HC Deb 12 March 1834 vol 22 cc81-3
Mr. O'Connell

presented Petitions from the parish of St. Mary's, New Ross; from the parish of Longwood, county Meath; the parish of Tullalish, county Down; the parish of Ballyhogue, county Wexford;—for the Repeal of the Union. With regard to those petitions, he (Mr. O'Connell) would just mention to the House the circumstance of the women of these different places making an application to affix their signatures to the petitions. He mentioned this, to show the intense anxiety that predominated in the breast of the Irish people for the Repeal of the Union—an anxiety which would prevail until the object of it be attained.

Mr. Poulett Scrope

said, he had received a letter from Ireland, detailing scenes of misery which were sufficient to account for the feeling which the people had in favour of a Repeal of the Union, since that, they were told, would give them relief. The letter was from Dr. Locke, an officer of the Board of Health in Dublin. He stated, among other scenes he had recently witnessed, that in one house he found, in a garret, seven old and helpless females, without fire, food, or raiment, with the exception of a few rags, which they wore both night and day, which were wet, and remained so from the want of fire to dry them by. Dr. Locke added, that he had seen pigs in a sty better lodged. In an opposite room, he found nine human beings, younger than the first, with the same kind of covering. One of the women had a child hanging at her breast, crying for the nourishment she could not give, because she herself had been without food. But, he had seen still deeper misery than this; for he had seen, men, women, boys, and girls, lying down and rising together in one common room. Children of both sexes, from six to twelve years of age, were familiar with vice of every description, having no employment, and no one to take care of their morals. In one house in Felix-street, near Smithfield, he found nineteen females in one room, who formerly were employed as glovers; but who now, when they rose in the morning, had not one penny between them to buy food. Such being the state of things described by Dr. Locke, was it to be wondered, that the people called out for anything which they were told would give them relief? Could they be living in a Christian and civilized country, and allow such a state of things to go on without a remedy?

Mr. O'Connell

said, that the gentleman who had written the letter quoted by the hon. member for Stroud, was worthy of every credit. He had not at all exaggerated the deplorable condition of many in the city of Dublin. Another officer of the Board of Health (Surgeon White) had published a pamphlet, detailing what he had seen, from which it appeared, that in one parish, containing 8,000 inhabitants, there was only one blanket between every thirty-five persons. Such a state of destitution, was frightful, and that man, who did not feel for it, could not have a human heart beat in his breast. The only question was, the mode of relieving it. Formerly, there was a million of Irish money spent in Dublin, which was not the case now. One hundred noblemen had their residences there, as also two hundred country gentlemen. If they were still there, Dr. Locke would not have to write letters complaining of the state of the people, to gentlemen in England. There was not a city in the world of its size where so much charity existed. The hospitals and other benevolent establishments were most numerous, and were all of them supported without the aid of Government. He thought, that the only effective method that could be devised for the relief of the distressed people of Dublin, would be to allow the Irish to manage their own affairs; to oblige those who had money to spend it at home; and to give some compulsory power, such as formerly existed in this country, by which absentees could not only be called home, but that persons having estates in Ireland, should not be allowed to have them elsewhere. The hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House, thought a Poor-law the remedy for the distress to which he had alluded, but, in his opinion, a Poor-law would be an addition to the already existing grievances. He could never assent to the assertion, that, one man had a right to be relieved by the property of another being forcibly taken from him, and that was involved in the principle of Poor-laws. He did not say one word with respect to the moral obligation—his objection lay to the legal part of the question. There was no doubt that distress existed in Ireland, the difficulty was to find a remedy. The solution of that doubt would, he was sure, enlist all the feelings of that House.

Mr. Lambert

said, that there was no doubt that distress, to a melancholy extent, existed in Ireland, but he did not see how that distress would be relieved by the Repeal of the Union. Distress had existed previous to the Union, and it was matter of history, that measures of the greatest injustice to the poor had been passed by the Irish Parliament. He admitted, that absenteeism was an evil; but did it decrease the evil of absenteeism, by rendering the country uninhabitable, and driving out of it every man who did not belong to a particular faction? He knew that many gentlemen had been driven out of the country by the state of things which existed there—three were gentlemen who gave large employment to the people. Employment was all that was wanted to relieve the distress of the people; and he thought it would tend to more good, to direct the public attention to the demanding measures of practical relief, than to delude them into the pursuit of those which were impracticable. Governed as Ireland had been for centuries, she had at last a right to expect justice, and that justice would be most effectually rendered by taking measures for the relief of the people, by giving them employment and support.

Mr. Ruthven

was sorry, that, however Irish Members might disagree on other subjects, they were quite unanimous as to the existence of distress. It was too bad, after Ireland for thirty-three years had been suffering the effects of the Union, to attribute her present state to the bad Acts passed by the Irish Parliament. Ireland was in a state which required a variance from the strict principles of free trade. Her manufactures must be protected, for a time at least, and some measures should be taken to check absenteeism. He denied that any man was unsafe in Ireland, unless he made himself exceedingly obnoxious by his opposition to the interests of the people.

Petition to lie on the Table.

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