School Attendance Bill, 1942—Committee (Resumed).

Thursday, 28 January 1943

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 27 No. 11

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Sections 5, 6 and 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Amendment No. 5 (Senator Baxter) not moved.

Mr. Baxter: Information on Patrick Francis Baxter  Zoom on Patrick Francis Baxter  I move amendment No. 5 (a), as follows:—

In sub-section (2), after paragraph (c), to add a new paragraph (d) as follows:—

(d) the employment of a child temporarily in such occupations and at such periods or times as may be prescribed by the Minister in Regulations to be made under this Act.

I addressed myself at some length to this defect in the Bill on Second Reading. I do not know whether or not it is necessary for me to go over the whole of that argument again. The Seanad will observe that the sub-section reads:—

[1031] In addition to any other statutory prohibition of or statutory restriction on the employment of children, no person shall have in his employment any child who has not attained the age of fourteen years.

I know that this sub-section was debated in the other House and I know that the Minister's original draft was different from the text which we have now before us. I am of opinion that the consequences of trying to operate this sub-section could not have been fully adverted to by the Dáil or it would not have permitted the Bill to come to us in the form in which it has reached us. I do not want to be understood, nor do I want those who agree with me to be understood, as standing for a condition of things which will make it possible for children to be put into employment at an early age and deprived of the opportunities of suitable education. But if we do not stand for one extreme, we should not permit another extreme to be forced upon us. For the Oireachtas to put through a measure, which must be operated when it becomes law, in which it is stated that no person shall have in his employment a child who has not attained the age of 14 years is absurd.

I am concerned with conditions in rural Ireland. I am not pretending to speak for urban or municipal areas or, indeed, for the type of employment that might be described as industrial. I am not thinking, either, of conditions in which parents might seek to release their children from school at an earlier age than 14, so that they might go into employment of a permanent character even in rural Ireland. Children are absent from school, because the schools are closed, for about six weeks in the summer months and for a few weeks at Christmas and at Easter. What I want to secure is that I, and people like me, will not be breaking the law if we take into our employment during the holiday season children who had been attending school and who are competent to do work of a certain character on a farm. I want to be able to exercise the liberty of taking into my employment my neighbour's children, [1032] or other people's children, at a time when their labour may be of value to me and when they are not attending school because the school is closed. The Minister may say that I may be free to do that during the holiday season and will not be prosecuted if I take in boys to drop potatoes in the spring time or to help in the hay or cornfield in July or August. He may say that no sensible Guard would attempt to prosecute me for doing that. But my attitude is that I do not want to give power to the State, or to any authority here, to pursue me and make me feel that in some way or other I am breaking the law if I take children into my employment—children who, ordinarily, are attending school and are under the age of 14 years.

When the original Act was going through, it was recognised that in the rural districts there were periods in the year when children could be of value, and it was permissive to close schools so that parents might have the services of their children during those periods. The fact was recognised that children could be of use. Farmers understand quite well that there are all sorts of jobs on the land and around the farm yard which boys of from the ages of 10 to 13 can do quite well. These are difficult days when we ought to be able to have the services of everybody in their off-time. This is a section which we cannot permit to pass in its present form. I think it is foolish and stupid if I am to be put in the position that the children of my labourer, who lives on the edge of my farm, cannot go into my fields to drop potatoes during the Easter holiday period, when there is no school, and earn something for themselves by doing a day's work or a week's work, simply because we put a section like this into the Act.

I do not know whether there is any great necessity to argue this at length. I may, perhaps, be told by some people here that the children will be at work early enough, that many of them may have to go to work when they reach the age of 14, and that they ought not be put in the position of having to look for work for payment earlier than that age. The thing that is most essential for boys or girls who are attending a [1033] national school and will have to make their way in the world on the education they are receiving there is good physique and healthy bodies, with a facility to tackle whatever job may be given them to do. In my view, the training of boys and girls should begin in time. If it is, you can inculcate in them a spirit of industry, of tidiness and efficiency. The correct way of doing a job will become easy and natural to them. If you want to make good men and women of them, start them at an early age to do work of a physical character that is not beyond their strength. There is, therefore, every argument in favour of altering this section so that young people may be employed during periods in their school life when they are not compelled to attend school.

I think that what I am asking in the amendment is reasonable, and I would expect that the Minister would have no difficulty in framing regulations to meet the case which I am making. I feel it is essential that that should be done. Nobody who understands children, and the difficulties that are going to confront those who will have to live by the vigour of their bodies, could possibly support the section in its present form. In my opinion, the section imposes a definite handicap on children if they are to be restricted from taking up employment of a physical character before the age of 14. I hope the House will accept the amendment.

Minister for Education (Mr. Derrig): Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  Perhaps I had better explain my attitude to this amendment. As a Senator has said, the original proposals put before the Dáil were such as to enable the Minister to regulate the employment of children between the ages of 12 and 14, to restrict it in certain ways and to prohibit it completely below the age of 12. All Parties in the House, so far as I could see, felt that any employment that might be considered necessary to be carried out by young people could just as easily be carried out by children above the school-leaving age of 14 as by children below it. It was strongly urged, so far as the City of Dublin was concerned, that the Minister for Education in particular [1034] should not allow himself to be put into the position of allowing children, who should be at school, to be taken into employment when, in fact, there were thousands of young people above 14— let us say, between 14 and 16—who could be equally employed and to whom would apply all the arguments which applied to the usefulness of giving young people a training in a certain type of work. Therefore, in view of the volume of opinion on all sides of the House, I felt that I would not be justified in refusing to accept the unanimous demand, and I introduced an amendment to prohibit the employment of children under 14.

The word “employment”, according to the Principal Act, in relation to a child, means “employment and occupation in any labour exercised by way of trade or for the purpose of gain to the child or to any other person”. Unless it is for the purpose of gain or by way of trade, work by children may not come under the definition of employment. I do not think that there is a great deal of employment—in the sense of employment for gain, at any rate—by farmers of children of school-going age, even at the busy season. If there is demand for additional facilities, if we should be hard pressed for labour or if climatic conditions should be unfavourable, I can always, under the Emergency Powers Act, grant additional powers where necessary. I have actually—although it is no longer the law—given the extra periods which were given to farmers in the spring and harvest time, and I still have that power. I do not think that any general exemption, even on grounds of agricultural need, ought to be included in the legislation dealing with school attendance. I feel that such a situation as we have now can be dealt with by the Minister exercising his powers under the emergency legislation.

As I have said, there is a very strong feeling, in the City of Dublin in particular, that youngsters of school-going age ought not be employed while there are others above the age of 14 available, and the case was not made against that. There was no case made, as far as I could see, to show [1035] that it was necessary that those children should be available to farmers at special times of the year. It can be argued—and, I think, rightly—that poor children who have little advantage, in the world which faces them, beyond their education, require all the education they can receive, and that at night time they should be given opportunities to do their home work. Goodness knows, their life at school is scarcely sufficiently long to enable them to get that minimum about which we had so much discussion.

I do not think that it is the duty of the Minister for Education to make exceptions. In any case, if Senator Baxter wished to make an exception of the holiday period, I suggest that he might have included that in his amendment. As it now stands, his amendment would simply put the position back where it was under the Principal Act, under which the Minister was empowered to make regulations, governing the various occupations, restricting the employment of children. Such regulations were never made and, in spite of the fact that my original proposals in the Dáil seem to point to the Minister taking those responsibilities on himself again in a certain measure, I think the House will agree with me that I have not the machinery to make inquiries to enable me to schedule occupations which may be deemed to be legitimate for school children, even if I were satisfied that their employment therein did not interfere in any way with the child's attendance at school or the advantages he might receive therefrom. The Senator has put in an omnibus clause, in which he proposes to put on me the duty of making regulations; and if I do not choose to make these regulations, nothing happens. If I do choose to make them, I shall require a large staff to enable me to carry out the necessary inquiries, hear evidence, and so on; and I doubt very much if it is worth it.

If the broad basis of the principle that we should not have children under 14 employed for gain is accepted, but if it is thought that there should be special exceptions in particular [1036] cases, then Senators ought to indicate specifically the exceptions they have in mind, so that we would have an idea as to whether there is a case or not. As I have said, the Senator has not covered the particular point.

I can see there is a point—and I shall have it looked into—as regards the holiday period; but even in the holiday period. I do not think we could agree that children could be employed in the same way, let us say, as adults or for the same type of labour. Even for the holiday period, the type of labour at which children should be occupied should be more in the nature of recreation and physical exercise than any imposition on their bodily strength or any attempt to make them carry out work which should properly be done by adults.

Mr. M. Hayes: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  I am entirely in agreement with the Minister in regard to the general principle that children of school-going age should not be employed—and should not be employed even temporarily or part-time in such a way as to interfere with their education.

Mr. Baxter: Information on Patrick Francis Baxter  Zoom on Patrick Francis Baxter  And I did not suggest that.

Mr. M. Hayes: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  That is not suggested in Senator Baxter's amendment. The amendment itself is not quite satisfactory and was put down largely to see whether the Minister could suggest a satisfactory scheme himself. I think this House is in agreement with the other House that, in the City of Dublin and such like areas, children under 14 should not be employed at all. The Minister asked for specific cases. We must all give cases from our own experience. Senator Baxter suggested certain times of the year when children are employed and when the schools are specially closed to allow them to be employed in the country. Apart from that, there is casual employment at week-ends, of children under 14, as golf caddies. They get a certain amount of money; it does not do them any harm, and it does not interfere in any way with their education or the doing of their home work. This work—if it is [1037] work—is done entirely in the open air. The Minister recognises the case in the country where youngsters make a certain amount in that way. When this Bill becomes an Act, it will be open to the police to prevent that. It is a small point, but one of some importance.

The only other point coming under my notice was one last summer where a youngster of 13 was delivering milk, morning and evening, at the house where I was staying. His father was a labourer on the farm from which the milk came, and that milk was delivered by the boy to half a dozen houses morning and evening. When this Bill becomes an Act, that will not be possible. It is possible that, in the administration of the law, that could be settled. There are some small cases like that which might make some difference.

In regard to children under 14, I agree entirely that there should be no such thing as regular employment, and in Dublin no such thing as partial employment; but in the country I do not see that there is any objection, even from the point of view of the training of the children, to certain types of work being done at certain times of the year. I do not mean the type of work, as the Minister said, which should be done by adults and which imposes any strain, but certain types of work which would do the children no harm, which would be of some value and which is not normally done by adults at all.

I can see the difficulty the Minister envisages, that this amendment gives him power to do something and that he has not the machinery to make the investigation. On the other hand, the Minister is the preferable Minister, because he does take into consideration the education of the children, and he would object to their being employed in any way which might interfere with their education. I take it that Senator Baxter has in mind that no employment should be allowed for children which would interfere with their education at school or out of school. It would be difficult, I think, to insert in the Bill particular types of employment. The only remedy is to give the Minister power to make such exceptions as experience might dictate; they might not be very many. The police [1038] would hesitate to take action in regard to certain things. It is merely a question of agreement where there is difficulty in getting certain machinery into operation.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  There are two points that are not clear to me. In the first place, I do not believe that, through the county generally, where farmers co-operate in harvesting and other work, the children of one farmer are employed by the neighbour. I imagine they are not employed in that sense but that they come in as helpers. If the position is that they are employed for gain, I should like to know of cases where that takes place. I do not think we should make an exception. If the position in the rural areas is that children do assist and there is no question of money payment, then there is no need to make an exception.

The second point concerns children from the City of Dublin. They go to farms, say, in North County Dublin, to assist, and there is a strong feeling, which Senator Hayes has again emphasised, that there should be no exception so far as city children are concerned. I do not see how one could make an exception in respect of children in Cavan or some other area and exclude children from, let us say, the outskirts of the City of Dublin, who may, in fact, be more urgently needed.

Mr. Counihan: Information on John Joseph Counihan  Zoom on John Joseph Counihan  While I agree with a good deal of what the Minister and Senator Hayes said, I cannot see that there is any great comparison between city children and the children of agricultural workers and farmers. The Minister asked were the children of the agricultural workers employed and getting remuneration. I should like to give him a specific instance. I am not very anxious to employ youngsters, but I have a number of workmen, and those workmen make special arrangements for the employment of their youngsters during holiday time, thinning turnips and doing other light work. I know that if these youngsters did not get paid there would be a riot. The youngsters are delighted to get their payment after being employed for three or four days, perhaps for a week or perhaps for a fortnight. I am in [1039] thorough agreement that youngsters in the towns under 14 years should not be employed, but it is quite a different matter in the country. If I did not allow the children of my agricultural workers to thin turnips, there would be great dissatisfaction.

Apart from that, I think it is good training for the children of agricultural workers and I believe they should be allowed to work on the land during holiday time even though they are only 11, 12, 13 or 14 years. I do not think that Senator Baxter wants them to be employed at any other period except during the holiday period. I think the Minister should agree to frame an amendment to meet the case. It is a general practice all over the country so far as I know, not alone in County Dublin, but in most other counties, for youngsters to work on the land during school holidays. I think it is a reasonable request and the Minister should allow that practice to continue.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  I shall look into the particular point of employment during the holiday period.

Mr. Baxter: Information on Patrick Francis Baxter  Zoom on Patrick Francis Baxter  That is all I am asking.

Mr. O'Donovan: Information on Sean ODonovan  Zoom on Sean ODonovan  I do not see on the Order Paper the amendment originally submitted by Senator Baxter in which he proposed to insert the word “permanently”. Has that been withdrawn?

Mr. Baxter: Information on Patrick Francis Baxter  Zoom on Patrick Francis Baxter  It was not moved.

Mr. O'Donovan: Information on Sean ODonovan  Zoom on Sean ODonovan  When I first saw the amendment I put a note on my copy of the Bill. The insertion of the word would make the section read:

“In addition to any other statutory prohibition of or statutory restriction on the employment of children, no person shall have in his employment permanently any child who has not attained the age of 14 years.”

I put down this note for my own use: “...save during the school holiday period”. I felt that that would secure the object more satisfactorily than would the insertion of the word “permanently”.

[1040] With regard to the employment of children in the country, there is nothing in this Bill to prevent any child working with his parent or guardian or any other definition of relative. That widens the scope very much, but, beyond that, there is always the system of what is called “coring” during the saving of the harvest, particularly at threshing time and at the digging and putting-in of potatoes. In the same connection the term “meitheal” is also used. It means a system of co-operation. A farmer and his boy, even if the boy were under 14 years, would, let us say, go to Senator Baxter's place to do his work to-day and, in a few days' time, Senator Baxter and his boy would proceed to do that farmer's work. That was the system that I saw in operation and I thought it was a very good system, especially during the school holiday period. I think there should be no difficulty in children co-operating with a neighbour's children in doing light work on the farm.

So far as the amendment is concerned, we have had repeatedly in this House objections raised to legislation by Order, and surely the people who have raised these objections should object more strenuously to legislation by regulation—to the Minister issuing regulations. I have found from experience that the regulations made under an Act are far more embracing than the Act itself—they contain much more than is embodied in the Act. These regulations are published, but they are seldom questioned and sometimes the law entailed in the regulations is far more extensive than what is contained in the Act. We are suggesting here—and this is the point that has been so much opposed by Senators —that we should give the Minister power by regulation. These regulations become the law unless they are, within a certain period, annulled by the Oireachtas.

The point I am putting to the House is that if we do require an alteration it would be far better to have it embodied in the legislation rather than to empower the Minister to make regulations. Apart from the suggestion I [1041] have made, I can see an objection from the point of view of the Labour people. If a child under 14 years is required to work outside his own farm, the Labour people could say: “Why not employ a child over 14 years of age?” There is a lot to be said for that, but to get over that difficulty, I suggest the insertion of the simple phrase “save during the school holiday period.” These school holiday periods have been lengthened by the exercise of special powers of the Minister. Schools have been closed to facilitate harvesting and other agricultural work, presumably in order to facilitate farmers in getting the help of their own children. This question of helping other people does not come within the ambit of the Bill and if we simply insert a phrase which will allow them, during the school holidays, to help their neighbours, it would cover it.

Mr. McGee: Information on James Thomas McGee  Zoom on James Thomas McGee  I admire the spirit of reasonableness in which Senator Baxter's suggestion has been met, but my experience is that, in my own parish, 200 children are employed during the summer period for a great deal of time. The period for which they are employed varies of course according to the crops, but where you have intensive production of potatoes, beet and other root crops, you will have very considerable continued employment for children and I think it would be deplorable if that were stopped. In our areas they are not as they are in Dublin. You will not find one unemployed man in certain areas in my district at almost any time and most certainly in the summer you will not find an unemployed boy.

Mr. Baxter: Information on Patrick Francis Baxter  Zoom on Patrick Francis Baxter  Or in any other part of rural Ireland either.

Mr. McGee: Information on James Thomas McGee  Zoom on James Thomas McGee  I know of a case of a donkey and cart being purchased at auction in order to convey three children, aged from 12 to 15 years, to their work. They cooked their meal in a house adjacent to their place of employment. That system is extensive and is a tremendous gain to the labourers. In fact, where you have 20 [1042] labourers constantly employed and coming a considerable distance, they will claim that before you employ anybody living near you, you should give a preference to the children of those who work constantly with you. I had that experience this year on my own holding and it applies all over Louth. The children work constantly at potatoes and beet. I do not say that takes place during the entire period—it could not possibly take place during the entire school going period. The managers are very anxious that their parishioners should be employed at this work. They appreciate it and there is considerable vying amongst farmers for the services of the children for work in 22 inch drills—and I think that some of my colleagues growing beet are getting down to drills lower than 22 inches. I am afraid that Senator Cummins or I would not have much chance of getting into such drills. It is nice work and does them no harm.

Mr. O'Donovan: Information on Sean ODonovan  Zoom on Sean ODonovan  It would do the Senator good too.

Mr. McGee: Information on James Thomas McGee  Zoom on James Thomas McGee  The Senator will be delighted to know that I would not be so keen on farming were it not for the fact that my job was given to me at ten years of age during my holidays. It may have damped my brain and I may not have got on as well in the world as if I were in a job like Senator O'Donovan and others, but at the same time it has never curbed my efforts to get through life. I have held my own in an agricultural way, and so far as I can, honestly, and although I have not been professionally trained, I suppose I am as happy as anybody else.

I felt that the Minister would not be quite so strong against this as I thought he was at the beginning, and I knew he would try to meet the position. It is a very big difficulty. Apart altogether from the practical aspect, there is the theoretical. I think the State should give a bounty to the man who employs children, who trains them and who invites their minds to an appreciation of the resources which agriculture gives. It is a pity to prejudice the outlook on agriculture [1043] of anybody. When the Taoiseach spoke in Limerick last week he told us that our greatest bargaining power was barley. To produce barley, the land must be clean, and no one can do that cleaning as well as little children. When you have something to export, it is not educated men you export but some production of the land, and we should encourage our children to stick to the land by every possible means.

The year before last a boy left my employment for a job I got him in a barber's shop. He was away for a year. He came back and when I asked him why, he said: “If the work was as constant as the work I am now doing, I should be inclined to come back again because there is a great deal in it to like.” I do not think you will be injuring the health of the children in any way by giving encouragement to those who employ them on the land. You will show them what agricultural work is and possibly will be doing them a good turn by making them fond of the land. They are fond of it, if it only gives them a livelihood. In my district, there are families of five, six, seven and eight children. The majority of them are about 16, and, since Christmas, they have been working at beet. They are not strong enough to hold up a heavy beet, but they are strong enough to clean it and to crack the beets together to clean them. They are as good crowners of beet at 14, 15 or 16 as some men of 30 and 40, and possibly better.

I was glad to see the Minister adopting a reasonable attitude. He did not say all he meant to say, because, when a Minister is being convinced, he does not like to go “all out”, but he came a long way to meet the position. I suggest that Ministers should do all they possibly can to recognise that when children are being trained on the farm, a great asset is being conveyed to them. For that reason, I think it would be a pity to do anything that would cast a slur on the work. It would, of course, be unheard of to employ children at this work if they [1044] were delicate or not properly fed, but where there are four children in a house earning 25/- a week each during the summer, bringing in £5 a week for ten weeks, it represents a valuable addition. It counts enormously during the months of March and April in connection with potatoes, during the months of June, July and August in connection with the thinning of beet and still more in September and October in the gathering of potatoes.

These periods are different from the holiday periods and they are periods which are vital. The Minister might reconsider the holiday period. If we want the amount of beet and potatoes grown which Ministers ask us to grow and which we know is very vital, they might be prepared to alter the school periods during the emergency. I am sure that none would regret if, after the emergency, we were in a position to grow the crops and find a market for them which would keep our children employed. A time of emergency, however, is not a proper time to bring in a Bill to curtail agricultural output, or which tends in any way to do so.

Mr. Quirke: Information on William Quirke  Zoom on William Quirke  I do not know that I should go quite so far as Senator McGee has gone, but I agree with a good deal of what he says. I am glad that he has pointed out to the Minister, as I intended to point out, the necessity for making some provision for the thinning of beet. In the beet-growing area—and there is a lot of beet grown in the Minister's constituency—the handling of the beet is a problem at present. In the rural areas, as several Senators have already agreed, the number of people available for employment on the land has dwindled very considerably. Men have joined the Army and we all encourage them to do so; they have gone to work on the bogs, in the mines and other places, and there is a great shortage of employment in the beet-growing areas as a result.

Mr. Baxter: Information on Patrick Francis Baxter  Zoom on Patrick Francis Baxter  Of men to be employed and not a shortage of employment.

Mr. Quirke: Information on William Quirke  Zoom on William Quirke  I meant to say a shortage [1045] of men who could be employed in rural areas. At the present time that is a problem with men who have a big acreage of beet to handle. In normal times it was the custom for beet growers with from 10 to 25 acres to make it known in the locality that they would pay so much a drill for thinning the crop. When that became known it was open to any worker to undertake it. Children of small farmers and of agricultural workers might thin a drill or half a drill or 100 or 200 yards. I agree with what Senator McGee said that there is a difficulty about insisting on the holiday period. It was customary for children, even on the way home from school, when passing through a beet garden to thin half a drill and then to go home. I realise the Minister's difficulty in legislating to prevent abuse of a privilege of this kind. As to Senator McGee's statement, it would be desirable, if it could be properly regulated, that children of farmers, agricultural workers or shopkeepers in small towns in rural Ireland should have in their upbringing at least some contact with the land. The most pathetic thing that I can imagine is to meet a grown-up person in this country who does not know anything about land. He knows what bread is made from but he has no idea how a crop of wheat is produced. He knows potatoes when he sees them in a shop window, but he does not know how they are grown. If a man of that type, who is 20 or 25 years of age, goes on a farm he is perfectly useless there.

The man who is brought up on the land has a decided advantage over other men, particularly in this country, where it is desirable that as many as possible of the people, and of the children, should have the necessary contact with land from childhood, so that they would be able to appreciate the difficulties of farmers. We are unanimous in agreeing that there should be no such thing as child labour. Nobody wants that. What we want, and what we hope the Minister will be able to do, is to make it possible for children to have the necessary contact with the land, so that they may appreciate the difficulties of farmers and, at the same time, help in [1046] the production of the food required by our people.

Mr. Douglas: Information on James Green Douglas  Zoom on James Green Douglas  It seems to me that the Minister has met Senator Baxter's amendment by promising to look into this matter, to see whether he could safely make the Bill a little less drastic. At the same time I hope that he will not go so far as to make it possible to have pretty widespread employment, because a section of this kind could very easily be too wide. We do not want the general employment of children under 14 years. It may be that during the emergency there may be a necessity for going further in certain districts than in normal times. That being the case, the Minister may find, when he looks into it, that he may be driven to come back or to take power to make regulations or to alter what is in the Bill. It may be necessary to give greater latitude at this time. The House should be satisfied with what the Minister has said and the amendment might be withdrawn to see what will be done on the Report Stage.

Professor Tierney: Information on Prof. Michael Tierney  Zoom on Prof. Michael Tierney  Like Senator Douglas, I am very largely satisfied with the promise the Minister has given, and it was really the eloquence of Senator McGee that tempted me to intervene, in order to add my effort to his, and to plead with the Minister to reconsider the whole section very carefully, not only in relation to the holiday period but, as Senator McGee suggested, in relation to periods that might fall outside the holiday period. I agree with Senator McGee that we should look on the whole question of agricultural employment in a totally different way from urban employment.

They are entirely different. Urban employment of children is generally blind-alley employment and does not really train them for the life they are going to live. Nine-tenths of farmers' sons, if they are ever going to be successful farmers, must begin to get agricultural training at a much earlier age than 14. Anybody who knows anything about life on the land knows that if a man is going to be a farmer you cannot leave him idle until he is [1047] 14 years of age and then suddenly decide to try to make him a farmer. He must be learning about the processes of agriculture, even though in an elementary or childish way from the beginning.

The work children do on the land is not the degrading kind of work that they would do in indiscriminate employment in towns, the kind that leads to blind-alley employment. I was kept at home from school long before there was a School Attendance Act to pick potatoes. I do not know that any Senator could accuse my parents of having damaged my education by keeping me at home in that way. There are occupations of that kind in connection with the harvest for which small children are better fitted than bigger children, and it does not do them the least harm. I would be inclined to make an exception of some of the work on beet. Thinning may be comparatively light work, but from what I have heard of the beet crop it is not at all regarded as an easy crop to work. We agree that nobody wants to have small children turned into wage slaves or performing work that they are not physically fitted for. I should like to emphasise, as far as I can, that the kind of work small children are normally called upon to do on the farm is not at all degrading or harmful. On the whole it is good for them and is, in fact, essential for the vast majority if they are to become farmers. What I feel about the section as it stands is that it is a little too tightly drawn and leaves no loophole for a situation where a good deal of latitude will be required. I do not think there was ever any great complaint that there was anything in the nature of wage slavery in country districts.

I do not remember ever hearing that small children were overworked, for hire or anything of that sort. But there would be a great deal of temporary, or more or less casual, employment in which children could give an immense amount of help on the land, and it would be a great pity if their employers, whoever they might [1048] be, were prevented by law from giving them a small wage.

I do not think there will be any harm done by giving a considerable amount of latitude for the employment of children on the land. On the contrary, I believe that if an attempt is made to carry out that section as it stands it will be a total failure. You could not carry out that section. Take, for instance, the question of employment by relatives. How is any State authority to investigate to what extent children are employed by their relatives for pay? It is an utter impossibility so far as the country districts are concerned. You could do that sort of thing in the cities where you have people in compact groups, but you cannot do it with families living on the land. I should like to urge the Minister to re-examine the whole of that section and to try to draw a clear distinction in it between urban employment and rural employment; and while not, as Senator Douglas said, widening the scope too far or creating a situation in which excessive employment of children would be permitted, to give as much latitude as possible to farmers to use the labour of children, certainly between the ages of 12 and 14, and, if necessary, to pay them a small wage.

Mr. O'Dwyer: Information on Martin ODwyer  Zoom on Martin ODwyer  I should like to express my agreement with what most of the speakers said with regard to the employment of children on the land. I think it would be very desirable that children who have not attained the age of 14 should be allowed to be employed for short periods on the land. In the present situation there is a real shortage of labour in certain districts and the help of children would mean a great deal in saving the harvest. In ordinary times, in dairying districts, little children could do very useful light work in the harvest time. They are usually employed in carrying meals to workers and they are also useful in stooking corn and picking potatoes. Undoubtedly their labour is very useful and in the present situation is [1049] very necessary. Apart from that, there is another reason why their employment should be allowed and that is that in general agricultural labourers are very poor. Their earnings are very small and the money which the children can earn in this way is a great help to them. It is also quite an education for the children to be employed at light work like that instead of running around idle. I think it would meet the situation if Senator O'Donovan's suggestion that the words, “during the holiday period” were inserted in the Bill. You might also include Saturdays, because children are often employed on Saturdays. I think that that would meet the situation. There would be no need to keep children at home from school, but employment of children might be allowed during the holiday season and when the schools are not open.

Mr. O'Connell: Information on Tomas O'Connell  Zoom on Tomas O'Connell  In the debate that has just taken place we have an example of the danger of opening a gap. Senator Baxter put forward what might be regarded as a comparatively modest demand, that during the school holiday period children might be engaged on what he described as light agricultural work. Then immediately others added a little bit. When they found the Minister was rather inclined to give way or did not show that he was dead against it, we had the demand gradually increased until we came to the time when Senator McGee thought they should be employed during September, October and November in connection with the beet crop. I think the only work they could do in connection with beet at that time would be lifting it, and, as Senator Tierney said, no child under 14 should be employed at that work.

Mr. Baxter: Information on Patrick Francis Baxter  Zoom on Patrick Francis Baxter  They would not be very much good at it.

Mr. O'Connell: Information on Tomas O'Connell  Zoom on Tomas O'Connell  As Senator Baxter says, they would not be very much good at it. I think we should definitely insist on the principle which is enshrined in this Bill, that no child under the age of 14 should be employed during school hours even by his own parents. If a [1050] parent is obliged to send his child to school every day, as he is, and cannot therefore employ him on his own farm, surely we must insist that no child under 14 can be employed for hire at such time as school is in operation. I think we will have definitely to insist upon that. Reference was made to the holiday period. The holiday period is not a static period. It is open to managers of schools to arrange their vacation period for such time as will suit the circumstances of the district. Managers and teachers do that. For instance, it is well known that in Donegal the vacation is always given in October because the children are employed at that time picking potatoes. That is the case in certain counties in Northern Ireland and possibly in portions of County Louth also. I think it was Senator Quirke who said something about the extra period given. That extra period that is given during the emergency can also be arranged. In the beet areas it can be arranged to be given during the thinning of the beet. If there are other areas where it is a question of picking potatoes or something of that kind, the ten days can be given during that period. I think that that should meet any reasonable demand, and that it would meet Senator Baxter's demand. But certainly I think the Minister should not give way to the extent that he would allow children to be employed when their attendance at school would be interfered with in any way. I think he should stand firm on that.

I prefer the Bill as it stands, but I have no objection to what Senator Baxter has asked for, that during the holiday period it might be open to a parent or a farmer to employ children at light agricultural work. But I can see the difficulty that the Minister will have if he tries to frame a regulation on that matter, and I think that whatever he decides to do ought to be put definitely in the Bill rather than by way of regulation, so that we will know exactly what we have to meet and have an opportunity of saying what we think about it. I strongly object to any extension in the direction indicated by Senator McGee or any loosening of this particular section, and I hope the Minister will not agree to it.

[1051]Mrs. Concannon: Information on Helena Concannon  Zoom on Helena Concannon  Some of us were rather disquieted by the absolute prohibition in the first part of this section against any person employing a child under 14 years. As the Bill stands, there is an absolute prohibition with three exceptions, which really are not exceptions at all, as regards their employment. What I found disquieting was that this absolute prohibition was not related in any explicit way to the purpose of the Bill, that is to secure better school attendance. The prohibition was absolute and nothing was said about school attendance. I think it is right that we should get away from the idea that education is only to be got in schools. There is a certain amount to be got in schools, and our system of education and of the employment of children should be so regulated that the poorest child would be provided with that education free. The child of the poorest parent in this country has as much right to that education as anybody else, but there is another kind of education that cannot be got in the schools, and which is only got, as Senator Tierney pointed out in his splendid speech, through contact with the land. The farmer or the farm labourer is a very highly trained person, and his training for his work must begin when he is very young. In my experience, after the age of 14, it is almost too late to give such education. I agree, of course, that there are certain exceptions, but that has been my experience, generally—that you cannot have a good farmer or a good farm labourer, unless his education begins when he is very young. I certainly do not want to see the old, bad conditions of child labour in this country, and I am sure that nobody in this country wants to see that, but I also think that our children should not be deprived of the necessary, legitimate education and preparation for their future lives. They must get the proper education in the primary schools, but we should not deprive them of the opportunity of coming into contact with that part of their education which can only be got by being employed on the land.

There are other reasons, such as health reasons. From the point of view of health, for instance, I think it would [1052] be much better for children to be employed on the land in light work instead of being cooped up in schools too long. The training of the body is a very important thing, and in connection with farming, particularly, it is necessary that certain muscles of the body should be developed at a very early age. These are my reasons for advancing the opinions I have advanced. We have had the Minister's assurance that he would look into this matter, and I hope he will take cognisance of the various points that were made in this debate.

Mr. Quirke: Information on William Quirke  Zoom on William Quirke  I should like to assure Senator O'Connell that I had no idea whatever of suggesting that children should be employed during school hours. I think Senator O'Connell would be agreeable to the idea that children might be employed on light work outside of school hours. That means that it might be possible for a little boy or girl to do what I suggested; that is, to thin a half a drill of beet or of turnips, perhaps, on their way home from school. I certainly agree with the Senator that children should not be put to such work as the crowning of beet. I have had experience of such work myself, and I know what it means. I know that you would require a full-grown man to do such work, but with regard to the idea, generally, of children helping on the land, I regret that it is not possible— as, I suppose, it is not possible—to draft some legislation to ensure that children—not alone the children of agricultural workers and farmers but the children of every citizen in this State—should at least spend some of their holidays and some of their lives in the rural areas. If they could spend some portion of their holidays or of their lives on the dog or on the farm, I think they would be all the better for it. I think that any boy or girl, up to, let us say, the age of 19 or 20, would be very much better off if they spent their holidays on the farm or the bog, where they would be in touch with the soil.

Liam O Buachalla: Information on Liam O Buachalla  Zoom on Liam O Buachalla  The main reason that I have in rising is to repeat a [1053] question that I put on the Second Reading of this Bill, and that is in regard to the power of the Minister to close schools at certain periods of the year under the emergency regulations. I think the Minister referred to it in the course of his speech this evening, and I want to be quite clear as to whether he will still have power to do so after the passing of this Bill.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  Yes.

Liam O Buachalla: Information on Liam O Buachalla  Zoom on Liam O Buachalla  That being so, I am perfectly satisfied with what the Minister said to-night. With regard to the other speeches that were made, one finds that in every one of them there is a good deal with which one could agree, but I must say that the speech which impressed me most was that of Senator O'Connell. The whole aim of this Bill is to ensure that nothing will interfere with the child's opportunity to get as sound an education as is possible during the period in which he must attend school. It has been said that the child should start work on the farm as soon as possible. I agree, but what is meant by that phrase “as soon as possible”? At what age are we to fix it? I suggest that that would be very difficult to decide. In that connection, also, it might be said that boys or girls going into trades in the cities should go in before the ages of 14 or 16, but I feel that you will not make a good farmer or a good agricultural labourer, no more than you will make a good worker in any trade, unless the boy or the girl concerned has got as thorough a primary education as it is possible to get, and the whole aim of this Bill is to see that they get that necessary, primary education. There was another point that emerged as a result of the discussion on this Bill, which seemed to imply that, by reason of this section, or the Bill itself, agriculture was an occupation of an inferior kind. Surely, there was no word, either in the section or in the whole Bill, that would lead one to that conclusion.

Mr. Cummins: Information on William Cummins  Zoom on William Cummins  I am quite convinced that the future of this country depends [1054] in a great measure on the proper education of its people, and that must begin in the primary schools in most cases and must be continued, we are agreed, until the elements are mastered, at about the age of 14. If that is agreed upon, then one principle upon which we must build is that no child should be engaged in such work as will deprive him of his rights to a sound elementary education. Now, with regard to the standards to be adopted in connection with urban and country dwellers, I think it was always agreed that the educational syllabus with regard to those two classes should be the same, but in the case of urban dwellers their outlook would be of an industrial character, as they would probably be engaged in the few industries that we have, or else in the transport business, or something of that kind, and their education should be directed along those lines, with a view to their future, and should be given the necessary bias in that direction in their school books and in their general training, whereas, in the rural districts everything should be done to give the education of the children a bias towards our chief industry, which is agriculture. Now, that has not been done, and the system has been definitely wrong in that respect. That condition of things should be altered. I agree that it is going through a process of alteration to some small extent.

Now, when should the education of a child on the land begin? It must be remembered that the child in a rural community is in contact with the land from the very beginning. From the earliest days of childhood, one who is born on the land and living on the land has all the objects around him that are bound to attract him, and he is bound to draw knowledge from his ordinary experience and from the talk of the people around him. That knowledge or education will not come merely by setting a child down, at the age of 13, to the monotonous task of thinning turnips or picking potatoes, or things of that kind, which are merely the repeated, mechanical performance of a very tiring task through the long day. That is not agricultural education.

[1055] No one can claim that that is work of a highly educative character. It is simply manual labour, comparable with turning the handle of a machine in a mill or factory. It is not manual labour calculated to be of a highly educative character. I was alarmed at some of the statements made here, because suggestions were made as to the period of the year in which children might be employed; the spring time was mentioned for the sowing of potatoes, the late summer and autumn for the harvest work, and again September, October and November for the gathering of potatoes. That would mean that for practically the whole of the year children under 13 years of age might be employed on the land. As Senator O'Connell has pointed out, a good deal of provision could be made for the employment of children during those periods by an arrangement between the manager and the board as to when the holidays might be taken. In most parts of the country that is done. In some parts of the south of Ireland we have early harvesting; we have it in early August. When you go further north, to the colder and bleaker places, the harvest is possibly three weeks later. The same applies to some extent in regard to potatoes. A good deal of provision could be made, within the present regulations, for the release of children at those times. But that children under 13 or 14 years can earn 25/- a week is to me rather astonishing. It is news to me. It is very hard for the rural people to resist such a temptation. If their children can earn that money, without interfering with their attendance at school during the required period, then I congratulate the parents. I think they are very lucky. I know how extremely useful children can be on the land, performing light tasks such as weeding, looking after cattle and bringing them home for milking. Those occupations will not do them any harm. Outside of that, if we are to have educated farmers and educated agricultural workers, the fundamentals of primary education must be thoroughly mastered, and that cannot be done if the children are to do manual work which is not of an educative [1056] character before they are 14 years of age.

Mr. Baxter: Information on Patrick Francis Baxter  Zoom on Patrick Francis Baxter  With the permission of the House, I would be glad to withdraw my amendment, and leave it to the Minister to put up something that would be suitable in all the circumstances which have been brought to his notice by speakers from all sides of the House.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  I am not going to put up anything beyond the holiday period, and I do not want to leave the House under a misapprehension. There is no use in pretending that the proposals which have come from the Dáil can just be amended now to give them the directly opposite meaning to the intention expressed there. I hope Senators will not have any such feeling. I should like to recall to their minds a number of points. In the first place, there is no restriction whatever on the employment of children over 14 years of age. I do not think any Senator has made a case for the employment, strictly speaking, of children under 14. The second point is that there is nothing whatever to prevent a parent or relative from employing a child. Section 8 (2) (c) is a definite exception to the principle that no person shall have in his employment any child who has not attained the age of 14 years. The exception is the employment of a child by a relative, if such employment does not prevent or interfere with the attendance of the child at school, or the obtaining by the child of proper benefit from such attendance. Therefore, there is no stoppage whatever on children being employed by their relatives. The third point is that, so far as the emergency is concerned, that matter can be dealt with. If the Minister wishes, he can give extra holidays, but I do not see how that is connected with the employment of children under 14 at all.

One might argue from some of the speeches that we would be well advised to close our schools altogether for large parts of the year, and turn the children out into employment which would be of the nature, as Senator [1057] Cummins has rightly stressed, of manual labour and not of an educational course. Let us not deceive ourselves into believing that, when people employ children at 25/- a week, it is for the purpose of educating them in the rudiments of agriculture. It is to try to get them to do certain manual labour that has got to be done. Surely, there is no analogy whatever between the work that Senator Tierney had to do as a child, or between the work that Senators will ask their own children to do on their farms and what the children of poor parents will be expected to do. If we admit the principle of the employment of children on the land on work that is not primarily educational but is purely manual labour, where are we going to stop? I refused the applications of poor parents who asked me to allow their children to remain at home from school so that they might earn a few shillings.

If I were to accept Senator McGee's suggestion that the economic position of the parents is going to be a big determining factor in this issue, and the needs of agriculture are to be first —I am afraid the Senator did not indicate that he was particularly interested in the question of educational advantage to the children; I may be wronging him, but I think he did not advert to the fact that any exception that would be made should be on the basis that the child's educational progress would be in no way interfered with—it would be putting upon the Minister for Education the intolerable burden of having to decide in particular cases that the children were getting educational advancement or were benefiting from work, which, in general, he feels is purely of a manual nature. It has the advantage, undoubtedly, of being done in the open air, and, where parents themselves employ their children, there is an ample safeguard there.

The parents themselves will see to it that their children will not suffer, although some parents may not be as careful as we would wish. But I submit that if we were to admit the principle of allowing poor children to go out to work for employers, there [1058] would be very little reason why we should not allow it in the case of shops or factories. Precisely the same argument could be made in favour of such employment. In fact, the case has been made to me by a factory manager that it is much easier to train a boy apprentice under 14 years, than a boy of 16. Nevertheless, we make no allowance for such apprentices. I really do not feel that the question of employment for gain enters into the matter very greatly, and that, if I consider introducing an amendment to cover the holiday period or perhaps stretching to the uttermost the days when the school is not in operation, that is the very most I should be asked to do.

Mr. Baxter: Information on Patrick Francis Baxter  Zoom on Patrick Francis Baxter  That is all I am asking, and I think that is all the House is asking. If the Minister does that, I will be quite satisfied.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed: “That Section 8 stand part of the Bill.”

Mrs. Concannon: Information on Helena Concannon  Zoom on Helena Concannon  I beg to ask the Minister if the definition of “relative” in sub-section (2) (c) is not a little bit too narrow:—

In this sub-section the word “relative” in relation to a child means a person—

(i) who is the father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, stepfather, step-mother, brother, sister, half-brother or half-sister of such child, and

(ii) who maintains such child in the such person's dwellinghouse.

It very often happens that an uncle or an aunt might adopt a child and stand to that child in the relation of a parent, and could a child under 14 years of age be employed by such uncle or aunt? It seems to me that the definition does not take cognisance of a very likely occurrence.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  I will look into the point.

Question agreed to.

Sections 9 to 16, inclusive, agreed to.

Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Francis Gibbons  Zoom on Seán Francis Gibbons  On Section 17, there is an amendment, No. 6, in the name of Senator O'Connell.

Mr. O'Connell: Information on Tomas O'Connell  Zoom on Tomas O'Connell  The amendment reads:—

To delete all words after the word “officer” in line 34 to and including the word “Act” in line 36.

I put down this amendment to find from the Minister what was the reason for confining the powers given in this section to school attendance officers in areas situated in a county borough or borough mentioned in the Schedule. In the rural areas the enforcing authority is the Gárda.

Perhaps it will save discussion if the Minister will tell me this—are they school attendance officers in the first place? Is there a technical definition of school attendance officer? Is the superintendent of the Gárda Síochána a school attendance officer, or, if not, is the position this—possibly it may be this—that the police, because they happen to be the police, have powers as such to do the things that can be done under this section by the school attendance officers in the scheduled areas? It will be noted that in Section 17 the school attendance officer is given certain powers. If he finds a child rambling about the roads, who he thinks ought to be at school, he has power to question him and, in fact, to take him to his home and question the parents. If it is the case that the member of the Gárda Síochána in the rural areas has not that power, I think it should be given to him, but perhaps the Minister would say whether in fact, because of his position as a member of the Gárda Síochána, he has that power already. Then the amendment would be unnecessary.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  The officer of the Gárda Síochána for the time being holding the rank and occupying the station prescribed in the Order is the enforcing authority outside the borough areas. The Department of Justice do not like the idea of Gárdaí being empowered [1060] to question children. While they have power to do so in the case of children of vagrants, it is a power that, naturally, one would like to confine to serious cases, and in the case of suspected non-attendance at school in rural areas the matter will generally come under the notice of the Gárda who represents the enforcing authority and it will scarcely be necessary for him to question the child.

It is to meet the problem of children in Dublin who, because their parents change their residence from one school attendance area to another, or who in fact may not have ever come under the notice of the enforcing authority, that it was considered necessary that the school attendance officers in the borough areas ought to be empowered to question children. It was considered that to give power to the Gárdaí to question children indiscriminately would be rather an extreme step, and in any case, to carry it out effectively, even where the Gárda was absolutely satisfied he had good ground for questioning the child, and putting the child in the position of being held up by a uniformed policeman, the Gárda would have to go to the parents' home to question them in order to get particulars of the case. The Gárda Síochana are fully occupied and, personally, I feel that they have not nearly sufficient members to undertake all the duties that are being thrust upon them. For all these reasons, therefore, it has not been considered necessary, or indeed advisable, to give this power to the Gárdaí.

Mr. O'Connell: Information on Tomas O'Connell  Zoom on Tomas O'Connell  We must remember that when we speak of rural areas in this section we are not thinking entirely of the scattered purely rural districts; we must have regard to the fact that there are included such places as, say, Ballina, Dundalk and towns of very considerable population. It seems to me extraordinary that you give to lay people in these boroughs certain powers of questioning and certain powers of arrest—it amounts to that—which you deny to members of the Gárda Síochána in similar circumstances. It seems to me rather extraordinary [1061] that if a member of the Gárda Síochána, say, in Dundalk, Drogheda, Tullamore or Tralee sees a young lad running around, who he thinks ought to be at school, he has no right to question him and that it would be improper for him to question him.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  Will not the Gárda for the ordinary rural area in Tralee or Ballina know the child, unless in the case of vagrants, and in that case he has powers under another code to approach the child?

Mr. O'Connell: Information on Tomas O'Connell  Zoom on Tomas O'Connell  If every Gárda in Dundalk knows every child in Dundalk, they must be very excellent individuals. I do not want to press this amendment but it seems to me to be rather inconsistent.

Amendment No. 6 not moved.

Question proposed: “That Section 17 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Honan: Information on Thomas V Honan  Zoom on Thomas V Honan  I had intended and I do intend to move an amendment to this section but I thought the Report Stage would be the proper time and if the matter can remain over until the Report Stage I will move the amendment. I consulted sound educational authorities in the matter and the nature of the amendment I intended to move is that this sub-section shall not apply in cases where the school is within one statute mile of the Gárda Station, that the member of the Gárda Síochána who is acting as school attendance officer be required instead to call at regular intervals to the school and get such particulars of absentees from the rolls as may enable him to enforce the Act.

Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Francis Gibbons  Zoom on Seán Francis Gibbons  Would it be Section 15 the Senator is referring to?

Mr. Honan: Information on Thomas V Honan  Zoom on Thomas V Honan  Yes.

Mr. Goulding: Information on Seán Goulding  Zoom on Seán Goulding  Section 17.

Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Francis Gibbons  Zoom on Seán Francis Gibbons  The matter may be raised on Report Stage.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  I am told that these [1062] reports are made every week by the teacher to the Gárda responsible for the enforcement of the School Attendance Act.

Mr. Honan: Information on Thomas V Honan  Zoom on Thomas V Honan  The reason for my proposed amendment is that it is considered that the Gárda calling at the school would have a very sound moral effect on the attendance. The fact that they would be entitled to call at the school and to examine the roll instead of the information being supplied to them, would have a very good effect on the attendance.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  So long as the Gárda gets the information I do not think it is necessary for him to go to the school at all.

Mr. Honan: Information on Thomas V Honan  Zoom on Thomas V Honan  The fact of his going into the school would have a very salutary effect on the children. However, I shall mention the matter on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Sections 17 and 18 agreed to.

Mr. Quirke: Information on William Quirke  Zoom on William Quirke  I move the two amendments—Nos. 6 (a) and 6 (b):—

6 (a). In sub-section (1), line 3, page 9, to delete the words “the Principal Act and”; and in line 4, to delete the words “the Principal Act, or”.

6 (b). To delete sub-section (2) and substitute therefor the following sub-section—

(2) Where, in a prosecution of a parent for an offence under this section the court either convicts the parent of the offence or (on the ground that the parent has used all reasonable efforts to cause the child in respect of whom the prosecution is brought to attend school in accordance with this Act) applies sub-section (1) of Section 1 of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907, the following provisions shall have effect—[1063] (a) the court may, if it so thinks fit, cause the said child to be brought before it and may question (either, as it thinks fit, privately or otherwise) the said child,

(b) the court may, whether it exercises the power conferred by the immediately preceding paragraph or not, if it so thinks fit—

(i) order the said child to be sent to a certified industrial school, in which case Part IV of the Children Act, 1908, as amended by subsequent enactments, shall (so far as applicable) apply as if such order had been made thereunder, or

(ii) order, in accordance with Part II of the said Children Act, 1908, as so amended, the committal of the said child to the care of a relative or other fit person named by the court, in which case the said Part II, as so amended shall (so far as applicable) apply as if such order had been made thereunder.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  The amendments have become necessary because, as the Bill stands at present, the court of jurisdiction could commit a child to an industrial school solely on the grounds that the parent failed to cause the child to attend school as required by the Bill. Even if the parent satisfies the court that there is a reasonable excuse and that consequently there has been no offence under Section 19, the court may nevertheless be satisfied that the parent has used all reasonable efforts to cause the child to attend school and is empowered by sub-section (2) to make an order committing the child to an industrial school or to some other person than the parent.

It is proposed, accordingly, to amend sub-section (2) so that the powers may be exercised in cases where the court convicts a parent of the offence or where the court finds the offence proved but is satisfied that the failure of the child to attend school is not due to any neglect on the part of the parent and is due to continued wilful misbehaviour on the part of the child. Sub-section (2) [1064] (a) of the amendment is proposed because it is considered desirable that the court should, at its discretion, be able to see the child when considering the sending of such child to an industrial school. There is no power in the Bill as it stands to require the parent to produce the child in court nor to order the arrest of a child whose parent is charged with an offence under the Bill except under Section 21. It may happen that a juvenile court will consider it necessary to have the child in attendance. For example a child may have been kept from school deliberately by the parents or there may be some circumstances in connection with the child which would require investigation. The Justice then, in his discretion, might ask that the child should be produced in court.

Amendments put and agreed to.

Section 19, as amended, agreed to.

Mr. O'Connell: Information on Tomas O'Connell  Zoom on Tomas O'Connell  I move amendment No. 7:—

In sub-section (2), paragraph (b), line 42, after the words “attending it” to insert the following words: “or to the qualifications of any teacher or teachers engaged therein.”

Sub-section (2) (b) of this section states that whenever a school is being inspected—I take it this refers to private schools—the manager or conductor of the school—

shall give to such officer or other person all such information in his possession or procurement in relation to such school or all or any of the children attending it as such officer or other person shall reasonably require.

My amendment suggests that he should also give such information as may be required regarding the qualifications of any teacher or teachers engaged therein. It may be said that he can ask for that information even as the sub-section stands, but I think, even if that is so, it is advisable to put into the section the words contained in my [1065] amendment. I think it essential that in any inquiries or investigations with regard to a school, or an institution which is setting itself up as a school, there should be some definite regard to the qualifications of persons who presume to carry on teaching there. I think it would strengthen the section if this provision were inserted so that these who are proposing to set up a school will know definitely that one of the matters on which they will have to satisfy the Minister is the qualifications of the persons whom they propose to employ in the school as teachers.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  I think under the section as it stands the inspector is likely to report on the general suitability of the school for the purpose of giving the requisite education to the children attending there. He is likely to advert to the condition of the premises and more particularly to the qualifications of the teachers, but I think it would be going perhaps unnecessarily far to place upon the Minister the duty of considering these private schools from the point of view either of suitability of premises or the qualifications of the teacher.

Even many of our national schools, as everybody in the Seanad knows by this time, would scarcely pass the Minister if he were compelled by law to test their suitability having regard to their condition as sanitary or hygienic premises. As regards qualifications also, we have a good many teachers in national schools who are not trained teachers. In the same way, as I think I have already mentioned, we have in these private schools teachers who, although they may not have academic qualifications, are doing very good work. If they satisfy the Minister that the work which they are doing is satisfactory I do not think that the Minister ought to refuse a certificate. Section 4 (2) (b) of the present Bill contains a provision in relation to suitable education, otherwise than by attending certain schools and provides that the Minister shall not refuse to give a certificate in respect of a child until he has informed the manager or conductor of the school of [1066] the ground on which he proposes to refuse the certificate and has given such manager or conductor a reasonable opportunity of meeting the requirements of the Minister for the purpose of removing the said ground of refusal. I propose to bring in on Report Stage a similar provision in the case of Section 20 so that in the case of a school up for certification, if the Minister does not propose to grant a certificate, he will communicate that fact to the manager or conductor of that school and give him a reasonable opportunity of meeting the Minister's requirements.

Mr. M. Hayes: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  Surely the Minister misunderstands Senator O'Connell's amendment? The amendment merely gives the Minister power explicitly to ask questions and to get information with regard to the qualifications of any teacher engaged in such school. If that power is already conferred by the section, well and good; but if it is not contained in the section and must be explicitly added, then it does not compel the Minister to ask these questions nor does it compel the Minister to reject any teacher or teachers because of lack of qualifications. The amendment is an empowering amendment but it does not commit the Minister to any decision with regard to the qualifications of any of these teachers. I agree entirely that there are people with no academic qualifications who are excellent teachers, but there is no intention on the part of Senator O'Connell to interfere with them. What Senator O'Connell wants to provide is that in the case of private schools there should be power to ask for information with regard to the qualifications of the teachers. The rest is left to the Minister. After that, the Minister can take any action he chooses.

Mr. O'Connell: Information on Tomas O'Connell  Zoom on Tomas O'Connell  I have not attempted to lay down all the qualifications upon which the Minister should insist. I have not said that the teacher should be trained but, surely, he should have some qualifications. For the protection of people who send their children [1067] to private schools, the Minister should take steps to see that the person who purports to teach these children has satisfactory qualifications. That is all I want to insist upon. I am dealing in this amendment with only one point— that relating to the teacher. The next amendment is of a more general nature. In this case, all I want to do is to let it be known to those who set up private schools that inquiries may be made respecting the qualifications of the teachers and that they will be expected to give evidence to the Minister that the teachers they propose to employ have certain minimum qualifications.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  The section in the Principal Act is merely permissive. We are carrying matters a good deal further in Section 20. We are imposing a penalty on the manager or conductor of the school if he refuses to give the Minister or his officer such information as he may reasonably require. There is no reason for mentioning qualifications or any other specific matter. We may assume that, when information is being sought, particulars will be obtained of the general conditions. To mention qualifications or premises would attach special significance to these matters.

It would be necessary, then, to mention every matter by which the certification of a school might be affected. If Senator O'Connell reads Section 20 again, he will find that the Minister has full power in regard to the matter mentioned in the amendment. As a penalty is likely to follow upon the refusal of the manager or conductor to give reasonable information, it is not probable that the Minister will forget to ask his inspector to report on all the relevant circumstances which would guide him in coming to a decision.

Mr. M. Hayes: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  That was my first reaction to the amendment. I thought that Section 20 gave the Minister power to do what Senator O'Connell wants him to do. I must say that the Minister's statements have rather [1068] shaken my opinion. I thought that the Minister had the necessary power but he himself does not seem to be quite clear about it.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  Perhaps the Senator would read Section 20?

Mr. M. Hayes: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  Surely, the most important thing to inquire about in a school is what kind of teachers are in it. The most important thing about a school is the teacher. A school consists really of the teachers and pupils. If you had the most magnificent building possible, with vita glass in the windows and indifferent teachers, you would have a bad school. I do not understand the Minister when he says that, if he inserted something about the qualifications of teachers, he would have to insert 101 other things. To anybody who has children attending a school, the most important consideration is what kind of teachers are in the school.

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  That is a matter of prime importance on which the Minister would, naturally, look for information.

Mr. M. Hayes: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  And there is power in the section to do that?

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  Yes.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. O'Connell: Information on Tomas O'Connell  Zoom on Tomas O'Connell  I move amendment No. 8:—

To add to the section the following new sub-sections (5) and (6):—

(5) The Minister may as a result of such inspection or of such other inquiries and investigations as he may deem it expedient to make

(1) certify the school as a suitable school for the purpose of the Principal Act and this Act, or

(2) refuse to grant such certificate, or,

(3) revoke a certificate previously given to the school:

Provided, however, that before refusing or revoking a certificate [1069] the Minister shall inform the manager or conductor of such school of the ground on which he proposes to refuse or revoke the certificate and shall give such manager or conductor a reasonable opportunity of meeting the requirements of the Minister for the purpose of removing the said ground of refusal or revocation.

(6) Before a school is certified as a suitable school the manager or conductor of such school must satisfy the Minister that adequate provision is made for the accommodation of all the pupils in attendance at the school, and that the arrangements in regard to furnishing, heating, lighting, ventilation and sanitation are satisfactory.

Sub-section (4) of this section reads:—

Whenever a school has been inspected under this section, the Minister shall, as soon as conveniently may be, inform the manager or conductor of such school of the result of such inspection.

I want to make the position more definite for the information of the school authorities. The sub-section does not say whether the Minister is to give a certificate or refuse a certificate or revoke a certificate. After all, these three things are the only three things he need do as a result of the inspection of private schools. He has to give a certificate if everything is all right, to refuse a certificate if things are not all right, and to revoke a certificate, previously given, if he finds that a school which was previously sanctioned as suitable can no longer be regarded as suitable. I think that it is necessary that these things should be specifically set out. That is why I move this amendment.

Included in the amendment is sub-section (6) which really relates to a separate matter. In that sub-section, I ask that, before a school is certified as suitable, the manager or conductor shall satisfy the Minister that adequate provision is made for the accommodation of all the pupils and that the arrangements in connection with sanitation, heating, lighting, etc., are [1070] adequate. The Minister, in replying to the previous amendment, suggested that there was not the same necessity for making such investigations as for making other inquiries and compared the position with that of national schools. I suggest that there is no comparison. These schools are private institutions for the purpose of profit-making.

Mr. M. Hayes: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  Many of them make losses.

Mr. O'Connell: Information on Tomas O'Connell  Zoom on Tomas O'Connell  They are very foolish if they carry on in those circumstances. Before the Minister certifies a school as suitable, he should, for the protection of the people who send their children to the school, satisfy himself that the sanitation and accommodation are satisfactory. Some of these schools have been opened in back rooms and are not suitable from any point of view.

Mr. M. Hayes: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  Is not the Minister bringing in an amendment to deal with some of these matters?

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  I do not think that it is necessary, because Section 5 of the Principal Act enables the Minister, if and when he thinks fit, to certify a school as a suitable school within the meaning of the Act. If the Minister is not satisfied regarding the conditions, he will not grant a certificate. The points mentioned regarding accommodation and other matters will be considered and it is not necessary for Senator O'Connell to press the Minister to inquire into them.

Mr. M. Hayes: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  Is not the Minister himself to bring in an amendment to this section?

Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  Yes, to enable the school to conform with the Minister's wishes. If the Minister is not satisfied, he will give his reasons to the manager or conductor of the school, who will have an opportunity of meeting the wishes of the Minister.

Mr. M. Hayes: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  That meets paragraph (3) of Senator O'Connell's amendment?

[1071]Mr. Derrig: Information on Thomas Derrig  Zoom on Thomas Derrig  Yes.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 20 agreed to.

Sections 21 to 27, Schedule and Title agreed to.

[1072] Bill reported with amendments.

Report Stage fixed for Wednesday, 3rd February.

The Seanad adjourned at 9 p.m. until 3 p.m. Wednesday, 3rd February.


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