HC Deb 04 May 1830 vol 24 cc390-4
Mr. O'Connell

rose to move for a return of the number of persons who had been killed by the Police in Ireland since the passing of the Act for the establishment of the Constabulary Force in that country. The effect of that establishment had been, that whenever the people resisted the police, they were put to death by them. In England, resistance to the police was a misdemeanor; but in Ireland it was punished with death. As he was desirous to know how many persons had so fallen, he moved that an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, praying that he would be graciously pleased to order that there be laid before the House an account of the number of persons in Ireland that had been put to death by the police in that country since the passing of the Act of the 3rd of George 4. cap 103, amended by the 5th of Geo. 4. cap. 28, for the establishment of a Constabulary Force in Ireland, distinguishing the number that had been put to death in each year.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

remonstrated with the hon. and learned; Gentleman on the form of his Motion. The hon. and learned Gentleman must surely be aware of the very great mischief which a return to such a motion would be calculated to produce. If the hon. and learned Gentleman persisted in his Motion he must oppose it.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that he was indifferent as to the form; all that he wanted was to get at the facts. He did not mean to impute any blame to the police; he only wanted to know how many lives had been sacrificed by them. However, he would withdraw his Motion for the present, for the purpose of bringing it forward in another shape.

Mr. Doherty

said, that his right hon. friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had adverted to the extraordinary form of the hon. and learned gentleman's Motion; he (Mr. Doherty) begged to say a few words with respect to the comments by which that Motion had been accompanied. The hon. and learned member for Clare, if he (Mr. Doherty) had not misunderstood him, had stated broadly that in Ireland it was the practice, whenever resistance was made to the police by the people, for the police to put the people to death. Now really he was at a loss to conjecture how it could happen that a person of the hon. and learned Gentleman's knowledge and experience, accustomed as he was to measure his expressions, could make such an assertion as that, and subsequently declare that he meant no offence by it! If the fact were really as the hon. and learned Gentleman had stated it; if the police in Ireland were constantly in the habit of putting to death all persons who made any resistance to them, it was the hon. and learned Gentleman's bounden duty to submit the subject immediately to the solemn consideration of Parliament. He was the more surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman had indulged in such observations in making a motion, of which he had not given any notice, when he might have had such abundant opportunities of substantiating his charges, if they were capable of being substantiated, by producing the petitions against him with which the hon. and learned Gentleman had been in trusted for the purpose of presenting to that House, but which the hon. and learned Gentleman had thought proper to transmit to the Irish Government. The hon. and learned Gentleman knew well, that on the occasion on which he had impugned his (Mr. Doherty's) conduct, that that conduct was calculated to allay the irritation which had grown up between the people and the police; and no man in the creation knew better than the hon. and learned Gentleman what bitter feelings had been cherished between them. The hon. and learned Gentleman well knew the fact that the police came out entirely blameless from the investigation of their conduct by several impartial juries, who pronounced a verdict of acquittal. He was not very skilful in construing the expression of the human countenance; but if he did not greatly deceive himself, he saw a smile on the hon. and learned Gentleman's countenance at the word "impartial." All that he wished was, that the hon. and learned Gentleman would but give him an opportunity of answering his words, and not his gestures. After the misrepresentations which the hon. and learned Gentleman had spread of him in Ireland, all that he wished was, that in the face of the House, and in the face of the country, he would join issue with him on the question. Whenever that time should come he would pledge himself to prove, that all which had been alleged respecting the trials in question was utterly false; he would pledge himself to prove, that the attacks which for the last eight months had been made upon him as prosecutors, both in the speeches of individuals and by the press, were entirely destitute of foundation. He utterly denied that he challenged any juror on those trials because he was a Catholic. He now asserted, and whenever the opportunity was afforded him, he was ready to prove, that a fairer and fuller investigation had never taken place than in those proceedings which the hon. and learned member for Clare had so often reprobated out of that House, but which it was a matter of so much difficulty to induce him to discuss within them. He begged pardon of the House for having thus occupied its attention; but if any of those who heard him were interested in the peace and tranquillity of Ireland, and entertained feelings of sympathy and kindness for the deluded people of that country, they would feel the importance of endeavouring to protect them from the attempts which were making, by every kind of irritation, to keep up the spirit of discord among them. If lives had unfortunately been already lost, and if others should be endangered, let the blood be on the heads of those who, by their conduct, endeavored to excite the unfortunate people of Ireland in every possible manner to offer resistance to legal authority.

Mr. O' Connell

was surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman had expatiated so largely on the subject, as there was no opportunity at the present moment to go into the facts of the case. His (Mr. O'Connell's) only object in the Motion which he had just made was, to elicit facts, and to ascertain how many lives of his Majesty's subjects in Ireland had been sacrificed by the employment of an armed police. When he spoke of the lives which had been lost in resistance to the police, he spoke of evil resistance; and he did not mean to say that lives were lost on all occasions. If, however, a single life were lost in resistance to the police, he had no sympathy with those who did not contemplate with compassion the tears of the orphans and the widow thereby created. Whatever men high in office might think of such occurrences, by him they would always be deeply lamented. He did not know to what the hon. and learned Gentleman alluded when he spoke of his (Mr. O'Connell's) assertions respecting him. What he had asserted was derived from persons who had put their assertions into the shape of petitions, and said they were ready to prove them. He had been prevented from bringing the subject forward, because it appeared that, as far as the hon. and learned Gentleman was concerned, he had been guilty only of mismanagement, and if so that mismanagement had been favourable to the prisoners;—If the hon. and learned Gentleman had erred, he had erred only in favour of the prisoners. After he had sent the petitions to the noble Lord, a book was published, which gave a different account of the affair from that which he had originally received, and that induced him to pause until he could ascertain which was the right view of the case. The hon. and learned Gentleman courted investigation. He (Mr. O'Conncll) had not, however, made any declaration in which the hon. and learned Gentleman was involved. As to the origin of an affray, in which several lives were lost, he knew nothing of it, though he cared not who imputed to him an effort to induce the people to resist authority, for it was well known that he, and those who voted with him had preached peace and submission to the people. The riot to which the hon. and learned Gentleman alluded, commenced casually at a fair, and had no more connexion with politics than it had with any of the abstract sciences. The only object of the Motion which he had submitted to the House was, to bring before it facts connected with the system of employing an armed police. He would, however, withdraw it, for the purpose of altering its form; and he would take the present opportunity of giving notice, that on the 10th of June he would move for leave to bring in a Bill to repeal the Act by which Vestries in Ireland were empowered to levy a rate for the building of churches.—Motion withdrawn.