HC Deb 09 August 1843 vol 71 cc409-10
Lord Northland

begged to ask the right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government, whether it were the intention of the right hon. Baronet to repeal or extend the act, the 2nd and 3rd William IV,, which related to party processions in Ireland?

Sir R. Peel

The act to which the noble Lord had alluded did not expire in the present Session, but its operation was limited to the end of the next Session of Parliament. The object of the act was of a special nature. It certainly prohibited processions, but they must have reference to the celebration of some anniversary or festival connected with religious differences in Ireland; and not only that, but the parties joining in such processions must either be armed or have emblems or devices calculated to excite religious animosity, or be accompanied by bands playing party tunes tending to the same effect. With respect to the application of the act, her Majesty's Government were of course prepared to give a general and impartial application to its provisions as far as they go; but the general operation of the bill was limited to the celebration of some religious anniversary or festival connected with religion, and therefore there might be processions to which the act did not apply. The act would expire next Session, and of course it would then be the duty of Parliament to determine what course should be taken, but it was not the intention of the Government, in the course of the present Session, either to repeal the act, which would expire next Session, or to give it a more extended application than its present provisions allowed of. Nothing would be more gratifying to the Government if, when the act expired, there should be no further necessity for its removal. The course pursued by the Protestant body in relinquishing their processions reflected the highest credit on them; and induced a hope that, as far as they were concerned, it might be in the power of the Government to dispense with the act.