July 7th, 1966
FROM THE ARCHIVES:The appointment of Donogh O’Malley as minister for education by taoiseach Seán Lemass in a 1966 reshuffle was seen as a response to a Fine Gael policy document suggesting that Irish should no longer be essential for passing state exams and getting public appointments. This editorial considered the implications of O’Malley replacing George Colley who was seen as more sympathetic to Irish. – JOE JOYCE
Now we have the Taoiseach’s reply to the Fine Gael document on the Irish language – it is Mr Donogh O’Malley as Minister for Education.
This is the surprise in the new Government appointments; for Dr [Patrick] Hillery has long been marked down as new Minister for Labour, and Mr Colley’s likely transfer to Industry has been widely discussed.
Education has been much in the headlines, and the Fine Gael document may have been more a spur to a decision already taken when the Taoiseach thought over the lessons of the Presidential election [in which Fine Gael’s Tom O’Higgins did unexpectedly well against Eamon de Valera].
The national aims may still be there, but well to the fore in any politician’s thinking is his insistence on remaining in power. It is the first duty of a politician to win votes, gain his place, and hold it. Once again there will be people to say that Fianna Fáil has stolen Fine Gael’s clothes, but that is a simplification, and rather early to jump to such a conclusion.
Beside all this we are going into Europe: that means ever-increasing competition at every level of activity; it means not just a need for more teaching of modern languages, but a need for more and better post-primary education, more emphasis on mathematics, physics, chemistry; more technological schools; greater opportunities for university – a complete overhaul of the education system, in fact. Much thoughtful preparation for this has been laid down in the Investment in Education Report, and in the NIEC comment on it. The Government will not be ahead of the people in pushing very hard on the education front, and Mr O’Malley can push.
There may be a sharp reaction among Irish language organisations to his appointment. He has already fallen foul of some of them over a meeting held in Trinity College about a year ago. The meeting had a pentecostal touch; not only did the Minister apparently speak in two languages, but some heard one thing, some quite another.
Mr O’Malley is not what his older colleagues call an Irish Irelander. he is able, fit and affable; he is an organiser; he has shown no particular bent towards education. He will be suspect to many as a former rugby player (though he shares that with an even more distinguished politician [de Valera]), and he is president of the Football Association, as Mr Oscar Traynor at one time was. Mr O’Malley will have less respect for tradition in the sense of red tape than many of his predecessors, and if he rips through the Department of Education, he will have most parents of the country behind him.