HC Deb 16 July 1857 vol 146 cc1570-3

said, he rose to move, "That Mr. Speaker do not issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown in Ireland to make out a new Writ for the electing of a Knight of the Shire to serve in this present Parliament for the County of Mayo, before Thursday next." As there were stronger reasons for the suspension of the writ in the case of Mayo than in the case of Galway, he need not further occupy the time of the House. He was not, however, without some fear that the evidence given before the Election Committee would not be delivered in sufficient time before Thursday for full consideration by the hon. Members, but in that case he felt confident he should be supported in asking for a farther suspension of the Writ.


said, that after the decision of the House in the last case, it was not his intention to oppose the Motion; but there were facts connected with the case to which he wished shortly to call the attention of the House in addition to some facts which it was already in possession of. The Election Committee, towards the end of the proceedings, thought it necessary to acquaint the House with a letter, stating that certain persons had made an attack on witnesses examined before the Committee. The Committee stated that a letter, duly verified, had been placed before them, representing that a witness named Gannon, who had given evidence before the Committee, had been seriously injured by a mob led on by John Sheridan; and he (Colonel French) complained that without proper inquiry such an imputation was thus thrown upon a most respectable gentleman, for the allegation respecting Mr. Sheridan was wholly untrue. On seeing the statement, Mr. Sheridan immediately came to London, and presented himself before the Committee, who told him they had nothing to say to him, and referred him to the House. Mr. Sheridan then came to him (Colonel French), and produced to him a letter from Mr. Kearney, a magistrate of the district, addressed to the Chairman of the Committee; and, as the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Scholefield) had not referred to that communication, he (Colonel French) might perhaps be permitted to read it to the House. The letter was as follows:— Ballinvilla, Castlebar, Mayo, July 11, 1857. Sir,—As the magistrate who investigated the case of Gannon (a witness examined before your Committee) against several people for riot, and against one in particular for stabbing him in the eye with a rod of iron, I take the liberty of addressing you. I have held to bail the parties charged with the riot, and I have committed to prison the boy charged with the latter offence. Having heard yesterday that Mr. John Martin Sheridan was reported as the instigator of this outrage, I considered it my duty to call at the county infirmary and see Gannon upon the subject; and I beg to give you, from memory, the conversation that took place between us. I said to Gannon I heard there were some parties (not included in his sworn information) who had taken part in the attack upon him on the evening of the 7th instant. He answered that there was a boy named Murphy who struck him with a shovel on the right arm, and whose name he did not recollect when swearing his information. I then asked him if there was any person in a higher rank of life whom he could accuse of instigating the mob, or pointing him out to them. He answered not (no), and added that he was very sorry to hear a report that morning that he had accused Mr. Sheridan; that the report was a false one; that Mr. Sheridan was the most active in bringing the offenders to justice; had called to see him in the infirmary after the occurrence; and ended by saying that Mr. Sheridan was his best friend. I have in addition made inquiries among the constabulary and others, and I find that a more unfounded and audacious charge was never made than the present accusation against Mr. Sheridan; and, in justice to that gentleman, I have the honour of addressing you upon the present occasion. He (Colonel French) believed the Attorney General for Ireland had investigated the facts, and would confirm his statement that there was not the slightest ground for the charge against Mr. Sheridan.


said, he had read the informations in the case to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman had allud ed, and could state that no person named Sheridan was mentioned in them, or was charged with being a participator in the offence. He might observe, however, that a man named Sheelan was charged with being concerned in the assault, and that circumstance might, perhaps, have occasioned the mistake.


said, that, as a Member of the Committee, he wished to state, with reference to the statement of the hon. Member (Colonel French), that they had not made sufficient inquiry before bringing this subject under the notice of the House, that they had done all they could do to satisfy themselves of the truth of the matter. A letter was produced before them, and the gentleman to whom it was addressed proved its receipt upon oath. The Committee had just learned that one of the witnesses who had been examined before them had been insulted the day before in the lobby outside the Committee-room by the Rev. Peter Conway, and they were considering whether it was not their duty to bring that circumstance under the notice of the House when they were informed that a witness named Gannon, who had given evidence, and who had returned to Ireland, had been assaulted and seriously injured. As he had stated to the Committee his apprehension that as soon as he returned home he should be insulted on account of his evidence, they felt that not a moment should be lost in reporting the fact to the House, in order that means might be taken for insuring to the other witnesses the protection to which they were entitled.


said, he had been requested to make a statement to the House, on the part of one of the persons inculpated by the Report of the Committee, who was charged with conduct derogatory to his character as a clergyman. He referred to the Rev. Father Conway, who requested him to state to the House that it was utterly untrue that he ever used any sort of curses, or any such expressions against those who voted for Colonel Higgins, from the altar, or anywhere else.


said, he rose to order, and to submit to Mr. Speaker whether, as they were not now discussing the Report of the Committee, the hon. and learned Gentleman was entitled to enter into statements which appeared to be in contradiction to that Report. If the hon. and learned Gentleman wished to afford any explanation on the part of Mr. Conway, or any other person, he apprehended the proper time for making such statements would be when the Report of the Committee came regularly under discussion.


said, it certainly would not be regular for hon. Members to refer to a Report which was not at present before the House, and the contents of which could not therefore be accurately known.


wished to say, that on a future occasion he would be prepared to show that the Report of the Committee contradicted itself; and he would endeavour to prove that there were what he considered marked—and what some persons might call gross—omissions on the part of the Committee.

MR. SPOONER rose to order.


resumed his seat.

Motion agreed to. Ordered, That Mr. Speaker do not issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown in Ireland, to make out a new Writ for the electing of a Knight of the Shire to serve in this present Parliament for the County of Mayo, before Thursday next.

Order for going into Committee of Supply, read.