HC Deb 02 August 1861 vol 164 cc1850-6

wished to know from the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland, What had become of the Bill relating to the removal of certain penalties now imposed by law in the case of clergyman marrying a Protestant and Roman Catholic in Ireland, which had been introduced in the early part of the Session by the late Lord Chancellor in the other House of Parliament: also what had become of the Registration of Births, Deaths, and Marriages (Ireland) Bill, as well as that relating to the better regulation of Fairs and Markets in the country, which had been introduced early in the Session by the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary (Mr. Cardwell)? In calling attention, however, to the postponement of those Bills, he must not forget to be just to the Government, and to give them credit for a practical piece of legislation in the shape of the Salaries of County Surveyors Bill, another measure called the "Drunkenness in Ireland Bill," which he could never understand, and another giving two gentlemen £200 a year each for doing something in connection with Irish voters. There was, at the same time, a subject of great importance—Education in Ireland— which had not been dealt with, and which would come under the attention of the right hon. Baronet almost the instant he set his foot on the pier at Kingstown. With that question he hoped his right hon. Friend would at once grapple, using his own judgment in the matter, and setting aside the suggestions which might come from quarters on which reliance ought not to be placed. In conclusion, he had merely to add that he did not think the late Chief Secretary for Ireland was much to be blamed for the absence of legislation for Ireland in the present Session, seeing that he was deprived of the assistance in the House of both the law officers for that country — a position in which no Chief Secretary had been placed since the Union. Blame attached rather to the Prime Minister and the Government. He was afraid that the present Chief Secretary would remain for some time in the same unenviable position; but still he hoped that the right hon. Baronet would do something during the recess to promote the social happiness and the material prosperity of the Irish people.


I am obliged to the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake) for drawing my attention to the important subject of lunatic asylums in Ireland. I concur in the humane views which he has expressed with respect to the necessity and importance of introducing into those institutions everything that may tend to alleviate the sufferings of the inmates and to facilitate, as much as possible, their restoration to a sound state of health in mind and body. Happily in Ireland, as well as elsewhere, the time is long past when lunatics were treated like criminals; but I really admit that, in addition to kindly treatment, it is highly desirable that the monotony and desolation of mind endured by patients in lunatic asylums should be relieved by occupation and amusement. I do not think that the recommendations contained in the Report of the Commission of Inquiry to which the hon. Member has adverted, and which sat in 1858, have been sufficiently attended to. The Commissioners urged the necessity and advantage of introducing a system of recreation and amusement into lunatic asylums; but the hon. Member must know that the remedy for the evils which he has pointed out is a matter not within the province of the Government, but depends upon the local Boards. The district lunatic asylums are governed by Boards which are sustained by local rates, and, although it is true that the law gives the Lord Lieutenant considerable powers, yet it is obvious that it would not be desirable that he should exercise them, except in extreme cases. The hon. Member says that the monotony of lunatic asylums should be relieved by books and music. No doubt such means of recreation and amusement would be very valuable; but their introduction depends upon the Board of Directors of each asylum, and if the Lord Lieutenant were to exercise the power conferred upon him by the law, I am afraid such exercise would be regarded by the local Boards as an unwarrantable interference with the rights and authority of the cess payers. The hon. Member, in contrasting the lunatic asylums in Ireland with those of England, found fault particularly with the asylum at Clonmel. I believe that the condition of that institution is not so unfavourable as the hon. Member has described it to be. The hon. Member told us that the condition of the asylums in England—and he particularly mentioned those of Glocester and Leicester—is much superior to the condition of the asylums in Ireland. I find it stated, however, in the Ninth Report on the district asylums in Ireland that "the sanitary condition of such asylums from 1857 to 1859–60 was most favourable," and that "the comforts in Irish asylums are daily on the increase." The hon. Member gave us an unfavourable account of the asylum at Waterford, and I am aware that he made similar statements in a recent address to the grand jury of that city. Since the delivery of that address I have received a counter-statement from a person who visited the asylum in consequence, and who says— We found the whole building clean and orderly, pictures on the walls, draughts, &c., for the amusement of patients, books, and an instrument of music, which had evidently been in frequent use. As regards employment, patients were engaged in making shoes, knitting, sewing, making clothes, gardening, farming, &c. There are ten acres of land connected with this asylum, divided and sub-divided, the entire work on the land and gardens being performed by patients. I think, therefore, that the condition of the Waterford Asylum is not such as to warrant the severe censure which the hon. Member has pronounced upon that institution. The hon. Member referred to some assurance given by my predecessor in connection with a Bill which was dropped two years ago on the understanding that steps would be taken by the Government to improve the management of the Irish lunatic asylums. I am happy to be able to inform the hon. Member that steps have been taken in the matter, and that new and improved rules have been drawn up under the orders of the Privy Council. I cannot agree with the hon. Member that the condition of the asylums in Ireland is so very unfavourable as compared with the asylums in England. The reverse is the case; and it is somewhat remarkable that the condition of the asylums in Ireland is considerably better than the condition of the asylums in England or in Scotland, or even in France. I have read the report to which the hon. Member has referred, very carefully, and I find that the percentage of recoveries, whether considered by admissions annually or by total number of patients under treatment, is greater in the Irish district lunatic asylums than in those of other countries. It is more favourable than in Scotland or than in England. Of the daily average under treatment—and this is very important—16 per cent are cured in Ireland, about 13 per cent in France, and about 10 per cent in England. In four years the deaths by casualties in Ireland among the insane in lunatic asylums were sixteen in all; but in England during the same period they were 124. Those facts show, I think, that the lunatic asylums in Ireland are, upon the whole, well and satisfactorily governed. No doubt improvements may be introduced, and when I go to Ireland I shall be happy to give this matter my best attention.

Turning now to the remarks of the hon. Member for the King's County (Mr. Hennessy), I am afraid I cannot state the reasons why the Bills to which he has referred have been dropped; but I may be permitted to say that next Session, should I continue to hold the office of Chief Secretary, and should any measures relating to Ireland be dropped, I shall be quite prepared to give the reasons. I have no doubt my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Cardwell) will be able to reply to the observations of the hon. Member opposite. In conclusion, I wish to take this opportunity of assuring Irish Members and the House generally that I shall never grudge any time or attention for the purpose of considering whatever may be necessary for the interests of the lunatic asylums and all other public institutions in Ireland, and that I shall cheerfully co-operate with hon. Gentlemen on both sides in endeavouring to promote whatever measures which may tend to the improvement, progress, and advancement of Ireland.


said, he thought the hon. Member for Waterford was not aware that new regulations for the administration of affairs in lunacy had been prepared by a Commission specially appointed for the purpose, and that those regulations only waited the arrival of the right hon. Baronet in Ireland to be finally sanctioned. With respect to amusements in lunatic asylums in Ireland, his experience did not correspond with that of the hon. Member; for when he visited the Belfast asylum the patients were drawn up in military array, and were obviously enjoying a recreation well calculated to divert their minds. He believed, moreover, that in a curative point of view no asylum stood higher than that of Belfast. A great deal had been done during the last two years to supply the deficiency of accommodation for the care and cure of lunatics in Ireland. Many new asylums had been ordered, and he had no doubt that in a short time the whole of the accommodation recommended by the Redington Commission would be furnished. In reply to the questions of the hon. Member for the King's County (Mr. Hennessy) he had to state that the Bill for repealing the penal statute affecting Roman Catholic mixed marriages was withdrawn at the request of a large number of the Roman Catholic Members of that House, including the hon. Gentleman himself. He had received a communication from those hon. Gentlemen which led him to believe that the measure was not acceptable to them, and that he should not receive their support in proceeding with it. The other two measures to which the hon. Member had referred—the Registration of Marriages Bill and the Fairs and Markets Bill, related to subjects of great difficulty and importance, subjects which had en- gaged the attention of Parliament for many years, and were introduced early in the Session. These two measures were referred to Select Committees which made their Reports to the House. "Why, then, it was asked, did they not make progress in the House? The reason was not any unwillingness on the part of the Government, for they were most anxious to complete them, but because many of the Irish Members had to attend the summer assizes, and such measures could not be proceeded with in their absence. With regard to the Bill for the Registration of Marriages, it was quite true that the Committee had come to an all but unanimous conclusion; but, contrary to his protest, they had inserted a clause in the Bill giving to clergymen registering a marriage in Ireland exactly five times the remuneration that was given to clergymen in England, and charged it not on the local rates but on the Consolidated Fund. Now, it must be quite manifest to the House that it was totally impossible for him as a Member of the Government to recommend that clause to the adoption of the House; and it must be equally manifest that in the absence of the Irish Members he could not ask the House to reverse the decision of the Committee. There was no alternative, therefore, but to leave the matter over till next Session. So, also, with regard to the Fairs and Markets Bill, the Committee arrived at a unanimous conclusion. It touched vested interests and affected the regulation of traffic, both wholesale and retail, throughout the whole kingdom; and any Minister would be most culpable who attempted to make progress with such a measure in the absence of the Irish Members. The first of the three Bills then was not proceeded with, because those it was intended to relieve were desirous it should not be proceeded with; and, with regard to the two others, notice had been given by the Government on the very first day of the Session that they would be introduced on an early day; they were so introduced, they were referred to a Select Committee, but they could not be proceeded with in the House in consequence of the absence of the Irish Members at the summer assizes.


thought the chief fault of the lunacy establishments in Ireland was the appointment of the Governors, who were nominated by the Lord Lieutenant, often as a matter of caprice. They ought, in his opinion, always to be con- nected with the financial distribution of the country.