HC Deb 22 March 1839 vol 46 cc1118-20
Lord John Russell

said, I rise to move the postponement of some of the Orders of the Day, and first of all, the committal of the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Bill, which I propose shall be taken on Monday, the 15th of April. In moving this postponement, I will take this opportunity of stating to the House, that it is my intention, in the very first week after the recess, and on one of the first days after the holidays shall cease, to ask for the opinion of the House with respect to the government of Ireland in late years. It appears by the minutes of proceedings of the House of Lords, that that House of Parliament, at an early hour this morning, appointed a Select Committee to inquire into the state of Ireland since 1835, in respect of the crimes and outrages which had rendered life and property insecure in that part of the empire. Now, without wishing to enter into an argument with respect to the propriety of appointing that Committee, which it does not become me, particularly at this time, to enter into, I think it is obvious that the appointment of such a Committee, fixing the date of the commencement of the inquiry in the year 1835, and directing the investigation to be made upon the subject of crime and outrage, and the insecurity of life and property, must induce a general belief throughout the empire, and more especially in that part of the country which it affects, that it is intended to transfer the executive government of Ireland to a select committee of one House of Parliament; and that it is more especially intended to call into question the exercise of one of the highest prerogatives of the Crown—the exercise of the prerogative of mercy, by calling witnesses before the House. I do not say that there may not be circumstances which may justify such a course—I do not say, at this moment, whether there are or ate not—and I will not enter into the question whether the House of Lords may not have had arguments adduced before them to justify them to adopt such a course; but this I must say, that no person can proceed to carry on the government of Ireland, as Lord-lieutenant of that part of the United Kingdom, without being assured whether it is the intention of the House of Commons that those principles which have governed the administration of Ireland since 1835 should be adhered to, or whether they should be now abandoned. In conformity with the declaration which Lord Melbourne has made at various times, but in conformity, more particularly, with one especial declaration of that noble Lord, that he held office only so long as he retained the confidence of the House of Commons, I think it incumbent upon me, not leaving it to any other Member of Parliament, who may not be connected with the Government, to bring the question to an issue directly—whether this House adheres to the principle upon which the administration of the government of Ireland has been conducted. I am perfectly aware, that with respect to legislative measures, there have been cases which have induced this House to object to certain measures which we ourselves thought ought to be adopted, and we have not been able to carry them through Parliament, but then we have been able to do certainly—we have been able, with the confidence, as I believe, of one House, and with the forbearance of the other, to carry on the administration of Ireland in a way which we thought would conduce to the peace and prosperity of that part of the empire. It is on this question, then, that I shall think it necessary to ask the opinion of this House—whether it is disposed to approve of my noble Friend, Lord Ebrington, who is about to proceed as Lord-lieutenant to that country, continuing to maintain and execute the law in the same manner as hitherto; and he will do so if this House is pleased to agree with the Ministers upon that subject; but if it shall not be pleased to approve of the continuance of this plan, and the House think that it shall now be abandoned, and that other principles shall be adopted and maintained, in that case it will be our duty to relinquish into other hands the government of this country.

Other Orders of the day postponed. The House went into a Committee of

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