Mr. S. Rice
, in presenting a petition, signed by upwards of 2,000 respectable inhabitants of Drogheda, complaining of the exclusion of Roman Catholics from grand juries, corporations, &c. stated, that the petitioners expressed their gratitude for the relaxation of the laws in their behalf, but complained that the benefits of that relaxation were intercepted by local influence. Notwithstanding the act of 1793, authorising Roman Catholics to be summoned on grand Juries, from that time up to the present moment, not a single Catholic had ever been summoned on a grand jury in the town of Drogheda. The injustice of this exclusion was the more manifest, as the proportion of Catholics to protestants in Drogheda, with respect to numbers, was nine to one; and with respect to property, two to three. While Catholics of the first rank and respectability were excluded, individuals not resident, nor possessing an acre of land, in Drogheda, were placed on these grand juries. On the same principle of unjust exclusion, the freedom of the city had been refused to sir T. Esmond, a Roman Catholic baronet of the first rank and character, while it had been granted to individuals possessing no property in the town of Drogheda.
§ Sir J. Newport
observed, that in the city which he had the honour to represent, the act of 1793 had had a full and fair operation. A large number of Roman Catholics had been admitted both to serve on grand juries, and to a participation in the freedom of the city. It was disgraceful to the character of other corporations 414 in Ireland, that attempts should be made to render null the beneficial provisions of that act.
§ Mr. Hume
thought this subject highly deserving the attention of the House. It was impossible that tranquillity could be restored in Ireland until full justice was done to all classes of his majesty's subjects in that country. He was aware there was a difficulty in interfering with corporate rights; but, if ever there was a case in which such a course could be justified, it was the heavy grievance of which these petitioners complained; and he sincerely hoped the king's ministers would turn their serious attention to the statements contained in the petition.
§ Ordered to lie on the table.