rose to move for certain Papers relating to the recent collision between the Dublin Police and the students of Trinity College, when
expressed a hope that his hon. and learned Friend would not press his Motion in the unavoidable absence of the Attorney General for Ireland (who was now attending Her Majesty's levee), who was anxious to make a statement to the House on this subject. He suggested that the hon. and learned Gentleman should postpone his Motion until to-morrow. The Attorney General was in Dublin at 670 the time of the occurrences to which the Motion referred; he had been consulted on the matter, he was conversant with the details of the transaction; and he was also in possession of certain documents which he wished to read to the House.
said, he had intended to bring forward this Motion last night, but had no opportunity of doing so until nearly one o'clock, when very few Members were present, and he thought it most desirable that the statement of the Attorney General for Ireland should be made in a fuller House. He hoped the Attorney General might be able to attend in a short time, but he could not consent to postpone his Motion until to-morrow, for the business on the paper would probably occupy so long a time that he should find himself in the same predicament in which he had been placed last night. Very great excitement prevailed in Ireland, and especially in Dublin, upon this subject, and as the inquiry which the Government had determined to institute had been prematurely terminated he felt bound to press his Motion, in order that an opportunity might be afforded to the Government of allaying the existing anxiety. He must trouble the House with a very brief statement of the occurrences which took place on the 12th of March. On that day Lord Eglinton made his entry into Dublin; and a large number of persons—some of them students of Trinity College, but a great many of them entirely unconnected with the College, although inhabitants of Dublin—assembled in the enclosure between the facade of the building and College-green. There was a great deal of excitement, noise, cheering, and fun. The students and others had provided themselves with squibs, crackers, and oranges, and amused themselves by pelting with these missiles a number of the police, who were drawn up in front of the college. Among these force there were a number of mounted police, and squibs being thrown among the horses many of them became quite unmanageable, and plunged in such a manner as to endanger not only the safety of the riders but that of the surrounding crowd. He (Mr. Hatchell) was an eye-witness of some of these proceedings, which were continued for a considerble time. In the first instance the pelting was received with the utmost good humour both by the police and the crowd; but the joke was carried a little too far, and at last the police manifested considerable exasperation at the manner in which they 671 had been treated. One of the missiles thrown by the college lads, as he understood, struck the face of Colonel Browne, who commanded the police. Colonel Browne had been in the public service for many years, and persons of all parties who were acquainted with him regarded him with very high respect as a most useful and efficient public officer. He (Mr. Hatchell) hoped, therefore, that whatever cause there might be to lament Colonel Browne's conduct on this occasion, the services which he had formerly rendered to the public would not be forgotten. He certainly would be the last person to cast any censure upon Colonel Browne before the proceedings to which he was calling the attention of the House had been thoroughly investigated. It was stated, however, in the newspapers that Colonel Browne was struck by an orange or some other missile, and that he immediately recited from memory part of the Riot Act, and that he then called out to the mounted police, "God save the Queen! Charge!" The police, it was reported, then rode into the midst of the lads in the enclosure, and struck and wounded a number of the unarmed boys with their sabres. He was informed that great sympathy had been manifested in Dublin for these young men, one of whom was represented as having received a wound on the skull from a sabre, and as being in a very dangerous state. That there had been great exaggeration was, however, evident from the circumstance that a correspondent of one of the Dublin newspapers suggested that prayers should be offered up in the churches for the unfortunate lads who had fallen in the murderous charge of the 12th of March. Several of the police were severely injured, but it appeared that these injuries were inflicted subsequently to the charge upon the crowd; and there could be no doubt that many of the college lads had received severe wounds from the batons of the police. Some of those wounds might be dangerous, but although he had made inquiries on the subject he could not ascertain that any of them were inflicted by sabre cuts. Immediately after this occurrence, a petition praying the Lord-Lieutenant to institute an inquiry into the circumstances was placed at a cigar shop opposite the college, and passers-by were invited to sign it. A few days subsequently one of the Dublin evening newspapers, which was considered to express the opinions of the present Government, 672 contained an advertisement stating that the Solicitor General for Ireland, (Mr. Hayes), and Mr. Stronge, a Stipendiary Magistrate for the district in which the college was situated had been appointed commissioners to investigate the occurrence. On the following day the Solicitor General and Mr. Stronge sat as commissioners; but on the commission being read it was found that it did not contain Mr. Stronge's name, and the Solicitor General was, therefore, the sole Commissioner. This circumstance excited considerable dissatisfaction; for it was a most unusual thing to appoint a law officer of the Crown alone as a commissioner to inquire into an occurrence of this nature. On the first occasion when the Solicitor General sat to hear complaints Mr. Stronge was present; but the views of these gentlemen, as to the manner in which the proceedings ought to be conducted, were directly at variance. The Solicitor General contended that the investigation ought to be conducted privately in a room at the Castle, the public press being excluded; but Mr. Stronge said, such a course was extremely unusual, and he did not remember any case in which it had been adopted. The Solicitor General was very anxious to meet the wishes of both parties, and desired to know whether they would agree to a private investigation. Some persons said, on behalf of the college, that they would on no account consent to such an investigation, and would take no part in it if it were conducted privately. On the other hand, the counsel who represented the police authorities declared that they would not submit to a public inquiry. Under these circumstances the subject was postponed until Friday, when further discussion took place, and the college authorities withdrew rather indignantly. Previously, Mr. Galbraith, one of the Fellows, had rather snubbed the Solicitor General, for, when the latter observed that it was quite open to the college authorities to go before a magistrate, Mr. Galbraith said, "We don't require your leave to go before a magistrate if we like to do so." On the Monday following [the day before yesterday], a further sitting took place, and then the whole question whether the proceedings should be public or private was again mooted. The college authorities still denounced a private inquiry, which they said would be a Star Chamber sort of affair; while the counsel for the police maintained their objections to publicity. 673 The Solicitor General at length decided that the investigation should be a private one. Then, referring to the two branches of inquiry which appeared to be pointed at in the commission, he said he took it that Mr. Stronge would be quite competent to enter upon the question of the disturbance of the public peace; and with respect to the charges against the police, as the representatives of the University had retired, and no evidence was forthcoming in support of those charges, he could not enter into them. That was the conclusion of the Government inquiry, and that was the position of matters at the present moment. His object in moving for those returns was to elicit a statement from the Attorney General for Ireland—who, he hoped, would soon be present from Court —for the purpose of quieting the public mind respecting this subject. So great was the excitement which existed in Dublin that at the University election the two candidates, Mr. Lefroy and Dr. Gayer, were called upon to pledge themselves, if elected, to support a Motion in that House for a public investigation. The same excitement prevailed out of doors, and the magistrates had the greatest difficulty in keeping the people quiet. No result having ensued from the steps which had been hitherto taken, the public were anxious to know what course the Government now meant to pursue. He hoped an explanation of that kind would now be afforded.
Motion made and Question proposed,—
That there he laid before this House, Copies of the Report of the Dublin Police Commissioners to the Chief or Under Secretary for Ireland, on the recent riots at Trinity College, Dublin:
Of Warrant authorizing an inquiry by the Solicitor General for Ireland and Mr. Stronge, J.P.:
And, of Instructions (if any) to govern the inquiry.
said, he was sorry that the hon. and learned Gentleman had not acceded to the request made to him before he commenced his statement. He (Lord Naas) had been in the House for a great number of years, and must say that he never recollected such an appeal as he had made on the part of the Government being refused. It was quite clear that this measure could not be satisfactorily discussed to-day, and he should, therefore, be obliged to meet the Motion with a counter one for the adjournment of the debate, in order to give his right hon. and learned Friend (the Attorney General) an opportunity of making, on a future occasion, a full statement on the subject. His 674 right hon. Friend was in Dublin during the whole of these occurrences, took part in the consultations held between the members of the Government, and was perfectly prepared to defend the course of the Government in every respect. He (Lord Naas) might say generally that that course had not been taken without great consideration. No formal request had been made for an investigation by the authorities. It was perfectly true that a petition for an inquiry had been signed by a large number of persons, but in consequence of the determination expressed on the part of the Government, of their own accord, to open an investigation, it was not presented. For all practical purposes, however, the petition might be taken as embodying the opinions of a large and influential portion of the inhabitants. The question of inquiry was then discussed by the Government; and here he must say that these commissions are open to very great objections. Their legality was very doubtful, and it was perfectly clear that they could not examine on oath. This at the outset formed a very grave objection to any inquiry, more particularly to one of this kind. The Government, however, considered the matter; they looked to various precedents, and they found that so long ago as 1829 an inquiry was instituted by the Solicitor General of that day into an unfortunate occurrence which took place at Borrisokane, when the constabulary fired upon the people, some lives were lost, and serious excitement prevailed throughout the country. On that occasion the Government sent down the Solicitor General, then Mr. Doherty, to inquire upon the spot into the circumstances of the case. That inquiry was a private one. Some little dissatisfaction thereupon prevailed, and a gentleman who was refused admission on behalf of the public press held a sort of court in another room, and examined the witnesses as they left the room in which the Solicitor General was sitting, and published in the newspapers the information he had so obtained. Mr. Doherty made his report, and the consequence was that the Government at the ensuing assizes prosecuted more than one of the police for murder; they were, however, acquitted. It was thought that the Borrisokane inquiry furnished a precedent for adoption in this case, and the Government therefore commissioned the Solicitor General for Ireland to investigate the unfortunate occurrences which took place at Trinity College on 675 Friday week last. He sat, as had been stated; and it was his opinion that the question of privacy or publicity should not be decided upon his own responsibility, but according to the views of the parties immediately concerned. They, therefore, appeared before him, and a very strong representation was made by Mr. Lynch and Mr. Lawson, the counsel engaged on the part of the police, that as the circumstances to be inquired into might probably lead to proceedings in a court of law, and possibly to criminal prosecutions, both as against the police on the one hand, and the students on the other, the inquiry ought not to be a public one. On the other hand, the counsel for the College thought it ought to be a public one. The Solicitor General, on consideration, decided that the objections urged on behalf of the police were of so serious a nature that their request could not be refused, and that if the inquiry were held at all it must be held in private. Under the circumstances he (Lord Naas) thought the House would agree with him that the Solicitor General could have arrived at no other conclusion. So the matter rested. He was informed that informations had been laid before Mr. Stronge, the magistrate of the division in which these unhappy occurrences took place, and he believed the consequence would be that the whole affair would be brought as soon as possible to trial in a court of justice. Now, with regard to occurrences of this unfortunate description, he was sure it must be the opinion of every man who had experience of affairs in Ireland, that the sooner they were brought into a court of justice and decided by the ordinary forms of law the better. When the Provost and Fellows of Trinity College first waited on him he expressed a strong conviction on this point, and declared that, in his opinion, the case might well be left to the ordinary courts of justice. He pointed out to them that the course which they seemed to wish the Government to take would be likely to be attended with great inconvenience; he showed the impossibility of taking evidence on oath in any inquiry instituted by the Government; and that therefore there were grave objections to such inquiry. At the same time he added, "If the college authorities and a large number of the inhabitants of Dublin press for a Government investigation, the greatest weight will naturally be attached to any representations of that kind, and it will 676 be for the Government to consider what course they will take." For his own part, he could not regret very much that the inquiry ordered had not been continued. The whole matter would now be tried in a court of justice; all parties would have the opportunity of coming forward, and the case would be investigated according to the strict rules of legal procedure. Whatever was the result, he was sure there could be but one opinion, that the Government had endeavoured to act with the greatest possible impartiality in the matter; that they had endeavoured to prevent this from being made cither a party or sectarian question, to allow no one party to have any advantage over the other, but to deal equal justice to both.
§ MR. BAGWELL
said, he could not regret that his hon. and learned Friend had pressed his Motion—a course which he had taken, not from any want of courtesy towards the Government, but because in all probability it would be impossible for him to bring it forward on the following day. The fact was that it would have been doing the noble Lord (Lord Naas) himself great injustice if he had not had the opportunity of making the statement which he had just submitted to the House —a statement which he thought ought to be satisfactory to every person who looked at this as a question of justice, and not as one of party strife or politics. In common with other gentlemen around him he was much satisfied with the explanation of the noble Lord. He thought, however, that they were establishing a dangerous precedent by trying to set up a kind of Star Chamber again. The time for such proceedings had passed away, and if justice was now to be administered at all, it ought to be administered publicly. Any investigation held with closed doors would only excite the jealousy of the people, would not advance the ends of justice, and moreover would not tend to the advantage of Government themselves. As a matter of policy, if hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House had wished to show themselves hostile to the Government, they would have left this matter where it was. From the great amount of excitement existing in Dublin on the subject the Government would probably have occupied a much worse position in public estimation there, if the noble Lord had not answered clearly and aboveboard, as he had just done, the allegations made in public against them.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. WHITESIDE)
who had now entered the House, said, that he felt obliged to the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Hatchell)for giving him and his noble Friend an opportunity of explaining the conduct of the Government. Everybody must regret the unfortunate occurrence at Trinity College. On the one side it was alleged that the police were guilty of an unprovoked outrage; on the other, that what they did was occasioned by the conduct of the students. Shortly after this painful occurrence a petition was got up and signed by 4,000 respectable persons in Dublin, praying the Lord Lieutenant to institute an inquiry into these unfortunate occurrences. The petition was not actually presented to the Lord Lieutenant, for his Excellency had himself resolved that an inquiry should take place, and after consultation with the Irish law officers as to the manner in which the inquiry should be conducted, had appointed the Solicitor General to institute it. The object for which this course was taken was to elicit such general information with respect to the riot as would enable the Government to provide against the recurrence of similar proceedings in future. Now, the most singular misstatements had been made as to what had really taken place on this point. Mr. Strange, magistrate of the division in which the University stood, attended with the Solicitor General, not for the purposes of the general inquiry, but in order to take any information on matters of fact respecting the occurrences at the college. With that magisterial duty the Solicitor General clearly had nothing whatever to do. If any facts had been stated to him not impugning the general conduct of the police force, which was to have been the subject matter of his inquiry, but imputing a crime to A or B, naming and identifying the individuals, then it would have been for the magistrate to take the information as against such persons. The police were represented by Mr. Lynch and Mr. Lawson, two distinguished barristers, and the College was also represented by eminent counsel. The Solicitor General at the outset expressed his opinion that an inquiry of this kind ought in justice to all parties, especially the police, to be conducted in private. The parties separated on that day, apparently contented that this should be the course adopted. Meanwhile, however, the col- 678 lege authorities came to the conclusion that there ought to be a public inquiry. On Monday morning, Mr. Lynch, who had been one of the commissioners appointed to inquire into the Belfast riots (which inquiry, by the way, ended in nothing) said on behalf of the police, that the proceedings ought to be privately conducted, as a matter of simple justice to men who were officers of the law, against whom the Government ought not to incline, who should have the same opportunity as other persons had to prove their innocence if they could do so, and who ought at least to be assumed to be innocent until they were proved to be guilty. It was submitted that, when a criminal prosecution was pending, an inquiry conducted before a commissioner who had no power to administer an oath, who was clothed by the law with no authority to examine into the guilt or the innocence of individuals, but who was merely appointed by the Government to make such investigations as should, if possible, lead to the prevention of the like occurrences in future—that such an inquiry ought to be a private one. The Solicitor General, believing with the counsel who appeared for the police that publicity would operate to the prejudice of the persons whose conduct was impeached, when the case came on for trial, adhered to his original opinion that the proceedings should be in private; and that opinion had his (Mr. Whiteside's) entire approval. There were certain precedents which he might cite for the course taken. There was, for instance, the commission which had been appointed a few years ago to inquire into the conduct of the metropolitan police in Hyde Park. Now, he should state, with great respect for the authority of the gentlemen under whose advice that course had been taken, that he doubted very much whether a commission issued by the Crown in opposition to the ordinary practice under the common law of the country was perfectly legal; and he believed it was not denied by anybody that commissioners could not examine witnesses upon oath. He had further to observe that while the proceedings of the Hyde Park commission were publicly conducted no proceedings against the police were in that case pending, or had been threatened in a court of law, and so far that precedent was not applicable to the Dublin case. Then, again, it appeared that there was an inquiry into the conduct of the police at 679 Dolly's Brae in Ireland; but it was to be observed that a suit was instituted against the proprietors of certain newspapers, in which reports of the evidence taken in that case had been published; and although the Court gave no decision upon the main point thus raised, in consequence of the case not having been brought before them in proper time, they ordered the newspaper proprietors to pay their own costs, and had thus shown that they did not by any means hold the right to publish the proceedings to be incontestable. The next precedent to which the attention of the present Irish Government was directed and the one which appeared to them the most applicable, was the inquiry into the Borrisokane riot in the year 1829. In that case the inquiry was privately conducted, and Mr. Doherty, the Solicitor General, under whom it took place, distinctly stated that he did not in any way pretend to assume the position of a criminal judge, and that his only object was to obtain such information as might serve to guide the conduct of the Government for the future, and afterwards, in opening the case at the assizes against the prisoners, explained to the jury the difference between such an inquiry and the regular trial of the police before a judge and jury:—Since the fatal occurrence of the 26th of June, (he said) an investigation has been held in the town of Borrisokane, and so industriously have reports been circulated as to the objects of that inquiry that I, as one of the persons deputed by the Government to make it, think it necessary to guard you against taking up any impression from anything which may have been reported as having taken place there. The inquiry was altogether extrajudicial, and was not instituted with the least reference to the guilt or innocence of the prisoner, or of any other person who may be put on trial; but instituted by Government simply for its own information, and for the sole purpose of enabling it to use such precautions as might seem necessary for preventing the recurrence of a similar calamity. Without pretending to detail all the objects which the Government had in view in sending down to inquire what it might be prudent and wise and proper to do in such an extraordinary case, it is right to apprise you, gentlemen, that those who conducted that inquiry, carefully abstained from entering into any investigation which might prejudge the present trial. Indeed, the Government would be ill warranted in the case of any individual to prejudice the case, and to throw the weight of its opinion into the scale which you, gentlemen, ought exclusively to hold.This explained exactly the difference between the two forms of proceeding, and would, perhaps, justify the Government in 680 the eyes of those who censured them for not making this inquiry a public one, as demanded by the heads of the University. He should observe that there was no reason to apprehend that any evil consequences would follow from the course which that transaction had taken. The criminal court would meet in Dublin on the 9th of April next. The accused parties were liable to be tried on that day; and if the proper preliminary proceedings should be taken, and should be held by the magistrate to justify a criminal prosecution, it would be his (the Attorney General for Ireland) duty, however much he might respect the officer who commanded the police force, to conduct such a prosecution according to the established forms of a court of justice; for in this kingdom we did not live under police rule, nor under the rule of the sword, nor under the rule of the bludgeon. He would undertake to say that every prosecution that might be instituted would be conducted in the some temperate and impartial spirit which had marked the whole course of the Irish Government throughout that unhappy occurrence; and in endeavouring honestly and fairly to discharge his duty, he should be sustained by the conviction that in the judgment of that House no official could err who walked in the straight path of the constitution.
§ MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
said, he hoped that in any observations which he might make that he should imitate the example set him, and refrain from saying anything which would prejudice the trials now appointed to take place before a proper constitutional tribunal—before a Judge who would stand impartially between the two parties, and a jury who would hold evenly the scales of justice. He wished also to refrain from any comments on the painful occurrence of the 12th. Both as regarded the police and the University there was much to be regretted; but in his opinion, if especial blame attached to any one it was to the authorities of Trinity College. Such occurrences as these could not, he believed, have taken place either at Oxford or Cambridge, for the gentlemen charged with the maintenance of discipline in those seats of learning would have interposed long before the disturbance assumed a serious character. He believed also that on both sides in these transactions very great misrepresentation and exaggeration had prevailed. Perhaps on the one hand the amount of provocation given by the 681 students had been exaggerated, while it was assumed on the other hand that the police had acted without provocation at all. Again, he was happy to say that the injuries inflicted both on the police and the students were not by any means so great as had been represented. From private inquiries which he had directed to be made, he was happy to be able to state that no wound had been inflicted cither by a sabre cut or a sabre thrust, and that if the police did draw their swords, they did not use them. No doubt severe injuries had been inflicted by the batons of the police, but none were the results of sabre cuts. Moreover, when the matter came to be investigated in the proper Court he believed it would be found that greater injuries had been inflicted upon the police than upon the students. He was happy to have learnt this for the sake of his gallant Friend (Colonel Browne) who commanded the police on this occasion, and for whom he had a sincere regard and esteem; and he only wished that the Dublin press had refrained from an amount of exaggeration and misrepresentation on both sides of the question which he feared would have a material effect in preventing an impartial trial hereafter. So extreme were the opinions expressed that, as his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Hatchell) had stated, one of the Dublin papers, supposed to be the organ of the Government, inserted a communication to the effect that it was hoped prayers would be offered up in the churches for the poor students who fell in the "murderous charges" of Friday—charges described as more violent than those of Delhi. Passing, however, from this unfortunate occurrence itself, to the Motion directly before the House, he thought it would be satisfactory to the House to obtain the report made by the Dublin Police Commissioners alluded to in the Motion, unless, indeed, the noble Lord said it was a confidential communication, or was likely to prejudice one or other of the parties. With respect to the inquiry which had been ordered by the Government, he presumed it was instituted with a view to trace this unfortunate transaction to its origin, and to see how its recurrence could be prevented for the future. He agreed in thinking that the Commissioner had no right to administer an oath, or force parties to attend. But as to the inquiry itself, there were well-established precedents for such a proceeding. It appeared to him that the Hyde Park inquiry afforded a precedent which might be followed with 682 advantage. In that case the Government selected three gentlemen of high standing, who conducted their investigation not in a hole or corner—not in a room in the Home Office—but in a public Court in Westminster Hall. The public had free access; the proceedings were published from day to day, and the Commissioners were thus the better enabled to arrive at the truth. This commission was not appointed with a view to criminal proceedings, but in order to ascertain how such occurrences might be prevented for the future, and the Commissioners made an elaborate report, which was followed by an official letter to the police, to which he would invite attention. Another precedent which the Government might have followed, was that of the inquiry into the Belfast riots, which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) said would come to nothing. He (Hr. J. D. FitzGerald) was very sorry to hear this, for he thought there was in the evidence taken before that commission, abundant material upon which the Government might proceed. In that instance the Solicitor General was not sent down to Belfast accompanied by a magistrate; but two gentlemen, unconnected with either party, were selected; they examined witnesses in open court, and as the result of their labours, the House was in possession of a blue-book containing a great mass of material. All he could say was, that if their inquiry were to end in nothing, the Government which allowed the matter, which the evidence disclosed to pass by unnoticed, could not be doing their duty. In the present case, 4,000 citizens had called for inquiry, and he believed that inquiry was to have been directed to all the riotous proceedings which had taken place in connection with this lamentable affair.
§ MR. WHITESIDE.—No. It was distinctly limited to the transactions of the 12th.
§ MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
was sorry to hear it, because the transactions of the 12th were followed by a series of disgraceful riots. He gathered his information of these from the public journals; and he would say, that if their statements were correct, the Government which took no cognizance of such events would not be doing its duty. A large portion of the city of Dublin appeared to have been for hours delivered up to a mob, without check of any kind. He certainly thought that a Government which did not further inquire into such a matter would fail to discharge their duty. Well, what was the course which the Go- 683 vernment pursued, when inquiry into those unhappy occurrences which had taken place in Dublin was ordered to be instituted? A Commissioner was appointed to investigate the case; but who was that gentleman? He was addressing an assembly of Englishmen, and he thought they would be somewhat surprised to learn that the Solicitor General for Ireland had been chosen to inquire into transactions which might ultimately form the subject of a criminal prosecution which he, as the law adviser of the Crown, might be called upon to conduct. They had, no doubt, heard that the duty of examining the accused was sometimes assigned, in a French court of justice, to the public prosecutor; but it was, he was happy to say, a thing almost unknown in this country that the conduct of a prosecution should be entrusted to a man who had, by means of an examination in which he had taken an active part, become cognizant of facts of which he might otherwise be ignorant. The information which he possessed upon the subject, he derived in a great measure from the public journals; and he found, by the Dublin Evening Mail of March 22, that uponThe Saturday previous, at eleven o'clock, Edmund Hayes, Esq., Q.C., the Solicitor General, accompanied by Mr. J. C. Stronge, one of the divisional police magistrates, had sat in the Nisi Prius Court for the purpose of holding the investigation authorized by Government into the circumstances attendant upon the recent police demonstrations at Trinity College.The Solicitor General upon that occasion said:—My object is to give his Excellency information upon that subject; but if this investigation were completely and entirely confined to that purpose, probably it might be said to have attained only one-half of that which the public expect from it. No doubt persons have been injured upon the occasion, and these injuries we have every reason to believe will exhibit an infraction of the criminal law upon the part of one side or the other.He added:—I appear here not as a magistrate. I cannot take depositions upon oath; but, in order that this inquiry may not be fruitless in that respect also, I have obtained the assistance of the able and experienced magistrate who now sits beside me—Mr. Stronge. He is the senior magistrate of the division in which those lamentable occurrences took place, and upon him will devolve more particularly the conduct of that branch of the inquiry which is conversant with the criminal law.Now, he had heard an hon. Member, in the course of the discussion in which the House was engaged, allude to the proceedings of the Star Chamber; but in his (Mr. Fitz-Gerald's) opinion the extracts he had just 684 read conveyed the idea of a state of things which was infinitely worse. The Solicitor General proceeded to say that the case which it was intended to set up against the police should be proceeded with in the first instance, and urged, as a point of great importance, that "the inquiry should not be marred by any undue publication of the proceedings." He had then observed:—I generally find that the publication of proceedings which have the character of a preliminary investigation, such as this is, and especially before justice can be done by bringing those matters to a final determination—I generally find that the publication of such proceedings tends to nothing but injury. It keeps up the acrimony and bitterness which is going abroad, and gives opportunities probably for misinterpretation and misstatement. My anxiety, therefore, would be that, at all events for the present, our proceedings should not be published.The learned Gentleman added:—Probably criminal proceedings may arise out of this inquiry, and it would be in the last degree prejudicial to the accused if their cases upon their trials—if any trial is to take place—should in any way be prejudiced by the statements made in the course of this investigation, and not upon oath.In reply to Mr. Lynch, one of the counsel for the Commissioners of Police, the Solicitor General repeated it to be his determination to keep the inquiry secret, at the same time expressing it as his opinion that that would be the best way to keep the character of the police force unscathed. The learned Gentleman also stated in answer to Mr. Lloyd, who appeared on behalf of the College authorities, and who had observed that the magistrates' inquiry, at all events, ought to be kept perfectly distinct, that he had been turning over the matter in his mind, that it was a singular case, and that he had not been enabled to find any precedent for that species of mixed trial. The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, however, seemed to think that such an inquiry was justified by the precedent of 1829. He (Mr. Fitz-Gerald) nevertheless doubted whether one bad precedent could be justified by another equally objectionable. Now, in what, let him ask, did the precedent of 1829 consist? Some members of the police force had shot down several persons in one of those unhappy tithe riots which were formerly but too prevalent in Ireland. An inquiry into the matter was ordered by the Government of the day, and the Solicitor General for Ireland was intrusted with the conduct of the investigation. What was the result? Why, that the very same learned Gentleman who had had the police brought before him to be examined 685 upon that occasion deemed it to be his duty, when those men were subsequently placed upon their trial for murder, to enter into a lengthened explanation with respect to the objects of the preliminary inquiry, in order to disabuse the minds of the jury of any prejudice which they might have entertained in consequence of his having been engaged in conducting that investigation. Be that, however, as it might, the parallel inquiry which had recently been instituted in Dublin, and which had been so singularly carried on, had fallen to the ground. Was that, he would ask, a result which could prove satisfactory to the House of Commons? Had there ever been anything so feeble and so imbecile as the conduct by which the management of those proceedings had been characterized? The Solicitor-General for Ireland was determined to keep the inquiry private. Mr. Lloyd, who had acted upon the part of the college authorities, in consequence withdrew altogether from the investigation. Objection was taken to having the witnesses examined upon certain portions of the case in a separate room by Mr. Stronge, and upon others in another room in the presence of both the commissioners. The issue of the whole proceedings, in short, was what might have been anticipated from the mode in which it had been conducted. The college authorities having withdrawn from the investigation, it was adjourned until the next day, when nobody appearing before the court its sittings came to a termination. He for one had supposed that an inquiry so begun would have embraced the consideration of the riots which had occurred subsequently to the day upon which the Lord Lieutenant had made his entry into Dublin. It seemed, however, from the answer which the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland had returned to a question which had been put to him a few evenings before by the hon. and gallant Member for Tipperary (the O'Donoghue), that he regarded those riots as trifling matters.
My observations referred to the riots which took place on the night of Saturday the 13th instant.
§ MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
He had taken his impression of the riots which occurred upon that occasion from the report contained in a Dublin morning paper, which had already declared the side which it intended to espouse so far as those transactions wore concerned—that of the college authorities against the police—and 686 he could only say that if that report were correct the riots in question were no trifling matters. The report stated that from three o'clock in the afternoon on Saturday, the 13th, until three o'clock on Sunday morning, the entire locality in the vicinity of College Green had been kept in a state of alarm by the marching, shouting, and hallooing of a large body of the students of the University and others, who seemed determined to make reprisals upon the police, and who were nearly all armed with bludgeons. It further appeared that about eleven o'clock at night, the students issued from Jude's Hotel, where they had taken up their position, and were received with party cries and rounds of Kentish fire. What that expression meant he could not undertake to describe, but the report mentioned that the entire mass—numbering not less that 3,000 persons, after having met with that reception, moved in the direction of College Green, apparently under the control of leaders, who gave them such orders as "stand close," "to the left wheel," &c. The cry "to the police station" was raised, and upon their arrival outside it, largo volleys of stones were flung at the police who were assembled at the entrance, the consequence being that several members of the force were injured. The report went on to state that the students, finding the police could not be provoked to an encounter, returned to King William's Statue, around which they held a meeting which was addressed by a chairman of its own selection in a speech fraught with denunciation of the police and assertions of Orange principles. The result of all this ill-advised proceeding was, that they had managed to change what was before a popular cause into an unpopular one, and to put a portion of the City of Dublin for a short time in the possession of a mob. The junior Dean of Trinity College indeed, on the following Monday issued a notice to the effect, that he had reasons to believe that the outrages of Saturday night were not the work of the students, and appended to that notice appeared the very significant announcement, that as it was supposed there were detectives within the college walls any person of that description who happened to be caught would be nailed to the pump. A further riot took place upon the night of the 17th, but in that disturbance he did not think the college authorities could justly be said to be at all implicated. The police were upon that occasion assailed with volleys of stones, but 687 owing to the excitement which prevailed they abstained from taking any one into custody. Those, then, were not trifling riots. They were, upon the contrary, of a very serious character, and demanded the most complete investigation. Of one thing he was quite sure, that no one more sincerely regretted their occurrence than the noble Earl who was now at the head of the Irish Government. It must, however, be regarded as a misfortune that the advent of the new Administration should be marked by circumstances which would lead one to suppose that we were about to have a return of those Orange assemblies which he hoped had for ever departed. What he complained of was, that there had hitherto been no inquiry. The investigation into the circumstances which occurred on the 12th, had completely fallen through, and no further inquiry had taken place with respect to the subsequent disturbances. It had got into the public prints that the police authorities had protested against the secret inquiry. He therefore wished to ascertain from the noble Lord, or the right hon. Gentleman opposite—or if they, owing to the forms of the House, should not be able to speak again, from some hon. Member whom they might instruct to answer for them—whether the reports contained in the public journals to the effect that the police authorities protested against a secret inquiry were or were not well founded?— whether Colonel Browne did not protest against such inquiry upon the ground that he was an officer who had served Her Majesty throughout the Peninsular war, who had shed his blood at Waterloo, who had been thirty years in the public service, twenty of which he had spent in Dublin; who was beloved by his fellow-citizens; who believed that a grievous reproach had been cast upon him, and whose character could be cleared only by a public inquiry, in open court, before a jury of his country? That was the protest which he understood had been made, and a very manly one it was. Looking at the whole proceeding from beginning to end in connection with those unhappy riots, was he not, he would ask, justified in the opinion that they assumed something of a sectarian character? Had a fair and full investigation been instituted with re-spect to them through the medium of impartial men? or, upon the contrary, had not an inquiry been commenced which was in its nature unconstitutional, inasmuch as it was conducted by a public officer, upon whom, in the case of the institution of cri- 688 minal proceedings, the duty of prosecuting the accused would fall, and who might therefore, in some respect, be regarded as standing in the position of a partisan? That was a point upon which he should with confidence appeal to every Englishman who heard him. He should not, however, dwell any further upon that subject, but would conclude with the expression of a hope that every effort would be made upon the part of Her Majesty's Government to put an end to a state of things which, if permited to continue, was calculated to give rise to those feelings of ill-will which they must all desire should be for ever extinguished.
§ MR. SPOONER
AS the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. FitzGerald) has appealed to us to know what our feelings upon this matter are, I will say that ray own feeling, and I believe the feeling of the House, is, that he has taken a very unusual and a very unfair course. The Motion before the House was one for the production of certain papers. It was made in a most temperate manner, without any attempt to criminate parties, but upon a plain statement of the facts as they have come to the knowledge of the hon. and learned Gentleman who introduced the Motion. His address was replied to by the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, and by the Attorney General, in speeches in which there was a marked absence of anything like recriminatory charges; and therefore it was with some regret, although I confess with very little surprise, that I heard the late Attorney General for Ireland make the statements which he has just made, when he must have known that, by the rules of the House, both the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman would be precluded, having already spoken upon the question, from making a reply to bis remarks. However, I shall give my noble and right hon. Friends an opportunity of speaking again, for before I sit down I shall move that the debate be adjourned. The right hon. and learned Gentleman began calmly enough, and avowed his intention to abstain from saying anything calculated to excite feelings of irritation; and he followed that up by a fierce attack upon the Government; and therefore how far the commencement and ending of his speech were consistent with one another, I shall leave it to himself to explain. I do not pretend to any special knowledge of the circumstances of this case, and therefore will not attempt to occupy the atten- 689 tion of the House by entering into details; but I can only say that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will invariably find that an assembly of English gentlemen will deprecate an attack made in the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman has just attacked the Government—an attack made without notice, and above all, made at a time when the Members of the Government attacked, except by taking advantage of the facilities afforded by the rules of the House, were perfectly defenceless. With respect to the case itself, I believe I am correct in saying that measures are being taken to have it fully investigated before the proper constitutional tribunals of the country, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman would have done well had he abstained from making the remarks in which he has so freely indulged.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to impute it to the Government as an improper proceeding that such a Commission as this had been appointed; but in fact this form of investigation had grown into a great abuse in Ireland. Did the right hon. Gentleman know that when the Marquess of Anglesea and his political friends filled the office of Lord Lieutenant, no less than fifteen or eighteen Commissions of a similar character were issued? He must be by no means understood as approving of them, for he confessed that it had often appeared to him that not only did they cause a great deal of unnecessary delay, but that in many cases facts were suppressed which in the ordinary investigations of constitutional tribunals came out. As to the Belfast case, as to which the right hon. Gentleman had imputed blame to the Government for not having taken proceedings, the right hon. Gentleman himself was amenable to a charge of neglect of duty. The inquiry was ordered on the 10th of September, and was commenced before Messrs. Smith and Lynch on the 14th. They sat to the middle of October, and examined a great many witnesses, and a Report was made to his Excellency on the 25th December; notwithstanding which, up to February last, no steps in the matter had been taken by the right hon. Gentleman. These Commissions had been long felt in Ireland to be a serious grievance; they were, after all, only one-sided tribunals, and very different to those which were in operation in 690 England, where the Commissioners had power to examine upon oath. At the same time it was not just that the Government should be blamed for adopting the same means of inquiry as had been adopted by late and former Governments.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
thanked his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Spooner) for the Motion he had made, inasmuch as it afforded him an opportunity of putting the House in possession of the true statement of the case, so far as the charges of the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite were concerned. The right hon. Gentleman was of opinion, and he had a perfect right to maintain that opinion, that the conduct of the Executive in Ireland was feeble and imbecile; that it wanted, in short, that strength and brilliancy which no doubt would be exhibited under the auspices of the right hon. Gentleman himself. The character which a man gave of himself was, however, always to be received with some degree of doubt and caution. A reputation earned by the display of splendid talents, undoubted eloquence, great exertions in the cause of justice, or for the good of one's country, would, he felt assured, be regarded by that House, with as high a degree of admiration as by any other assembly in the world; but whether the speech of the right hon. Gentleman entitled him to the character of an impartial critic it was not for him (Mr. Whiteside) to say. A lawyer generally looks to precedents, but it is clear that in the right hon. Gentleman's opinion the precedents set in past times in this matter ought not to be followed. According to the right hon. Gentleman, nothing had been done as it ought to have been in connection with the recent unhappy occurrences in Dublin. From beginning to end, not a step, it seemed, had been taken in reference to them in which some blunder had not been committed. The gist of the right hon. Gentleman's observations appealed to be, that if he had been in office he should have instituted an inquiry into the conduct of the police day by day — the examination, be it recollected, not being made upon oath—up to the very day of trial, and if the right hon. Gentleman had done so, he would in his (Mr. Whiteside's) opinion have deserved to be impeached. With respect to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman in reference to the Hyde Park riots, he should beg the House to bear in mind that there was in that case no trial pending, and that no informations had been 691 taken against the parties implicated. The Commission in that instance was issued to inquire into the general conduct of the police force, and he wished the right hon. Baronet the late Secretary for the Home Department were present to inform the House whether, in the opinion of the law officers of the Crown, that was a legal Commission. It is not to be wondered at, that the Dublin newspapers should have taken up this matter and made it a subject of party vituperation, for wherever there are newspapers, a party war will rage; but there is an easy way of dealing with them in respect to this matter, for it has been laid down by the highest authorities, that the proprietors of a newspaper may be held responsible for the publication of ex parte proceedings, in which the statements are not on oath. In the case of the disturbances which had taken place at Dolly's Brae, for publishing the proceedings in connection with which a prosecution was instituted against a respectable journal— the Dublin Evening Post—the applicant's counsel insisted that Sejeant Berwick had no authority to hold the court, and that if any such authority did exist, it extended only to the making of a preliminary inquiry for the information of the Government, and conferred no right to the publication of a summary of facts professing to come from one side only. Mr. Martley, the present Judge of the In cumbered Estates Court in Ireland, in showing cause in behalf of the proprietor of the newspaper in question, had said: —In support of this conditional order the Court had been referred to several authorities, which certainly did lay down the proposition that if there was an impending prosecution; and persons published statements during the pendency of that charge, which were calculated to deprive the accused of a fair and impartial trial, the Court would interfere by way of criminal information.He thought that Her Majesty's Government would not be entirely free from blame if they were to follow the questionable guidance of the right hon. Gentleman opposite under those circumstances. It was perfectly to un that an attempt had been made to convert recent occurrences in Ireland to sectarian purposes, but he was prepared to avow, even at the peril of offending those who were the most sincere friends of the Government that Her Majesty's Ministers did not believe it to be consistent with their duty toward Colonel Browne or the police force under his command to allow general charges against them to be entered 692 into under the operation of a general inquiry, to which there could be no limit except the discretion of the Commissioner, and from which nothing, in all probability, could be gained, except the crimination of both the parties concerned. The right hon. Gentleman, however, made another charge against the Government. He stated that it was their intention to permit the Belfast inquiry to end in nothing. Now, it so happened that he (Mr. Whiteside) had not been twenty-four hours in office when he wrote to the Crown Solicitor upon the Northern Circuit in Ireland, to ascertain what had been done by the right hon. Gentleman who was his predecessor in the office which he had the honour to hold in reference to that inquiry; and the answer he received was that there was not a single person to be prosecuted. The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, accused the Government of not trying somebody in connection with those transactions when, in reality, there was no one to try. For his own part he could assure the House that, if he found the informations in the case of the Belfast riots justified a prosecntion, he should immediately instruct the Crown Solicitor to take the necessary steps for the institution of such prosecution. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think the precedent of 1829 was ridiculous; but he could not refrain from telling him that the men by whom that precedent was set— such men as Chief Baron Joy, one of the most learned Judges who had ever sat upon the bench, and Chief Justice Doherty, whose eloquence would long live in the recollection of all who had come within its influence—would be remembered when the right hon. Gentleman and his labours had been completely forgotton. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the inquiry should have been a public one; but what said Mr. Lynch, a Roman Catholic barrister of great eminence, who appeared on behalf of the police. He objected to a public inquiry, and the publication of unsworn evidence from day to day as unfair, and suggested that evidence should be taken privately, and a report made to the Lord Lieutenant; if the inquiry was open the public mind would be affected by the unsworn statements of witnesses whose evidence might be somewhat tinged by their imagination or feelings. Thus the counsel for the police resisted the demand of the University authorities for a public inquiry, and it was in consequence of their representation that his hon. and learned 693 Friend the Solicitor General thought it his duty to hold the inquiry in private. In what had the Irish Executive erred? He (Mr. Whiteside) believed that commissions of this kind were not quite legal. No one was compelled to attend before them, and the witnesses who were examined were not sworn; and yet it was now complained that an open inquiry was not held and the evidence published day by day, notwithstanding the fact that the men whose conduct would be affected by that evidence, were to stand their trials on the 9th of April next. As to the description given by the right hon. Gentleman opposite of the fearful state of excitement in which he alleges the people of Ireland had been thrown by these events, he should be sorry to be the occasion of dispelling from his mind any feeling of pleasure or satisfaction which such a state of things might impart. Nevertheless, he thought it necessary to inform the House of the real facts of the case, namely, that Dublin was never more happy nor contented than it was at present. Society there was never more agreeable. The Irish metropolis was now crowded with the gentry of the country assembled to do honour to Her Majesty's representative, the head of the Court, a nobleman who adorned the place he occupied as much by his many virtues as by his eminent position. Hon. Gentlemen had, of course, a right to differ from Her Majesty's Government, and to find fault with their particular line of policy, if they pleased. There was, indeed, one party who would vote them out of office to-morrow if they could. He hoped, however, they would have the justice and the candour to judge them not by the silly rhodomontades of daily newspapers, but by the manner in which the laws of the country were upheld. Although justice might be violated even by the police or the soldier, by whomsoever it is violated, the moment we obtain the required proof of the fact of such violation, the prosecution of the offending party will be carried out.
§ MR. COGAN
said, he thought it would have been much better if the little acerbity! which had been exhibited in this discussion had been avoided. He could well understand the appeal on behalf of his friends put forward by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner), for the House must have felt that they had the worst of the argument as far as it had gone. He did not think that the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had im- 694 proved his position by the second speech which he had made. That right hon. and learned Gentleman confined himself to a personal attack upon the late Attorney General, upon the good taste and judgment of which he left the House to decide. They had heard such strange and contradictory views expressed on this subject by the Members of the Government who had spoken, that it was hard to know what course had been or would be taken in the matter. He was surprised to hear the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland describe the riot which took place subsequently to the arrival of the Lord Lieutenant in Dublin as a trifling affair, in which a few panes of glass had been broken; but that no arrests had been made. He (Mr. Cogan) believed it to be a violent Orange demonstration; that a violent meeting was held in the public streets at about three o'clock in the morning, and that the parties assembled displayed Orange flags and handkerchiefs, accompanied with what was called "the Kentish fire," and that so much tumult and disorder had prevailed through the night, that preparations were made by Colonel Larcom which indicated apprehensions of serious disturbances. He had been himself a student of Trinity College, and retained a deep affection for that institution; but he could not help observing in connection with the late event a sectarian desire to attack the police on account of the religion of a great portion of that body, an attempt which had been sanctioned by the organ of the Government in Dublin, the Evening Mail, which was conducted by a gentleman who was the brother of the law adviser of the Castle. That paper had for some time been attacking the characters of members of the police, and especially of one commissioner, Mr. O'Ferrall, solely on account of their religious opinions. He looked upon these proceedings as an attempt to revive once more the mischievous spirit of Orange ascendancy. The Government had not stated whether they could give the papers which were asked for; but after the discussion which had taken place it did not much matter whether they did or not.
§ MR. VANCE
expressed his regret at the attempt made by the hon. Member for Kildare to give a party character to the riot which in truth it did not merit. The recent affair in Dublin was merely an ebullition of youthful spirit on the part of the young students of Trinity College, and some strangers among them, and had no- 695 thing of a party or sectarian character about it. Those tumultuous proceedings were not unusual within the walls of Trinity College. He recollected in the case of an election there, when both of the candidates belonged to the party with which he was politically connected, similar riots and disturbances taking place. Conflicts with the police then took place; and it might have been equally said that those were party riots. The course taken by the opponents of the present Government in relation to the late affray reminded him of the case of the Stockport riots, when the same attempt to give them a sectarian character was made. The hon. Member for Youghal (Mr. Butt) then said, nothing could be more disgraceful than the Stockport riots except the use attempted to be made of them. He would say that nothing could be more shameful in the late disturbances than the attempt of a certain party to make political capital of them. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last stated, that a certain newspaper had endeavoured to set one portion of the population against another; but on the morning of the day on which this riot in Dublin took place, the Freeman's Journal, in commenting upon the expected arrival of the new Lord Lieutenant at the Irish metropolis, used this language:—" We understand that the young blood of the University is to make a demonstration to-day. It had better be careful, for the square caps, however well padded, are no match for the policemen's batons." The Journal then proceeded to say, that they would make allowance for the excitement attendant upon the novelty of the advent of a Conservative Lord Lieutenant, and that the students might crack their sweet voices in his honour, but that they would not be permitted to go further without incurring unpleasant consequences. His hon. Colleague had some time ago moved for an investigation into the conduct of the Dublin police, on the ground that they had in certain cases exceeded their duty; the House, however, in its wisdom, refused that Motion. Now he (Mr. Vance) submitted that what had since occurred was the best proof that that Motion had not been made unadvisedly. As to an inquiry into the late affair, he could not see what would be the use of an investigation, unless an oath could be administered. When the feelings of the people were unduly excited by cases of this description their judgment was generally carried away and influenced by prejudice and partiality, and unsworn testi- 696 mony under such circumstances would be of no service. He protested against the attempt to give those riots a party tinge.
§ SIR DENHAM NORREYS
said, that he thought the turn of the debate would be anything but satisfactory to the public. He felt that the new Government had a most glorious opportunity of inaugurating their reign by a wise and consistent administration of the laws without fear or favour for any particular class in the community. Without at all intending to express any opinion as to the merits of the case involved in the riots, he could not permit himself to adopt the mild view of the conduct of the students of the University which the hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. Vance) would have the House approve. He could not regard it as merely an ebullition of youthful feeling—that a large body of young men should put themselves wantonly beyond the law, and outrage the peace of society. He would ask, would such conduct on the part of the students of King's College be tolerated by the authorities of the metropolis.
§ MR. STANHOPE
said, he had no knowledge of the transaction which they were discussing, beyond what he had read in the newspapers and had heard in the House, but he deeply regretted to find that there was a tendency to depart from the immediate question before the House, and to enter upon topics which must lead to an irritation of public feeling in Dublin. He thought no good could possibly arise from this debate which would compensate for the mischief it must cause. An investigation was about to take place, not only into the cause of the riot, but into the conduct of the Dublin police; and such a discussion as this was calculated to prejudice open inquiry into the matter. It was quite time that Government should intimate to its friends as well as to its opponents that violations of the law would not be permitted, and therefore he had read with great satisfaction the proceedings connected with a deputation of the students of Trinity College, which had waited upon the Earl of Eglinton, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, some two or three days after the riot. The noble Earl on that occasion addressed the deputation in a very distinct and marked manner. Calling them his young friends, he begged of them to divest themselves of any hostile feelings against the police, recurring to the late unfortunate affair at the college, and impressing upon them all the necessity of 697 obeying the laws of the country. The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald) commenced his speech by stating bis opinion, that it was most unwise to trust to statements which appeared in the public journals; but immediately afterwards he founded a serious charge against the Government upon supposed facts which he read from a newspaper that gave a description of the riot. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said, that such an affray could not occur at Cambridge or Oxford; but if the right hon. Gentleman had bad the misfortune to be engaged, as be (Mr. Stanhope) had been, in a "town and gown row," he would have witnessed something very like what had happened in Dublin. If the police were to interfere in such rows, they were very likely to be assailed very much in the same manner as the police had been assailed by the students at Dublin. Therefore it was not fair to the students of Dublin to say that such things could not happen here. The hon. Member for Kildare (Mr. Cogan) regretted that sectarian feelings had been excited; but the tone of his speech, as well as that of the right hon. Gentleman the late Attorney General for Ireland, was directly provocative of sectarian animosity. The riot of the 13th appeared to consist in the assembling of a body of young men, who, after parading the streets, held a meeting at night and made speeches which, probably, they would not have made in the day time. From what he had seen at the sister Universities of this country, he thought it was unfair to raise such serious charges against the students of Dublin on account of the late disturbances.
§ MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
said that nothing could be more fair or reasonable than the tone of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down; and he believed that the noble Earl at the head of the Government in Ireland, if left to the dictates of his own mind, his sense of justice, of propriety, and of prudence would have induced him to discountenance all such "ebullitions" as those now complained of. He contended that it was not the privilege, but the duty of the hon. Members in that House to call in question the acts of the Government. It would appear, however, that there was to be an exemption from criticism in regard to the present Government or the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, inasmuch as any one attempting to cavil 698 at his acts was sure to be denounced with personal vituperation. He passed by the abuse of the right hon. and learned Gentleman as wholly unimportant, and as a matter of indifference to him—he was, indeed, going to use another word, but that it might not be considered quite Parliamentary. He would pass by his abuse in perfect silence. He would appeal to the House if the case had been at all answered. He confessed that his abilities were very humble; but during the two years he had held the office of Attorney General for Ireland he had endeavoured, in an unobtrusive way, to lend his aid to the late Lord Lieutenant and Chief Secretary for Ireland in the preparation and conduct of useful measures for the preservation of the peace and the promotion of general prosperity. He believed that they had been successful in the attainment of these objects. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that if he (Mr. FitzGerald) had instituted an open inquiry, under such circumstances, going on from day to day until the trial took place, he would deserve impeachment. There appeared by this declaration of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to be a beautiful difference of opinion existing between him and his colleague, the Solicitor General; for the latter while giving his opinion in favour of a private inquiry, stated that he would consent to a public one if it were desired, and that the proceedings should be published from day to day. He (Mr. FitzGerald) said that upon constitutional grounds it was most improper that a court of inquiry should be held by the Solicitor General, inasmuch as it would probably eventuate in criminal proceedings to be conducted by the same Solicitor General, and the only defence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman was an appeal to the precedent of 1829. He would ask what Her Majesty's Attorney and Solicitor General would have said if a similar course of proceeding had been adopted in regard to the Hyde Park riots that took place a year or two ago? He had said that the steps taken were feeble. A commission, the right hon. Gentleman held to be illegal, yet he had advised one to be issued. This commission sat three days, and did nothing. The right hon. Gentleman also boasted of the happy state of society in Dublin under the auspices of the present Lord Lieutenant. He (Mr. FitzGerald) had no doubt that every facility would be given to the citizens to enjoy themselves; 699 but it was rather unfortunate that though Lord Eglinton had been only twelve days in Dublin the city had been in a state of riot and confusion. The right hon. Gentleman twitted him with forming his opinions of the riot and its attendant circumstances from satements that had appeared in the public press; but, he would ask, how was he (Mr. FitzGerald), a private man, to obtain information on such a subject except from the columns of the public press? He would ask the noble Lord opposite (Lord Naas) if it was true that on the night of the 13th of March a large mob assailed two police officers and engaged in other disturbances, and that no step was taken to disperse them? He would also ask if there was any foundation for the rumour that notice was given to the authorities of the college that it was probable on the entry of Lord Eglinton a repetition of former riotous proceedings might take place, and that the answer was "then you should provide sufficient police force to preserve the peace." With respect to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) that on making inquiry since he came into office as to the result of the commission of investigation into the Belfast riots he found there was nobody to try; he (Mr. FitzGerald) might state that when the Commissioners opened their inquiry at Belfast they told the auditory they had not come there with a view to criminal proceedings, and that what they wanted to ascertain was the cause of the riots. He would say, in conclusion, that he thought he had not over-stated the case which he had felt it his duty to bring under the notice of the House, and he called upon the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland to justify this singular proceeding of the Solicitor General and Mr. Stronge, and to tell the House what prevented the inquiry which the public demanded being carried out.
said, he thought the course pursued on this occasion by the right hon. Gentleman the late Attorney Gentleman for Ireland (Mr. FitzGerald)a most unusual one. It would be in the recollection of the House that, about two o'clock that day, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Wexford (Mr. Hatchell) rose to move for papers on this subject. No Member of the Government at that time thought anything more was intended by the Motion than the production of the papers in question. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hatchell) made a short and temperate statement in 700 introducing his Motion, and he (Lord Naas) replied to him. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Whiteside) who entered the House just after he (Lord Naas) had spoken, also made what he thought a temperate statement in reference to the Motion before the House. But no sooner had his right hon. Friend resumed his seat than up got the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. FitzGerald), and produced a long indictment against the Government, taking exception to every act they had done in this transaction. If it was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, on entering the House, to make that charge—and he (Lord Naas) presumed it must have been, from his coming there armed with documents and papers— he ought at least to have given the Government some intimation of such intention, and then to have brought the subject under the consideration of the House in a formal manner. He (Lord Naas) could state that the Government were prepared on that, as on every occasion on which their conduct might be impugned, to defend every step they had taken in this transaction. If the right hon. Gentleman thought the conduct of the Government in this matter was open to censure, he ought to make an explicit Motion to that effect, and take the sense of the House upon it. The right hon. Gentleman said the Government had been guilty of the most injudicious, if not, indeed, illegal conduct in this matter, and that the City of Dublin was given up for several days to a riotous assembly. One would have thought the right hon. Gentleman was comparing this transaction to the Bristol riots, or to those which had occurred more recently in a part of the manufacturing districts; but he (Lord Naas) contended that there was nothing in the riots of Dublin which deserved the character the right hon. Gentleman had sought to give them. With respect to the outrage said to have been committed during the Friday night, he (Lord Naas) had been informed by the police authorities that, instead of 4,000 or 5,000 people being collected together, there were not more than 400 or 500; that it was true that they shouted and halloed, and conducted themselves in a riotous manner; but that the mischief they had done was confined to four panes of glass which had been broken at one of the police barracks, and one pane of glass at another. Did that justify the assertion that there were serious riots? Then the right hon. Gentleman imputed to the Government that they did not take due 701 precautions in the matter. He (Lord Naas) said the Government did take precautions; but they did not do what the right hon. Gentleman would lead the House to believe they ought to have done— namely, to call out the military and parade dragoons, infantry, and great bodies of police in the streets, to the dread of the inhabitants, to say nothing of the tendency of such an exhibition to provoke a collision between the soldiers and the citizens. If the Government had done that, they would have taken on themselves a grave responsibility, and the consequence might have been a serious riot. He believed the precautions which the Government took on that occasion were perfectly successful; and, although the excitement consequent on the row, on the Friday between the students and the police was almost unprecedented, there was nothing in that excitement worthy the designation of a serious riot, or anything like it. Instead of finding fault, the right hon. Gentleman ought to have been the very first to gay that the precautions of the Government were perfectly successful, and that, under all the circumstances, the peace was wonderfully and effectually kept. He (Lord Naas) would add that, in the outset of their official career, they were not prepared to follow the example of former Governments, in issuing almost endless Commissions. He believed the policy of such Commissions was very doubtful, and that they were generally the inventions of a weak Government to throw responsibility off their own shoulders, and to leave others to deal with questions which they themselves were not competent to undertake. With respect to the Belfast Commission, there was no object or end to be gained by a proceeding of so doubtful a character. It was an inquiry, not on oath, into circumstances with which the Government from which it emanated ought to have been perfectly well acquainted, and the Commissioners seemed, by the way in which they conducted the investigation, really not to know with what object they had been sent to make it. With regard to the Dublin Commission of last week, the conduct of the Government had been amply vindicated by his right hon. Friend the Attorney General for Ireland. If the Government had not issued that Commission what course could they have taken? It was literally the only course which, in justice to the College 702 authorities and the police, the Government could have adopted. With respect to a question put to him by the right hon. Gentleman, he (Lord Naas) could only say that he was not aware that Colonel Browne ever sent in any statement as to the publicity of the inquiry, or as to the inquiry itself. He might have done so, but if he had, the circumstance was never brought under his (Lord Naas's) notice. It was the counsel for the police who requested the investigation to be private, and on them the responsibility rested in that respect. On the whole, he thought every dispassionate observer would see that the Government had been successful in their endeavour to prevent this matter taking either a party or a sectarian character, and he regretted to say that the first attempt to give it that character had been made in the House of Commons. He could not but think that if the right hon. Gentleman had reserved his remarks until after this matter had been judicially investigated he would have pursued a course certainly more in accordance with what might have been expected from one who had filled the honourable and responsible position of a law officer of the Crown in Ireland, and also more in accordance with what he (Lord Naas) believed to be the right hon. Gentleman's own feelings of justice and fairness.
said, he had no objection to produce the warrant, but he hoped the hon. and learned Member would not press for the police reports, which were confidential.
had no desire to press for the police reports. His object in bringing forward the Motion was not to embarrass the Government in any way, but to elicit some explanation from them in order to allay the irritation which had prevailed for the last week or so in Dublin; and, if it had not come on that day, it would have been postponed until after Easter, when it would have been of no avail.
§ Motion and original Question, by leave, withdrawn.
Of Warrant authorizing an inquiry by the Solicitor General for Ireland and Mr. Stronge, J.P., into the recent Riots at Trinity College, Dublin.
§ House adjourned at a quarter-past Six o'clock.