Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 9 Jul 1969

Vol. 241 No. 3

National University of Ireland Bill, 1969: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Séard atá i gceist leis an mBille seo ná comhacht a thabhairt don Rialtas tréimhse Oifige Seanaid Ollscoil na hÉireann d'fhaidiú ar iarratas ón Seanad. Cúig bliana gnáth thréimhse Oifige an tSeanaid agus beidh an tréimhse reatha caite ar an 31ú Deireadh Fómhair, 1969. Tá 35 baill ar fad ar an Seanad. Toghtar cuid acu ag na Coláistí Ollscoile, cuid eile ag na céimithe, ainmnítear ceathrar ag an Rialtas, agus tá roint eile fós ina mbaill ex-officio. Níor mhór sa ghnáthshlí na toghacháin don Seanad do reachtáil sa choicíos idir an ceathrú agus an dara seachtain roimh an 31ú Deireadh Fómhair, 1969.

Beidh cuimhneamh air ag na Teachtaí gur mhol an Coimisiún Um ArdOideachas go mba cheart deireadh do chur le hOllscoil na hÉireann agus stádas nea-spleách mar ollscoil a thabhairt do gach ceann de na comhcholáistí. Ghlac an Rialtas i bprionsabal leis an moladh sin.

I mí Lúnasa, 1968, bunaíodh an tÚdarás Ard-Oideachais. Tá breithniú á dhéanamh ag an Údarás faoi láthair ar an eagar ba chóir a bheith ann feasta i leith ard-oideachais i gcoitinne agus i leith ollscolaíochta go speisialta. Ó tharla na cúrsaí sin amhlaidh agus de bhrí nach mbeadh lán shaol-ré ag Seanad nua d'iarr Seanad na hOllscoile ar an Rialtas a théarma oifige d'fhaidiú tar éis an 31ú Deireadh Fómhair, 1969. Mheas an Rialtas go raibh réasún ag baint leis an iarratas san.

Is d'fhonn comhacht a thabhairt don Rialtas gníomhú do réir an iarratais atá an Bille seo á thabhairt os comhair an tí.

The Senate of the National University of Ireland comprises 35 members:

The Chancellor of the University.

The Presidents of the three Colleges.

Four nominees of the Government (including one woman).

Six persons elected by the Governing Body of UCD of whom three are members of the Academic Council of the College.

Four persons elected by the Governing Body of UCC of whom two are members of the Academic Council of the College.

Four persons elected by the Governing Body of UCG of whom two are members of the Academic Council of the College.

Eight persons elected by Convocation.

Four persons co-opted.

The Registrar.

It holds office for a period of five years and its current period of office is due to expire on 31st October, 1969. In the normal way elections for the selection of the elected members should take place within four to two weeks before the 31st October, 1969.

However, the Commission on Higher Education recommended that the National University of Ireland should be dissolved and that every one of its constituent colleges should be given the status of an autonomous university with its own governing authority. The Government accepted that recommendation in principle.

At present the Higher Education Authority is engaged on preparing recommendations as to the form the future university structure here should take. This is being done with particular reference to the provision to be made in Dublin and to the establishment of independent universities in Cork and Galway.

That being so the Senate of the National University requested the Government to take powers to enable the life of the present Senate to be extended. In making that request the Senate felt that there would be little point in holding elections for a body the period of office of which would be comparatively short.

The Government decided to accede to this request and hence the Bill which is now before the House. It is a simple measure and does not in any way prejudge the future provision for higher education generally.

The Minister's account of the genesis of this Bill seems to me incomplete, and as the position, as I understand it—and I am, of course, open to correction if I am wrong—shows rather a different picture, this affects the attitude which we shall take to this Bill. My understanding is that the Senate of the National University, considering this matter some months ago, decided that, in view of what then appeared to be the likelihood of the merger of the two Dublin colleges and the creation of the two universities in Cork and Galway going through reasonably expeditiously, there might be no point in having an election this year for a senate which might never act as the Senate of the NUI.

Owing to a misunderstanding they thought they had only to apply to the Government for an order in this respect; there was apparently some confusion as regards the 1940 Bill under which the government of the day took power to extend the life of the governing Body of UCD and, perhaps, of the other colleges, a Bill which, however, does not extend the life of the Senate of the National University. When this was discovered— and the point had been reached in the process of elections to the Senate at which it was not, in fact, possible, as I understand it, for the election to proceed in accordance with the law— it became necessary, regardless of whether it was considered desirable to extend the life of the Senate, for legal reasons to extend the life of the Senate and it is in those circumstances that this bill is before us now. I am open to correction in this because one has not got the same sources of information as the Minister has. But this is an important point and, while I am prepared to endorse the Bill in so far as it is necessary to legalise what is, in effect, an oversight and postpone the election of the Senate for whatever period is necessary for that purpose, I will not support the proposal to extend the life of the Senate for a year, or longer, on the grounds put forward by the Minister. It is important that we should understand the purpose for which the Bill is required. The Minister should have given us a fuller explanation. I may, however, be misinformed, in which case I shall have to approach the Bill from a slightly different angle. When he comes to reply the Minister can brief us about this.

In so far as the Bill is designed to extend the life of the Senate it is objectionable on several grounds. First of all, a similar procedure was adopted over two years ago in regard to the governing body of UCD. At that time, shortly after the April, 1967 announcement by the second last Minister for Education about the merger, the governing body decided by a majority —there were dissentient voices; I, as is my usual custom, was one—to apply to the Government under the 1940 Act for an extension of the life of the governing body. They did that because at the time they suffered from the delusion that there would be a merger of the two universities in the near future and to engage in the very complex electoral procedure, which involves a kind of interregnum for a certain period while bits and pieces are put together under the 1908 Act, would be an undesirable situation for the college to find itself in, without a governing body for a period of some months and that at a time which was thought to be a critical period in the merger negotiations, December, 1967 to February, 1968. A year passed and the matter came up again before the governing body. It then seemed the merger was actually going to go through and the governing body persuaded itself—this time, unanimously—that there was not really any point in having an election.

Having postponed it once, to have an election then seemed to be somewhat ridiculous when the whole thing would be settled in a matter of months, and the same procedure was initiated in June 1968; the election of the governing body was postponed. The governing body has now decided that it was rather foolish in its expectations and there is no longer any point in carrying on this farce and the normal electoral procedure will, in fact, go ahead. It has been set in train. That is the absurdity of this particular method; the merger has evaporated so far into the distant future, that the governing body, having decided not to have an election, have now decided to have an election. There is a lack of co-ordination between these two institutions of the National University of Ireland. The governing body is more realistic. At this point the merger situation has become complex to the point at which while it is not insoluble, it will not certainly be solved this side of Christmas which seems to be the implication in the Bill, or next Christmas or the Christmas after that. The position about the merger at the moment is that it now appears as if the merger will not, in fact, take place. In fact, steps are now being taken, as the Minister must be aware, though he is not very long in office, to move towards the four universities of Ireland proposal and the merger seems not to be at this moment in issue.

The Deputy will appreciate that we cannot have a discussion on the merger per se. It does not arise on the Bill, which is a very simple Bill.

The whole purpose of the Bill arises out of the decision to break up the National University of Ireland and make part of it TCD. We have to consider the merger. The only justification for the Bill is the merger proposal. If I am right in thinking this is not something that will happen in the near future the Bill falls to the ground. It is essential, therefore, that the House should know the current position of the merger for, without that, the House cannot make up its mind on the Bill.

There cannot be any such discussion on the Bill, which is an Act to enable the Government to extend the term of office of members of the Senate. There is nothing else in the Bill.

On a point of order, the Minister's statement referred specifically to the provision being made in the interregnum. We do not know whether or not it will include the merger. We should like to know and surely we are entitled to ask?

The Deputy may ask but discussion on the pros and cons does not arise on the Bill before the House.

The pros and cons are so complex and so nearly related to the question of whether the merger is likely to take place that the merger is in fact, the raison d'être for the Bill. We have to discuss the merger and how and when it may happen. That is the whole purpose of the Bill.

I am ruling out of order any discussion on the merger per se. The Deputy may advert to it, but there can be no discussion of it.

I am prepared to discuss whether this Bill is appropriate and we allege that it is, in fact, unnecessary. That is the purpose of a Second Stage debate. It does involve the question of whether the merger is likely to happen, otherwise the discussion would be completely vitiated and there would be no point in discussing the Bill. The position about the merger is that the proposal that is before the university is one which in its present form is so unbalanced as, indeed, in a totally different way was the first proposal, that it does not command any support by the staff or the students of University College, Dublin. It does not command the support of more than a minority in its present form. It is because it does not command that support and because many of the staff of Trinity College also regard it with dislike and dismay that the prospect of its taking place quickly is remote. The reason why it is unpopular is something we have to consider and I should like to put to the House the reason why the merger, as proposed——

The Deputy may not proceed along these lines. He must relate his remarks to the Bill before the House and there is nothing before the House except this very simple Bill.

I have to consider whether the stated reason for it is a valid reason. The stated reason is:

At present the Higher Education Authority is engaged on preparing recommendations as to the form the future university structure here should take. This is being done with particular reference to the provision to be made in Dublin——

That, of course, is the merger——

and to the establishment of independent universities in Cork and Galway.

That being so the Senate of the National University requested the Government to take powers to enable the life of the present Senate to be extended. In making that request the Senate felt that there would be little point in holding elections for a body the period of office of which would be comparatively short.

That being so, I have to discuss whether or not the statement made by the Minister is, in fact, a relevant statement and whether, in fact, the Minister is right in his expectation that this merger proposal and the creation of two independent universities in Cork and Galway are so imminent that, to use his own words, there is no point in having an election to the National University of Ireland. I see no other basis on which to consider this Bill and I propose, therefore, to consider why this merger in its present form is likely to command sufficient support to go through within a year and, if it does not, there is no point in extending the life of the Senate.

I made it clear that a discussion of the merger does not arise and cannot be debated on the Bill.

I have just read out the words the Minister used. He referred to this proposal and he said:

That being so the Senate of the National University requested the Government to take powers to enable the life of the present Senate to be extended.

That is the reason why this Bill was requested. How discuss the Bill if one does not discuss the reason for the Bill? I am, I think, strictly within the rules of order. The problem with regard to the merger is that in its present form it is so unbalanced a proposal that it makes it impossible to see how it could be accepted within the necessary period to make this Bill desirable or to give this Bill any meaning. The aspect of the present proposals which creates the situation is the imbalance which these proposals create between the two colleges which it is proposed to merge. The reason why this Bill is unlikely to be of any use is that the degree of unpopularity of these proposals particularly in University College, Dublin, is such that——

I have already pointed out to the Deputy that this is not in order. The Deputy is proceeding to discuss the merits and demerits of the merger, a matter which is not before the House.

You will note, Sir, that every sentence I have used has related to the Bill. I have not used a sentence which does not relate to the Bill and the need for it. If one cannot even use sentences which relate to the Bill and the need for it, I do not see how will we can discuss it.

I am ruling out of order any discussion on the merger, which is not before the House. The Deputy must relate his remarks to the Bill. The Deputy is discussing the pros and cons, the merits and demerits of the merger which is something which is not before the Dáil.

On a point of order, an impossible situation arises for this House by your ruling. This gives rise to an awkward predicament and I rise to support the Deputy's right to discuss relevant matters coming under this Bill.

The Chair feels that this is not relevant. Deputy Sir Anthony Esmonde on a point of order.

The Minister appears to be introducing this Bill for the sole purpose of extending the Senate of the NUL. The reason he has stated for extending the Senate is that the merger which was to take place is not expected now to take place in the near future. For that reason I submit that one can only discuss it by discussing the merger as well.


Hear, hear.

The Chair does not agree.

The Chair should give good reasons why he does not agree.

The Chair has given good reasons.

We are not satisfied.

The Chair has given the reasons why the discussion cannot take place. There is nothing in the Bill about the merger.


Deputy Corish should listen when he puts a question, if he wants information.

You ruled, Sir, that it was out of order to discuss the merger per se but is it in order to discuss the merger ipso facto, nem. con. or summa cum laude?

I understand, Sir, that you do not wish the debate to be widened into a discussion in detail on the proposed merger, but what we have to discuss is whether the present situation about the merger is likely to lead to a decision on the dissolving of the NUI in the near future. The purpose of the Bill is to deal with the situation which, hypothetically, will lead to the NUI no longer existing in the near future so that it would have been a waste of time to have had an election to its Senate. Therefore we must discuss the question of whether the merger and the creation of these two universities and a break up of the NUI is likely to take place in the near future. In discussing that it is necessary to make limited and appropriate reference to why one believes the merger will not take place. I propose to restrict my remarks much more than before your ruling and to deal with the question of why I do not think the merger will take place. I quite accept your ruling that I should not discuss the merger per se.

The reason why the break up of the NUI is not as imminent as people think is that the merger is put forward is of such a character as to be unacceptable to people in UCD, by a large majority, and also unacceptable to many in Trinity College. The reasons are relevant to why there should be a break-up of the NUI. The reasons include the imbalance that is proposed between the two colleges. This explains the resistance in UCD. I should like to make the point that there are many people in that college, and I am one of them, who have favoured a merger, or an association, of these two colleges in a single university. Even those of us who favour this in principle could not support the proposed merger as put forward at present. Because there is such unanimity such strength of opposition has developed that the likelihood of this merger being put into effect in such a short time as to make this Bill relevant or useful is minimal.

The reason why this view is held is that it would aggravate an imbalance already existing between the two colleges. They differ very substantially. One is an ancient foundation with a long tradition; it is a small college and it feels no obligation to expand. It is also a college which traditionally has drawn many of its Irish students from particular social groups. The position that is likely to arise if this merger goes through is that the imbalance would be aggravated because the two faculties it is proposed to add to Trinity College are faculties which draw a higher proportion of students from the upper income groups of the middle class than any other faculty. At the same time it would tend to increase the flow of students from that particular group to Trinity College and would create a new social division or aggravate an existing social division in an undesirable manner. It is not to be expected that a college such as University College, Dublin, would readily accept that the two leading and ancient faculties would be removed and added to another college. I do not intend to develop this point.

I understood that the Deputy said that he did not intend going into detail but the Chair feels that he is doing that.

The Chair should have seen the detail I had intended going into. I will leave the matter there. However, I am disappointed that this is not an occasion on which to discuss this matter and I feel it needs to be discussed. I will turn now to another aspect or another reason why it is important not to pass this Bill. If this Bill is passed the Senate of NUI will lose the authority it now holds, through being a duly elected body, elected according to the processes of law for a fixed term of office. That body is not in its present form an adequately representative Senate, in my view, just as the governing body of UCD is not adequately representative of the staff and students. Nevertheless, that Senate continues to command sufficient authority, through the fact that it was duly elected, to be able to carry out its functions successfully. Experience has shown us, in the case of the governing body of UCD, that if you have a body inadequately representative of the staff and students of the college, and if you extend its life beyond its proper term, it is likely to lead to a situation of great danger. I have seen the authority of the governing body being eroded because of its character and because of the growing recognition of its junior staff, which represents two-thirds of the staff, and by the students that they have no representation. I have seen the erosion of its authority with the growing recognition of its unrepresentative character and I have seen, as others have too, this leading to growing tension and certain troubles which fortunately are not serious as yet. I have seen that happening and this has been attributable in large part to the fact that the governing body lost such authority as it had when it ceased to be a duly elected body and became arbitrarily extended in its life. I have seen that happening. It is because of that, amongst other reasons, that I will be opposed to an extension of the life of the Senate of the National University of Ireland for any period longer than that necessary to legalise the illegal situation that has been created, as I understand it, by its failure to initiate the due procedures according to law which should have been initiated.

I think that is a good reason and I think the House should have regard to it because there is a serious situation developing in our universities. Our universities are not unique in this. I would make the point that we are fortunate in this country in the kind of relations we have had between the staff and students and between both and the university authorities. We are fortunate to have avoided many of the troubles of other countries. When we find that there is some feature of our university system which is remediable and which if remedied could avoid, perhaps the serious kind of troubles that have occurred elsewhere, it behoves us to remedy the ill that exists and it is for that reason that I think it is desirable that the governing body of the Senate of the NUI should in due course, when proposals come forward from interested parties concerned, be reformed so as to gain a more representative character.

In the meantime, pending that being done, and so long as the Government have not got proposals for such reforms before it, emanating, one would hope, from the staff and students of the colleges concerned, so long as that situation exists it is of great importance that these bodies should continue, unrepresentative though they be, to be elected by due process of law in accordance with the timetable laid down in the Act and Charter establishing the college. If that is done, at least it is not possible for people seeking to cause trouble in the college to say, as has been said, indeed, in UCD, of our governing body, that it is not even a properly elected body, that its term of office expired some time ago and it got itself extended by using some emergency powers legislation introduced in 1940, and no longer carries any authority in the college—views put forward with a view to giving licence to actions of a kind which one would hope to avoid.

That is the situation we are in and I would, therefore, appeal to the Minister to reconsider the position on this Bill. If I am right in understanding that the Bill is technically necessary because of the fact that the Senate of the NUI, believing that the extension which they sought could be given by Government order, allowed themselves to become illegal, and if it is necessary to pass this Bill to legalise that situation, then, of course, I would support the passage of the Bill for that purpose.

It is one thing to pass the Bill to legalise that situation and to have an election of the Senate of the NUI at the earliest possible time thereafter; it is another thing to use this Bill to extend its life because of the belief which, if it exists on the Government benches, certainly exists nowhere else now, that the merger is going to go through within the foreseeable future. It is really absurd to come in here and suggest that this is going to happen when the Minister should know, if he has had the opportunity to brief himself, and those advising him certainly know, of the developments occurring which involve a move in the direction of four separate universities.

Now, on the question of the merger itself, I should like to say that I think that there were good reasons for having a merger. I myself was in favour of a merger, though not the merger as proposed. I should like to stress this point. However, I recognise that the reasons I had for supporting a merger are reasons which could be met by some other solution. I would not be dogmatic about it. But, there are things that need to be done as between these two colleges. It is necessary that the facilities in them be co-ordinated. It is necessary that where there is a specialist teacher in a particular aspect of a subject in one college his services be available to students in the other college. It would be absurd to continue a position in which students have to be taught by someone less qualified when there is somebody well qualified for the purpose a short distance away whose services could be made available. It is academically desirable that such co-ordination take place. It was my belief that this could best be secured by a merger. Indeed, perhaps, at some stage I may have felt that it could only be secured by a merger but I recognise that there may be other means of doing it and if that is the case and if this result can be achieved, then, perhaps, the merger may be unnecessary but I think that the Government would be right to press for adequate co-ordination of university facilities if the merger is to be abandoned, as now seems likely.

It was also intended in proposing that there should be a merger to in some way facilitate the removal of the ban on Trinity College. It was intended in some way to get the bishops off the hook. Indeed, there is some reason to believe that this may have been an important element in the thinking of some of those initiating the merger proposal. I think this problem is one which is self-solving. I do not think it is the function of the Government of this country to get bishops off hooks on which they should not have been and off which they will get themselves if left to themselves and left with no alternative.

Another reason for the merger was the fact that many places in Trinity College at that time, about 2,000, were taken up by foreign students. That situation has been remedied because, with the disregarding of the ban, an increased number of Catholic students are going there and filling up the ranks and this problem looks like solving itself.

The Chair would like to refer to the fact that the Chair has already ruled on this matter that there ought not to be discussion on the merger per se. It might merit introduction on this Bill at the present but, per se, there ought not to be discussion on it.

Yes. I was trying simply to indicate the reasons for my personal position in regard to the merger at this point but if I have strayed too far from the direct subject I shall certainly bring that part of my remarks to a close.

I would again sum up my reasons for being unhappy about this Bill: first of all, the absurdity of bringing in a Bill here to extend the life of the Senate of the National University of Ireland at the same moment as the governing body has just decided within a matter of weeks not to extend its own life any further after doing so for two years in the hopeful expectation that something might happen about the merger. I cannot see how a Government can justify on the one hand the governing body going ahead with its election and the Senate election being abandoned, more particularly because these bodies are intercommunicating to a very high degree. Indeed, the Senate elects to the governing body and the governing body elects to the Senate. There is no one on the electoral body who is not in perpetual motion between them through this interesting mechanism. This being the case, I cannot see how you justify abandoning the election to the Senate when that Senate which is now not going to have an election is going, in fact, to choose members of a governing body which will have an election and the new governing body having the election is going to choose people to the non-elected Senate. The two bodies are so closely linked that to adopt opposite procedures in regard to them at this point of time is utterly absurd. I cannot blame the Minister because the Bill was initiated before his time but I do not think the previous Minister really thought the thing out. I cannot believe his advisers really thought the thing out in coming to the House with such an extraordinary proposal at this point of time.

The Charter of the NUI is a document which sets out the details with regard to the Senate of the University and the governing bodies of its colleges. It is one document. These are two sets of bodies within one institution. If there is a reason for abandoning elections in one, there must be reason in the other. If it has now been decide, and I think properly, after several years of hanging around waiting for a non-existent merger, to hold elections and to at least have an elected governing body instead of those which have lost all authority, if it is decided to do that, how could the Government have chosen this moment, of all moments, to introduce a Bill to extend the life of the Senate indefinitely? The absurdity of this is so evident that when one puts it like that it becomes clear that the only value of this Bill and the basis on which one could support it is to legalise an inadvertent illegality committed by the Senate in thinking that the Government could extend its life by order.

I also feel, as I have said, that it was most undesirable in principle and, indeed, for obvious practical reasons, to undermine the authority of any university institution at this time by artificially extending its life and I think the case against that has been shown in the case of UCD. It is evident to anybody who has followed events there that the situation there is a serious one, has been serious and is a potentially serious one even today and will be serious next autumn because of the fact that we have a governing body which is unrepresentative of two-thirds of the staff and of all the students and two-thirds of the staff and the students have no power to elect any members to it and which has extended its life with Government connivance and Government support for several years so that it has lost the moral authority it needs to have. There have been few periods in the lives of universities in this country when it has been so necessary for the bodies which govern them to have moral authority as well as power and this House should do nothing to undermine it. I would, therefore, appeal to the Minister in replying to the debate to give us an assurance that the Bill will be used to remedy whatever technical defects there may be in relation to the Senate of the NUI but that he will ensure that the procedure for the election of the Senate of the NUI starts immediately. It should have started several months ago —that is why this Bill is necessary now —and that the election will take place, if not by 31st October, when it should, at least by the 31st December so that there will be a newly-elected Senate with the function of appointing members to the governing body which is being elected in accordance with the governing body of UCD. It could be very valuable to have a new Senate—a Senate that would have been elected by the present generation of electors which include a very large proportion of people who have come on the register within the past five years.

Owing to the rapidity with which our universities have expanded, the proportion of electors on the register is exceptionally high. There is quite a disproportionate share of electors on this register, who elect 80 members to the Senate whose names have been placed on the register within the past five years and who are much more in touch with the current realities of university life than other generations.

I should like to stress the point that the changes that have taken place in our universities within the past 12 months are really quite extraordinary. It would have been inconceivable, say, two years ago, to think that we would have in UCD today a system whereby there are staff-student committees working in every department—committees which are working closely and harmoniously together in arranging courses for the various departments and committees which have proved their worth during the past year. These committees have commanded the support of the students and the admiration of the staff for the way in which they have worked.

It would have been unthinkable also even six months ago that an assembly of these staff-student committees could become a sort of parliament meeting together to discuss crucial issues as to how the college is run. These developments have changed the atmosphere in our college in a way which was unthinkable two years ago. The universities today are quite different from what they were. The whole idea of what a university is for is changing.

There is a desire among staff and students alike to recreate in some form the community of scholars which universities were in mediaeval times, a desire to recreate a sense of sharing in this process of expanding knowledge and of passing on knowledge. On the part of the students there is a desire to participate fully in the running of the institution in which they play a part; the staff have been alerted to the needs and desires of the students which may at times seem to be dramatic or even melodramatic in the way in which they are presented.

Personally, I can say that having passed through the events of February and March in my college my experience at that time was different from any which I had ever previously known. To find oneself in a situation in which people broke out of their normal relationships and established new types of communications with each other; to find a situation in which most of the staff of the college, not all, sat down to discuss with students the problems of how the university should be run and discussed it together in a constructive manner was something completely new.

We are in a new era in our universities. The transition will be difficult. It will be difficult for us to find our place in a new relationship but the effort will be rewarded and nothing should be done at this point to disturb this transition. Nothing should be done to weaken the authority of the existing bodies who have to carry the process through, but to extend the life of any of them at this stage would be a mistake. The Minister should have regard to these facts when considering the position.

I am glad that the governing body of the college have decided that there shall be an election and not to seek from the Government any further extension. I am glad that an election will take place, although I know that because of the antiquated constitution of the governing body, the governing body that will emerge from that election will be in many respects unrepresentative. However, it will be possible for them to take a step towards a new type of university structure, for example, using their power of co-option to co-opt students to the governing body. By taking this decision not to extend its own life, the governing body have taken the first step towards student-representation on its own councils. Had the governing body taken a decision similar to the kind of decision being put to us in this Bill to prolong its life, again because this mythical merger is about to take place, the governing body would find themselves precluded by law from having students on their councils during the year 1970.

I am glad that this has not happened. It would be a pity if we in this House should, even in relation to a body that has less direct involvement in the college, take a step that would preclude the representation of the new tide of opinion on the Senate and make it more difficult for the Senate colleges to appoint to the governing body these new type of persons who would be able to bridge the gap between students and staff on the one hand and between the administration of the colleges on the other hand.

I appeal to the Minister not to press this point. Let us have the Bill by all means if it is necessary to remedy an unintentional legality but let us not use this Bill to prolong the life of a body which needs to be re-elected, which needs to have the opportunity of being replenished with people who know something more directly of the new tide of opinion within university affairs, a new body which also would in choosing its representatives in the governing body of UCD take account of this tide of opinion, a body that would be more representative and one that would be more likely to command the support of the students than the governing body we have today.

Like Deputy FitzGerald, I do not rise to oppose this Bill since its legal necessity is obvious to all but I do feel, like him, that this is an extremely depressing and regrettable Bill. The Minister in his speech described it as a simple measure and I suppose that is what it is. It is not in itself a significant Bill but it is an unfortunate Bill because we are being asked casually this evening to perpetuate an ancient order, an order that should have passed.

We are being asked to put something into operation in substantially the same form in which it worked in 1908 in the days in which the universities were the prerogative of the rich and of the fee-paying classes. This is no longer so. The taxpayer now subsidises the universities and it is consequently sad that we, as representatives of the taxpayers of Ireland, should be offered so barren and even so temporary a measure as this which simply says "Give us another year's life" rather in the way the Parliament of Charles I endlessly gave itself more life.

Now that we pay for our universities it is only right that we adopt a more constructive and more substantial approach to them than is represented in this measure. They are the property of the taxpayers, the servants of the taxpayers and, even though it may sound unpopular to some of my colleagues in Trinity College, I do not exempt my own college from the failings of being in some ways an antique institution requiring reform and requiring reform initiated in this House.

I do not intend to follow Deputy FitzGerald quite so fully into the labyrinthine depths of the merger. The Deputy's speech has made quite clear that the Minister has inherited what has been described in another context as a bed of thorns but the Bill itself is sad for yet another reason: it is evocative of a general policy of delay and deferment which seems to have settled over the educational policy of the Government. It seems to be evocative of the fact that the Government recognise, as we all must in our secret hearts, that the bright hopes of a few years ago are grinding to a halt and that our approach to higher education in this country is in a sort of dissipated mess from which no Minister seems able to disentangle any form of optimism or any form of inspiration.

We are being asked to perpetuate an institution which two and a half years ago on the 18th April, 1967, the Government, in the words of the late Minister for Education, announced their intention of dismantling. I, for one, apart from being a socialist, a believer in the merger and in the view that a university is the servant of the community was, as secretary to the Association of University Teachers, closely involved in the attempts to make these hopes come true. Two and a half years later they had not come true.

Today, as the Minister says, this simple preamble which he has given here to the Bill is sopped through with apologetic phrases which cover a multitude of unfinished business, not merely the sentences which Deputy FitzGerald quoted with particular reference to the provision to be made in Dublin, whatever that means—and apparently we cannot ask. This Bill does not prejudge the future provision for higher education generally, whatever that is, and again we cannot ask tonight what it is. At present, the Higher Education Authority is engaged on preparing recommendations that will affect the future university structures. Again, we cannot ask what those recommendations are. That body has been sitting since last summer, so far as I can recall. We do not know the terms of reference of that estimable body quoted here by the Minister. I am in order in referring to the 15 good men and the fine chairman. I respect those men. The fact that their choice for that function was apparently coincidental with their total agreement with the policies of the Minister of the day is apparently irrelevant. The fact that the terms of reference of that body are unknown is also irrelevant. The fact, in the famous phrase used by the Minister's predecessor, that they took their jobs in the context of the assumption that what has been decided has been decided and the fact that the meaning of it has never been explained to us is also irrelevant. In the context of all these unanswered questions they are apparently still thinking and will continue to think until the millennium.

This Bill is an important Bill for another reason. It highlights the fact that education in general, and higher education in particular, will be two of the key topics of the Nineteenth Dáil. It emphasises the importance of the Minister for Education. I congratulate the present Minister on occupying his position. The Government have quite rightly emphasised the importance of that Minister by the appointment of a Parliamentary Secretary to him. I congratulate the Deputy who has taken that office and I wish him well in it. They will be subjected in their offices to many of the pressures we are familiar with in this country if they seek to answer the questions which they do not answer in this short piece of paper before us here. They will be subjected to many pressures from strange people, and not just from the bishops. I have nothing against bishops, rumours to the contrary notwithstanding. Some of my best friends are bishops. They will be subject to pressures from different groups like the doctors in the Mater Hospital and in St. Vincent's Hospital. We had Deputy FitzGerald never quite remembering whether he is Deputy for Dublin South East or Deputy for University College, Dublin.

University College, Dublin, is in Dublin South East. So is Trinity College, Dublin. I am happy to represent the Deputy at any time.

Half of UCD is in Dublin South East. In the face of these pressures I hope that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary will take the relevant and right decisions. One of the reasons why this Bill is before the House is that the present Minister's predecessor, for whom I have great personal affection and admiration, had an uncomfortable unwillingness to take unpopular decisions. To stray from the bounds of relevance, that reminds me of the Government's attitude to the Buchanan Report. We can never be quite sure whether it is on or off. It is on where the news is good. It is on, for instance, in Letterkenny but it is off in other parts of the country. The same can be said with respect to higher education. The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary will be faced with these decisions. I hope they will have the courage to take them and to resist the pressure of people like the medical bodies who resent the structures of the decision taken on 6th July. They resent them in a different manner.

I want to say something else which arises from the Bill. We are taking a decision affecting the structure of the universities. My comment is about a phrase which has been often heard in the past two years. The phrase is "university autonomy ". The words "autonomous university " are used in the Minister's speech. I would like to say words of comfort to the Minister in this regard. I am quite sincere in saying that I, for one, have no tremendously high opinion of academics as such. Some of them are quite decent people, like myself and Deputies FitzGerald, Keating and O'Donovan. On the whole, academics tend to be conservative people and to resist change. I would like to stress this point which I think justifies the suspicion of resentment which the academics of Ireland have taken to the situation which this Bill epitomises. The first point is that, as in so many other fields, the Government have brought this strange situation on themselves by failure in consultation. Academics may not be superior to other people, but in general terms they are not inferior. They are entitled to be consulted about their fates, destinies and job opportunities. On the whole, they were not so consulted. The famous statement of the Minister's predecessor made on 6th July, 1968, was shown to myself and to some other representatives of academic opinion in the Irish Federation of University Teachers on the night before its publication. We were grateful for this. To some extent it was a precedent and an innovation, but it scarcely constitutes consultation. We were handed a document already agreed for publication and asked to check, in effect, to see that the typography was accurate. This brought a tide of rather new, stubborn, often ill-informed, inaccurate and unfortunate resentment of the Government's initially popular proposal. In one sense, the academics are themselves to blame —and again I make myself unpopular with some of my friends by saying this. They are somewhat at fault themselves for failing to grasp the opportunity of history which the late Deputy Donogh O'Malley saw for them. The Government, in my opinion, stand condemned to the extent that the necessity to introduce this measure here tonight arises partly from the fact that at no point were the people most deeply involved in this particular area of human activity properly and intensely consulted. The assembly of some car parts would have been managed with more dignity, care and consultation than the decision about the merger of the two governing colleges. No wonder the thing has dragged.

I have another point to make which arises from the reference to " the autonomous universities ". The Minister has a problem to determine what is worthwhile in the autonomy of an independent university. Some statements made during this general election and during the recent referendum campaign which preceded the election did not exactly suggest that the members of the Government valued university autonomy particularly highly. I myself was the recipient of some remarks which seemed to suggest that autonomous university academics were a species best liquidated in some indescribable manner. The bodies which we are discussing are ultimately the major repositories of intellectual freedom of our country. Much good has come out of them. We should treat them with more dignity than to meet here tonight and casually to perpetuate an ancient form.

I wish to turn very briefly to something which Deputy FitzGerald said. I will not follow him into the depths of the merger. On it, to a great extent, he and I are in greatest agreement. In one way we disagree. His references to the social status of the students of Trinity College and to the allocation of medicine and law to Trinity College are inaccurate. I must place on record that his remarks are inaccurate. I will not follow him into them. I know I speak here not as a representative of Trinity College but as a representative of Dublin North West.

It is not I who represents Trinity College.

So long as I am here the interests of Trinity College will be looked after. Many of the things that Deputy FitzGerald was referring to— that point he put—are among some of the pressures the Minister will have to resist. I do not want to delay the House much longer. Let me say here, and I do not want this to sound patronising, that to many of you the university is a strange world full of strange birds, queers and things like that, as they have been described. If you look down this interesting document, the method of election here, I would like you to bear in mind it is talking about people and those people have as much right to have their feelings considered as workers by hand or brain in any other industry. Because of the incapacity of the Government to fulfil their intentions, placed on record in April, 1967, a total question mark has hung over the livelihood and the intellectual context of the people who work on the staffs of each one of the five Irish colleges—and indeed Maynooth as well to the extent that it may well, and I hope will be, associated with any merged Dublin University of the kind which I hope will come into existence.

Secondly, because of the incapacity of the Government to solve this problem, there are at the moment students going into the Dublin colleges who do not know whether the courses they are following will still be there in three years time, by the time they come to complete them, who do not know whether they will still be where they are now, who do not know whether they will be taught by the people who now teach them. I respectfully suggest this is just not good enough. Those people are entitled to something more than that. Applicants to my own college for courses like social study come to me and say:" Will it still be there by the time I graduate?" I think this is a fair question. The Government should accelerate the tempo of their decision making. I associate myself with Deputy FitzGerald in hoping that the extension of the life of the Senate of National University embodied in this Bill will indeed be a brief one, even though the form of replacement which I envisaged would probably be closer to that envisaged by the Government than envisaged by Deputy FitzGerald.

I should like to associate myself with him also in another thing which arises from this list of eminent and respectable gentlemen, which is almost incomprehensible in itself and which is probably being made even more incomprehensible by the speeches of Deputy FitzGerald and myself. If you look down that list of gentlemen you will find a cumbersome, unworkable, unrepresentative, undemocratic, unwieldy body. You will also find a body which, as he says, contains no student representative. I think it is unnecessary for me to labour that point except to associate the Labour Party most totally with what he has said. While we cannot endorse the wildness of some forms of student violence as practised on the Continent, and indeed as practised to some extent in our own country— though more in Deputy FitzGerald's university than my own—while we cannot go that far, it is obvious that no future constituents of the university can have the kind of structure outlined here. There must be a place for the students in it.

And Deputy Tully.

And "Deputy" Professor Desmond Williams.

He is not a Member of this House nor of the Labour Party.

The strangest people are joining the Labour Party these days.

We are all Cubans in this Party.

He is not talking about the Labour Party when he talks about student representation.

If we could return from that brief trip to Cuba—in return I promise I will not mention the Blueshirts—may I say again I hope the Minister will not merely allow this to be a short-lived provision but that when he comes to the structure of the new body which takes its place, if one does, he will make sure it is a small and workable body and not one in which distinguished men drive great distances at infrequent intervals to do absolutely nothing.

Now, let me draw together what I want to say about this. A could of doubt, as I said, hangs over the whole of higher education in Ireland and this simple measure epitomises that could of doubt. We just do not know what the intentions of the Government are and, to do the Government justice, I do not believe they know themselves. In a sense this is an enabling Bill of a rather curious kind. As it says, it does not in any way prejudge the future provisions of higher education generally. Fully translated this means that the Government by this Bill keep their options open to do anything or nothing about higher education within the next 12 months. That is not really good enough in 1969, two and a half years after that declaration.

Let me say three brief last things. This Bill solves nothing. The Minister and the Dáil, to the extent that the Dáil as the representatives of the people of Ireland are the supervisors of higher education, face three appalling challenges. The first is that we must cherish and retain that part of the university autonomy which, as I said, is invaluable in any free society, which we must always give due respect to; we must have that freedom of idea and freedom of criticism in a free society and we must never take it away because we read scare headlines about Maoists, Trotskyists or anything else. We must retain that if we are to be a country dignified enough to call itself democratic and free.

Secondly, we must make the universities of this country democratically, representative not merely of the students, who should be included as well, but representative of the junior staff. Deputy FitzGerald did not make that point, but I am sure he would agree.

I did make it.

I am sorry. On that point I was not listening to the Deputy. It must be representative of the junior staff as well. Finally, and most important, we must in the lifetime of this Dáil, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, make our universities the property of the nation, as they have never been, and stop them being class enclaves, which Deputy FitzGerald's university is as much as mine is and which all universities are. It is tragic to me to walk around the streets of parts of Dublin North West, which is largely a working-class constituency—streets of parts of Cabra, for example—and to look at smiling young children, beautiful children, and feel the university will never be relevant to their lives under any circumstances. They will be lucky if crammed, overcrowded secondary schools are relevant to their lives. We have got to stop that. We have got to make our universities democratic, which this one is not. We have got to retain their freedom but, above all, we have got to give them to the people so that they can enter them on merit and plough back into the service of this nation the skills and abilities which God gave them and which at present are being thwarted and obstructed in the slums of Dublin. I do not oppose this Bill, as I say, but I find, like Deputy FitzGerald, it is an intensely depressing and inadequate one.

I find it very interesting to listen to my academic friends in their long speeches on this subject but it might be no harm if we asked ourselves what is at issue in this Bill. We all know the university question is one of the important matters which will, before the end of this Dáil, come before us. I see nothing wrong with the Government keeping their options open at this stage. It is a very good thing that their options should be open to see what is to be the solution for this university question.

This Bill does no more than continue the status quo in order that a thorough solution may be found. Now, I ask Deputy FitzGerald and Deputy Thornley do they advocate a piecemeal solution. Any delving into the issue at this stage or any dealing with a facet of the problem at this stage can only result in a piecemeal solution. I, for one, would oppose that. I do not want to follow my friends in a long discussion about where the universities are going and what they have been. I will just point out that this Bill is simply aimed at continuing the situation here until the answers can be found. For my own part, I do not think this Dáil can dissolve before these answers are found. First of all, Deputy FitzGerald, I think, and Deputy Thornley talked about structure. Are they thinking straight in this? Surely, if we had a Senate election in the morning or in October we should get the same structure? It is totally irrelevant at the moment to talk about——

But different individuals.

The Senate, if it is elected under the present situation, will have the same structure but different individuals—yes. Essentially, it will be the same structure. I see no merit in having an election on that basis.

The same might have been said about the last general election.

Yes, I would take the Deputy's point. However, supposing the referendum had been scheduled to follow the last general election, if there were some time limit about that, then I could see the logic of that argument.

The point of election is the hope of getting, perhaps, better people than are there now.

That is so. However, Deputy FitzGerald and Deputy Thornley are arguing all the time for a new structure. We are simply saying, in effect: "Very good. Let us look at the whole problem but, in the meantime, let us carry on as we are and do not let us have an election". There is really nothing to be gained by having an election if we are going to change the whole structure in a short time.

Why keep the Senate and change the governing body?

The governing body is a different situation and is not involved in this.

It is the same logic

This Bill proposes to carry on the existing set-up for a period. From my point of view, I should prefer to see it that way than to rock the ship with further perturbations at this moment. If we are going to reorganise, surely the thing to do is to take the problem as a whole? Actually, it is quite clear, as far as I can see, that, on the last analysis, neither Deputy FitzGerald nor Deputy Thornley will be very strong in their opposition to this Bill. They will find the formula by which they will accept it, albeit it is a formula. I might add that the formula was the excuse for the talk. Let us get down to realities, if that is so, and simply face the situation.

There is nothing more in this Bill, for all the things that have been said, than a proposal to continue an existing situation until the problem as a whole is resolved. There is every earnest and every reason to believe that this will happen very quickly. I do not think there is anything else to be said. If I were to expand on this subject, I should be joining in the type of thing for which I am criticising my friends. The best example I can give is to stop.

In all earnestness, I would suggest, in finality, that this university situation is complex. It needs looking at in the modern context, to use these clichés, this current coin, if you like. There are a number of faces to this. Overall, there is the point of view of our universities surviving as universities in the world picture of university life. This is something that must engage all our attention seriously. It is not something that can be relegated merely to the state of being a football for political play. If that is so, surely the best thing for us to do here tonight is to take this Bill and to pass it on the basis that it is a stage to enable us to clench with the main problem? I do not think we will help if we drag other issues into it here tonight or talk too much about the admitted complex issues that are in it—later, yes.

As probably the most recent graduate of NUI sitting in this House, I should like most strongly to endorse the remarks of Deputy FitzGerald. He showed a very deep understanding of and sympathy for what the junior staff and students in our university, in particular UCD, are trying to do at this time. He showed this sympathy in the case he made against this Bill on the grounds that it granted powers of self-perpetuation to a body which was undemocratic and unrepresentative of junior staff and of students. I, also, object to this Bill on those grounds.

It is essential that junior staff and students be represented on the Senate of the NUI. Any attempt to grant powers of self-perpetuation to a body which does not grant such representation is to my mind quite wrong. If staff and students are given representation, if they are given a real say in how the NUI is run, these students and staff will be found not in a position of violent confrontation with their professors and with the administrators of the university but in a position of constructive co-operation in developing a genuine university community which would be much more efficient and much more useful to the community at large than is the present university structure.

Students and junior staff have got particularly useful contributions to make to the running of NUI. Students are, in the final analysis, the people most closely affected by university education. They are, so to speak, the subjects of university education. They are the people who are its product. They are also an articulate and intelligent body of people who will, even at the highest administrative level, be able to make a useful contribution and useful suggestions as to how the NUI, or their particular constituent college, can more effectively and usefully be run. Most of all, they are the people, for instance, who know if a certain course of lectures is not useful. They know this more than the staff know it because they are the people who have to learn on the basis of these lectures. I think this can be applied right up through university education, even at the highest level. Therefore, I believe that, before powers of self-perpetuation are granted to this body, this House should ensure that this body gives proper representation, democratically, to staff and students.

I believe it is only when students are denied such a real say in the way universities are run—as they are by the present system of university education in this country—that they are forced into what may be described as irresponsible action. If they are treated as responsible people, if they are given responsibilities and powers within their university situation, they will act responsibly. If, however, they are treated as children, then we can only expect them to act irresponsibly, however much we may deplore their irresponsibility. I appeal to the Minister to bring about the following two reforms as a short-term interim measure—and I emphasise "as a short-term interim measure". I would ask the Minister to use his powers, as outlined in his speech here, of nominating people to the Senate of the National University of Ireland. I will ask him to nominate, if possible, four elected student representatives, possibly the chairman or president of the various SRCs of the Colleges to the Senate of NUI. Thus we will have at least some minimal student representation. However, this is only an interim measure and I would ask the Minister when he is considering, as he will be, the overall structure of university education and bringing into effect new structures and new forms of governing bodies and so on to ensure that students and junior staff are given full democratic representation on the bodies which run universities.

I, too, should like to express disappointment and dissatisfaction with the introduction of this Bill this evening. I feel that it is unnecessary because the election of a Senate to the National University is important and I cannot see any proposed legislation coming through this House within the next 12 months which will be of benefit to the whole question of the university merger. I am not in agreement with the present proposals for the merger of the universities in Dublin and I know that the staffs in both Trinity College and in UCD are basically against the merger as proposed at present. From what the Minister has said in his introductory speech I think that the merger is not on. From what he said I think that there will not be a merger of UCD and Trinity and I challenge the Minister to make a clear statement to this effect. I feel that the recommendation of the Commission on Higher Education that there should not be a merger should be accepted for what it is and that the recommendation to establish independent universities throughout the country is a reasonable and good one. While apparently we must accept the present Bill as a technical necessity I ask the Minister not to abuse it.

Deputy FitzGerald spoke here today as a representative of Dublin South-East but also as a representative of UCD and my colleague Deputy Thornley from the point of view of Trinity. I find myself in the peculiar and anomalous position of, in fact, being a graduate of both universities, of having, perhaps, a closer relationship with UCD and, therefore, the National University of Ireland in the sense that my first degree was from there and arguably on the other hand a closer relationship with Trinity on the basis that since 1960 it is there that I work. However, I want to talk about this Bill solely, of course, since we may not discuss the merger per se though apparently we may discuss it in relation to its significance for this Bill. However, I want to discuss the Bill primarily in relation to things that have already been said and in particular later on in relation to some of the observations of Deputy de Valera.

I should like first briefly if we could have an opinion as to the suitability of the Senate of the NUI to be continued in office, to have a look at the composition of that Senate, because I want to suggest, as a result of examining its composition, that the need for changing it by election as soon as possible is particularly acute in relation to the composition as it now obtains. The Senate is made up of 35 people. Of those 35 one is the Chancellor of the National University of Ireland who will not be subject to change as a result of an election if it is held. Three of the 35 are presidents of the three constituent Colleges in Dublin, in Cork and in Galway and they will not be subject to election either. Four are nominees of the Government, including one woman, and while they may be subject to change they will not be subject to the democratic process of election and to the validation which that democratic process gives.

I want to turn aside now for a moment from the analysis of this Senate to say a word about the way in which the Government have used their power of nomination because we are discussing NUI and UCD as if they were new-minted and as if the Fianna Fáil Government had not been in power one way or another with two very short interruptions for the vast majority of my life and all of the lives of a number of people here with tiny interruptions. The point is that UCD, as it now exists, and the National University of Ireland as it now exists, are very much the creation of this series of Fianna Fáil governments. We are asked now to take on trust their benevolence in relation to universities and their determination to change them drastically for the better when we can, in fact, only judge them on the evidence of their record. The two interruptions by inter-Party Governments were so short as to have permitted no time for serious university reform and I suggest that, in fact, the crisis in the National University of Ireland which now exists, and I do not wish to exacerbate it and I do not wish to make from outside the problem of finding adequate solutions more difficult, but I think we would deceive ourselves if we thought that a real crisis did not exist; to a very great extent that crisis exists because of the action of the Fianna Fáil Government over the years to which I have referred so that we cannot, if we judge them on the basis of their past record, depend on them to produce the drastic solutions which Deputy de Valera promised us on the condition that we will now please leave the Senate as it is.

I was engaged before that digression on my part in an analysis of the Senate as constituted and I had got to the point of dealing with the four nominees of the Government. There are a further four persons who are co-opted by the body itself once it comes into existence and these too are validated in the same way as elected representatives are. Finally of the non-elected persons on the Senate there is the registrar.

The non-elected persons, therefore, constitute 13 of the 35 people on the Senate and without claiming strict accuracy this seems to me about 37 per cent of the whole Senate. The elected persons on the other hand constitute 22 of the 35, which is 63 per cent or thereabouts. The point I am coming to is that these 22 are elected in four different ways, perhaps, not in terms of technique but in terms of the place from which they are elected—six by the governing body of UCD, four by the governing body of UCC, four by the governing body of UCG and eight elected by convocation. The result is that the 22 elected people will be different in their outlook, in their political allegiance, in their attitude to a university, in their social aspirations. The point I am making is that they will not be a coherent or cohesive group whereas, on the contrary, the 13 non-elected members will, in fact, be coherent and cohesive and will represent a perpetuation of an undemocratic trend and of a settled trend within the Senate of the University.

I am, therefore, arguing that at a time of crisis like this the Senate is in profound need of re-valuation by the process of election and that this need is all the greater precisely because the elected representatives are only 22 of the 35 and precisely because they do not form a coherent group. As I understand the argument of Deputy de Valera in favour of the passing of this Bill at this time, what he, in fact, says—I hope he will judge my précis to be a fair one—is that if we are going to reorganise, leave the composition as it is at the moment because a big reorganisation is coming anyway.

Debate adjourned.