HC Deb 20 April 1807 vol 9 cc497-9
Mr. Wickham ,

in rising to make a motion on this subject, observed, that the papers on the table would shew the necessity of parliamentary interference, by larger and more liberal grants for the relief of the protestant church in Ireland. In 1803, he had laid on the table of the house a paper for the purpose of rousing their attention to this subject. Two bills were subsequently passed; one for the loan, without interest, of a large sum from the Board of First Fruits; the other for the advance of £50,000 by the lord lieutenant. On these bills, however, no steps had been taken. Entering into a comparative statement of the population of the two countries, he asserted, that the population of Ireland was half that of South Britain; but that the number of parishes in South Britain exceeded 10,000; while in Ireland the number of parishes was originally only 2436, and, by subsequent consolidations, was in the year 1791 reduced to 1120. This reduction was highly injurious to the protestant interest; and it appeared that, in the late troubles in Ireland, rebellion raged most violently, and most succesfully, in those districts in which the reduction had been the greatest. Having dwelt on the great importance of this subject, he concluded by moving, "That a select committee be appointed to take into consideration the several acts of parliament relating to the building, rebuilding, and keeping in repair, churches and glebe houses in Ireland, and to the purchase of glebe houses and lands there, and requiring certain returns to be made concerning the sufficiency state of, and condition, of such churches, for the regular performance of divine service therein; together with the several reports and papers relating thereto, and to the unions of parishes, that were laid before this house in the years 1803 and 1806 respectively; and that they do consider the said acts and papers, and examine how far the said acts, or any of them, have been found inadequate, and in what respect, for the purposes thereby intended; and do report the same together with their observations and opinion thereupon, to the house."

Dr. Duigenan

said he would not oppose the motion of the right hon. gent. but he contended that the poverty of the people was so great in many places, that if it were not for the union of the parishes, the clergy would have devoured the people. Besides this, there was an old act, passed in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, he believed, which authorised the lord lieutenant and privy council to divide or consolidate parishes according to the necessity of the case, and it so happened that where the patronage of the crown was most extensive, there the union of the parishes was more frequently apt to take place; for instance, if a gentleman had good interest and connexions of any weight, a single parish might be in so low a state, that it would not be worth his acceptance. He then would perhaps give the real statement of the case to his friend or patron, and afterwards a recommendation would come from the crown, that two adjoining parishes should be consolidated into one, which the bishop in such case mostly agreed to. He did not estimate the population of Ireland at much more than two millions, and the Protestant clergy would be very much oppressed and unable to maintain the respectability of their situation, if the union of parishes were not in many instances allowed.

Sir John Newport

said, that many erroneous calculations had gone forth as to the actual number of inhabitants in Ireland. The number as laid down by Mr. Bushe, in the Irish Philosophical Transactions, amounted to upwards of four millions. Although the lords lieutenant of Ireland had the power of disuniting parishes, he had not found any instance in which they had done so. The state of the protestant church of Ireland did require the attention of the house, and he was sure they could not bestow their labours better than in discussing such an inquiry.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, he should certainly forward the object of the motion. He believed the money directed to be applied for the benefit of the church, by the acts in 1803, had never been properly applied. Many of the unions had been directed the privy council, on account of some of the parishes not being adequate to the maintenance of a clergyman. The proposed inquiry, therefore, appeared to be one of the most useful acts the house could engage in. One object on this side of the water had been to secure the residence of the clergy, but such an object could not be aimed at in Ireland, till such time as they had parsonage houses to reside in.

Mr. Maurice Fitzgerald

stated, that, to his knowledge, some of the livings in the South of Ireland amounted to £1000, to £1500, and some even to £3000 a-year; and also that, in some instances where a consolidation of livings and parishes had taken place, an attention to the religious duties of the people had been reversed; for no place of religious worship was provided, within the reach of the inhabitants; nor could such parishioners obtain baptism for their children, or the other rights of the church; and the consequence was, that the protestant inhabitants, in such places, had disappeared. He hoped, therefore, that a strict investigation would be set on foot, with a view of correcting such abuses.

Mr. Parnell

thought, that the house ought to be put in possession of circumstances so material as those hinted at by the hon. gent. The population of Ireland, as computed by Mr. Bushe, amounted in the year 1788 to 4,080,000 inhabitants; the population of England and Wales, as the Census was taken in 1801, was 9,200,000; from this it appeared, that the calculations of the learned doctor were formed upon mistaken data—The motion was then put and carried; and a select committee appointed accordingly.