HC Deb 02 March 1835 vol 26 cc486-9
Mr. Henry Grattan

said, that he had given notice of a Motion for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the proceedings which took place at Rathcormac, in Ireland, on the 18th of December last; and also for a copy of a letter signed Fitzroy Somerset, dated Horse Guards, 22nd of February, and addressed to Sir Hussey Vivian; but as it was not his wish to excite a debate on the affairs of Ireland, situated as the House and the Government at present were, and still less to give rise to a discussion on the late lamentable occurrence at Rathcormac, which he gave his Majesty's Ministers credit for sincerely lamenting, he should, therefore, not persist in his Motion for a Committee to inquire into that unhappy affair. If, indeed, he were to follow up his original intention, it might prejudice the parties who were implicated, and who now awaited their trial for the part they took in those proceedings. He did not, however, conceive that the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for Ireland would object to the production of a copy of the letter which was addressed by the Horse Guards to the military that were employed on that occasion, especially as the letter had, in fact, been already made public. Under this impression, he would not, at this time, enter further into the subject; but begged to move that a copy of such letter be laid before the House. He objected to the terms of that letter which praised the conduct of the military, and in this peculiar case might become prejudicial on the trial of the parties concerned in the affair. He thought that the phrases "satisfaction," and "unqualified approbation" might as well have been omitted in the letter.

Sir Henry Hardinge

was glad, that the hon. Member for Meath had consented to withdraw his Motion for a Committee, which in the present state of proceedings must have been inconvenient, to say the least of it. On the subject of the second part of the hon. Member's Motion which referred to the letter written by order of Lord Hill, the hon. Member was under an erroneous impression as to the intention of the Commander in Chief in issuing that order. Lord Hill merely intended to express his satisfaction, that the troops had obeyed the directions of the Magistracy when called on so to do; but the letter did not contain any expression of satisfaction that the military had been so employed, nor did it enter into the merits of the case. All it said respecting the melancholy affair in question was simply this—" You (the military) have been required to obey the Magistrates, and you have been employed by them; the Magistrates have expressed their satisfaction at your conduct on the occasion through the Lord Lieutenant, and you are entitled to thanks for obeying the civil power." The letter was addressed to the troops, and was never intended to be made public; how it got into the newspapers he (Sir Henry Hardinge) could not tell. He trusted, that the hon. Gentleman would be satisfied with this explanation. He could show the hon. Member that precisely the same thing had been done in the case of Bristol, Carlisle, &c., where, without reference to the result of verdicts, it was always the practice (when the troops had acted under the civil power in consequence of an application from the Magistrates) to convey to the military such an intimation as this—"You have acted under the Magistrates' orders, and they have expressed themselves satisfied with your conduct." That was the whole amount of the approbation bestowed in the present case. If the hon. Gentleman should think fit, after this explanation, to persist in his Motion, he (Sir Henry Hardinge) felt no great objection to it, but he really thought, under all the circumstances, it might be better if the hon. Gentleman would do Lord Hill the justice not to call for the letter.

Mr. O'Connell

said, it was because he thought there ought not to be any discussion on this subject at present that he hoped the letter would be laid on the Table, and nothing more said about it. The right hon. Gentleman's explanation was perfectly clear,—let individuals have the benefit of it without any reply, for the same reason as had induced the hon. Member for Meath to decline pressing his first Motion. He repeated, let the right hon. Gentleman's explanation have its full weight till it was replied to.

Sir John Byng

wished to say one word in justice to Lord Hill. That noble Lord never intended to express any opinion as to the conduct of the Magistrates in employing the troops at Rathcormac. But those troops having conducted themselves with the greatest activity, steadiness, and forbearance, and to the perfect satisfaction of the Magistrates, the noble Lord wished to convey the expression of that satisfaction to the troops, to whom nothing could possibly be more acceptable.

Mr. Littleton

said, that having very recently belonged to the Government more immediately connected with Ireland, he was anxious to advert for one moment to an observation which had been made both in the House and out of it—namely, that the late Government were responsible for the unfortunate proceedings that had occurred at Rathcormac. He begged to state, that neither the late nor the present Government could be considered responsible for those proceedings. Application was made to the Government in the ordinary course for the assistance of the troops. That application was supported by the usual affidavits making out a strong case, on the part of those applying, of the apprehension of danger in the event of assistance not being afforded. These were received by him, and submitted to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who, according to the uniform practice in such cases, referred the matter to the local Magistracy, who were best qualified to say, how far it was requisite that any extraordinary protection should be afforded to the parties. It having been deemed necessary to afford them the protection required, the usual order was issued to the officer commanding the troops in that particular district to put himself in communication with the officers of police; and they, again, were directed to communicate with the Magistrates, and the parties making the application. The only persons, therefore, who could be considered responsible for the lamentable events that followed, were those under whose orders the military fired. Whether their conduct was proper or not, was a question which this house ought not, in the present state of the case at least, to inquire into. But those who took his view of the unhappy occurrences resulting from the employment of troops for the recovery of tithes in Ireland, would hold those persons responsible who refused to pass a measure last Session, in the other House of Parliament, which would have prevented the necessity of having recourse to the troops for any such purpose.

The Motion was agreed to.