Supplementary and Additional Estimates. - In Committee on Finance. Vote No. 46—Primary Education.

Thursday, 20 July 1933

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 49 No. 3

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Minister for Education (Mr. Derrig): Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  I move:

Go ndeontar suim Bhreise ná raghaidh thar £303 chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1934, chun Costaisí Bun-Oideachtais, maraon le Deontaisí i gCabhair do Chiste Phinsin na Múinteoirí.

That a Supplementary sum not exceeding £303 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1934, for the Expenses of Primary Education including Grants-in-Aid of Teachers' Pension Fund.

This £303 is a recoupment of portion of the expenses of a school manager in defending an action brought against him by a former teacher in the school. It is a recoupment of one-half of the manager's legal expenses as certified to the Department. The circumstances were that an investigation was carried out in a particular school, and [337] the Department decided to withdraw recognition from an assistant teacher. The teacher subsequently took proceedings against the manager, against the divisional inspector, and against two other teachers in the school. The case was brought before the High Court, and the teacher in question succeeded in getting damages against the two teachers, but not against the manager. Finally, the case was brought to the Supreme Court, and the judgment was there reversed. The manager had to undergo considerable expenses in connection with the case, and a promise was given that a recoupment of his expenses would be favourably considered. Accordingly we have agreed to recoup him to the extent of one-half the expenses.

Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney: Information on James Fitzgerald-Kenney  Zoom on James Fitzgerald-Kenney  The only thing I have to say on this matter is that I am really rather inclined to think the Department would have been well advised, and would have acted more generously, if they had recouped the entire of the expense, because if you consider the position of the manager in this case he had really nothing to do with it. There was an action brought against him, however, in which he was successful, but he could not get one single penny costs. In all respects he simply did what the Department practically told him to do, and it does seem to me rather hard that he should be put to a loss—the Minister said this was a recoupment of one-half the expenses—of £303. It does not seem fair that the manager, through carrying out what the Department asked him to do, in fact, practically told him to do, should incur a loss of £303. I think the Department, instead of coming forward with an Estimate for £303, should have come forward with an Estimate for double that sum, and paid the entire costs. It should be the general principle that when a manager of a national school does the thing which the Department tells him to do, and an action is brought against him, the Department should see him safe as to costs.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I should like to join with Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney in pressing that suggestion on the Minister. The [338] Minister will remember that what really happened was that an action for conspiracy was brought against this manager. When the case was brought to court the complainant was asked with whom had the manager conspired, and the reply was “with himself.”

After a lengthy hearing, judgment was entered in favour of the manager. Subsequently the case went to the Supreme Court, which acquitted the manager of any charge of conspiracy or impropriety. As Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney has said, circumstances may arise from time to time when the manager is bound, in the due discharge of his duties, to take upon himself the dealing with a teacher; the position really is that the Department has insisted upon his adopting that course. Where a situation of that kind arises the manager is entitled to look to the Department for indemnity against costs. There is no use in recovering costs in either court from a person in those circumstances; they cannot put up one penny. I suggest to the Minister that in this and similar cases he should favourably consider the proposal that the manager should be assured, in defending his good name or the good name of the Department, and rebutting a charge of conspiracy levelled against the Department or against himself, that the Department will indemnify him in cases where it is impossible for him to recover the costs.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  The question as to the extent to which the manager was carrying out the instruction of the Department of Education in this matter is one that I am not going to debate now. I simply want to say that in connection with the manager's part in the business I cannot admit that he had any legal right to the recoupment of his expenses.

Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney: Information on James Fitzgerald-Kenney  Zoom on James Fitzgerald-Kenney  We know he had not.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  I think the Deputies who have spoken will recognise that it may happen that there will be occasions on which cases of this or an analogous kind are taken against managers. Even assuming that the manager is acting in good faith and is [339] carrying out his duties, I do not think that Government Departments, particularly the Department of Finance, could be readily got to agree that we should here and now accept the principle that when a manager is concerned in a case like this the State should bear the entire cost. The only promise that was made to the manager in question was that the matter would be favourably considered. Although the case went through a long and tortuous process of law there was never any definite promise made by our predecessors that the whole of the expenses would be recouped. We think we are fulfilling the promise that was made to the effect that the matter would be considered favourably, by recouping the expenses to the extent of one-half. Whatever the merits of the case may be, and whatever the losses which the manager has undoubtedly sustained, I do not think there is the slightest chance of having the matter reconsidered further at this stage.

Mr. Good: Information on John Good  Zoom on John Good  Can the Minister say are there any precedents to guide him?

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  Not as far as I know.

Mr. Good: Information on John Good  Zoom on John Good  I am not so sure that we are not establishing a precedent now, which will be used against us in the future, whereby we guarantee a moiety of all costs.

Vote put and agreed to.

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