane, with a great affectation of bonhomie, the numbers are so small that we should not be so meticulously exacting about legal requirements. That is a strange plea to raise in a House of the Legislature — that we should deliberately and consciously make escapes and loopholes in our legislation, being assured by the Senator, who ought to know, that the number affected is very small. Senator Sir John Keane was in a very different mood about this matter on the last occasion, because, rising to the full majesty of his height, he declared that he stood here to represent that section of the people who had always sent their children to public schools in England for education and always would.

To-day we are again to give a privilege to the people who take that stand. Is it right to the sons and daughters of those men to whom he refers, that they should not be allowed to come into an environment, in their plastic, formative years, which would help them to be good citizens in the land to which they belong? No doubt, this would help them, while domiciled here, to follow in the footsteps of the Senator and regard the country in which he received his first moulding as their spiritual home. Reduced to its plainest statement, that is what we are asked to do.

I have something to say further as regards the child receiving his education outside the State. "Receiving education" is not enough. The Constitution explicitly states in what aspects of education, broadly regarded, the State has the right to exact the provision of a minimum. Merely to hide the fact that certain provisions were not observed—that the constitutional demand that the child receive suitable education was not being met — one might say that the child was attending a school outside the State. I would view the amendment more favourably if it were worded so that there would be a guarantee—"that there be no refusal on the part of such parents to comply with the requirements of such test". The House will remember that we had in Section 4, sub-section (2), paragraph (a): "and the Minister may refuse to give such certificate if such parent fails or refuses so to submit such child". We all now thoroughly understand and appreciate the circumstances contemplated by Senator Douglas, where a parent exercises his undoubted right with reference to religious creeds and practice. I should like the section to read: "That the child is attending school outside the State and will, if so required by the Minister, be duly submitted to whatever educational test is by regulation prescribed to secure in such cases that the child is receiving fit and proper elementary education within the meaning of this and the Principal Act." If that were the amendment, we should see more clearly where we are asked to stand.

A case was made by Senator Douglas, which he detailed on the last occasion and which it was not necessary for him to detail to-day, in regard to parents desiring a school in which the religious and moral tone and environment would be found requisite to safeguard what that parent valued so much in respect of his child and which could be found only outside the State, that the parent might regard that as the primary and fundamental consideration in the upbringing of his child. But suppose he was further minded— I am keeping in the domain of practice—not to submit the child to any test, that he arrogantly claimed to have set aside in regard to himself the requirements to which other citizens who have children to bring up must submit, surely that arrogant claim is not to be so conceded. To protect the child from what would ensue from the persistence of the parent in refusing, it is necessary that the State should take requisite steps.

It seems to me that what Senator Douglas has put down here, as an amendment giving an additional reasonable excuse, would only work out to be an explanation of why the child is not attending one of the schools. I think he will admit at once that explaining the absence of the child and justifying the absence of the child by giving a reasonable excuse are two wholly different things. I am not recalling the following incident for jocose purposes, but as an illustration. I knew of a teacher, who is my authority for the statement, who asked a boy about his absence from school the previous day. The boy replied: "Sir, I was not here," and considered that a full account. Of course, it is an explanation of the child's non-presence in the school, but the teacher's query was directed to a justification for his non-presence, which is a wholly different thing.

Whether the excuse proffered in one of these cases is a reasonable excuse or not is to be decided, apparently, in the first place, by the enforcing authority, or eventually and finally by a district justice. When the case comes before the district justice, I can well imagine the parent, who informed the educational authority that his child was being educated outside the State, making the case that he had already made his excuse. It would then become necessary for the district justice to point out that merely stating that the child is not in the country is not an excuse, as Section 4 requires a certificate issued by the Minister as to the adequacy and appropriateness of the education. So, after all, Senator Douglas has not, as we say colloquially, "filled the bill".

The omnibus escape of paragraph (d) "that the child has been prevented from attending school by some other unavoidable cause" might just as well meet the requirements of Senator Douglas as the one that he has tried to use. He could say that the child is prevented from attending school by the unavoidable cause that he is not in the country. If that is pleaded as a sufficient reason, the district justice will not take absence out of the country as sufficient reason. The child may have been sent out of the country for other than educational purposes. He may have been adopted by a relative in a distant country. That is not an unknown thing, nor is it so rare as to escape observation. Therefore, it seems to me that the amendment does not fill the bill.

Is ar éigin is gádh dhom a rádh go bhfuil mé in aghaidh an leasuithe seo. Nuair a chonnaic mé an leasú seo fá ainm an tSeanadóra Douglas, bhi mé ag súil go mbeadh óráid fhada againn uaidh agus go dtiubhradh sé roinnt argóintí dhúinn ar a shon.

Chómh fada agus a bhí argóint ag an Seanadóir, séard a bhí inti: nach gádh bacadh leis na páistí atá i gceist aige toisg nach bhfuil mórán díobh ann. Is ionann an argóint seo agus príbhléidí fá leith a iarraidh do dhreamanna beaga fá leith. Ní chomhairleochainn d'aon Aire géilleadh d'iarratas den tsórt seo. I want to say that I feel that Senator Douglas has failed to give us any reason whatever — any sound reason — for the acceptance of this amendment. He made a remark at the beginning to the effect that it was generally agreed in this House that people in certain circumstances should have the right to send their children outside the State for education. I accept that. I could not support the amendment set down by Senator O'Connell, for the reason that I could visualise a school being suitable for some pupils and not suitable for others. I could quite understand the Minister being prepared to give a certificate for one pupil where he would not be prepared to give it for another. And so, I can conceive, in the course of the affairs of this State, that circumstances may arise where people would have to leave the State in order to get education.

When Senator Douglas came to try to convince us of the need for the amendment he based it on the point that the numbers concerned are very small. They may be very small or they may not; but it is certainly a very poor argument that we should consider it mainly on the basis of the numbers concerned. One asks what is a small number; what proportion of the total number of school-going children would be considered a small one? A difficulty arises as to where one is to draw the line. As I see it, in the ultimate analysis, Senator Douglas' appeal backed by Senator Sir John Keane, was for something in the nature of a privilege. Well, in this case, in view of all the safeguards already provided in the Bill, I certainly object most emphatically to the granting of any privilege.

It reminds me of a remark of Senator Sir John Keane the last time we were discussing the Bill, when he suggested I had sneered at the rich. As a matter of fact, if the Senators will consider it, they will have no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the sneers were not on my part, but on the part of Senator Sir John Keane, against the plain common people of this country, and I hope that whatever we may do on this Bill, or any other Bill, the House will refuse to swallow nonsense under the guise or the name of tolerance.

As I understand it, the amendment is purely implementing or giving legislative effect to an assurance by the Minister that parents will be allowed to send their children abroad if they so require, and if that is the case, I rather agree with it, because for many years to come numbers of children who were born in this country will go abroad for their professions, and it is quite possible that education on the other side, or in France, or in America——

Or in Germany.

—or in Germany, may be far more suitable to their future life. My family have been very interested in education abroad for hundreds of years and have endowed Chairs at Louvain and I do feel that no matter what time in a man's life it may come, he gains a great deal in experience and he is more valuable to his country if he travels abroad and gets ideas about other countries, their institutions and their people. For the small boy in primary education as well as for the grown man in his university education, there should be complete agreement if the parent wishes to send a child to another country, and then, if he wants to, let him come back to his own country. I do not see why any boy or girl educated abroad should be less Irish than if he or she were educated in a primary school in this country. They would be more valuable citizens than if they had the parochial view, which I fear we are not shaking off in the way we should.

There is one danger that I see in this; it is purely hypothetical at the moment. Take the case of a parent who is desirous of sending his child abroad to be educated. There is education and education. Take the instance of a child sent to a certain country in Western Europe to get a Godless education. It is quite possible that these people would be sent abroad with the express intention of spreading the modern ideas of such a country through this country. If it were left open to such people to act in that manner, would it be in the interests of the child or of the State? The point is purely hypothetical but it shows the danger of leaving a gap open. Although we have no objection to those who think that they would get their children a better education if they sent them to suitable schools abroad, what objection would they have to letting the Minister know that they think that the schools they are sending their children to are suitable schools?

I do not altogether feel that this is a very wise way to raise the question of what exceptions should be allowed under this Bill. I feel that in making a special plea for parents who, for some reason or other, wish to send their children abroad, Senator Douglas is confusing the issue to a certain extent. It is a wider issue, and it concerns parents who wish to educate their children privately at home as well as those who, for any reason, wish to send their children abroad.

I would far sooner see the whole matter raised on the general principle than to see anything put into the Bill which would even appear to create a privileged class in this way. That does not mean that I am not in sympathy with Senator Douglas's point of view, or that I have any sympathy at all with the view expressed by Senator Goulding. I do not know if he realises the implication of what he said. He deprecates the idea of parents sending their children to places where they might receive a Godless education. Does he realise that the implication of that statement is that the Minister for Education in this country shall determine what religion children are to be brought up in?

That is not so.

May I point out to him that that is the logical implication of what he said?

Not at all. I wish to make it quite clear that the children in that case would be brought up in a manner which would be entirely inimical to the best interests of this State or of any Christian State. The question of their religious persuasion does not arise.

The Senator may put it in any form of words he likes, but the implication of his suggestion is that the Minister for Education shall have the final say as to whether a parent in this country is entitled to have his children sent abroad for religious purposes. It does not matter whether those purposes be to have the child taught no religion or any particular religion — the implication is that the parent shall have no right to decide what religion he is to bring his child up in.

It is not a question of the particular religion at all. It is a question of whether the child is to be brought up as an opponent of all religion, of the Christian religion particularly.

It really boils down to what I have said and, to my mind, the assertion is contained in this Bill as it stands. Under Section 4, sub-section (2), paragraph (c), for example, the Minister can refuse to give a certificate to a school on the grounds that such school is not appropriate for that particular child. That might cover anything. You might easily have a Minister at some future time who would decide that a certain religion is appropriate for all the children of the State, and you could easily have a situation where that Minister might legally proceed to lay down that no child would be sent to a school where he would not receive education in the appropriate religion. Those suggestions may sound fantastic to Senators, but it is legislation like this that has led to the sort of problems you have all over the world at the present time. This is a very serious thing. This is legislation of the type that led to the École Unique in France 40 years ago. It may secure that all children in the State shall receive the same kind of education; that they shall all be subject to the Minister's edict as to what kind of education that may be. There is a suggestion that there is some subservience to privilege if any loophole is left in that provision of the unique school. The whole tenor of the Bill runs in that direction. When Senator The McGillycuddy mentioned the fact that his family had once upon a time endowed chairs at Louvain he put his finger on what, to my mind, is another very serious aspect in the Bill as it stands, and which the Minister is, apparently, determined to bring into law. The Bill is an exact analogy in our circumstances to the penal laws passed in the 18th century against the Catholics of Ireland. It makes it an offence subject to penalty to send a child abroad to be educated, exactly as the English penal laws did in this country 200 years ago.

Is examination a penalty?

I do not want to go into Section 4 at this moment, but I could state briefly what happens if the Senator cares to hear it or if I am allowed. What happens under Section 4——

I do not desire to interrupt the Senator, but he must not try to put the onus upon me of going into Section 4 when we are debating another section. I am merely drawing his attention to the significance of what he has said.

I am not trying to put any onus at all on the Senator. I am only saying that, under the Bill as it stands, a parent who sends his child abroad must give notice to that effect to the Civic Guards, and, if the Civic Guards — who are the enforcing authority — choose, they can bring the parent before a court, and the parent is there subject to a whole series of fines. They are small fines, if you like; I do not pretend that the fines laid down in the Principal Act are very serious fines, but they are penalties in any case. Unless the court adjourns the case, or something of that kind, to allow the Minister's certificate to be secured, the Minister's certificate will be too late to prevent the parent from undergoing those penalties. That is the way I read the Bill at any rate, and I do not think there is anything wrong with that reading of it. The fact of the matter is that, under the Bill, a parent who sends his child abroad is liable to be brought up in court, to have his action with regard to his child examined before a magistrate, and his guilt or otherwise in relation to what he has done determined by that magistrate. The question as to whether the fine is a big one or a small one is immaterial.

Might I ask the Senator whether that is so if the parent submits the child to the test referred to in Section 4?

It is very difficult to understand where the test comes in. Unless the parent has got a certificate from the Minister when he appears in court he is liable to a fine. Is not that so?

If that is not the plain meaning of the Bill, I do not know what is. If a parent is brought before the court, his only defence in this connection is that his child is receiving education in a suitable school, and the definition of a suitable school is a school that has been certified by the Minister. If the parent has sent his child to a school that is not so certified, then the parent is liable to a fine. Is not that so? I am most anxious to have this cleared up.

The Minister may clear it up.

The Minister has not cleared up much.

Even when the Gárda Síochána, as the enforcing authority, has brought the parent before the district justice, we must remember that the district justice is a man of commonsense and knowledge of the world.

I hope the Senator is not proceeding to make a second speech.

The district justice may be lenient? Is that what the Senator suggests?

Under this Bill, the determining authority as to the suitability of the education is the Minister and not the district justice.

Quite so, but the parent may be brought before the district justice before the Minister has had any say in it at all. For one thing, he becomes liable to a penalty if he does not notify the Civic Guards, and in the second place, if he does notify the Civic Guards and is not sending his child to a suitable school within the meaning of the Bill. He is brought before the magistrate then. He has no defence before the magistrate, because the Minister has not given his certificate that this is a suitable school— either to the school or to the child. Is not that so? The magistrate may be lenient? In other words, the magistrate may not observe the wording of the law?

There is such a thing as adjourning a case.

That does not alter the fact. The case may be adjourned and the sentence may be postponed until the Minister has had time to examine the school, but the fact is that, according to this Bill under the definition of what is deemed to be suitable education in a manner other than by attending a national school, the parent is guilty of an offence until he produces a certificate by the Minister to prove that he is innocent.

In other words, you have the bad old principle, which we were always assured was alien to British law, applied to this case — the parent is presumed to be guilty until the Minister has proved he is innocent.

He has to be charged with the offence first.

He is presumed to be guilty of the offence.

He is first charged with the offence.

Certainly he is charged, but he is guilty according to the wording of the Bill. The magistrate has no option. Might I suggest that in passing a Bill of this kind we are doing in a reverse direction, in relation to a small number of people who may send their children out of the country to be educated, exactly what was done to the Catholics in Ireland 200 years ago? It may be that we regard it as a mild offence but still it is a punishable offence. I do not want, however, to vote on this amendment, because I think it is isolating one special case from the variety of people who will come under the provisions of the Bill. I would rather vote on Section 4 as a whole. At the same time I want to point out to the Seanad exactly what it is doing in passing Sections 3 and 4 of the Bill as they stand.

Would it not be possible for the parent to notify the Minister before notifying the Gárda? Does that not answer the Senator's argument?

He is bound, under pain of a fine, to notify the enforcing authority.

I do not like the amendment because I do not like inserting in our legislation a specific provision that people may send their children outside the State. At the same time I recognise, as I pointed out before, the cogency of the arguments put forward by Senator Douglas but I want to indicate again that the kind of person who sends his children outside the State to be educated is not always a member of a religious minority in the State. There are Catholics who would like to send their children outside the State and there can be no doubt about it, in spite of the extraordinary confusion that explanation after explanation has created over this Bill, that the Bill does provide that if you want to send your children outside the State to be educated you may find yourself in a police court. The argument in favour of making this provision in the Bill and for not excepting that kind of person is that you want national uniformity. That is exactly the argument that is being used in England by the Trade Union Congress who want to destroy denominational schools. The argument there is that denominational schools do not provide as good an education as other schools and that Catholics should be compelled to attend the undenominational schools. That is exactly on a par with the argument of Senator Buckley and Senator Magennis and it is an argument for which the Catholic Church does not stand. It seems to me that the problem of the 65,000 children who are absent from our national schools — probably there are more — is sufficient for the moment, sufficient for many a long day to come.

It is easy to talk against this amendment on other grounds. There is nothing simpler than to take the line Senator Magennis and Senator O Buachalla adopted and to talk about the spiritual home of Senator Sir John Keane. My spiritual home is right here in this City of Dublin. In spite of that, and in spite of the fact that I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Irish language, I am still in favour of allowing whatever small minority wish to do so to send their children outside the country for their education.

I am in favour of that as an Irishman and as somebody who understands the Irish national tradition as well as either Senator Magennis or Senator O Buachalla. It is because I think that the Irish national tradition is violated by this kind of provision that I am against it. There is nothing simpler than to introduce metaphysical arguments, or to make cross-road speeches about Senator Sir John Keane's spiritual home and about English ideals, but that should not be done here. The question of nationalism should not be brought into a matter of this kind. Even within this country there is a Border. As I pointed out here before, I know of Catholic bankers who are moved hither and thither across the Border and who may choose, because of that, to send their children to a school in the Six Counties. Under this Bill they are not sure, if a child of theirs happens to be in a convent in the Six Counties, that they will not be dragged into court.

Senator Sir John Keane may say that he belongs to a class who have always wanted to send their children to English schools. I do not belong to that class and I do not think that class has much of a future in this country. I am not afraid of that class, nor am I afraid of the influence that they are likely to have on the future of this country or of any danger from them to our spiritual or national outlook. Why in the name of commonsense should we worry passing legislation to prevent a small dwindling minority from sending their children anywhere they like to be educated? There is no case for it; there is no reason for it.

Apart altogether from the principles which have been discussed, I, as a strong advocate of the Irish language and of Irish nationalism, not in its doctrinaire sense but in its real sense, dating back to a much earlier period than the time of Wolfe Tone, want to say that there is no reason at all for insisting that a person cannot send his child to an English school. The Minister, or Senator O Buachalla if he became Minister, might prescribe that no school which does not teach Irish is a suitable school within the meaning of the Act, and then the parents of children sent outside may become liable for the non-fulfilment of the provisions of this Act. I do not fear for a moment that any such minority can do any harm to our national aspirations, our spiritual ideals, or to what we are doing in our schools. If we can do our own job efficiently, and if we are really in earnest, we need not worry about any of these matters.

What is proper for the Minister to do is to make such provisions in the Bill that the liberty which has been hitherto enjoyed can continue to be enjoyed and abandon the idea of filling up every nook and cranny under the Constitution. I think it was Senator Magennis who once said that life is larger than logic. Life is very much larger than logic, and we ought to leave aside the logic and simply take the life of the country as we know it and not worry ourselves about looking for uniformity. We should have no fear for our national future because a few people choose to send their children across the Border or outside this State for their education. I do not like the form of the amendment, but I would prefer the Minister to take a wider and a more national view than he has heretofore taken.

I wish to state my attitude towards this particular amendment and to the two or three that follow. My position is somewhat like that of Senator Hayes but for different reasons. If Section 4 were not in this Bill Senator Douglas's difficulties would be solved. I moved on the Committee Stage to delete Section 4, but I made it clear at the time that I did not do that because of any question of rights or principles involved in that particular section. I moved it purely from the administrative aspect of the Bill, for practical reasons because I felt — and I certainly will vote for Senator Hayes's further amendment in Section 6 — it has very little practical touch with the main problem for which this measure was introduced, that is, the 65,000 children who are absent daily from our national schools. The Bill was introduced to solve that problem so far as it was possible to solve it.

If we could get 50, 60 or 80 per cent. of these 65,000 children to attend school, and attend school regularly, then this Bill would have served its purpose. I pointed out that the introduction of this section led to very great controversy and, as a result, was calculated to do rather serious injury to the whole measure by getting the public outside to believe that there was something wrong because there was so much talk about the Bill. Having said that, if the Minister insists on keeping Section 4 in the Bill I am not prepared to make a distinction between one class of children and another, that is, between the children who may be getting their education outside the State and those who may be getting it at home. If one set of children is going to be subjected to this quite impractical examination I do not see why we should make exceptions.

What we have been asked to do by this debate is to insert in our statute a provision that any education given outside the State, no matter whether we had any opportunity of testing it or not, will fulfil the requirements of "moral, intellectual and social education", which the Constitution describes as the right of every child for whom the State is responsible. I do not see how any self-respecting State could put such a provision on its Statute Book, particularly because it is not necessary. The fears of Senator Douglas that people will be prevented from sending their children outside the State are groundless. Already provision is made in Section 3, sub-section (2) (b) for that. It was represented that to send a child out of the State for education could be treated as a criminal offence. That is not so. It is not for sending children outside the State that they have to explain their conduct but it is to satisfy the court that the children are getting the education which the Constitution and our sense of justice demand and prescribe as their right.

I agree generally with Senator Hayes and Senator Tierney in their attitude towards the amendment. The great trouble about this whole matter is that the Minister is trying to do two things that are contradictory in the one measure. He is trying to get after the 65,000 children who do not attend school and, in his effort to get after them, he is taking power to regulate the behaviour, the attitude and the responsibility of a certain limited number of intelligent parents who are very concerned as to their duty towards their children. It is quite impossible to do justice to the situation in the form in which the Minister is approaching it. I do not think the question of what rights children have under the Constitution comes into discussion. The people of this island had an attitude towards education hundreds of years before this Constitution was ever thought of, and it would be regrettable if their attitude towards education had altered. There is an apparent change which makes some of us unhappy. We are beginning to make a very narrow approach to the broadest question that this State has to concern itself with. It ought to be understood that a very considerable number of intelligent parents are really unhappy about our whole educational plan and policy, very patriotic parents, many of them parents to whose efforts the existence of this State is due. That is true. The attitude of the Minister in his approach to this problem is really critical. Numbers of people are in a questioning frame of mind. We are alarmed by the effort to take the narrow path outlined by Senator O Buachalla and a limited number of people who talk as he talked, no doubt with the very best intentions. The Minister will have regrets after some time that he drafted the Bill in such a way as to have the sort of debate that there has been both in this House and in the other House — particularly in this House. I feel that the Minister's intentions are clear enough. While that may be so, the fact remains that under the Bill as it is drafted, and as it is going along its course, parents can be offenders in the eyes of the police and can be prosecuted. They have got to go through a ritual to prove their innocence in the courts. It is bad for the law to have to attack a particular type of parent whom you are trying to bring within the ambit of this legislation. It is a defect that is bringing law into contempt by making it appear really senseless in the eyes of ordinary people. That is, I think, a perturbing problem.

There is no use in saying that you are going to bring Senator The McGillycuddy into court because his grandchild is not being educated in the sort of school contemplated by this Bill, despite the fact that he is concerned regarding the education of the child. If a penalty is imposed, it will seem absurd and it will look narrow, intolerant and a number of other things that are not Christian or charitable in the broad sense. If, next day, you have to bring irresponsible parents, who are not sending their children to any school, into the same court, the administration of the law becomes difficult. You will, by this provision, weaken the arm of the State in dealing with parents who are not really doing their duty to their children and in respect of whom we are all anxious to assist the Minister. If a division be called on this amendment, I cannot go into the Lobby in support of it. At the same time, I feel that the section is very unsatisfactory and will not prove workable.

I am glad that Senator Mrs. Concannon has reminded the House that it is rather unique that we should be asked to pass into our educational laws a provision that one particular section should have a privilege, because this would be nothing but an exemption from the general law. I cannot agree with Senator Hayes that Senator Douglas's arguments have been particularly cogent. Whatever feeling one had that Senator Douglas spoke with a certain amount of feeling on the last occasion and that he had received some advice — not, I think, accurate advice — as to the meaning of this Bill, it seems clear that he has not impressed the House to-day with the belief that there is anything very serious in his case. I am rather sorry that he dragged in the question of religion. As Senator Mrs. Concannon has pointed out, it is provided in this measure that, where a suitable school, a national school or a recognised school is not accessible to a child, the parent need not send the child to school.

So far as the Minister and the enforcing authority are concerned, the child may not receive any education. That is a loop-hole which has not been filled in. Even when such a school is accessible, if there is any objection, on religious grounds, to sending a child there, there can be no question of compulsion. Am I to understand that Senator Douglas or anybody else thinks there is the slightest fear that Protestant parents, for example, are likely to be prosecuted by the enforcing authority in cases of that kind?

The existing Act provides that it is a reasonable excuse to say that a child is receiving suitable elementary education in some manner other than by attending a national or other suitable school. The Senator might as well say that the last Government wanted to penalise parents in the Border counties because it happened that, by accident, there were two or three prosecutions— I do not know the exact number — in such cases. Possibly, the enforcing authorities had good grounds for proceeding; I am sure they had. But there was a policy of not interfering with parents in these circumstances, and that policy has continued since I became Minister. It would be as sensible to say that, because one or two parents were prosecuted, as I have mentioned, the last Government were seeking to penalise parents for sending their children outside the State for education, as to use the ridiculous and absurd statement which has been made here — that the religious instruction of children is being interfered with somehow. Senators choose to forget that very important provisions are laid down in the Constitution with regard to parents' rights in this matter. It is because of these safeguards that these sections have been framed in the way they have been framed — to protect as fully as possible the position of the parents, while carrying out the duty imposed upon the State.

I do not agree that the amendment is necessary at all. On the religious question, I should like to say that not alone were there no prosecutions, save in the few cases I have mentioned, since the Principal Act became law, but that for nearly 100 years we have had a code — I have a copy here — in which a very substantial portion of the regulations governing national schools was devoted to this question of religious instruction. That was before there was an Irish Government or an Irish Constitution. The position of parents was safeguarded in the most elaborate way. Anybody who knows anything about the history of national education knows that, so far back as 1850, when difficulties arose about religious instruction and the use of schools as meeting-houses, this whole question was gone into. For generations, the old national board had been amending this code, until, to-day, we have elaborate provisions to safeguard the religious opinions of children and the rights of parents regarding the religious instruction of their children in schools. I do not want to take up the time of the House reading those provisions.

Surely the whole point of the debate is that these elaborate precautions are being swept away by this Bill?

If Senator Tierney chooses to say that I am in the same position as M. Viviani, or somebody else, I am not going to waste my time answering him. When the original Bill was introduced, it could be argued that parents might be prosecuted for sending their children across the Border for education and that the Government would outlaw and persecute these parents. There has been a definite policy of not interfering with them but Senator Tierney wants to give the country the impression that for some unexplained reason, there is now a definite effort to introduce some form of religious persecution. What does he mean by talking about the French laws of the Eighties, his reference to a "police State" and to the English Trades Union Congress? I have no interest whatever in the English Trades Union Congress. I do not choose to read the English newspapers when I want to learn what policy I should carry out here. I have plenty of advisers amongst my own colleagues, with the Head of the Government, and with my own technical and constitutional experts, to learn what type of legislation should be brought before the House. I do not find it necessary to go across the Channel to seek light on this matter, and I deprecate the introduction of these allusions to what British bodies—each one of them seems to have a definite orientation on educational matters — think. What is the object of bringing these matters into this debate? Is it to try to influence unthinking people or people who have not had an opportunity of reading this Bill or even reading the debates?

Apparently, the speeches of some of the Senators cannot be published in some of the papers which choose to record their views on these matters. Apparently, the views of Senator Magennis are not good enough for the Irish people, to be printed in some of those organs which have the temerity to mention, in the same breath, that this legislation, these movements and policies, are being put forward in other countries. There is no contact or connection between the fact that at the present moment I happen to be introducing a School Attendance Amendment Bill in this State and that there happens to be a war or a revolution on, or that some Communist policy is being put forward in Britain.

But no one said there was any connection.

What was the Senator's idea in talking about the British Trade Union Congress and their interference in education?

All I said was that Senators here — I did not say the Minister — wanted a particular kind of uniformity and said privilege was not for certain people, and that the same argument was being used for privilege by the Trade Union Congress against denominational schools. I do not think the Minister should be proud about not reading about English education. It is a foolish attitude.

I never said I did not read about English education, but I am not going to take it as a direction as to policy I am to introduce. I could very well say that English educationists do not understand where they stand at the moment. There are attacks on Senator O Buachalla because he has the temerity to defend the ideas that Irishmen fought and died for in this country and without which there would not be any Seanad here.

He was not the only defender.

Because Senator O Buachalla takes up that particular argument, he is to be attacked and made little of. We have come to a nice pass. Still, those who would oppose this section are not going to vote for this amendment. They show their own inconsistency. They say that Senator Douglas is right, and they accept the full cogency of his argument, but they will not vote for his amendment—they must vote against the section. What does voting against the whole section mean but doing what Senator Douglas is trying to do, that is, effect an exemption for a particular class? That class, for one reason or another, like the section that Senator Douglas speaks of, does not choose to bow to the national policy as laid down in law. They do not choose to do that. If there are people who want to defend such conduct, let them defend it on the lines that they do not choose to fall in with the national policy; but I would like to know why, after 20 years of self-government, they do not choose to fall in and why this exemption should be sought. As a matter of fact, I understand that most of the children who are sent out of the State are sent at the age of nine years to preparatory schools. It is a nice question as to whether, from six to nine, their parents have been fulfilling the law of the land with regard to the education of those children. We have no means of knowing what the situation is unless Section 4 is carried into law.

Senator Brennan has pointed out— and I am glad he has — that if anyone has difficulty about the Gárda Síochána, they can write to the Minister and explain the position. They are not going to be forced into court, no more than they have been in the past 20 years, and it is simply misrepresenting the position to say that they would be. There is no intention of following any particular class. We are trying to see that all children will get the minimum education which the Constitution specifies, and it is simply beside the point to suggest that we are singling out some particular section and trying to penalise it. If this amendment became law and if all the parents who choose, for one reason or another, to think that the Minister for Education here should not be the authority to determine whether children are being suitably educated or not, should choose to send their children outside the State or, in the case of people living near the Border, to schools in Northern Ireland, there would be nothing to stop them. If Section 4 did not become law, there would be nothing to stop any parent from arguing that he was, in his opinion, giving his child suitable education and that, therefore, the Minister had no right to interfere. That would give such parents an absolute right over and above the Constitutional rights of the community and the rights of the State.

I can only express genuine and sincere amazement at some of the speeches to which this House has listened on a comparatively simple and straightforward amendment. I was exceedingly surprised and somewhat disappointed with the first part of Senator Magennis's speech. I do not think that, on a matter of this kind, which could be dealt with on its merits, he should make reference to what seemed to me to be an appeal to prejudice against a class to which Sir John Keane belongs or is supposed to belong. I do not always agree with Senator Sir John Keane, and it is well known that I differ with him on many matters other than this; but the merits of whether or not a person should find himself even for a time outside the law, because he has sent his children to school in the Six Counties, are not going to be helped by a discussion as to whether or not a certain class, to which the person is supposed to be belong, send their children to public schools.

I believe that I would have a perfect right, if I thought fit and if I could afford it, to send my children to the Six Counties or to England. As a matter of fact, I did not send them: I found schools which met the requirements I felt necessary. But, if the school had happened to be in the Six Counties, it never would have occurred to me that I could have been subject to the kind of references which have been made here. We have a reference from the Minister to people not willing to fall in with national policies because there does not happen to be, in their sincere opinion, a school inside the State with which they could be perfectly satisfied on religious or other grounds.

I have not desired to over-emphasise the religious viewpoint to-day, as I referred to it on the previous occasion. One point of view was fairly well illustrated by Senator Goulding. I know people who sincerely think that the beliefs I hold are what they call Godless. But I do not believe that. Who is to decide it? I am the only person who can rightly decide that for my children. The State cannot decide what is to be called a Godless education. People who were within the law before, and who, for a time, at any rate, will find themselves outside the law, are referred to as not falling in with national policy, or are referred to as being intolerant. I do not think that is justified, or that that attitude should be adopted here.

Would the Senator adopt my addendum to his amendment?

I will come to that in a moment. When you come to the line taken by the Minister, it is perfectly plain that a good deal of what he said was in reply to the general debate, and not dealing specifically with the amendment. The principal issue was regarding people who might send children outside the State. The Minister keeps entirely to his intentions and will not deal solely with what is in the section. I have never suggested that these intentions were contrary to what I said, and if there is any use saying it again, I have not the slightest doubt in my mind as to what the intentions are. But we are dealing with a particular Bill which makes a change. Whether that change is to be regarded as of some importance, as the ex-Minister for Education regarded it, or of small importance, as the present Minister regards it, that is not the point; the point is that, under its provisions, if your child is attending a school inside the State, and you stop sending him there and send him to a school outside the State, I am perfectly satisfied that you have then committed a breach of the law. Whether you are taken to court or not is merely a matter of the inconvenience you may be put to. People who want to keep the law here, and who, in the past, were not breaking the law by getting suitable education elsewhere, are now put in the position of being breakers of the law, and that change is wrong. The fact that there was no intention to penalise them, or the fact that the Minister will keep to his set of rules, does not alter the fact that the change made now is that they have not got the reasonable excuse that they had before.

Now I come to the point raised by Senator Magennis, who asked me how the reasonable excuse would operate and who would decide it. My answer is that it would operate in exactly the same manner as any of the other reasonable excuses—(a), (c) or (d)— which are not defined in the special section. It would be for the enforcing authority to decide when the reasonable excuse is, in fact, a good one, and if they do not believe that it is a proper excuse, they have their method of seeing that the law is being enforced. That has been the position in the past, and that would be the position if this amendment were carried. He suggested that without my amendment you might be able to come in under "the child has been prevented from attending school by some other unavoidable cause". Who decides that reasonable excuse?

It is decided in just the same way as the other one would be decided; but would he really like, as an honest man, having decided to send his child away to the Six Counties, for instance, and having done it deliberately, to go and say that he had a reasonable excuse— that there was an unavoidable cause? There might be, of course, other reasons such as special medical attention, but that is not the point. There are people who do it deliberately and to say that they have a loophole under these reasons is, to say the least, extremely doubtful, and it would be an undignified loophole. I would like to point out that the reasonable excuse provided here is not a reasonable excuse for not getting your child properly educated. You have still got that onus on you under this and under the Principal Act. It is a reasonable excuse for not doing it in the manner set out under the Act. I am only proposing this as one of the reasonable excuses, and the idea that by doing that you are creating a privilege, as distinct from a right, I honestly think is absurd. It is not proposed as a privilege.

May I again ask the Senator will he accept the addendum that I proposed to his amendment, where not only does the parent acknowledge that the child is receiving education outside the State, but also acknowledges his willingness to submit such a child to a test? I have been accused of refusing to let parents who have this religious point in mind send their children outside the State, but I never said anything of the kind. I made the issue the submission of the child to an educational test.

I am not accusing the Senator of anything more than opposing any amendments that would do what he says he is willing to do.

You spoke of honesty just now.

I asked if the person who wanted to make a reasonable excuse in all honesty could fall back on (d) because the only unavoidable cause was that he sent the child out, and I would not feel that it was a perfectly honest method of pleading an excuse. I said that there were other reasons which could be pleaded, but that where a child had been deliberately sent out because of choice, it does not seem to me that it would be an excuse. I certainly was not impugning the honesty of the Senator or anyone else. Obviously I cannot accept that as an addendum. I have no indication that the Minister would be satisfied. If the Senator pins me to a particular form of examination, he has raised another matter on which I think he knows I am not altogether convinced that that particular type of examination is the best way of finding out whether it is a suitable education or not.

The last point that I wish to raise is that made by Senators Tierney, Hayes and O'Connell who think that there should be freedom, but who cannot vote, I take it, for this amendment because it deals only with one class. I could not think of any amendment other than the removal of Section 4— and having listened to Section 4 and the Minister's attitude, I knew what would happen to it — to deal with a child educated at home. I am interested in these also, but there is one fundamental difference. If you want to educate your child at home — I am not expressing approval of the proposal to send for examination if you intend to educate children at home— you can apply for a certificate and the Minister can give it to you, and he can say that he will withdraw it later if the child does not pass an examination, or he can ask to see the particular people who are teaching the child, or if you are sending the child to a private school, he can examine the school. But there is a difference when a child is sent out of the State. He cannot bring the child home for examination, except during the holidays, and that may take a considerable time. In the meantime, the parents are breaking the law. Further than that, he cannot guarantee that he will get any information about the school outside. There is no privilege, but there is a distinction between the two, not a distinction in principle, but a distinction in practice. As far as I am concerned, I do not mind whether it is this amendment or the next one. If it were possible to take a division after the proposal to delete Section 4, I would much prefer it, because if Section 4 was deleted there would be no necessity for this or the second amendment.

The second amendment is only a different way of doing a similar thing. The second amendment proposes to amend Section 4. If we provide that the provisions of Section 4 would not apply where a child is receiving suitable education outside the State, the reasonable excuse would be based on 2 (d). They would not be refused that reasonable excuse because they had not a certificate. It is two ways of dealing with more or less the same thing. I think, perhaps, the best thing to do is simply to take this amendment in order to enable the House to vote on the principle. I suppose it would not be in order to take the deletion of Section 4 before the next amendments to it? If it were, we could let this amendment go and have the division afterwards.

This amendment has been very fully debated.

My point was whether, if this were disposed of, the other ones could come afterwards.

It would be unusual procedure.

Question put: "That the new paragraph (d) be there inserted."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 5; Níl, 27.

  • Douglas, James G.
  • Johnston, Joseph.
  • Keane, Sir John.
  • McGillycuddy of the Reeks, The.
  • Rowlette, Robert J.


  • Blaney, Neal.
  • Brennan, Joseph.
  • Campbell, Seán P.
  • Colbert, Michael.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Conlon, Martin.
  • Corkery, Daniel.
  • Cummins, William.
  • MacCabe, Dominick.
  • Magennis, William.
  • O Buachalla, Liam.
  • O'Connell, Thomas J.
  • O'Donovan, Seán.
  • O Maille, Padraic.
  • Goulding, Seán.
  • Healy, Denis D.
  • Honan, Thomas V.
  • Johnston, James.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kennedy, Margaret L.
  • Lynch, Eamonn.
  • Lynch, Peter T.
  • O'Neill, Laurence.
  • Nie Phiarais, Maighréad.
  • Quirke, William.
  • Ruane, Thomas.
  • Stafford, Matthew.
Tellers:— Tá: Senators Joseph Johnston and Douglas; Níl: Senators Goulding and O'Donovan.
Question declared defeated.
Business suspended at 6.10 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.
Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 not moved.

I move amendment No. 5:—

In page 4, Section 4, at the end of the section to add a new sub-section as follows:—

(6) The procedure prescribed in the foregoing sub-section of this section shall not operate in cases where parents send their children to be educated in schools outside the jurisdiction of the Oireachtas: Provided, however, that the Minister may take reasonable steps to satisfy himself that the requirements of Article 42 of the Constitution are being fulfilled.

To judge from the speeches and the result of the last amendment, I am not likely to achieve any result here. I feel bound to say now what I would have said with reference to Senator Douglas's amendment if I had taken a more prominent part in the debate. We have had a lot of talk about the Minister's intentions but what we are concerned with is not the Minister's intentions, but the intentions which a court would read into the wording of this Bill if and when it becomes an Act. Our duty is to ignore completely everything the Minister may say about his personal intentions and his policy, and to consider only what the intention of the Act will be as it leaves the Oireachtas, for that is the only thing any court of law would be able to consider. It would be going beyond its province if it took into account the words of wisdom which any of us might use in this debate or the words of the Minister. If the Minister is sincere in his intention not to penalise in any way people who wish to send their children abroad for their education, then the obvious thing for him to do is to accept this amendment, or some similar amendment, which may make clear beyond yea or nay that the law does not penalise people who wish to educate their children in that way. His refusal to accept any amendment of this kind seems in all the circumstances of the case somewhat disingenuous, not to put it any stronger.

It is clear from the Minister's attitude and from the speeches made by some of his more prominent supporters that there is a considerable body of feeling represented in this House in favour of penalising that section of the community which would like to continue to have the right to have their children educated abroad. The policy implied in those speeches, which, I must say, I listened to with amazement and disgust, is nothing short of a revival, in the reverse direction, of one of the Penal Laws of the 18th century, and it is most discreditable to this country that anything of the kind should be argued or attempted. It is said that it is only a small minority who are concerned, and that, in making this claim, they are claiming a privilege rather than a right. I deny absolutely that it is a privilege which they are claiming. I say that it is a right, in spite of the fact that, in 99 cases out of 100, that right cannot, for obvious reasons of poverty, be exercised.

We are all familiar with the tyranny of economic circumstances, and it is part of our human nature that we should adjust ourselves to those difficulties. We do not feel that our self-respect is in any way infringed or our dignity affected by the fact that we cannot afford to own a £2,000 Rolls Royce car. We accept the fact, and that is all there is to it. But if the will of even a majority of our countrymen deprives us of some right which it is most unlikely we should be able to exercise, we, nevertheles, feel that our personal dignity has been affronted, and that there has been a trespass on what I regard as the essential sovereignty of the individual in his capacity as a parent — something which the State has no moral right to interfere with, though, doubtless, the State has the legal power to override all individual and personal rights. This right, although it may be exercised only by a small minority, is part and parcel of the essential dignity of every citizen, and it will be a trespass on their self-respect if it be abolished.

After all, people sometimes emerge from comparative poverty to a position in which that right might be of practical importance. I am aware of a family not born in very affluent circumstances, in which there were six boys. In due course, four of those boys went to Oxford and one to Edinburgh for their higher education. Incidentally, they spent more money, derived from scholarships, on their education than was represented by the total income of the family. That shows that there are circumstances in which even comparatively poor people might achieve a position in which this right to be educated abroad would become of real and practical importance.

What the Minister is claiming and what the Bill, in its present form, lays down is that that right should be subject to the control of the Minister. I protest against any such power being taken by the State or being exercised by any Minister. It is not only a small section of the community — the type which Senator Sir John Keane is sometimes trotted out as a representative of when one wishes to appeal to class prejudice in these matters — who are concerned with the exercise of this right. Doubtless, there are Protestants who want to have their children educated in Great Britain or the Six Counties, but Roman Catholics are also concerned — probably, far more of that religion than of the Protestant religion. There are significant numbers of people who, for quite adequate reasons, want, in happier times, to have their children educated in convents in Belgium and elsewhere. There is no difference in principle in the attitude which those people would adopt regarding this right and the attitude I should adopt, speaking primarily on behalf of the community which I represent. This must not be looked upon as a claim on behalf of the elements which are sometimes called ex-Unionist and sometimes denounced for having failed to identify themselves with the national culture. The claim is made irrespective of religion or of national position or outlook.

I do not see why an attempt should be made to create prejudice against this claim by arguing that it is unnational to want to be educated abroad. I think that it is a valuable part of the national tradition that there should be an exchange of persons at the formative age of education, that other people should come here for their education, and that many of our boys and girls should go abroad for their education. It is entirely in the national interest, and a valuable part of the national tradition, that there should be that cultural exchange. If this Bill goes through in its present form, and is used in such a way as to prevent our people sending their children abroad, the probable final result will be that people who send their children to our schools for education will refuse to have any contact whatever with so narrow and ignorant a community as ours would have shown itself to be in that event. At first, I was inclined to accept the Minister's assurances that he had no intention of using the power contained in this Bill to prevent people from being educated abroad, but the more I listened to the debate, and especially to the speech of the Minister, the more I began to wonder whether the Minister might not be tempted at some stage in the proceedings to use that power in that way. I am not content with the personal assurances he has given, and nothing short of a change in the Bill, on the lines of this amendment, or a similar amendment, will satisfy me that a fundamental right of our citizens is not being invaded.

I think that the time has come when these cloaked phrases and veiled insinuations should have a little light thrown upon them. The last speaker is shocked or horrified because of the attitude taken up by some of us who support the Minister. Who are these people who have shown themselves guilty of this intolerance, religious and otherwise? I think that I have spoken as much, if not more, than the time the Bill justified, and I am entitled, on my own behalf, to ask Senator Johnston if he includes me. He knows exactly what he intended. He talks a great deal about the intentions of the Minister and the possible intention of future Ministers. As an expert on intentions, perhaps he can expound his own mind. Does the Senator refuse to answer my question? Am I one of those people whose contributions to this debate have shocked or horrified him because of the religious illiberality displayed?

I do not want to be personal, and will deal with the question in my final remarks.

I take it, then, that the Senator does not include me.

Senator Magennis in his youth must have heard of Socrates.

And in my later days as well.

I suspected that.

To come to the main business, his amendment — not his prejudices, his fears and his suspicions —is:

Amendment read.

What is the procedure referred to? Sub-section (4) of Section 4 says:—

Whenever the Minister has given a certificate under this section in respect of a child, he may at any time while such certificate is in force require such child to be submitted by his parent to such educational test at such time and place as the Minister shall direct, and, if such parent fails or refuses so to submit such child, the Minister may revoke such certificate because of such failure or refusal.

This is the first time that the House has been allowed to see where this precious amendment by Senators Douglas and Johnston on the last occasion should find its proper place. This is a frank avowal of the demand—not the request—for privilege in educational matters. The procedure— namely, procedure of certifying the education received other than in the ordinary way—is not to apply; the application of an educational test is not to be made in the case of those who are sent outside the country for their education. Neither of these Senators has told us why. I waited to be told why they are not to be subjected to the test. Do the parents, contemplated by these Senators as needing all their advocacy, think that the schools to which they send their children abroad are not fit to give the education that would stand the test?

I alleged the other day in the debate—and I repeat the allegation— that the real thing on which all this turns — this "hysterical persecution", as Senator Tierney called it — is the consent or refusal of a parent to have his child toe the line which every other child in the country is compelled to toe. Is that not what it is reduced to, in plain common English? Why are these to be exempt? Because a certain number of parents say that they want their children educated outside the country? Who is refusing to let them send their children out of the country? Two or three times to-day, with all the veerings and settings of sails according to the different winds that went on in the debate, this came up constantly. Again and again, there was substituted for the real debate, this persecution by trying to impose the peculiar views of one section of the community upon another, in violation of natural rights. Reasonable people, coming in here without their minds distorted by prejudice, could not find one iota in support of the allegation that what is intended means persecution of anyone. Again and again, the two speakers have flattered the Minister with their professions of faith in his integrity and honesty of intention, and then have proceeded to accuse both him and us who speak in his support of trying to deny a right to a section of the community. Just now, Senator Johnston spoke as if we were making the case that there is only a small number of people concerned. That was the case made by Senator Douglas and, after him, by Senator Sir John Keane.

Senator Keane pleaded that the minority was so small that it should be allowed to escape from the common requirements. Now, according to Senator Johnston, it is we who say that these are so few in number that their rights are negligible. I dispute that position altogether. This is simply the same machine as drove into the House the other day, only that it has reversed its direction, and instead of going north, it is going east or west.

Amendment read.

As I am allowed only one speech, before I pass on I should refer to the fact that we are told once again that not all of the few who desire to send their children outside the jurisdiction of the State to be educated are Protestants — that many of them are Catholics. What difference does that make? It makes no difference whatever to my attitude in the matter. I refuse to give any educational privilege to a Catholic, I do not care how exalted his station socially, or what his contribution to the Catholic cause. I would give him no privilege in this State, of exemption from the obligations of the law that is enacted to apply to every citizen. If the Catholic desires to send his child abroad for an education, does that fact entitle him to demand this privilege of not having the value of the education in the regards that concern the State tested, and tested to the satisfaction of the Minister for Education representing the State?

May I direct the Senator's attention to the last two lines of the amendment, which safeguard the right of the State to ensure a minimum education?

I will come to that in its time. This is really a naked and unashamed demand for privilege —privilege for a few people. I do not dispute at all that there are advantages in receiving a continental education, but I have already said that it is very important, in the early years, that a child's education should be under the constant care and eye of a vigilant parent. I hold that so strongly that I am opposed even to the boarding school in our own country, because it has the drawback that the real educational influence of the home is withdrawn from the child. This is somewhat irrelevant but, to my mind, the boarding school for a child of tender years, unless the situation is exceptional, often is not at all so good as the home education. Granting all these advantages for the youth and the young man who gets a continental education, and granting that his higher education should in part be received at a continental university, is it not irrelevant when it is a question of what the State shall exact as its contribution to his formation in the plastic, formative years between six and 14? There is a tremendous additional advantage in being in a foreign university or school. But then, the foundation has been laid, and the character of the student has, to a great extent, been formed, before he cast himself on the waters and subjected himself to the influences that he might have to react to there.

I suggest that the second part is ambiguous. I am afraid of the intentions of Senator Johnston. Which part of the requirements of Article 42 does he refer to; does he mean reasonable steps in the estimation of the few who send their children abroad? Remember it was alleged — I do not know whether it was true or not — that on one occasion the late Dr. Mahaffy was anxious to get a great cricketer into the Trinity Cricket Club for the purpose of winning an international match, and to him was allotted the task of applying the matriculation test to the star cricketer. I need hardly tell you the cricketer passed the matriculation test. Something like that must be in the minds of those who talk about the intentions of future Ministers. The Senator wants to know who is to decide whether an excuse is reasonable. Has it to go before a court to be declared a reason? If so, what becomes of the objections raised to-day? There is a provision made in the Bill for an enforcing authority, and if I put on it the interpretation that the steps are those which appear to be reasonable to the Minister, I think Senator Johnston would repudiate it. It seems to me that the portion of Section 4 that is relevant is "a reasonable step," namely, that the Minister deputes the task to someone who is accustomed to test the pupils attending national schools or suitable or recognised schools as regards the sufficiency of the standard, and the approach to the requirements of it on the part of the individual child. "The Minister may take reasonable steps to satisfy himself that the requirements of Article 42 of the Constitution are being fulfilled." It can be argued in a court that what was meant by that was that the portion of Article 42 that dealt with the rights of parents——

I meant Article 42, Section 3, sub-section (2).

That should be stated because it was on that that I based most of what I said. Section 3 is really what gives the basis for compulsory education at all and I daresay it was the Constitution's words that weighed with Senator Johnston. The word "however" is the important one. Notwithstanding all the professions of rights, all the enunciations of fundamental doctrines the State itself there announces it as a right, in the interests of the betterment and the well-being of the State, to see to it that every child of school-going years who is fit to go to school shall receive a certain necessary minimum education, and that is not merely an ordinary education, but an education in the fuller sense, that, in so far as is possible, will create the beginnings of the growth of a man and a good citizen. That is one of the reasons why I referred to Senator O'Connell's idea about private schools. The private school which is not willing to show that it can be a useful instrument of such education stands self-condemned. Whatever is called a school in this country or anywhere else ought to satisfy the requirement that, whatever else it is doing — it may not be making scholars, great savants of the future or great scientific researchers— it is, at any rate, making men, good wholesome citizens.

I do not want to be a nuisance, but I should like to ask the Senator whether he considers that a knowledge of the Irish language is implicit in his definition and ideas of a man?

Apparently the Senator dreams of and indeed is obsessed with this idea about the Irish language and the enormities of it. I learned the Irish language voluntarily for intermediate school purposes, and —this may look like boasting—got honours for Irish in the intermediate examination. I do not find that I have been so frequently arraigned and sentenced to seven years' penal servitude because I tried to learn Irish, and in later years had the facilities for carrying it on. If there is compulsory education, I do not see why compulsion about anything should be regarded as a denial of human rights. Education is compulsory for 900 out of every 1,000 children who go to school. The unwilling child on the way to school is a commonplace of observation and of literature. What about our luminaries in the National University of Ireland? I would ask one of our distinguished Professors of Classics, whom I see here as a Senator representing the university——

Is the Senator referring to Senator Fitzgerald?

It does not apply to me.

He does not represent anything but himself, so far as I am aware, and he does that badly. I am asking Senator Tierney, to whom I referred as a light, a luminary of the University world as regards Classics——

The Senator is now beginning to misrepresent me.

Oh, no. The Senator is showing once more his incapacity to estimate things as they are, to see realities. He is a luminary in the university world. Is he not aware that we have compulsory Latin for the faculty of Medicine? Is that an invasion of anybody's rights? Does it do them harm? Does it do the medical man harm to be acquainted with the Latin language? Would it do an Irishman harm to be acquainted with the Irish language? What is the objection to it unless it can be shown that to learn Irish has a disastrous effect upon the whole educational system of the individual? Some such idea is in Senator Keane's mind. It has become a practice with him to interrupt, asking people on this side: "What about Irish?"

I do not want to interrupt the Senator, but I do want to make my point clear, because I made it before, and he has never answered it. What we are afraid of is that the language test might be used in order to prevent people from being educated abroad where they cannot get facilities for learning Irish. That is our apprehension. Would he deal with that?

An inspector who was unfortunately selected to apply the test might have become as obsessed with this terrible complex of crossword puzzles as the Senator is about the Irish language, and he might call upon a pupil who was brought up to be tested to solve a particular crossword puzzle, and, if he failed, declare him uneducated. That is just within the range of possibility. All sorts of things can happen. Senators on the other side have already tried to make our flesh creep with the awful spectacle of Senator O Buachalla as the Minister for Education. They warn us off this sub-section (4) of Section 4, the whole section in fact, for fear that some day somebody with the mind and attitude of Senator O Buachalla should be Minister for Education. It does not terrify me I must say. The student who enters a professional course in any university is required to come there with what will fit him for the discharge of his duty as a citizen. I do not want to go into the question about compulsory Irish. Temperamentally, I am opposed to compulsion about anything, but, as a man who has lived a considerable number of years and has quite an extensive experience of men and affairs, I have come to the conclusion that you must compel people, and that very often the greatest service that can be done to a man is to compel him to be his better self. All this intolerance and narrowness that is talked about here and reproduced in the newspapers, weeklies as well as dailies, is the narrowness and intolerance of people who want to force their conception of culture upon the majority in the country. Some of them had the hardihood to speak contemptuously of the Constitution when I appealed to it, as if the fundamental organic law of the country counted for nought, but some little Act on the Statute Book of Great Britain was to stand there in majesty that compelled one's awe. That is the attitude of mind that is arraigned against all this, and is afraid about the illiberality of future Ministers. I have not heard from those benches one single iota in justification of the parent's refusal to have his child tested. We all had to be tested. God knows, some of us had more than we liked of it, and more than was necessary right through the years of our lives, but that is the common lot. Other than by putting him to the test, there is no way of assuring ourselves that a man has such and such powers or such-and-such faculties ready for exercise. If I declared that I could pilot an aeroplane, and engage 20 aces in the air, should my claim go unchallenged? I have no hesitation in saying that a great deal of what is behind all this opposition is illiberality, minds that have not grown with the times, that have not learned to look upon realities.

Senator Sir John Keane asked whether I judged the potentialities of a man, his ability to set his feet on the path that would bring him to manhood, by his knowledge of Irish? He wanted to know if Irish satisfied that. I say that Irish satisfies that with regard to an Irishman. That is my answer. The culture of France, in France, in the French schools, is dear to the hearts of the educator and of parents. I am not so sure about the parents here, so many of them are indifferent, so many of them worse than indifferent with regard to what are the requirements of their children's education. On this question of the employment of children, I am sure nobody will dispute it when I say that there are many parents who, faced with a choice between losing the immediate monetary advantage from the work of the child or injuring the child's education, would say: "Let the education go. In later years or in more fortunate circumstances he can make up for the loss." They try to salve their consciences in that way. We are asked by the people on those benches to believe that every parent is aflame with the desire to give the best education possible to his child, and that the person who says that some of them require to be forced is a liar and a slanderer.

I wonder have they read, as I have made it my business to read, returns and statistics with regard to school attendance and the number of prosecutions? Just look at some of the country newspapers and see what takes place in courts from day to day. See how many cases you have of parents who neglect to send their children to school. They do not understand the value of education to the child. I am not going to accept the generalisation so rashly made and attempted to be forced upon us, that every parent is interested in his child and that we may safely leave the care of a child's education to the parent. There are more than tinkers and vagrants concerned in this neglect. There are other parents who are habitual drunkards. There are people who have arranged to separate in married life. There are all sorts of delinquents, but we are the criminals held up to public odium because we are interested to secure that no matter how refined or expensive a school to which a parent may send his child, the State will ask to be satisfied that the elementary education supposed to be given has been given and has been, indeed, received.

Including Irish?

Could the Senator give us any information regarding the tests imposed by foreign Governments on children who return from this country after being educated here?

I could not say. I am not, unfortunately, a prophet; otherwise I should be a millionaire.

It is regrettable that Senator Magennis is not a millionaire, even if he is not a prophet. I rise simply to suggest to Senator Johnston that he should withdraw his amendment and that, as no doubt we shall have this all over again on the next amendment, there is no object in continuing the debate on this amendment. As no doubt Senator Magennis will make a further speech on the next amendment, I should like if he would deal with one matter which I do think is of some importance and on which honestly, I do not know what his attitude is. Should there by any chance be a discrepancy between the duty of the parent and the duty of the State in the case of a particular child, which should come first — the State or the parent? The Senator might answer that question at some other time. He said one thing on this amendment which shows the fundamental difference between us. He said that those of us who want an amendment of this kind passed and who do not want parents to be acting illegally in sending their children outside the country, adopted that attitude because we do not want these parents to toe the line with the rest of the community in the matter of education. That is perfectly true.

In the matter of examination.

Senator Magennis showed the value he attached to examinations by the story he told us about the cricketer. To examine a child which is going to England or to Northern Ireland in order to see what education it is going to get would be the height of absurdity and I am perfectly certain no Minister would do anything of the kind. When an application is made for a certificate for a child to go outside the country, obviously at that stage there can be no examination.

The Senator sat down with this observation which I have have contested repeatedly. The first time——

In the interests of saving time, is it permissible for a Senator to make more than one speech?

I am tired of Senator Fitzgerald assuming the duties of Chairman.

I am addressing my question to the Chairman.

I asked the permission of the Chairman to intervene. If the Chairman is pleased to give me that permission, I am not to be "chairmaned" by every self-constituted Chairman who chooses to interrupt.

I am not taking over the functions of the Chair. In fact, I am only invoking the attention of the Chair on a point of order.

It is permissible for a Senator to ask a question, if the Senator in possession gives way.

I asked the question because Senator Douglas has invited me to deal with the particular point, and I wanted to be sure about his own attitude. However, I shall not put the question now.

I think that this debate has brought out something. When I asked Senator Magennis should Irish be an obligatory item in the test on a child educated abroad he said that no Minister would be so unreasonable as to apply it.

When did I say that?

That is the impression you gave me.

I shall take a leaf out of the Senator's book. Let him quote me. I deny that I used these words. I have had not an opportunity of reading the report of the previous debates, but I certainly did not say that to-day and to the best of my recollection I did not say it at all. The Senator must quote me.

I cannot quote the Senator's words at the moment. If he did not say that, well and good. We shall leave it. It is a matter that is perfectly simple especially to my mind. Parents who send their children out to be educated abroad do not object to a test. Is that quite clear?

They do not object to a test as to their education, but what they do object to is the inclusion in that test of a subject which they cannot learn abroad.

Where is that in the Bill?

It is in the Bill in this way, that the Minister can apply any test he likes to see if a child educated abroad has been suitably educated. He can if he wishes apply a test as to a knowledge of Irish. By that means it would be possible to prevent a child being educated abroad, and that is what we object to. We are not in the least afraid of what the Minister would do, but our apprehension is really based on what Senator O Buachalla indicated in a previous speech. He at least gave me the impression that no parent should be allowed to send his child abroad in order to escape any tests the Government wish to apply within the statute. There is the practical difficulty in a child going abroad. Senator Magennis admits that a parent can send his child abroad. That is all right so far, but the State can come in and impose conditions which would in practice render that impossible.

In this way, that the Minister might include Irish as a subject in the test, and a knowledge of Irish could not be obtained at a school abroad to which the child is sent. Would the Senator deal with that?

I promise I shall deal with it later.

If the Minister would insert some words in the Act to the effect that the educational test that a child educated outside the State will have to undergo, will not include a knowledge of the Irish language, that would remove my fears, at any rate.

I would like to reply to some of the points raised, and then withdraw my amendment.

In that case I would like to say a few words.

Cannot we take all these points on the next amendment, and let Senator Johnston withdraw his amendment?

If Senator Johnston is prepared to withdraw, I am prepared to sit down.

May I ask the Senator when replying, if he will be good enough to deal with the point raised by Senator Magennis as to whether he objects to a test being applied in certain circumstances, and what I think is more important, and perhaps more relevant, whether the Senator and those for whom he speaks, object to the provision that a parent in the event of not sending a child to a recognised school, a suitable school or a national school, should be expected to inform the enforcing authority of the type of education which the child is receiving. It seems to me that if the Senator wishes the House to consider this amendment he ought to explain in what way asking the parent to do that is unreasonable. If the Minister or the enforcing authority is deprived of the opportunity of getting information in that way there is no other way except by compulsion. How does the Senator suggest that the Minister should acquaint himself with the type of education a child is receiving? If he wants in his amendment to take away the power of getting this information, in what other way does the Senator, or anybody else in this House, suggest that the Minister or the enforcing authority can get this information?

Is the Minister prepared to agree to accept the amendment provided there is no objection to the provision that the parent has to give the information? That would go a long way to meet the case that is being made.

I am not prepared to accept it.

I want to support Senator Douglas's request to Senator Johnston to withdraw his amendment. Listening to the debate this evening I cannot escape the feeling that the amendments set down so far were not set down with a genuine desire to improve the Bill, but to provide an opportunity to start certain hares. Sub-section (5) says:

"whenever a child to whom the Principal Act applies is receiving education in a manner other than by attending a national school, a suitable school, or a recognised school, the parent of such child shall inform the enforcing authority for the school attendance area to which such child belongs of the fact that such child is so receiving education and of the place and manner in which he is receiving education."

Amendment No. 4 was to delete sub-section (5). This is another amendment.

I understand now how I have been unable to follow the debate. I understood Senator Johnston's amendment was on sub-section (5).

In reply to the points which the Minister raised, I might say I drafted the amendment in this form to meet what I regard as very legitimate points raised, especially by Senator Magennis in the debate in Committee. While I have asserted the rights of parents over and over again I agree that, under the Constitution, the State has and ought to have the right to require a certain minimum of education from all its citizens. Incidentally, a certain newspaper said that we were all experts in that matter, because we have all received a minimum of education. Consequently, the practical question is what is the most convenient procedure to be used to ensure that, in the case of the minority of parents who send their children abroad, the children are receiving the minimum education required by the Constitution. I submit that the machinery under Section 4 is not adapted and is not appropriate to that use, and that in fact the use of that machinery in that way would be an intolerable infliction on the families of the persons concerned. The whole object of Section 4 is to ensure that the minimum of education is forthcoming. If the State has reason to believe that certain children are being educated abroad that is in itself prima facie evidence that they are receiving the minimum of education that is mentioned in Article 42 of the Constitution.

I have no objection to the State taking all reasonable steps to satisfy itself that the education that is required is being received. When I say reasonable steps I have in mind that the Ministry should ask the parent politely, but firmly, "What are you doing with your children and where are they being educated?" The parent would be under legal obligation to answer truthfully and state the place abroad in which the children were being educated. In 999 cases out of 1,000 the Ministry could easily ascertain through the usual channels whether the institutions concerned do in fact give the education up to the minimum requirements. There would be no need to have any inspectorial investigation or interference with the family life of the children in question. If the amendment I have put down were adopted I am not suggesting there should be any escape from compulsory education on the part of a privileged minority. On the contrary I am suggesting that there would be compulsory education. The only difference is that different machinery of enforcement is used in their case because the children are not available at home to be readily examined. I accept the necessity for compulsion and I am not advocating that a privileged section of the community should be exempted. I am only advocating that machinery proper to the circumstances of these people should be adopted by the Minister. I hope I have made the matter sufficiently clear. I must say I did my best to meet the legitimate point of view of the Minister and of Senator Magennis, and it was to meet their objections that I drafted this amendment and I deplore the fact that I have succeeded so little.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 6:—

In pages 3 to 4, to delete Section 4.

This matter has been so often debated that I feel the less said about it the better. I do not propose to quote any philosophical principle or to bring in anything of that kind at all. Section 4 is a long and complicated section, somewhat difficult to understand. It appears to me to be very cumbersome machinery for doing a very small and insignificant task. As well as that, it appears to me that it brings into our school attendance code a new principle. The Minister was at great pains this afternoon to point out that there is nothing in this Bill, by way of principle, that was not contained in the Principal Act, that there is no change of policy regarding what this Bill will do when it becomes an Act and what was done by the Principal Act passed 17 years ago — an Act which the Minister praises very highly. On the point that no important change is being effected by this Bill, Deputy J.M. O'Sullivan who, as Minister for Education, piloted the Principal Act through the Dáil and Seanad in 1926, found so important a principle in this section and was so dissatisfied with the explanation, or lack of explanation, by the Minister that he left the other House in anger. If a person of philosophical temperament, of considerable learning and of very calm and equable manner was so incensed with this section and the Minister's explanation of it that he walked out of the other House, it is prima facie, evidence that the section contains something new and something important. At least, a person who had experience as Minister for Education and who has had considerable experience of the English language, in which the whole debate was carried out in the other House, considered that there was something important in this section, and so do I. The more I hear the Minister for Education the more I feel that this section ought to be taken out.

This section is to be considered in connection with Section 3 and Section 20. Section 20, particularly as it will be amended when this stage is finished, gives the Minister ample powers to inspect as he pleases every type of school. This is an elaborate section to enable the Minister to examine children who are being educated either in schools outside the jurisdiction of the Oireachtas or who are being educated at home for reasons that seem good to their parents. It has been argued—and I agree with the argument — that a parent has a right to educate his own child. Apart entirely from that, what I want to urge is that it is not worth while having this particular section to get within the net of the School Attendance Act a very small number of children — those who are sent outside the State and those who are educated at home by their parents. As a practical matter, on historical grounds, on national grounds and on cultural grounds, I would not interfere with these children. On practical grounds. I would not bother about them, apart from the possibility of hurting people's feelings and apart from possible injustices. I do not speak for a minority nor have I been asked by anybody to raise my voice on this matter. I am speaking out of my own experience and on my own rendering of this section.

This country, like every other country, has a history, and we have to take some cognisance of that history. We have in our primary schools, as the Minister properly said to-day, a denominational system, about which there is a very elaborate code, which has been working, from that point of view, extremely well for nearly 100 years under the British Government and under two Irish Governments. Nobody wants to change that system. We should be proud of that achievement. The Minister and the Minister's predecessors have got —and justly got—from the minority in this country praise and gratitude for their attitude in this respect. We are all in complete agreement on that question. I do not know why we should not go a step in this direction. I am not going to make any point as to objecting to a child being educated in a particular school and objecting to a child being examined in a particular school. What the House has to recognise is that there are some people who would like to send their children outside the State to be educated and who do not want to be in a position in which they would be committing an offence under this Bill, when it becomes an Act, if they do so —if the Minister, as he has power to do, declines to certify the school which they are attending across the Border or in England or France as a suitable school. The fact is that, owing to our physical situation, there are people on the Border who have to do that. Owing to our history, there are people, for whom Senator Sir John Keane spoke, who like to do it. For various reasons, that is a dwindling class. They were never very numerous. The number of those who actually want to do it, and apart from those of whom Senator Johnston spoke, who can do it, is actually decreasing.

The only argument used in favour of the section is that, if you want to make the Bill perfectly logical, you must bring everybody within its provisions. That is a typical Civil Service idea. It is creditable to the Civil Service in a way. The civil servant says: "Here are 100 children; let us secure that they do not escape the provisions of this Act". With all respect to Senator Magennis and other Senators who spoke about "privilege", this is not a privilege. It is quite easy to use the word "privilege" and to talk about making everybody toe the line. As a nationalist, I do not want to make everybody toe the same line — my line. I am making my own children toe a particular line. I subscribe to the policy of compulsory Irish in the country generally, but I do not subscribe to the idea that the Minister propounded in such impassioned oratory this evening, that Senator O Buachalla, in his speech, was defending our national ideals. I know a number of methods of defending our national ideals besides preventing a particular parent, who wants to do so, from sending his children to England to be educated and forcing him to send them to a national or other school here. Our national ideals are capable of defence in many other ways — in so many ways that we might neglect this particular method. I do not see why our national ideals should be injured by allowing this to happen. On the point that everybody must enjoy the same privilege, I pointed out to-day that, in England, the Trades Union Congress are endeavouring to destroy denominational schools for which not only Catholics but other religious bodies in England are standing. Somebody said that he claimed no privilege for Catholics. Of course, we claim privilege for Catholics. I claim the privilege of having my children educated in a Catholic school——

That is a right, not a privilege.

It is a right, but Senator Magennis must remember that there are people in the country capable of calling it a privilege. Subjectively, it is a right, but there are people capable of calling it a privilege. Although the Minister is proud — it seems an astonishing thing that the Minister or any educated person should be proud of the fact — that he does not read English newspapers——

That is preposterous. I, probably, read as many English newspapers as the Senator reads.

I understood the Minister to say that he did not read English newspapers.

If I said that, it was a mistake. I read them frequently.

I am glad to hear that, because the Minister went down in my estimation when I heard his former statement. The particular point made here to-night is being made against Catholics in England. It is easy to use and misuse the word "privilege." There is no necessity to get excited about this matter. If the Irish language movement has any force behind it, if it has within it any germs of success, and if it is properly worked, then it will, undoubtedly, survive the small number of people who send their children out of the country to be educated. Many of these children might come back, as they did before in our history, more Irish than the Irish themselves.

They frequently do.

A member of this House told me that his son came home from an English public school a stronger Irish Nationalist than his father was. There have been examples of Irishmen who went to Oxford, came back and, after 20 years living in Galway, were not able to make a sustained speech in the Dublin Parliament in English. We are able to make plenty of speeches in English about the Irish language. If we were able to make sustained speeches in Irish, we should have no need to bother as to where anybody sent his children to be educated. On that ground, and that ground alone, I think that this section should be deleted. On the ground, not of tolerance — I do not like the word— but of acting in an Irish way, in accordance with our own instincts, in the full confidence that we can do our own job, no matter where a small number of people send their children to be educated, we should let this matter alone. We should not bring in this provision, which is new, in spite of what the Minister said, and which was so regarded by the author of the Principal Act.

We should let these people alone and not bother about them, and should concentrate our attention on the 65,000 children absent from national schools. We should also concentrate on seeing that improperly-run private schools are not encouraged, to put it in the mildest way, without endeavouring to make anyone toe the line. You can excite prejudices and use all kinds of words to put someone in the wrong, but I am not afraid of going on record as being in favour of allowing these people that particular bit of diversity they want. I think they constitute a small number, that they will decrease, and that all this pother and immense machinery to do a very small job is not necessary. A proper understanding of Irish national tradition would make us vote to keep this section out of the Bill.

On the Committee Stage of this Bill, I moved to delete Section 4, and I set out at great length my reasons for doing so. I made it clear then, as I did this evening, that I was not doing so because of any principles contained in it or because of any high philosophical reasons for its deletion. I did so entirely because I felt that it was a section that would give rise to very great difficulties in its administration. The Minister said something in his speech this evening on which I wish to comment for a moment. He used these words — I took a note of them at the time — that anyone who votes for the deletion of the section wants to do what Senators Douglas and Johnston want to do — in other words, to send their children to schools outside the State. I need hardly assure the House and the Minister that that comment could not properly be applied to me. I made it clear that that was not my reason for asking to have this section deleted.

The Minister was good enough — as he always is in these matters where we have to approach him — to give us an indication, long before this Bill was printed, as to its main features. He will remember that, at that time, before there were any of these discussions to which we have listened here and which we have read about as having taken place in the other House, the committee which considered what the Minister told us would be the main features of the Bill pointed out to him that the inclusion of this section — or anything in the nature of this section —was unwise, that it was a cumbersome arrangement which would prove difficult of administration, and that the proper and better policy would be to deal with the private school as a unit and not to go to this trouble of having an individual examination for these individual children.

It seems to be assumed — and I think Senator Hayes assumed it when proposing this — that, if this Section 4 is deleted, it means that this small number might escape from the school attendance law. That is not correct.

I did not say that.

It seemed to be assumed in some quarters by people discussing this Bill that, if this particular section were deleted, the children who go outside the State or who are educated in their own homes would be immune from the operation of the school attendance law. That is not so. In the Principal Act they were brought under the school attendance law, and they are brought in again under this new Bill, irrespective of whether Section 4 is there or not. One of the excuses that a parent might give, if brought before a court, is that the child is receiving suitable education in a manner other than by attending a national school, a suitable school or other recognised school. The parent whose child is not attending one of those schools may be brought before the court, whether that section is there or not, and he has to satisfy the court—and the onus is on him to do so — that the child is getting suitable education. The only difference is that, in the case of this child, it will be the court that will be the final arbiter as to whether or not the child is getting a suitable education. The Minister may object to that and may think that it should be his province to decide — and there is something to be said for that.

The complexity of this section, and the difficulty of its administration is such that I have been convinced from the beginning that it would be no loss to the community, or to the particular child concerned, if this question were to be decided by the court. I want to stress again that, once this Bill is passed into law, the Minister is out of the picture, unless he is brought into it by the enforcing authority. We had complaints here—and they are not confined to this House — that there has been considerable laxity in enforcing the provisions of the Principal Act. If there were not such laxity, I feel quite sure that the absentees would not amount to 65,000. I agree that there was a certain looseness in the Act itself. Are we to conceive, however, that the enforcing authority will pay particular attention to these children, or that they will find there is necessity to pay particular attention to them, while there are 65,000 others roaming about and not going to school? In view of what Senator Brennan said— and I think the Minister referred to it afterwards, and agreed with him — that if people do not want to notify a Gárda under Section 5, they can write to the Minister, I would ask: "What can the Minister do?" He can write back, of course, to the enforcing authority and say that the child is attending such and such a school, and that the enforcing authority had better look him up. The enforcing authority may tell the Minister that it is none of his business, as it is the authority that initiates the proceedings against this particular parent.

Surely, if the Minister says that he is satisfied that the child is receiving a minimum education, the enforcing authority is not going to proceed?

But the enforcing authority may be unreasonable enough not to give one bit of heed to what the Minister says.

Oh, well, now!

I am stating a possibility. I am making it clear that the Minister is not the enforcing authority. He only comes in when the enforcing authority takes action. The Minister seemed to pay very great importance to sub-section (5) of Section 4. It may seem strange to those who are objecting on other grounds, that that one sub-section of this section is one that I would like to see left in. It may seem strange to those who have objected on other grounds that that is the one section in the Act that I would like to see left out. But it is already provided for in substance, though not in the same form or not so effectively, in Section 20 of the Principal Act, by which every person required to do so "shall furnish to such enforcing authority, within the time and in the manner specified in such notice, their names and ages, and in the case of a child to whom this Act applies the mode of education". My object in supporting this motion to delete this is in the interest of effectiveness of the administration of the Act. I believe that it will be a better Act, from the point of view of getting in those children whom we are anxious to get in, if that section is left out. I do not object to any principle in it, or on the grounds put forward by other speakers here. I have the same feeling about it that I had from the very first day, when I felt that this would be likely to be part of the Act, that it would prove difficult of administration, and eventually would fall into disuse. I feel that it is cumbersome and has caused uneasiness and misgivings, and whether these are justified or not— and I do not say they are — they are such that notice should be taken of them in the interest of effectively operating the school attendance law.

It would appear to me to be a conclusion forced upon the listener that the only reason for the introduction of this section would be the fact that the courts have failed as the arbiters of the fate of offending parents. The Minister proposes by this section to take the duty out of the hands of the court where it has hitherto rested, and to direct the enforcing officer to act, as the Minister, in his judgment, desires that he should act, either by way of taking proceedings or otherwise. Have we any proof that the courts and the enforcing authorities have failed to do their duty? If we have that proof then there is a very strong reason for the Minister taking the powers of the enforcing authority. A storm of controversy has centred around this section, and much has been said about people who educate their children in other countries. To my mind the bulk of those are made up of people who do not neglect the education of their children. Many of these pupils have their education based on bursaries, endowed schools, and scholarships which are very largely provided for that section of the community, and those scholarships are available only in certain schools in this and other countries. I know such families in this community whose education has cost them very little because of bursaries provided by several educational or Church bodies in this country.

The section would inflict great injustice on those people who undoubtedly are not neglecting their duty. If it is suggested that these children would come back educated in a way that would hurt their national ideals, I would not believe it. They would come back educated men and women, and no educated man or woman would do that. I do not believe that any subservient tendencies would exist in their minds so far as the destruction of the national ideal is concerned, and I believe that if such an attempt were made on their part the nation would be strong enough to resist it, and that the advocates of the Irish language would storm against such intrusion on their right, as they did with a thoroughness that was unique in the history of the world when the language was being interfered with, by another power, on a former occasion. The enthusiasm that existed then has perhaps waned a little, but I have hopes that the Irish language will be the bedrock upon which nationality is founded.

Again, the numbers of those people are rapidly diminishing, in fact they are rapidly becoming absorbed among the people, noticeably in the South of Ireland where, in some districts, which were inhabited largely by a class with a foreign outlook, and with a religion not native to the soil, the absorption has been pronounced. I know of one parish where they have come over entirely to Irish ideals and the Irish religion, and I think there is no reason to fear that any kind of education they get in England or in any other country will ever interfere with the national teaching in this country. I do not think it would be fair to say to the Minister: "Are you going to make Irish a compulsory subject with those people?" It is a pity that the section was held there against the advice of a certain body of education in this country represented by Senator O'Connell, and that long ago when a rough sketch of the Minister's intentions was available the views of that body were not sought and accepted, because it is in a position to give an opinion on that matter without prejudice, that would reflect the best outlook of those interested in education. I think the Minister should consider the removal of the section, because it would solve the whole difficulty and dissipate all the fears that exist on the part of the Opposition to the Bill, while not making the Bill less effective.

It seems to me that the debate on this particular clause in the Bill and around the Bill generally is wandering all over the place. On the question of this right to choose the school, even if it be outside the country, that a child will go to, quite a number of speakers assume somehow or other that it relates to a small dwindling class in this country, and it is assumed that the only aim that could direct a parent to send his child out of the country is the desire to avoid learning Irish. I do not think that necessarily follows. I myself know cases in which children between the ages of six and 14 years, who had previously been carefully brought up in a knowledge of Irish, have been sent abroad, not to dodge Irish but merely because their parents were so particularly anxious to fulfil their duty to their children that they preferred to get for them a better education abroad than the one which they could get here. Are we going to assert that the best education can be got here? We can have our own opinions on that. There has been a lot of talk about privilege for this small, class, as though it were a privilege for their children to go abroad. In this connection, the only way in which the word "privilege" can be used is in relation to parents who would have the privilege — a very dubious privilege — to fail in their duty to provide their children with education. There is no other privilege involved at all. It is the right of the child to be educated. It is the right of the parent to be the first decider with regard to that education. The State also has a certain right. It may be a privilege that the child should go abroad to get a better education than he would get here, but really the only privilege that could be spoken of is that the State should absolve the parent of the duty to provide the child with education.

We have heard references to "toeing the line". Personally, I think that parents should toe the line and fulfil that duty imposed upon them by the natural law, namely the duty to educate their children, but it does not follow at all that, as we have heard suggested here, if compulsory education is all right then there should be no objection to compulsory other things. Everybody will agree that a child should be educated, but there can be infinite diversity of opinion as to the form that education might take. A person might not object to Irish, but might think that something else in the education of the child is more important and, in order to get that which he thinks more important, might consider it necessary to take a course of action which would necessitate the child not learning Irish at all. If you are to say: "All children must learn Irish", then you are asserting that every other consideration is subordinate to that one end. We are warned off Section 4 with the threat that Senator O Buachalla may be Minister for Education. Under the red-herring system in this debate, the Minister has constantly got up and said that he would not dream of doing such and such a thing, and no Minister would dream of doing so. Incidentally if I may digress, certain rather ill-conditioned remarks here were directed to me, to the effect that I represented nobody. That is quite possibly true. I am temperamentally incapable of getting up and saying things which I do not myself believe, merely because I think they will ingratiate me with somebody outside this House. I am not a nominated member here and, therefore, do not represent anybody outside this House. Therefore, I am not called upon to dishonour myself by saying things I do not believe in the hope of pleasing somebody outside.

On a point of order, is it in order to accuse a member on this side of saying things in this House which he does not believe? The Senator has just delivered himself of a criticism to that effect.

I think you will agree, Sir, that I merely said I am incapable of doing it.

We will pass on from that.

Is there any way, Sir, of raising this point before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges or by motion in the House? That was a definite and distinct allegation. It could refer only to me. The speaker will not deny that it refers to me. He stated that I said in this House things which I do not believe.

This is a speech, Sir, and not a point of order.

Is it in order for a Senator to differentiate between an elected Senator and a nominated Senator — one at the expense of the other?

That is not quite a point of order.

Is not that what has been done by the Senator?

I repeat, with all respect to you——

Is this a point of order?

I have to hear the Senator first.

This is a point of order. The Senator mentioned a nominated member. His definite accusation was that that nominated member — he was clearly referring to me — says in this House things which he does not believe, and that he does that to please persons outside this House. I am confident that that will be found in the official records of the House, and I draw your attention to it now. If the Senator does not withdraw that, then I will ask the House to deal with it by special motion.

Is this a point of order or a speech?

Senator Fitzgerald may proceed.

I was merely pointing out that I quite accept the position of speaking only for myself, and not as representing somebody else. With regard to the Constitution, in previous debates on this Bill I have indicated that I think the first three clauses of Article 42 are very clumsily expressed, and are dangerous in certain ways, but still I accept them generally. With regard to sub-section 2 of Clause 3, what I read into that word, "however," which has been so much stressed, is that the rights of parents have been stated in the earlier part, and, if left at that, would be declared to be absolute. The word "however" in that sub-section 2 means that, although that right is primarily in the parent, there is also a right, secondary to that parental right, which has what I might call a certain conditioning effect on the rights of parents. But the right of the parent comes first. What I object to in this particular section of the Bill — I might object to other parts of the Bill, and even to things in the original Act — is that it seems to me that, as expressed there, it tends to a line in which, in order that the right and claim of the State may be fully realised, it may be realised in a certain way by eliminating the superior and prior right of the parent. That is my objection. I object to being called upon to pass legislation which is of that type directly or in tendency. The suggestion that we object to this only because we are afraid that a person with the declared policy of Senator O Buachalla might be a future Minister, and that if we thought no such Minister would come along we would feel ourselves justified in passing legislation of this kind, claiming that the State rights should override the rights of parents, is a misrepresentation, I think, of the point of view put forward here by a great many speakers.

I have referred to what I might call my general approval of and agreement with what is contained in Clauses 1, 2 and 3 of Article 42 of the Constitution, but this stress that is laid on the Constitution is extremely dangerous. Sub-section 3 (1) says:—

"The State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference ..."

I am a bit suspicious of those words, "lawful preference" there, because the law in regard to compulsory school attendance was enacted before this amendment of the Constitution took place.

It is quite easy for rights that are allowed by a Constitution to be wiped out by specific legislation. Mind you, we are warned of that, for instance, by Pope Leo XIII, not to hang too much weight on Constitutions. He said:—

"These regrettable differences might have been avoided if careful account had been taken of the considerable distinction that there is between constituted powers and legislation. Legislation differs to such a point from political powers and their form that under the régime whose form is most excellent the legislation may be detestable; while on the other hand, under a régime whose form is most imperfect, excellent legislation may be found."

It does seem to me that the implication of Section 4, in this amending Bill tends to corrode and eat away rights that were declared to subsist in parents under Article 42 of the Constitution, and that is my objection. I agree that the State has the right to decide that a certain minimum of education is necessary for the procurement of the common good. But the Constitution does not give it the right arbitrarily to override parents' rights.

In relation to another matter Rerum Norarum stated:—

"The contention then that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and over the household is a great and pernicious error."

Then it goes on to say that in certain conditions the State may intrude, but you will notice the number of conditions that are required to exist before it may do so. You cannot absolutely say that the State may never intrude into the family. Parents may treat children abominably. Parents may murder children, but the onus of proof, as you might say, is thrown on the Government before it can attempt to mitigate family rights. The Encyclical goes on:—

"True, if a family finds itself in exceeding distress, utterly deprived of the counsel of friends and without any prospect of extricating itself, it is right that extreme necessity be met by public aid, since each family is part of the commonwealth."

That relates more to what I might call the material well-being of the family. I do not want to put undue stress on the family right to the diminishing of the State right, but I do want Senators to bear two things in mind in judging which has priority.

"The State in matters of education has authentic rights in relation to the education of its citizens. These rights are communicated to the civil society by the Author of nature Himself, not by title of parentage as in the case of the Church and of the family but in virtue of the authority which the State possesses to promote the temporal good which is precisely the purpose of its existence."

So again you have the assertion that the State has certain rights and can insist upon them with regard to education.

For the purpose of record, perhaps the Senator would state what is the title of the book from which he is quoting?

It is an Encyclical of Pope Pius XI called Divini Illius. I am not giving the exact words.

"Education belongs in the first place and principally to two societies whose end is the begetting of the child whether of the divine life, eternity, or the human life, namely, the State and the family."

You will notice that both the Church and the family come before the State.

"The State only comes in afterwards in view of its own end, the procuring of the temporal common good. It should respect the rights of the Church and the family."

My objection to this section is on the ground of its tendency. Here we have the State assuming that parents are not fulfilling their duty to the child until they have proved to the State they are doing so. I have heard statements here in the form of questions asking how many families in this country would forgo monetary advantage in the interests of a child's education. It seemed to me that the answer expected to that was: "Not many." I think the vast majority of parents in this country are quite ready to forgo monetary advantage and to put the interests of their children and the education of their children before any such selfish or material consideration. One of the objects of the family in divine economy is not merely to beget the child, but to form it for its life as a man. Yet here I understand that from the age of six to the age of 14 a child has to attend school or the parents must show cause why it does not. Strictly speaking, the child and its formation are essentially under the parents and not under the State, not only up to the time that the child reaches the use of reason, but up to the time that it is able to provide for itself. I do not want to weary the House with enormous quotations to support my argument. Neither would I think of giving only these quotations, which I could very easily do, which assist my contention with regard to the family. What I want to get established is that there is the right of the family and the right of the State. The right of the State is secondary to the right of the family. Mind you, I do not read this section as meaning that every child in the State must receive a certain minimum education, moral, intellectual and social. Of course we know that is not possible. There are some children, who by reason of incapacity, are incapable of receiving any education. The State is going to make its machinery so watertight as to make certain that no parent shall escape the fulfilment of his parental duty and that no child shall grow up without a certain minimum of education. That watertight condition can only be achieved by overriding the rights of the family. If there are two boys who happen to have an apple to divide between them, would you suggest that the one who is going to carry out the division is also going to be the one who will choose his half? Here we know that the State has the supreme power, and what is proposed here is that the State, possessing that supreme power, is going to ensure beyond yea or nay that these rights shall be fulfilled, at no matter what detriment to the parents. I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.
The Seanad adjourned at 9 p.m. until Thursday, 4th February, at 3 p.m.