HC Deb 08 February 1850 vol 108 cc611-3

said, that in rising, in pursuance of the notice which he had given, in compliance with a pledge made at the close of last Session by his right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department, to move for leave to bring in a Bill to restrain Party Processions in Ireland, he should take the opportunity of briefly stating to the House the reasons which induced the Government to ask for this measure; and he would also shortly describe the nature of the Bill. The House was aware that this was not the first time the Parliament had been called upon to legislate on the subject. Unfortunately, in former times, party processions and party collisions frequently took place in Ireland. Formerly, attempts by proclamations, and by the authority and example of influential persons, were made to put a stop to such a state of things, but unfortunately all these efforts failed. In consequence of this, in 1832 a Bill was brought into that House, to restrain and put down these party processions. That Bill, which was for a limited period, was passed into a law, and it was renewed, at different times, until in June, 1845, it was allowed to expire. From that time to the present no such enactment existed for the purpose of putting down such processions. He wished he could say there had yet been no occasion to pass such an Act as existed at the time it was allowed to expire, in 1845. Since that time many influential Gentlemen, both by warning and exhortation, had endeavoured to put a stop to those proceedings; and the Government also, with the same object, on the approach of certain anniversaries, had directed additional forces of military and police to be sent into those districts in which such processions were expected to take place, but unfortunately those efforts had failed. Party processions had occurred at various parts of the country, and collisions had taken place between different classes of the people; and the consequence was that bloodshed had followed, and the greatest ill-will prevailed. In such a state of things he thought it would be considered the duty of the Legislature to interfere by some specific enactment on the subject. It might be true that by the common law these processions, as tending to a breach of the peace, might be punished as misdemeanors; but, unfortunately, it had not been found sufficient to meet the evil. In the few remarks he had offered to the House, he had not alluded to particular cases. It had been his wish to avoid them, because the Bill he proposed to bring in was not aimed at any particular party; and if he had been led into particular allusions, he should have incurred the risk of disturbing that unanimity and general concurrence of all parties which it was his wish to secure. He was sure that there was no Gentleman in that House who did not feel an anxiety to put an end to these unseemly scenes, and to put down a system which had been productive of so much evil. These party processions had caused loss of life and destruction of property, but not that alone; for they had tended to keep alive feelings of animosity and ill-will among the inhabitants of the same district, and thus retarded the coming of prosperity. That was a state of things which every Gentleman, on what side of the House soever he might sit, must desire to put a stop to. He would say no more on that point. He should have been well pleased if such a condition of affairs had existed as to render this measure unnecessary, and that special legislation had not been called for by party views and feelings. As the case stood, however, he had felt it his duty to propose this Bill to the House. Of the object and nature of the Bill he need only say that it proposed to deal with offences of this description in the same way as in the former Act—by summary jurisdiction; and that it was proposed to make this Bill perpetual.

Leave given.

Bill ordered to he brought in by Sir William Somerville, Sir George Grey, and Mr. Solicitor General for Ireland.

The House adjourned at half after Eleven o'clock till Monday next.