HC Deb 20 July 1849 vol 107 cc737-44

rose and said: I trust the House will grant me the privilege and indulgence which they are accustomed to accord in all cases of a personal nature, while I advert to certain animadversions on the character of a noble relative which were made in a debate in this House last night, unhappily during my absence. I regret I was not here when the discussion took place of which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mayo gave notice; and I must confess it is owing to my own negligence that I did not see, by the papers of the House, that such a discussion was to take place, and that I was not present at a debate connected with a most unfortunate and painful affair which occurred in the country to which I belong. I have nothing to complain of in the notice that was given by the hon. Gentleman, which unfortunately gave rise to a personal attack on a near and dear relative of mine, whose character, as far as I understand, was unanimously admitted by all parties to stand above reproach. I might allude to the attacks which were made upon my noble relative by other Gentlemen; but I must say here, that it would have been but fair in them, and at all events in accordance with the honorable course usually pursued in this House, if they had told me it was their intention to make these ungenerous attacks. Not only I, but there was with myself my noble Friend the Member for the county Down, who should have made it a point to be present. As it happened, however, neither of us were here on the occasion. Now, however, I will not advert further to those personal attacks upon my noble relative; they will not injure him. But I will advert to those charges which the hon. Gentleman has made upon the conduct of my noble relative in connexion with this unfortunate occurrence. I am informed by my noble relative that previous to the 12th of July be had been given to understand from large bodies of persons connected with the societies to which he had long belonged, that it was their wish and intention to pay him a visit of respect and affection at his own residence. My noble relative states, that he communicated with them, and succeeded in inducing many thousands of persons who intended being present to relinquish their intention. He stated at the same time that his gates should never be shut against any loyal man in his neighbourhood who chose to visit him on the 12th of July. But it was stated last night, most confidently, in this House, that 5,000 armed ruffians were received into his parlour, where they were fed and treated in such a way that, from the description given of it, people might naturally be led to think that they must have gone from my noble relative's house in a state of inebriety to disturb the country through which they were, to pass. On the contrary, my noble relative, knowing the feeling which still existed in the minds of many, in order to prevent the possibility of any collision among the people, took upon him-self to exert that influence which it is well known he has acquired to so largo an extent through the whole of the north of Ireland—which he possessed as an old member of the society to which these persons belonged—and which he wielded in consequence of his position in society. When they reached his park, he states that he addressed them; and I may now say, that I am satisfied, having read the address which he made to them, although there may be some language in it which, perhaps, I may say, is almost too loyal; there is nothing in that speech, I believe, which any man might be ashamed to address to his fellow-countrymen. I believe, and it is my firm conviction, that if, by speaking and addressing these people, my noble relative thought he could induce them to refrain from any collision similar to that which had unhappily resulted, it originated from his desire to exert his influence in allaying those feelings which might possibly exist in the breasts of those around him. I trust the House will permit me to read one or two lines from his speech, in confirmation of what I have said. He said— I trust that you will ever show to those who disapprove of your organisation that you are not a faction driven by party violence to commit unlawful acts: but that you wish to see all denominations enjoying the blessings which you seek for yourselves. I trust that your motto is unchanged, 'Semper eadem '—involving the preservation of your rights, the promotion of peace, and the welfare of all denominations of your fellow-subjects. I trust that you will rather take evil than promote it—that nothing will induce you, in returning to your homes, to resent any insults you may receive. That was the language of the speech in which he addressed them, using his influence that he might prevent the catastrophe which occurred; that was the language in which he addressed them, expressing his trust that nothing might be abroad to stir up a feeling of animosity or ill-will between the two parties. I understand, also, that in the presence of so many gathered together, while he was addressing them in that language, they were surrounded by a number of Roman Catholics, who joined them at the time within the precincts of his grounds, and that no appearance of ill-will whatever was displayed. I can assure the House that no one more deeply deplores than my noble relative this unfortunate catastrophe. That my noble relative, possessing influence, and having addressed this multitude of people, would have used the opportunity for any other purpose than to have prevented the occurrence which we all deplore, is an opinion which I thought no one in this House would have entertained; the more especially as my noble relative enjoys the respect and affection of both parties in Ireland, throughout the district in which he resides, where no man was more dear to the Roman Catholic or the Protestant. I have to thank the House for the patience and indulgence with which they have heard me. I have refrained from entering upon the general question, because I think we have not before us the information which would enable us to come to any satisfactory conclusion upon it; and having adverted simply to the personal matter mixed up with it, I shall not allude further to the subject.


said, he felt that some apology was necessary to the hon. Member for Mayo for his accidental absence from the discussion last night. The fact was, that having had occasion to go out of town yesterday morning, he had a good deal of public business to attend to on his return, and did not observe the hon. Gentleman's Motion on the Votes, otherwise he should have been present. He hoped, however, that he would now be permitted to state that the Government were convinced—although they had arrived at the conclusion with deep regret—that it would be necessary for them to introduce a Bill to prohibit party processions in Ireland. The House was aware that a temporary Act for the purpose of preventing processions in certain cases was suffered to expire in 1845; and he certainly had hoped that it would not be necessary either to renew that Act, or to introduce another of the same kind. The Government, however, had come to the resolution of introducing, at the commencement of next Session, a measure not merely for prohibiting party processions in certain cases, but to prevent all processions of persons carrying arms, or emblems calculated to create animosities or excite violence. And while he made this announcement, he bogged also to say, that he could not for a moment countenance, but, on the contrary, must strongly protest against, the doctrine held in certain places, that because the former Act had been allowed to expire, such meetings were therefore necessarily legal. It was not necessary to constitute an illegal meeting that it was prohibited by statute law. Under the common law, a meeting, although connected with a society that was perfectly lawful, might, from the circumstances attending it, be an unlawful assembly, although not prohibited by express statute. If the assembly or procession consisted of large numbers of armed men, and was calculated to inspire terror, or lead to a collision, or to a breach of the public peace, it would be an unlawful assembly. It would, of course, be at the discretion of Government or of the local authorities whether they should take any means to prevent such an assembly or procession from taking place, or whether they should provide against the: probable consequences resulting from it. But he was anxious, after what bad been said, and in consequence of the question which had been put by the hon. Member for Limerick last night, to state what he believed to be the common law of the land. With reference to the melancholy occurrence of the 12th of July, he agreed that it required the strictest and most searching investigation into all the circumstances connected with it.


hoped the House would permit him to state that he had received a letter from the Karl of Roden, and to read a part of it to them, with respect to the fact of there being Roman Catholics present in his park on that occasion. He assured the House, from his own; personal knowledge of the noble Lord, and the parties residing in the district of Tully-more-park, most of whom were Roman Catholics, that the most entire good feeling was entertained towards him by those parties. He said he was firmly convinced that the Earl of Roden took the course which he believed best calculated to ensure the peaceful dispersion of those who came to pay him a visit of respect. For he did not invite them; they themselves came to him; and having been connected with the body to which they belonged for many years, it was not likely on that occasion that he should turn the cold shoulder to them. He gave them a welcome to his park and his domains. But that led him to remark, if any transaction could be admitted as an excuse for it—if any excuse could be admitted for it—they must look to late events winch had occurred in Ireland as a reason for the Orange body being more upon the qui vive, and more excited than usual. He could not help thinking that that was the cause for their assembling in so large numbers, and that the Earl of Roden, seeing the state of their feelings, used his influence to prevent collision. That result, which afterwards turned out, was not more sincerely regretted by any man than by the Earl of Roden. He did not mean to say, entirely unconnected with them as he was, and yet agreeing with them in many things, that the Orangemen had not on many occasions come forward and done themselves credit. But he was extremely sorry to say that so long as societies of this kind continued to thrive in Ireland, the peace of the country could never be consolidated—never while there were societies of Orangemen and Ribbonmen. He said he pressed the Government last year to introduce some measure for the repression of these manifestations, but they said they could do nothing. Again, this year, about the 17th of March, when a collision took place of a somewhat similar nature, though not in connexion with these societies, he pressed the subject upon their attention; and surely there was time to introduce a Bill upon the subject. But, no; it was kept back so long; that it would have been felt as a stigma if the Bill had been introduced so nearly before the 12th of July. If such a Bill bad been introduced, he was sure it would have been received with approbation on both sides of the House; and what were the feelings of the Earl of Roden upon this subject would best appeal' from a letter which be held in his hand, written by that noble Lord some time ago. [The noble Viscount then read an extract stating that the Earl of Roden felt it would be right to bring in a Bill for the suppression of processions entirely in Ireland—that he trusted some such measure would be introduced without delay, which would have the effect of at once and for ever putting down all party processions.] In conclusion, he would say, that he agreed with the Earl of Roden in his opinion that measures ought long ago to have been taken; but he must remind the House at the same time of the large masses of Orangemen that were collected on the same day over the whole of the north of Ireland when no collision whatever took place.


was not about to repeat the observations he had made on the previous evening; but he thought that the noble Viscount who had just spoken should not attempt to make it appear that Government had neglected their duty in not passing the Act, because he (Mr. Bright) believed that they had acted in accordance with the opinion of Parliament, in refraining at that time. The noble Viscount should rather turn his attention to the gentlemen of large property in the north of Ireland, who must know that these processions were contrary to law. If that were true, great blame must attach to those noblemen and gentlemen—some of whom were concerned with the administration of justice, and who did not on the recent occasion make use of their combined authority and influence to put a stop to these processions. Without saying a word against the Earl of Roden, whose private character he had always heard highly spoken of, he must say it was time that noblemen and gentlemen of influence should separate themselves from this old and bad system, through which the country had suffered so much. And although the Earl of Roden might not have thought it right to shut his park gates, yet he might have issued such a previous proclamation or address as would have prevented the catastrophe. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department, down to the Earl of Roden, or the magistrates, for their own account of the transaction, because it was likely to be a one-sided account. What he asked for was a special inquiry, such as had been known in this country and in Ireland in former times, when events of a similar nature took place—an inquiry whereby not only the facts as to the death, but as to the origin of the affair, would be elicited; who had got up the procession, who had attended it, and whether those who ought to have discountenanced it had participated in it.


rose to order. There was no question before the House.


overruled the objection.


One witness had stated at the inquest that he could give the coroner the names of many who were present, and were, therefore, responsible. He was quite sure that Government could not institute too rigid an inquiry, for he was certain that Parliament would require and the country would insist on it.


could not allow this discussion to close Without saying a few words. He had been chairman of a Committee of that House which had reported in favour of the suppression of those assemblages, and an address had been presented to the King, who sanctioned its recommendations; and the present King of Hanover called upon all the Orange lodges, of which he was then at the head, to dissolve, they being illegal bodies. He could not but express his regret that those lodges should have been reconstructed, and those illegal processions continued. If any one opened the book which contained the evidence given before that Committee, they would at once sec how dangerous it was to suffer such associations to exist, and what melancholy results had always followed from their proceedings—how they kept alive party feeling—increased sectarian rancour, and turned away the minds of the people from the pursuits of honest industry. He could not help repeating, what he had formerly stated, that if any nobleman in the service of the Crown, however high his rank or estimable his private qualities, so far forgot himself and his position as to lend himself to a movement and a body which could do nothing else than stir up religious rancour, and disseminate ill-will among the Queen's subjects, the Government was bound to act upon the precedent which they had formerly made, and dismiss him. Such a person ought to be removed from the commission of the peace. It was not upon the heads of those noblemen and gentlemen that the fatal consequences of such gross misconduct fell, but often upon innocent parties. Those associations ought to be discontinued at once and entirely, not merely by the Government, but by the local gentry—by every man of station, rank, and influence. He regretted to find that more coercive legislation for Ireland was necessary, but he felt it to be his duty to give his cordial support to the Bill which the Government intended to introduce.

Subject dropped.