HC Deb 10 August 1860 vol 160 cc1153-9

Order for Second Reading read,


said, he rose to move the second reading of this Bill, which had been introduced into the other House and passed with the concurrence of both parties there. The circumstances which led to the introduction of the Bill were so well known that it would be wholly needless to refer to them, even if it were not advisable to refrain from reviving feelings of animosity by a lengthened reference to them. The object of the Bill was to amend the existing law by prohibiting demonstrations calculated to provoke animosities between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects. The existing statute law prohibited processions; but it did not prohibit certain other public displays and manifestations, such as exhibiting flags of a party character, using emblems and symbols of a party character, playing music, singing songs, ringing bells to tunes of a party character. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Recent experience made it impossible to deny that even the ringing of bells might be made as effective for party purposes as any other display. The object of the Bill, then, was to put down all such manifestations having a tendency to provoke hostility between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said, he would oppose that penal measure for the same reason that he had opposed the penal measure which the House had just disposed of. It was said that the main object of the Bill was to repress Orange demonstrations. He was no Orangeman, and had no connection with Orangemen; hut he opposed the Bill because, according to the opinion of the Irish Judges, the law was already strong enough to put down party processions. Mr. O'Connell had no connection with Orange- men, and yet he opposed the very Processions Act which it was the object of the Bill to amend. The House ought to proceed very cautiously when asked to put down party emblems. The Bill would make penal even the singing of party songs. The most despotic monarch in Europe would he deemed insane if he proposed a penal law to prevent the singing of party songs. Bid the right lion. Gentleman think that he would be able to put down the playing of "St. Patrick's Day?" He should conclude by moving that the Bill he read a second time that day three months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day three months.'

Question proposed, "That the word 'now,' stand part of the Question."


seconded the Amendment. He disclaimed all sympathy with the ridiculous displays of religious feeling which had led to the recent disturbances in Ireland, but he did not think that penal legislation ought to be resorted to against the persons who were guilty of them. The Bill was offensive to all classes of Her Majesty's subjects, and there was no use of going into Committee on it, for it could not be amended. Public opinion would be more effectual than penal laws in putting down party demonstrations and insults. Party spirit was, he rejoiced to say, dying out in Ireland, but so far from tending to allay that spirit, the Bill would foment irritation, and increase party animosity. It might be made a disgraceful instrument by which each party would annoy the other; it might be applied to temperance bands, and to the prevention of much innocent amusement; and he hoped it would be rejected by an overwhelming majority.


said, the Government had been appealed to from both sides of the House to bring in some Bill for the purpose of extending the provisions of the Party Processions Act, in order to meet a state of things which had developed itself in the North of Ireland to an extent which called loudly for legislative interference. The measure had come down from the Lords, where it had met with general assent, and he hoped the House would at least agree to the second reading; The Party Processions Act, which was made perpetual in 1850, though it. had had a useful effect, was not found sufficient. From the 1st to the 12th of July Orange flags were hoisted and kept flying from all the large churches in the Orange districts in the North of Ireland. This display caused the greatest excitement, and was regarded as an insult by the Roman Catholic population. Many of the clergymen disapproved those displays, hut were powerless to prevent them, when sanctioned by the churchwardens. Nothing certainly could be more derogatory to the Church than such exhibitions, which were discountenanced by all right-thinking people. There was no wish, whatever, on the part of Her Majesty's Government to do anything calculated to annoy the Protestant population. All they wished to do was to arm the authorities with power to prevent displays of an offensive character, which endangered the public peace, and were discreditable to the country.


said, if the right hon. Gentleman had confined the terms of his Bill to the prevention of party displays by hoisting flags on churches, beating drums in places of public resort, and similar practices, he should, at the request of influential gentlemen in the part of the country which he represented, have given it his support; hut matter which he believed to be not only objectionable, but improper, having been introduced, he felt bound to vote against the measure. Several gentlemen with whom he usually acted and himself waited upon the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and endeavoured to induce him to withdraw those portions of the Bill to which they objected; but, as he had refused to do so, they were at perfect liberty to take any course they thought proper.


said, he trusted Her Majesty's Government would not press such a Bill as the one before the House. Had the question been one merely relating to the internal economy or social improvement of Ireland, he, as an English Member, should not have intruded himself in the debate; but when the House was asked to sanction a Bill which appeared to violate every principle of liberty, and placed such extravagant powers in the hands of magistrates and common constables, he felt bound to protest against a species of legislation for Ireland which Her Majesty's Government would not dare to propose either for England or Scotland. He wished to know who was responsible for a measure which suggested to any one who read it over that it had been drawn by an attorney's clerk. It not merely prohibited the singing of certain songs, but persons were not even to sing "in a manner calculated to give offence." So that a person might be singing the most loyal song—"God save the Queen," or "Rule Britannia," for instance—and yet a constable might come up and object to the manner of the vocalist, and say, "You have been singing that through your nose," or, "You gave a curl of your lip, and I shall therefore seize you and your music too." As the Bill had been drawn by a lawyer, there ought to have been at the end a schedule of prohibited songs, and some kind of suggestion as to "the manner" with which those otherwise harmless might be sung. In this year of grace, 1860, any Government should blush to propose such a measure, and after the expression of feeling on the part of the House, it ought to be withdrawn.


said, he most heartily coincided in the remarks of his hon. and learned Friend who had just sat down. He should feel degraded as an Englishman if such a law were passed for this portion of the United Kingdom, and he hoped Irish Members with a like feeling of indignation would reject the Bill. Power was to be given to the police to enter "any place," whether a man's private house or not, where a party flag or emblem was exhibited, and any opposition to its removal was to be a misdemeanour. In fact, the whole Bill was absurd. It came down from "another place," hut no one would own its parentage, and, as it was opposed to all sense of justice, he hoped it would not be pressed further.


said, he thought the Bill was very important, and should be fully discussed; but out of consideration to the Speaker, he should move that the debate be adjourned.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate he now adjourned."


said, that it was inexpedient to postpone the discussion of this question; and though he thought this Bill went a great deal too far, yet he considered that after the discussion which had that evening taken place upon it, they could not have a better opportunity of coming to a vote upon the question than they had now.


observed that the Bill was worse and more mischievous than the Rill which went before it. He admitted that the display of banners on churches were breaches of good taste, but they were not illegal; and he thought it unfortunate that Chief Justice Monaghan should, in his address to the Grand Jury at Fermanagh, have meddled with matters that were not illegal, and with which, therefore, he, as a Judge, had no concern. He held that the Bill would check that good feeling which it was admitted on all hands was growing up in the North of Ireland.


said, he feared that this was only one of many proofs of the inconsistency of the House. It was hut the other day that there was a universal call upon his right lion. Friend the Secretary for Ireland to introduce some legislative enactment to prevent the party demonstrations that had produced such a lamentable result. His right lion. Friend did not volunteer in the matter, hut it was in compliance with a call on both sides of the House that this Bill was proposed to Parliament. Now, the House, in consequence of the lateness of the hour, seemed indisposed to entertain it, and perhaps the best course would be to adjourn the debate. The matter, however, was one of great importance. Any one who read the newspapers must he aware that these party demonstrations were producing great local disorders in Ireland. The Bill might be susceptible of improvement in Committee, and his right lion. Friend was ready to consider any suggestions with a view to its improvement. If, however, the Bill was to be debated, they might go on till eight o'clock. He could not agree with the noble Lord (Lord Naas) that there would he no other opportunity of considering the Bill, for, as it seemed to be the intention of the House to sit far away into October, there would be ample time to give it full consideration. He trusted the House would agree to the adjournment of the debate.


said, that the Bill was a bad Bill, and would produce twenty times the confusion and animosity it was intended to put down. They were told the Bill came down from the House of Lords. Now, he respected the House of Lords when ho agreed with the House of Lords. But lie trusted that by rejecting this Bill they would not be doing the least disrespect to the other House.


said, that the Bill aimed at putting down the mischief that prevailed in the North of Ireland from party demonstrations and the use of party banners, such as took place on the 12th of July at Derry. It was for the purpose of checking this evil in the bud that the Go- vernment had responded to the appeal of both, sides of the House by bringing in this Bill. He was astonished after what had passed in the House at the opposition which was offered to the Bill. As to "singing songs in a manner calculated to excite animosity," words on which lion, and learned Gentlemen made so merry—"Nobody but an attorney's cleric," said one hon. and learned Gentleman, "could have introduced such ridiculous words into a Bill"—-the identical words were in the Party Processions Act. On those who, after appealing to the Government to bring in a Bill; now joined together to oppose it, would rest the responsibility of any consequences which would ensue from its rejection.


said, he should support the Government on the general principle of the Bill, having been one of those who originally called on the Government to interfere. He had certainly expected to hear Protestant Members from the North of Ireland get up and promise that they would use their moral influence to put an end to these offensive demonstrations. In that case the Catholic Members would have said at once "Away with the Bill." At the same time he should support any attempt to make the Bill as little objectionable as possible.


said, he was not one of those who had asked the Government to bring in this Bill, hut he strongly felt its I necessity; and he was surprised that any Roman Catholic Member should oppose it.


also insisted on the necessity of the Bill to Roman Catholics in the North of Ireland.


said, the Orange commemorations which had been so much sneered at were supported till lately by the Government. He should oppose the Bill. He had no doubt that if the Orangemen of the North of Ireland thought the display of Orange flags from churches was universally offensive they would, to a great extent, desist from such displays.


charged some lion. Members on the Opposition side of the House who now opposed the Bill with having only a few hours before expressed their intention to allow it to pass without discussion.


suggested that as the debate had been continued on the general question, and not on the Motion for adjournment, that Motion had better be withdrawn, so that the House might divide at once on the second reading.


said, he and some other hon. Members would have willingly supported the Bill on the condition that certain alterations should be made in it, and he regretted that the Government had not consented to those alterations.


characterized the Bill as a Coercion Bill for the North of Ireland. He wished to see the peace preserved, but he did not wish the Protestants to be coerced in the North any more than the Catholics in the South of Ireland. He thought that the common law was sufficient to prevent any action tending immediately to a breach of the peace, and that the Bill required more consideration.


said, he objected to all Coercion Bills. He did not believe that the passing of the Bill would induce people in authority to enforce the law, and that the rejection of the Bill would be more likely to have that effect.


said, he would withdraw his Amendment.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.


said, if the Government consented to withdraw from the Bill those sections which imposed penalties for hoisting flags on public places of worship and party drumming, he thought the House might safely agree to the second reading of this Bill.


repeated that he was ready and willing when the Bill was in Committee to consider any amendments which might be proposed by hon. Members.

Question put, "That the word 'now,' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 62; Noes 29: Majority 33.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2°, and committed for Monday next.

House adjourned at a Quarter-after Three o'clock, to Monday next.