I would like to ask the Minister about the future policy of his Department in connection with Civil Service examinations. I want to be reassured, at least on one point. One of the avenues for entrance to the Civil Service on the post office side is by way of boy messengers. There is limited competition between a number of these boys for the positions in the clerical staff, and I understand it is now the only method by which young lads can enter the Civil Service as messengers. To qualify for clerical posts afterwards examination is held, known as a limited competition—that is the name it had in the old British Civil Service, and I think it has the same to-day—in other words, competition is confined to boy messengers. Within the last few months a case was brought to my notice in which a young lad got first place in the examination for boy messengers. He scored very high marks in written and oral Irish. Subsequently he presented himself for examination to become a boy learner—in other words, to enter the clerical grade. There also he scored a very high place—in fact, the highest place; he got an aggregate number of marks of 531. He scored very high marks in written Irish, but rather low marks in oral Irish. I want the House to mark this point, that the boy had already shown a desire to learn the language and had acquired a very good knowledge of it, both written and oral. When he presented himself for the clerical grade he got a very high percentage in the written Irish, but rather low marks in oral Irish. All the same, he came out at the head of the list. He got 531 marks, and the candidate whom I shall call B, who was second highest on the list, secured 500 marks. The second candidate, who only got 500 marks as against the other candidate's 531 marks, was appointed to the position.
Of course it will be said that this is an attack on the language. It is not. It is merely an inquiry to know where we are. Here is a lad who gave every indication of a desire to acquire a knowledge of the language, and who, no doubt, had a very good knowledge of it. Here is the point I would like the Minister to explain. It may be the case, and I believe it is —I do not like to assert it, because I like to stand over everything I say here—that the lad was examined by a man from another area, who possibly had not the same blas or pronunciation of Irish words as the boy. I would like to draw the attention of the Minister to this state of affairs, and to ask what his policy in this direction is to be in the future. It is certainly a very trying thing for poor men to educate their children, and to do their best for them in very adverse circumstances, when the children acquire a knowledge of the language, and show every desire to learn it, that they should be turned down because some other boy has a better knowledge of the language, although he may not be quite so good in subjects that are more essential for clerical appointments, such as writing and arithmetic. I can pass the figures to the Minister to show that this boy victim of the Civil Service Commissioners got in his first examination 67 marks in Gaelic, as against 34 marks secured by the other candidate. In English he got 151 marks, as against 193; in Arithmetic he got 110, as against the successful candidate's 105; in Handwriting 143, as against the successful candidate, who only got a pass. It will be seen that this is a case that should command the attention of the Minister, so that industrious parents in the State will know where they are in relation to the whole system of education, and particularly the system of examination. If it is to be the system in future that oral Irish is to be the all-important thing, then let it be known, and we will know where we stand. I am quite sure that if the people are going to be told that, the Minister and the Government will have a very short shrift, indeed. We want to know where we are.