HC Deb 21 February 1859 vol 152 cc603-5

said, he rose to ask the Attorney General for Ireland whether it be true, as stated in several newspapers, that the Law Officers of the Crown in Ireland have in their possession the deposition of a person named Heraghty identifying one of the three persons who attempted to murder the Reverend Mr. Nixon; if so, whether any proceedings have been taken thereupon; and if no proceedings have been taken, what are the reasons for not doing so?


said, that the law officers of the Crown were in possession of the deposition of a man named Heraghty, professing to identify one of the individuals who had attempted to murder the Rev. Mr. Nixon. No proceedings, however, had been taken thereupon, and he would briefly state the reasons why. The rev. Gentleman was fired at by one of three persons disguised as women at about two o'clock in the afternoon, when he was returning from church on Sunday, the 24th of October. Fortunately for him, he happened at the moment to turn his head, which occasioned the ball to pass through his cheek. The nearest magistrate in the neighbourhood, Mr. Cruise, a gentleman deservedly in the confidence of the Government, took immediate steps to discover the guilty party. The Government without delay also sent down Mr. FitzGerald, who, with Mr. Cruise, investigated the whole affair. Then arose the matter which had given occasion fur the present question, and a report of which had been prepared by Mr. FitzGerald. From this report it appeared that a person of the name of Heraghty, a travelling sweep, was on the road that day. In the first instance, this man was examined by Mr. Cruise, to whom he declared that he knew nothing whatever of the outrage, nor of the persons who had committed it. The Government immediately sent down an extra body of police, and imposed a tax upon the district as empowered by the Act, which tax was levied at once. Mr. FitzGerald stated on his arrival,—"I was informed that Bernard Heraghty could identify one of the parties who made the attack upon the Rev. Mr. Nixon." The police were therefore at once sent in search of him, and he being found and examined upon oath said, "I knew the face of one of those persons immediately I saw it, but I did not tell it for some days after to any one. The one I knew I swear was young Mr. Nixon, the son of the gentleman who was attempted to be assassinated. I am positive of it. My reason for not telling any one was, that I thought it was a pity. I thought when I saw him that he had deserted from the army, as I had heard that he was in the army at Derry." When Heraghty was asked why he had not told this to Mr. Cruise he said, "Because I was not then on my oath; and my reason for telling it at all was, because I thought it a pity the poor people should be suffering for the tax that was put upon them." He was then asked whether he had told what he saw to any person, and he said that he had, to the Rev. Mr. M'Fadden. The Rev. Mr. M'Naghton, a priest, and a very respectable person, on being asked if Heraghty had told him of this, said, "He told me in conversation that lie was quite sure that one of the three persons he had seen dressed as women was the Rev. Mr. Nixon's son." Mr. M'Fadden added, that he said to Heraghty that when examined by the magistrates he ought to have told the truth to them, upon which he shook his head significantly, and said that would not suit, as he gained his livelihood by the gentry. The rev. Gentleman added, "I then passed on, as I did not attach much weight to what he said, as I knew him to be very near-sighted. I have been informed that he is so near-sighted that he generally does not know people until they speak to him." Immediately after this examination there appeared in certain newspapers in Dublin an attack upon the Government for screening this young man, Mr. Nixon. The stipendiary magistrate, however, was quite on the alert, for he telegraphed to the detective police, and they traced the young man from the day that he was discharged from the army in Londonderry, to the time at which he dined on Sunday, the 24th October, in Dublin, which was 150 miles distant from the scene of the outrage. Coupling this fact with the circumstances that not one of the pea- santry could identify Mr. Nixon's son, the firm conviction left upon Mr. FitzGerald's mind was, that Heraghty was completely mistaken in what he had sworn; and it was only owing to his near-sightedness, which encouraged the belief rather that he was mistaken than wilfully guilty of perjury, that proceedings for that offence had not been instituted against him.