Tuesday, 28 November 1922
Dáil Éireann Debate
The PRESIDENT: I beg to move that the Estimate of the amount required in the year ending the 31st March, 1923, for expenses of Reformatory and Industrial Schools, including places of detention (Children Act, 1908), £97,613, be granted.
Mr. T.J. O'CONNELL: With regard to this special type of school, I think it would be well that we would know something or have some statement from the Ministry as to the measure of control which the Government has offered these institutions, and what action is taken to see that they are carried out in a proper way. We want to know whether they are private or semi-private or public institutions or charitable institutions, or profit-making institutions. As I understand, they have in addition to the Government grant, a grant from the County Councils. Then they have the earnings of the workshops and they have, of  course, farms and gardens, and I am informed that their lay employees— manual teachers, say, teachers of carpentry, tailoring, shoe-making and such, are paid under the ordinary Trade Union wages in the particular district. We do not know what regulations are made by the Government to see that full value is given for the grants which are given for these schools. I put that question some time ago to the Minister for Local Government with regard to the pensions, or rather the want of pensions to people employed in these schools. His reply was to the effect that while provision was made for them under the Children Act of 1908 the schools were not in a financial position to give pensions. I do not know, of course, how the Minister arrived at that, but I can assure him that there are a great many people who will differ with him in that opinion. That is why I asked if the Accounts—the income and expenditure of these schools— are audited or is there any standard by which they are determined. I believe from what I can learn that the lay employees of some of these schools are rather badly treated; they have no pensions, as I have said, and they have very long hours—over 51 hours per week.
Mr. O'CONNELL: To some people, yes. They have no sick leave, and I think it would be well if we had some opinion on these matters. I may say, generally speaking, I think it is an anomaly to have institutions of this kind —Industrial Schools—under the Local Government Board, and I would be glad to see them under the Education Department. As for Reformatory Schools, I very much doubt whether they should be there at all.
Mr. ERNEST BLYTHE: As far as Reformatories are concerned, they certainly cannot afford any expenditure beyond what they already have. They are paid on a capitation basis and as long as they keep open at all their overhead expenses cannot be cut down. In recent years there have not been the number of committals there had been previously Very considerable numbers of young ruffians who ought to be in them are now Commandant-Generals in what they call the Republican forces or Irregulars.  Consequently when these people are not in the places they ought to be, the Reformatories are in a very bad way financially. The only way in which they can be put in a position to do something for their employees would be by very considerably increased grants in order to enable them to carry over temporarily. It may be necessary to do something in the way of a special grant. I daresay a good deal of the same thing applies to the Industrial School. I know that the Reformatories are being carried on to some extent out of the resources of the ecclesiastical authorities which are concerned with the control of them. A good deal might be said in the same way with reference to Industrial Schools. It would probably be well if there were a greater expenditure on them. This whole matter is under consideration. I think myself Reformatories if continued—and it might be well to substitute something in the nature of Borstal Institutions for them—should go to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Industrial Schools are very largely agencies for the keeping of children who might otherwise be destitute and who in former days to some extent were kept in the Workhouses. There is a sort of controversy going on between boarding-out and the conduct of Industrial Schools on enlightened lines. In some parts of the country, as far as my own experience went, the boarding-out system was exceedingly successful. In other parts of the country the boarding-out system has been the reverse of successful and it has been thought it would be very much better to use Industrial Schools. For that purpose the Industrial Schools ought to be separated entirely from the Reformatories if Reformatories are continued, and the whole Association ought to be ended. That is a thing I think is agreed upon and will be accomplished before long.
Motion made and question put: “That the Dáil in Committee, having considered the Estimates for Reformatory and Industrial Schools in 1922-23 and having passed a Vote on Account of £73,500 for the period to the 6th December, 1922, recommend that the full Estimate of £97,613 for the Financial Year, 1922-23, be adopted in due course by the Oireachtas.”
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