Seanad Éireann - Volume 45 - 19 April, 1956

Corporal Punishment for Girls—Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:—

That Seanad Éireann would welcome the alteration of the Department of Education regulations so as to prohibit altogether the use in Irish national schools of corporal punishment for girls.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: I was saying when I was last speaking on this motion that I believed all kinds of minor offences are at present treated in national schools as if they were “grave transgressions” within the meaning of the regulations. I believe that not only can the Minister not check this abuse of the regulations, but he cannot even detect it. I do not say that lightly. I intend at a later stage to prove it. I was making the point on the last occasion that, in 1946, those regulations dealing with corporal punishment in schools were modified, and I said I welcomed that. I thought it was an excellent thing. I notice that in the circular which was issued drawing the attention of schools to these modifications, the Minister found it necessary to stress two points in particular. These constituted a modification of the regulations. One [1931] was that any corporal punishment to be administered would be on the open hand only, and the second was that it should never in any circumstances be administered for mere failure at lessons. Those were the two modifications in 1946. I say, “Excellent,” but I notice, therefore, that, in 1946, the Department felt the need to stress those two points, because, I suggest, the term “grave transgression” was, in fact, being misinterpreted in many schools, and the Department stressed their desire to have it correctly interpreted by modifying the regulations.

Now, I am fully aware that very frequently the reason for the administering of corporal punishment in schools arises from conditions quite outside the control of the teachers— to conditions of overcrowding, to the excessive emphasis upon examination results, and to the fact that our education system makes no allowance for the teacher who has to teach backward children in the same class as bright children, and makes no allowance for the fact that the teacher is frequently harassed by inspectors of various kinds. The teacher finds himself or herself in classes which come up to as much as 60 in number.

I noticed a good example of that in the Sunday Independent, not so long ago. They published this photograph which shows you the back of a school room in which little boys and girls are doing their level best to work, although there is not room in the classrooms for ordinary desks. They have to do their work kneeling on the ground and struggling to work on benches. I do not want to mention the name of the school—I do not think there is any point in that—but I do suggest that the little girls at the back of this school room are not getting a fair chance either to learn or to observe ordinary discipline in the classroom; and it is quite easy to imagine that if you have, as in this case, 90 children in such a room, the conditions are such that you may, however reluctantly, be led to resort to corporal punishments, on occasion, which are not justified or permitted by the regulations.

[1932] I know all that—I am also convinced that to some extent we are all to blame fur these overcrowding conditions in our schools, because it is our educational system, and in so far as it lies within us to change such conditions, and in so far as we have tolerated them, the fault to some extent is ours. I am also aware of the fact that the teachers' condition is influenced by the judgment of inspectors—both inspectors of the Department of Education, and diocesan inspectors, who tend to judge teachers exclusively on the capacity of the class to answer questions quickly.

When I say we are all to some extent to blame for these conditions, I think we are justified in saying that amongst those of us who are to blame have been successive Ministers for Education. Remembering all that, I would nevertheless contend that if the Minister places teachers in unbearable conditions for the doing of illpaid work, and allows them to be harried by examination systems and ill-conceived judgments and inspections, I would put the question: why should the unfortunate children suffer more— because they already suffer from the overcrowding—suffer more, from his fault, from the grave transgression of successive Ministers in this regard. How often, in our national schools, the sins of the Minister and the sins of the Department are visited on the children and in particular upon the girls.

Now I am asking the Seanad, in asking it to pass this motion, to put a stop to this at least in the case of little girls. Let us see if we cannot at least abolish all physical punishment for girls in our schools. This is 1956. The regulations were altered in 1946. Let the 1956 modification have as its aim to do away with the beating of our girls in our schools altogether. I should like to quote the views of a woman teacher, an enlightened educationist, in a most compelling article on discipline in schools, published in the Church of Ireland Gazette on February 17th, 1956, by Kathleen Heard, whom I do not know, but with whose ideas I find myself very much in sympathy.

[1933] She says: “A teacher must respect her pupils”—which seems to me to be a point that is often forgotten—”must respect them——”

“and show them that she does respect them. She must not first demand respect from them at the point of the bayonet, or with that attitude. When pupils see that she is worthy of respect they will give it.

“Obedience and good (?) discipline achieved by many rules and punishments will not, generally, last when schooldays are over, and I firmly believe that any corporal punishment, however mildly or reluctantly administered, is an evil thing. It is degrading to pupil and teacher. The weaker child will obey through fear and the ‘diehard’ will always give trouble if forced to outward submission. He will take it out of those weaker than himself, and is all set to be a ‘juvenile delinquent’ when he leaves.

“The ‘bend-over’ type of discipline, canes, leather strap, rulers and the human fist, are all weapons of war. The race conquered by such means is naturally resentful. It is not a fair fight. The children are not armed.”

She says further on, speaking of the schoolroom:—

“The schoolroom, above all places, should be the abode of harmony and quietness, and there should always be time for the pupil's mind to work. A child cannot always think as quickly as he is expected to, and, if he disobeys, give him time to think it over.”

She says, again,—

“They (that is, the children) must, of course, be trained in self-control— not temporary control from fear of the teacher. Temporary submission is not self-control.”

The final quotation I would quote from her is this: “Children,” she says, “always describe their teachers as being either quiet or cross —as if they were bulls”.

Now it seems to me that the attitude of mind which takes the opposite view [1934] to that expressed in this article, the attitude of those who believe that you can only get good out of a child, and, in particular, out of a small girl, by being prepared to beat discipline into her, is an attitude of mind to be deplored in relation to the education which is got by the majority of Irish children, those attending national schools.

I am aware, of course, that some people contend not only that the Minister should not change his regulations but that he has not got the right even to make these regulations. I heard Senator T.J. O'Connell—I am sorry he is not here, because I want to quote him—saying as much in this Seanad, denying that the Minister had the right to make any regulations at all governing corporal punishment. The quotation I wanted to give you is in Volume 45, No. 4, column 313, where he said:—

“It is questionable whether the Department of Education has the right to make regulations which would limit the right of the teacher to administer reasonable corporal punishment.”

I should like to say at this juncture, as I see that the Minister has just arrived, that I am sorry the Minister has not found it possible to be present till now, though I realise that it may not be fair to expect him to be in attendance at the Seanad, after a very long day at the Dáil—I understand he was in the Dáil at 10.30 a.m.—so that I find myself rather in the position of keeping him in after school.

I hope he will forgive me for that. I should like to say that I do appreciate the Minister's coming up here personally when I am sure he must be feeling rather weary after listening to a good deal of talk in the other House.

The point I am making here is that certain people actually question the Minister's right to make these regulations limiting the right of teachers to administer reasonable corporal punishment. I should like to know what the Minister says to that? According to Senator O'Connell, these Department regulations, which I am asking to have modified, are already ultra vires, because Senator O'Connell contends [1935] that, in making this type of regulation, the Department of Education has already overstepped its powers. Senator O'Connell actually went on, later in the same column of the same debate, to imply it was to humiliate the teacher that the British Government introduced this type of regulation, limiting the amount of corporal punishment to be inflicted on Irish children! It must surely seem rather surprising that he says in the same column that these Department regulations “are a modified form of regulations issued over 50 years ago by an authority which was an alien administration in this country. The fixed policy of that administration... was always to distrust and humiliate the teacher, whenever that could be done.”

I would suggest to Senator O'Connell, if he were here, that it does not humiliate a factory owner or necessarily signify distrust of him, if we lay down certain sanitary regulations which he must abide by in running his factory. Nor, indeed, is any genuine teacher humiliated by regulations which are sound. Consequently, I disagree with the contention that the Minister has no right to make such regulations. I hold that the Minister has a perfect right to make such regulations, and to modify them, as I am now asking, as the occasion arises.

The present regulations, as we know, allow corporal punishment only for grave transgressions, for boys and girls alike. It is one of the points upon which between the sexes we have equality in this country. There are not very many, but, for once, here the girls have an equal right with the boys to be physically chastised in our schools. In fact, the girls—they are the subject of my motion—are very much involved in this question of corporal punishment in our schools, although it is true that some people forget entirely, when we are talking about corporal punishment in our schools, that we are talking about girls as well as boys. Not so long ago, I noted that a lecturer from Roscommon accused certain unnamed people of trying to turn “the grievances of schoolboys” into a national [1936] issue. I would affirm that the question of the manner in which corporal punishment is applied in our schools is a national issue, but it does not concern boys alone: it also concerns girls. That is why I put down this motion.

If, as some people contend, this right to beat small girls is hardly ever used, then I would ask the Minister to make the experiment of stopping it altogether for girls—that is the purpose of my motion—and observe the result. If, in fact, it is hardly ever used, what enormous harm can come from stopping it altogether in relation to girls? I would ask the Minister to make that experiment. Does anybody here consider that, if the beating of small girls in our schools were to be abolished altogether by the modification of regulations, the results would be disastrous? That is clearly nonsense.

If, on the other hand, as I claim, this right to apply corporal punishment to small girls is, in fact, used far too much for minor offences, then remove from the regulations this “grave transgression” permission, at least for girls, and abolish corporal punishment for girls altogether. In either case, I suggest the Minister should accept my motion.

I am now going to suggest two possible reasons why the Minister and his Department are, as I said on the last occasion, so resolutely and indomitably ill-informed on the matter of the amount of corporal punishment that is, in fact, administered in our schools.

One reason is that a good deal of the corporal punishment so administered is systematically concealed from Department inspectors. I remember one child writing to me, having left school for some years, saying that her “first lesson in hypocrisy” came from the hiding away of straps and canes on the day the inspector was arriving. That is one reason why the Department do not know fully what goes on, because the amount of corporal punishment administered is so concealed from the representatives of the Minister's Department.

The second reason is that many parents, who know perfectly well that [1937] it goes on for all kinds of minor offences in direct contravention of the regulations, have not got the stamina necessary for the successful exposure of a breach of the regulations. And I can assure you that it takes quite considerable stamina! I should like to quote a case. It is a case that will be in the files of the Department. It started in October, 1953, when a small girl, aged 9½, received 13 slaps with a pointer in class for getting three sums wrong, that is to say, she had corporal punishment administered for mere failure at lessons. The circumstances were that in the class three slaps were to be given for the first sum wrong and five for each subsequent incorrect answer. This child only missed three and only got 13 slaps. This little girl, aged 9½, came home in a bruised and distressed state, having been slapped for “mere failure at lessons” in direct contravention of the regulations. What happened? The incident was corroborated by her elder sister and by two other children in the presence of this girl's mother. What action did the parents take? What action did the Department of Education take? The mother went to the school, as was the correct thing to do. She saw the principal of the school and she got no satisfaction there. She was not allowed to see the teacher. She went to the school manager and the school manager said he “would hear no criticism of a school of which he had heard nothing but praise.” It is quite clear, of course, why he heard no criticism when he would listen to nothing but praise.

Having followed, in fact, the instructions given by the Minister for Education on the last occasion when he addressed the Seanad, and having remonstrated with the school and the manager, the mother wrote to the Department of Education, reported all the facts, and asked what were the rules. At that time she did not know that the rules actually precluded any such infliction of corporal punishment. In reply, the Department sent her a copy of the regulations and acknowledged her letter. Subsequently, there was a public denunciation in the school of “little Judases who tell their mammies when they are hit.” The [1938] mother, I think rightly, transferred the child to another school in December, 1953. One day, in the first week during which the same child was in the second school, she saw 16 girls being caned for missing questions. She was not herself caned because she answered correctly, but she was upset by the spectacle of these 16 girls being beaten. She was upset—and she was frightened. Now, the mother, knowing by this time the rules and regulations, called at the school, saw the principal teacher, produced the Department's regulations and was told that, if it had been known that she would insist on the Department's regulations being applied, her children would not have been accepted in the school. The mother, again quite rightly, wrote to the Department, and after three months of fruitless endeavour to get some kind of satisfaction from the Minister, she proceeded, only after the lapse of these three months, to write to the Evening Mail.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: It is now 6 o'clock. I wonder would it be in order to move the adjournment.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: I move the adjournment.

Professor Hayes: I thought the Senator might have finished by 6 o'clock. The Minister is desirous of making his statement and not coming back since he has been in the Dáil since half past ten this morning. Will the Senator take long to conclude?

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: I am afraid I must confess I am only about halfway through and my seconder is not in the House, but he hopes to be here at 7 o'clock. I do not like to harass the Minister in any corporal way, but I would be grateful if he would be prepared to come back at 7 oclock.

Minister for Education (General Mulcahy): I am not in the least bit harassed, but I understand that this motion is addressed to the Seanad and is intended to persuade the Seanad that the regulations should be altered so that there would be no corporal [1939] punishment in the case of girls. I take it that the Senator is proposing by this motion to persuade the Seanad on that subject.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: Yes.

General Mulcahy: As far as I am concerned, I have nut so far heard any very persuasive eloquence from the Senator. I would, in fact, have very little to say in reply to this motion, not altogether on the grounds upon which it is raised, but because I am not a qualified person to examine into the make-up of girls, mentally or otherwise, and the question of the application of punishment to them. I am not in a position to distinguish as between punishment for boys and girls, and I would not ask the Senator to do it.

The Senator says it is a question whether I have authority to make regulations. I have not made regulations imposing punishment—it is probably in the direction of reducing rather than anything else—although the Senator seems to think I have. That question, then, does not arise. What does arise is the fact that I am administering a Department dealing with education generally and in our schools, under our educational system, founded on the experience over years and years of thousands of teachers and hundreds of managers, there is a tradition of discipline and a tradition of correction. I will not blueprint any change in that. I have perfect confidence in the tradition that is there and in the following of it. Where objectionable or excessive punishment occurs, I have adequate machinery to deal with that position. That machinery operates satisfactorily to bring such matters to the surface, to ensure that they are examined into and that any objectionable practices are restrained.

I will not take part in turning either the Seanad or the Dáil into a district court. I am prepared to read most carefully any debate which takes place on the subject here in the Seanad; or, if the Seanad is really interested in the matter, perhaps they would set up a sub-committee to examine into the present situation. But I think that [1940] would be very foolish. I think they would be proceeding there to do something they are not qualified to do. I, at any rate, would recommend that they should depend upon the tradition of our teachers and our managers and the generally close atmosphere in which the family and educational life is lived in Ireland. I feel very unwilling to enter into a discussion arising, as it does, out of a campaign which, I think, is epitomised in the last sentence of this report.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: On a point of order, I do not want to insist in a discourteous way—indeed, I do not think it would be fair—that the Minister should return at seven o'clock, but I think that the middle of my opening speech is hardly the place for him to make a reference to something which I have not mentioned at all. I must admit I would welcome the presence of some representative of his Department or of some colleague of his in the Government. He says he is willing to read the debate. I must admit I would prefer to have somebody listening to the debate which, I think, may prove to be a fruitful one and one requiring an answer.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Chair was anxious to allow the Minister to make a short statement to help the Senator.

General Mulcahy: I am sorry if I have gone too far. There is a motion down in the Senator's name, the implication of which is that he proposes to persuade the Seanad to express a particular opinion. I should be grateful if the Seanad would excuse me in the circumstances from participating in the debate and I do not think I should be asked to send any representative of my Department here, because such a representative could only sit and listen; he can read the debate subsequently. As Minister responsible for the Department, and accepting that responsibility, I am totally against the approach in the Senator's motion.

Business suspended at 6.10 p.m. and resumed at 7.15 p.m.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: When the [1941] House adjourned, I had just mentioned the second reason why I thought that the Department and the Minister are misinformed about what is happening in the schools. I said that that second reason was that few parents had the stamina required for the purpose of drawing the Minister's attention or the Department's attention to the facts of a particular case and getting satisfaction. I was quoting as an example one such case and I had reached the point where the parents found that the Department's regulations were being broken and had been told, at the second school, that their child would not have been accepted, if it had been realised that they were going to insist on the implementation of the regulations.

The mother then wrote again to the Department and got no satisfactory reply. Nearly three months after the initial contact with the Department, she wrote to the Press, in this case, the Evening Mail. Two months after that, after an amount of persistent effort, she and her husband finally obtained an interview with the Department in April, 1954. Now, as I said, this case was started in October, 1953. By April, 1954, the parents got an interview, not with the Minister, but with the Department officials. They received a courteous hearing, were assured that the matter would be looked into, and one week later, on the 28th April, they received a letter which I have seen.

That letter said:—

“With reference to your letters of the 15th and 17th November last in regard to the treatment of your children in.......... school and the interview you had in this Department on the 22nd instant, I am directed to inform you that the matters referred to have been examined by the Department's inspectors. Their reports have been carefully considered by the Department and appropriate action is being taken in the case. I am to express regret for the delay in issuing an official reply to you in the matter.”

You will notice that on 28th April a reply was made to the letters of the 15th and 17th November! Now, this [1942] letter I have quoted referred only to the complaints in regard to the first school and made no reference at all to the second school where the regulations were being misconstrued or were not being applied.

Not unnaturally, the parents regarded this as unsatisfactory, and wanted to know what investigations had, in fact, been made about the other school. They were told that all such information was “confidential.”

When, as is sometimes suggested, children deceive their parents and mislead them into thinking that there is bad treatment in schools, it is very difficult for the parents, in a situation like this, to discover whether in fact the child has been lying or telling the truth, when the Department says that these matters are “confidential.”

By this time the parents had been forced to remove the child to a third school where the Department's regulations were scrupulously applied. What interests me and what interested them is what kind of an investigation was made by the Department and who was investigated? Who were the people interrogated? Certainly it was not the child, because the child was not present. What was discovered and what was done about it? The answer given to all these questions is that these are “strictly confidential” matters.

In these circumstances I do not find it surprising that the Minister himself does not know what goes on in the schools. We hear a good deal about family rights and the rights of parents to make decisions about the education of their children, but, as far as I can see, very frequently the parents' right is reduced to the right of touching his forelock, as in the case of the child, and saying, “Yes, sir.” Most parents become discouraged and cannot keep up the effort for the six months necessary to get even such an empty official reply from the Department.

Arising out of this case, the parents wrote a letter to the Evening Mail which was published on 21st May, 1954, from which I propose to quote:

“When we bear in mind that after three months my first letter appeared in the Mail (which would never have [1943] been written if the matter had been attended to by somebody), and it was five and a half months before the Department contacted me, it should be obvious that something is wrong somewhere. If my statements were untrue, why all the hesitancy to prove me untruthful?”

These parents in this case were persistent. I hope that is not the reason why the Minister mistakenly assumed that they must be foreigners, as he stated in the Dáil.

Is it any wonder that parents grow tired, dispirited, discouraged, in their relationship with the Department of Education and the Minister? Is it any wonder that the Minister does not know half of what is going on in the schools, and consequently is led to make inaccurate statements even about the number of complaints received by his own Department?

I propose to quote an example to show that the Minister does not even know the facts about his own Department. On June 30th, the Minister told the Seanad, Volume 45, No. 1, column 113:— “The complaints that have reached me do not amount to one a month.” That may have been said in the heat of the moment, but a week later, in the Dáil, when there had been ample time to check the facts, he said in Volume 152, No. 4, column 472:— “If complaints come to the Department of Education, and they have come from time to time, but certainly not more than one a month.” The Minister reiterated his contention in that statement that he never got more than one complaint a month. I propose to show that on occasion there certainly are more than one a month. I asked the Minister what he had discovered with regard to a number of cases already before him as I had been told and I said in column 104 of the same Seanad debate:—

“I understand that 33 of these 70 cases were, in fact, reported to his Department and I should like to know what action he found it necessary to take, what kind of investigation, and with what result?”

The Minister told me that he could not [1944] identify the cases and he asked me to help him. A week later in the Dáil, on 7th July, he very impatiently accused me of “running away when challenged to produce the facts” in these cases.

When I found from the Minister's speech, as reported in the Dáil, that he really wanted me to help him, I contacted the School Childrens' Protection Organisation, got the details, and prepared a Table which I sent to the Minister on July 18th, 11 days afterwards. I had said 33 out of 70 cases. There were in fact 32 cases, because one had been reported twice. These 32 cases were reported to him between the 5th May, 1954, and the 3rd May, 1955, that is within the period of 12 months immediately preceding the month of June in which he made his first statement that he never got more than one complaint a month.

In this Table which I sent to him giving him the details of these cases I broke it up into four columns. I gave the date of the departmental acknowledgment of the complaint, the signature of his officer, the nature of the complaint, and any additional comment that was necessary. I was able to provide the details for which I was asked regarding date, signature of official acknowledgment, etc. in 24 out of 32 cases, and I actually produced written documentary evidence that 24 of these cases were in fact before the Minister's Department within a period of 12 months. In the other cases I was able to quote the date on which the complaint was lodged. Even if we considered only the 24 cases for which I could give these particulars the Seanad will see for itself that in fact more than twice the number admitted by the Minister had been submitted to the Minister's Department—and these were only the cases I happened to know about.

I gave no names on this Table, but it seemed that it would be obvious from the dates that the persons concerned could be identified; and the Minister did make it perfectly clear, not immediately, but slightly reluctantly, that he had in fact identified them from my Table, as I propose to show. Arising out of these cases, I asked the following [1945] specific questions, since my queries in relation to them had been side-stepped in the Seanad, though each of these cases had been already with the Department when I made my previous speech on the matter. The questions I asked were in relation to each case: (1) What kind of an investigation was held? To that I was never given any answer. (2) Was a sworn inquiry held or contemplated? I got no answer to that question. (3) Was the teacher in question questioned in the presence of the parent and child and vice versa? No answer. (4) Was the complaining parent personally contacted by the person making the investigation? No answer. (5) What were the findings of whatever kind of investigation was made? No answer. (6) What, if any, action was decided upon, and taken, arising out of these findings? No answer. (7) What final reply was made to the parents who brought the matter to your attention? No answer. (8) How many of these 32 parents received any communication at all from your Department at the conclusion of your investigations? No answer.

The Department could, not even tell me that! They believed that it would not be apparently in the public interest even to reveal how many of these parents ever got any final reply at all from the Department! To this list of questions based on this Table, I got no reply at all from the Department beyond a formal acknowledgment between July 18 and the end of September. You will remember that in early July the Minister was accusing me of “running away when challenged to produce the facts,” but by the end of September I still had not received from him a reply to my letter and inquiries of July 18th, when I produced the facts he asked for. So I wrote on September 27th, again reminding the Minister that he had accused me of running away when challenged to produce the facts, and that I had challenged the Minister to produce the facts. I got a formal acknowledgment, but no reply at all to my questions, merely a fresh acknowledgment. And these were all cases which had been already on the Department's file, some of them since May, 1954!

Then on November the 1st, the day [1946] before the Seanad reassembled, I got a reply from the Minister which I propose to read:

“1st November, 1955.

Dear Senator,

With reference to your letter of 18th July last, with which you forwarded a list of 32 cases in which you stated that complaints as to ill treatment of pupils by teachers of national schools had been made to my Department, I desire to inform you that the relevant files show that which the exception of case No. 6, which could not be identified from the information supplied by you, suitable steps to investigate the complaints were taken in every case. Where the completion of these investigations showed that the provisions of the rules governing corporal punishment had been infringed appropriate official action was taken regarding the teachers concerned.

In the interest of the schools generally it is not the practice to disclose the result of inquiries into complaints against teachers or the nature of any disciplinary action that may be taken in their regard to any person other than the manager of the school in question.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Mulcahy.”

It seems to me surprising that it should take four full months for the Minister to write and tell me that suitable investigation was made and appropriate action taken, and that then, after four months, he could not tell me, out of 32 cases, how many parents got any final reply to their complaints at all! That is apparently secret confidential material which must not be revealed in the public interest. My fears and concern on the whole matter are very far from having been even partially allayed by the way in which the Minister has failed to answer these queries put to him by me. I would like the Seanad to note that the Minister had in fact identified the cases from my dates, and therefore it is clear that in the 12 months from May, 1954, to May, 1955, he had not got only the 12 cases he claimed as a maximum, but, [1947] at the very least, 31 cases duly reported to him.

Mr. Douglas: On a point of information could the Senator tell us the number of children attending the schools in that period, the schools under the jurisdiction of the Minister? It would be interesting to know that in relation to the 31 cases about which he said there were complaints.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: I propose to deal with the numbers and schools in the course of my remarks, but I prefer to develop my speech in my own way. The Minister had got certainly 31 cases of which I know, and I do not know how many others he had got also, yet he said that he “never” got “more than one a month.” I feel justified therefore in concluding that he does not fully know what goes on in his own Department, much less in the schools. That is one of the reasons for my disquietude on the whole matter. I would like the Seanad to know that it took him nearly four months to reply to my letter, and to say that “suitable” investigations and “appropriate” disciplinary action had been taken. I submit that those are phrases which could have been used immediately, and it should not take four months of research to discover them.

It is consequently little wonder that parents with legitimate complaints despair of getting any redress at all from the Department. Is it any wonder either that the Minister is so widely out of touch with the schools, when he does not know what is going on in his own Department? Now of these 32 cases which I set out on the Table, more than half dealt with beating or physical ill-treatment of little girls. Seventeen out of the 32 cases dealt with girls, that is, more than half. I should like to quote from this Table; Case No. 1, which deals with the case of a little girl who was beaten with a stick by a male teacher because she had given evidence against him in a case which he had lost in the courts.

It was alleged that the girl had given evidence against the same teacher in a court case which he lost. Case No. 3: a girl caught by the throat and beaten by a teacher. Case No. 5: a [1948] girl of nine beaten with a strap because papers were on the floor. Teacher “sent message to take child away as she did not like children who told their mammies and daddies.” Approached by mother, teacher claimed inspector had given her permission to use strap. This was denied by the inspector who was also approached. Case No. 6: girl slapped for being late at school, afraid to go back to school. Case No. 8: a girl beaten, her legs blackened and her head struck. Case No. 9: a girl of nine beaten by a male teacher. Query put to the Department about the necessity for a six and a half year old sister to attend singing classes with the same teacher. The parent complained to the teacher. Query to the Department about these singing classes remained still unanswered by the Department for six months, despite several reminders, on January 24th, 1955 and May 1st, 1955. The parent writes on May 25th, 1955: “I am still waiting for the Minister's ruling on the question I asked last October.” Case No. 10: a girl slapped for lateness. Another sent home for missing a question. Case No. 12: a girl of seven beaten with a flat board for failure at poetry and placed on a high window ledge as a punishment. The case was reported to the Civic Guards. The mother in her letter says: “This teacher, when I went out on the road to speak to her about it would not get off her bicycle, only passed me like a dog”. Case No. 16: a girl of 13 slapped because she failed to bring money for elocution classes. Query put to Department: is the elocution class compulsory? Another girl slapped because she had no money for Irish books. Teacher remonstrated with, said that she would slap the child every day until the money was brought. In that case details given to the Minister that the father was supporting a wife, an invalid mother and eight children, and affirmed that sometimes he was genuinely short of money. Case No. 17: a girl of nine and a half, a case which I did mention, given 13 slaps for failure at sums. Case No. 18: a girl of eight struck on the face and neck. Parent remonstrated with teacher. Parent states “I got nothing [1949] but abuse for daring to complain” Case No. 23: a girl beaten, her hand blackened many times despite protests, and so on. Case 26: a girl of seven “beaten black” for leaning on playground railing. Nine-year-old sister received a weal on the wrist. Children in that school regularly slapped in the face. Remonstrated with the Manager, who in the words of parent “almost bit my head off”. Parent reluctant further to upset the Manager who was in indifferent health. Case No. 27: girl of eight caned for missing lessons. Child given additional punishment because of parent's complaints, and the teacher evaded the inspector when he called. Case No. 28——

Mr. Douglas: On a point of information, could the Senator tell us what document he is quoting from? Has he any definite evidence of this, or it is just hearsay?

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: I had hoped that I had made it clear that this is the Table which I submitted to the Minister on July 18th, which I am prepared to put on the Table of the House, and I asked the Minister as far back as June what had been his findings in these cases, and still have not been able to find out. Perhaps the Senator might be more fortunate in obtaining that information. Case No. 28, a girl who had been operated on for squint was struck in the face with a book for missing sums. Parent remonstrated with the teacher and was told to remove the child from the school. Case No. 32, girl beaten for blotting copy book.

I am prepared to place that Table on the Table of the House, and it seems to me that in these cases the Minister ought to be concerned. I could quote other such cases. I could quote the case reported fully in the Evening Mail on the 23rd April, 1954, under the heading “Saw Teacher Bend Girl Across Desk”. The evidence was given in court of a male teacher, teaching a mixed class, catch a girl of 13 by the throat and bending her backwards against the desk at such and such a school on February 17th. Teacher in fact admitted that he pulled her hair and that he placed his hand [1950] underneath her chin. The court decided that the evidence showed that this in fact had been done, and the teacher was fined.

As this type of extreme case relates to what Senator Douglas asked me earlier I should like to quote my letter of July 18th to the Minister. I said then:—

“I should like to conclude by making it perfectly clear, as I did in the Seanad, that my interest in these 32 previously reported cases, and the action taken by your Department upon them, derives primarily, not so much from the special features of each case, as from the general common background of regular beating and slapping for minor offences, in direct contravention of your regulations, which every such extreme case inevitably implies.”

My mention of these cases is for the purpose of showing that they might well have been cases which might have disturbed the Minister, and that they are the cases about which the Minister issued a challenge to me and about which he was unable to give me any information, and about which he was not able even to say how many of the parents got any final reply at all, and it took him four months to discover even whether or not any “suitable” investigation was made.

Those are extreme cases. I have never suggested that this type of case is the rule. But I am satisfied that the extreme cases show a background, a general pattern, of beating for minor offences, that is to say, not grave transgressions, and I suggest that that goes on to the certain knowledge of most of the parents of the country in far too many schools, and that it applies to girls as well as to boys.

My purpose, then, in proposing this motion was to draw attention to the necessity for changing the regulations, because within the ambit of the regulations which theoretically permit beating of girls only for grave transgressions, so many offences are treated as if they were grave transgressions which are in fact mere minor offences. The regulations must be changed if we are to stop this quantity of corporal [1951] punishment administered on small girls for minor offences in our schools. I beg, therefore, to propose this motion and, in concluding my opening speech, I should like to regret that the Minister did not find it possible to send somebody for the purpose of listening and, perhaps, replying. I realise that nobody in his Department could reply in the Seanad, but some of his colleagues might, I think, have shown sufficient interest in the topic to have come here and listen to the case made and see whether there might be a possibility that they are open to persuasion. The Minister was not open to persuasion, he told us, but I thought that perhaps they might be. I hope to see this motion welcoming a modification of the rules passed in the Seanad My hope is to see at least this step forward being taken towards improving the lot of little girls in our national schools. For that purpose I beg to propose the motion.

An Cathaoirleach: Is the motion being seconded?

Mr. Sheridan: I take great pleasure in formally seconding.

An Cathaoirleach: There is nobody offering to speak. The question is and I put the motion——

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: I think I would be in order—I am surprised to find nobody is speaking—but I think I am in order in concluding.

Professor Hayes: I suggest that the conclusion must be the conclusion of a debate—and there has been no debate.

An Cathaoirleach: I propose to put the motion if there is nobody else to speak to it.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: Am I out of order?

An Cathaoirleach: You are out of order in replying to a debate, if there is no debate.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: Am I permitted to make a remark on something the Minister said? The Minister did, in fact, speak on this motion.

Professor Hayes: You are out of [1952] order in attempting to reply to a debate, if there is no debate.

An Cathaoirleach: If the Senator had anything further to say, he could have said it in his opening speech. It was open to him to continue for another hour.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: On a point of order, a Chathaoirleach, I permitted the Minister—in order to convenience him—to make a speech of some ten minutes, and there was at least one point which he made which I was going to reply to at the end of the debate. He is the only person besides myself who has spoken, but I could not be aware of that fact during my opening speech, and I took it that the right time to speak in reply to him and to others would be at the end of the debate.

An Cathaoirleach: I will permit you to reply to that point now, but I would have expected you to avail yourself of the opportunity when you were speaking earlier, to deal with any matter that seemed relevant.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: I reserved my reply to him in order to reply to everyone at the same time.

Professor Hayes: There is not even a formal speech by the seconder.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: My original seconder, Senator Bergin, in fact, has been detained. I know he was anxious to speak, but circumstances not under his control have prevented him from being here. The point I should like to answer is that the Minister said—may I give way? I see Senator Bergin arriving.

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator is now replying and concluding the debate. Unless he is prepared to complete the discussion, I will put the motion.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: May I plead with the Seanad that Senator Bergin, as Senator Cogan did earlier to-day, be allowed, as the Senator has just come in——

An Cathaoirleach: The circumstances are entirely different.

[1953] Professor Hayes: They are entirely different, Sir, and we do not agree.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: In the circumstances, I accept your ruling, and I should like to answer the point made by the Minister that he was not open to persuasion because he considered that the traditions of teaching and education in our country were such down the ages that he was not a person who was going to change them. The point I should like to make in answer to that is that in my submission, the traditions in this country relating to education were affected, I hope, by Patrick Pearse. I was very pleased and honoured, I may tell the Seanad, to be told by Senator Miss Pearse that she was going to support me if she was available when my motion came up. Now, in my contention, Patrick Pearse, who was one of the greatest educationists we have had in this country, would most emphatically have voted against corporal punishment for girls. I believe he would have voted against corporal punishment for boys also, and I would like to appeal personally to the Minister to accept, as being within the tradition of Irish education, the name and the example and the teaching of Patrick Pearse. I hope in conclusion that on this motion the Whips will not be put on, and that we can have a free vote upon this motion which I should like to see passed.

Mr. Bergin: May I explain and apologise——

An Cathaoirleach: The debate has now concluded.

Mr. Bergin: I should like to apologise to the House for not being present to second the resolution. A relative of mine was taken suddenly ill and I was unable to come. I am very, very disappointed—the matter was postponed on previous occasions when Senator Crowley was unable to attend—it is something about which I feel very deeply, but if there is a ruling on this, there is no more I can say.

An Cathaoirleach: The question is “that Seanad Éireann would welcome [1954] the alteration of the Department of Education regulations so as to prohibit altogether the use in Irish national schools of corporal punishment for girls.”

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: May I draw your attention to the fact that there does not appear to be a quorum in the House?

An Cathaoirleach: I am putting the question.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: On a point of order——

Professor Hayes: No point of order can be raised when the question is being put.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: On a point of order, surely we cannot vote without a quorum?

An Cathaoirleach: I am putting the motion—the Senator will resume his seat.

Motion put and declared lost.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: I call for a division.

An Cathaoirleach: Senators desiring a division please stand in their places.

Senators Dr. Sheehy Skeffington, Bergin and Sheridan, stood.

An Cathaoirleach: Only three Senators have indicated their desire to have a division, but if the Senator feels that he has not been given a full opportunity——

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: I do feel.

An Cathaoirleach: ——because the House may not be fully aware of the position, I am prepared to give him an opportunity to have the bells rung, if the Senator so desires.

Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: I do so desire. I think it would be unfair not to allow the House, at least with a quorum present, to decide whether Senators want a division.

Motion put.

[1955][1956] The Seanad divided: Tá, 3; Níl, 8.

Bergin, Patrick.

Sheehy Skeffington, Owen L.

Sheridan, John D.

Níl

Cox, Arthur.

Crowley, Patrick.

Douglas, John Harold.

Guinness, Henry E.

Hayes, Michael.

Meighan, John J.

Prendergast, Mícheál A.

Ruane, Seán T.

Tellers:— Tá: Senators Sheehy Skeffington and Bergin; Níl: Senators Douglas and Seán T. Ruane.

Motion declared lost.

The Seanad adjourned at 8.15 p.m. sine die.