Tuesday, 29 June 1971
Dáil Eireann Debate
Tháinig an Coláiste Náisiúnta Ealaíne faoi chúram na Roinne Oideachais sa bhliain 1924 faoin teideal “Metropolitan School of Art”. Sa bhliain 1936 tugadh an ainm do atá air faoi láthair. Is é an príomhfhoras ealaíne sa tír é agus leantar cúrsaí ann sna saorealaíne, na h-ealaíne agus na céird ornáideacha agus in oiliúint múinteoirí ealaíne. hOileadh sa choláiste tromlach ealaíontóirí cáiliúla na tíre agus bhain cuid mhór díobh clú amach dóibh féin thar lear. Sa bhliain 1967 dubhrathas i dtuairisc an Chomisiún um Ard-Oideachais, ag tagairt don chóláiste, nach raibh modhanna riaracháin na státsheirbhíse feiliúnach do institiúd ard-oideachais. Tá an ghné seo den choláiste scrúdaithe go mion agam agus sé mo thuairim láidir gur fearr an seans forbartha a bheadh ag an gcoláiste dá mbeadh sé faoi stiúradh bhoird neamhspleách nach mbeadh faoi thionchur rialacha na Státsheirbhíse.
The National College of Art has a long and honoured history and has produced many distinguished alumni. Most of our outstanding artists received their training there and many of them achieved a high reputation both nationally and internationally.
The report of the Commission on Higher Education expressed the view,  in relation to the National College of Art, that the administrative patterns of the Civil Service were not suited to an institute of higher education. This was a view which had been previously expressed by my Department. What was at issue was the means through which the situation might be altered. Events of the past two years have not helped in that direction. However, this is no time for recrimination. The positive approach provided in the Bill now before the House is what we are set to discuss here.
Under the Bill it is proposed to amend the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, with a view to removing the college from my direct control and to establish an independent governing body whose duty it will be to carry out the management of the college and the organisation and administration of its affairs. The functions of the board generally are set out in section 5 of the Bill.
An Bord itself will consist of a chairman and eight to ten ordinary members. This number was considered the most suitable, being large enough to allow for representation of appropriate interests and small enough to ensure that it could carry out its functions with a degree of expedition which a larger and more unwieldy board might not.
An innovation in the structure of a board such as this is the provision for teacher and student representation. As the House is no doubt aware I have already introduced the concept of student representation on the governing body of three of the constituent colleges of the National University of Ireland. In the case of the College of Art it is proposed to enshrine this concept in legislation and give it a statutory basis.
Some members of the college staff are permanent whole-time officers, having been appointed to their present posts as a result of competitions held by the Civil Service Commissioners. One part-time post was also filled on the recommendation of the Commissioners. Special provision is being made to have these members of the staff retained in the service of An Bord on terms no less favourable than those they enjoy at present.
 Provision is also being made for a number of temporary teachers who have given long and substantial service to the college to ensure their retention on the staff, also on terms no less favourable than those they enjoy at the moment. These are the only restrictions which are being placed on An Bord in the matter of the persons whom they may wish to appoint on the college staff.
I am confident that under the aegis of an autonomous board, such as is proposed, working in accordance with the provisions of the Bill, the college will develop more rapidly so as to cater better for the increasing needs, both cultural and economic, of the community. The new title proposed for the college emphasises the desirability of expanding facilities on the design side. It also shows that a college such as this has not only a valuable part to play in the cultural life of the country but has also a vital place in the planning for our economic future. Good quality is enhanced by good design and in a competitive market the good design will attract attention. I commend the Bill to the House.
Dr. FitzGerald: No one on any side of the House could doubt the need for a Bill in order to establish the National College of Art as an autonomous institution under its own governing board or authority of some kind. In fact, I suppose there is no institution in this country which has so long needed a reform of this kind, in respect of which so many reports have been written advocating reforms of this or similar kinds and where the process of gestation has been so prolonged. It is, therefore, with some regret that I have to say that the Bill, as drafted, contains so many objectionable features that on this side of the House we cannot support it. The principle of having a so-called independent board— the Minister used the word “independent” in his speech and I smiled when he used the word—to run this institution is one of course we accept, but when one reads through the Bill one discovers the dead hand of bureaucracy at every point.
The Bill throughout is literally  peppered with all kinds of controls —the Minister having authority to do this and that, nothing can be done unless the Minister agrees, indeed it is extended even to the point where there is a unique clause, to which I shall turn later, under which civil servants, from the Department of Finance and the Department of Education are entitled to march in at any time and demand from anybody, including members of the staff and the director, documents and information and have them fined if they refuse to produce them on the spot. I have never heard of such a provision in respect of any body in the public sector, never mind an educational institution.
A Bill with those draconian clauses, showing such extraordinary instincts of bureaucracy and dictatorship, which even though the object for which I suppose it is designed is one with which we sympathise, is a Bill which we cannot in this form support. It is not merely a question of Committee Stage objections. There will be many and I am afraid it will be a rather long Committee Stage debate, like the one on the HEA Bill. It is something more fundamental. It is the whole spirit of the Bill. The Bill, grudgingly concedes that there shall be some kind of authority to run this college. I can see why, because to have any kind of authority as a buffer between the Department on the one hand and the staff and students on the other will be a relief to the Department. Far from wishing to be rid of this burden, to dispose of it to a genuine autonomous body, and breathe a sigh of relief, the Department want to have it both ways. They seek on the one hand to shed the burden of responsibility to the board and on the other hand to retain the rights of interference and intervention of a kind without parallel, running beyond even the kind of provisions there are in the HEA Bill. I know the Minister will not accept what I say. He will feel that what I am saying is exaggerated or unacceptable and that this Bill is a genuine effort to solve a problem. I know all the phrases that are there. He will be rather hurt at my approach to the Bill. I am afraid there is here a gulf of comprehension.
Dr. FitzGerald: Even occasional helpful interventions will be very encouraging. I can see the Minister will not really see what I am getting at. I think he quite genuinely believes this Bill does what needs to be done but his class of mind and the extent to which he is in close sympathy with the bureaucratic instincts of people within his Department are such that something which to him is acceptable is repugnant to other people actually engaged in education or other people concerned with political liberties and individual freedom. I will come back to that later. I merely want to make clear at the beginning where we stand. There is no point in launching into a long historical dissertation, as I have to do, I am afraid, without first of all explaining where one stands. I want it to be quite clear where I stand and where my party stand on this issue.
Let us go back to the history behind this. I smiled again when the Minister spoke of the long and honoured history of the college Of course, it would be surprising if a college of this kind with its long history had not many marks of distinction amongst those who have graduated from it. Indeed, it is honoured by the subsequent work and fame of many of its graduates. Somehow, anybody following its chequered history over the past decade, if they had to choose one adjective and one only to describe it, would not, I think, immediately have leaped at the word “honoured” as the one most nearly describing the college as we have known it for the last ten years or so.
Its present situation goes back for quite a long time, indeed, before I was born, and it is only shortly after I was born that the first of many critical reports came, the first by the French experts in 1967 which suggested that the college should be re-organised in  the most thorough way. They said it was a prime necessity to replace the headmaster and three of the staff. I am sorry to say that the Government of the day rejected those recommendations. I do not know whether the recommendations were soundly based but they certainly echoed a number of later recommendations.
The headmaster became a director and the staff were retained. Perhaps that was the right thing to do. I cannot judge because I have no knowledge beyond the bare recommendations of that time. What is disturbing is that as far back as 44 years ago the kind of situation existed which we have now, of complaints and dissatisfaction and that we had reports of outside experts, highly critical, proposing that the staff be changed.
We had the Scandinavian report of 1961 which stated that as at present constituted the college cannot be a starting point for education of people in the different arts—for the education of painters, sculptors and designers. It went on to make many other criticisms of the college and how it was run. A couple of years later there was the Council of Design report which stated that the premises were totally inadequate and made it difficult to improve the calibre of the students.
In 1967 the Commission on Higher Education commented that the running of the college was unsatisfactory. They stated that to have it under the Civil Service was an unsatisfactory arrangement which should be changed. I understand that shortly after that there was a report of two art inspectors, not, I think, commissioned by the Department, which was highly critical. I am open to correction about some of these because one hears one side and the other side and I hope that in the interest of the public the Minister will correct me, without, of course, dotting every “i” and crossing every “t”, but I have heard it said that the report was not published, that it was suppressed and not made available to the public and that even its authors were subsequently refused admission to the college.
We then had the investigation by Mr. O'Connor, in August 1968, when  he spent two mornings each week investigating to see what should be done about the college. I have also seen a reference—I have not been able to track this down any further—to a report by a second advisory council, but there was certainly a report by a sub-committee of the second advisory council which was not implemented, and this led to three resignations from that committee in protest.
There is here a long history of investigation and study, a number of them initiated by the popular authority, the Government of the day, none of them leading to action, and when one comes to consider the deplorable events of the past three years one must put a good deal of the blame on the failure of the Government to do anything about the situation revealed by these reports. One cannot condone some of the activities of some of the people in the college in the past couple of years but one can understand the kind of frustrations that led to the outbreaks that occurred. Indeed, anybody who has any kind of fire in his belly would find it hard to put up with the conditions that have been there and the failure to take any action, and it is easy to understand people in the heat of the moment taking the sort of action which one ordinarily could not recommend.
In the past three years, the centre of interest has shifted from the persistent flow of critical reports to the relations between the college—students and staff—and the Minister and the Department. During this period there has been a history of relations which has been uniquely satisfactory. I think it is fair to say that it was unfortunate that the Minister who had to deal with this problem in 1968 was Deputy Brian Lenihan, now Minister for Transport and Power, because his predilection for promising various solutions to problems, whether these solutions are ones which can be achieved quickly——
Dr. FitzGerald: ——had caused problems in many areas where you pass through, but I do not think there is any area where he could have done  so much damage as in the College of Art. I am afraid the students at that time, somewhat naïvely politically, finding themselves faced with a very genial, friendly Minister who seemed very sympathetic with their case, who promised all kinds of reforms and changes, took his promises seriously and I am afraid that a good deal of what followed has been because of the frustration following discovery by the students that none of the promises was worth the paper on which it was written. The Minister refused to write them down or to sign them although he had promised to do that, too.
The first meeting of the students with that Minister was in April, 1968. With his customary ebullience, Deputy Lenihan promised them immediate action, new buildings within five years —this is a long time for a Brian Lenihan promise: they are usually for shorter periods—a governing body with student participation within one month and another meeting with them within three weeks. The times get shorter as one goes along. The next meeting was three months later, in August 1968. I understand he apologised, as it is customary for him to do on these occasions, and in order to allay their dissatisfaction he shortened the time for the building of the new college from five years to three years. He also promised a new governing body by Christmas.
However, when Christmas came this present was not given to the students. Instead, the promise was withdrawn and instead an advisory council was proposed which the students, with the patience they showed at that time, accepted. I think they were unwise to do so—they should have stood firm on the previous promise in regard to the governing body. At that time, however, they were completely naïve and perhaps, too easily conciliated.
The advisory council was set up and within two months—again, I admit I may have been misled in some of this information—the council thus established, consisting of two Government representatives, I think three staff and three students, with Mr. O'Connor from the Department as director, accepted proposals from the students that there  should be established an executive committee of art educationalists. Acceptance of this proposal eliminated the reason for the committee's own existence. This recommendation by the advisory council, which the Minister had himself established, was rejected by Mr. O'Connor at that stage and this led to a point where the students withdrew and there was the first closure of the college.
In March, 1969, the whole cycle was taken up again. Again, meetings took place between the students and the civil servants. There were two more meetings with Deputy Lenihan at which a second interim advisory council was offered and, I think, accepted, again, the students showing exemplary patience, having been codded about the governing body and having been codded about the promised acceptance of the recommendations of the first advisory council. They very patiently accepted the second advisory council, this one to consist of the director, who would be chairman, two students, two teachers, a departmental art inspector and six others from the field of art education and design.
This second advisory council appointed a sub-committee, to which I have already referred, to look into the question of what should be done about the college. At the same time, Deputy Lenihan promised consultations with the students at all stages of the drafting of the Bill. A number of promises were made—the students listed them at 20, but, of course, they probably split them up into sub-promises and made them seem as numerous as possible— and the Minister promised to sign them when they were written down. I recall that particular occasion because I met some of the students and saw their sense of elation and subsequent frustration when that particular promise to sign the promises was not implemented.
The college was re-opened on 15th April and when Deputy Lenihan refused either to sign the promises or to keep them the first occupation took place, an occupation during which damage was done to these plaster casts, which have intrigued this House for some months past and whose provenance,  values and artistic merit have been matters of considerable debate here. Indeed, it is nice to see the House so concerned about matters of such artistic merit because it does not often spend much of its time discussing them. I found it a little difficult to believe the value placed on these heavily overpainted 19th century objects. We never, of course, managed to discover at question time, as Deputy Thornley will recall, who the expert was who placed this remarkable valuation on them. However, the students in their frustration did do damage to these plaster casts and they are not to be condoned for doing that, although the fact that they occupied the college on that and other occasions is something which is very easy to understand in the circumstances of this extraordinary litany of broken promises and mismanagement.
In the meantime the sub-committee of the second advisory council appointed by the Minister reported. Their report favoured the dissolution of the college as it stood and the setting up of a new institution with re-staffing. This was not the first report that emphasised the need to re-staff the college; this has been the recurrent theme through the long period of the college's existence. It is not easy for this House to assess the validity of these recommendations but any institution which is the subject of so many reports, a number of which do contain this recommendation, raises questions as to whether the present staffing is entirely satisfactory. This report recommended that all existing posts should at least be technically dissolved so that a fresh start could be made.
This report was not accepted or implemented and three members of the council, Professor Christopher Ryan, Professor Geoffrey Hewitt, principal of the Cork School of Art, and Mr. Dermot Larkin, resigned in protest against the non-implementation of the report which they had been asked to prepare. Mr. Dermot Larkin has been reported as saying that all the members of the advisory council, other than the actual members of the staff of the college, agreed with this report. I can understand the hesitation of the staff of the college to agree with a report  which suggested that their contracts should be terminated and not necessarily renewed. I should like to hear from the Minister if it is true that all the other members agreed with the recommendations and if not, how many of them agreed because that is a very serious and important point for us to know about.
There followed a period of relative calm, despite the frustrations caused by the non-implementation of this further recommendation, until May, 1970, when the students proposed that an association of members of the College of Art, comprising all the students and all the staff, should run it. This was accompanied by a further occupation by a group of students, but not all the students, and this was followed by a meeting with the present Minister. At this stage we start having meetings with a Minister who, although we may have criticisms of the way he has handled this affair and the Bill before us, at least does not promise what he does not intend to do or what he is not capable of performing. If anything I would fault the present Minister with promising too little rather than too much. The Minister regarded the student group as not representative and rejected all their proposals which was a refreshing change from the approach of Deputy Lenihan.
In October last year we had the introduction of gardaí into the college to remove an unregistered student. As I understand it, he had been suspended in May and although he had refused to submit his work, it had been passed by two external assessors; he was never let fail but was later awarded the diploma after a nominal assessment. One feature of the college's history in the last couple of years has been the number of occasions on which disciplinary measures were instituted, very unwisely at times, and subsequently had to be retrieved or modified when commonsense broke in. That itself is bad for discipline in any educational institution; disciplinary measures should be few and far between and when they are undertaken they should not be undertaken unless it is absolutely clear they are necessary and unless  those concerned are going to stand over them. It is very unwise to discipline people, without adequate reason, in a half-baked way and then have to climb down. Towards the end of last year also, Miss Lucy Charles was appointed acting director, a decision which evoked protest from the students. In the current year we have had the dismissal of the model, the appointment of Mr. Michael O'Neill as administrator, a further occupation in April, and the events of the last couple of months of which the House is all too much aware.
In all that tangled history whoever is to blame it is not the students. I am not saying they are not to blame for their actions and frustrations and that their actions were not, at times, reprehensible, but it is not they who established the college, it is not they who run the college and it is not they who fail to reform it. They are the victims and as victims sometimes are, they have been sulky victims, reluctant victims and angry victims. It is more important that we have regard to their status as victims than to the adjectives one can apply to the kind of victims they were. Their behaviour was less than perfect at times but the fact that they were faced with the intense frustration of repeated promises of change and reform and the failure to implement these promises, explains a good deal of their behaviour. In fact, although they have been blamed for causing damage on several occasions, I do not think the position has been helped by the exaggeration of the damage done.
Throughout most of the period and at many stages during this complex and devious history their actions have been surprisingly moderate. Their willingness to accept the dropping of the promise of the governing body, their willingness to accept the collapse of the first advisory council and their willingness to accept the second advisory council, the extent to which they accepted being strung along with promises of various kinds, does not suggest a group of wild, revolutionaries looking for every possible occasion to cause trouble. It suggests a group of students not particularly radical for the  most part, rather politically naïve, gradually becoming increasingly frustrated after months and even years of frustration and total mishandling at political and Civil Service level and some, although by no means all, of the staff, reaching a state of frustration when their behaviour continued in its immoderation. That is the best description one can make of the way this has evolved.
There have been a great many misunderstandings. Misunderstandings were, perhaps, inevitable when a Government Department, administrative civil servants, were running not just an educational institution but this particular educational institution because the College of Art is the kind of educational institution which is least likely to be successfully or happily run on simple, bureaucratic lines. If one had to pick the educational institution in charge of which one would not put civil servants, despite their great merits, it would be an art college. One might possibly put them in charge of a college of public administration but not an art college.
There is a conviction on the part of the students that they are being victimised in all kinds of ways and often, perhaps these convictions are delusions. The situation they have been in has bred paranoia. I believe I have evidence, from what I have heard from both sides, of misunderstandings on both the part of the Minister, whose contacts have been necessarily somewhat indirect—he has met the students on several occasions but on the whole the contacts have been through civil servants—and misunderstandings on the part of the civil servants concerned. The conviction of the civil servants, which has extended to the Minister, and has been evident in both the reactions of the Minister and the civil servants, that they are faced with a band of dangerous revolutionaries, stems a good deal from a failure to understand the students. Those of us who are involved in the educational process and who have occasion to deal with students frequently and are very much involved with them become more accustomed to the use of revolutionary language and treat it without too much seriousness. When students talk to us  about the neo-colonialist, imperialist attitude of the college authorities we do not get terribly excited about it. We translate that into saying that they are not satisfied with the cloakroom facilities or something like that. Of course, there are among young people today individuals who have revolutionary leanings and some of these may be quite effective organisers although the fissiparous tendencies of the extreme left usually undo any work achieved by the vociferous tendencies of the extreme left and very often these groups are much less dangerous than the noise they make would appear to suggest.
I think some of the difficulties have arisen because the authorities of the college—perhaps the staff, most certainly the civil servants and the Minister—have taken much too seriously the language used occasionally and I am not convinced, as they seem to be, that there are people there who are determined to break up our institutions. Perhaps there are some, nobody can prove negatives anyway, but certainly on the record of how this whole business has gone and judging it by the standards of other educational institutions and their experience, I do not detect much revolutionary activity going on there but a surprising moderation in the early periods turning into a very unfortunate radicalism on the part of the minority at a later stage. Above all, I detect a sense of confusion, unhappiness and, at times, despair on the part of students most of whom and conceivably indeed all of whom simply want to get a decent art education and are utterly frustrated about getting it in the present conditions.
I know the Minister will not agree with me. He will say, with justice, that he is closer to it than I am or at least that he is in direct contact with the civil servants who have to deal with the individual people concerned, that my contacts are only with certain people, that I only see the good side of them, that they put on a good face when they are talking to me and that I do not know the whole truth. No doubt he can say this, but I am still not convinced and I would on the whole tend to trust my own instinct in these matters, even  based on the more limited knowledge I have, than trust to his judgement or that of some of his officers who, I think, are not really in a position perhaps to assess just how seriously meant are some of the things that have been said.
So much for background and history. It suggests to me the need now to make a very real break. It suggests to me that the last thing we want is a so-called autonomous authority which must turn to the Minister for approval of many of its actions and the very last thing we want is a college into which at any hour of day or night civil servants can march and demand to see documents and if a member of the staff stops them to say “Hello” to them and thereby delays them—I am taking the extreme case of course to show the absurdity of it—he can be fined £100. It is inconceivable to me that you can have an educational institution into which civil servants have the right to march, to demand to see documents, and if not handed what they want immediately by staff or students, by the administrative staff, the registrar, the director, anybody, and if not just obstructed but delayed even, can go to the courts and have penalties imposed on the people concerned. I suppose one runs a labour camp like that. No doubt there are countries where there are labour camps run like that. I suppose the punishment is something different to a fine because there would not be much money floating around a labour camp not that there is that much money floating around the College of Art either, I think.
As a way of running an education establishment it is frankly incredible. I can only hope that the Minister will have second thoughts and that section 25 of this Bill, which shows him and his advisers in so far as they have any responsibility for it, in a very bad light, will be withdrawn. I do not believe frankly that when the Minister stands back from it and thinks about it his better self will want to stand over it and I know many members of his party who would not wish to be associated with a measure of this kind involving this draconian provision for constant, continuous civil service interference in the affairs of an educational institution with penalties before the  courts for anybody who delays them as they go about their business, business which they should not have at all in such an institution.
Far from wanting to set up that kind of institution what we want is a College of Art as far removed as possible from the public administration, financed by public funds, suitably controlled to ensure that they are properly expended. We have a system now through the Higher Education Authority for doing this. I see no reason why —at least I see a reason but I do not regard it as a valid reason—this body should not be financed through the HEA and put at a remove from the Department of Education. In saying that I am conscious of the fact, although he is not here at the moment, that I am probably by so doing losing Deputy O'Donovan's sympathy and support. Despite that I still think there is something to be said for the buffering of it especially in this case when there has been so much buffeting that a buffer seems very much to be desired.
There are many other features of the College of Art and the way it has been and is operating which we need to consider in the context of this Bill. It is only when one considers these that one can really see the Bill in perspective and really see what is wrong with it and why we need a very different kind of Bill. I shall run through about half a dozen features of the college which seem to require a bit of attention. One which I am very puzzled by is the system under which students pass their assessments or examinations. The arrangements is, on the face of it, satisfactory enough. They present their work for assessment to two outside assessors and their professor. The decision, I suppose, is taken by the majority and it seems to me on the whole an unexceptionable system assuming that the external assessors are well and properly chosen and I have no reason to think they are not. That would be all right if that having been done students then passed but in this most curious of institutions when they have been passed, when their artistic work has been approved of by the external assessors and their own professor and they are judged to  have passed and to have qualified either in the final year for the diploma or in an earlier year to pass on to the next year, at that stage the assessments go to the Department for approval. If I recall correctly the representations made to me last year, they remain there for rather a long time. I seem to recall being asked by students to find out how much longer it would be before they got their results. I was rather started to discover that the results were held up in the Department. I believe that last year—again the Minister will contradict me if I am wrong and he probably will have some corrections to make in some of the things I am saying—one student passed by the assessors, internal and external, was in fact failed by the Department who have no function it is the matter whatsoever because it is not their job to withdraw the award of a pass to a student who has been assessed in this way. I believe that subsequently after protest the student was in fact passed.
I should like to know from the Minister what exact function is meant to be performed by the Department. Why do the marks have to go to the Department? Have the Department at any time in the past three years failed somebody who was passed by the assessors? Why have they done so? On what grounds do they assert the right to do so? What is the purpose of this extraordinary mechanism? I should like to have an assurance from him that in the current year—because this process is going on at present—students who have been passed by the assessors will not be deprived of that pass by any administrative action by the Department.
It is a curious fact—I believe it to be a fact—that this year the external assessors have been asked not to say anything to the students about how they got on. It has been the normal informal practice in the past, as it is very often in the university and other institutions of higher education, to tell the students informally how they have done before the formal results come out. One is often pressed for this information and one often gives students an indication of how they have done if the position is clearcut. If they were borderline cases obviously before they  would go to the final board you would not, but once they go to the board the marks are published and everybody knows where he is. This year for some reason external assessors appear to have been asked not to disclose this information to students. One wonders whethere this new procedure betokens any increased intention on the part of the Department to utilise a power which they appear to claim to overturn a decision of the assessors and, for their own reasons, to fail a student who has passed.
I should also like to know from the Minister if there is any truth in the statement made to me that on this occasion the external assessors were approached by administrative civil servants in respect of some of the students, not about their work but about their character. My information is that the external assessors were astonished at this, resentful of it, and regarded it as something they had never come across anywhere in the world. Is it the case that such contacts took place between administrative civil servants and the external assessors? Were the external assessors approached by administrative civil servants about the characters of the students, about what kind of people they were? What was the purpose of such intervention? If it took place—and I should like a clear assurance from the Minister on this matter—what could the purpose be other than to prejudice the external assessors against the students?
I doubt if it would work because most academics—and these people are academics—have very high standards in these matters and any attempt to prejudice them against a student usually has very little effect indeed. I should like to know precisely what this mechanism is, why the Department retain this right, and have they in the past failed people the assessors had passed? Can the Minister assure me that it will not happen this year? What contacts took place, about the students, between administrative civil servants and the external assessors? These are questions that have to be asked in view of the situation that exists in the college.
Another recent event in the college which I found very disturbing, and  which we ventilated in the Dáil but which we have not sufficiently sorted out yet, is the curious case of the conflicting statements after the meeting with the Minister. There was a meeting between the staff and the Minister which I had some little part in trying to get going by trying to get the two sides together to talk. This meeting was followed by a statement by the Secretary of the staff association expressing dissatisfaction. As I understand it, that statement was issued without the authority of his colleagues, off his own bat, and was his assessment of the meeting. There followed a statement issued in the names of seven of the nine members of the staff concerned which did not actually repudiate the secretary's statement, as such, but repudiated Press reports suggesting that they were dissatisfied with the meeting with the Minister.
In this statement, very properly I think, they paid tribute to the courtesy of the Minister. Indeed, I must say that both members of the staff and students I have met have been at one in paying tribute to his courtesy and his willingness to listen to their views. There is no question about that. They may not feel that he always takes the action they want him to take, but they all feel that they have had a full and courteous hearing from him. After the issue of that statement by the seven members of the staff, or on their behalf, other Press reports appeared, other statements were made, which suggested that they were prompted to make that statement.
We have had this out at Question Time and I must say that I was not impressed with the Minister's approach. I respect the Minister's integrity and I respect his honesty. I am not suggesting that on this occasion he was dishonest, but he chose his words with great care, as is customary with politicians, to deny what had not been asserted. The basic fact which concerns us here is that a statement was issued by the Government Information Bureau on behalf of the Department of Education, the flat statement that this letter was written of their own volition and without any prompting from any officer of the Department of Education.
 If the word “prompting” means anything, it refers to a process under which a man is rung up, asked to come in, asked what he thinks of a matter, a letter is shown to him, and he is asked to sign it. In fact, I would use a stronger word than “prompting”. I could not use a less strong word than “prompting”. That happened. I have spoken to the man concerned. Incidentally, the Press reports of what I said in the Dáil on the last occasion were misleading in one respect and I want to correct any false impression given. Perhaps the problem lies in the punctuation of what I said rather than the wording. I did not say or intend to say that three members of the staff were shown a handwritten draft and that what appeared subsequently may not have been the same thing. This was true of one member of the staff who was shown a handwritten draft of a letter in what he understood to be the handwriting of the civil servant concerned.
The other two people to whom I spoke were shown a typed letter with signatures attached which was the final letter. Owing, I think, to a fault in the punctuation, which extended to some degree to the Official Report, the suggestion was attributed to me a couple of weeks ago that, in fact, all three of them had been shown a handwritten letter. That was not the case. It was only the case in regard to one of them. It was only in one case that the teacher was summoned in by telephone to be shown this and asked to sign it. In other cases the approaches were in the college and were less formal, but nonetheless the initiative in each of the cases I have tracked down came from the civil servant concerned.
It is not satisfactory that the public should be misled by this kind of heading: “No Prompting of Art teachers.” The heading seems to be fully warranted by the text of the statement given underneath: “This letter was written of their own volition and without any prompting from any officer of the Department of Education.” The Minister should not stand over that statement. He should admit that a mistake was made, that whoever issued that statement went beyond what could  be justified and that, when a man is summoned in by telephone and shown a document and asked to sign it, that is prompting by any standards. Indeed, even if somebody is approached in the corridor and asked: “What did you think of what you saw in the papers about the meeting? Do you think this kind of letter would represent your views? Would you like to sign it”— especially when he is a member of the part-time staff and could be sacked at a moment's notice by the civil servant concerned—I regard that, too, as prompting.
The Department should not have issued that statement. The Minister should have admitted the mistake in the House. He should not have stood over it as he did. I hope that, on reflection, and having thought over what I have said, and having considered the matter more fully, the Minister will, in replying to this debate, admit that an error was made there and that, in appearing to stand over it in the Dáil, he acted in error. He will lose nothing by admitting to a mistake in a case like that. On the contrary, I think his reputation will be enhanced. I know as a politician that there is a widespread delusion amongst all politicians that to admit to making a mistake is disastrous. This is a very widespread delusion and I can understand the Minister sharing it. I hope that on this occasion he will see the wisdom of owning up that a mistake was made.
This incident tells us something about the whole atmosphere of the college and the way it is run. It demonstrates that it is a mistake to have an institution of this type run directly by the Civil Service. I say this with no animus against civil servants but, to each man his job. The job of civil servants is one of public administration. There are few things further removed from public administration than running a College of Art. I suppose that in so far as they were running something, and administration is running something also, there is a kind of generic similarity between the two, but I do not think that the job of administering a Government Department, staffed by civil servants under a strict code of discipline—the Official Secrets Act and all the rest of it—is  in any way comparable to the job of running a College of Art. All the evidence is that it has been unsatisfactory. The Minister may say: “I agree. That is precisely why the Bill is being brought in.” He may say that, perhaps, his predecessor should have done it sooner but at least he has brought in a Bill and, up to a point, that is true. It is the terms of the Bill, and the determination on the part of those who drafted the Bill to retain tight control over so many areas and so many aspects of the running of the new board, that make me dissatisfied with the Bill.
There are other features of the college which require more consideration. There are repeated allegations by the students that they are not issued with materials which have been purchased out of public funds and should be available to them. I must admit that I have never understood these allegations. I am not at all clear as to what happens to the materials and why the students do not get them. The persistence with which they make this claim suggests to me that there is something here at least to be looked into.
They have also pointed out—and this has been validated in this House in replies to questions—that only part, approximately half, of the money allocated for scholarships is spent. It would be easy for the Minister to say that they do not reach the standard but it seems to me that, in an institution of this kind where so many of the students are not at all well off and have to struggle very hard to keep themselves, it is most unfortunate to have a fund of money voted by the Dáil to assist these students by way of scholarship or grant not fully used. The Minister can stand on the fact that, on the advice given to him, they are not all up to the standard required. However, we should be thinking more in terms of grants than scholarships and the money available should be used for this purpose.
Earlier this year while driving down the country I gave a lift to a student from the College of Art. At the time of stopping to offer her a lift I was not aware that she was a student from the college but, as is my custom on  encountering anyone seeking a lift, I offered her a lift. In the course of conversation she told me that in order to put herself through the college she found it necessary to go down the country on two days each week to teach art, for which she received £8. By avoiding transport costs she lived on that £8 and got through the course even though the two days spent teaching would have an effect on her attendance and the amount of work she could do. I have nothing but admiration for somebody whose determination to achieve his or her chosen career extends to such devotion and dedication as in that particular case. The fact that that girl and so many other students in the college have such a struggle to make ends meet emphasises how deplorable and saddening it is that funds voted by the Dáil to help such students should not be used fully. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that this small sum of £5,000 is not held back on the grounds of whether students reach a particular standard.
There is also the problem of library facilities but on this there are conflicting accounts. Students insist on saying that the books are locked up and are not accessible to them, but the Minister says this is not the case and that the books are available to students. Short of going in and wandering around the place, a facility which, on at least one occasion, has been forbidden to politicians, I cannot check up on this matter. It is to be deplored that Members of the Oireachtas have been forbidden from going into the college.
Dr. FitzGerald: This displays an extraordinary attitude of mind on the part of the civil servants who gave such a ruling. I understand that since March of this year the students have appropriated to themselves a room wherein they have put some books but, in doing so, they have acted in an unauthorised manner. I do not know what justification there can be for denying the books to the students. For all I know, the students who have been so refused are students who are suspected of having done damage to books on previous occasions, but in any case  the whole matter throws a curious light on the atmosphere of this academic institution.
This year, too, there was the curious incident concerning repeats. I have here a circular in this regard which is dated the 14th May and which says that failure to present work for assessment at the end of the session can automatically debar students from enrolment in the college for the following session. This is an entirely new practice. One principle which, so far as I know, all academic institutions operate is that the rules of the game are not changed half way through. It is not the practice of such institutions to entice the students to enrol on the understanding that there are repeat arrangements in operation but then, half way through the course, to tell them that the opportunities for repeats are being cancelled. The proper way to do this is to say: “As and from enrolment this year, there will be no repeats.” However, that is not the way in which the civil servants have acted in this instance. This is another illustration of the reasons why the students are experiencing a sense of victimisation and frustration.
Another feature of the college is the very small number of full-time staff and the proliferation of part-time staff, nine of whom, if I recall correctly the answers given to parliamentary questions, teach a number of hours, which, in secondary or vocational school, would warrant them being treated as full-time staff. The Minister's explanation of this is that he did not wish to prejudice the position with regard to the new governing board by appointing these people full-time, but in the Bill he introduces a provision under which any part-time staff having five or more years service are to be transferred to the new board. What was the purpose of not making them permanent while they were in the employment of the public service if, when the board is set up, they are to be transferred? Perhaps the explanation is that they are to be transferred in the same capacity in which they now are so that the new board will be able to dismiss them if they are  part-time staff. Whatever the reason or justification for this an institution run on that basis with so few full-time staff cannot be satisfactory.
From my own experience I know that staff who have not got security of tenure will not be willing to stand up and be counted on issues between students and administrators. There is a natural reluctance on the part of such staff to assert themselves when there are cases of, for example, suspected injustice in regard to students. Of course, in such circumstances, they should stand up and be counted in the same way as all of us should, regardless of circumstances. It is not for the politicians, who trim their sails to every little breeze, to criticise other people who, lacking any security of tenure, are unwilling to speak out in the fear that by so doing they might lose their jobs.
Might I say that it is not necessary that somebody be dismissed before such fear exists because there could still persist, in an irrational way, the fear that one might be first to be dismissed. An institution that is staffed to such an extent with part-time people as is the College of Art, cannot, in the academic sense, be satisfactory. The Minister may say that it was not desired to hand over a lot of full-time permanent staff to the new board; all that can be said is that the present conditions in the college owe much to the long delay in doing anything about the matter. I can understand the Minister and successive Ministers not wishing to give to the new board all the existing staff but, if the logical consequence of that was to be a growing proportion of part-time staff, this emphasises the urgency of getting the board established. It has taken a long time to reach the stage of introducing this Bill which is aimed at the establishment of the board.
Now, to consider the Bill itself—I have already outlined the main objections to it but I shall consider them now in more detail in order to validate the opposition to it as drafted and on which we, on this side of the House, intend to give voice. First, we shall consider the Minister's powers as proposed in the Bill. Let me emphasise  here that we are talking now of an academic institution. The Minister might make some kind of a case, as he tried to do in regard to the Higher Education Authority Bill, for giving himself certain powers in a State-sponsored body administering public funds. I do not accept that case. In the case of an academic teaching institution similar to a university of higher education when one finds that the Minister is included at every point, one begins to worry as to whether there is to be academic freedom of any kind.
In section 5 the functions of the board are set out. I would have thought that the one section of the Bill that would not include reference to the Minister would have been that dealing with the functions of the board. These functions should be laid down by the Dáil. At least in the case of the HEA Bill the aims and objectives of the Authority were laid down in fairly clear terms. We added a couple of objectives to these, but these were not determined by the Minister; they were determined by the Dáil The functions of this board are set out as:
What has the Minister got to do with it? It is unimaginable to me that we should have an academic institution which could not determine for themselves the scheme of education in art, crafts and design but which would have to go to the Minister to obtain his consent as to whether to teach sculpture, painting or some other form of art. The Minister and the Dáil should decide what this body is to do. It should be decided what kind of institution it is, it should be spelled out clearly and they should be allowed to get on with the job. There should be no question of going back to the Minister for consent to the activities carried on at the National College of Art.
establishing and carrying on schemes, of such scope and extent as it may determine with the consent of the Minister, for the giving of scholarships, bursaries, prizes and other awards in relation to art, crafts and design,
In a university institution the decision about the granting of prizes or awards is a matter for the university—the authorities do not go to the Minister. Of course, the universities get grants largely from the Dáil on the authority of the Minister but because the bulk of the finances of the universities are so provided there is no question on that account that every detail of scholarships and prizes must be cleared with the Minister. That would be regarded as an intolerable intrusion in the autonomy of the universities and even the present Government have not the nerve to propose such action. Yet, this body cannot give a prize for sculpture without the consent of the Minister.
In other words, the whole operation of this body, the scope of its activities, the prizes and scholarships it gives and the kind of teaching courses provided cannot be settled except with the approval of the Minister. This is abnormal for educational institutions and I see no reason for it.
There is another feature of the Bill which is not germane to my present argument but which I shall mention in passing. It is the rather curious reference to the National Council for Educational Awards. My experience of legislation is limited to the last six years. I may have missed a number of points in that time but I do not recall  offhand instances where there was reference in a Bill to a non-existent body which it is intended to introduce in future legislation. In fact, it is the practice to make a general provision of such a kind so that it can be applied when a particular body comes into existence. I should like the Minister's comment on what seems to be a curious process of draftsmanship. It seems odd to have this reference to the National Council for Educational Awards before the Dáil has considered whether to have such a body.
In regard to section 6 there is the feature, common to this case and the HEA, of the chairman being appointed and removed from office by the Minister—he is not an elected chairman. I should like to know the Minister's reasons for this. As I understand it, the chairman's function is purely procedural; he is not carrying out a function in his own right, he simply presides at meetings. In the circumstances, why should the Minister appoint him? In any normal educational institution it is the board or the staff who elect the president. Why should the president, or his equivalent, be appointed by the Minister? This is not the case in the colleges of the NUI. Because of historical accident it is more or less the case in Trinity College, but even there the system is that three names are sent forward in order of priority and the Government appoint the first. Therefore, in theory the Government appoints the Provost of Trinity College but in practice he is chosen by the college.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: At this stage the Chair would point out to the Deputy that the general principles of the Bill are dealt with on Second Reading. The Committee Stage provides an opportunity for dealing with it section by section.
Dr. FitzGerald: Perhaps I am going into the matter in too much detail. I am trying to show that prevading this Bill is an attitude to autonomy which we find objectionable. I am trying to explain why we are opposing this Bill. I have nothing against the Minister personally, but he should not figure in this Bill.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy will appreciate that by dealing with the Bill in this fashion we are dealing with it as if we were on Committee Stage, if the Deputy goes too deeply into these points.
Dr. FitzGerald: I shall not dwell in detail on it. It always seems to me valuable on Second Stage to indicate major issues that will be debated on Committee Stage so that the Minister may consider them. As one moves on to section 13 one finds that the Minister has power to vary the quorum of the board, which is an extraordinary provision. In section 14 the Minister has power to lay down conditions regarding current grants which, of course, would give him a complete say in how the college is run. Section 17 provides conditions regarding the appointment of the director and registrar. In section 22 the approval of the Minister is required for the construction or acquisition of premises. The Minister must approve the money for the premises—which is correct as capital expenditure is involved —but the details of the premises that are to be built must also be approved by him.
Throughout the Bill the Minister plays a role in the affairs of the body which is not appropriate to an institution of this kind. In view of the unhappy history of this body, as it has been under the control of the Department of Education and under the responsibility of successive Ministers, I should have thought this was one instance where the Minister should be careful to stay out.
(2) A person who wilfully obstructs or delays an officer of the Minister or the Minister for Finance in the exercise of his powers under subsection (1) of this section or who does not furnish information within his power or procurement in connection with any records or documents relating to the college reasonably requested by such officer shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £100.
We shall debate this on Committee Stage but I wish to emphasise this as an illustration of the attitude of mind of those who drafted the Bill. It is surprising that the Minister did not tell us more about this extraordinary provision and I should like to hear why this was considered necessary. The power to go into any educational institution, to go to a teacher or an officer and demand——
Dr. FitzGerald: With respect, this is a matter of principle. I shall not dwell on it but it is repugnant that such power should be given to a civil servant in any educational institution. I hope the Minister will think twice about it.
There is one point which I submit is of considerable importance to the institution on which I should like to  speak, namely, the transfer of staff. I am of two minds on this matter. I see the problem. On the one hand, there is a very natural fear on the part of some of the junior staff in particular that their interests may not be adequately protected, that, under this Bill, they might be dropped out, not appointed, or victimised for their activities in seeking reforms of this kind. This fear may be ill-founded but, as I said, when staff do not have any protection, when they are vulnerable, they get these feelings and ideas. It may be paranoic but it is nonetheless deeply felt for all that. I can sympathise with them. From one viewpoint I would argue that the provision in the Bill which limits the transfer of staff to the new board to staff having five years, or more, teaching experience in the college is inadequate. The normal period of probation in university institutions is three years. It is a little curious to choose a period of five years. It is, in fact, this choice of an unusual period which has aroused some fears of victimisation on the part of some members of the staff.
On the one hand, there is the problem that the Bill, as drafted, will transfer to the new institution and present to the new director, whoever he may be, all the existing permanent staff and a significant proportion of the existing temporary staff. It has been a characteristic of staff reports on this institution, not only in 1927 but more recently, that these reports have recommended that the whole question of the continuance of the staff should be considered. The long history of this college has not been marked by a situation in which either the students or, indeed, the public generally have been encouraged to have confidence in the staff and the reports that have been made and published were so critical of the institution and, in some cases, of the staff that one must be a little concerned here.
I am not too sure that it is wise to commit this board to having to take over all the existing staff. I can understand the desire to protect the interests of existing staff but, in so far as the institution's problems are due to any extent to the existing staff—and some of the reports that have been made suggest this—we should think seriously  before we commit the new board to having to take over the entire staff. Of course, if there were any question of not taking them over, it would be obviously necessary and right that adequate provision should be made for compensation for anybody not so continued. It may be a matter for the new director, whoever he may be, and, of course, results will again depend on that appointment. It will be the first responsibility of the new board, and the future of this college will hang on that appointment, to build up a staff of a kind that will command the confidence of the community and of the students, a staff that will inspire the students, a staff about whom there will be no future reports of the kind we have had hitherto about the staff of this institution.
Of course, if the old board are reemployed and the new director, when he is appointed, finds them facing him there he may find himself with some problems. I am not too sure that in the special circumstances of this college and in view of its particular history we are wise to adopt this course. My mind is still open on this. I see the two sides. My normal instinct, and the Minister knows this, is to secure tenure of staff in any academic institution and I have had occasion to complain about this in the past. We have a special case here where it may be important that the new institution makes a fresh start and the new director does not find himself with a staff in whom he may not have confidence. We must, therefore, think seriously about the provisions of section 27 as to whether we could either strengthen or weaken them. As I say, I am in two minds. This is, perhaps, the biggest question mark. I suspect most of the points I have raised will not be taken too seriously by the Minister. He would not have written into the Bill all these provisions for ministerial control had he not been determined to keep them there. I am probably wasting my time. It may be that we could have a more open type of section 27 and decide the best way to tackle the problems.
There is another point I should have made on section 6. It is a general  point on the composition of the board. On the whole, the composition of the board has not aroused much critical comment. I am not, however, entirely happy with it. I may say that the students have not raised any major issue here. I think the Minister was under the illusion that the students were going to demand 100 per cent student control. What he is offering them is two seats out of eight or ten on the board. As I say, they have not raised any issue on this with me, but I still am not very happy about the arrangement because, as it stands at the moment, if the board consists of the minimum number of eight, four will be chosen by the students and the staff, two by each, and the other four will be appointed by the Minister, one being the chairman with a casting vote. Even with a minimum of eight, the four ministerial appointees, not nominated by the staff and students, will have at all times control. If the board consists of nine or ten members a fortiori the control will be all the greater.
It is not the practice in other institutions in this country, such as the colleges of the NUI, that Government representatives have a majority. Of course, there should be Government representatives and, as I had occasion to say before, the Government representatives in UCD have always played their constructive and helpful part and have never set themselves to be or acted as if they were agents of the Government; they have acted as independent people in the public interest. I am very much in favour of Government representatives on bodies of this kind, but this is very much out of line with the practice in NUI colleges; it is not the practice to give Government representatives a majority control. I am not happy about that. I would prefer a situation in which another element of appointment was introduced from some other source or, alternatively, an arrangement in which a slight increase in staff/student representation did not leave the Minister's appointees in a majority. As between the two I think I prefer a more diverse method of appointment. I am not suggesting staff/student control is necessary, but I would be prepared to accept the  election of one or two representatives by the graduates of the college. I understand—I hope I am right in this; one sometimes gets the wrong end of the stick—that the graduates, or many of them, are organised in arts teachers' associations. At least there is a body of graduates who are themselves teachers of art and who are obviously very much concerned with the whole set-up.
Dr. FitzGerald: We can discuss it on the Committee Stage. There may be some way of finding another method of appointing another member or two to get over the particular problem of complete control by the Minister's appointees on the board. We can go into detail on this on the Committee Stage. I think the Minister is unwise from his own point of view in trying to have control through his appointees. I believe that when he makes these appointments—we may agree or disagree with them—he will not appoint four political hacks to control the place for him, or four civil servants to control it, and those who suspect that are being unfair to the Minister. Nonetheless, as a matter of principle, I do not think the control should be in the hands of the four people appointed by the Minister.
I would also commend to his attention the long and unhappy history of Civil Service involvement in an activity to which the Civil Service is not well adapted and the desirability of not having Civil Service directors of the board in this instance. There is nothing in the Bill about this. Perhaps we can deal with it on the Committee Stage. I trust I have indicated why we are opposing the Bill. It is not because we do not think the Bill is necessary. It is, indeed, arguable that we could have taken the other view and said the Bill is long overdue. But there comes a time when even the worm turns; after the HEA business, when one finds this Bill infringing to an even greater extent the autonomy of an institution, when the institution itself is concerned with education rather than financing, one  has to draw the line. One has to say that this Bill goes so far and is so unsuitable for the purpose for which it is designed that we cannot support it and that a different kind of Bill altogether is needed if we are to set this particular institution at last on the right course.
Dr. Thornley: I shall not detain the Minister long. It would be wrong to say I shall not detain the House long because there are very few Members of the House present. I speak to this Bill with both considerable difficulty and a certain element of sadness. I speak to it with difficulty for two reasons and in particular for one and that is as is so often the case that I agree with just about everything Deputy FitzGerald has said. Secondly, I speak to it with some difficulty because, frankly, I think the Bill is so ill-conceived in its outline that the prospect of amending it in Committee to a point where it would be an acceptable educational measure does not exist. I am sorry the Minister has presented it in this form. I speak to it also with sadness for a variety of reasons. The artists have got a very bad “Press” in this House and the absence of Deputies who are interested in this Bill tonight demonstrates that very clearly. I am grateful for the assiduous attendance in the House of the Parliamentary Secretary: it has had a degree of permanence recently which I do not associate with Parliamentary Secretaries. I can only infer, on a slightly irrelevant note, that, perhaps, the Minister for Education is destined for higher things.
Dr. Thornley: On the whole, what offends me about this Bill is this; the Bill represents an overdue attempt to off-load an area of direct control by the Department of Education which is quite unique in the educational history of the country. I should like to be able to welcome it on those terms because to off-load this load patently is what the Department should have done a long time ago but the manner  in which the Minister chooses to off-load the National College of Art demonstrates on the one hand, in my opinion, a complete misunderstanding of the role of the artist in society and on the other, that the Minister is retaining a degree of control over the college which I personally find totally unacceptable. The Minister is launching the boat as it were but keeping a very firm grip of the mooring line.
This is all of a piece with ministerial attitudes towards the College of Art. In reply to a question of mine some time ago the Minister suggested that the agitation of the students, or some of them, derived from some organised Maoist or Communist conspiracy. I do not regard that attitude as good enough as a reply to a question. It is a patent fact that the College of Art has been—it is not too strong a word to use—derided by every successive report about its teaching standards and the quality of the graduate—if that is the right term—which it produces. It divides its teaching arbitrarily into painting, sculpture and design with no understanding of the inter-relation of these functions. It produces people who, on the whole, go forward to one of two things. In the vast majority of cases I understand they become teachers of art in secondary schools or go into commercial art. When the Minister speaks of the distinguished alumni which the college has produced I confess, without desiring to patronise anyone, that with one or two exceptions I am oblivious of these alumni and I suggest the Minister is equally oblivious.
We have heard in this House sneers deriving from the Minister of implicit communism. We have heard sneers from both Fine Gael and Labour benches—I have to admit this—about students of the College of Art as if they were long-haired, guitar-twanging layabouts. All these sneers and suggestions imply a total lack of understanding of the role which art and design play in a sophisticated society at a time when—and this is not as irrelevant as it may sound—we are pulling down the heart of what was once one of the most beautiful cities in the western world and converting it  into something like Clapham and Balham in South London. For the Minister to say—and I quote from his speech—that the college has a vital place in the planning of our economic future suggests to me that the Minister is totally unaware of the dignity which the successful artist communicates to society. I wonder what would have been the reaction if someone had said to Modigliani, Matisse, Manet or Corot that they had a vital place in the economic future of nineteenth century France. I think they would have laughed rather loudly and they would have been right to do so.
The Minister may think I exaggerate. I am not suggesting that everybody who attends the College of Art is a potential Modigliani or Manet but I am saying that the element of financial waste involved in sustaining a college which produces people who have vision which we lack, an awareness and a sense of prospective we lack, a capacity to understand beauty which we lack, is both socially deserving and necessary. I see nowhere, either in the Bill or in the Minister's introductory statement, anything which suggests that he fully comprehends how important such a college could be and has not been. This introduction here could have served as the introduction to a Bill setting up a school of business administration designed to aid the manpower and technology policies of the Government. Is it really appropriate to a College of Art? I do not think it is.
Deputy FitzGerald has so thoroughly covered the history of the criticisms made of the College of Art that it would be otiose for me to follow him into this field. Suffice to say that I agree completely with everything that he has said. It is ridiculous that any educational institution should be an arm of the Civil Service. Again, echoing Deputy FitzGerald, I do not mean by that any criticism of the Civil Service as such, but I think that educationally it is ludicrous that the Civil Service should directly administer a teaching institution. More than that, under the present system which the Minister seeks, inadequately in my view, to change I understand that the teachers, particularly the whole-time  teachers are technically civil servants. Again, it seems ludicrous that a teacher of art could be a civil servant. How you can hire a budding artist of 28, we will say, and give him a 42 year contract, incremental and pensionable so that 42 years later he is still teaching the art he learnt under Orpen, I do not know. Apparently, this is satisfactory to the Minister.
The result of this chain of reasoning is that the college has earned the disrespect of very many serious artists. Only today the Irish Times has an article about a potentially promising Irish artist who declared that he would not be bothered going to the National College of Art. This is one of the problems we find here because we do not simply face a restructuring of the administration of the college across the way. We face the fact that the credibility of the level of teaching has virtually disappeared in the case of most of the teachers in the eyes of the students and in the eyes of such artistic public as we possess in this country. How precisely one produces a Bill which revolutionises the level of teaching in the college, I simply do not know. Here I have a certain sympathy for the Minister. He has inherited a problem which was not of his making, a problem which is encrusted with 40 years of mismanagement and now suddenly he is asked to break through. Personally, I should like the Minister to have adopted a completely different approach. This is simply my own view. It does not represent the view of anybody else inasmuch as Deputies are interested in the whole subject or they are not. I would have preferred the Minister to have adopted the line of tactic which he adopted towards the Higher Education Authority and to have appointed an ad hoc body of eight or ten persons and a young free-wheeling, spirited, progressive director, give him two years and see what happens then, two years in which he can hire and fire, two years in which he can revolutionise concepts of painting and design and then at the end of that, perhaps, pass on to other fields having proved unsatisfactory, either temperamentally or artistically.
Instead, the Minister proposes to set  up a board. I will not go into the details of the Bill because I know it is out of order to do so. I have no particular objection to the numerical composition of that board although I have some objection to the built-in phrases to the effect that the Minister will approve the manner in which staff and student representation are chosen. I see dangers there. This will constitute four of an eight or ten man board. I can already anticipate the kind of names we will get on this ten man board—nice, tidy, conservative, retired people with a little bit of spare time, who will meet together and drink tea and appoint as director some safe and spent artist. With respect, I do not think this is what the College of Art requires.
Here we touch upon a difficulty which Deputy FitzGerald has touched upon. In normal circumstances, dealing with an institution like a college, I too like Deputy FitzGerald would be the first person to argue for security of tenure, retirement at the age of 65 or 70 and incremental progression but I wonder if you really can do this in the case of a teacher of art. By definition a teacher of art in any of the three encapsulated forms in which they exist in the National College of Art is someone whose qualification to teach is his creativity as an artist. I wonder if you can really say to such a person that you can guarantee him perpetuity of tenure irrespective of whether or not the vein of creativity dries up. Here I fear that built into the Bill is a provision that those older teachers many of whom have lost the confidence of the students, who are not always wrong, even if they do wear beards and twang guitars, to the annoyance of Deputy O'Hara on the Fine Gael benches——
Dr. Thornley: And Deputy Murphy on my benches. I fear that these older teachers are the ones who will be totally secure in their professional involvement and that the younger teachers who have moulded whatever spirit of artistic creativity the college now possesses are the ones who will  look with trepidation at the section of the Bill which hedgingly says that some part-time teachers may be retained and some not.
There are many other aspects of the Bill to which I take grave exception but I will not abuse the procedure on Second Stage by referring to them except to say that amendments will be going in in my name and I am sure in Deputy FitzGerald's name. This provision for the right of entry of a civil servant smacks to me of a most extraordinary authoritarian attitude to a college.
The Minister is faced with a difficult situation—I grant him that—and I do not want to try to make his job more difficult than it is. It is rather as if he started from scratch trying to devise a constitution for a college like Trinity College, Dublin or University College, Dublin. It would be very difficult for any of us to do this because, for better or worse, the constitutions of these colleges are things that we have inherited and they are encrusted with history. We can lop off a bit here and there and add a little bit of innovation, which may or may not be correct but, at least, we are proceeding from some base. Here we are not. We are proceeding from an institution which has been mismanaged and misgoverned from the word “go.”
I cannot help feeling that the understandable desire of the Minister to off-load a problem which, with due respect to him, I do not think he understands, has led him to produce an extremely shoddy piece of legislation. I think his attitude to the college is: “Get rid of it as fast as I can. Put it under ten good men and true and let them go ahead and do what they like on condition that what they do is residually what I want them to do because, if they do not do what I want them to do, I have this power to pull them back by the back of the neck and send in my civil servants to inspect their books and records and sack the whole lot of them.” I do not think this is educationally sound.
I am reminded of another institute of which Deputy FitzGerald did not speak but it is relevant to this, and that is, the manner in which the structure  of the Government of the Abbey Theatre has been changed. I see the Minister frowning with perplexity and looking at the clock but, in fact, this is not too grossly irrelevant. The Abbey Theatre, again a grossly mismanaged institution for 40 years, in a spirit of great exuberance and much exhilaration had 25 shareholders, I think it is, added to the governing body, one of them myself. We all met together and said: “Now, great things are going to happen.” In fact, when you did the count of the voting powers of the shareholders of the Abbey Theatre you were brought to realise that only in the totally unlikely situation of the Minister, one director and all the shareholders speaking together with one voice could the conduct of the Abbey Theatre be changed and slowly most of the 25 shareholders began to realise that we had been sold a pup behind the window-dressing of the progressive move.
I fear the same thing is contained in this Bill. Apparent autonomy will be given to this college. It will be a college run by a board in which ministerial nominees will possess a decisive power. This self-same board's apparent autonomy will be subject to a right of dismissal by the Minister. This self-same board's apparent autonomy will be subject to the right of the invasion of a civil servant at the direction of the Minister, at any time, to check the books and the records. It will be subject to, as Deputy FitzGerald pointed out, the fact that if this board wishes to initiate new courses revising the concept of art in this college it must do so by reference to the Minister.
This is untrue, in the main, of any institution of higher learning except the College of Art. I wish the Minister had been either a bit more imaginative when drafting this Bill or had taken the advice of people who had more insight into and appreciation of art and beauty than the Minister has or, indeed, I myself have. I admit this. Contemporary debate is full of talk about pollution and conservation. Last week an American bought a painting for £1.5 million to hang over his daughter's fireplace. I wonder how much good that did the artist who  painted the picture? What did he die of? Where did he die? If the Minister were to look around him—and this applies to his whole Cabinet—at the shoddiness of Dublin the following Latin tag would seem appropriate: Si momentum requiris, circumspice. If the Minister were to look around him he might appreciate the place that beauty and creativity should have in our lives. He might then be less ready to sneer about the communist influence of long-haired guitar players and might in turn be prepared to entrust this college and its prospective director, upon whom its success really depends, with a degree of autonomy, even for a short period of time. This autonomy does not exist at present. This Bill betrays so firmly a Civil Service, doctrinaire attitude to art that any attempt to amend it on Committee Stage will ultimately be useless.
Mr. Keating: I propose to be a bit more general than the previous speakers, and particularly more than Deputy FitzGerald. I must declare my interest in this matter. Some of the earliest recollections of my life are of my father discussing the School of Art. Over the years I received much information from my father who worked there from 1911 to the mid-sixties. Consequently, I do not feel disinterested about the School of Art.
One ought to say at the beginning that the question of education for the visual and graphic arts in Ireland is a problem of great importance. We have an enormous tradition in the verbal arts. We have nothing comparable in the graphic arts. It may be that they are fundamentally a different sort of thing and that we are genetically predisposed towards one and not the other. That may be a possible explanation. It may or may not be the truth. If we could order things better the great creativity which we have shown with words could possibly be extended into painting, sculpture and the whole area of non-verbal and non-musical art. We need not try to analyse now the reason for our failures. It is important to admit the existence of those failures if we are to set about seriously re-ordering our affairs.
 I would not be as contemptuous as a previous speaker was of the final references which the Minister made. It is a matter of being in a competitive market. We make false separations in the area of art. In this decade art cannot be divided into painting or sculpture or design. The question of good design runs through everything from the purest sort of sculpture to industrial products like motor cars, carpets and furniture. One does not have to travel far from Ireland to see that there is a higher level of design awareness in most of the countries with which we are so anxious to join. We will need to produce beautiful goods efficiently and at the right price if we are to be in a competitive position. No artist can set out with commission as his goal but good results can come in this area of art in Ireland. We are notably deficient in the area of design.
I have heard details about the School of Art all my life. I do not propose to enter on a recital of the history of the School of Art; Deputy FitzGerald has done so. There are many reports about the School of Art. There are stories of procrastination. It is not necessary to argue about them. The record is there. The record is a scandalous and pitiful one. The misleading of the student body is documented. Nothing more can be said about such matters. I believe that there is evidence of vendettas against progressive members of the staff. This is shameful. Such a situation has existed.
I was in the School of Art last October. I was present at arguments between an unfortunate civil servant and the students. In fact, the official was placed in a totally impossible position where he could not be frank with the student body. It was a ridiculous situation. It has been said that the essential thing which has to be generated now is the freedom to create. Freedom of creativity is important. The whole structure and tradition of training—and indeed personnel selection— makes civil servants utterly unsuited, at whatever level, for having anything to do with the School of Art. It is completely impossible to devise a mechanism. I smiled, as other Deputies  did, when the Minister used these interesting words:
We were laughing. How true is that? The college as proposed in this Bill will not be removed from the Minister's direct control. That is a bogus piece of information. The Minister mentions the establishment of an independent governing board. That is a reversal of the meaning of the words. The community schools were mentioned. The community schools were not designed for communities and the independent governing boards will not be independent. No interpretation of the English language could make those boards independent.
The basic unsuitability of the ideas of the people who formulated this Bill is expressed over and over again in the recurring phrase about art, craft and design. It is simply an indication of a thought that passed from being reputable in this area half a century ago. If one analyses this phrase it will be seen that the three categories are without meaning. The concept of design, if it is to be of any value at all, permeates everything. It is not something separate. I have no conviction that the people on the other side of the House will understand what I am talking about. I will just place my views on the record to show that the whole of this exercise is offensive.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education (Mr. O'Kennedy): The Deputy might like to light a torch to dispel our darkness. It might be helpful. We will be glad to be illuminated by the Deputy's brilliance and that of his colleagues.
Mr. Keating: The point I am making is that the concept of design  ought to extend to all of the artistic activities of people. It is not a separate category. If the word is being used correctly it extends to painting and sculpture and to the activities which must evolve in a serious art college, and which fall into neither of these categories; it extends to the production of textiles, to the production of books and handicrafts. It extends, in other words, across the whole spectrum of what people do in a constructive way. Let me remind the House of a phrase of Marshall McLuhan quoting from the saying of the Balinese: “We have no art. We do things as well as we can.” That is the concept of design illuminating every kind of activity. That is the thought I was endeavouring, as I say without any hope of success, to convey. It is a perfectly simple thought and one which, had the Parliamentary Secretary been in touch with the thinking in this area, it would not have been necessary for me to elucidate because it is quite central to the whole problem.
Mr. O'Kennedy: I merely wanted to tell the Deputy we are quite willing to be illuminated but he presumes there is no point in doing it. I trust Deputy Thornley has been equally illuminated in view of his comments.
Mr. Keating: I shall be coming a little later on to the real reason why I think it useless in this context to offer these thoughts to the Government at this time. Before doing that I want to indicate, without trying to produce details of what would be an adequate Bill, the guidelines we on this side of the House consider adequate. Everybody praises democracy if democracy means the holding of parliamentary elections and so on. Again we are in a decade when democracy means that people who participate in something must run it. The people who participate in the School of Art are primarily the staff and the students. There are, of course, other interests which have the right to representation, but again we come back to the basic consideration of the meaning that words have. I know the Government party use the word “democracy”, to which it affects to pay serious attention,  in a way differently from that in which I use it. Any Bill which does not provide for democracy in art education and freedom is worthless before it starts. Distinct from democracy is freedom, freedom for people to innovate far outside these categories that are put down in the Bill as painting and sculpture.
What does that mean in the current evolution of art? It means that categories are to some extent losing meaning and will lose meaning progressively in the near future. More seriously it means an effort to confine the creative activity of people. It means an essential curtailment of freedom and any Bill which does not in the area of art education provide for the two things that lie close to each other but which are distinct, that is, for both democracy and freedom, is worthless. This is an entirely worthless Bill. It is not worth amending because the basic intention is, first, authoritarian; secondly, archaic; and, thirdly, anti-democratic. The Minister decides who runs the new school; he decides what they must teach; he decides about spending money; he can have access to their documents. There is no serious effort to off-load except in a window-dressing sort of way which I do not think deceives anybody and which I think will not deceive the students. I have no doubt, however, in the light of my experience in this House, that there will be a mindless, dragooned majority which will march up those steps and put this Bill into action.
One might conceivably have some influence on the Bill if it were not so utterly distant from what the situation requires. It is so irrelevant, so 19th century, and has so little to do with the real requirements of the situation, that there is no amending we can do. Therefore I am rather speaking for the record and for the future. The whole thing will have to be straightened out, done right another time with another Government, because the Government that could produce, even as a draft, the Bill we are now considering thereby demonstrates itself to be so out of touch as to be totally unfitted to have any relevant role in the area of art education.
 My belief is that the students have been extraordinarily patient. They have been misled and hoodwinked over and over again. They have been denied a real art education. There has been a confusing by the authorities of the acquirement of technical skills with the real creative function. The students have been unable to explain to the people in charge what the nature of this creative activity is. This has been a perfect example on the part of civil servants of a dog in a manger attitude: the dog cannot eat the meal itself but permits nobody else to eat it. It is a case of civil servants who are incapable of creativity themselves or even of its appreciation. I am not referring to civil servants in general, of whom I have rather a good experience in recent years, but to those responsible for the thinking behind this Bill in this Department. They will not allow the College of Art to get on with it and they are incapable of understanding what ought to be got on with, let alone permitting anyone to do it. As a solution to the problem of serious art education in Ireland. which has been kicking around for more than my lifetime, this is an offensive waste of parliamentary time.
There are two suggestions with which I want to disagree. One is that it is all the civil servants' fault. It is perfectly natural that civil servants should be empire builders, if they are let, that they should try to push out the edges of their power, that they should try to play God, that they should want to tell creative people how they ought to create. It is wrong, but it is not surprising or unnatural. The fault is, in fact, a governmental fault, a political fault. We must not blame the civil servants for what they do in the name of a Minister who ought to be exercising power. It has been suggested that the reason for this monstrous and ridiculous piece of legislation is simply that the Minister does not understand, that it is stupidity. I have a poor opinion of the abilities of the whole of the Government at the present time, but I do not think they are stupid. I do not think the Minister for Education is that stupid. There are reasons for  things, and one can discover a reason for producing a Bill which might temporarily push away the immediate crisis and which might structure a school in which people learned some necessary skills but which would certainly be destructive of the concept of art and of art education. There is a reason for that. I do not think it is Civil Service villainy or ministerial stupidity.
It is inescapable that art must be critical, that art must be exploratory. If artists are to be serious releasers of the emotions of the rest of the population who are less sensitive, less attuned, than they are, then they must also be the conscience of society. They have to be critical. They must be deeply concerned with moral issues. They have therefore at times got to be revolutionary, revolutionary in a broad sense; I do not mean you have to burn things. I simply mean you have to say when certain institutions or societies are decaying and when they have got to be replaced. Of course, serious art education is concerned with liberating people to express this sort of criticism and to train them to utter these calls for change. Artists all over the world and down the centuries have always necessarily been in the forefront of criticism and of the call for change. At a time when, as I have expressed it elsewhere, the Government party are putrefying before their death rather than after their death, which is more normal in living organisms, they have got to be basically anti-art. Of course, they can dress up their concern in a technical interest in how you pass on certain of the skills at trivial level but, of course, they have no option but to try to limit in every way they can the creative impulse of artists who will necessarily be critical of an existing status quo.
Of course, they have got in every way to try to limit the exploration, the innovation, the seeking out of change that valid artists must experience, explain and utter at this particular stage. Of course, they have got profoundly to fear the aspect of the real artist's work, which is to function as the conscience of society. It was not always so with the Government party. It was not  always so with the movement they represent but in the days of their decay it is so now. In fact, they have to stifle creativity and to reduce the creative student, who will be a creative channel for human emotion, to simply being a purveyor of technical skills.
The Minister, in fact, wants the teaching of technical skills but he does not want the art. I am not suggesting that the Minister has ever verbalised this or analysed this for himself. I do not know whether he is or is not able to. Perhaps, he is doing it deliberately; perhaps, he is doing it by the sort of reflex of the political will to survive. Perhaps, he realises instinctively the danger that serious art education and serious artists in our community pose for him. I do not think it is possible to know whether the Minister has done it deliberately and consciously or just, as I say, by this reflex. It does not matter. It is of no importance to us to analyse the Minister's subjective intentions.
I believe this Bill will be rammed through but in the end that does not greatly matter either except for a little while because, in fact, the art I believe sincerely the Minister is trying to stifle is indestructible and the life which responds to that art, and which needs that art, is also indestructible. This is a forlorn hope in the long run. If the matter of real art education in Ireland is not solved now it will have to be solved later. Neither in this Bill nor in the thinking of the Government party is there evidence of ability or desire to solve the problem that exists. My purpose was to write these thoughts and ideas into the record so that the struggle for a real art education can be pushed on in Ireland in a unified and coherent way for defined objectives so that, in fact, the need for real art education can be solved by another Government at a better time.
Mr. Cooney: I should like briefly to add my voice critically to those who have already spoken against this Bill. We have to examine the causes for the Bill and see if the proposals contained in it are adequate to meet them. The causes, indeed, are sordid but their sordidness has not been due to the students or largely to the staff. It has  been entirely due to the administration of this unfortunate college.
The country has been aware of the serious unrest within the college for a considerable time past. That unrest has been manifested by the students and it has also shown itself in the staff. We have certainly got a sick institution. We have unrest among both the senior and junior members of the college. Unfortunately, the seriousness of that unrest has not come across to the general public because it is too easy to look at the people causing the unrest, see them as an unorthodox and unconventional group, know that they are very much a minority group, shrug your shoulders and say: “What about them? They are only a nuisance.” Consequently, there has not been the same public awareness of the urgent need to cure the sick condition of this college.
We know the college is very sick because of the type of instruction given there. The students and the staff have made it very clear that the academic standards aspired to are not in keeping with what the national art college should have. The administration of the college has been clumsy. It has ignored the needs of the college both as an art school and as a place for teaching technical artists. The budget has been inadequate. All these things have contributed to a very low morale.
There is the appalling situation in this school that in a staff of over 30 only five are teachers one can describe as full-time, permanent and pensionable. The other teachers are merely there by the grace of some nameless, faceless person. That is not a situation calculated to encourage academic freedom. There is no need, I hope, for me to labour the necessity for academic freedom in any institution of learning in this country. It is well settled and well recognised, and must be surely commonplace on all sides of this House, that in any higher institute of learning autonomy and academic freedom are essential to its wellbeing. This applies as much, if not more, to an art school. Instead of having that desirable situation, we have, in fact, the very opposite and  because we have the opposite we have had the serious and disgraceful unrest which we experienced over the past few years. In fact it is a matter of national embarrassment that a small art school is in such a pathetic state.
I have already stated the reasons for this. I am afraid this Bill does not accept those reasons as valid. The Bill refuses to face up to them. The Bill is what one would commonly term a Civil Service document. There is no spark in it and no recognition in it that a college of art and the people who work and teach in it are a different breed from the rest of us. The make-up of this Bill is on all-fours with the Horse Industry Bill and to my mind that in itself is a serious criticism of it. It shows complete ignorance on the part of those who conceived and introduced this Bill of the problem they had to solve. It does not provide that an art school should be independent. An art school has to be independent because of the very nature of artistic impulse. It must be given free rein, not merely for one to put what one likes on canvas or paper, but there must be freedom throughout the institution, freedom of atmosphere.
This Bill does not provide that. It is hedged in with bureaucratic caution. As far as the teachers are concerned there is no protection in the Bill, nothing which can enable a teacher to say: “I can teach art as my conscience directs me, as my inspiration drives me, without having to consider my job, my livelihood or my dependants.” This is a serious fault in the Bill. There is some recognition of the part students should be allowed to play in the administration of their own institution in so far as it provides certain student representation on the board, but again Civil Service caution ensures that in the background there will be the proviso that only the right students will be elected, because the scheme of student representation can be drawn up only when approved of by the Minister.
The budget is entirely within the control of the State, the bureaucracy, and once that is the position independence cannot exist because if there is an outside source in a position to control  the finances—I am not speaking about the amount because public opinion might not tolerate interference with the annual amount—autonomy cannot exist. You cannot have a real art school unless there is real autonomy.
There is also a danger to be implied from the Title to the Bill. It refers to a National College of Art and Design. Up to now the institution has been known as the College of Art. The Title seeks to elevate design to the same status as art and I do not think it can be or should be elevated to that status. There is certainly room for inculcating principles of design as part of the work of that college, but it is something that should be subsidiary to the main artistic function of the college. Certainly I hope design will never be hived off from the College of Art. Those entering the college intent on artistic careers, for some lack of inspiration, through no fault of their own, may have a bent for design and that should be encouraged within the school. Otherwise there will be merely mechanical drawing and that will not improve standards.
We want design which has been inspired by creative art. I do not think there is any need or reason for the people to be afraid of any independent creative art school which may produce what might seem to be outlandish, improbable, incongruous artistic works. It is a matter of selective taste which can be the product of education and environment. In this country to date matters of this sort have been subject to conservatism, and one should not be afraid of unconventionality, for want of a better word, in artistic matters. Many conventional ladies of this country dress in blouses and other clothing which carry on them designs originating in impressionist art, cubism and other art forms which have had their effect on industrial design. People outside may call it incongruous but they can go home and look at it in that way.
It would be a great pity if the opportunity given by this Bill was not used to set up a completely autonomous school with real independence, governed by a board chosen with care and  objectivity and not with bureaucracy. That is the first essential. The second is that it should be free in the spending of its budget. Thirdly come the teachers and here there should be security of tenure subject to ordinary demands of good order. It should have a board able to tolerate dissent from students, a board that will have more tolerance than a normal academic body because the type of student with whom they will have to deal will be of a different make-up from that of the average student in a university. He may be unconventional, slightly rebellious, imaginative. These things will show themselves in his dress and his attitudes and they will have to be tolerated and allowed for because, if they are not, his imaginative make-up and his potential may be stifled and that is where the real loss would be for this country.
I regret that as the Bill stands the opportunity is not being taken to salvage something in relation to the board, which is the critical factor in this. The board should be composed of people who may be nominated by outside bodies rather than the Minister. If the Minister would make it plain that the board will be nominated by outside artistic bodies it would go a long way to improving what at the moment is a bad Bill because, as I have said, the board will be the critical part of the whole operation. Therefore, it is a pity the opportunity has not been taken, or has been only half taken, and this can only be a source of agitation of the kind that has taken place as a result of the dreadful conditions that have existed in the school. It is disappointing that our Government and our civil servants are unable to realise the true nature of that dissatisfaction and meet it in a proper manner. The unfortunate thing is that in the way they have met it they may perhaps be accurately reflecting the majority opinion in this country.
Mr. Desmond: Deputy Cooney's concluding words, “the majority opinion in this country” have hit the nail on the head. On that note I shall take up the criticisms which have been  expressed of the public servants involved in the drafting of the Bill, the Minister for bringing forward this particular structure and the administration of the institution itself. While these criticisms are in most respects quite valid they unfortunately reflects the majority opinion in this country.
There has always been great hostility and suspicion of visual arts. Some of our civil servants may have had a poor training as public servants but in many respects they represent the traditions of our society and above all of the Government. The concept of art of about four-fifths of the members of the Fianna Fáil Party hardly extends beyond what colours should appear on a general election poster or whether or not we should produce handknitted tricolours to flog to the tourists. Lest I be accused of being entirely partisan I do not think the traditions of either the Fine Gael Party or the Labour Party are very different.
Our cultural life has evolved exclusively around the theatre and the spoken word. We have to our eternal shame failed to appreciate, nurture and spend public money on fostering the visual arts. Our educational system in this respect has been grossly at fault. Our deep-rooted hostility towards intellectuals, particularly intellectuals involved in the creative arts, does not reflect very much credit on our society as a whole.
This is important when we get down to trying to understand the philosophy and the cultural tradition behind the introduction of this Bill. If one goes through the records of this House one finds time and time again snide remarks about art students and about intellectuals in various political parties. There is such a lack of sophistication about such matters inside the House that I do not imagine opinion is very different outside it. This Bill reflects our lack of sophistication in matters of art, design and sculpture.
I strongly doubt the extent to which this Bill, in relation to the operation of  the College of Art, will ensure that a more valuable part is played by the visual arts. I do not see any evidence of that assumption in the Bill.
As politicians we should all strive to bring in a piece of legislation which would give encouragement, hope and opportunity towards the raising of the general standards of the visual arts in our society. Certainly this Bill does not make that contribution. Many of the sections of the Bill seriously limit the hoped for autonomy of the proposed board.
The Chair has pointed out that we can talk only in general terms on the Second Stage but in relation to section 25 the powers given to officers of the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Education to enter the premises of the College of Art and require the production of documents and records, and the provision of general penalties for anyone obstructing or delaying such officers or refusing to give information to them do not give me much cause for hope.
A board of this nature should be established with a view to the creation of a climate of trust and the ending of the recriminations which have gone on in relation to the College of Art in the past. Such a section is not conducive to the ending of the kind of maladministeration we have witnessed in the past decade. It has often struck me as miraculous that the students and staff did not burn down the institution in their very understandable frustration, such was the provocation which they had to undergo in terms of “messing” and lack of understanding which occurred in the administration of the college itself.
These are harsh statements to make and they have been made by many members of the Opposition. One hopes this Bill will help to get rid of that kind of situation. I suppose some public servants will adopt the attitude that the nation is spending £95,000 a year on the College of Art and that they, as the custodians of the taxpayers' money, should have virtually absolute control over day-to-day administration. The acid test of this will come in the composition of the board itself. The Minister has assured us that  he will establish an independent governing body whose duty it will be to carry out the management of the college and the organisation and administration of its affairs.
The Minister has open to him the opportunity to appoint persons who will give it the climate and reality of an independent governing body. If one is to view the calibre of Government appointments to such boards and the manner in which they are hawked around the Cabinet table where one's card-carrying membership of a political party is more important than one's artistic competence or administrative ability then one cannot be entirely hopeful about the composition of such a board. At least we can say this much: five or ten years ago this Bill would have gone through the House without even half a dozen contributions. It seems at this stage of the debate that we will have some discussion on the role and function of the College of Art.
I hope that as a result of the amendments we will table and of the contributions that will be made in the years ahead provision, particularly for the staffing of the college, will be substantially improved. As a former trade union officer I am absolutely appalled by the cavalier failure of the Department to ensure, as was within their competence, even if they had to work day and night on this problem of administration, that there would have been an established full-time permanently employed cadre of staff in the college at this point in time. It is an appalling situation that four-fifths of the staff of the College of Art are a temporary, part-time, one could even say gratuitously tolerated group of individuals who have neither social security nor redundancy payments and who are paid on a casual 37s 6d an hour basis by the Department of Education. Many of them are even on hourly notice. This is not the way to run even a bingo shop never mind the College of Art. I would say the operators of bingo take more care of people they employ.
I am frankly suspicious of certain sections of this Bill. I think they can  be construed, and if they can the fears of the staff should be laid to rest by the Minister, as being capable of being used against certain members of the temporary teaching staff. I know one staff member whose average working hours were in excess of the minimum laid down—18 hours is the minimum laid down—and notwithstanding the fact that he has consistently worked approximately 26 hours in the past two years he got back his contract for 17 hours a week. May I ask the Minister why?
Mr. Desmond: I think we are entitled to know why, and is it the intention that such a member of the staff will, on the transition period, find himself, in accordance with section 27 of the Bill, out on a limb? I do not either have the time or the professional competence to adjudicate on relations between members of the College of Art and the staff itself. This is a matter for a personnel director of the college and the teachers themselves. I am not competent to judge such matters but one does not need any artistic sense of smell to become worried about some of the things that have been said about the college and some of the things that are anticipated in terms of what might happen to staff in the future. These things have been raised I am afraid more out of the climate of suspicion and hostility and friction that has developed rather than from the truth of the situation, because it is so difficult to get to the truth in many cases. Could the Minister give us some assurance on these matters?
While this Bill is a very small step it is a step in the right direction, a step towards placing the College of Art on a more hopeful basis. Even in the field of design—our public buildings, our office furnishings, our Government publications, our stamp designs, many of them are downright bad and ugly and reflect little credit on Ireland at present. Perhaps we can hope that in the long term a product of this Bill will be a dramatic improvement in that aspect of our lives. We can hope that perhaps in future our Irish industrial products which have suffered so much on domestic markets and on the export  market from the absence of a tradition of industrial design in the country and the failure of the Government to develop and nurture a more dynamic and fruitful atmosphere of industrial design, will be improved. One would even hope, and I suppose this would be a pious hope, that the standard of Irish church architecture and church decoration might be improved. One might even hope, against all kinds of hope, that in future we might open our schools, particularly our national schools, to the prospect of much greater creative and visual activity. I am chairman of a parent-teacher association in a large Dublin school with an attendance of something like 1,100 children and I can truthfully say that, by international comparisons I made, it is not an overstatement to say that most of our national schools and, indeed, most of our educational institutions can be classified as being nothing short of slums. That is harsh but true. I would hope that in future there would be a bold and imaginative approach which is so lacking in this Bill.
I can have a certain sympathy for the Minister and the Department being, as they maintain they are, the custodians of £95,000 per annum of the taxpayers' money. Perhaps in the 1970s we will have an opportunity to indulge—and I use that word in its more correct sense—in bold and imaginative structural changes, particularly in the College of Art. Certain innovations and certain concepts of internal self-working may appear to some people to be at half-cock, but it is better to go in that direction and, by a process of experimentation, to give artistic freedom to Irishmen and Irishwomen and enable them to produce of their best with staff security of employment. To use the Minister's phrase in relation to the minority he should bend over backwards to provide an aesthetic climate for Irish visual arts. He could usefully bend over backwards in this area without getting a slipped disc in the process. He has a golden opportunity to make such a contribution.
We are opposing the Second Reading of this Bill because of the defects in it which we have pointed out. It is  seldom that we find ourselves in opposition to the Second Reading of legislation dealing with education and this shows the serious view which the Labour Party take of this Bill.
Minister for Education (Mr. Faulkner): Lest I forget, Deputy Desmond mentioned the fact that the number of hours in a teacher's contract in the College of Art was reduced. This was due to a typing error and the matter was explained to the teacher concerned over a week ago. I would be interested to know if this individual was as quick to explain to Deputy Desmond that there had been an error, as he was to point out originally that the number of hours in his contract had been reduced.
Mr. Faulkner: I am referring to the fact that the individual, who was so anxious to let the Deputy see the contract in which there was an error, was not so quick to inform the Deputy that there was an error and that this was explained to him over a week ago.
I had hoped that Deputies would have approached this Bill in a positive way. Instead, if I may say so, I have been subjected to a number of lectures, including a lecture from Deputy Keating on democracy. Perhaps this is irrelevant but Deputy Keating's concept of democracy and mine are essentially different and I hope they will remain so. I will not go into any further detail in relation to that.
Mr. Faulkner: I had hoped that Deputies would be concerned with this Bill which is intended to improve the whole situation in the College of Art rather than dealing with a long litany of alleged faults and failings in the past. I listened very carefully to  Deputy FitzGerald and the fact that he has accepted a completely distorted account of events in the college, written by a student who has no desire to contribute anything positive to the College of Art, is not I hope symptomatic of the Deputy's approach to this Bill.
Mr. Faulkner: I believe that there will be a very considerable improvement in the situation in the College of Art when this Bill is passed and I am concerned to ensure that there will be. I will admit that before I became Minister for Education I knew very little about the College of Art apart from seeing students going in and out as I came in here from Kildare Street. Since I became Minister I have had a number of meetings with the students and the teachers and, whatever they may have thought of those meetings, I learned a considerable amount. As I stated in the Dáil on several occasions, I am convinced that the College of Art is a most important institution not only from the cultural point of view but also from the economic point of view.
I should like to stress that in the past, despite, what has been said by some Deputies opposite, the college contributed very considerably to the cultural life of the nation, very much more, perhaps, than most people realise, particularly when we consider the type of publicity the college received in recent times. I cannot understand—and I said this to the students —why anybody should create a situation which would give a wrong impression to the people of this country because very many of them now feel that the College of Art has no relevance. I differ from that view.
I must also say that I was rather disappointed during the past couple of years by the fact that many people who owe so much to the College of Art failed to come to its defence. I suppose this can be put down to the reluctance of some people to involve themselves in controversy.
Deputy FitzGerald referred to a number of reports which have been  made on the College of Art. Perhaps I could refer to one of them, that is, the Scandinavian report which was based on a visit to an empty college. Neither the students nor the teachers were present when the visit was made. I regret to have to say this but the fact is that a group from abroad pronounced on a college which they literally never saw in operation. This should be sufficient comment on the report but I might say also that these people did not interview even one member of the staff. The Commission on Higher Education stated what had been suggested previously by the Department of Education; that was that a Department of State was not the most suitable apparatus to have control of an institution such as the College of Art. I agreed fully with this view and have stated it on a number of occasions. It was decided, therefore, that an autonomous body should be set up to assume this control and it is hoped that in the new era of administration this body will act as an impetus towards greater achievement. I sincerely hope this will be the case because, as I have already stated, the College of Art is an institution of exceptional importance to our nation, not only in the cultural but also in the economic field. It would be well to remember that without proper co-operation no achievement is possible and that the future of this college depends not only on a new board and on a new physical building but also on a change of attitude on the part of some people.
Mr. Faulkner: —— teachers and students on the board on a statutory basis. I know that this causes considerable jealousy among the members of the Opposition who would like to regard themselves as the only liberals in the House.
Mr. Faulkner: Yes, but I always like to repeat it because I believe it disturbs the Deputies opposite who are very anxious to oppose this Bill not on the basis of what is contained in it but by virtue of the fact they are of the opinion that, by so doing, they might ingratiate themselves a little more with the students.
Mr. Faulkner: I have ensured that there will be two students on this governing body. Since becoming Minister not only have I concerned myself with the initiating of this legislation but, also, I have requested an archtectural firm to design a new College of Art and that is proceeding.
Mr. Faulkner: I wish to refer now to the remarks made by Deputy FitzGerald in relation to my meeting with the teachers. If I am not misquoting the Deputy, he said that the secretary of the teacher's delegation issued a statement off his own bat after the meeting. This was a rather peculiar procedure because I would assume that the secretary of a delegation would not issue a statement without consulting first with the other members of the delegation and ensuring  that whatever statement was to be issued would be agreed on by the other members.
Mr. Faulkner: Of course, it was obvious to me at the meeting that practically all of the nine teachers concerned—seven, in fact, were satisfied with the meeting. If the individual concerned had consulted with his colleagues he would not have been permitted to issue that statement. In reply to a question in this House on Thursday, 17th June, in relation to this particular meeting I said that I was amazed to find in the newspapers on the day following the meeting, a report to the effect that the teachers were dissatisfied with the outcome of the meeting. It transpired that seven of the nine teachers who formed the deputation were highly indignant at the contents of that report which, as the Deputy has admitted, was published without their consent.
Mr. Faulkner: The letter was printed in one of the papers while in another it was referred to in a news item and the third chose to ignore it. Six of these seven teachers wrote also to me deploring personally the statement that appeared in the newspapers.
Mr. Faulkner: I want to deny categorically that any intimidation or pressure was used. In fact, one of the teachers concerned has since sent a letter to the papers denying that any pressure was brought to bear on her or, so far as she could ascertain, on anybody else.
Mr. Faulkner: The members of the staff covered by section 27 have given long and very valuable service to the college and it is owed to them to continue their services and, of course, the college will benefit from their being continued on the staff. In this regard my only regret is that I was unable, before now, to make them permanent and pensionable. I have explained in the House on a number of occasions why it was not possible for me to do this.
It has been said that I should go further but this is to be an autonomous body and it is they who will make the appointments. Therefore, I have gone as far as I should in relation to this particular matter. It was suggested that the autonomy of the board was restricted. Undoubtedly, Deputies must realise that a body that is financed almost entirely by the State must be subject to certain controls particularly in relation to finance. It is now universal that educational establishments everywhere subsist on massive public  financial support and, naturally, this involves public accountability. The provision in the Bill in this regard provides merely for the minimum safeguards.
I have been charged here with calling the students various names. I challenge anybody to study the Dáil reports and to point out to me any reference to my having called the students by any particular name. Of course, I stated facts when I referred to the damage done by students in the College of Art and while this may have annoyed members of the Opposition as well as perhaps, a few of the students, I considered it my duty to state the facts. I was interested to read, a few days afterwards, a letter written by a student to the three morning papers expressing indignation and outrage at the manner in which the plaster casts in the college were maintained by the Department. What the reading public did not know was that this indignant student was seen by two other students daubing another cast in the college with brilliant red paint.
Incidentally, a letter condoning an act of wanton blackguardism, the destruction of the casts, appeared in Tuesday's daily papers. The author was one of two students whom I saw actually defacing a statue here a very short time ago. Now one of these culprits had the audicity to condone such an act publicly.
Mr. Faulkner: I am given to understand that the collection of casts destroyed by these so-called lovers of art were unique in Europe and the fact  that they were presented to the college does not detract from their value.
Mr. Faulkner: I was interested to note a letter which appeared in the Irish Times signed by two ex-students of the college stating that the diploma received from the college was not recognised by the Beaux Arts school in Paris for entry purposes and that the diploma of the Beaux Arts school was acceptable as a qualification in Senegal, whereas the Irish diploma was not acceptable. My information is that entry to the Beaux Arts school in Paris is limited and, in the case of foreign students, extremely restricted. A test must be done for entry and the two students apparently passed this test and were accepted. The standards they had achieved as a result of their courses in the National College of Art must have been pretty high. I might add that with regard to the non-acceptance in Senegal of the diploma of the college, one must remember that Senegal is a former colony of France and still is within the French sphere of influence. Naturally French qualifications would be acceptable before Irish qualifications.
It was suggested that an administrative officer of the Department discussed the character or behaviour of students with outside assessors. This is ludicrous. Apparently any student felt free to relay any kind of story about what was happening in the college and this seems to have been accepted by some people.
Mr. Faulkner: With regard to section 25, this is a provision which I am informed is normally inserted by the legal people when State property is being handed over to private control. I admit that I consider it is not necessary to have such a provision in relation to a college building and I intend to introduce an amendment on Committee Stage to alter this.
Mr. Faulkner: Reference was made to the director as being the most important person on the board. I suppose there is something in that. All I can say is that the director will not be appointed by me but the board. Deputy Desmond stated that the people did not seem to have a great love of the arts. Possibly this may be true but we are trying to rectify the matter not only in relation to the National College of Art but from the primary school level. He referred to the question of art teaching and training, and in the new curriculum we are making full provision for this. It will also be carried on through the post-primary system.
I do not need to say much more on this. I think I have replied to most of the points made by Deputies. We will have a further discussion on this Bill on the Committee Stage. I cannot understand why Deputies condemned this Bill out of hand except that perhaps there is a slight tinge of jealously that a Fianna Fáil Government have introduced not only this Bill but something new in ensuring that students will have a right to sit on the board of this institution.
Blaney, Neil. Browne, Seán.
Burke, Patrick J.
de Valera, Vivion.
Fitzpatrick, Tom (Dublin Central).
Gogan, Richard P.
Healy, Augustine A.
Browne, Patrick. Hillery, Patrick J.
Kitt, Michael F.
Lalor, Patrick J.
Lemass, Noel T.
Loughnane, William A.
Clinton, Mark A.
Conlan, John F.
Cooney, Patrick M.
Dockrell, Henry P.
Flanagan, Oliver J.
|Harte, Patrick D.
Jones, Denis F.
O'Connell, John F.
O'Higgins, Thomas F.
O'Sullivan, John L.
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