§ The EARL of CLARENDON
said, he had a petition to present from certain non-subscribing Presbyterian Ministers in Ireland—in the north as well as in the south, and in the urban as well as the agricultural districts, praying that the fundamental principle of the National System of Education in Ireland may be maintained inviolate. They stated that, in their opinion, any alteration of that system would destroy the confidence of their body in the Board, would impair the usefulness and vigour of the schools, and add fuel to the bitterness of parties in the country. His noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) was, perhaps, aware that in consequence of a speech which his noble Friend made last year, and also of a speech made by the Attorney General for Ireland at his election for the University of Dublin, some apprehension had arisen that a change in that system of education was meditated by Her Majesty's Government. He (the Earl of Clarendon) confessed he did not share in that apprehension; and in answer to numerous inquiries made to him on the subject, he had not hesitated to state his conviction that no danger was likely to accrue to the system with with which the noble Earl's name was so honourably connected, and of which he was the author; and, he believed, that if the noble Earl should think it his duty to institute an investigation 771 into the subject, the result would be to show that the system was faithfully administered—that it worked well—that it was not only the best, but the only system which was adapted to the wants and feelings of the people of Ireland -—and that no change could be effected without great difficulty and danger to the cause of education in that country. That opinion had, to a certain extent, been confirmed by the statement lately made by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Lord Naas); and he (the Earl of Clarendon) was bound to say that the rev. gentleman who had forwarded the petition to him for presentation stated that the speech of the noble Lord had greatly mitigated the apprehensions of himself and other persons in Ireland, though they did not think it necessary on that account to withdraw their petition. He need hardly say that would be a great satisfaction to them, and to the friends and supporters of education in Ireland generally, to learn from the noble Earl at the head of the Government that no change in the national system of education in Ireland was contemplated by Her Majesty's Government.
§ The EARL, of DERBY
My Lords, during the recess, my attention and that of my Colleagues in the Government, and more especially my noble Friend the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, has been directed most anxiously to the question of national education in Ireland. My noble Friend the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland has felt it his duty to devote very great consideration to this question; and with every desire to remove, as far as possible, the feelings or the prejudices of those who are opposed to that system and who desire certain alterations in it, neither I nor my noble Friend at the head of the Government in Ireland can see our way to the introduction of any change which would have that effect without disturbing or materially altering the present system of education in that country. All I can say is, that I consider it would be a very great evil if we were seriously to disturb the existing system; and the Government, not seeing their way to make any alteration with the view to which I have alluded, have no intention of bringing forward any measure to effect what one party had in view, seeing that could not be effected without incurring evils which they would greatly deplore.
§ Petition read, and ordered to lie on the table.