HC Deb 01 April 1833 vol 16 cc1410-368

The following Speech of Mr. Wm. Roche should have been inserted at Page 523 immediately after the Speech of Mr. Morgan O'Connell.

Mr. William Roche

Sir, the question of the Address, as connected with Irish affairs, having been revived, may I be permitted to say a few words. I know it has and may be remarked, that Irish Members have had more than their due share of the debate; but, Sir, that was rather a matter of necessity than choice, the subject coming more peculiarly home to their business and their bosoms. Sir, it is far from my inclination or intentions to occupy much of the time of the House, or unnecessarily to prolong the discussion of a subject which has been so ably handled, so amply elucidated, so almost perfectly exhausted, as regards the condition and complaints of Ireland, by my hon. and learned friend the member for Dublin, and by the many and eloquent Gentlemen who followed and supported his representations and remonstrances. But, Sir, with my feelings on the wrongs, the wants, and just expectations of Ireland—feelings it would be rather strange, I did not entertain (coming as I do from so historically interesting a portion of that country as the city of Limerick, which I have the honour to represent) a city not only loyal and brave in olden times, but in recent recollections, for it was her regiment of Militia, though vastly out-numbered, that gave the first check to the French invaders under Humbert. But, Sir, in expressing my feelings on Irish affairs, I am no less actuated, I assure the House, by an anxious desire for the prosperity, harmony, and consequent strength of the empire at large—and I also desire to express them in deference to the constituency which sent me here. It is, therefore, Sir, that I wish to declare my coincidence in the sentiments of regret and disappointment, which have fallen from my hon. precursors in the debate, as regards the meditated conduct towards Ireland, one of unwise, unkind, and uncalled for mixture of coercion and concession. Sir, I could not but be struck during the course of this debate by the painful necessity which every Gentleman felt, on alluding to Ireland, to use the epithet 'unfortunate,' which, however true, and arising from sympathetic feelings, must have been no less grating to those who uttered it than mortifying to us Irish Members who heard it. Into an analysis of the causes which produced this unhappy condition, I shall not now enter further than to say, that as it was produced by bad treatment and bad government, the total reversal of that conduct and that system must be the obvious remedy. Sir, if even at this late period of Ireland's misrule and misfortunes, measures were adopted, couched in a spirit of thorough redress and sincere conciliation, unmixed and unalloyed by those announcements of menace and coercion so utterly unnecessary in the present ample sufficiency of the law,—so susceptible is the Irish character of grateful emotions, so disposed towards an oblivion of the past, in the anticipation of the future, that the post which wafted over to its shores such glad tidings, and such an auspicious Royal Speech, would accomplish more in one day to allay discontent and ferment, by inducing amity of hearts and interests, than the most powerful combination of military and constabulary force, which tends rather to exasperate than cure the disease. But, Sir, when it is seen, that the case of Ireland is so misunderstood and distorted—when it is seen that the cure of its evils forms such a compound of contrarieties, coercion and conciliation—irritation and counter-irritation (to use a medical phrase)—what good can be expected from such conflicting remedies, or from concessions attended by the old hacknied and inveterate habit of disparaging and neutralizing every boon (or rather act of justice) by some counteracting restraint; and truly has it been observed in the debate, what a different line of conduct is pursued towards this country when any circumstance disturbs its quiet. Investigation and redress are at once adopted, and rigorous measures postponed to wiser maxims. Adopt the same conduct towards Ireland, and similar will be the result. But, Sir, it may be replied that the character of the Irish is formed of different materials; if it be so, it must be the result of different treatment and vicious demoralising policy, for human nature is found, under similar circumstances, to be nearly the same everywhere; and as regards Irish love and respect for justice, English historians themselves have promulgated it centuries ago. I, myself, Sir, can, in a limited way, bear testimony to this observation, for though being obliged as Magistrate of the city which I represent, to punish many offenders, yet I am sure I have not a personal enemy among them, because they are conscious I was actuated by no selfish, vindictive, or improper motive, but by the impartial exercise of an unavoidable duty. Let, Sir, in a more enlarged sphere, the same principles of jurisprudence and justice be adopted, and most beneficial will be the result. Sir, I shall not now enter into a detail of the various grievances and complaints, which have so long oppressed and depressed Ireland, as they will come, during the Session, progressively before the House, and shall conclude by briefly adverting to that most important topic the repeal of the Legislative Union. Sir, on that question, I came into Parliament with my mind disengaged, that is, so far as an indignant sense of the vicious system of Legislation and Government, and its evil consequences, could leave any sensitive mind disengaged. But I was still unwilling to control myself by any positive obligation—desirous of seeing whether a Reformed Parliament would be more disposed than its predecessors, to act with sympathy and justice towards Ireland, not by confining measures of a petty paltry nature, but by an ample and prompt uprooting of abuses. I was also desirous of seeing the question, one of such magnitude, developed and discussed in all its bearings, in order that it may be canvassed and understood by the intelligence of the country, and because discussion always tends to promote and advance every sound and salutary measure; but. Sir, as scarcely any state of things can be less endurable than the present condition of Ireland, as regards the rights, liberties, and happiness of the people, so will they fly to any legitimate remedy if they are permitted to despair of adequate redress—an impression which the unwise and unkind association of coercion and concession, and the disposition to close all deliberation on the question of Repeal, is little calculated to allay—an effort that will rather tend to augment than subdue the intensity of existing interest on the subject. Redress, ample redress, is the only panacea. In that spirit. Sir, there is one effectual remedy for the evils of Ireland, indeed of every country, that of consulting the interests of the many of the millions, in I preference to the aggrandizement of the few. Adopt that maxim towards Ireland, and, as the celebrated Burke said on another occasion, 10,000, nay, 100,000 Irish swords will leap from the scabbards to avenge a wrong or an insult to their King and country, and peace, contentment, and prosperity will at length prevail in that hitherto abused, and therefore distracted land.