HC Deb 26 September 1831 vol 7 cc597-9
Mr. O'Connell

presented a Petition from Belfast, in Ireland, praying inquiry into the conduct of the Yeomanry of Ireland, particularly with reference to the Newtownbarry affair.

Sir Robert Bateson

, as one well acquainted with the north of Ireland, could take upon him to say, that the Yeomanry force was held in particular esteem throughout the province of Ulster. To that force the inhabitants of the north of Ireland looked invariably for protection, and so strong was the feeling of disgust at the proposition of the Ministers to disarm it, that they felt themselves compelled to abstain from their purpose, and, he trusted, altogether to abandon it. One fact was decisive as to the popularity and utility of the Yeomanry force in the north of Ireland—that a much less regular military establishment was required there than in any other part of Ireland. He hoped that the Government would never basely abandon the Yeomanry, who were the defenders of the laws, the liberties, and the Constitution of the country.

Mr. Ruthven

put it to the House, whether it was fair that the Government should be charged with deserting the Yeomanry, and with throwing itself into the hands of the opposite party, because it had determined to modify the regulations under which a body so vexatious to the people of Ireland had been embodied. It was very hard that whenever the Yeomanry were named in that House, the House should be immediately occupied with a debate in their defence. Why was this necessary, if their merits were so universally acknowledged? He concluded by bearing his testimony to the responsibility of the petitioners.

Lord Acheson

did not feel it necessary to enter into any discussion concerning the comparative merits of the north and south of Ireland. In allusion to the statement of the hon. member for Derry, he must confirm the favourable opinion generally entertained of the Yeomanry in the north of Ireland, and must, moreover, declare himself decidedly opposed to disbanding that force. He stated, that if called upon now to form a force for the maintenance of peace in Ireland, he should hesitate as to the propriety of establishing such a force as the Yeomanry; but he felt that there was much difference between this line of conduct, and removing a force which had already existed for a length of time. As to the arming the Yeomanry last year, the hon. and learned member for Kerry could explain the cause of that proceeding. For his own part, he was so anxious to preserve the quiet and tranquillity which at present existed in the north of Ireland, that he could look upon it as no better than madness to do that which would disturb this state of things, and would not tend to render the south of Ireland at all more quiet than at present. As to the unfortunate affair at Newtownbarry, no man regretted it more than he did; at the same time, he saw no reason for punishing the whole Yeomanry corps for the faults of a part (even if the statements against the Newtownbarry corps should, upon examination, prove to be correct). The Yeomanry of the county of Armagh, which he represented, were 2,000, he believed, in number, and he could not consent to see them disembodied: there could not exist a finer corps, and he for his part thought, that such a line of proceeding would, under existing circumstances, be highly injudicious.

Mr. Crampton

assured the House, that the government of Ireland would not be induced by any representations to continue the Yeomanry one moment longer, or to discontinue them one moment sooner, than the interests of the country required.

Mr. O'Connell

denied the superiority of the north of Ireland over the south, and said, that the reason why so many more troops had for years past been quartered in the south than in the north, was the facilities which existed in the south for their embarkation for foreign service. If the government of Ireland had come to the determination not to continue the Yeomanry one moment longer than the interests of the country required, it would disband them immediately. He hoped, that if the Government persisted in keeping them enrolled, it would not be for their shooting the people at Newtownbarry this year, as the police had shot them at Monaghan last year.

Petition to be printed.