HC Deb 01 August 1842 vol 65 cc896-8
Mr. Sheil

said, he wished to put certain questions to the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, relative to the very remarkable evidence given by an approver, of the name of Hagan, at the last assizes for Armagh. It appeared from a report which appeared in a public newspaper, that the approver stated that he went about administering unlawful oaths, and making Ribbonmen by the hundred, with the knowledge of the police and certain magistrates. The report stated:— The first I spoke to about Ribbonism, after I was 'necked,' was constable Johnston, and I told him to go for the Provost of Sligo, which he did. When I had conferred with that gentleman, I was let out on heavy bail. After that I attended meetings, made passwords, Ribbonmen, and all that. I made Ribbonmen by the hundreds. The police knew that was the business I went on. I was out' from September till February. I did not expect to be wanted by the police till about Patrick's Day—till the assizes time. When I returned, I told them about the meetings. By the word 'them,' I mean Mr. Fawcett, Provost of Sligo, and the magistrates. While I was out of gaol, I concocted about sixty-six Ribbon papers, and scattered them about as well as I could. The magistrates knew all this. During the time I wrote several letters to people, and got answers. I took the oath of the society once, twice, thrice, four times—aye, fourteen times—I had no further to go, or I would have sworn more. I am this moment breaking them all. 1 get my support from the Government. My conscience stretches sometimes. During the six months I was out I was as busy as ever at the ' old trade.' Now he believed that to be a correct report, and he now wished to ask the noble Lord opposite whether he believed the report of the evidence of the approver to be correct—whether he had seen any report of the trial, on the authenticity of which he could rely—whether he believed that Hagan stated he had been employed by the police in the way mentioned in his evidence— whether the magistrates were aware that the approver, after he had first given his evidence before them, went among the people administering illegal oaths to them; and, finally whether the Government had been officially informed of the course of proceeding adopted by the magistrates?

Lord Eliot

was not then able satisfactorily to answer the questions of the right hon. Gentleman. He knew nothing more of the facts of the case than appeared in the public prints. He was aware that an approver of the name of Hagan had been in confinement for some time, and that he had made communications which had led to the apprehension of certain individuals. He was not aware that the approver had been employed by the police or the magistrates to administer unlawful oaths, after he had given his evidence. He believed that crimes arising out of secret societies could be proceeded against only upon the evidence of an approver; but at the same time he should express his conviction, that the employment of an approver in the way stated (if the report were correct) was certainly objectionable. He must repeat, however, that his only knowledge of the circumstances of the trial was derived from a perusal of the newspaper to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred. He would write and obtain more accurate information on the subject which he should be ready to communicate to the House.