HC Deb 17 August 1860 vol 160 cc1472-6

said, he understood that it was not the intention of the Government to make that night the usual Motion for the Adjournment of the House till Monday, and therefore he rose to propose that Motion himself, not with the view of pressing it, but to enable some questions, of which notice had been given, to be brought forward. A question stood in his name with respect to some extraordinary changes made in reference to the Irish Constabulary and the resident magistrates. He wished to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland if the report was correct that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had transferred to the Inspector General of Constabulary the appointment of one-third of the resident magistrates, to be selected by him from the force under his command; and, if so, whether the Secretary for Ireland could state the grounds on which such a change of system had been made; and further, whether any reports showing the necessity of such a proceeding, or any communications from the Lord Lieutenant to the Home Office respecting it, had been made and were to be laid before Parliament? He did not think that the noble Lord the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in exercising his ingenuity for perplexing matters, could have displayed it in a way more objectionable than in selecting resident magistrates from the constabulary, whose duty had been the detection and apprehension of offenders, and whose minds, therefore, necessarily could not be of a judicial character. It appeared that the noble Lord was not content that any Irishman should be placed in a condition of trust, and it seemed that the Irishman at the head of the force was to be got rid of, and to be succeeded by Colonel Wood.

Motion made "That this House will at the rising of the House this day adjourn till Monday next."


seconded the Motion for the adjournment, and expressed his opinion that the subject brought before the House by the hon. and gallant Colonel was of an important nature. The fact of a man having been brought up in the police force ought to operate almost as a disqualification for acting in a judicial capacity. He concurred in the condemnation of the system of filling Irish offices with Englishmen. At present the beads of all the Departments were English, with the exception of the head of the Police, and it was now proposed to get rid of him too in favour of an Englishman. But the blame rested with Irishmen themselves. Englishmen took their opinion of the Irish Members from Irish newspapers, and those newspapers had no reporters in that House, but only what they called their "Own Correspondents," who were probably no correspondents at all, unless, perhaps, occasionally one of the Members themselves. Irish subjects had little interest to English newspapers, and it was therefore almost useless to speak of them, because Irish Members were not reported. The people of Ireland thus had no knowledge of what was going on in Parliament, and the consequence was that while the English press treated Irish Members with indifference, from the Irish press they got positive hostility. "Alas, poor Ireland !" said a first class Conservative paper, in the sister country, "what a show her Members make of her!" This was in reference to the Party Emblems Bill, the writer being evidently in a state of benighted ignorance as to what the Irish Members had said or done. He knew that his remarks now would be wasted on the empty wind, and that he should not be reported. The Irish papers, being in ignorance of what passed in this House, lost no opportunity of assailing Irish Members for what they were supposed to have done or to have failed in doing, and the people of England were too much inclined to believe what was said of them. The American President lately met 300 American editors, and in his speech to them said that when he was Ambassador in England a very eminent member of the English Government—perhaps the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) himself—said to him, "Really, judging from your newspapers, one would suppose that you Americans always select the most vile and profligate man to be your President." To which President Buchanan replied that such a conclusion was natural, but that the newspapers did not mean anything by it; it was only their way. That was just the position of the Irish Members, for if you read the Irish press you would imagine them to be the most worthless and incapable persons to be met with in the whole country. He would now ask a question of the Chief Secretary for Ireland in reference to the constitution of the Board of National Education. There were general rumours that an alteration of the constitution of that Board was about to be made by Her Majesty's Government, but if there was to be fair play there ought to be a resident Roman Catholic Commissioner as well as a Protestant resident Commissioner, who would be more important, as regarded the interests of the Roman Catholics, than all the other Commissioners put together. He therefore wished to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether it was intended to appoint a paid resident Roman Catholic Commissioner of the National Board of Education in Ireland.


said, he considered the House was deeply indebted to the hon. and gallant Member for Roscommon for having brought the subject forward, as he, for one, was of opinion that the present constitution of the Irish police was anything but satisfactory. He did not wish to say a word of disparagement against Colonel Wood, who had been appointed to command that force, as there was no doubt he was a most distinguished and meritorious officer, but he did object that it was every day becoming more and more a military force. The Irish constabulary was neither a police nor a military force, and instead of being a detective police force was more like a badly drilled regiment of the army. The mode of dressing them was most absurd, and he thought the system effectually prevented the men from acting as police. Did any one ever hear of the Irish police detecting crime beforehand? He meant, did they ever hear of the Irish police detecting a plot beforehand? He did hope that his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel French) would go further next Session, and move for a Committee to inquire into the force, for day by day it was going on in a wrong direction, by being made more military than it ought to be.


said, with regard to the selection of resident magistrates, before the Act of 1836 they were selected from the police force; but the Act of 1836 vested the power of selection in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant without any limitation to those who had already been in the commission of the peace. What his noble Friend had done was this—on every third vacancy he had consulted Sir Henry Brownrigg, the head of the constabulary force, and the gentlemen who, on the ground of long service, &c, had been selected, were of a rank of life to render them proper persons to fill the situation, and had also been subjected to a competitive examination. With respect to Colonel Wood, he believed no better selection could have been made. He had been previously unknown personally both to the Lord Lieutenant and himself. [Mr. BERNAL OSBORNE: Why, he was Quartermaster General.] Colonel Wood was personally unknown to him. His services were of course well known, and there was no doubt he would prove an efficient officer in the situation to which he had been appointed. With regard to Sir Henry Brownrigg, and the change to which his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel French) had alluded, he could only say the hon. and gallant Colonel must have access to sources of information not open either to Sir Henry Brownrigg or to him (Mr. Card-well). He had seen Sir Henry Brownrigg only a few days ago, and he had then no intention whatever of vacating the position he had so long and so efficiently occupied. With regard to the question of the hon. Member for Cork (Air. Vincent Scully), there was no intention of adding a second paid commissioner to his friend Mr. M'Donnell, who now so ably discharged the duty of paid commissioner of the Board of Education in Ireland.


said, he thought his right hon. Friend had not acted very wisely in not selecting the stipendiary magistrates from the body of unpaid magistrates, according to the usual custom. Colonel Wood was no doubt a very gallant officer; but he could hardly be a good magistrate, because he had been a military man; but the police was not his own service, and he had been taken from his profession to be put over the heads of men who must know their duties better than any military officer. Injustice had thus been done both to the stipendiary magistrates and to the police force, because those appointments were objects of legitimate ambition to the inspectors and other officers in the police force to conduct themselves well.


said, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland would desist from making further appointments from the police to the stipendiary magistracy, and from the army to the police in Ireland, until after the whole subject had been inquired into next Session. He did not wish to throw blame upon any person, but he thought it was a great mistake to give officers in the army the appointments in the police force. It rendered that force far too military in its character. If the Government wished to increase the standing army, let it be done. He did not desire to say one word against the police force, but he thought that gentlemen should not be promoted from it to be stipendiary magistrates. In reference to Colonel Wood, he wished to state that he was a distinguished man, and had risen to his high position entirely through his own unaided efforts, but he did not think that the appointment which he had received in the police force was a proper reward for his military services. If policemen in Ireland were allowed to carry side arms, he was of opinion that soldiers should also be allowed to do so.


said, he could not agree that a gentleman who had been in the police force should not be appointed to the stipendiary magistracy. It was a recommendation rather than otherwise, and the gentlemen of Ireland would always be glad to hear of the promotion of deserving persons.

Question put, and negatived.