HC Deb 11 May 1843 vol 69 cc188-9
Mr. Ross

(adverting to a suggestion made by Sir R. Peel, that hon. Members who had notices of motion on the paper should give way, in order to allow the adjourned debate on the Corn-laws to be resumed), said, that he would propose a course by which much time might be saved, and his object gained. He would propose, that the House should give him leave to lay his bill on the Table, and let the discussion be taken on the second reading. The hon. Member then proceeded to move for leave to bring in a bill for the release of her Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects in Ireland from obligation to take and subscribe the oath prescribed by the act 10 George 4th, commonly called the " Catholic oath." He said the oath was found to be productive of much delay, annoyance, and injustice during the progress of elections in Ireland, opposing parties being in the habit of demanding that voters should produce a certifi- cate that they had taken the oath, or that they would take it before a magistrate prior to their being polled. The hon. Member for Oxford seemed to think that the oath was one of the securities of the Protestant Church in Ireland, but it was scarcely worthy of being regarded in so important a light; and no wise man who had witnessed the course of elections in that country, and the injuries, and unfriendly classification of the electors, of which it was the cause, would deny that it was a serious grievance and ought to be dispensed with.

Mr T. B. C. Smith

(Attorney-General for Ireland) said, that although the Government could not be considered bound by the decision of a committee, there were two cases, the Cork and Car-low election petitions, in which it had been decided, that by the provisions of the Reform Act the oath wag unnecessary, and that fact of itself might be considered a sufficient justification of the hon. Member in his attempt to introduce this bill. He should not oppose the motion, but reserve to himself the right of giving his opinion upon it hereafter, when he had taken its several clauses into his consideration.

Sir H. W. Barron

said, he had witnessed the vexatious use to which the oath had been turned at elections in Ireland. He had known agents to make opposition to every man who had not or could not be proved at the moment to have taken that oath.

Mr. Sheil

observed, that there could be no doubt of the oath having been made the instrument of annoyance and delay to serve the purpose of the objectors, and might he used by Roman Catholic candidates, as it had been used by Protestant candidates. Sometimes magistrates had been induced to keep out of the way for three or four hours, during which time not a single Roman Catholic elector was permitted to vote.

Leave given.