HC Deb 21 April 1823 vol 8 cc1134-6

On the order of the day for the second reading of this bill,

Sir J. Newport

said, he must object to any measure that vent to give to the ecclesiastical courts such extended powers as this bill went to bestow on them. As an instance of the power already possessed by that court, he would mention the case of a poor man who, for a non-payment of certain sums, was cited to appear at a place 65 miles from his home. The man appeared, but the person who cited him was not present; the poor man had to return home again, and for his travelling expenses he was allowed by the court the sum of 12s. 6d. The poor man was subsequently cited three or four times, and as often obliged to repair to different places, without being confronted with the party who appealed against him. There was also another clause in this bill, which he must oppose. He meant that which, in the case of there being no parish church, or in the event of the parish church being a ruin, enabled the archbishop or bishop to direct the parishioners to attend service in the next parish; by which means such parishioners would become (whether they so attended or not) liable to an equal proportion of the sess and charge of the parish to which they were recommended. Now, he would put a case not at all uncommon in Ireland. He would take a parish where there was no church, or where the church was a ruin, but the whole of the inhabitants of which were Catholics. Why should the recommendation of the bishop to attend service in the next parish, subject the inhabitants of that parish to a payment of a portion of the rates of a neighbouring parish, the great proportion of whose inhabitants were Protestants.

Mr. Goulburn

assured the House, that the powers of the ecclesiastical courts would remain precisely the same, whether this bill were passed or not.

Mr. Hume

contended, that the principles on which ecclesiastical courts proceeded were totally inconsistent with justice. These excessive rates were an enormous evil; and he was sure that the Irish people, upon whom they were so peculiarly oppressive, would not pay them much longer; but would effect the cure themselves by resisting the payment. Not more than one-fifth of the population of Ireland were Protestants; and it was not unlikely that that proportion would be soon reduced to a one hundred and fifth part. Was it, then, right to expect that such a population should be obliged to pay for the maintenance of a religious establishment to which they did not belong? He hoped they would discontinue to support such a system, and, if not relieved, that they would use physical force in order to avoid it [Hear, hear!]. Hon. members seemed alarmed at the expression; but it was his firm conviction, that if these acts of injustice were persisted in, matters must come to that extremity at last.

Mr. V. Fitzgerald

protested against the use of such language. This doctrine was as calculated to inflame the minds of the Irish, as it was unbecoming any member of parliament to use in that House.

Mr. Hume

said, that what he had uttered was his conscientious opinion respecting Ireland; and feeling it to be so, he did not conceive that any harm could arise there or elsewhere from speaking the truth. Having stated what he believed would be the event, he hoped government would endeavour to avert the calamity.

The bill was read a second time.