HC Deb 29 June 1832 vol 13 cc1162-7
Mr. Stanley

, in rising to move that the House resolve itself into a Committee, on the Reform of Parliament (Ireland) Bill, wished to make one observation on the Bill relative to Party Processions in Ireland. Having ascertained, not without feelings of regret, that it was the fixed determination of many Irish Members to fight this Bill in all its stages, and take every mode of impeding its progress which the forms of that House sanctioned, he had ceased to hope that he should be able to get it through the House this Session. He, in saying this, did not mean to be understood as despairing of the success of the Bill, when again introduced, or as having abandoned his opinion. Since, however, these hon. Members had thus resolved to oppose a Bill which it was intended should have strengthened the arm of the civil power and the Magistracy in Ireland, he would remind them, that upon them would rest the responsibility of refusing that aid at a time which imperiously called for the assistance of the Legislature. Taking into consideration the state of excitement in which that country was now plunged, that responsibility was increased by the circumstance of the near approach to party anniversaries; and the fate of the 12th of July next might be involved in the resolution come to by these hon. Gentlemen. The events of that day, if disastrous, must be controlled and decided altogether by the common law, as it stood now. He earnestly entreated, therefore, the hon. Members who opposed this Bill, and who possessed influence with either of the opposite political parties in Ireland, to contribute by every effort in their power, to the maintenance of peace and the support of the law; and more particularly did he make that appeal to the hon. member for Sligo, who the other night had stated that he possessed the means of influence, if he were disposed to exert them. With this explanation for not proceeding at present with the measure, he should now move the Order of the Day for the further consideration of the Reform of Parliament (Ireland) Bill.

Colonel Perceval

said, that having been alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, who had endeavoured to throw upon him (Colonel Perceval) the responsibility of all that might take place on the ensuing 12th of July, he felt bound to rise (contrary to his intention) on the present occasion. He himself had only become an Orangeman (for such he was ready to admit himself to be) within a very short period, and he also admitted, that he had on a former occasion expressed his opinion, that the law, as it now stood, was sufficient to prevent these processions. He must at the same time say, that the language which had been applied by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland—namely that the opposition to the measure was that of the bigotted partisans of an expiring faction—was such as ought not to have been used in reference to a body comprising the wealth, rank, talent, intelligence, and loyalty of Ireland. He had (he admitted) on a former occasion endeavoured to ward off the pointed insult which had been thus offered to the body, because he did not know to what extent or results these insults, if acted upon, might lead. He had endeavoured, as he should still endeavour, to prevent the processions from taking place.

Mr. Lefroy

was not surprised at the anxiety which the right hon. Gentleman had just displayed to shift the responsibility from the shoulders of the Government to those of the Protestant gentry of Ireland; he, however, cast back on the Ministers all that responsibility, for they alone were answerable for the consequences that might ensue on the failure of this Bill. Either this Bill was of importance, or it was not; and if the Government really thought it of importance, why had not the right hon. Gentleman brought it forward sufficiently early in the Session to insure its being passed before the 12th of July?

Mr. O'Connell

I am desirous that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government should take a lesson from what is occurring at the present moment; for they may learn from it in how very different a spirit those who belong to the popular party receive a concession from those who are represented by the two hon. Gentlemen who have just preceded me. Instead of expressing any pleasure at the concession—instead of thanking the Government for it—instead of being gratified that their wishes are likely to be carried into effect, they have received the boon with taunts and have returned insult for concession. Their business ought to be to pour oil on the troubled sea of public opinion; but, instead of that, they are blowing the waves into additional fury. I, however, am determined to do my duty; and I here promise to address the Catholic population of the North of Ireland in the strongest terms, for the purpose of persuading them to go cut of the way of those processions, so that, if possible, no blood may be shed; and I also implore the Gentlemen on the other side, to come forward, and by their solicitations and advice to do all in their power to prevent mischief on the 12th of July. I implore them to show by their conduct that they know how to deserve this concession that the Government has made. Setting aside political differences, I know that there is not one Protestant gentleman in Ireland who would not deeply lament the circumstance of one single life being lost owing to these processions; there is not one of them who would not shrink with horror from such a supposition; there is not one of them in whose breast the spirit of humanity does not exist—and I, therefore, implore them, one and all, to use their best exertions to prevent these processions, from which so much danger is apprehended.

Lord Althorp

said, that it was only late in the present Session that the Government had become aware of the extent to which it was proposed these processions in Ireland on the ensuing anniversary should reach, and to that might be attributed the lateness of the period at which the Bill had been introduced; and, though the hon. member for Sligo might do his best to prevent their taking place, he feared the hon. Gentleman would not succeed. Now, if the hon. Gentle- man thought these processions dangerous to the peace of Ireland, it surprised him that the hon. Gentleman should oppose this measure. He well knew that it had been the constant complaint in this House, that the law was insufficient to suppress these processions, and he must say, that he thought the Bill proposed was a most desirable measure to effect that object. It was a Bill that ought to be passed, and he expected that it would be so at a later period of the Session, when it could not be urged as a pretext for opposition to it, that it went to operate against particular parties on a particular occasion.

Mr. Goulburn

felt it clue to the hon. member for Sligo to say, that he had ever found him ready, during the period of his (Mr. Goulburn's) connexion with Ireland, to prevent these processions, and he could not but deprecate the allusion to that hon. Gentleman, as responsible for the transactions of the ensuing 12th of July. He could not but recommend all parties to use their best and most active exertions for the prevention of the processions, from which so much evil was dreaded. His hon. friend, the member for Sligo, had signified last night, in private conversation, that all the influence he possessed should be employed to prevent these processions on the 12th of July. He could also assert, that during the time when he was in Ireland there was no Gentleman who exerted himself more than the hon. member for Sligo, to preserve tranquillity.

Mr. Shaw

said, his opposition to the Bill was entirely founded upon its partiality and not upon its principle. He believed he was not alone in entertaining a fixed hostility to the Bill on that account. He most sincerely concurred with hon. Members in the recommendation to all persons of influence to use it discreetly in repressing all demonstration of party feeling, which might end possibly in the effusion of human blood.

Sir Robert Peel

regretted exceedingly to hear it stated, that there was any prospect of the public peace being broken in Ireland on the 12th of July, but he trusted that those who possessed influence in Ireland, by their station or their property, would not only individually exert themselves, but meet for the purpose of issuing unanimous exhortations to the Protestants of Ireland—to prove that this law was not necessary, and to induce them voluntarily to abandon that which would necessarily give pain to others of the community. That would be a real triumph, to dispense with the necessity for this law altogether, and he felt confident that every Protestant gentleman would be ready to do all in his power to prevent a collision, or the possibility of one single life being lost. With respect to the Bill itself, he certainly was prepared to support its principles; but, nevertheless, he should have wished to see certain modifications introduced; for instance, he would much rather that a general power should have been vested in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant, in case of the public peace being endangered, than that this power should be left in the hands of individual Magistrates. He perfectly agreed with the hon. and learned member for Kerry, that if life were lost in the processions, those who took part in the processions ought deeply to lament it. He was averse to all displays of physical force in civil life. He did not impute bad motives to those who assembled in processions; but, when thousands of persons met in arms, they set a bad example to others who might not be so well disposed as themselves. The Legislature having removed all disabilities in Ireland, the object of all Irishmen ought to be, to put an end to those dissentious which the existence of unequal rights had been calculated to excite, and to place that country in the state of tranquillity from which alone private safety and public prosperity could flow.

Sir Frederick Trench

was glad to find, that the hon. and learned member for Kerry was ready to assist in allaying agitation; and he was equally glad to find that the Government now thought that party processions were dangerous. Such had not been the case some months back, when Viscount Melbourne sanctioned art insulting procession of the trades in this metropolis. The Government had come in at the eleventh hour, and had opened its eyes to the dangers of such processions.

Sir Robert Bateson

, from the communications he had received from the county he had the honour to represent, was prepared to say, that the irritating language with which this measure had been introduced, would produce a re-action amongst the Orangemen in that county, and it would not be possible for the Magistrates to prevent the processions on the ensuing anniversary. This arose from the insult which they felt had been levelled at them; and he ventured to say, that had not Govern- ment introduced this Bill, the Magistrates would much more easily have restrained the processions. It was, then, too much to charge his hon. friend, the member for Sligo, with the responsibility of the transactions of the 12th of July, when, that responsibility was created by the Government itself. In consequence of the hon. and learned member for Kerry saying he would use his powerful influence on the one side, he trusted the spirit of conciliation would prevail on the other, and that no collision would take place between any parties on the approaching 12th of July.

Mr. Anthony Lefroy

said, if the right hon. Secretary failed in this, as he had in various other measures, the responsibility must rest with the right hon. Gentleman himself, and not with any party in the House.