HC Deb 17 July 1834 vol 25 cc80-3
Mr. Sheil

rose to draw the attention of the House to the distress existing in the county of Tipperary. The present case was an urgent one, especially calling for the interposition of Government and Parliament, and embracing a great moral duty. He had apprised Government of his intention, and he had received letters from various parts detailing the terrible sufferings of the people. In the town of Thurles, out of a population of 7,000, 2,400 were in a state of utter destitution. (The hon. Member quoted several documents relating to the frightful distress in other parts of the country, including Galway and the neighbouring districts.) He did not go so far as to ask the people to be fed in idleness. He would merely suggest the plan of giving them employment for six weeks until the crops were ripe. He would do more, and suggest the source from which the funds could be easily supplied. The Commissioners of Woods and Forests expended the Quit and Crown rents of Ireland to the amount of 50,000l. a-year in England, in decorating Windsor Castle, and embellishing and enlarging this already overgrown and gorgeous metropolis. Now, was it not better to expend a portion at least of that sum in relieving the cries of famine, and arresting the turbulence produced by it in Ireland, than waste it all in architectural embellishments in London? But it was not alone on the grounds of humanity that he asked for such a fund and such means of relief, but on the grounds of national good and national economy. The Government themselves would gain by it. It was an unquestioned, because an unquestionable fact, that wherever public money was laid out in Ireland on works of public improvement great and permanent good resulted from it. The people, being employed, and having the means of subsistence supplied to them, diverted their attention from projects and deeds of outrage, which were but too often the result to which their poverty, their oppression, and their despair had goaded them. Besides this, new sources of fertility, of wealth, and of civilization were opened by the reclamation of wild and barren tracts, and their conversion into the scenes of industry, order, and comfort; by opening new communications between parts before shut up from all mutual intercourse, and thus affording an easy transit for the produce of the country. Whenever the Government advanced sums of money for such a purpose it was invariably repaid. Indeed it was on all hands admitted, as well by the resident Gentry as by the Agents of Government itself, that such grants were refunded with interest. The distress of the poor in Ireland was always attended with demoralizing and turbulent effects, especially in Tipperary, which was frequently the scene of dissatisfaction and disturbance; and it behoved a wise Government and a parental Legislature to interpose and arrest the evil. There was no relief to be expected in the country itself. The people had no Poor-laws; the great proprietors in the vicinity of Thurles, the chief seat of the distress, could not be reached, as they resided out of the country. The hon. Member concluded by moving, "That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, that he will be graciously pleased to take the distress existing in the county of Tipperary and other districts in Ireland into his gracious consideration."

Mr. Lynch

supported the Motion, and testified to the great distress in the counties of Galway and Mayo. They only asked for employment of the people. The funds laid out for such purposes were always repaid to Government, while the people were kept tranquil and the country much improved.

Mr. Littleton

did not mean to deny that great distress existed in sonic parts, especially in Thurles; but he would deny, on the authority of official communications made to him, that it existent to the extent stated.—(The right hon. Secretary here read several letters on the subject, among the rest one from Major Miller, who was despatched by Government to report on the general state of the distress in Tipperary, to show that the distress was not so extensive as it had been represented). Government was not in the habit of advancing large grants of money without the concurrence of Parliament, though they were in the habit of extending relief partially and occasionally whenever a pressing case was made out. In the present instance Government had already made inquiries, and intended to go to every fair extent in affording aid. He was favourable to the encouragement of public works, and would recommend the completion of certain public works in Mayo and Galway, which, if not completed, would soon go to ruin, and which would cost only 13,000l. With respect to the precise Motion of the hon. Member for Tipperary, he would just ask why did not the Grand Jury of that county, which was a very wealthy one, raise funds by presentments? He did not think Parliament should be called on for contribution until the property of the parishes was assessed to the last farthing it could afford to pay. Why not compel the great land proprietors to pay?

Mr. Hume

thought the principle of the right hon. Secretary was a good one. But the object of the hon. Member for Tipperary would be gained if Government interfered.

Mr. Sheil,

in reply, expressed a hope that Government would institute a thorough inquiry. He also hoped, that the benevolent intentions of the Secretary for Ireland would be put in operation, and with those feelings he would beg leave to withdraw his Motion.

Motion withdrawn.