Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 27 Nov 1929

Vol. 13 No. 3

University College, Galway, Bill, 1929—Third Stage.

The Seanad went into Committee.
Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
It shall be the duty of the Senate of the National University of Ireland, the Governing Body of the College, or the President of the College (as the case may be), when making an appointment to any office or situation in the College, to appoint to such office or situation a person who is competent to discharge the duties thereof through the medium of the Irish language: provided a person so competent and also suitable in all other respects is to be found amongst the persons who are candidates or otherwise available for such appointment.

I move:

Section 3. To add at the end of the section the words:—"and when such person is not a candidate or otherwise available the appointment shall be made for a period not exceeding five years."

The President, when speaking on this Bill in the Seanad last week, struck a note that I would like to emphasise in moving the amendment which stands in my name. He said: "It is not the purpose of the Government, nor is it, so far as I know, the purpose of any political party, to get persons into University positions whose only qualification would be a knowledge of the Irish language." I wish to endorse that on behalf of the Party with which I am associated. I hope that in considering amendments to this Bill the Seanad will approach the question from that point of view. The question is non-party and nonpolitical. The object of the amendment that I have moved is to strengthen the educational value of Irish in University College, Galway. At the present time, as most Senators know, the fundamental policy of the Department of Education is the development and the extension of the Irish language. The language is being used not merely in the schools of the Gaeltacht, but here in the city of Dublin, as the medium through which the main subjects of the primary education programme are being taught.

I had occasion to meet quite recently some teachers who were engaged in teaching mathematics through the medium of Irish, and it is their considered opinion that the students who have been so taught have reached higher standards than pupils of the same age who have been taught through the medium of the English language, and similarly with regard to secondary education. The President also stated that what we hope to get is a real scholarly knowledge of the language, a scholarly knowledge of every subject if possible through that language, and the sooner the better. The object of my amendment is that we shall have that grip on the language as soon as possible. The pupils trained in the primary and secondary schools, and taught through the medium of Irish, will eventually arrive at the stage when they must reach the professions through the university. Surely it is our duty to provide for them as far as possible the means whereby they can take their courses through the medium of the Irish language.

The Bill as it stands provides that appointments can be or may be made to chairs in the University College, Galway, of individuals who possess a sufficient knowledge of the language to do the work of the chair through that medium. It also provides that the appointing body shall have the right to make the permanent appointment of an individual who has no knowledge of the Irish language if no candidate is presented with such a knowledge. My amendment simply means this: that if the appointing body finds that there is no candidate, or no person otherwise available for the appointment with a knowledge of Irish, that the appointment may be temporarily made for a period not exceeding five years. My reason for bringing forward the amendment is because I feel we will eventually arrive at the point when we must supply university education for those who have received their primary and secondary education through the medium of Irish. If professors who can conduct their business through the medium of the Irish language are not available now, however much we may regret that fact, we should not close the door on those who will be coming forward with a knowledge of Irish and who will have equipped themselves to teach through the medium of Irish.

If the appointment were made for only five years or ten years the position would be different, and the door would not be closed on those who would come forward qualified with a knowledge of Irish. I ask the Seanad to consider the amendment from an educational point of view. I am not going into the relative merits of the present stamp of professors. Neither am I suggesting that they cannot do their business through the medium of Irish. I am thinking purely of the future. We want to hasten the day when university education can be imparted through the medium of our own language. In view of that we should abstain from making permanent appointments to chairs in the University College, Galway, of those who are not qualified to do all their work through the medium of the Irish language.

I desire to support the amendment, and in doing so I do not wish to go over the ground Senator O'Doherty has travelled in giving his reasons why the Seanad should pass the amendment. I would like to say, in the first place, that there is no mystery about the teaching of science through the medium of Irish, or any other language, and I would like to remind Senators that all the terms of art are classical, that is, they are Latin or Greek. Whether you teach scientific subjects such as physiology, botany, or any other subjects of that description, whether you teach in French, German, English or Irish, the terms of art, the main words, are all the same. They are Greek or Latin words. That is very convenient, because the meaning of the words never changes, and that is one of the reasons why Latin and Greek are selected for the purpose of giving names to the various terms of art in the various sciences. Where is the difficulty in teaching mathematics, physiology, astronomy or any scientific subject, or even poetry, through the medium of Irish? None whatever. There are people who know more about this subject than I do, but I think it is quite possible to get professors at the present time—I imagine they would be tumbling over each other —who are capable of imparting a knowledge of any scientific subject through the medium of Irish. The amendment proposes to restrict the appointment of a person not qualified to teach through Irish to a period not exceeding five years. That is a long temporary appointment. It has this advantage, that whoever is appointed can occupy his leisure hours during the five years in acquiring a knowledge of the Irish language. If during the period of his appointment he devotes any attention to Irish, at the end of the five years he should be able to come forward as a candidate capable of teaching his subject through the medium of Irish.

This Bill is for the purpose of extending the usefulness of University College, Galway. We are all most anxious that the usefulness of the work of the college should be extended, but the amendment would only hamper the university authorities in the selection of their professorships. I know of no university where there is such a limitation put on a governing body. I can mention two instances of medical schools—Colombo and the Welsh universities—where the students all speak the native tongue, but there is no such limitation regarding the professors. There are no text-books in Irish on subjects such as physiology and anatomy. I am not against Irish. I am in favour of Irish being extended in every possible way. If it had been proposed to appoint a professor to look after Irish folklore or Irish songs I would support it with my whole heart. I think if we accept what is proposed in the amendment we will be hampering the college by interfering with their selection of the most suitable candidates. Galway is handicapped in its medical school at present, and this amendment would kill the school. No man in a permanent post who is fitted for his work is going to take a temporary post.

The one bright spot in this Bill so far as I can see is that it provides for the appointment as professors of those who do not know the Irish language. Nobody who is worth his salt as a university professor is going to take the position if the appointment is to be limited to five years. The medical school in University College, Galway, is already handicapped and it will be still more handicapped if the proposal in the amendment is accepted. I do not know the number of medical students who qualified in the last seven years, as I have not returns by me, but they are surprisingly low. While we are waiting for the Irish language to be extended to embrace the terms that are necessary in the curricula of university education, apart from the fact that we are sacrificing the culture that language embodies, while the country is waiting for that to happen, what is to become of the school which has so far produced so few finished products? To equip the university with text-books in Irish on the different branches of science and art would cost about £2,000,000. That is if we have only one dialect, but if we have three dialects current in the country it might easily cost £6,000,000. If I had £6,000,000 to distribute in Galway I would spend it in Galway, for Europe begins at Galway; but this sort of thing will make Europe and culture end in Galway. It is pathetic to think that people's patriotism is supposed to have this climax in a dialect or three dialects. The limitation of Galway's university efficiency to five years is a thing we ought to set our face against. I am strongly opposed to the amendment.

The kernel of this Bill is to make provision for teaching in Galway College through the medium of Irish. The President alluded to the fears of our friends over there, that if there is no competent person to teach through the medium of Irish that somebody else should get the Chair, so that it should not lie fallow. I think that was made plain in Section 3 of the Bill. If some arrangement is not made, such as is suggested in the amendment. I think the teaching of English will be stabilised in the College, for if you appoint a man in a year's time to teach any subject he is appointed indefinitely if he cannot teach through the medium of Irish. I think an appointment of that sort is against the whole principle of the Bill, and, therefore, I support the amendment. I think that possibly three years would be better than five. Any person who gets the appointment for five years should be able to master the Irish language in that period. He will live in the University with the Irish language all around him, and if he cannot do something for the Irish language in the five years, it shows that he does not want to learn Irish. Senator Sir Edward Coey Bigger says that he has no objection to professors teaching folklore, and so on, through Irish. That is exactly where the enemies of the Irish language want to keep Irish, confined to the teaching of folklore and not letting it outside such narrow limits.

The Senator also told us that he has no hope of professors coming forward with a sufficient knowledge of the language to be able to teach scientific subjects through it. Of course he has no hopes, for he has no faith, and he cannot have hope without faith. The Senator has no faith in the Irish language, and, therefore, he has no hope. When listening to the Senator I was reminded of what I heard twenty years ago when the National University was being put on its feet. We were then told we were going to debase Irish university life by insisting that a knowledge of Irish was necessary for matriculation. Nobody is admitted to the National University without a knowledge of Irish. I think that what the University has accomplished in the twenty years of its existence justified what was done when it was being started, and as the National University has justified itself so, I think, the teaching of subjects through Irish will justify itself.

Senator O'Doherty in dealing with his amendment said he was discussing it entirely from the educational point of view From that point of view I cordially agree with him. It is from that point of view we ought to discuss the amendment. The last time we discussed this subject it was a case of abusing the plaintiff's attorney instead of discussing the Bill. Supporters of the propagation of the Irish language must see that they are quite wrong in imputing to us that we do not want to see the Irish language going forward. We are told that all the people of the Free State should be taught Irish, and that a knowledge of the Irish language will improve our nationality and everything else. We are not discussing that point of view. I think that those who are responsible for the education of our people in the Irish language should take care that they cannot be accused of pushing the subject to such an extent that they would interfere with the education of our Irish students in all the other matters with which they have to deal. I think if the amendment is passed it will undoubtedly for a good many years to come interfere with the education of students in Galway College in the ordinary subjects which they have to learn. It is perfectly true that you cannot get highly scientific professors and men learned in other subjects to take up appointments which are only for five years.

I hope the professors in Galway College will live long but if they drop out their places will have to be filled, and then notice goes out to the world of learning that the appointment is to be for five years. I think that all university professors and students who intend to follow that kind of life will not study for that. If we pass this amendment we will probably ruin the education of Galway College for years to come. It is from that point of view we want to debate the subject, and we should not be pushing forward the Irish language into such a place that any ordinary person can see is going to interfere with the education of the students in that College for years to come. It is being pushed into a position in which it ought not to be placed in any university. If the professors and teachers in that University, or College, are not of the highest class then the students also will not be of the highest class, and their chances in life are being interfered with, and the reputation of that College will go down, for it will not get the right class of students who will reflect credit on the University College. If the professors are men of learning equipped for their places they will reflect credit on their College by the teaching of their students, who will get degrees that will be of use to them in after life. I do not think that type of professor would be got if we pass this amendment.

It has been suggested that there may not be candidates equipped to teach certain subjects through the medium of the Irish language; and also that there would be candidates forthcoming, and, in fact, tumbling over one another, who would be qualified in that respect. It has further been said that if such candidates did not come forward there are men who are not equipped for the teaching of subjects through the medium of Irish who would be forthcoming. It has been said that no competent person would take a temporary appointment with the risk of his services being dispensed with at the end of five years. I suggest to the proposer of the amendment to add to the end of it the words: "unless in the meantime the person so appointed shall qualify to discharge the duties of the appointment through the medium of the Irish language." I think that no man of intelligence coming forward as a candidate for such an appointment would fail to qualify in Irish after five years if he devoted any attention at all to it in the interval. In fact, in Galway University, where he would be surrounded by Irish speakers, a man could not fail to learn the Irish language in five years. He would absorb it through his pores, because it would be spoken around him every day, even if he did not absorb it through his intelligence. I think an inducement should be held out that there would be no cast-iron cutting off of the appointment in five years, and that it would rest with themselves to continue the appointment.

I wish to express the hope that the Seanad will not carry this amendment. I am opposing it because it is not in accordance with the general idea we had in mind when framing the Bill. In drafting this measure our notion of how things would proceed was that we should set out in legal form the object to be aimed at, that we should indicate, as we do indicate in this section, that we assist the College in moving towards that object, but we do not try to tie up the College, or the Governing Body of the College, or we could have put many provisions in the Bill which would coerce them along that particular line. I believe that none of the multitudinous provisions we could put into this Bill for strengthening the position of Irish in the College would be of any real avail unless the Governing Body of the College itself, and the various officers of the College, are anxious to push Irish. I am very anxious that Galway College should become a truly Gaelic or Irish University at the earliest possible date, but I believe that will be done only when the people in the College realise thoroughly that if the College is to have an important future it will have that important future by doing everything it can in Irish and for Irish.

I think that the only way to get ahead is to lay that duty on the College in a legal form and to indicate, as is indicated in this Bill, that they will get assistance in doing that work, and then leave it to those in the College who believe in the future of the Irish language and in the need for fully restoring the Irish language to its proper place in the national life. I believe that the time is not far distant when the Governing Body itself will be prepared to make a temporary appointment rather than appoint some person not capable of carrying out instruction through Irish, provided it sees somebody in the offing who is likely to fill the office. If there is nobody in the offing who is likely to fill the office, it would be better to appoint a good professor who will do his work through English than to appoint an indifferent professor who would do his work through Irish. I believe that we will not increase the prestige of the language itself by having subjects taught through Irish by people who are not really competent to teach these subjects through Irish. On the other hand, it will often happen that the Governing Body will be able to say that while there is nobody at present available who can teach the subject through Irish there will soon be somebody. I know a particular subject that at the moment there is nobody at all in this country able to teach through the medium of Irish up to a University standard, but I know that there is an exceptionally brilliant student in that subject with a splendid knowledge of Irish. I think that in that particular case in two or three years time it will be possible to make an appointment of a person who can give instruction through Irish.

I believe that the Governing Body of Galway College will realise that great things, from the College point of view, depend on their doing their best, and that where such an applicant is likely to come forward in a short time they will themselves voluntarily keep the place open for him. I have known colleges to do it when there was no question of Irish involved; I have known them to hold places open for brilliant young people who were coming on, and I believe that Galway College itself will voluntarily hold places open. They will be more likely to do that if they are not tied up with this five years limit, because while an appointment might be only for five years, a person who would be available in two years' time might not be available in five years' time. I could devise a whole code for tying up the Governing Body of the College, but I deliberately, in directing the drafting of this Bill, refrained from putting such provisions in, because I know that even the best person who is put in will not be able to do anything if he has not the assistance and the general support of the College. I know that there have been many cases of professors, actually appointed, who might give instruction through Irish but who have not done it and who might not do it, because for a long time it would be heavier work for any professor to give instruction through the Irish language in nearly every subject than it would be if he gave it through English, and unless you have the right spirit in the College, the problem will not be by any means solved simply by appointing people who will be capable of giving instruction through Irish, because after their appointment they may proceed to give that instruction through English.

I think that the difficulties about giving instruction through Irish have been greatly exaggerated in the discussions here, and I also think that people who have been too ready to forget that there is a wide difference between excluding the Irish language altogether from a particular classroom and giving instruction entirely through Irish in that classroom. In certain cases I believe that if you have a person who knows the subject and who knows Irish he can give all his lectures in Irish, though he may perhaps have to refer the students to various textbooks in other languages. As a matter of fact, in a great many subjects, although the lectures are given through English, the students are referred to textbooks in languages other than English, and it would certainly be the case that in certain subjects, even if the lectures were given through Irish, the students would have to work with textbooks in other languages. But it would be a great gain, even if the students had to work with textbooks in other languages, from the point of Irish to have the lectures given through Irish. A Senator referred to the question of folklore. Folklore is important, and it is a thing that will not be available in another generation or two if not attended to and collected. But I am positive that the Irish language cannot live as a fireside or a country language merely; it can only live if it is used and has to be used by all classes and for all the purposes for which a language is used, by people of education as well as by people of no education. I am extremely anxious that it should be increasingly used in the Universities, and I think that it will be increasingly used, in spite of such difficulties as exist, say, in the matter of textbooks.

In respect of some subjects I think it will be possible to remedy to a very large extent the textbook difficulty without great delay or great expense. It should be remembered that even if all the textbooks that students will be required to use are not available in Irish, if there is a reasonable number of textbooks available, instruction can be very efficiently done through Irish, and if you have a good enough professor it can be done efficiently even without textbooks. But when the textbooks are available, the task of the professor who is teaching through Irish will be very greatly lightened. For the present it will be heavy.

I would like to come back to my original point, that if the Governing Body of Galway College does not want to promote the use of Irish all sorts of pretences can be put up. There is nothing I would be more afraid of than the thing which Senator Kenny suggested, that a man might be put in for a period of five years and that he would make himself able to give instruction through Irish within five years, that his appointment might be continued, because you could have people carrying on in some kind of way with some sort of Irish, but it would really be much better for the language if they frankly gave their lectures in English. Unless a man who was not qualified at the time of his appointment voluntarily obtained a proper knowledge of the language I would rather allow him to continue his lectures in English. There are people at present in various colleges who would undertake to give their lectures through Irish if any pressure were applied to them, but I think it would be of no advantage to the language to have them giving their lectures in halting, inefficient and incorrect Irish. I think that they would be better left alone. It is an important thing not to have that particular temptation put in the way of the University. There is no doubt that if a man has been in a position for five years, if he is liked amongst his fellows, is otherwise popular in the University, if he talks any sort of Irish and makes any sort of attempt to do his work through Irish, a point will be stretched in his favour and people will say: "Do not deprive him of his livelihood. Look at his young family," and so on. He will be kept on and he will do a great deal of harm instead of good to the Irish language.

I have given a great deal of consideration to this matter during the past two years, and nothing that has been said here has at all shaken me in the belief that the thing cannot be done by any form of coercion or regulation. If we are driven to coercion and regulation we will have to take complete State control of the College, have State appointments and power of dismissal, and all that sort of thing. I do not advocate that, but if we cannot believe that we can convince the Governing Body that it is their duty and their interest to go ahead with the work, the right thing to do would simply be to have State control.

I do think that there is some point in the argument that was raised in opposition. I do believe that you will not have very good candidates coming forward. It will happen for some years that people able to teach a subject through Irish will not be available, and that somebody who has not a knowledge of Irish will have to be appointed. You will not have good candidates coming forward. Some people will stand out altogether, in the belief that when they do not know Irish their chances are no good, knowing in any case that if they did get such appointments they would only be for a five-years' period and that they would be pretty sure to go at the end of the five years. I think that very mediocre candidates, or candidates that were scarcely even mediocre, will come forward. I think that the appointment of such candidates and the effect that it would have on the reputation of the College would do more harm than good. As I said in the Dáil, I am satisfied that already, since the settlement, which is really confirmed by this Bill, was made with University College, Galway, a great change has come over the spirit of that College, and while, of course, there are still people in it who are opposed to doing anything for Irish, those who are in favour of doing things for Irish have their hands strengthened and are able to make their weight felt, and that position is going to improve every year. I feel quite confident that Senators need have no doubt that things will be done as well as any of us could desire them to be done, and that they will be done, taking everything into account, as soon as possible.

There is one point that I would like to raise in connection with this amendment, a point which seems to me to be very frequently overlooked. We have been discussing for some time now the possible relative qualifications of professors, what would be equitable and just to the professors, and how we could get the right professors, and it has been said that we could not get the right professors if we only appoint them for five years. It seems to me that something ought to be said about the student's point of view. As said last week, we have already two universities in the State catering entirely for the English-speaking population of the country. We have the small University College of Galway, which is the one element that might be claimed as a cultural centre, from the university point of view, of the Gaelic and the potentially Gaelic student. I think it is only fair, with the other universities available and in view of the obvious intention of the Government and of most right-thinking Irish people to establish the Irish language on a proper basis, that we should at least do all that is possible to develop this one Gaelic centre of university culture in the country. I think that we ought to lay ourselves out as far as possible to cater for the Gaelic-speaking students who will go to that University.

As I say, we have been discussing it all from the professor's point of view; I want to speak on it from the student's point of view. Supposing we have in that college 200, 300, or 400 students, many of whom must inevitably know Irish, must have it as their native tongue or have got it through the primary education system, which is compulsory Irish, and through the secondary education system, which is also compulsory Irish, are we going to force these to learn English that they may become educated citizens of the Irish Free State? I claim that the student's point of view ought to count to some extent. In the other House a Deputy who was a medical officer recently said that in a hospital where there were 300 patients it was absolutely essential for the medical officer to know Irish in order to make diagnoses. I mention that merely as explaining the position of the Gaeltacht, and I think that we ought to accept this amendment in the belief that we will arrest at some point the permeation of English culture and outlook in every activity of Irish education as it stands at the moment.

The Minister for Finance said he felt that the Governing Body themselves may make temporary appointments. If that is the case all the arguments that have been advanced against temporary appointments are knocked on the head. I want to be quite fair, I see the possible danger and the difficulty of making temporary appointments. I see that men of eminence in their own branches of learning may not be ready to accept appointments for five years. But I do claim that we have a peculiar position to face, that we have to put a full stop at some point on the inroads of the university professors controlling our education entirely through the medium of English. One other point I want to make in regard to that is that from what I know of university professors, they are a class who continue to live for a very long time. It seems to me that if you place a university professor comfortably in his Chair, he will stay there until he has long grey hair almost down to his toes. Five years may seem a very short time to people like that, but I am serious about it in this regard. We may be installing them for an average period of twenty-five to thirty years, and during that time there will be no possibility of getting these subjects taught through the medium of Irish. If the House is satisfied with that, well and good, but if it feels that it wants Irish to be used as a medium of education in the university within a reasonable time, then I suggest that the amendment is the only way out.

With regard to what Senator Gogarty has said, of course Senator Gogarty always thinks in millions. He talked about six million pounds' worth of books. I am very glad to hear that we will require so many books to replace the English, Latin and Greek editions that we have in our universities. In spite of all the statements about our being a nation of saints and scholars, I doubt very much if his estimate of our book values is accurate. With regard to other arguments, I am afraid I must confess I have a great deal of sympathy. We have had sympathy expressed by Senator Jameson. I am sure it is a weight off all our minds to know that Senator Jameson is quite sympathetic to Irish. I certainly felt relief. But it is, I am afraid, lip service—that we may study little Gaelic stories and folklore and all the rest of it, but as regards making it a practical proposition by getting the Irish people to the point where they will live and think in the Irish language, that desire does not exist. I suggest that the only way to do that is by means of Galway. We are making a plea for the smallest university college in Ireland. We have Trinity, the National, and Cork, and there is the Queen's University in Belfast. This little college is in the last stronghold of Gaelic culture. Even if we inconvenience certain people and if it seems drastic, it is up to us to see that this college is put on its feet as soon as possible as the centre of Gaelic education and culture.

I am going to vote against this amendment because I think it altogether unnecessary. I am a member of the Governing Body of University College, Galway, and I can assure the House that there is not the slightest necessity for this amendment. In every case I think that the Governing Body of the college is quite alive to the fact that their existence depends on the way in which they carry out the provisions of this Bill. I know that in every case they will do their best to make the college Irish, and I know of one case where a professor is more or less on probation. He did not know very much Irish when he was appointed, but he has practically qualified now to teach in Irish as well as any of the other professors. They will do the best they can, and I think this amendment is altogether unnecessary.

It seems to me that the amendment helps to fulfil the intentions of the Bill, and if one accepts the Bill and its general purport the amendment appears to be reasonable. One cannot but take note of the argument of the Minister for Finance, knowing as we do how intensely enthusiastic he is to secure the object which the Bill sets out to accomplish. But there is an aspect of the question which has not been touched upon. I do not know what the practice is with regard to the appointments of university professors, but I know, as a matter of fact, that there are very frequent changes in professorships, and I am not sure whether five years is not a fairly complete life for a professorship. In one university I know, in certain subjects the changes have been much more rapid than that, and I wonder whether it would not be a good thing if professors were always appointed only for five years. That is, perhaps, beside the point, but taking the argument in regard to educational qualifications and the value from an educational point of view, of Galway University, and the fear that has been expressed regarding the quality and status of the professors that may be appointed we will have to bear in mind that this university is starting a new life, as one might say, and there have been a great many statements made, statements of the kind which would reach the professorial class, which would tend to lower the prestige of the college in their minds.

For instance, three speeches were made here to-day by Senators who, I imagine, have been through universities, and these speeches will reach the kind of teacher who had got to a lectureship and who might be an aspirant for a professorship somewhere. The tendency of these speeches, and other speeches which have been made, will be to lower the prestige of the college in the eyes of prospective professors. That being the case, there is the possibility—I will not say the likelihood—that highly-qualified men, in view of these statements, are not so likely to be applicants for professorships in these circumstances. But at the end of five years the college will have established itself, will have made its name and strengthened its position, and then the most highly-qualified professor might well be attracted to make application for professorships there. That seems to me to be the real reason why appointments that may be made within the next year or two should be specifically for a limited period, because in view of the general atmosphere that has been created I think we have to anticipate that the most highly-qualified men who are not Irish speakers—I am now assuming that there are certain Chairs for which there are not Irish speakers available—will have been deterred from seeking appointments on account of the attempted lowering of the prestige which the anti-Irish speeches which have been made will have brought about. In view of these circumstances I think that we should make provision for the probability that the prestige will have been regained and enhanced at the end of five years, and that if there is a new appointment to be made at that time, and that highly-qualified Irish speakers are not available, highly-qualified English speakers will be available. Therefore I think the amendment is worthy of support.

I have listened very attentively to the debate on this amendment, and I am amazed at the extraordinary amount of agreement which has been arrived at. I think we all, whether we are very keen about the teaching of the Irish language or not, feel that if Irish is to be taught in the national schools, if it is to be made a qualifying subject for the professions, it is a natural corollary that people should be able to get Irish instruction in the universities. It simply boils down now to a question whether the Seanad will be satisfied or not to let this amendment drop and leave it to the authorities of the different universities to take such steps as they think right. After what the lady Senator, who is more conversant with Galway than anybody else, has told us, I think that we might be perfectly satisfied that the authorities of Galway College will see that Irish does not suffer in the college. I think it is very gratifying, after the violent debate which we had, to see such a measure of agreement to-day. I will vote against this amendment if the Senator presses it to a division.

I am sorry to say that I differ from the Minister on this occasion, because on this subject, at all events, I believe we have always been in agreement previously. I have always congratulated him on that fact, which shows that he is right. But here it seems to me from all that he has said, that he is contradictory. He thinks it may be right to appoint people temporarily and for five years, but he thinks it is better to take the chance and see what the university professors will do. I am not very fond of professors. Everybody who knows anything about professors will know that they are very conservative and that they very reluctantly change their habits. Those who are in favour of the English language and not in favour of the Irish language are also very conservative, and it is very hard to make any of them see things as we see them. Therefore, I think it is best not to be trusting to chance as to what these professors might do. Supposing the Minister and those who have spoken with him are not right. Supposing that in the next few months there is a vacancy of the sort we speak of; supposing the university does not do what he says they will do, and that they appoint some person permanently, he may stop there for thirty or forty or fifty years for all we know. How can we go back on that? We cannot; we will be fixed simply because we took a chance in the matter. I am not inclined to take chances at all.

With regard to other matters, I am sorry that some people seem perpetually to be putting a drag on the question of Irish as the language of this country, because although they may really imagine that they are not doing so, according to our minds they are putting a regular drag on it. It always seems to me that, latent in their minds, whether they recognise it or not, there is a perpetual idea that Irish is a vulgar and an incompetent language, that it is a language that cannot be much used by anybody, that it should be only a kind of secondary language in this country, and that it would be very much better if it was not even that. They also seem to have the idea that it is extraordinarily difficult to learn the language. Suppose that an Irish professor, an eminent and a clever young man, goes over to France and teaches his subject for five years. Is there anybody here who will tell me that at the end of five years, if he takes the trouble and is a man of ordinary intelligence, he will not be able to teach in the French language? It does not take five years to learn a language if people set out to do it. I feel quite sure that any ordinary person who went over to France or Germany, without knowing a word of their languages, at the end of five years would be quite competent to teach in them. We have had recently two German professors in our Museum. Neither of them knew very much English when they came over, and yet they could do their business very well. Unfortunately, one of them has died since. But after they had been a very short time in the place both of them were able to do their business perfectly well in English. I have been all over the world and I have seen people learning languages quite readily and without any difficulty. I learned some languages myself in a sort of a way—very badly, I admit, but I could use them in a conversational way—and I do not admit that this difficulty exists at all.

It has been pointed out that we are asking very little. The ancestors of those people of conservative mind who opposed us, endeavoured for 700 years to suppress the Irish language. Whatever else they say that is what we think. I would ask them to remember that they have had every opportunity, by force and other means, and after 700 years they have not succeeded. They know the pressure that has been used against Irish, even in the last ten or twelve years, when people were put in prison for writing their names in Irish. Would it not be a little more generous for them to say "very well, the feeling of the country to-day is in favour of this. We have tried to stop it but we see we were wrong and we failed. Now go as far as you can." I think everybody here will agree that if Irish is to be the common language of the country the sooner it is made so the better, that the longer it is in a state of transition in which we know a little of one language and a little of another the worse it will be. If I had thought that a knowledge of the language would not have been developed quickly and permanently I never would have been in favour of it at all. I always supported it because I believe it is—I will not say easy, but capable of being learned in a very short time. For that reason I think the sooner it is done and the sooner we get a free hand to carry our way the better. Holding that view, I shall certainly vote in favour of the amendment.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 16; Níl, 26.

  • Sir Edward Bellingham.
  • Michael Comyn, K.C.
  • Joseph Connolly.
  • James Dillon.
  • Michael Duffy.
  • Thomas Farren.
  • Thomas Foran.
  • Thomas Johnson.
  • Thomas Linehan.
  • Seán E. MacEllin.
  • Colonel Moore.
  • Joseph O'Connor.
  • Joseph O'Doherty.
  • L. O'Neill.
  • Siobhán Bean an Phaoraigh.
  • Séamus Robinson.


  • William Barrington.
  • Sir Edward Coey Bigger.
  • Samuel L. Brown, K.C.
  • Miss Kathleen Browne.
  • R.A. Butler.
  • Alfred Byrne.
  • Mrs. Costello.
  • John C. Counihan.
  • The Countess of Desart.
  • James G. Douglas.
  • Michael Fanning.
  • Henry S. Guinness.
  • Right Hon. Andrew Jameson.
  • Cornelius Kennedy.
  • Patrick W. Kenny.
  • The McGillycuddy of the Reeks.
  • Francis MacGuinness.
  • John MacLoughlin.
  • Seán Milroy.
  • William John Molloy.
  • Sir Walter Nugent.
  • M.F. O'Hanlon.
  • Bernard O'Rourke.
  • James J. Parkinson.
  • Thomas Toal.
  • Richard Wilson.
Amendment declared lost.
Sections 3 and 4 and the Title put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be reported.
Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, December 4th.