HC Deb 17 August 1835 vol 30 cc614-8

Upon the Order of the Day for the third reading of the Municipal Corporations' (Ireland) Bill,

Mr. Sinclair

Sir, it is, perhaps, scarcely worth while to animadvert upon the tendency of this Measure, as it will be admitted both by its supporters and opponents, that there is no prospect of its becoming the law of the land during this Session, nor,—I trust,—in its present shape,—during any future Session of Parliament. It must pass through the ordeal of an assembly in which the laws of truth and justice will not be set at nought—an assembly, in which institutions and vested rights will not, without, in careful investigation conducted under the auspices of its own Members, he invaded— an assembly, in which individuals holding responsible offices will not be condemned without a hearing. Sir, I object to the partial and vexatious inquiries conducted under the auspices of his Majesty's Government—inquiries in which they have appeared in two incompatible capacities—first, as the accusers of municipal authorities; and next, as appointing juries, under the name of Commissioners, without any power of challenge on the part of the accused, on the ground either of prejudice or incapacity. No one is more adverse than I am to the continuance of municipal abuses; but I strenuously object to a Measure, introduced at so late a period of the Session, for the mere purpose of acquiring power with the Roman Catholics, and with a perfect conviction in the minds of his Majesty's Ministers themselves, that the Bill cannot possibly become the law of the land. This Measure may be entitled "An Act to facilitate the restoration of Roman Catholic supremacy, and destroy the Protestant Establishment in Ireland, by transferring influence from property, which, in a preponderating ratio, is in the hands of Protestants, to Roman Catholics, who, in point of number, would in most cases, obtain the pre-eminence. This Bill might just as well contain a Clause enacting that the mayor and municipal officers of every Corporation in Ireland should march out with ropes about their necks, and Jay the keys of their respective towns and cities at the feet of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin. In my opinion, no greater calamity can befal Ireland than the consolidation of Roman Catholic power, and I more especially protest against the ascendancy of my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Dublin, which has increased, and is increasing, and ought, if possible, to be diminished. To any such results his Majesty's Ministers, and their adherents, appear to be wholly indifferent; or, may I not rather say, that they are most anxious to promote them? It seems to me that they have no objection to what they consider (and what I deny to be) a Liberal Government and a Protestant Establishment; but that their love of power and office would prompt them to prefer a Libe- ral Government and a Popish Establishment, to a Protestant Establishment and a Conservative Government. I wish to abstain from using any disrespectful or uncourteous language towards my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Dublin. I have often regretted the personalities with which he has been from time to time assailed. I am far from participating in the obloquy which has, I think, most unjustly been cast upon him from various quarters, because he accepts from that portion of the Irish people whose views he advocates in this House, an indemnity for relinquishing the emoluments of that profession, in which he is perhaps without a rival, and certainly without a superior; nay, I will venture to add, that I should some times also have been glad to have seen him promoted to any high judicial office, the duties of which I am persuaded that he would have discharged with consummate talent and great integrity. I do firmly believe, that his motto would have been cedant arma togœ, or in other words, if he had assumed the judicial ermine, I am convinced that he would have laid aside the cuirass of political turmoil. But I am persuaded that it is the paramount duty of all those who are anxious to uphold the Protestant interest in Ireland,—or, I may add, in Great Britain,—to concur in resisting the machinations which he, and those who belong to his persuasion, are engaged in, for the purpose of subverting the Protestant Church in the Sister Island, and substituting a Popish Establishment in its room. This object would, I think, be greatly promoted by the provisions of the crude and crafty Measure which is now before the House, and against which I shall content myself with thus briefly protesting; because I know that all opposition would be utterly unavailing to any measure however anti-Protestant, or anti-national, which his Majesty's Ministers might think proper to introduce.

Mr. O'Connell

remarked that there was in Scotland an hallucination of the mind that was called "second sight;" and it appeared to him that his hon. Friend was labouring under a delusion of that kind. The imagination of his hon. Friend ran away with his judgment; and his religious feelings were so excited—they were so Quixotic—that if he did not see giants in windmills, why he turned the windmills into giants. This Bill had seriously nothing to do with religion; creeds could not interfere with it; its object was one which every friend to the country must wish to see attained. It was to give to those who contributed to the support of a Corporation a right to have the regulation of their own affairs. Why the question of religion could be brought into such a subject he could not imagine. It really required a poetic imagination to mix up religion with such a question. The Bill was an admirable Bill for the present state of society in Ireland. It for the first time set aside every species of distinction, and gave to the people of Ireland practically the power to regulate their own concerns. That was the object of this Bill; and when his hon. Friend introduced the subject of religion into the discussion upon such a Bill, he would ask his hon. Friend if he attributed to the Protestant religion the abuses in the Corporations of Ireland. Why he would be the greatest enemy to the Protestant religion who would connect it with peculation, robbery, and the waste of public money. He defended Protestantism against such an imputation. This Bill would put an end to the monopolists—no matter what their religion might be. He had no apprehension that a qualification clause would be introduced into the Irish Bill; out of thirty members of one guild in Dublin, he was able to show that eighteen of them ought to be independent, for they had gone through the Insolvent Court. In Cork, upward of 70,000l., collected from 120,000 of the King's subjects, were under the control of 300 members of a Corporation. He did not think that there was any Member of that House that should congratulate himself that corruption would find protection elsewhere, and that this would be done in any place where there was an affectation for protecting the rights of the poor. He did not suppose that such a place existed; but if it was so, then it ought to be hotter than it was at present.

Dr. Baldwin

said, that it would appear from the observations of the hon. Member (Mr. Sinclair) as if that hon. Gentleman considered that the entire of the cities and counties in Ireland, as far as related to the Roman Catholic inhabitants, were under the influence of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin. Those who entertained such an opinion, knew nothing of Ireland, and were unacquainted with the intelligence of the people of that country. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin owed his influence to this—that the people sympathised, with his efforts to redress the grievances of Ireland. Should that hon. and learned Gentleman go in opposition to the wishes or the interest of the people they would fling him off, and leave him to seek for influence and power elsewhere. With regard to the people of the city which he represented (Cork), both he and his colleague could state that the persons who would be qualified under the proposed measure were independent and intelligent men, and well calculated to undertake the direction of their own affairs. The towns and cities of Ireland were as well entitled to the privileges about to be conferred by this Bill as were those of England or Scotland, and no temporary opposition could check the call for, or impede the progress of, liberal institutions in that country. It was in vain to think of governing Ireland any longer by a party. She was resolved to obtain her rights by one mode or another, and it would be better to meet them by fair and just legislation. To shew the necessity of Corporation Reform in Ireland, he would conclude by observing that the whole power of the Corporation of Cork, was concentrated in a small body called the Friendly Club, which managed all the Corporate funds and appointed to all Corporate offices.

Mr. Borthwick

;—The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down says that Ireland will have certain measures, either by fair or foul means, and desires the House to anticipate her wishes. Now this should not be the principle on which Government ought to proceed. The principle should be—what in justice ought Ireland to have, and what in justice ought to be denied to her? This having been inquired into and ascertained, let the motto be fiat justilia ruat cœlum.

Mr. Sinclair

was not the advocate of Corporate abuses, on the contrary, he would endeavour to remedy them; but he did not think this was the proper mode of proceeding to do so.

Mr. Kirk

objected to the third reading of the Bill, but at that advanced period of the Session he could not think of detaining the House by entering at length upon the subject. He should content himself, under the present circumstances of the case, by entering his protest against the Bill.

The Bill read a third time, and passed.