I would not go so far as Deputy Carney goes and say that Deputy Jasper Wolfe is hypocritical in his present attitude, and I am sure that even Deputy Carney would not really go that far himself, but I suggest that Deputy Jaspar Wolfe is muddled in the matter. We are perfectly satisfied to agree that it would be a very great sign of Deputy Wolfe's moral courage if he voted against this Bill. But I suggest to him, as to others who may vote with him, that their remarks, being a sign of their moral courage which we must admire on their part, are also a sign that they know nothing of the spirit of this nation or the spirit of the people, know nothing of these things that, meeting the youth of the nation in their young and impressionable years, are going to strengthen them in their sense of nationality and strengthen them for the work that is to fall as their responsibility in building up this nation, that they are blind to what has been the outstanding cementing and invigorating force to the people in their trials of the last few years. It is also perhaps a sign that they do not understand what is in the Bill. Let me state my particular attitude and the attitude in their general policy of the Government. Their policy is that national self-respect and national dignity, and in the end national efficiency, demands that we shall be true to the bonds that were enshrined in our Constitution, that Irish is our national language, and that we are going to make it as effective as the English language, if it were the official language of this country. We know the straits in which our national language was left when we got into a position of being able to deal with the matter of arresting its decay and securing its future.
The Report of the Gaeltacht Commission shows that there are, in spite of what Deputy Jasper Wolfe may say, certain districts where the Irish language happily exists as a spoken language. The Report shows the educational position, the position as it is affected there by administration, and the position as it is affected by economic conditions. I do not want to minimise the importance of the economic conditions in the West in securing that that language, which is the living, spoken language of the people there, is going to be kept there and is going to be the language of their children, retained in those districts and carried into other parts of the country. There is this about the economic conditions there at present, that it is in those districts where the economic conditions are poor and the effects of education and of administration under a foreign government were not able to penetrate that we still happily have the language retained. But the thing that has most affected, in my opinion, the future of the language in the Irish-speaking districts, is the fact that the people in those districts see English as the language of education, of administration and of the professions.
Deputy Byrne asked us to look at Wales. Why the language is so strong in Wales, I suggest to him, if he would carry out some of his researches there, is that the professions in Wales have not turned their backs on the language in the way in which, for reasons which are very special in this country, the professions here have turned their backs on the language. We are not, in my opinion, going to save the language to the Irish-speaking people in the West to-day, and therefore, to the rest of the country, and going to save that organic nucleus from which the language must grow and spread back over the country, if we do not show to the people in the Irish-speaking districts that the language is going to be restored to its proper position of prestige among every rank and class in the country.
I say one of the reasons why people may vote against this Bill is that they do not understand what is in it. It has been pointed out that the educational policy of this House from one side to the other is to have Irish compulsory in the primary schools. We gradually intend to restore Irish in the primary schools to an equal level at-least with English, and also to do that in the secondary schools. As part of the initial steps of that particular policy, from this year 1928 students going up for the intermediate certificate in secondary schools must take Irish as a subject, so that students who are not 16 years of age on the 1st January, 1928, have had, if they passed through the intermediate certificate examination this year, to pass in Irish, and must have been studying Irish for a couple of years. Secondary education is State-aided to a certain extent. We, looking on our professions here, must take it as a general matter that their professional education as such will be grafted upon the system of the secondary education provided in this country, and that the people who are going to be lawyers, doctors and engineers will graft their professional studies as a general rule on the secondary education provided here. There are others going forward who consider that the Arts course in the university should be the particular branch of the stock on which they would graft their professional education. The point to be considered is that people coming under this particular Bill and going forward for the legal or other professions are people who this year, and for some two years past, must have been studying the Irish language. This is to ensure that they will not put the Irish language where the information about the gardener's daughter has been put, but that the legal profession in ten or fifteen years, or whatever the number of years be, will be a profession which cannot be said to have turned its back on the national language. We cannot safely exist in a country in which any particular section of the people, particularly any one of the professions, is going as a body to turn their back on what is so important in the national life as the national language.
Perhaps Deputy Conlon may have been quite wrong in that he did not consult the Incorporated Law Society in connection with the matter, but at any rate it is a happy thing that he has acted as he has done, and that he has taken one particular profession in this way and put it in proper perspective. Let us deal with the question on the educational basis on which the profession is going to be raised. Then we can see what is going to be the attitude of that profession in its subsequent educational policy towards the national language. It may be that the Deputy selected lawyers and solicitors because they work a good deal with the tongue. I think it has been very useful to have the matter brought out into perspective in this particular way. We cannot afford, for the sake of any profession that we have in this country, that it should be allowed to turn its back on the national language. For the sake of the nation, we cannot afford to have in it any profession that would turn its back on the national language. In the same way, if we think only of those districts where the Irish language is still spoken and that we want to retain the Irish language there so that the link which the language gives with the past shall not be broken—if we think only of that alone —we will have to take very definite steps to see that the language is not going to be decried or despised by any section in the community. A comparison has been made between members of this House who can speak the Irish language and with the professions. We are not making any comparison, and therefore it does not arise. Many members of this House have, with great trouble to themselves, learned something of the language. One of their humiliations is that no matter how hard they work at it, because of the fact that their study of the language began late in life, they do not find themselves in a self-respecting position as speakers of the language amongst the Irish-speaking population to be held up as representative good Irishmen.
What we want to secure is that the young people in the schools to-day will not in later years find themselves in that humiliating position. What we are laying down now is going to be no hardship on anyone, even though a certain minority or a majority of any one of the professions want to turn their backs on the language. They will not be allowed to do that. I do not think it ought to be taken in any way that the legal profession are against the language, or even that those members of the legal profession who have spoken here against the Bill have spoken really on its merits. When speaking they were simply re-acting to a lot of nonsense very often talked about the Irish language, and talked by people who claim to speak for the Irish language and everything that is associated with it. We are simply laying the foundations of the system in a way that will bring no hurt or hardship to anyone, but that will ensure that the Irish language will be brought to the children of to-day and to the adult population of to-morrow in those districts where Irish is not spoken, and that there will be brought to the people who speak Irish traditionally to-day the healthy sustenance of knowing that their language is again restored to its proper place among the educated and the professional classes, as well as among the ordinary people of the country.