HC Deb 11 July 1854 vol 135 cc90-4

said, that, in bringing forward this Motion, he was not actuated by any feeling of sectarianism; but his object was to ascertain if there had been any unfair dealing with reference to promotion in the constabulary force; for, if anything of the kind existed, it was calculated to prejudice the character of the force. The main body of that force consisted of Roman Catholics, and it appeared that they had been almost entirely excluded from promotion. The whole force consisted of about 12,500 men, of whom, as well as he could ascertain, 9,000 were Roman Catholics, and the remaining 3,500 were Protestants. With regard to the officers of that force, there was one inspector general, who was a Protestant; two deputy inspectors, also Protestants; two assistant deputy inspectors, Protestants; and thirty-five county inspectors, who were all Protestants, with the exception of one, appointed since he had given notice of his Motion. The House must bear in mind that it was upon the recommendation of the county inspectors that all promotions from the lower grades were made. The paymasters, receivers, and surgeons were all Protestants. In the whole country there were 248 sub-inspectors, and of them 219 were Protestants; there were 322 head-constables, 268 of whom were Protestants; 1,800 constables, 1,300 of whom were Protestants; but of the sub-constables, who composed the main body of the force, the number of Catholics was 8,300, and of Protestants, 1,600. The effect of this system had been to induce many sub-constables to leave the force and to emigrate. He did not make this Motion, as he had just stated, with any sectarian spirit, for if the picture had been reversed, and if there were an undue promotion of Catholics, he should have still more willingly brought the circumstance under the notice of the House. The great power of this force was derived from the respect entertained for it by the people. Ireland was now almost denuded of soldiers, and the preservation of peace and order was intrusted to the constabulary, and he called on the Government not to allow a system to go on which would shake the confidence of the people in that force.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That there be laid before this House, Returns of the number of Inspectors, County Inspectors, Sub-Inspectors, Receivers, Surgeons, Assistant Surgeons, Veterinary Surgeons, Paymasters, Head Constables, Constables, and Sub-Constables, now forming the Constabulary Force in Ireland, and stating the pay and emoluments of each class, and the number of Catholics in each class: Of the number of Promotions or Appointments to each class above the rank of Sub-Constable in each year for ten years last past, and stating in each instance the number of Catholics promoted or appointed: And, of the number of Sub-Constables who have left the force within the last three years.


said, he hoped the House would support him in resisting this Motion, for he felt convinced that the production of a mere return of figures, unaccompanied by a statement, would be commented on as all such things were in Ireland, and would have the same gloss put on it as the hon. and learned Gentleman had endeavoured to throw over the statements which he had just made. He was prepared to assert that no injustice had taken place in the promotions in the constabulary force, nor did he believe that they had been at all influenced by any sectarian partiality. On the contrary, instead of the Roman Catholics having been unjustly treated, they had received even more than their just share of promotion. It must be remembered that, though the Roman Catholics formed the great majority of the population of Ireland, they did not form the majority of those classes who were eligible for situations where education and intelligence were required. The hon. and learned Member asserted that the Roman Catholics were quitting the force and emigrating on account of the unfairness with which they were treated in respect of promotion, but the numbers of Protestants who had left the force was much greater than that of the Roman Catholics; and he must, moreover, express his entire disbelief that the reason given by the hon. and learned Gentleman was anything like the true one for the resignations that had taken place. The grievance of which the constabulary had complained in their memorials to the Government was insufficient pay, and in no single instance had any complaint been made of partiality in the distribution of promotion. Originally the force consisted almost altogether of Protestants. When Sir Duncan M'Gregor took the command of it they were nearly two to one to the Roman Catholics, though now the proportions were exactly the reverse; but it must be remembered that length of service was one of the most important qualifications for promotion, and as all the older constables were Protestants, it was not unnatural that the higher officers were mostly Protestants. Thus, among the head constables of the class first, out of fifty-four only fourteen were Roman Catholics and the remainder Protestants, the proportion being seventeen to forty; among the head constables of the second class ninety-three were Roman Catholics and 173 Protestants, or as seventeen to thirty-one; while among the constables the numbers rapidly approached their natural proportions, there being 930 Roman Catholics and 808 Protestants, or seventeen to fourteen. There was no doubt, however, that in course of years, as the length of service of the Roman Catholics increased, they would gradually emerge into the higher ranks. With regard to punishments and rewards, last year he found that 174 Roman Catholics had been dismissed and seventy-six Protestants, while special rewards were granted to sixty-three Roman Catholics and twenty-eight Protestants, corresponding nearly with their respective numbers in the force. The resignations, too, seemed to hold pretty much the same proportion, being 498 Roman Catholics, and 277 Protestants, during the last year. The average service of the officers promoted was, for the Roman Catholics, 19 1–13 years, and for the Protestants 22⅓ therefore, if anything had been done it was rather to promote the Roman Catholics than to keep them back. He did not think the return moved for by the hon. and learned Gentleman would be useful to the public service, and he should, therefore, not consent to it.


said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman had made an admirable ease for giving the return. Any evil that could result from publishing the figures would be produced by the discussion. If the return were granted, the right hon. Gentleman could take the opportunity of making any statement he wished.


said, he should oppose the Motion. He had never heard one more likely to have a mischievous effect, from its sectarian tendency; nothing was more likely to give that character to the force, which had been so free from it since the first institution. The force possessed the confidence of every class, which it would not, if it was sectarian. The Motion was an attempt to get up a grievance, and make an attack on Sir Duncan M'Gregor, than whom there was not a better or more successful officer under the Crown. He bad brought his force to as high a state of discipline as any regiment in Her Majesty's service. He wished the right hon. Secretary for Ireland had opposed the Motion, on the ground that it was an attempt to censure a meritorious officer. It would be different if the hon. and learned Member for Ennis had brought forward any case of injustice to a Roman Catholic; he did not, because none such existed. The men were leaving the force in large numbers, but that was because the Colonies presented more advantages than the low pay of the Government; but there was no discontent amongst them.


said, he entirely disclaimed any intention of attacking Sir Duncan M'Gregor. As the noble Lord, however, had challenged him he would produce an instance. There was only one Roman Catholic amongst the county inspectors. That gentleman, Mr. Bracher, had been appointed only since his notice had been on the book, and he believed in consequence of it; he was a most excellent officer, who had served as an inspector for twenty-one years. It was not the fact that when Sir Duncan M'Gregor took charge of the force it was almost entirely Protestant; he was only ten years at the head of it, and the returns showed that long before that time the proportion of Protestants and Roman Catholics in the lower ranks was nearly the same as at present. The force was disciplined by Colonel Shaw Kennedy. He should press his Motion to a division.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 21; Noes 62: Majority 41.

The House adjourned at half after One o'clock.