When I was speaking here yesterday evening, in happily accepting the accusation that I represented nobody but myself, I made a comparison between that position and the position of nominated members which might be construed as implying that a nominated member necessarily spoke without sincerity and without honour. In so far as my statement was construable in that way and in so far as anybody interpreted it in that way, I wish unreservedly to withdraw it.
School Attendance Bill, 1942—Report (Resumed): and Fifth Stage.
The explanation of the Senator is accepted and the matter may be regarded as closed.
I got to my feet for a number of reasons. One of them was that, in this matter, the basic point has been completely departed from. I explained that I object to this particular clause because we purport, by legislation, to affirm a right, power and authority in the State to the detriment of the family which, I think, is against natural justice. I said on an earlier occasion that heresy comes less from error than from distorted truth, and I pointed out how truth can be distorted by a mere matter of stress. One can take a statement which in itself is perfectly true but which, given a wrong stress, leads to misconception—that is, unless its correlative be placed beside it so that one can judge not merely between one assertion and the other but the effect of the two assertions together. Therefore, most of what I am going to say will not be in my own words.
I am going to attempt to show the two sides in this matter—the side represented by the first two and a half sections of Article 42 of the Constitution and the side represented by the other half of sub-section (3) of Article 42. It is my own conviction, with which, I think, you will agree, that priority lies in the family as against the State. Yesterday, I quoted Pope Leo XIII pointing out to us that we should not place too much stress on Constitutions, that a much more important matter was specific legislation. I related that remark to the legislation we have before us now which, I think, departs from what is implicit in Article 42 of the Constitution. Pope Pius XI in his EncyclicalDivini Illius says — I am merely giving a rough rendering:
"God directly communicates to the family, in the natural order, fecundity, which is the principle of life and hence also the principle of education to life, together with authority, the principle of order."
He goes on to quote the "Angelic Doctor":
"The father is the principle of generation, of education and discipline and of everything that bears upon the perfecting of human life. The family, therefore, hold directly from the Creator the mission and hence the right to educate offspring, a right inalienable because inseparably joined to the strict obligation, a right anterior to any right whatever of civil society and of the State and, therefore, inviolable on the part of any power on earth."
Again the Pope quotes St. Thomas and says that St. Thomas proves this in his statement: "The child is naturally something of the father...and so by natural right the child, before reaching the use of reason, is under the father's care. Hence, it would be contrary to natural justice, if the child before the use of reason were removed from the care of its parents, or if any disposition were made concerning him against the will of the parent." There, use of reason is mentioned and normally in the Catechism I think it is related to the age of seven. I think in this measure the age in question is from six to 14, and it does seem that the State is claiming the child before the use of reason. The Pope goes on: "As this duty on the part of the parent continues up to the time when the child is in a position to provide for itself, this same inviolable parental right of education also endures". Again quoting St. Thomas, the Pope says: "Nature intends not merely the generation of the offspring, but also its development and advance to the perfection of man considered as man, that is, to the state of virtue." The Pope then commenting there goes on: "The wisdom of the Church in this matter is expressed with precision and clearness in the Codex of Canon Law, canon 1113: ‘parents are under a grave obligation to see to the religious and moral education of their children as well as to their physical and civic training as far as they can."' The Pope goes on: "On this point the common sense of mankind is in such complete accord, that they would be in open contradiction with it who dared maintain that the children belong to the State before they belong to the family, and that the State has an absolute right over their education."
Pope Leo XIII is quoted by the later Pope, who says he "wisely declares the children ‘are something of the father, and as it were an extension of the person of the father; and, to be perfectly accurate, they enter into and become part of civil society, not directed by themselves, but through the family in which they were born. And therefore,' says the same Leo XIII, ‘the father's care is of such a nature that it cannot be destroyed or absorbed by the State; for it has the same origin as human life itself."' Pope Pius XI goes on: "It does not, however, follow from this that the parents' right to educate their children is absolute and despotic; for it is necessarily subordinated to the last end and to natural and divine law, as Leo XIII declares in another memorable Encyclical, where he thus sums up the rights and duties of parents. By nature parents have a right to the training of their children, but with this added duty, that the education and instruction of the child be in accord with the end for which by God's blessing it was begotten. Therefore, it is the duty of parents to make every effort to prevent any invasion of their rights in this matter, and to make absolutely sure that the education of their children remains under their own control in keeping with their Christian duty, and above all to refuse to send them to those schools in which there is danger of imbibing the deadly poison of impiety."
It must be borne in mind also that the obligation of the family to bring up children includes not only religious and moral education, but physical and civil education as well, principally in so far as it touches upon religion and morality. The incontestable right of the family has at various times been recognised by nations anxious to respect the natural law in their civil enactments. Thus, to give one recent example, the Supreme Court of the United States of North America, in a decision on important controversy, declared that it is not in the competence of the State to fix any uniform standard of education by forcing children to receive instruction exclusively in public schools, and it based its decision on the natural law: the child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to educate him and prepare him for the fulfilment of his obligations.
In the same Encyclical, the Pope says:—
"So jealous is she—
that is, the Church—
of the family's inviolable right to educate the children, that she never consents, save under peculiar circumstances and with special cautions, to baptise the children of infidels, or provide for their education against the will of the parents, till such time as the children can choose for themselves and freely embrace the Faith.
"But this does not mean that the State is completely eliminated and left without function with regard to education. It has rights from the Author of nature itself, not as in the case of the family and the Church in title of fatherhood, but in virtue of its authority to promote the common good. Consequently, education cannot pertain to civil society as it does to the Church and the family, but in a way corresponding to a relationship with the common good.
"The function of the State is to protect and foster, but by no means to absorb the family and the individual or to substitute itself for them.
"Accordingly, in the matter of education, it is the right, or more correctly, it is the duty of the State to protect in its legislation...the prior rights of the family as regards the Christian education of its offspring and the supernatural rights of the Church in the realm of Christian Education."
Again, he says:—
"It also belongs to the Church to protect the rights of the child when the parents are found wanting——"
Note, it is when they are found wanting—
"either physically or morally in this respect, whether by default, incapacity or misconduct, since their right to educate is not absolute and despotic, but dependent on the natural and divine law and subject alike to the authority and jurisdiction of the Church and to the vigilance and administrative care of the State in view of the common good. Besides, the family is not itself a perfect society and has not in itself all the means for its full development. In such cases, exceptional no doubt,——"
I understood from the remarks here yesterday that it was assumed in the case of this unfortunate country that the majority of parents would rush to sacrifice their children's education in favour of some financial or material gain for themselves. Apparently, the late Holy Father regarded such cases as exceptional.
"In such cases, exceptional no doubt, the State does not put itself in the place of the family, but merely supplies deficiencies and provides suitable means, always in conformity with the natural rights of the child and supernatural rights of the Church.
"It is the right and duty of the State to protect, according to the rules of right, reason and faith, the moral and religious education of youth, by removing public impediments that stand in the way.
"It pertains to the State, in view of the common good, to promote the education and instruction of youth. It should begin by encouraging and assisting ... the initiative and activity of the Church and the family. It should, moreover, supplement their work whenever this falls short of what is necessary, even by means of its own schools and institutions.
"The State can exact and take measures to secure that all its citizens have the necessary knowledge of their civic and political duties and a certain degree of physical, intellectual and moral culture..."
That is a reference to what is in the second part of sub-section (3) of Article 42 of the Constitution. But here is what follows:—
"However, it is clear that in all these ways of promoting education and instruction, both public and private, the State should respect the inherent rights of the Church and of the family concerning Christian education and, moreover, have regard for distributive justice. Accordingly, unjust and unlawful is any monopoly, educational or scholastic, which physically or morally forces families to make use of Government schools, contrary to the dictates of their Christian conscience, or contrary even to their legitimate preferences."
I want to deal with that reference to distributive justice. I think I must have made remarks here in which I said that the State has the power to assist its recognised, suitable and other schools by moneys out of public taxation, and that it can, to some extent, penalise schools which do not conform to its rigid, single system of instruction by withholding such assistance from them. Now that I come to think of that reference to distributive justice, if a large section of the people here desired for their children a form of education which fulfilled the requirements laid down in the Constitution and at the same time was not such as could be brought within the framework and rigid intimate control of the Department of Education, I am not sure that the State would be justified, in the light of distributive justice, in forcing those parents to pay taxation for the support of other schools, and refuse to them a just financial aid, such as is given to other people who are prepared to accept the stereotyped rigid system imposed by the State.
I am only giving my own point of view but, having quoted statements with regard to the rights of the State as well as with regard to the rights of the family, I do think that a just reading and interpretation of those two statements makes perfectly clear the priority of the right of the family, and that the State's coming in is only to provide, supplement and make up for the deficiencies of the family. It seems perfectly clear that it is a straining of justice for the State to use the amount of power which it is taking in this particular clause in this Bill, and which it takes in other parts of the Bill, or which are implicit in other parts of the Bill, where it uses moral or physical force to make parents send their children to stereotyped institutions established or controlled by a single Department here.
As to the right of parents to send their children abroad, and the proposals to put in safeguarding clauses in the Bill to preserve that right, I admit that I had very little use for those amendments — not that I think the parents had not a perfect right to send children abroad if they wished to. The parent, as the first authority, is united to the child normally by a more intimate affection and a more intimate aspiration towards the child's well-being and the parent has a perfect right to decide that the best education — which is what he wants for the child — would be got in an institution or school or from teachers outside this country.
I remember when I was a boy the position arose very acutely in France, where they exactly expressed what is the implicit aspiration in this Bill and in the general trend in this country, in what they call "l'ecole unique." In the early years of the century the teachers of religious orders were expelled from that country. I have no doubt that quite a number of the suggestions hinted at here could have been made in France at that time. It is true that the children who went to those religious schools, or private or free schools as they call them — the word "free" does not mean that you did not have to pay — were largely of the better classes, and I knew the circumstances intimately at the time. The religious orders had to go outside the realm of France and set up their schools in such local places as St. Helier and Switzerland, but actually they were for the teaching of French children; and it would have been a diabolical tyranny on the part of the French Government to deny the right of the parent to send his child outside the country for education. If that had been insisted upon in France it would have condemned all the Catholic children to go to hideous lay schools established by the French Government. There was left the little loophole that parents were able to send their children out of France to schools run by French priests as religious schools and directed towards preparing the boys for the French "Baccalaureate."
I feel that by stress of passion the real situation has been distorted. I feel that one of the great weaknesses in the educational system in this country is caused, not only because the normal average education is not the highest European average, but also because Irish education is so extraordinarily stereotyped. The national schools, I understand, when children go there, put them through a certain course, and when an inspector comes in there is an approved time-table near the door, and if the teacher in that particular quarter of an hour is not teaching what he was supposed to teach, he is wrong with the Department of Education. The secondary schools have been made stereotyped and unique in that you have a system of intermediate examination — now Leaving Certificate — where the programme is directed by the Department of Education, and I have often been amused to see how the products of the same year in the secondary schools could almost speak an intimate language in that they could recite in exactly the same way certain Odes of Horace, or say by the yard certain rather bad verses by second-class English poets. They went through exactly the same grind in different schools.
My objection to this particular clause is that I want it modified to permit people to send their children abroad for their education — they have that right apart from anything that a Government can legislate to give them — and not because I am afraid that some Minister like Senator Buckley or Monsieur Combes in France can get into office. What I do object to is this, that we are here purporting to legislate to hand over to the State an authority and power which by natural law and right primarily belongs to the family. It is not a condition in which the State comes forward in fulfilment of its duty to supplement the deficiencies of the family. Here it is assumed that all families are deficient until they have proved to the satisfaction of the individual Minister or the individual authority that they are not deficient. In the normal way the State wishes to prevent murder, but at the same time any husband can murder his wife in the privacy of their home. The State says, "We want the child to have this certain undefined minimum of education, and we must take all the powers to make certain that we will be able to prevent any individual escaping from that." If you did that for anything else, how in the world are you going to legislate? When you hear of a murder taking place you can say that if only there had been police on watch in that room where it occurred, or if only the man responsible had been searched every time he went in and out to ensure that he had no arms, then it could not have happened. But you will not get that result over by this method.
In this regard the State is assuming that it must prevent any infringement of its right to see that there is that minimum education. The State does not have to prevent everything bad from happening. St. Augustine, afterwards quoted by St. Thomas in, I think, it was Article 110 or 114, said something like this: "The Divine government, though omnipotent, permits certain evils to occur though it might prevent them. It permits those lest by preventing those evils a greater evil should be brought about or a greater good prevented." The Minister has practically gone against the ordinary Parliamentary routine by asking questions of Senators. I think it was Senator Johnston put up a proposal, and before he answered it the Minister said that he would like Senator Johnston to explain how the State can secure what it is aiming at in every case unless it takes certain powers. It is not Senator Johnston's function to do that. The State has certain rights, more correctly described as duties, which are referred to in the Constitution. The Minister's line was, roughly, this, that the State has this right or duty and, in its fulfilment of it, it will disregard everything else. Its only consideration is going to be what is the fullest power required to make certain that the end would be attained. But it is not necessarily going to attain that end if the child will have an arbitrary minimum of education at the expense of destroying an anterior and more immediate and holier right existing in the parent.
Perhaps you will pardon me for pointing out to the House — since the Senator repeated again what he said yesterday evening, that the aim of the Minister was to disregard everything except a particular matter which he had in mind — that, of course, there is no foundation whatever for the suggestion that the Minister has some single aim in this matter, which he could effect, even if he wished, without considering all the relevant circumstances. There is no intention whatever, nor is it in the Bill, that the Minister will do anything without considering all the circumstances.
If I used the word "aim", I withdraw it. I am far from attributing to the Minister any such evil design. My objection to this clause is that, in a certain realm, it is taking powers to the State in a very extreme degree. I am not suggesting that the Minister is going to use those powers. I am not even suggesting that Senator O Buachalla would use them if he got into power. What the Minister does not seem to understand is that we are going to legislate here to hand to the State powers over the family which are not rightfully due to the State. I would not dream of suggesting that the Minister is going to use those powers in the way that he would be empowered by law to do. Neither am I suggesting that he is moved by any other than perfectly good motives in bringing in this legislation to meet what he considers an evil, the absence daily of roughly 65,000 children in the State from school. Certainly, I do not think that there is anything devious or unworthy in what he has in mind. But the whole argument has been: what other way is there of meeting this evil? The suggestion is: "Give us the powers, and we will use them only on certain occasions". I do not bother much about the Constitution in this regard. In saying that, I do not want to upset Senator Magennis. The Constitution set certain things down with regard to the rights of the parents. Those rights existed before this particular amendment of the Constitution was ever dreamed of.
Who said otherwise? Did anyone on these benches contend that those rights of the family were created by the Constitution?
No, but the Senator is so apt to take exception—
Senator Fitzgerald must be allowed to make his speech without interruption.
I was merely explaining my own words. I said I did not bother much about the Constitution in this particular regard. The Senator yesterday did strongly object to people saying they did not bother much about the Constitution.
I was just explaining why, in this regard, I felt justified in saying I did not bother much about it. I was not suggesting that the Senator had said we are deriving those rights from the Constitution. I was explaining my own statement that I did not bother much about the Constitution.
The Constitution says exactly, in Article 42, what the Senator is repeating now. He is appearing to pontificate against the Constitution, whereas the Constitution itself declares those rights.
All I am saying is that the Constitution's declaration of those rights has not made one little of difference to the existence of those rights. The rights were there, and, if that particular Article were not in the Constitution at all, the rights of the people of this country and of all people would be exactly as they are after that was written. That is all I am saying.
They would not be enforceable. Those accusations against members are made at random.
The Senator should not be interrupted further.
I am not making any accusations against any member. I am merely defending myself against misunderstanding and attack later on in regard to those words of mine: "I do not bother much about the Constitution." The functions of the Constitution seem to me to be to provide for the continuity of government by limiting the legislative power of the Government.
It is fundamental law.
That is just a phrase.
It is more than a phrase. This shows, Sir, that the Senator does not understand the Encyclicals which he has been reading out to us.
The only reference I read out about constitutions was a warning by Pope Leo XIII that we should not concern ourselves so directly with constitutions; that we should be more watchful of the specific legislation under those constitutions. I quite agree that it is to the necessary good of people that there should be provision made whereby the authority can be carried on without undue upset. That, I think, is a very vital and necessary thing; it is a natural thing in a constitution. Inasmuch as we now have in the world this absurd and irrational doctrine of the unlimited legislative powers of Governments, it is just as well, possibly, to have certain things in the Constitution to limit the power of legislation of Governments. Senator Magennis used the word "lawful". I intended to make a comment while I was reading out from the Encyclicals where the Pope referred to the lawful preference of parents. That word "lawful" also appears in the Constitution with regard to parents. There is a slight difference. The Pope's use of the word "lawful" there means lawful in relation to the natural and divine law which is implicit in creation. When we talk about "lawful preference" in the Constitution — now I am not making an assertion; I am speaking more interrogatively — I think there is a difference.
The original Education Act was enacted before the Constitution was amended as at present. Now, after the event, we are amending that law. We are including Section 4 in this present Bill. The world "lawful" there is dangerous in the Constitution, because its interpretation there will be in relation to Statute law. The rights of parents were limited and defined and regulated by laws before that amendment was passed. We are now passing additional laws, also possibly limiting and regulating them. But it is in relation to this specific, positive law that that word "lawful" is going to be construed. As I mentioned, I did intend, in referring to the Encyclicals, to say that the word "lawful" there had a much more benign meaning, because it was not a law enacted by men; it was a law subsisting from all time and for all ages.
I do not mean to push this thing further. I do feel — I think any unprejudiced person viewing the Constitution must do so — that we have no right to purport to hand to a Government Department the rights that are contained in this particular clause, because I feel that, in seeking that the Government shall have all powers that are due to it, there is a repercussion from that which is an implicit refusal to the family of the rights which are natural to the family and which are anterior to any rights subsisting in the State.
Reference was also made to the word "however" in the Constitution. The Constitution, as I read it, states what is prior and what is paramount — the rights of the family. Then it points out that there is another right, a right of the State, which is a secondary right and only comes after the right of the family. Listening to some of the speeches here, it seems to me that a number of the speakers appeared to think that the family right would have to fit into the framework created by the implementation of the right of the State. My own very defectible interpretation of that is that it is a clause which we should not pass. We should recognise here that we are the legislators; we should recognise that the State possesses enormous sovereign power, a physical power over the people, and we should watch most jealously to see that, in implementing the State's authority, we do not permit it even to purport to take one jot or tittle from those other authorities which are anterior to it, and at least as sacred—they are often more sacred— as the authority of the State.
The length of this debate and the extraordinary complexity of the arguments that have been used in it have been little short of bewildering. It has apparently generated an amount of passion, not only in this House but in the other House, which is altogether out of proportion to the claims of the Minister and the supporters of the Bill as to its innocuous character. If the Bill were so harmless and so beneficent as the Minister, Senator Magennis and others suggest, why should there be all this heat about it?
There is no heat.
To judge by Senator Magennis's interruptions of Senator Fitzgerald last night and to-day, there is heat, and all that heat is not on the one side.
May I, on a point of explanation, say that I am suffering from a very severe cold and I must speak very loudly if I am to be heard? That is a very different thing from giving way to heat. I may sound vehement and possibly passionate, but there is no passion in my remarks.
The Senator is suffering from a disability from which I also suffer. Perhaps it is a disease peculiar to professors that they like to say things in an authoritative way and that people who are not accustomed themselves to speak in that way think that there is some passion in their remarks when perhaps there really is not. I was accused by Senator Buckley, in part of the debate, of foaming at the mouth, a condition which I was very far from feeling. We had a great deal of bandying about of strong words and an appearance, at any rate, if not the reality, of extraordinary passion. It is rather curious that such an innocuous Bill as this is in the eyes of the Minister and of its supporters should generate such an amount of heat. A great many charges have been thrown backwards and forwards in the course of the debate and there, again, I should say these charges have not all been made on the one side. For instance, Senator Magennis accused me at one stage of being an advocate of "that heinous doctrine called individualism". Then he went on to invent a further doctrine which I never heard of before or never saw described in all my reading, namely, family individualism. He accused me of being a family individualist, which is a new addition to the decalogue, as far as I am concerned. The Minister spoke several times, in the course of his various speeches, about those who were genuinely interested in the rights of parents, implying, apparently, that people like me who take a certain line on this Bill are not genuinely so interested. Senator Buckley filled up the gaps in what the Minister had said by suggesting that those who were attacking this section of the Bill were simply raising hares. So we are a collection of family individualists, not genuinely interested in the rights of parents, foaming at the mouth, and engaged in some peculiar form of dialectical coursing.
Another peculiar charge that has been thrown against several of us is that in some way we are not commonsense people; that we are talking about abstract matters; that this is really a matter of hard, cold, practical common sense and that those who bring in the question of the rights of parents are indulging in some far-off, cloudy, rather chimerical abstractions.
That was Senator Douglas's point.
I should like to assure the Minister that there are many people outside interested in the rights of parents. He will find that there are a great many more than Senator Fitzgerald and other members of the House who are genuinely interested in this question. This Bill has aroused an immense amount of disquiet and concern in the country outside, not merely amongst the readers of theIrish Times, as I am sure Senator Magennis is going to remark, but amongst adherents of every possible form of opinion and of every faith in the country. So far from being an abstract matter, this question of the rights of parents is almost the most serious question we could debate. Any infringement of the rights of parents is something that strikes at the very rights of society itself. If you have not the rights of parents properly safeguarded, if you have them attacked, whether consciously or unconsciously, whether overtly or by inadvertence, you are endangering the whole structure of the family and, through the family, the State itself.
I am not to be taken as making any charges in this connection. I do not believe for one moment that either Senator Magennis or the Minister is anxious to subvert the family. The Minister has been continually defending himself against charges which nobody is making against him. The only charge I make against him is that, perhaps by inadvertence and perhaps without realising what he is doing, he is passing into law a Bill which, in my opinion and in the opinion of a great many other Senators and people who are not raising hares or who have no axe to grind in the matter, does endanger the rights of parents over their children and which does cut across a principle which is the very foundation of ordered society. That is the problem we are up against. I want to appeal to Senators to consider it as a serious problem, to consider it in their own consciences, to think it out and decide it for themselves.
The plea I made in my original remarks on this section when it came up on the Committee Stage was that we should try to pay full attention to this problem — I think we can claim that we have done that — and that we should not allow ourselves, even at the expense of abating a little the claims of the State, to do anything that even in form would cut across the rights of the family. That was the sort of appeal that I made. I did not raise the question of the constitutional rights of parents because I think it is introducing a red herring to discuss the Constitution in this connection. I do not want to have an argument on the Constitution. I am quite prepared to admit that the Constitution contains everything that one would expect, looked at in a certain light, but looked at in another way, perhaps there are some things lacking.
I have tried to keep away from a discussion of the Constitution and to concentrate on a question which is prior to the Constitution and prior to any kind of positive legislation. If an attempt is made to operate this Bill in the radical form that is sometimes suggested, that problem will come up for solution in a very practical way indeed when the Minister begins, if he does begin, to harry the parents of children who are sent outside the State or parents who want to educate their children at home in another way. It will be found to be a more difficult problem than any question of the interpretation of the Constitution or any question of abstract principle. It will be found to be a very practical problem when the Minister comes up against the rights of parents in actual practice. I do not believe for one moment that he will, because I believe that, like the previous Act, and more than the previous Act, it will turn out that this Bill when carried into law can only be operated within very narrow limits. The more I see of Section 4, the more I doubt if it can be operated at all except in a sort of casual way. The reason I dislike it is that under it certain individuals may be selected, not necessarily by the Minister, but by some enforcing authority in some remote districts for a form of persecution and may be hauled before a District Court, and compelled to argue before some district justice as to what they will do with their own children when all the world knows quite well that people of the type to which I am referring are perfectly capable of looking after their children. That is the sort of problem you will have if an attempt is made to carry out this Bill, as it stands, with all its implications. I do not think that it will be possible to carry out the Bill in that way.
Apart from the so-called abstract problem—the problem of principle— not a great deal arises under this Bill in practice. What I dislike about the Bill is its giving an appearance of putting on our Statute Book legislation which can be read and, undoubtedly, will be read as infringing the rights of parents and instituting a form of persecution — mild persecution, if you like — and interference with otherwise perfectly worthy and law-abiding people who never before came within the ambit of penal legislation. By the wording of this Act, these people are made amenable to certain penalties. As a matter of prudence, we should scan very carefully the wording of any Bill like this. I am sure that Senator Magennis will agree with that.
We should do that so as to make sure that nothing goes on our Statute Book that any right-minded person could construe as persecution or interference with any kind of right. That is all I have been trying to plead for. I do not charge anybody with having sinister intentions. I do not believe that the question of sinister intentions is involved at all. What has happened is due to an unconscious process. People get up and make speeches about things with which they are not very familiar; they say more than they intend to say and are not aware of the implications of their statements. That is the full extent of any charges which have been made. It is a pity that this matter should be argued in an atmosphere of denunciation and counter-denunciation. Let us suppose that Senator Magennis and I — two ordinary Catholics — read some morning in the paper that, in some other country, legislation was being passed by some Government — nowadays all Governments are lay Governments; there is no Government in existence to which such sweeping functions as are normally claimed for the omnipotent State at present can rightly be entrusted — under which no citizen of the State could escape the net of compulsion, is it not likely that we would join in denouncing that legislation and point out the danger that, under that legislation in a non-Catholic country, Catholics would be liable to severe penalties? Surely what applies to the Catholics applies to everybody, if there are any such things as freedom and parental responsibility.
Parental responsibility is one of the primary things. In certain respects, it goes beyond even religion itself. That doctrine was fought for and discussed before Christianity came on earth. It is one of the most fundamental things in the world and it is common to all types of religion and society. If we saw that, even in appearance, an attack was being made on these rights anywhere, would we not all agree that there was grave danger of an infringement of liberty? Would we not be right in doing so? Why should Ireland, a Catholic State which has given itself a Constitution in accordance with the best Catholic principles, in order to satisfy the desire of some Civil Service Department for completeness —that is what all this means, as Senator O'Connell has pointed out: to secure that you will have such legislation that nothing in the State will escape the net — why should Ireland put on the Statute Book legislation open to that implication?
That is the sort of question I and people like me are asking about this section. Even if Senator Fitzgerald and I are wrong in saying that this section does infringe, in principle at any rate, the rights of parents, would it not be wise to take into account that a great number of serious, earnest, well-meaning people share that view? I have met dozens of such people in the course of the past couple of weeks, Catholics and Protestants, clergymen and laymen, men and women engaged in the daily work of education not merely in primary schools but in secondary and convent schools. There is a great deal of uncertainty and uneasiness——
Since this debate began.
The Senator implies that the uneasiness has been caused by me?
Not necessarily by the Senator.
The Senator suggests that if we sat here, held our tongues and let this legislation go through, there would have been no uneasiness. That is quite possible because people might not know anything about it. But people outside do not act in that completely mechanical fashion. They do not believe everything they see in the newspapers. They think about and examine things for themselves. If there is uneasiness, as undoubtedly there is, about this section, surely it would be more prudent to show a little tendency to give way. Surely the Minister ought not dig his heels into the ground and be stubborn about the matter. Part of the Minister's speech last evening was quoted in the Press this morning, and I am sure it was accurate. When I said that, under the operation of this Bill, people who choose to educate their children in their own homes will have to go to the Gárda Síochána like ticketof-leave men, the Minister indignantly replied that it was not he who made the Gárda the educational authority for the purpose of this legislation. Nobody was questioning that. It is not a question whether the Gárda are the authority or not under this legislation. The question is whether the Minister is giving the Gárda, under this Bill, powers and functions they never had under any legislation— power to compel ordinary citizens, before they do what they have a perfect right to do, what they have had a perfect right to do for thousands of years, long before compulsory education was heard of, to give them notice that they are exercising their rights. He is making parents liable to be brought by the Gárdaí before a court and charged with an offence under the Compulsory School Attendance Act if they do not do that.
That is the meaning of this section, however it may be glossed over or explained. To my mind and to the minds of many other people to do that in the case of parents who are taking measures to have their children educated as they like, without infringement of the State's rights or any intention of making their children bad citizens, is tyranny and persecution. If an attempt is made to carry it out, you will find it will be resisted. People will be prepared to go to court, and to go to prison, rather than submit to it.
What people forget when they talk about this question of compulsory education is that all this movement regarding compulsory education is completely new. It was unheard of practically anywhere in the world during the 2,000 years of Christianity until a little more than 100 years ago. The whole movement is a child of the French Revolution and of the "Enlightenment" that succeeded the French Revolution in England. One of the classic incidents in the struggle about compulsory education was the famous attack of Newman 100 years ago, on Lord John Russell in connection with the Tamworth Reading Room. Compulsory education is part of the whole utilitarian movement of enlightenment. I challange Senator Magennis to say that compulsory education, as we know it, existed anywhere in the world under Christianity until quite recent times.
Compulsory education has come here from England. It is an English institution, an English middle-class urban institution. There again I challenge contradiction. It came in when the English system of education was imposed on this country in the 19th century. When the Minister talks about not reading English papers and, therefore, being immune from deleterious English influences, if I may say so, without being disorderly, in that regard he is talking through his hat.
I would like again to repeat that I never said that.
I took a note of it as the Minister said it. There is no need for the Minister to be obstreperous.
I certainly will be obstreperous. I think Senators, particularly university professors, ought not to waste the time of the House and the Minister's time in stating that the Minister said that he had never read English papers. I never said that, and whether I read them or not does not affect the matter.
All I can say is that I was sitting here when the Minister was replying. He was in the same disturbed condition that he was in now when he was replying to the debate, and I took down the words "does not read the English papers" directly from the Minister.
If I said it I corrected Senator Fitzgerald when he quoted it. A Minister may make a slip and apparently the Senator likes to take up speakers when they make a slip. It is quite possible I used the phrase Senator Tierney quotes.
Then I do not know why you are so vexed about it.
But I thought I made it clear to the members of the House that I did not intend to say that I do not read the English papers.
I thought the Minister said just now that he did not say that.
I think he has made another slip now.
Until the record of the proceedings is available the Minister's word must be accepted. That has always been the practice.
In justice to Senator Fitzgerald I should like to say that it was I whom the Minister corrected and I was under the impression that the Minister had said he did not read the English papers.
He has now said that he did.
He says that he is sorry he said it, or something of that kind.
I should like to point out that every member of the House is under the same rules of order as university professors.
I do not want to depart from the rules of order but to pretend that this sort of legislation for compulsory education is not of English origin and inspiration is to fly in the face of facts. All this legislation undoubtedly, as far as we are concerned, has its whole origin and inspiration in England. It was first thought of in the nineteenth century. We got our first share of it under the National Education Acts. That was in a very mild form 60 or so years ago. It was made a little stronger under the 1926 Act and now we are taking the last step which will secure that nobody at all in the country will escape from the net.
Under the 1926 Act there was a provision that it should be a valid excuse for absence that children were receiving suitable elementary education in some other way than by attending a national or other suitable school. That could be made a valid excuse. First of all, the onus was thrown on the authorities to bring the parent concerned before the court. He did not have to declare himself to the civic guard or write a nice little letter to the Minister, as Senator Brennan suggests, stating his intentions. The onus was on the authorities to bring a charge against him, and if that charge was brought he could say, in his defence, that his child was receiving suitable education.
Under the Act of 1926 a very wide loophole was left for a certain number of people, whether small or large, who do not want to send their children to national schools; and, secondly, who do not want to be amenable to the Minister in regard to a matter which will be their responsibility, as it has been their responsibility, whether there is a Minister or not—the duty of having their children properly educated. What this Bill is doing is leaving no loophole at all in theory, although I do not believe it can be put into practice. It gives permission to the Minister to hold an examination of every child that is not attending a school that he has certified. The examination system also is quite a modern system, and there were some enthusiasts, when it came in, who held that everyone should have to pass an examination, presumably before he was given the right to live at all. That is virtually what the Minister is taking power to secure. He is virtually taking power to submit every citizen in the State to an examination. There I would like to join issue with Senator Magennis. The Senator has given us a lecture on compulsory Irish, but compulsory Irish has very little to do with this Bill. The type of compulsion that is in question here is of an entirely different type. Nobody with reason could deny that when the State endows or establishes schools, the State has a perfect right to get some return and to have some say in what is taught in these schools. It is on that right that the introduction of compulsory Irish is based.
The State is the giver of education in national schools and to a certain extent in the secondary schools and the universities, and, therefore, has the right to make conditions. That is the ethics of compulsory Irish but when you come to the compulsion in this measure it is a different kettle of fish. The Government are taking on themselves the right to conduct an inquisition into every educational establishment in the country, and the form of that inquisition is to be some sort of compulsory elementary examination. I have already pointed out that if you try to analyse this it will be reduced to absurdity. The examination is to decide whether a child is receiving suitable education. An examination can only decide the quality of education a child has received up to the time of the examination. You cannot decide, by examination, whether it is receiving suitable education. Everybody who knows anything about examinations knows how little value they have, and how unjust it would be if the education given in any institution were to be judged by a single examination.
A child might be half-witted.
When a Senator talks about privilege he is labouring under a slight misunderstanding. He states that it would be a privilege for a certain number of people to escape the ordinary regulations children in the national schools submit to. An ordinary child in a national school is not subjected to this kind of compulsory examination. There is no such thing as an examination which every child has to pass. There is inspection of the school but the inspection is of such a kind that it is the teacher rather than the child that is examined. The inspection does not consist in examination of every child. It is an examination of the teacher rather than of the child. But what the Minister proposes here is examination of the child. That is the only thing he can do unless he proposes to send an embassy to England to conduct some sort of examination of the schools there.
While on the subject of inspection I would like to say that the system of inspection is one of the greatest evils of the whole educational system. If we had a system in which inspection was a great deal less mechanical and rigid and the schools were properly housed, there would be far less objection to compulsory education. When Senator Cummins spoke of the danger of private schools, his fear was that they would not be subjected to the same machinery that the national schools are subjected to, and against which the national teachers have been protesting for the last 40 years. The objection to private schools is that they will not be submitted to examinations and inspections, that they have not a rigid syllabus pasted up inside the door, and that the teacher is not liable to be chivvied if he is not following the syllabus.
I never used those words.
I am simply giving a paraphrase.
It is misrepresentation.
I am quite prepared to leave that to the records. The Senator's words are on the records, and it will be open to any fair-minded person to say whether I misrepresented him or not. Professor Magennis talked about privilege. I would like to know exactly what he means. Is it a privilege for me if I choose not to send my children to a local national school and send them to Blackrock College or Belvedere College, or to some place that has a good junior preparatory school? Is there a privilege in that?
If not, where is the privilege, if I keep them at home and educate them myself?
There is none.
And why should I be harried and be liable to be brought up in court and be fined under the Principal Act unless I have a certificate from the Minister? And who is the Minister, or any official of his Department, to tell me that I do not know how to give my child a suitable education? Senator O'Connell talked yesterday about the need of professional skill in education. One of the things we forget is that, right at the top, we have taken care that we will have no such thing as professional skill We have a bureaucracy, a collection of civil servants, and we have a Minister—and, as things are going, it looks likely that, very shortly, we will have an illiterate Minister, a man who cannot read or write. Will any Senator deny that that is altogether beyond the bounds of possibility or is entirely reckless exaggeration? That is the sort of system of education to which every well-meaning, law-abiding parent must submit his child. He must let his child be examined on that system lest he should not be getting a sufficient moral, cultural and intellectual education.
If it were possible to get some kind of reasonable system, if the single school to which all this legislation is driving us were a school that the parents who have the means, the opportunity and the knowledge to see that their children get a good education, could accept or be satisfied with there might not be such an objection. But everyone knows the position with regard to the schools and the educational system at the present moment. We have heard about the insanitary condition of a large number of schools. It is admitted that they are very insanitary, and that no parent able to escape from sending a child to one of those schools would send him there. We have not adverted to various other aspects of the sort of education given in those schools—the inspection system, which is one of the most unreasonable and uneducational systems in use in the whole wide world, and which the teachers themselves have been denouncing for the last half century. Senator Magennis says it is a privilege if a parent who is able to send his child somewhere else——
I said nothing of the kind and have said nothing of the kind.
I do not know what else the Senator said.
I am entitled to your protection, Sir. This thing went on yesterday. I have expressly stated that the privilege I object to is the privilege of exemption from the test. That is a different thing from what it has been converted into both by Senator Tierney and Senator Fitzgerald, and which is made to appear in this morning's paper.
The Senator is an expert on conversion himself. I am not responsible for what appeared in this morning's paper.
I will show presently——
Does the Senator accuse me of collusion with the newspapers?
No, but of inspiring them.
Would the Senator give a gloss on that word?
I will say so when my time comes to speak.
The debate may not proceed by the method of cross-examination.
Does the Senator accuse me of inspiring the newspapers?
I beg your protection. I never said anything of the kind, and there is no necessity for this hysterical performance.
They are plain words. The Senator said I was inspiring the daily papers to suppress his speeches.
The Senator has denied that, and the denial must be accepted.
The denial must be accepted in face of the plain fact that he has said it?
That must wait until the record is available.
He should not deny it, but should withdraw it. Senator Magennis is capable of giving a sinister meaning to what may seem nonsensical. That cannot be let go.
The sinister meaning is in the Senator's own imagination.
Senator Magennis has proposed that he should be allowed to interrupt, and that the speaker must not reply to him. I think if we were to agree to that, it would not make for order in the House.
There should be no further interruptions.
Surely, on a point of order, one is entitled to object to words being attributed to one which have not been used.
The denial must be accepted, until the words are available.
I refuse to accept the Senator's denial that he used the words I attributed to him— that I inspired the daily papers.
I rose on a point of order, on a definite statement of Senator Tierney, alleging words to have been used by me.
The word "privilege" was used by the Senator. Does he deny it?
We may pass from that and continue with the discussion on the amendment.
I plead not guilty to wasting the time of the House. It is not my fault if the House has been delayed.
That is a matter of opinion.
The Senator's opinion is worth a great deal.
Perhaps we should insist that the papers publish Professor Magennis's speech.
I think I have dealt pretty well with everything I wanted to deal with. The case I wanted to make, as I have said already, was that we should not allow legislation to go on the Statute Book which even appears to infringe on the rights of parents over the education of their children. That is the only plea I am making, and I put it in all seriousness to the Seanad, without any wish whatever to have any vexation or vituperation about it. The Minister is taking power, under this section, to subject ordinary law-abiding citizens to all sorts of disabilities and vexations. As the law stands, it is a power that the Minister will find, in the long run, he cannot put into operation.
As a matter of fact, he has made that fairly clear himself—I hope I will not be accused of misrepresenting him —and all he has said leads to the plain conclusion that he has very little intention to operate the Bill as it stands. He has words in the Bill which, if interpreted literally, would mean that he is going to tyrannise over a large proportion of the citizens of the State. He says he has no intention himself to do that. He is the most gentlemanly and good-natured person in the world, but that has nothing to do with it. I quite accept that position, but I think it is a rather foolish position for him to be in. He brings in this Bill and then says, more or less, that he does not intend to operate it. What I am concerned about is not the Minister's intention or his attitude towards the Bill, but the propriety and prudence of this Legislature putting on the Statute Book a Bill which, in the opinion of honest fair-minded people, tends to infringe the rights of parents and, even to a minor degree, causes vexation and confusion to entirely innocent citizens. That is the plea I am trying to make to the Seanad, and if Senators choose to accuse me of misrepresentation and unfairness I cannot help them.
It is very difficult to reply to what purports to be argument and turns out to be merely —I will not say misrepresentation—inexplicable misinterpretation. Senator Tierney says that I spoke of privilege. Of course I did. For the fifth time yesterday since this debate began I explained that my objection to the case made by Senators Douglas and Johnston was that they were claiming privilege, and that the privilege consisted in the demand that they should be exempted from submitting their children to a test directed to discover whether or not the right of the State and the duty of the State had been satisfied in securing that every citizen had the requisite minimum of education. Within 20 minutes of that fifth statement Senator Fitzgerald had the hardihood and the temerity to stand up here and proceed to announce that the privilege in question was what he called the right of the parent to send the child outside the territory of the State. How are we to carry on debate with any hope of reasonable results if a Senator claims to be permitted to continue perverting and distorting?
Senator Fitzgerald is a great authority to-day on distortion, but surely this is a glaring and unmistakable distortion: when we say that the few parents who would send their children out of Ireland to be educated are not entitled to claim that right merely because they have done so: the right to be immune from the application of tests to the children and to be entitled to refuse it.
In to-day'sIrish Times there is a leading article headed “Penal Laws”. The tenor of the article is in harmony with the title, and everything that was said in that corner of the House is repeated in the article. The readers of the paper are expected to believe that what we were engaged in all day yesterday—it was described as “fierce battle raged”—was whether or not a parent should be entitled to choose the school to which he could send his child. All this talk of “persecution” and this cry of the resurrection of the Penal Laws and this absurdity of making a parallel between grown adults going abroad to foreign universities and the sending of children abroad in their tender years—all that began on the other side of the House. All these allegations of persecution— the word “persecution” itself—came from Senator Tierney. Where did the spirit that animates the leader-writer, the sentiment he expresses, and the deliberate intention of thus moulding public opinion, come from?
I objected in the first instance more than a fortnight ago to Senators Douglas and Johnston introducing the religious question. They have themselves seen good reason since to change their approach, but they have disseminated through the length and breadth of the land, in so far as the newspapers can bring it about, this fear that the Government is taking some arbitrary power which can be exercised, and that some parents are to be helpless in the presence of it. One would imagine that some clause of this Bill did away with the existence of the High Court and of the right of appeal to the court. Supposing a parent felt aggrieved as to the character of a test, has he not, according to our equity, its principle that there is no wrong without a remedy, his remedy? It can be sought in the High Court. From all the talk of Senator Tierney and the Senators round about him in that corner of the House, it would seem that there are no courts, no legal traditions, no public opinion— that, in short, there is no common sense in this House or out of it, that it would be impossible to carry out the law and to administer justly the work of public education. Surely we are not fools. We have the spectacle to-day of Senator Fitzgerald reading from the Papal Encyclicals. Why did not Senator Fitzgerald read those Encyclicals by way of study, and inform himself of their contents a fortnight ago? He was forced, in his quotations to-day, to read out passages which condemned his own doctrine, which can be found, I am sure, in the records of the House. I have not seen the Official Reports of this debate, and I do not know what is there. Senator Fitzgerald left the House after declaring that the rights of the parent areabsolute. Yet it occurred twice in the Encyclicals he read out, that this is not so.
There is a great deal of nonsensical talk—I call it so advisedly—sheer nonsense about the rights of parents. It has been made appear through the public Press as if we were challenging, in fact, denying, parental rights. I happen to have something here on this matter, the authority of which will not be disputed by Senator Fitzgerald or Senator Tierney. I propose to quote from a document of the highest authority. In 1920, in Malines, under the direction and inspiration of the Cardinal Archbishop of Malines, who was a great hero in the public eye during the last Great War—Cardinal Mercier—there was started in Belgium an International Union for Social Studies. It developed—still under the guidance of Cardinal Mercier—until the society had representatives from eight or nine Catholic States in Europe and also from the United States of America and Great Britain.
Just about the time of Cardinal Mercier's death in 1925, they had resolved upon publishing what the Cardinal called a Synopsis of Doctrine, which could be formulated so as to be understood by the world at large as the solutions of certain social problems from the Catholic, Christian standpoint. When those Encyclicals of the late Pope Pius XI appeared, it was thought advisable to bring out a second edition of the Synopsis, bringing them down, as we say, to date. That was in 1933. I propose to quote from that second edition, the French edition of 1933. It says:
"the child has the right to physical, intellectual, moral and religious development."
Incidentally, I understood Senator Baxter to say yesterday that this idea of children having rights was something new to him. According to all the talk, the blizzard of talk, that has come to us from that corner of the House, we are only to think in terms of the right of the parent. The right of the parent arises with the duty of the parent. I resume the reading:
"The child has the right to physical, intellectual, moral and religious development. The obligation to provide for this development of the child rests on the parents. This duty confers on them reciprocally corresponding rights, and these rights must be safeguarded. The parents must be protected in the fulfilment of their parental duty. Should parents neglect or deliberately disregard their obligation in this matter, they injure the child through denial of his rights, rights which are all the more sacred because the young subject of those rights is unable to assert them and assure for himself the exercise of them."
In more or less similar language, I made that speech here twice in the course of this debate. There is more to be considered.
"Laws must accordingly protect the child's rights against incapable, negligent or criminal parents."
According to the tenor of Senator Fitzgerald's speech a fortnight ago, any attempt by legislation to protect the rights of the child, was a gross infringement of the rights of the parent, was a monstrous thing. Senator Fitzgerald left this House after having asked us to believe that the Catholic and Christian view of the relationship of parent and child was that of the old Roman law ofpatria potestas whereby the father owned the child as a chattel.
I was surprised to hear Senator Tierney verging upon this to-day. He is an eminent classical scholar who must know a great deal more about this item than I could profess to know. At a time in the earlier development of Roman civilisation, when the father's rights that he talks about were insisted upon, the child was the chattel of the parent. He could put the child to death if he pleased. The child had no rights whatever against him. The noble conception of personality, which begins with Christ, had not dawned upon the minds of the ancients at the time. On the part of a classical scholar like Senator Tierney, a man of great eminence, it is a palpable error to forget the enormous difference, a whole hemisphere of difference, between the Christian conception of parental rights and the attitude taken in thepatria potestas of ancient Rome. The child is a person. An individual human person has duties and rights. I have read to you this most authoritative pronouncement on the rights of the child. I resume my reading:—
"Laws must accordingly protect the child's rights against incapable, negligent or criminal parents."
Now I may skip a few passages from the original, for the sake of brevity, and not altering the sense in any way, I assure the House:—
"The purpose of the school is to complete the educational task of the home."
Because, incidentally, yesterday I emphasised that, to wit, that the proper and natural and most beneficial centre of the education of the child is his own home, the immediate environment of his parents, I am made to appear in to-day's newspaper reports as speaking against the right of the parent to send the child abroad! I resume the reading:—
"The purpose of the school is to complete the educational task of the home, to supplement the parental instruction, as in the majority of cases the parents are not in a position to impart all the education needful. The schoolmaster is thus, by virtue of this special task, the delegate or deputy of the parent."
As we say, he isin loco parentis. I have already made that plain. The teacher, therefore, has a great number of rights—they may not be called privileges—because of the delegated duty. I resume the reading:—
"The rights of parents and of teachers are, nevertheless, not abolute."
Senator Fitzgerald a fortnight ago said the right of the parent was absolute. The Encyclicals which he read out to-day, and which have been used as part of the material in the preparation of the document from which I am quoting, expressly say that they are not absolute. I resume the quotation:—
"The rights of parents and of teachers are, nevertheless, not absolute. Those rights are conditioned by the rights of the Church and of the State."
We have heard an unlimited amount of tosh—it is the only word to describe it—about the rights of parents. I repeat, Sir, that we on this side of the House are made to appear in some of the newspapers as flouting every ideal of Catholic Christianity, while professing to be Catholics, because we are supporting this measure in so far as we have supported it. It is intolerable, absolutely intolerable, that a few men should so inflame the public mind by careless and reckless language giving that impression to writers of the public Press. I resume the quotation:—
"The rights of the parents and of the teachers are nevertheless not absolute. Those rights are conditioned by the rights of the Church and of the State. As teacher, the Church has rights conferred upon it by its Divine Founder."
The Church, too, is a teacher of men.
"The Church has accordingly the exclusive prerogative of teaching the truths of Revealed Religion and a real right to teach likewise whatever of philosophy, morals, and sociology have a bearing on Dogma and Morality."
So much for the claim of the Church in educational affairs. Now as to what concerns the State.
"The State, whose definite function it is to preserve and promote the common weal in the temporal order, cannot rest indifferent to the sound education of its members."
According to Senator Fitzgerald this is intrusion on the domain of the parent, invading the home. The State is to have no "look-in", as we say colloquially, according to his peculiar ideology. I do not know where he got it.
"The State may demand and take measures to ensure"—
—observe according to this authoritative statement, the State does not merely bleat some principle or make some claim mildly and rest at that—
"The State may demand, and take measures to ensure, that all its citizens have a knowledge of their duties, civic and national; and have received at least that minimum of intellectual, moral and physical culture which in face of present-day conditions is requisite to secure and advance the common good of civil society."
How can all the statements made by Senator Tierney and other Senators when this debate began be reconciled with that? Whether you accept it or reject it, at any rate it speaks with the voice of authority, as the unquestionable voice of Catholic Christianity in regard to the education of the child. Surely when we are told all sorts of things about the inequities and enormities of this Bill, we ought to bear in mind that the State has its duty. It dawned for the first time on Senator Fitzgerald to-day that the State has its duty. The way in which the State discharges its duty is mainly through legislation.
We are told here repeatedly that there is—I do not know how to speak of it calmly—a distinct attempt on the part of the Minister and of those who support him here to filch from parents, who have a certain peculiar mentality in regard to the bringing up of their child, natural rights to which they are entitled. Have they ever stopped to think of the difference between right as a moral claim and the exercise of the right? There are many rights which I possess—I do not mean I, William Magennis, but which A, B, C, D, E or F, possess—and it is not always to be countenanced that he exercise those rights regardless of circumstance. There is no such thing as the virtue of Prudence, according to these philosophers on our left. The State has its duty and its duty, remember, is to living breathing human persons.
All the language used on the other side from the beginning has been the language of abstraction. These Senators do not stop to consider that the State, civil society, is merely all the members of the nation as a corporate body, as a body organised politically and the Government really represents, or should represent in an ideal State, the higher wisdom of the better spirits among the citizens the totality of whom constitutes civil society, the State. The State exists to do for the individual person what the individual person is not in a position to do for himself. One would imagine to hear Senator Tierney that no parents ever did, or ever would, neglect their duty to the child. If he were here he would exclaim that this was a gross exaggeration but that surely is what he has been saying. How can these reckless statements be made compatible with the fact that we are engaged in enacting a measure of compulsory education as an amendment to the Principal Act of 1926 because from the year 1927 to the year 1942 the statistics available show that there has been one continual drop in school attendances? Are the children that are away from school parentless? Are there not cases of culpable negligence on the part of parents in keeping their children away from school? If not, I am a victim of some delusion when I read the weekly provincial papers and find the report of proceedings in district courts. What right is being taken away from a parent who is found not exercising his duty? If the State in the name of the common good, which includes the good of the man himself, proceeds to exercise compulsion, through its coercive capacity, or coactive capacity, which is a better term, I say the State is invested with that right, in the name of all citizens, of their better selves if I may put it that way.
As Senator Tierney is now here, may I return to that article in to-day'sIrish Times. I am not complaining of not being reported. That allegation was made as a side-wind. I said one passage of speech of mine was quoted. That is not complaining that I was not reported, not a plaint in the ordinary sense of wounded vanity. It is a complaint of garbled quotation, of dealing with an excerpt in a way it should not be dealt with. I want to repeat, in Senator Tierney's presence, that his talk of persecution, his talk about penal laws, provides the backbone of the article and that is the sense in which I say he inspired it. He hastily interpreted words as meaning that he went to the writer or procured the writing. I said at the time that I would explain in what sense I was making that accusation against him. I have dealt with it and I repeat the challenge to Senator Douglas or to anyone who has spoken on his side, to quote anything from this Bill directly which refuses to allow a parent to send his child outside the country to school. Why do we too hear endless iteration that this Bill is to prevent parents doing that? This article states that in yesterday's debate Senator The McGillycuddy retorted, as a complete rejoinder to me, that in the Penal Days men went, much to their advantage, abroad to get their education. That is a confusion of thought. The same confusion of thought appears in Senator Fitzgerald's twice-repeated quotations from an Encyclical. I made a note of that. “The Pope says he disregards constitutions.” Beware the all-familiar trick of wrenching a pasage out of the context. Pope Leo XIII, in dealing with constitutions was dealing with the wordy and highly-embroidered constitutions which new revolutionaries were giving to themselves. They were Godless constitutions. Pope Leo XIII was dealing with the spread of what his translators call Liberalism—a thing commonly confused in these countries with Liberalism in English politics, with which it has nothing to do. The term Libertarianism would come nearer the mark. Because Pope Leo XIII, disregarding the fine professions of revolutionaries who are overthrowing ordered society in their revolutions, looks to what they do rather than to what they profess, that is to apply to our Constitution.
One would imagine that our Constitution does not open with the invocation of the Holy Ghost and proceed to return thanks to Jesus Christ for the benefits that have come to us in recent years. Are we frauds, conscious— stupidly-conscious—frauds, to declare Christian principles as the foundation of all our legislation and then proceed to legislate as if those things were never mentioned? We have had this again and again. This is where Party bias comes in. Because this Constitution was enacted by the people in July, 1937, when there was a Fianna Fáil Government in power, therefore, it is to be spoken of lightly and contemptuously. Senator Tierney has the temerity to say that the words "fundamental law" are only a phrase. Professor Tierney is going to deny that. He said that.
I do not know that I ever did say it.
The Senator did.
The Senator accused me last week of saying a thing I never said.
I shall deal with that.
The Senator has a habit of doing that sort of thing.
I have not. Senator Tierney used the words to-day —they are within the recollection of Senators—that "fundamental law" was only a phrase. I was reminded, as if I was being reminded of something that I had absolutely forgotten or never knew, of a number of things I myself read out from the Constitution here a fortnight earlier. Article 41 of the Constitution proclaims the rights of the family in education and uses almost identical language with that of the Encyclical, just as Section 42, with regard to the duty of the State, is almost word for word with that document. These Senators, with their political bias, try to make it appear that the Constitution is of no account and that it has no right to function. In other words, the public who trust these educated men as leaders and guides are to regard the Constitution as a number of inoperative platitudes. When I quote Article 41, they are to believe that I do not know my own business. I have not been for 50 years university professor of philosophy without learning to know some of the evidence of it. Those rights are there and the exact time, manner and measure of their exercise have been determined by thinkers who have taken all the complex relations of society into account. These fundamental principles—fundamental personal rights and declaration of the duty of the State in regard to them—are put into the Constitution in order that they shall be ever-present to the minds of legislators and so that their legislation will proceed upon that basis.
Granted that the parent has a right to send his child wherever he likes. I do not grant it as a matter of fact because I have read too much about prostitution and about the Criminal Law Amendment Acts in England and elsewhere to believe that a parent would not use his power or authority over his child. Granted, for the sake of argument, that the parent has a right to send his child to what purports to be a school, is the State to abandon its duty in regard to that child merely because the school is outside the authority of the State? According to the thinkers on the other benches, the State is not to interfere. That is what it comes to. It is an invasion of the family right, apparently, to demand that, when a crank or partly demented parent insists upon being sole educator of his child, the child gets a fair deal. Do we not know that there are such cases? Senator Tierney, with a great burst of passion, to which we have grown accustomed by this, spoke of himself as giving education to his child. Surely he does not mean to suggest that his is a typical case of a parent instructing his child.
A high-minded man like Senator Tierney, religiously and morally above reproach, a man of repute and high position in the State, if he undertakes to educate his own child is not a typical example. What about the fanatic, the man who does not believe in inoculation against small-pox; what about the type of man who believes in magic and all sorts of fantastic things? If the child is left at the mercy of those parents are we to be told that the child is receiving suitable education and is the State not to take the slightest trouble to investigate? Investigation on the part of the legitimate authority is an invasion of the home and the family—what preposterous nonsense! That kind of thing goes down with opponents of the Government, who believe anything against the Government. It is quite clear that some people believe we are getting near a general election when these things are hurled against an inoffensive, let me say a comparatively inoffensive, Educational Bill. The State must discharge its duty. I repeat that. The Constitution sets up and creates the organs or instruments of government and among them is the Ministry or Department of Education. The Minister is the legal authority, the head of that Department. It is through him as the instrument that the people are to discharge their constitutional duty.
We are told repeatedly that it is some fad or fancy of a body of civil servants that is being carried out in this Bill—of some people with a passion for rounding off things, for clogging up holes and escapes and what not. Surely that is mere rhetoric. The duty of the State to supervise and protect the right of the child to proper education can be discharged only through educational legislation. That is so obvious that one feels ashamed of having to reiterate it. In framing this legislation the claim is made and demanded that no such investigation shall be exercised in regard to a few people and it is similarly declared that that is not claiming privilege for them. Surely, as I said yesterday, if the education that they are receiving abroad is good and proper education the parents should not shrink from having a test applied.
May I ask the Senator a question? I hesitate to ask him because he always thinks I am interrupting him unnecessarily.
The Senator is an authority on education and I ask him can you test the character of education irrespective of the child's mental capacity?
No, I should say you cannot exhaustively and perfectly test it. I have examined all sorts and I do not make the grotesque claim for examiners and examinations that they are ideal. I think I have a note from Senator Tierney's declarations which answers Senator Sir John Keane. It is that this is the only way the Minister can do it. I hope that Senator Tierney is not going to let me down and repudiate that statement because I made a note of it at the time. I reply to Senator Sir John Keane, that there must be some test. Will he not admit that? There must be some test and it must be an educational test.
I do not admit it, if the Senator asks me. I think in practice it would be quite possible for the Minister to make discreet inquiries as to the character of the establishment. That would be the commonsense thing to do.
I quite agree. He might do that. There is nothing in the Bill to preclude him from doing it. The words of the Bill are "the Minister may", not "the Minister shall". Why is discretion left to the Minister? Precisely because of what Senator Sir John Keane has just said, the Minister has ways of informing himself. If he adopts these ways and is satisfied from the repute and standing of the school that the requirements of suitable education are being met, then there is no more to be done or to be said. I am dealing with this thing where there is an actual test necessary in the view of the Minister. I say he must find some way of testing, and what test is there but an examination? All of us, especially those who have been professional examiners, have a great deal to say about the defects of examination. The one great thing to get is character and an examination cannot test character. An individual scrutator may see to it that all is done honestly in the examination hall, but that is no evidence of the morality of the candidate. I hope I have answered Senator Sir John Keane to his satisfaction. I take it a reasonable Minister, if he is made aware what school a child is attending upon the notification of the parent, would be able in some cases to satisfy himself without further ado. But suppose that is not possible, then the only thing he can do is to apply a test, as Senator Tierney says.
I am being accused by the Senator of saying that the only thing the Minister can do is to apply a test.
I have written down a note of it, and I am not subject to delusions.
I did not say the Senator was subject to delusions, but the Senator has accused me in a very rounded phrase of saying that the only way the Minister can do it is by examination. The Senator denounces me for saying that the only way is by examination.
I did not denounce the Senator but I quoted his admission. Because I am raising my voice in the hope of being audible it does not follow I am denouncing somebody. I contend that the State must discharge its duty and it must not allow evasion on the part of parents and that applies all round, absolutely all round. I say it is deliberate misrepresentation of our attitude here to pretend we are denying the right of a parent to select the school. What we are not allowing is the contradiction of one of the most widely accepted rules of justice. To quote Edmund Burke, the principle is that no one shall be a judge in his own cause. I refuse to allow that a parent who elects to educate a child is to be the guarantee of his own sufficiency or, in the case of a school selected by the parent, of the sufficiency of the school. The State has the ever-present and continuing duty to see to it that the right of the child is not denied, that he is not being palmed off with an insufficient or inappropriate education. Surely, when I quote from a document of this authority, its authority is not going to be questioned. Is it not clear that there are three rights to be considered—the right of the child, the right of the parent, and the right of the State? I am leaving out for the moment the fourth—the Church—because the Constitution only demands the test to be applied, with regard to this matter, with the religious viewpoint left out, so as not to encroach upon the parent. The whole mind of the public—I say this advisedly—has been excited with regard to these proposals by speakers in this House. Left to themselves, this malignant purpose never would have been read by the people out of Section 4. I say that advisedly.
I do not like to interrupt the Senator, but, for the information of the House, I say that it was also denounced by the former Minister for Education in the other House.
I am aware of that. I am aware also that the Taoiseach referred to it on that occasion as play-acting. As a matter of fact, is that not a contribution to what I am saying? The play-acting which began in the other House has caused all this indignation and all these wild outbursts of moral wrath that have been indulged in here, that have permeated outside, and that have raised this attitude of suspicion and distrust. Then it is used against the argument and proposals of the Minister that there is this feeling of disgust spreading—after it has been diligently spread. Apparently, there is no purpose served in labouring this, as a fortnight ago I made the very same statements that I am forced to make again to-day, and I am sure that, if we were here this day fortnight, we would have to go through the same weary round again. There are none so deaf as those who will not hear, their minds are made up against this proposition. All sorts of malignant schemes are behind it; at one moment there is no desire to impute any malign motives or purposes "but"—and then, after the "but", there come all these dreadful things that can happen.
It is quite possible, in the course of the war—which God forbid—that a foreign Power should invade this country and make a settlement here. Is it suggested that they will find themselves bound by anything in this Bill? Of course not. Possibly, they would set it aside and introduce their own institutions. Are we, then not to pass this Bill because, at a later date, it might be set aside? Is it a waste of time because it would then become inoperative? That is on all fours—silly as it seems—with the conjectural fears that have been expressed by Senators here. A Minister, at some future date, some dreadful bogey Minister—Senator Tierney has, in his mind's eye, imaginatively, an unlettered Minister—may commit all sorts of atrocities. What is the matter with an unlettered Minister in a democracy? I remember the First Lord of the Admiralty in England, Mr. W.E. Smith, the owner of all the bookstalls in all the railway stations of England, and I remember when Gilbert had a rhyme and everybody in the streets was singing it or whistling the tune:—
"So stick to your books and never go to sea,
And you'll soon be the ruler of the Queen's Navee."
All this may happen, but the institutions of Government may go on, and public opinion—and righteous-minded men are included in that—has its sway. I am not terrified of these pictures of a Labour Ministry being in power, although it appears to disturb the equanimity of Senator Tierney.
Have I the right to deny it?
The Senator did not mention a Labour Ministry, but from what source would he get an unlettered Ministry? Surely not from Fine Gael? It can only be from a third Party.
I am not saying so, so the words are wasted upon me. I have not created that Minister. On the contrary, when the fantasy of the Senator has created him, I, as a good democrat, am quite willing to accept him—call him any name you like—so long as he acts in the name of the people and keeps to the Constitution. I have no objection at all. The only thing I object to, and stand here to object to with as much vigour as I can command, is misrepresentation. I object to this device of making hints and innuendoes and never withdrawing them. I remember an occasion when there was a distinguished lawyer so capable of doing that that he could make a jury believe he had witnesses galore to support what he was saying, and when the time came to put the witnesses in the box he had none, but the mind of the jury had been so imbued with all the things he had said that he could be sure of the same result as if the witnesses went into the box and perjured themselves. I object to misrepresentation. I object to the method of dealing with debates in this House, by which one side is reported and the other side is not, and by which leading articles are based upon the omission. That is a very easy device, but it is not honest journalism, and is a departure, in the case I have mentioned, from a fine tradition.
We are not now considering whether or not this Bill should be passed, but whether it should be passed with or without Section 4. Personally, I strongly object to Section 4 and I desire, as briefly as I can, to give my reasons. I do not propose to follow the various points raised by Senator Tierney or by Senator Magennis, interesting though they would be. Incidentally, as a matter of choice, I personally would object to an illiterate Minister for Education, and I do not think we are likely to get one at an early date from any of the Parties. However, that has no relation to Section 4.
It is accepted that the parents have rights; it is equally accepted that a child has rights; and it is also agreed that the State has rights—though I prefer to say that the State has a duty. Now the point at issue is whether the State's duty involves Section 4 of this Bill or not. To my mind, this Bill, without Section 4, would be carrying out—and carrying out reasonably and properly—the duty of the State in regard to school attendance, and particularly to see that children are given the opportunity of receiving a minimum education. I regard the duty of a parent to provide the best possible education for his child—and that is not only a religious education but one that goes farther than religious education— as specifically a religious duty which he has no right to avoid. I recognise that many parents do not carry out their duty, and where the parent either refuses point-blank to carry it out, or is obviously incapable through mental or others reasons of carrying it out, I think the State would have to intervene in the interests of the child. But I believe that the duty of the State to interfere with the right of the parent only comes when the parent is not exercising that duty.
I think I ought to say that if my children were not grown up, and if I had to ask the State for a certificate that I was educating my child suitably and correctly, I would feel it wrong to ask for that certificate because, by asking for that certificate, I would be admitting that the State had a right to say "No", and I do not believe that the State has the right to prevent me carrying out what is a religious duty in the way I believe best. For the State to pass a law saying that I must provide education for my child, for the State to set up schools so that I could do that if I was unable in any other way to provide for it, is perfectly proper; but when the State goes so far as to provide that if it is not done in the particular way set out in the Bill there is no reasonable excuse unless a Minister who represents the State says so—I am not dealing with any particular Minister, educated or uneducated— that is going outside what, to me, ought to be a matter of conscience. When we come to examine the section, we find that the Minister can refuse a certificate. That is clearly set down. He also can grant a certificate and afterwards revoke it. That means that if I ask for a certificate, I am admitting that he or the State which he represents, as a superior authority. This is not a matter of a person refusing to carry it out, but of a person conscientiously endeavouring to educate his child—doing one of the most important duties that any parent can undertake.
Assuming—which I do not admit— that the State has the right to insist on a certificate and to make the parent ask for a certificate, we now find when we examine sub-section (2), the grounds on which the Minister may refuse the certificate. We first of all find that he may provide a certain educational test to the child at a place which the Minister shall fix. I do not believe that it is possible to take a child and give it an educational test to find whether that child is receiving a suitable education or not. If we are to admit the right of the certificate and do this in a practical way, it is the teacher who should be submitted to the test to find out whether he is capable of giving suitable education.
I object to Section 4 because it is providing something which is not a test and which cannot be a test of what it purports to do—find out whether a child is receiving suitable education. We then find in paragraph (b) that the Minister shall not refuse this certificate without giving reasons to the parent except it is as a result of a test, and even then he must give the parent some opportunity of satisfying him. I have no objection to that if you once admit the right of insisting on the certificate. But when you come to paragraph (c) you find that he has the right to say that he refuses the certificate because the school is not an appropriate one for a particular child. It may be appropriate for somebody else's child. I deny the right of the Minister to say that it is not suitable for my particular child and that it may be suitable for someone else. That is clearly embodied in paragraph (c). In sub-section (3), it says that the Minister may from time to time, as and when he thinks fit, revoke a certificate given by him under the section, but that the Minister is not to revoke it without telling the parent and giving him an opportunity of falling in with the Minister's opinion as to how he is to educate his child.
If you admit that the Minister should say how a person should educate his child, that is perfectly reasonable, but as I do not admit it, it does not seem reasonable to me. When you come to sub-section (5), you find a provision which I think not only undesirable, but which, in many cases, would be impracticable and in some cases almost impossible for parents. In this sub-section, whenever a child to whom the Principal Act applies is receiving education in a manner other than by attending a national school or a recognised school, a parent is required to inform the enforcing authority. If you read the original Act, you will find that the Minister may certify a school to be a suitable school and may at any time withdraw it. The Minister there puts the onus on parents of watching to see when a certificate is withdrawn.
I say that a parent could not and should not be expected to do that. You are putting the whole responsibility on the parent to find out whether the school to which he is sending his child inside the State is a national school, a suitable school or a recognised school. The national school is easy, but it is by no means easy to know whether it is a recognised school. If you turn back to Section 2, you will find there the definition of a recognised school—a school for the benefit of which grants are, for the time being, made available from public moneys, and which is recognised by the Minister as a school. I know of many schools, but I do not know whether they are receiving grants or not, and now you put the onus on me of finding out whether they have grants or not.
I suggest that you have gone too far even from the practical point of view, in the onus you are putting on the parent. Then again, I do not think that it is the duty of a parent to inform the enforcing authority, whether it be the Civic Guards or the school attendance committee or any other substitute, that he is not carrying out the specified provisions of this Act, if he knows quite well, as he will know, if his child is outside the State or is being educated at home, that until he gets a certificate from the Minister he would be breaking the law. I do not believe for a moment that, except in some cranky case which might happen, any person is going to be prosecuted until he has at least applied for and endeavoured to get a certificate, but I believe there are quite a number who would think it quite wrong to ask for a certificate and who would be left in the position of breaking the law. I think it is a highly undesirable position to be set up here.
I want to say that, when I was dealing with the previous amendment, which is to some extent covered by this in so far as this would also remedy the position, I made reference to the fact that the number was comparatively small. I do not use that as an argument for doing right, because it seems to me that whether the number is one or 1,000 the principle is the same. At any rate, as far as my objection to Section 4 is concerned, I am not going on the grounds that Section 4 can affect only a small number of people. But I would say this, that I do not believe that the Minister can send for all the children who come under Section 4 and apply an education test to them; I do not believe it would be practicable to do it. I am not concerned with his intentions, because intentions have nothing to do with what we find in a Bill. We are only concerned with what is in the Bill. We here are a legislative Assembly without any control over any administration, and it is our function to examine the Bill as to what is in it. That does not mean raising any question of intentions, and it certainly does not mean imputing any intentions which are of an improper character.
It seems to me that the right of the parents and the duty of the State can be fully met by leaving Section 4 out of this Bill. The position would be greatly strengthened by the other sections in the Bill. I think it was Senator O'Connell—after what has happened, I am almost afraid to quote anybody—who pointed out that he at any rate, representing the teachers, believes that this Bill would be a definite step forward without Section 4. It would then be a Bill which should be supported unanimously in this House. Section 4 seems to us—I ignore suggestions of insincerity or Party politics or anything of that kind—to introduce a principle which we think some people cannot obey, a principle which seems to us a very serious mistake. In addition to that, I believe it has in it a number of unworkable and undesirable provisions. The proposal that the parent must give notice immediately whenever the child has ceased to attend a suitable or a national or a recognised school is to my mind impracticable. I would very seriously urge the Minister to consider whether it would not be wise at this stage to pass this Bill without Section 4, and let Section 4 or whatever it is intended to meet under it form the subject of very careful consideration. I do not think anybody here wants to thwart the Department in endeavouring to get the maximum amount of attendance at school. I certainly do not. I certainly do not want to make it difficult for the Department to deal with anybody who is obviously neglecting his child. At the same time, I do want to see to it that the parent who is educating his child to the best of his ability will not find himself inadvertently and unintentionally outside the law.
I think all that could be usefully said for and against the amendment we are now considering has been said, and I do not intend to prolong the discussion, but before it concludes I should like to ask the Minister for some information on one point, and that is the exact meaning of "parent" in this Bill and in particular in this section. The speeches we have heard mostly assume that "parent" means the natural parent, and all the arguments against the invasion of family rights would seem to turn on that point. If that is what is meant in the Bill, the section is deficient, because there are a great many children to whom the Principal Act applies who unfortunately have no parents in the natural order. Therefore, I think we ought to be quite clear as to the meaning of "parent" in this section and in the Bill generally.
I intend to be very brief, but I have not yet heard—I have not been here all the time—a satisfactory explanation by the Minister as to the necessity for this section. The School Attendance Act has worked for over sixteen years I think, apparently without any difficulty, except its ineffectiveness with regard to the 65,000 children who are not attending the national schools. Has any practical difficulty arisen which necessitates those special provisions of Section 4, or is this section purely the result of a desire for what some person has called "civil service, one hundred per cent., logical, watertight consistency"? Senator O'Connell has dealt with a number of practical administrative difficulties, but I want the Minister to address himself specifically, if he will, to one that occurs to me. I send my child abroad. I notify the enforcing authority. Has the enforcing authority any discretion, or is the enforcing authority bound to follow it up and see whether the child has a certificate from the Minister, and, in default of the certificate, to prosecute? I consider it would be most undesirable to give the enforcing authority a discretion. On the other hand, I consider it would be most cumbersome if, in every single case, the enforcing authority had to prosecute in default of a certificate. In fact, I consider it most undesirable that every parent who educates his child outside a national, a recognised or a suitable school should be compelled to go to the Minister for a certificate, as he will be compelled to do if the enforcing authority does its duty. I conceive that the duty of the enforcing authority is to prosecute in every case. Otherwise, it is a most invidious position in which to place that enforcing authority.
I wonder is there any possibility that we can finish this section before six o'clock? If there is, I would willingly give way to the Minister.
I think ten minutes, at the very most, would do me.
I do not think that both Senator Hayes and myself could conclude before six o'clock.
We might conclude before 6.15.
Is the House agreed that the Minister should speak now, and then Senator Hayes to conclude?
Senator Sir John Keane wishes to know what is the necessity for this Bill. The necessity for it arises from the fact that experience of the administration of the Principal Act has shown that there is a number of loopholes, and the present measure is devised—as speakers who oppose the measure have recognised, as well as those who defend it—to close those loopholes.
I referred to Section 4 and not to the whole Bill.
Perhaps I had better start with Senator Douglas's objections. I do not know whether the Senator and those he represents feel conscientiously that they can do nothing to facilitate the State in the administration of a School Attendance Act. I think that the objections that have been raised by Senator Douglas and others against the present Bill could have been raised against the original Act. For example, section 20 of the original Act says:
"Every person required so to do by notice in writing in the prescribed form served on or left for him at his residence by the enforcing authority of the school attendance area in which he resides shall furnish to such enforcing authority within the time and in the manner specified in such notice the names and ages and (in the case of children to whom this Act applies) the mode of education and other particulars specified in such notice of all the children or any specified child of whom he is the parent within the meaning of this Act and if any such person shall fail so to do he shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding twenty shillings."
Statutory Orders were made under the Act and I find that, in the notice given to parents requiring them to furnish these particulars, it is stated that if a person fails to comply with this notice he will be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding 20s. There is a number of parents whose existence we have no means of knowing because they are certainly parents whose children have not come under observation at all. Children to whom what I have just said applies are those children whose existence comes to the notice of the enforcing authority from the fact that they have been at school or it may come to the notice of the enforcing authority quite accidentally. There is no machinery by which the enforcing authority can get that information and in the vast majority of cases, of course, it only gets it when the children actually present themselves at school. I think it is reasonable to ask parents if they are interested in the education of their children to explain that they are making provision for their education in another way whenever the enforcing authority asks them.
As Senator Magennis has pointed out, the authorities have to be informed of various things with regard to children. When a child is born that fact has to be registered. When he dies, that fact has also to be registered but apparently there is an objection to inform the authority that the child is about to go to school. If the authority is so informed, when this measure becomes law, and when the child reaches the age of six years, that will relieve the parent of responsibility and he will have in all likelihood very little further trouble. In the vast majority of cases, after the single notification made when the child reaches the age of six that his education is being provided for, by private tuition for example, when that comes to the notice of the Minister through the enforcing authority, a note of it will be taken. I suggest, therefore, that the fears and alarms raised in this matter are entirely groundless.
I am glad that Senator Magennis has emphasised the constitutional and religious aspect of this question. I wish again to say that if this question of conscience affects Senator Douglas so keenly, there is that clause in the Bill which states that a reasonable excuse for failure to comply with the Bill may be that there is not a national school, a suitable school or a recognised school accessible to the child which the child can attend and to which the parent of the child does not object on religious ground to send the child. It may happen that the enforcing authority challenges that, but that could have happened in the past under the existing legislation. Senator Tierney and other Senators who have criticised the potentialities of this measure, entirely forget that the provision in Section 3 (2) (b) which provides as a reasonable excuse that the child is receiving suitable elementary education in some manner other than by attending a national school, a suitable school or a recognised school, could have been challenged by any Civic Guard or any school attendance officer in the county boroughs who wished to bring the matter before the local committees. If these committees wished they could have under the existing law gone ahead and prosecuted the parents. That is the law at present, but in actual fact neither the committees nor the Guards prosecute in cases where absence from school is first brought under their notice. In the case of committees in Dublin, the parents are warned and are asked to come before the committee. They are asked by the committees, which consist of teachers and clergymen of the different denominations, to carry out their duties. Generally the whole matter is examined and no prosecution takes place until the committee is satisfied that the case is quite a chronic one.
I suggest that from the point of view of administration, where there are children who are not attending any school or who are not receiving any education so far as the enforcing authority knows, that is a matter which should be cleared up and dealt with. The manner adopted in this measure is, I suggest, quite reasonable. Under the existing law any enforcing authority can bring the parents who have been referred to, and whose rights Senators wish to safeguard, before the court. The position would be then that the District Justice would be the authority to determine whether the child was getting the minimum education that the Constitution lays down, moral, intellectual and social. I suggest that he is not the proper authority for dealing with that and that he would not care to have the responsibility imposed upon him of determining that question, that, if there is any authority to be set up to carry out the duty laid down in the Constitution, the Minister is obviously the person. If Senators think that the present method by which the decision rests with the district justice is satisfactory, will they consider that apart from the fact that he has no machinery at his disposal to determine the question, he may take an entirely prejudiced view? If for example he were an enthusiast about the Irish language, he might decide that the child was not receiving a suitable education because the child did not know Irish, which is just as likely an eventuality as that the justice will declare that the question of Irish did not matter and that he is satisfied that Irish should not enter into the question of whether a suitable education is being provided. That is the position I am trying to set right. I think the present measure can fairly be described as an extension or an amendment of the existing Act to meet the defects and difficulties that have become apparent.
Before the Minister leaves that point would he say if, in the case of a child being educated abroad, the enforcing authority has got a discretion as to whether it will go forward in the matter or not?
It has that discretion. The enforcing authority is entirely free, though I am giving them powers to prosecute, to deal with cases where I think there is too much delay. In the ordinary type of chronic case, as I have said, where a child has been attending a school and is absent for long periods, I am trying to get the committees to act more speedily and to prosecute these parents. I think that too much time should not be wasted—if I may use the term wasted —in giving advice to parents and in trying to get them to see the light in this matter, and that after they get notice the committee should have power, if they wish, to prosecute. They have a discretion, of course, and could proceed all the time, as I have said, under the existing law in the cases in which Senators are interested, if they so wish. The difference is that the district justice would be the determining authority, unless it was decided to appeal a case, and I did not appeal a case, nor recommend that it should be appealed, in which the decision seemed to go against the Government policy in this matter.
I have only to say again, with respect to Senator Douglas's difficulty, that he cannot get over that difficulty; that in the long run the implementation of legislation of this kind must depend on the policy of the Minister for the time being entrusted with it. He cannot get over that. Every measure passed, I presume, depends on the policy of the Government of the time. We have no means of knowing what the extent of this problem is. There is no machinery by which the existence of children, unless they attend a school in the ordinary way which comes under the notice of the enforcing authority, can be brought under notice at the present time, and the main object of Section 4 is to remedy that situation.
Senator Sir John Keane must understand that Senator O'Connell's proposal to omit Section 4, when it was originally put up to me, depended on my altering my attitude, which I have explained to the House, with regard to private schools. I am leaving private schools in exactly the same position in which they were. They may or may not apply for a certificate, but I am assuming powers regarding the inspection of schools, and I am also assuming powers to see that the children, as individual children, get the minimum education. That does not mean that I have to certify an individual child, as Senator O'Connell thinks. If the parent communicates either with me or with the headmaster or conductor of a school, if the child should be attending a school, then if the school is inspected, even though no certificate be granted to the school or no certificate asked for, the Minister can give a certificate that the particular child or children in that school, the whole of them or a number of them, are in his opinion receiving suitable education.
Senator Douglas raised a point about the word "appropriate". I suggest to him that the word "appropriate" refers entirely to the age of the child and its capacity and does not refer to any religious differentiation which, as I explained yesterday, is safeguarded by the Constitution and by the general code. The word "appropriate" refers to the age and capacity of the child. If the children were attending a preparatory school for small children, for example, of up to seven or eight years of age, the Minister might very rightly consider that children who had been going to school since they were six years of age, but who had attained the age of 11 or 12 years, were not being suitably educated there.
I think these are the main points. I do not wish to go into the points that Senator Tierney has mentioned with regard to the sanitation of schools, bureaucracy, the inspection system and so on. I think it was rather naive of the Senator, as Senator Magennis pointed out, to tell us that there was disturbance and anxiety outside about this measure when the Senator and others who have spoken upon it are responsible for whatever anxiety of that kind there may be. It is not, I think, anxiety that has arisen from an examination of the measure or from an understanding of it, but from things said and headlines that were supplied by statements made in the House in criticism of it.
I am afraid the Minister and a number of other people do not seem to have any grasp of the functions of a member of this House, or indeed a member of any other House. In my objection to this particular section, I do not claim to represent any interest. I am not speaking on behalf of anybody, and the Minister, I think, misunderstands the whole position of the Houses of Parliament when he thinks that one does wrong in this House by stating one's honest opinion about the meaning of a section, thus creating anxiety. One of the duties of a member of this House, it seems to me, is to give his honest opinion as to what a section of a Bill means or what a Bill means, or what its effect will be on citizens generally or upon a particular class of citizens, and if an honest opinion creates anxiety one is doing good work. It is an excellent thing to create anxiety in the public mind with regard to legislation which is being passed in the Parliament. I say that without any regard to what particular government is in power. One of the functions, particularly of a member of this House, is to examine a measure and, if he thinks fit, to create anxiety about a particular provision in it.
The Minister began by pointing out that there is no change of any substantial character in what he is proposing in Section 4 from the provision in the Principal Act already in operation. An example he gave shows one very important distinction. Under Section 20 of the Principal Act, every person required so to do by the enforcing authority had to give a list of his children attending school. It is one thing, when the enforcing authority comes to you to compel you to answer their query, it is another in Section 4 (5) of this Bill under which, without being asked, you are to supply the enforcing authority with certain information under a penalty of a fine not exceeding £5. The Minister must see that these are two different things. There must be a very important difference between the Principal Act and this section, considering that the author of the Principal Act found the Minister so vexatious and so unsatisfactory, and the whole debate on this Section 4 so unsatisfactory, that he walked out of the other House apparently in anger. There must be some difference and, for myself. I am inclined to agree with the ex-Minister for Education and to find that there is a very substantial difference. I do not want to discuss the Constitution or to discuss whether a district justice or the Minister is the more likely to be prejudiced. Obviously a district justice could have a bee in his bonnet. So may a Minister, of course, have a bee in his bonnet.
So may an ex-Minister.
So may an ex-Minister, and so may a potential Minister like Senator O'Donovan, God between us and all harm. They might all have bees in their bonnets. The Minister protests against the notion that the district justice is better than an official. But the whole modern tendency of legislation is to have decisions made behind closed doors and take them out of the purview of the court. That is one of my objections to this particular section. The Minister also, I think, was quite wrong when he said that any Act depends on the policy of the Minister directing it. It does not. The Minister can only act within the powers given to him. He may strain these powers but, even assuming that the present Minister is going to exercise these powers quite harmlessly, if the powers are such as ought not to be given to a Minister, then the House ought not to give them. Therefore, Sir, I want to make it clear that, while we are rather weary of this debate, the powers given in this section are clearly new. They do constitute new breach in the rights of the parent. They do bring in a new principle in the examination of the child, a principle which Senator O'Connell has declared to be very difficult of application and which I think, with very considerable knowledge of examinations, is an impracticable provision. I do not believe the Minister is going to be able to work this scheme of examining the particular child. Other people have pointed out, and it is quite clear, that it is much better to examine the teacher or to examine the whole class or to examine the school than to examine one particular child. I do not think it is a good scheme. As a matter of fact, it may prove to be a very deceptive scheme and quite unworkable.
The section arises from the desire to make everything regular and, as the Minister himself has admitted, to stop every loophole. My objection to it is that it is an increase in a tendency, which is universal, to give more and more power to the State both against every class of citizens, in this case parents, and against the courts. Perhaps one may be a voice crying in the wilderness but for my part I would like to protest against every single extension of that kind of thing, even when there is a demand for it, in this country. It is an increase of the power of the State as against the courts and I prefer the courts. I do not want to enter into the arguments about the Constitution and about the rights of parents. I think it is quite clear that parents have more right than the State in this matter and that the rights are being taken from them but, apart altogether from that, there have been arguments made that if certain people want to educate their children at home they should not be allowed to educate their children at home without being made to submit their children to examination by the Minister's officials. I think they should be allowed to do it and I think that it is no privilege for them to allow them to do it.
In practice, as far as we are concerned in this country with regard to our national policy in education and the maintenance and strengthening of what remains to us of our national culture, no harm whatever is going to be done by allowing a small number of children to escape from our ordinary schools and to be educated either outside the country or privately at home. I have sufficient confidence in the strength of our national ideals and the strength of our own people's urge to get this thing done right, to let these other people escape. I know that you can describe it as a privilege but even though you can describe it as a privilege I do not object to their getting it. I rather think in the end the diversity will make for the national good rather than for national harm. In our endeavours towards nationalism we rely too much upon prohibitions and objections rather than upon positive work. If we need this particular section in order to ensure that certain national work will be done in the country, then our whole national movement must be of a very weak character and we might as well give it up.
Finally, what is in the section is important, not what the Minister proposes to do. I think the section is inequitable. I think it is unworkable and I think it is unnational, contrary to the whole national spirit of this country as properly understood and I think, for that reason, we ought to take this section out of the Bill.
- Butler, John.
- Campbell, Seán P.
- Conlon, Martin.
- Counihan, John J.
- Crosbie, James.
- Cummins, William.
- Douglas, James G.
- Doyle, Patrick.
- Fitzgerald, Desmond.
- Hayes, Michael.
- Hogan, Patrick.
- Keane, Sir John.
- Lynch, Eamonn.
- McGee, James T.
- McGillycuddy of the Reeks, The.
- O'Connell, Thomas J.
- Rowlette, Robert J.
- Tierney, Michael.
- Blaney, Neal.
- Brennan, Joseph.
- Byrne, Christopher M.
- Concannon, Helena.
- Farnan, Robert P.
- Goulding, Seán.
- Hawkins, Frederick.
- Hayes, Seán.
- Healy, Denis D.
- Honan, Thomas V.
- Johnston, James.
- Kennedy, Margaret L.
- Lynch, Peter T.
- Magennis, William.
- O Buachalla, Liam.
- O Callaghan, William.
- O'Donovan, Seán.
- O Máille, Pádraic.
- O'Neill, Laurence.
- Nic Phiarais, Maighréad M.
- Quirke, William.
- Ruane, Thomas.
- Stafford, Matthew.
This is an amendment to meet wishes expressed in the Seanad to the effect that perhaps the position of children in rural areas who might be needed for actual employment at certain times of the year might be allowed for. The amendment will permit children over 12 years to be employed on light agricultural work, suitable to their age and physical condition provided that "such employment takes places only on a day on which the school at which the child is attending is not in operation". I do not think that we can go further than that. The point, I think, that was stressed was the need for getting additional labour for the very important agricultural work that is going on at present. I explained that I thought arrangements could be made, if necessary, to close schools for a longer period under the Emergency Powers Act to deal with that situation. Nevertheless, in view of the strong representations that were made, I had this amendment drafted. I hope it will meet the views of Senators who are particularly interested in this.
I think that the Minister, by introducing this amendment, has met the House very fairly, and I am sure Senator McGee will agree that it represents a great improvement in the Bill. This amendment proves again that Ministers are responsive to the views expressed here. I am sure the House will agree that this amendment meets the views of the Senators who spoke on the matter.
I am obliged to the Minister for meeting our views to the extent represented by the amendment. I intend to speak later on the Fifth Stage of the Bill. The great work during the present emergency is to provide food for the people. So far as the agricultural community is concerned, that work will have to go on after the emergency has passed. All reasonable Christians in our rural parts must be exceedingly anxious to have the children of our farmers and labourers educated in accordance with the views expressed in the course of the debates on this Bill, that everything possible should be done to inculcate in them a love for the land, and give them experience on it from their earliest days. I would regret very much if anything were done to prevent the children of our labourers from receiving from the people who employ them the same training that farmers' children receive on their own farms and in their own homes. We will always, I suppose, have workers. The Minister is to be congratulated in meeting in this amendment some of the objections that I had to the section as it stood. Whatever facilities are given to farmers' children should also be given to children of labourers. I shall reserve anything further that I have to say for the Fifth Stage of the Bill.
I regard the introduction of this amendment as a retrograde step since it opens the way for any section of the community to exploit a child of twelve years of age. What is being proposed can of course, only be done on non-school days. Senator McGee has told the House that by introducing a child to the hard grind at twelve years of age we were developing in the child a love for agriculture. I submit that this is the way to develop in him an antagonism to agriculture. The Minister was very unwise in giving way so as to allow children to be employed. Senator McGee made an ad misericordiam appeal for employment of the labourer's child. We submit that the labourer ought to have a wage adequate for the maintenance of his child without allowing the child to go out and be exploited by any employer, whether farmer or industrialist. It is unfortunate that this concession has been given and we want to emphasise our opposition to any retrograde step in connection with the employment of children. I am not sure that this concession will not induce industrial employers to seek the same privilege on exactly the same grounds as Senator McGee has put forward—the shortage of food. I do not know that anyone wants to eat food produced by the labour of children of 12 years of age. We are exporting capable, able-bodied men because we cannot give them employment and, while doing that, we are to open a door for the employment of children.
Will that redound to the credit of this country—export the fathers and employ their children? The bulk of the people going to England now are agricultural labourers, driven out of the country by inadequate wages and with the inducement of better wages and conditions across the Channel. Having got rid of these men, we are now going to make it possible to employ a child of 12 years on non-school days or during non-school periods. The child is to be ground under the national school system on all the days the school is open and, when he ought to be enjoying a little leisure, freedom and recreation, to which he is entitled in his young life, he is to be made the chattel of some avaricious farmer who, in other circumstances, might have employed his father. These are my views on this amendment, and I suggest that the Minister has made a mistake in giving way on this question. Great play was made on another stage of the Bill about the freedom of certain classes of the community. I hope that these people will use their eloquence, if not their verbosity, on behalf of the freedom of the labourer's child. I submit that this is a definite encroachment on freedom—the freedom of the individual least able to defend himself in the community—the child of 12 years of age.
In reply to Senator Foran, I have only to say that the Geneva conventions governing the conditions of employment in industry, so far as they are concerned with the employment of children, seem to have been framed with the view that it was not necessarily to the disadvantage of the child to be employed at certain seasons of the year in work of this nature—haymaking, picking potatoes, thinning beet and fruit picking, to mention the employments which were referred to when the Seanad discussed this question. I think that we are not going out of step with advanced opinion in regard to what is right and proper in this connection. Many people would hold that, in addition to giving a child a knowledge of an important industry and of rural economy, work of this kind would be advantageous in giving an understanding of agricultural processes and might be beneficial to the child's health and well-being. That is, of course, provided it is not overdone. As I have said, it is not being done with the intention that the child should perform manual labour that would be appropriate only to adults.
Mr. Foran rose.
Only one speech is allowed on this stage, and the Senator has already spoken.
I think the amendment is carried.
Will those Senators who desire a Division please rise in their places.
I thought the rule was that the House should first be summoned?
I am not aware of such a rule.
- Blaney, Neal.
- Brennan, Joseph.
- Byrne, Christopher M.
- Concannon, Helena.
- Fitzgerald, Desmond.
- Goulding, Seán.
- Hawkins, Frederick.
- Hayes, Michael.
- Honan, Thomas V.
- Johnston, James.
- Keane, Sir John.
- Lynch, Peter T.
- McGee, James T.
- Magennis, William.
- O Buachalla, Liam.
- O'Donovan, Seán.
- O Máille, Pádraic.
- O'Neill, Laurence.
- Nic Phiarais, Maighréad M.
- Quirke, William.
- Ruane, Thomas.
- Stafford, Matthew.
- Tierney, Michael.
- Barniville, Henry L.
- Butler, John.
- Cummins, William.
- Foran, Thomas.
- Hogan, Patrick.
- Lynch, Eamonn.
- O'Connell, Thomas J.
- Tunney, James.
This is an amendment to meet representations made by Senator Mrs. Concannon extending the definition of relative so as to cover the case of a guardian, an uncle or an aunt.
I move amendment No. 9:—
In page 7, Section 15, after sub-section (1) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
(2) For the purpose of exercising his powers under the preceding sub-section a school attendance officer shall call at regular intervals to a school where the school is situate more than one statute mile from the nearest Gárda Síochána station, and shall there be supplied from the rolls with particulars of absences."
I am afraid I drafted this amendment rather hurriedly and, with your permission and the permission of the House, I wish to make some small changes, so as to make the amendment read:—
For the purpose of exercising his powers under the preceding sub-section, a school attendance officer shall call at regular intervals—say, twice monthly, at least—to all schools in his area and shall there be supplied from the rolls with particulars of absences, and shall then, as soon as practicable, verify the real cause of absence.
Is the Seanad agreeable to allow the change?
That is, to consider the amendment in the amended form?
This amendment may seem very mundance, after the learned discussion on previous amendments, but it really has something to do with school attendance, which is the main point. As the regulations stand at present, the system is that the school teachers supply the Gárdaí in the area with a list of absences once a week, and it may be another week before the Gárdaí or enforcing authority take any action. The purpose of this amendment is to provide that the matter will be dealt with more expeditiously. It is the idea of teachers of great experience that the only hope the Bill has of increasing the attendance is by the Gárdaí or enforcing authority calling at the schools—say, in the morning, at roll-call—and taking a list of all absences. Although I have said, "as soon as practicable", my idea is that, in small urban areas, the enforcing authority would immediately visit the parents of absent children, so as to discover immediately the real cause of absence.
As matters stand, it would be a week or a fortnight before the case would be investigated, and by that time several plausible excuses could be given. If the method suggested in this amendment were adopted, the enforcing authority would know immediately the real cause of absence. In a great many instances—to my personal knowledge, as well as to the knowledge of teachers with whom I have been in contact—he would find that, instead of the boys or girls being sick or their parents being sick, the boys may have been roaming about the streets, doing mischief instead of being at school. That could be prevented, to a great extent, by immediate action on the part of the enforcing authority.
I have here some figures regarding an urban school with a daily roll of 225, where the attendance was 171 and the average number of absences every day was 54, or approximately 24 per cent. The senior teacher in that school, who is a very experienced man, is of opinion that, if the method I suggest were adopted, the 24 per cent. might be reduced to 10 per cent. The same would apply in country areas. I do not suggest, in the case of a country school where the Gárda would call in the morning, that he should visit all the houses in the area on that particular day, but that he should do so as soon as possible and that he should visit as many as he can on that particular day. I am told it would have a great moral effect on the children as well as on the parents. They would not know which day he would call and the children would be sent to school every day. Further, if he were not able to call on all the parents, he would call on some of them and as no one would know which he would choose, they would all be on thequi vive.
I think this matter was adverted to in some way by Senator O'Connell on the Second Reading, and there are other members of the Seanad who have had good experience of the teaching profession whose views I would like to have on this question. I know that the teachers with whom I have been in contact—all very experienced, sensible men—thought that this was the only way by which they might get the highest percentage on the rolls to attend school regularly.
I wish to support the amendment. The Seanad should have little difficulty in accepting it. I have had many years' experience in a pretty large school. The teacher's task is to supply names of the absentees during the week. This is a very big task which takes three-quarters of an hour of the teacher's time, if one person has to do it. Only a small percentage of the children in the average school make a full attendance on five days of the week. The teacher has to enter the name of everyone who was absent at all during the week and for whom he has no excuse. The schools are few and far between and, as a result, in a school of 100 or 200, more than one-third of the names have to be furnished to the Gardaí every week.
He hears no more about that, perhaps, whatever the operations of the Gárda are afterwards, for at least a fortnight, and I think that in these days of scarcity that is a great waste of paper. On the other hand, he is furnishing lists of pupils who are normally regular just because some are one day absent. It then passes from him and he hears little more about it. I have experience of two types of school attendance officers, the one appointed by the local attendance committee, and the Gárda. I found the former worked very well where a proper man was selected, but there were cases where the proper man was not selected. I heard of one case where the local publican was selected as a school attendance officer, and it is time that that sort of thing were stopped. In the majority of cases when the school attendance officer went to the house where the child resided he found that the child was kept away for some insufficient reason or for no reason at all. The moral effect on the parents and on the children themselves would be very considerable. It would be practicable in towns of any size, but in the small towns and villages it would not be very much use because the school-going population would be a very small section of the public. In towns of over 3,000, however, it would be very practicable. I would say it would be difficult, if not impossible, in the country districts, but if it remedied the state of affairs at present existing in the towns the time would be well spent by the Gárda. It would impose additional work on the Guards, but this should be provided for, and I do not know any work of greater importance than taking those children into school instead of letting them spend their days on the streets.
The towns are the greatest cause of complaint. It is true that children do help on the land, though on principle we are against child labour of any kind, but we still admit that they are not kept without cause in the rural areas. I think also the Gárda in charge should be free from other duties. One of the complaints that one constantly meets with is that the Gárdaí were not given sufficient time for this duty, and that it was piled on them. They were remitted a certain amount of duty, but in my experience the remission of other duty was not sufficient to compensate for the time and labour spent. I think there should be no difficulty in the House accepting this and I think it would be helpful in securing a better standard.
I do not know how far this amendment of Senator Honan is practicable, but there is no doubt about it, if it were practicable and were embodied in the Act, it would make the administration of the Act very much more effective than in the past. I mentioned here on the Second Reading that during the first year's operation of the 1926 Act it was the custom to allocate one member of the Gárda in every Gárda Station area to this work. That was his particular job. He had the responsibility for seeing that the Act was efficiently operated in his area, and it was the practice to do then what Senator Honan suggested should be done. This particular Guard called at the schools in his area perhaps once or twice a week, and inquired about the children who were absent. He then went to the houses, and if the child who had been absent happened to be in school, he was called up, asked for an explanation and generally given a talking to, with a warning that it must not continue. If there was any slackness in the administration of the Act in a particular area, one could at once put his finger on the particular officer responsible. Then, because of economy reasons, and because under legislation, more and more work was put on the Guards, and there was a reduction in the strength of the Guards in the local areas, rural stations, this work was not allocated to a particular Guard any longer, and what was anybody's business was nobody's business, and you could not put your finger on any particular Guard responsible for any slackness. A certain amount of slackness did undoubtedly grow up, and there is very definite evidence of that. Otherwise, perhaps this Bill would not be necessary at all, because it deals in the main with those absentees who should be at school if even the Principal Act were effectively administered.
I strongly support the principle of Senator Honan's amendment if it could be made operative. I have some doubts about it, especially in view of what the Minister said. I suggested that a member of the Gárdaí should be given the powers now given in this Bill to the school attendance officers in boroughs, but the Minister raised the objection which I thought was not very sound—that it would not be right that the Guards should have power to question a child found straying about the streets. It is a rather peculiar situation that a Guard could not have the same power as a school attendance officer.
Arising out of what Senator Cummins said, in case there should be any misconception on this point, I would like to say that it was the duty of the teachers under the Act to provide a weekly return and they do not wish in any way to avoid that duty. I should like to say, too, that I think when the Minister circulates a memorandum to the enforcing authorities and possibly the public, informing them about this Act, he should make it plain that that is the only duty the teachers have in connection with the administration of the Act, because it is very often suggested in some areas when a prosecution is brought, that it is brought because the teacher wanted it, and that the teacher is responsible for bringing it against the parent. You know the effect that may have on the relations between the teacher and the parent and child. It should be perfectly clear that the teacher is not responsible for bringing a prosecution against defaulting parents. The teachers regard it as a duty to provide these returns, and there has been no objection on their part to doing it, but there their duty ends in connection with the administration of the Act.
I have known cases where pupils have been transferred to another school because their parents happened to be prosecuted for their non-attendance, and the blame was left on the teacher. He is bound to make those returns. I should like to see Senator Honan's amendment given effect to, but I do not know how far it can be included in the Act.
I think I explained to Senator O'Connell that the Gárda authorities would prefer that the Gárdaí should not be regarded as bogey men in this matter. It is always a nice question just how far one should go in having uniformed Gárdaí approaching children at all. I think Senators may not realise that we are tightening up matters in connection with the side of this question in which Senator Honan is particularly interested. In Section 16 (1), for example, we are making the parent liable for the first time to a penalty if he fails to notify to the teacher, within the time laid down, the cause of absence of his child from school. Under Section 15 we are giving the school attendance officers power to inspect the roll at all reasonable times, and to obtain such other information as they may reasonably require in the discharge of their duties.
I think we may assume that, when they have this power, the school attendance officers will utilise it to the fullest degree, and will secure all the information they require at times that will be suitable to the schools and to the teachers as well as to the officers themselves. Having regard to those considerations, I do not know that Senator Honan's amendment, making it mandatory on the Gárdaí to attend at the school at certain times, is really necessary. It might be awkward and embarrassing from the point of view of the teacher, for example, if he had not a small room available for the Gárda, and he came in and proceeded to sit down at the teacher's desk to take notes from the roll book. I think it is really not necessary to impose this condition upon them when it is their clear duty to call at reasonable times and when the law empowers them to do so.
Might I ask the Minister whether that applies to the Gárda? Is it their duty to call to the school at any time? I doubt it. Some of them do, undoubtedly, but I doubt it there is any such duty laid on them by the Bill. I do not think there is.
Under Section 15 they may do it.
The commissioner will issue instructions, I presume, if he considers it necessary. If this Bill becomes law, he may call the attention of the Gárdaí to the fact that they have this power under Section 15. I think it would be a matter for consideration whether he should specifically order them to call to the school at certain times.
It is not a duty laid on the Gárda.
Of course, under Section 9, the Gárdaí are the enforcing authority.
Outside the boroughs.
There is no obligation on any member of the Gárda Síochána, as the enforcing authority, to attend at the schools. He may confine himself entirely to acting on the return given every week?
That is so.
I am inclined to agree with the Minister that the powers possessed by the Guards, as the enforcing authority outside the county boroughs, together with the power given in Section 15 of this Bill when it becomes an Act, are sufficient. In the small country schools particularly, it may be embarrassing, as the Minister said, to have a uniformed Guard calling at a particular moment. It might lead to a certain amount of friction, and it might also lead to the children taking a particular view of the Guards if we have the assembled school seeing a Guard in uniform coming in for this particular purpose. I would be much more inclined to have the Guards in contact with the children for other purposes, such as helping them in the traffic when they are coming out of the schools. All that Senator Honan wants can be done by the Guards, if the Guards are willing, and we must assume that, when the Bill becomes an Act, the Guards will take the proper steps. All the amendment would do is to make it mandatory that the Guard would visit the school, and, if he can get the job done by meeting the teacher after school hours or by acting on the teacher's return, that seems to be sufficient. The added power that Senator Honan wants to give might prove unsuitable in particular cases, and might lead to certain difficulties. I think the powers given by this Bill will probably prove just as effective as the provision which Senator Honan suggests, although I recognise that he suggests it from what one might call a worthy motive.
Of course, if the Minister thinks he has a better way than the one I have suggested, I do not wish to press the amendment. I know that there are ample opportunities given to the Gárda to prosecute in the case of absentees, but the point I make is that we could prevent the necessity for prosecution by adopting this system. If this system were adopted we would not have the same number of absentees at all. The trouble is that the enforcing authority, the Gárdaí get information with regard to absences some time after the absences have occurred, and they have then no opportunity of discovering whether or not the excuses given were correct. If they occasionally called on the school, got a list of the absences, and made immediate visits to the houses of the children, they would then be able to judge very much better whether the various excuses about illness and so on had any truth in them. They would be in a very much better position to judge what are the real causes of the absences. I hope the Minister will consider this matter before the Final Stage.
The Bill cannot be amended on the Final Stage.
This is to insert before Section 22 a provision similar to that which we have in sub-section (3) of Section 4, where the Minister, if he thinks fit to revoke a certificate given by him under the section, shall not revoke it until he has informed the parent of the child to whom such certificate relates, and also, if such child is receiving education in a school, the manager or conductor of such school, of the ground on which he proposes to revoke such certificate, and has given such parent and, where appropriate, such manager or conductor a reasonable opportunity of meeting the requirements of the Minister for the purpose of removing the ground of revocation. This is to insert a similar provision before Section 22 to the effect that before the Minister either refuses a certificate to a school or revokes a certificate which has been already granted, he shall give the manager or the conductor of the school the same opportunity as he gives the parents in a preceding section to meet the requirements for the purpose of removing the ground of the refusal or revocation whatever it may be.
I spoke on an earlier stage of this Bill in regard to a matter that had a rather localised application in the area which I represent. Now that we have reached the Final Stage, I should like to say that viewing the measure from every angle, it is one that I deplore. After all the emergency powers that we have entrusted to our Ministry, I see no reason why it should be necessary to devote so much time to a measure that, I have every confidence, the people at some future stage will insist upon repealing. As I see it, this Bill simply perpetuates the idea of forcing upon rural areas a scheme that is wholly unsuited to them. It is an application to the agricultural community of professional ideas, ideas from which they are altogether divorced and expect still further to be divorced as the years go by. It seems to me that the whole idea is to round up the 65,000 pupils that are at present absenting themselves from school so as to provide employment for teachers and empty the training colleges which are over-crowded at the moment, whatever the results to the country. I think I may say that the cost to the country of each individual student has not been placed before any public authority. It would be interesting to know what the amount per head is for these students, remembering that we have so many schools and colleges, primary schools, vocational schools, universities and the greatest schools of all —those provided by agricultural and horticultural instructors.
I was informed here this evening that when Professor Sherrard visited a town not 30 miles from Dublin during the last fortnight, a town in which there were 200 plot-holders, it was with difficulty that 60 people were whipped in to listen to him. I submit that there should be some provision in a Bill of this kind which would co-ordinate the work of all these schools so as to save expense and probably give better results. The foundation of our system is too costly, and its results to my mind are futile. In many counties where you have these instructors fully trained in the practical life that all of us in the rural areas must lead, the chief instructor is himself the secretary of the county committee. To my mind something should be done in this Bill that would bring the names of these instructors before students in every county. It could be quite easily done. For one day a week it could be arranged that there would be a lecture from an agricultural instructor, on another day a lecture from a horticultural instructor while instruction could also be provided at other times during the week in butter-making, domestic economy, etc.
I should like to remind the Senator that this Bill deals only with primary education.
It is with primary education I am dealing. There would not be much use in bringing these men up to lecture university professors. I am afraid they are fully cognizant of that. I am dealing with primary schools and I think that, in the programme of these primary schools, room should be provided for instruction of the kind to which I have referred, if only for half an hour a week. In that way you would be doing something to bring advantage of such instruction before the people. You would have the students interested in the work and they would speak about it at home to their parents. The parents then would be only too pleased to attend lectures which are so expensively advertised but which so seldom draw large attendances.
We read a good deal about the flight from the land. I suppose economic conditions have something to do with that but I think there is very little sympathy or very little love amongst the pupils for the subjects that are being taught in the primary schools. They seldom exhibit any anxiety to go there; on the contrary their anxiety usually is to stay away. The result is that they are wasting their time in the schools to a large extent and as they develop in after life, they make every possible attempt to get away from their early environment.
Although they live on the land, they know nothing about it and according to what this Bill provides they must hear nothing about it until they reach the age of 14 years. The most formative years of their lives are to be divorced from agricultural pursuits. As to the issue which Senator Foran raised this evening, I am perfectly satisfied that if the Senator had given the fullest study to the amendment, he would have been the last to oppose it. It is all right for him to say: "Pay a wage" but even when you do pay a wage, there is still the general question of the future of agriculture in this country to be considered.
The question raised on the amendment has been disposed of already.
It has but it must not be overlooked that whilst we are depriving these children of the right to earn a wage, we are not creating conditions that will enable the average farmer or agricultural labourer to support his children. It is quite possible that a man may have eight or ten children in his family and if two or three of these children were permitted to earn whatever they could, even if the only work they could do was posting letters or picking fruit, it would be possible for them to bring in some money to the household that would contribute to the support of the remainder of the family.
It is not in order for the Senator to re-open that matter on this stage.
It is pretty evident that the Cathaoirleach and Senators are in a hurry, but I should like to mention that my views in regard to this Bill are being expressed practically for the first time, and I have spent quite a considerable time listening to the views of university professors. I am not speaking as a university professor, or for university professors. I would be very sorry if anything were done to deprive the agricultural community of the very great services rendered by some of the schools, whether they are controlled by professors, nuns or lay teachers. There is too great an anxiety to police the whole show. Freedom of outlook is being abandoned. We are surrounded by schools and colleges educating professors for foreign lands. They seem not to have sufficient occupations at home. There are many subjects which would make our children eager to attend schools. I suggest to the Government that they should have a different outlook. They must realise that we cannot alter the economic situation. We must remember there is a war on and that there are high wages, excellent terms, to be had in England, but these fine conditions may not always obtain. What is very important from our point of view is the welfare of the rural community.
I am sorry to have to interrupt the Senator again, but these points are quite irrelevant.
I know, but one has to bring them forward at some stage. They have not been ventilated sufficiently.
The Senator had opportunities on earlier stages to bring these points forward.
Some of us have been smothered and cold-shouldered up to the present, and we should now like to call attention to what many of us believe is a very great grievance. I have given in broad outline what I would be in a position to give in greater detail if I were allowed to do so. I sincerely hope that the Government will not delay too long in seeing that the services paid for by the county committees of agriculture and various other local authorities are brought home to the people and that some inducement is offered to them to attend what are to my mind much more important schools than any other educational institutions financed out of State funds.
Senator McGee seems to be under the impression that we are settling here the subjects which ought to be taught in the schools. He seems to forget that the purpose of this Bill is to bring the children into the schools. We cannot teach them anything until we get them into the schools. The purpose of the Bill is to bring the children in. I might be inclined to agree with him that what we do teach may not be, in some respects, most suitable, but that is a different matter. The children with whom we are dealing are under the age of 14 years and everybody must agree that for them the essential thing is that they be taught how to learn for themselves. If Senator McGee at some future date proposes a motion to advance the school leaving age to 16 years or 18 years, he will have my strong support. It is from 14 years to 16 years that these technical subjects are best dealt with. That is the proper time that they should enter into that educational sphere. I do not want to develop that point at the moment. The suggestion was put forward that the child goes to school for the benefit of the teacher. I would like to repudiate that suggestion. The teachers are there for the benefit of the children.
On the general question, despite the fact that the Minister did not accept some of the amendments I submitted— and we are all inclined to think that the amendments we proposed would bring about an improvement—I am prepared to give my hearty blessing to the Bill, because I think it is necessary to tighten up, as it were, the Principal Act. At the same time, I want to emphasise once more—I have done it already at various stages—that the fact that there are so many absentees —65,000 children absent daily from the schools—is not due entirely, or even to any great extent, to weaknesses in the original Act, but rather to the ineffective way in which it has been administered—and I say that very deliberately. I do not want to delay the House by quoting statistics, such as those I quoted on the Second Reading, but I may say that I have further statistics here which go to show that some children were absent for almost six months and there was no prosecution and, it would seem, no notice was taken of their absence. All that happened in the rural areas. I may inform Senator McGee that there is no doubt that the worst attendance records are in the rural, and not in the urban, areas.
There was one point mentioned by the Minister and by Senator Hayes to the effect that there is an objection to making the school attendance officer in the rural areas, who happens to be a member of the Gárda Síochána, a kind of bogey-man if he endeavours to enforce the Act. That is what it really amounts to. I should think that there is nothing wrong about persons enforcing the Act when it is their duty to do so. We would not describe a Guard as a bogey-man if he holds us up for cycling at night without a light, or if he finds our cattle trespassing on the roads. The law is that the child must be at school unless there is a very sound reason why that cannot be. If the child does not attend school without having a good reason for remaining away, there is a definite breach of the law, and it is the Guards' duty to enforce the law. The Minister's suggestion is that the Guard does not like to be a bogey-man. One might be of the opinion that if he were more often a bogey-man the law would be more effectively obeyed. That is what the Guards are there for, to see that the laws are properly enforced. Senator Hayes thought that it would not be right for a uniformed man to go into the schools or into the children's homes to make enquiries.
I did not say anything about the homes.
Well, into the schools, or even to question the children in the streets. Perhaps we were wrong in putting this duty on the Guards originally. As I stated on the Second Reading, I often wondered if some other course might not be more effective. I do not think it is right that we should encourage the idea that those charged with the enforcement of the law should not be too anxious to do so lest they should incur a certain amount of unpopularity. It is well known that anyone who enforces the law will be unpopular with the law breaker. If we break the law, and someone charges us with doing so, we do not like it. I did not like the Minister's suggestion that a Guard would be considered a bogey-man if he were to carry out his duty.
I hope the debate we have had on this measure will, at any rate, have the effect of awakening the country to a realisation of the importance to the children of getting the best possible education. The amount of time available to the child is limited, and if the child's parents do not see to it that his attendance at school is regular and that he continues at school right through the whole of the school period, that child, I submit, instead of being an asset to the country afterwards, is possibly in danger of becoming a liability. We can all congratulate ourselves, both representatives of the people and the people themselves, when we are able to know that the attendance of our children is as good as the attendance of children in other countries, perhaps not so well situated from the point of view of climate, material comfort or the interest in education which our people are traditionally supposed to have. I do not think we should be second to any other nation in that respect. We should be in the proud position of first place.
Much can be done with goodwill, and I certainly have no sympathy with the idea that the Gárdaí should regard themselves, or should be used, as bogey-men in the enforcement of the law. As I said during the debate, the Gárdaí, being our own, understand our people very well and are more likely to take the line of giving parents good advice rather than the line of taking action which would not be merited by prosecuting them without good reason. I think I might reasonably ask all those who are concerned with the enforcement of the law to do their utmost to give the new measure a trial, and endeavour to bring our attendance figures up to the highest possible level. The Gárdaí need not be regarded as bogey-men, as Senator O'Connell has pointed out. Parents as well as teachers should regard them as an essential part of the machinery, should regard them as parents, as they often are, who understand the difficulties of parents in keeping their children clothed, shod, in good health and able to go to school.
I am sure the Gárdaí understand that thoroughly, but I would ask them to take that type of interest in the children that our social workers here in Dublin take and to regard them as the country's greatest asset for the future and that they should not look on themselves as Gárdaí superintending them but should ask themselves, if they were inloco parentis, what would be the best thing to do for the child. Let them act on this basis: “If I were responsible for, or the guardian of, this child, what would I do? I would certainly see that I kept him at school in the same way as I keep my own children at school.” If the Gárdaí approached the problem in that spirit and if they have the co-operation of the people, we should have good results from this measure.
I do not think that Senator McGee's remarks call for any comment from me, except that I say that the very large number of boys and girls from farmers' houses who are at present swelling the numbers in our secondary schools would seem to show that the farmers have a very lively realisation of the benefits of higher education. I only hope we are not going too far in that direction, and that we shall be able to get positions for all these young women and men later on—not on the land apparently, where one might expect their parents would like to see some of them return, but does the Senator not think that in the future our agriculturists are going to have a severe struggle to maintain their position and their economy? Surely he will realise that if they are to be in a position to meet foreign competition and to bring their industry at home up to a high standard of efficiency, they are not likely to achieve the results which we would all like to see achieved if they do not give their children every possible opportunity of getting not only a full primary education but a sound post-primary course.
I wish to inform the House that the Intoxicating Liquor Bill will not be taken until next Thursday. The House will meet on Wednesday for the other business on the Order Paper.
The Seanad adjourned at 9 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 10th February.