§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS,
who had given notice—To ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland a Question relative to the Commission of Inquiry into the recent disturbances at Belfast; and to call the attention of the House to the circumstances connected with that Commission, and to the administration of the Law and Processions in Ireland; and to move for Papers,said—Sir, I have to beg the attention of the House for a short time, while I refer to some matters of detail connected with the administration of the law in Ireland. I am well aware of the tendency of Irish topics to engender, in the course of debate, feelings of irritation and of controversy. I can assure the House that in the proposition which I have to make I shall desire, and I hope I shall be able, to avoid using a single word which can give pain to any person who hears me. I deplore as much as any one does the extent to which religious and political animosity has prevailed in Ireland, and it is not my object to excite or to aggravate those differences, but rather to refer to a matter which all parties and all sections ought equally to have at heart—I mean the wise and impartial administration of the law. My desire is to invite, and I hope we shall obtain from Her Majesty's Government some ex- 329 planation which will tend to calm and reassure the public mind, in many parts of the country greatly excited and disturbed by the occurrences to which I am about to refer. I will ask the House to allow me, in the first place, to remind them of what the law in Ireland at the present time is on the subject of public processions. Before the year 1832 there was no statutory enactment that I am aware of about processions in Ireland. In the year 1832 the present Lord Derby, then Chief Secretary for Ireland, as the organ of the Government of the day, introduced into this House and passed through it the first statute on the subject of processions. That statute continued in force from 1832 till 1844, being renewed from time to time, and in 1844 it was allowed to expire. Now, the character of that enactment was simply this:—It prohibited, or declared illegal, processions in Ireland which were accompanied by certain descriptions of banners and music, which I need not at this moment describe; but the peculiarity of the enactment was, that it was confined to those processions which took place for the purpose of celebrating either an anniversary or a festival, or some public event connected with party differences. It applied to no procession of any other kind; and the consequence was that the statute became the subject of much remark during the time that it continued in force, and being said to bear upon one party in the country more than upon another in a way that had not been intended by the House, there was a strong feeling in favour of its being either repealed or allowed to expire, and it accordingly expired in the year 1844. In the year 1850, after the lapse of six years, an enactment was passed to replace the statute which thus expired, and it is that enactment which is at present in force. To the words of that enactment, which are very short, I wish, if the House will allow me, to refer, because they have a particular bearing on what I have subsequently to state. That statute declares that—All assemblies of persons in Ireland who shall meet and parade together or join in procession, and who shall wear or have among them or any of them any fire-arms or other offensive weapons, or any banner, emblem, flag, or symbol, the display whereof may be calculated or tend to provoke animosity between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects, or shall be accompanied by any person or persons playing music or singing any song which may be calculated or tend to provoke animosity 330 between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects, shall be unlawful assemblies."—[13 & 14 Vict.c. 2.]And, then, certain provisions are made which would enable the magistrates to take steps to remove those matters connected with the procession which may be objectionable, and to bring to justice the persons offending against the law. The testis not what the result of the procession will he but whether the banners, music, &c, are calculated and tend—not whether they are intended—to provoke animosity between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects. At the time this Act was before Parliament, some observations were made by the Lord Lieutenant in his place elsewhere, recommending the Bill to the attention of Parliament, and those observations have an important bearing on the statute, fairly and accurately describing, in fact, the objects with which it was passed into law. Lord Clarendon, on that occasion, said—I trust your Lordships will give your assent to a Bill which is now before the other House for putting an end to all processions—a Bill, I beg to say, which is directed against no particular party, and will be a triumph to none."—[3 Hansard, cviii. 949.]No doubt that was the object of the Legislature, and no doubt the words of the Act of Parliament, if properly carried into operation, would have that effect. In calling attention to the administration of the law under this Act, I will state frankly to the House my own opinion—the opinion, of course, only of an individual—that I have always entertained very great doubt about the wisdom of this kind of legislation. I own I can hardly help being surprised at any country that boasts of its freedom, being content to be told that it is to be deprived of the liberty of using banners, flags, music, &c, of any kind. I deprecate the wisdom of such processions. I think them most idle, foolish, and ill-advised, but still I think a much higher and better end is attained by accustoming the people of Ireland to tolerate on the one side and the other, matters which certainly we in England look upon as indifferent. Another great defect in this kind of legislation is, that it is very apt to generate suspicions of a partial administration of the law, or actual partiality in its administration. At the same time that is hut the opinion of an individual, and Parliament in its wisdom has passed the statute to which I refer. In one point we all agree, that whether the Act of Parliament was wise or unwise, desirable or undesirable, it is above all things necessary that 331 once passed it should be, like any other Act of Parliament, firmly and impartially maintained and administered as against not one only, but all sections of the community. But what has been the course that has been taken in Ireland under this Act of Parliament? Since 1850 there have been a great many convictions for offences under the Act. They have been principally convictions of a very petty and paltry character. Small assemblies of boys and girls, and sometimes of adults, have been found transgressing the law, no doubt have been proceeded against, and punished. I believe there was a very celebrated case in which two small boys were found in possession of a very bad imitation of a drum. They were prosecuted before the sessions, and duly punished for the offence. If they had been convicted of committing a nuisance, no one would have objected, but it was rather magnifying a very small offence to treat it as playing music tending to provoke animosity between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects. I will now ask the House to allow me to mention a particular case which has occurred in more recent times—a case in regard to which I make no complaint whatever, but to' which I advert in order to show how the law has been applied. Sir, in the summer before last there were half a dozen men in a town called Gilford, county Down, in the north of Ireland, who were prosecuted for walking on the 14th of July in a procession, which had banners of the character mentioned in the Act of Parliament. They were convicted at the Down-patrick Assizes, and sentenced by Mr. Justice Hayes to three months' imprisonment in the gaol of Down for being seen in the crowd of persons who walked through Gilford with music and emblems. Evidence was given that a procession from the country came to the town. It was not contended that the prisoners did any unlawful act except joining in the procession. There was no quarrel or collision, nor was any complaint made to any of the police by any of Her Majesty's subjects offended by the procession. These prisoners were married men with children; they had the best possible character for steadiness, and a petition, extensively signed by Members of this House, Magistrates, Deputy Lieutenants, and other persons of respectability cognizant of the facts, was sent to the Lord Lieutenant, praying him to exercise the prerogative of the Crown and liberate these men. That petition was refused. The 332 men were not pardoned, and they served out their full term of three months. I make no complaint in that case, because these men had violated the law as it stood, and they were properly tried and sentenced. Let me now ask the House to observe the course taken with regard to processions of a much larger description. There were two large processions in Dublin—one in 1861, and the other in 1862. They were both extremely large in numbers, and it was the common opinion in the country that they were accompanied by banners and music of the character pointed out by the Act of Parliament. There was also another procession, in regard to the facts of which there is no dispute—the procession of August 8, 1864, in Dublin, We all know the ostensible purpose of this procession—it was to lay the foundation stone of a statue to a man whose name will largely figure in the history of Ireland, and is regarded with respect and veneration by many Members of this House. It was perfectly right for these parties to have a statue and a procession to inaugurate, if nothing were done in violation of the law. What was the course taken by the Irish Government in apprising the magistracy and the constabulary of Ireland as to their duty in regard to processions of this kind? In 1862, a circular was issued from Dublin Castle to all the magistrates in Ireland. It was couched in language which is sometimes used in Ireland, but which is, I believe, seldom addressed to the magistrates of this country—The justices should understand that it is their bounden duty, within their respective jurisdictions, to act upon the powers vested in them by the law for the suppression of these illegal proceedings (to wit, the display of party emblems, or the marching in procession with music and colours); and that they will be held individually and collectively responsible for any violation of this law which may occur in their district, of which it shall be found that they have had notice, and where it shall appear that they have not made use of their authority and the means at their disposal to suppress such proceedings, and bring those concerned to justice.I do not know that it is the law, as known in this country, although it may be the law at Dublin Castle, that magistrates are responsible collectively and individually if other persons break the law. It is a singular view of the position of the duty of a justice of the peace, and a somewhat summary proceeding. As to the constabulary, a circular, dated June 21, 1864, was issued from the Constabulary Office, Dublin 333 Castle, and signed by the Chief Constable. It set forth that—Any person who shall publicly exhibit or display…any banner, flag, party emblem, or symbol, or who shall publicly meet and parade with other persons, or play any music in any public street, if such acts are done wilfully and knowingly in such a manner as may be calculated or tend to provoke animosity between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects, and lead to a breach of the public peace, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Strict orders have been given to the constabulary to take down the names and residences of all offenders, in order that they may be proceeded against.These were the orders given, one to the magistrates and the other to the constabulary. As to the procession of the 8th of August, the facts are not disputed. I have taken them partly from two newspapers which sympathize with the objects of the procession, and partly from the words of an eyewitness, and I state the facts from these sources that they may not be controverted—The procession occupied three-and-a-half hours in passing any given point, and was estimated to amount to from 60,000 to 80,000 men. Every man wore some ribands of white and green, either a rosette, a band on his hat, or a scarf, sometimes all three. The scarfs were of green silk, with harps on them, without a crown. The rosettes had similar harps in the centre. There were wands carried adorned with green ribands. There were 134 large banners, more or less green, and many thousand banneretes all green. The green banners, banneretes, scarfs, and rosettes, were borne not only by the various trades, but also by schools and religious orders. The barricade in Sackville Street was kept by the coal porters, carrying sticks adorned with green ribands; and at each corner of the barricade stood a man with a pike, from which depended a bannerete of green with a crownless harp. Some of the banners had the emblem of a 'sunburst.' There were from twenty to thirty bands of music; and tunes, well known as party tunes, such as 'Garryowen' and the 'White Cockade,' were played.Now, I do not know whether we shall hear from the Chief Secretary for Ireland that he considers there was nothing in all this which was a violation of the Act of Parliament. I recollect the right hon. Baronet saying once in this House that it was a mistake to suppose that green was a party colour in Ireland, and I recollect, also, the amazement which that statement produced in Ireland. But I do not desire to go into the question whether it is a party colour or not. There are no such words in the Act of Parliament as "party colour;" it is a false issue. But if green is not a party colour, there is no such thing as a party colour in Ireland at all. There is nothing that could be suggested as the colour of 334 one party as opposed to the colour of another. If the right hon. Baronet has ever had leisure to peruse the ballad literature of Ireland—some of it produced by men of the greatest talent and well worthy of perusal—he will find sentiments in it which will convince him what the character of that colour is in the estimation of the Irish people. But the words of the Act of Parliament are these—Any flag or symbol the display whereof may be calculated or may tend to provoke animosity between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects.We all know enough of Ireland, whether we be Irish Members or not, to know perfectly well and to judge for ourselves whether the state of things which I have described was or was not such as was aimed at by the Act of Parliament, and intended by the Act to be stamped as something which ought not to be permitted. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman may not say that no breach of the peace occurred. Now, in the first place, the Act of Parliament does not make that the test. In the next place, with respect to the men of Gilford—to whose case I referred—that was put forward as a reason why mercy should be shown to them when convicted, and the plea was not received. But I would warn the right hon. Baronet of the danger of putting forward any defence of this kind, because the consequence will be this. If you say, "We won't take notice of breaches of the Act of Parliament where collisions do not take place," you tell the minority that their only hope of having the law enforced for their protection is to cause a collision so as to provoke a breach of the peace; and, on the other hand, you tell the majority that, provided they can bring together a force so large and so overwhelming that there would be no danger of any person interfering with them, they may set the law at defiance. There is one other consequence which I wish to point out to the right hon. Baronet. The moment it becomes known that the Government will institute proceedings under this Act of Parliament at some places and under some circumstances, but not in others, there is an end of all chance of your obtaining convictions under the Act. The Act is one which leaves a considerable amount of discretion to the jury, because the jury has to say in the first place whether any banner or symbol has the tendency referred to in the Act of Parliament. Well, you 335 have got convictions up to this time very fairly; jurors are willing to convict. But let it once be known that the Government do not intend to apply this law impartially, and from that moment the jury will take the law into their own hands, and will refuse to say that any violation of the Act comes within the meaning of the words, and they will return verdicts for the defendants. Now with regard to this particular case, I believe that neither at the time nor after it was any complaint made by the Government of the conduct of the persons who formed the procession in Dublin, or of the magistrates who accompanied it—for I believe there were magistrates who did accompany the procession and take part in it—and I believe the Government have treated the matter from that day to this as one which in no respect infringed the Act. If that be so, I ask the House if they are surprised at what is said in a petition which I had the honour to present, and which was signed by many thousand inhabitants of the north of Ireland. The petitionersPray your honourable House to take such steps as in your wisdom shall seem best to cause the law against party processions and emblems to be impartially enforced against persons of whatever creed or politics, and to remove from the minds of the inhabitants of Ulster the impression that the laws in question, though general in their wording, were only intended to be put in operation against a particular class of Her Majesty's subjects.We know there was no such intention; but is it surprising that men—more especially uneducated men—should adopt the opinion which is there expressed, and should arrive at the conclusion that the Act was only intended to be enforced against one section of the inhabitants of the country? But I must ask the House to go a little beyond the Procession Law of Ireland. The Dublin procession took place on the 8th of August. Immediately afterwards there occurred an event which, unfortunately, became so public that every Gentleman in this House must be aware of it—I mean the disturbances and riots in Belfast. I am sure that any person connected with Ireland, more especially with Belfast, would be unable to speak of these disturbances—certainly, I should be unable to do so—without feelings of pain and mortification—pain and mortification that under any circumstances, whatever blame is to be attached to any party, such things at this time of day should have taken place in the otherwise happy and most prosperous town 336 of Belfast. I am not going to suggest at this time—for I desire as far as possible to avoid all ground of controversy—how far, or whether at all, these disturbances are to be traced to the course taken by the Government with regard to the procession in Dublin. There is not the least doubt that nine out of every ten men in the north of Ireland would tell you that is their opinion. But I do not desire to inquire into the fact. It is, however, beyond doubt that the minds of men were so much excited immediately after this procession in Dublin, that it required but a very small spark indeed to blow that excitement into a full flame. But though I refer to the disturbances in Belfast, I beg the House to understand that nothing can be further from my mind than to enter into any details with respect to these disturbances. For this reason—there are nearly 100 persons waiting their trial at the next assizes, all accused of having committed offences in connection with these disturbances, and I should be unwilling that a word should fall from me which should in any way affect the course of justice. But, Sir, what I want the House to observe is the course which was taken by the Irish Government immediately upon the occurrence of these disturbances. And when I say the Irish Government, I own I feel myself in considerable difficulty in knowing what the Irish Government was at that time. The late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had left the country; we felt painfully that there was sufficient reason for his doing so, and we deplore the subsequent result. The right hon. Baronet was also absent; but I do not suggest that he also had not good reason for his absence. The Government of Ireland, in the absence of the Lord Lieutenant, is generally supposed to be reposed in the Lords Justices. But there were no Lords Justices. [Sir ROBERT PEEL: There was the Commander-in-Chief.] Oh! the Commander-in-Chief was the Government of Ireland? I was just coming to that. The Lord Chancellor was absent; the Archbishop of Dublin was not present; the Commander-in-Chief, Sir George Brown, bore upon his own shoulders the whole Government of Ireland upon that occasion. Well, what did Sir George do? There was in Belfast a stipendiary magistrate. Hon. Members not acquainted with Ireland will allow me to remind them of the character of a stipendiary magistrate in Ireland. He is resident in a particular place, generally in 337 a populous town, he receives a salary from the Government, and is appointed because he is supposed to be a master of his profession, and also because, being always on the spot, he will be in constant communication with the Irish Executive at Dublin Castle. Well, there was a stipendiary at Belfast, and we may assume that he was in daily and hourly communication, before and at the time of the disturbances, with the Castle, which, I suppose, means with Sir George Brown. That was not all. As soon as the disturbances broke out the Government sent to Belfast six other stipendiary magistrates. [Sir ROBERT PEEL: No!] I beg pardon. I am sorry to be inaccurate. Perhaps there were seven. There were either six or seven. They were withdrawn from other parts of Ireland, and I do not think it is any strong assumption that they comprised the flower of the stipendiary magistrates of Ireland, who were to relieve the local magistracy from any trouble or anxiety, and to perform any duties which might become necessary. In addition to this Sir George Brown showed great vigour. He poured troops into Belfast—I believe as many as 4,000 within forty-eight hours. He sent down two large Armstrong guns with their usual accompaniments, and a considerable body of cavalry, and in addition there was a general officer with the troops, General Haines. A very large body of constabulary was also sent to Belfast from the neighbouring country; I am told there were as many as 1,800; and they had at their head an officer who enjoyed the advantage of being a magistrate in every county in Ireland, having been made so for the purpose of acting there in a magisterial character whenever there was occasion. Yet, notwithstanding the six or seven stipendiaries, the troops, the general officer, the Armstrong guns, and the constabulary, I am sorry to say that nothing on earth was done. The constabulary were waiting for the military, the military were waiting for the guns, the two forces together were waiting for the stipendiaries, and the stipendiaries did nothing at all. The result was—and it almost excites a smile when one thinks of it—the riots went on undisturbed for eleven or twelve days. They wore themselves out, though, I believe, some vigorous action by one of those various bodies must of necessity have stopped them within twenty-four hours. What did the Government do next? As I have said, nearly 338 100 men were arrested for participating in the riots or for committing offences during the riots—the greater number for the misdemeanor of taking part in the disturbances, but something like eighteen or twenty for assaults or homicides, or offences amounting to felony. Now, the Government had two courses open to them. I suppose at this time the government of Sir George Brown was approaching to an end, and perhaps some of the Lords Justices had arrived. The Government might have issued a Special Commission to try these prisoners. Bail, in the first instance, was refused for almost all. Now, I wish to deal fairly with the Government, and to make fair allowance for the difficulty they were in. In issuing a Special Commission there would have been a difficulty. It might be said, and said with some truth, that it would have been unwise to send a Special Commission for the trial of these prisoners in Belfast when the excitement there had scarcely passed away; and there would have been great danger of renewing that excitement by trying these prisoners so soon after the disturbances. That may be a reason, and a very fair reason, against a Special Commission. The Government did not send a Commission; but what did they do? The riots terminated about the 20th of August. About the end of September, or the beginning of October, a certain number of inhabitants of Belfast sent a deputation to Dublin, and requested the authorities at the Castle to send down not a Special Commission to try the prisoners, but a Commission of Inquiry. It was a private application, and what took place at it I have no means of knowing. But it was publicly announced early in October by those who made the application that the Government had assented to it; that two gentlemen were coming down as Commissioners for the purpose of inquiry; and so accurate was the information that the names of the Commissioners were given. That was early in October, but no intimation was made to any of the authorities in Belfast until about the 6th of November, a month after the intentions of the Government had been communicated to the deputation. On the 6th or 7th of November, then, it was intimated to the Mayor of Belfast that a Commission was issued, and that it was to sit in Belfast to inquire into certain matters which I will presently refer to. If it was not desirable that there should be a Special Commission for the trial of prisoners on the ground of the 339 excitement then prevailing in the town, was it desirable to have that irregular court called a Commission of Inquiry, which could do nothing but foment dissension and ill will in the town, and, as I shall presently show, prejudice the case of the prisoners who stood for trial? But there is more about the Commission to which I wish to refer. The two Commissioners were members of the Irish Bar, Queen's Counsel, and I desire to speak of them with all respect. From all that I have heard I believe that they have won an honourable place in their profession by their character and abilities, and that no exception can be taken to their competence to transact any business which might be assigned to them. But there was one peculiarity with regard to them which seems to me to have been very unfortunate. If an inquiry like this was to satisfy the public mind at all, surely it was of the first necessity that those who were to perform judicial functions should be above the possibility of suspicion. But I find from the Reports of this House that the senior Commissioner, Mr. Barry, a gentleman of great eminence and ability, appeared as counsel before a Royal Commission which sat in Belfast in the year 1858, and which turned upon various matters of local interest connected with the present inquiry, and which were said, rightly or wrongly, to have borne upon these disturbances. Before the Commission of 1858 Mr. Barry appeared, representing the party connected by feelings and sympathy with those who had solicited the appointment of the present Commission. It is singular, that upon that occasion Mr. Barry protested against the inquiry as unconstitutional, though it possessed, to say the least of it, very much greater authority than this inquiry, for that of 1858 took place by virtue of a Royal Commission, whereas the other was instituted by the authority of Sir George Brown. So much for what happened before the Commission sat. But that is not all. Remember that the Government itself was upon its trial, because one of the very things which almost everybody on the spot complained of was that in spite of troops, constabulary, and stipendiaries, the Government had taken no effectual means whatever to suppress the riots. An inquiry, therefore, into the subject of the riots was, and must have been, an inquiry more or less affecting the conduct and the responsibility of the Government. But what have the Government done with 340 respect to Mr. Barry, as to whose honour and conduct I make no complaint? Why, before the Report of the Commission had been presented to the House they have appointed him one of the Law Advisers of the Crown. I say again, that I attach no blame to Mr. Barry, but blame is to be attached to those who have put him into a false position. He has now to make his report upon these matters, as to which the Government were upon their trial, at the very time he is the Law Officer of the Government, and the Law Adviser of the Castle at Dublin. Suppose it were the opinion of Mr. Barry that these disturbances went to the pitch they did by reason of some failure of duty on the part of the Government, in what way, and with what grace, would the Law Adviser of the Government make a report to that effect? I desire now to say a word as to the scope and object of this Commission. I hold in my hand the authority under which these gentlemen professed to act, and which they said was their instruction for holding an inquiry in Belfast. This House will be surprised to hear that the warrant is signed "G. Brown, General." This is, I think, the first time that a Commission of Inquiry has been held under the warrant of a General Officer; and I hope that the Chief Secretary for Ireland will explain how it happened that, on the 3rd of November, 1864, Sir George Brown issued a Commission of Inquiry in the name of the Lords Justices, countersigned by himself as General officer. But the more important matter was what these gentlemen were to inquire into: and I pray the House to observe how studiously the Government evaded the possibility of inculpating themselves, and suggested the possibility of inculpating some one else. The warrant stated—We do hereby authorize and direct you, Charles Robert Barry and Richard Dowse, Esqrs., two of Her Majesty's counsel-at-law, to hold a court of inquiry at Belfast, aforesaid, on Saturday, the 12th day of November instant, and following days, and to inquire into the existing local arrangements for the preservation of the peace of that borough, the management and jurisdiction exercised within it, and the amount, and constitution, and efficiency of the police force usually available there; the proceedings taken by the magistrates and other local authorities towards the prevention or suppression of the said riots and disturbances; and whether these authorities and the existing police force are adequate to the future maintenance of order and tranquillity within the borough; and whether any and what changes ought to be made in the local magisterial and police jurisdiction, arrangements, and establish- 341 ment, with a view to the better preservation of the public peace and the prevention or prompt suppression of riot and disorder.So that it appears by the warrant that in this inquiry the cause of the riots, the means of preventing them in future, the conduct of the stipendiary magistrates amenable to the Government, the conduct of the Government itself, the force at the disposal of the Government—all of which, if there were to be inquiry at all, were surely proper subjects for it—were to be entirely ignored, and the investigation was to be limited to the acts of the local police and the local magistrates. There is a still more singular feature connected with this case. Will the House believe that under a Royal Commission, in 1857, issued by the present Government, the identical matters described in this warrant had all been inquired into and reported on? For the duties of the Royal Commission of 1857 were thus stated—To inquire into the local arrangements for the preservation of the peace and the suppression of riot and disorder in Belfast, the force usually available there for such purposes, and the adequacy of such provisions for the maintenance of peace, order, and tranquillity. And, generally, to make such inquiry in the premisses as to you shall seem proper and expedient.So that the very same words used in reference to the inquiry last year were the words addressed in 1857 to the Commissioners then appointed, who inquired into the riots of that year, the force at the disposal of the local magistrates, and the power of those magistrates, and who reported in these very significant words—These matters lead us to believe that in the constitution of the present police force there are serious errors, calling for immediate remedy—and to recommend that a total change should be effected in the mode of appointment and the management of the local police of Belfast. We think the late riots have made this step one that recommends itself to every calm thinking and reasonable man in Belfast, and we hardly think it could find opponents even among the warmest partisans.If, therefore, the Chief Secretary for Ireland should tell me that the Government issued the Commission of last year to inquire into the constitution of the police force, and to see whether it was adequate for the suppression of riots, my answer is, that you made that inquiry before when a Commission sat for three weeks, at the expense of many thousand pounds to the public, and the Commissioners reported that the constitution of the police force called for immediate change. What did the Government do 342 upon that Report of 1857; I mean the Government who issued the Commission? Why, nothing. Nothing from that day to this. True it is, when my noble Friend the Member for Cockermouth (Lord Naas) was Chief Secretary for Ireland, in 1858, he, finding this Report made to the Crown, felt it his duty to lay on the table a Bill to carry out the recommendations of the Report; and, at the same time, proposed regulations with respect to the police of Dublin. I well recollect the opposition given to that Bill by those who were in opposition to the then Government. No doubt a great part of that opposition was directed against that portion of the Bill which affected Dublin; but the result was that the Bill was obliged to be abandoned, and the Government, who issued the Commission of 1857, and who again came into office and have since held office up to the present time, did nothing whatever in spite of the statement of their own Commission of 1857, that the inefficiency of the police had been the cause of the riots, might aggravate any future riots in the town of Belfast, and that the constitution of the force required an immediate alteration. So much for the scope of the inquiry of last year, and now I come to say a few words with respect to the proceedings which took place under it. After the issue of the Commission, the Commissioners went to Belfast and sat twenty-two days in all. There was, no doubt, very great excitement in consequence of this inquiry. The Commissioners announced, immediately after commencing their sittings, that, though they were a court of inquiry, they did not propose to be bound by any rules of evidence, or to take evidence on oath. They also announced that they had no power to compel any person to attend as a witness before them. Now, ask the House to consider what the result of these three infirmities, if they may be so called, on the part of the Commissioners must be. If they were not prepared to adhere to any rules of legal evidence, the result would be that hearsay, gossip, opinions, impressions, anything, everything but facts would be repeated to them. Then, if they could not hear evidence on oath, there could not be the safeguard—one of the greatest protections for those affected by evidence—the safeguard of an oath, which to most minds at least is a check against false witnesses, and erroneous statements. Lastly, and worst of all, if they could not compel the attendance of 343 any witness, the result would be that they would be at the mercy of volunteers and partisans, who came forward with evidence of little value, and such as might chance to come before the Commission; while the attendance of witnesses who would be impartial, and their evidence, therefore, of the greatest value, the Commissioners were unable to compel. It was not surprising that one of the first things that happened was this:—There being nearly 100 men waiting for trial at the Spring Assizes, a legal gentleman, who represented a large number of them, handed in the following protest:—To Messrs. Barry, Q.C., and Dowse, Q.C., Commissioners, &c.—I, the undersigned, James M'Lean, solicitor for various parties against whom informations have been taken for alleged participation in the late riots in this town, and who are now either out upon bail or in custody (as the case may be), protest against your proceeding upon the inquiry now opened, and assign the following reasons:—1. That the Commissioners have no power to compel the attendance of witnesses, and consequently that witnesses who come forward will do so voluntarily, and in many cases must, therefore, be tainted with suspicion. 2. That the Commissioners have not the power to administer an oath, and that false witnesses cannot, therefore, be prosecuted for perjury. 3 That statements may be made by such witnesses affecting the cases of the persons on whose behalf I protest; and which statements, as they could not be anticipated, cannot be prevented from being made by the Commissioners.That protest, though a very proper one, was disregarded, and the Commission was proceeded with. Now, as far as I understand, the usual course pursued in Commissions has been for the Commissioners to say to persons coming forward voluntarily, "We will ask you questions on points on which we wish to have information, but we will protect you from imputations and cross-examinations." Instead of this, counsel appeared on behalf of those who had asked for the Commission. That counsel did not state or allege a case against any particular person, but called witness after witness who came forward as volunteers; he examined every witness on every subject, which appeared to him interesting or profitable for the time being. I do not find fault with him, as no check was imposed by the Commissioners. He went into an examination of the evidence which is to be made the foundation of charges of homicide against a number of men awaiting their trial, and witnesses were examined as to the acts and conduct of a magistrate who was stated at the time to be absent in Italy in conse- 344 quence of ill health, and who, though perhaps not aware of the Commission of Inquiry, will read in the report charge after charge against him. Again, in the Commission, as I have pointed out, there was nothing which required the Commissioners to go into the origin or cause of the riots. But the evidence went into that. Statement after statement was made as to gossip, as to impressions, surmise, and opinion upon everything connected with the riots from beginning to end, after the Commissioners had said that they had not the power and did not wish to go into any evidence of that kind. I ask the House, then—for this is the important part of the case—to consider what the effect of this is upon the prisoners who are awaiting their trial at the Spring Assizes. And what about its effect upon the jurors? The jurors are to be taken from a panel of persons who serve on the Belfast juries. They have heard a rehearsal for twenty-two days of the whole of the events which are to become the subject of the charge against these prisoners; they have heard these events discussed in heat and in partisanship; they have heard them discussed by volunteer witnesses coming forward for a proceeding that was practically ex parte; they have heard them discussed with statements made not under the sanction of an oath, statements made without any proper cross-examination, statements made by those who showed by the very fact of their coming forward as volunteers to give their evidence that they were partisans and not indifferent witnesses. Now, I say, how is it possible for jurors to keep their minds even and unbiassed in the face of a rehearsal of that kind, lasting for twenty-two days and exciting the town beyond measure? And how can the prisoners have a fair trial at the hands of juries constituted after a Commission of that character has sat? But observe how it stands as to the witnesses. Who are the witnesses who would naturally be called upon the trial of these men? Why, clearly the local police, the constabulary, any of the military who witnessed any of the events in question, and such spectators and other persons as could give evidence in regard to them. But in respect to these persons, I do not say that all, but a very large number of them have been examined before this Commission; they have rehearsed their evidence, they have given it not upon oath, not with a proper examination, not with any attention to the rules of evidence. I do not mean 345 in the slightest degree to insinuate that any of them would be guilty of wilful falsehood, but I say the human mind is so constituted that, after an inquiry of that description months before, it becomes warped and biassed so as to make it impossible to get the exact truth from such witnesses. I am asked whether it would not be better to wait for the Report of the Commission before adverting to these circumstances; but it seems to me of little consequence what the nature of that Report may be. I am glad to hear from the Chief Secretary that the Report will be laid on the table, though it may be said of it that it will go out without authority and come back without respect. But in the meantime an incalculable evil will be done to the administration of justice with regard to the prisoners standing for trial. I must say a word about Commissions of Inquiry. Where they deal with matters of detail, matters of departmental administration, matters where no public feeling is excited, and matters with which no criminal charge can be connected, I do not say that Commissions of Inquiry may not be perfectly legitimate and extremely useful. But I maintain—and I trust the House will stand firm to the same opinion—that wherever you have a Commission of Inquiry which obstructs the administration of justice it is unconstitutional. The only thing that can rescue any novel Commission of Inquiry from the charge of being unconstitutional is the circumstance that it can do no harm. If it prejudices the trial of individuals or interferes with the due course of justice, then I hold it to be unconstitutional. I would refer the House on this point to some words of Lord Coke, which I think ought to be borne in mind by those who issue these Commissions. We have also the opinion of the whole of the Judges at the same period; but Lord Coke says, that two centuries and a half ago—Commissions were directed to divers Commissioners in various counties to inquire of depopulation of houses, converting of arable land into pasture, &c. But the Commissioners should not have any power to hear and determine the said offences, but only to inquire of them. And it was resolved by all the Judges that these Commissions were against law for these reasons [among others]:—for this, that it was only to inquire, which is against law; for by this a man may be unjustly accused by perjury, and he shall not have any remedy. Also, the party may be defamed and shall not have any traverse to it.But if that be so, if the mere chance that there may be a false accusation made where the person making it cannot be punished 346 for perjury, or that there may be a person defamed without his having any traverse—if that be a reason against the issue of a Commission of Inquiry, what is to be said if the Commission warps and perverts the course of justice to the prejudice of men awaiting their trial? Sir, I have brought this matter before the House because I thought it ought to be taken notice of. With regard to the papers I wish to move for, I understand there is no objection to their production, and perhaps it will be more convenient to the House if that part of the Motion is taken as an unopposed Motion at some other time. The questions I wish to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland are—1st, When are we to have the Report of this Commission, and next, by whom the Commission was issued, whether by Sir George Brown or by the Lords Justices? I have also laid before the House, with no exaggeration, and certainly with no desire to give offence, the larger question as to the administration of the law with regard to processions in Ireland. I greatly fear that it is impossible to arrive at the conclusion that there have not been in the administration of that law, and also in connection with this Commission of Inquiry, some want of impartiality and some want of wisdom on the part of the Irish Government. I have heard Members complaining of the character of the legislation for Ireland which springs from our Parliaments, and I do not mean to say that some of our legislation is not open to some of the charges made against it; but I am satisfied that there is one thing which is even worse than bad legislation, and that is a bad administration of the laws which exist. I believe that nothing is more galling to an intelligent and high-spirited people than the idea that there is any attempt to administer the law differently towards different sections of the community. What Sir John Davis said two centuries and a half ago is true of Ireland still. Speaking of his interesting travels through the country, Sir John Davis remarked—There is no people under the sun that doth better like indifferent justice, and will rest better satisfied with the execution of the law, though it be against themselves, so that they have the protection and benefit of the law when they deserve it.I trust that we shall have in this matter some explanation from the right hon. Baronet or the Government. Certainly, if we have not, I must take this opportunity, 347 the earliest in my power, of entering my protest against that which I cannot avoid calling a grave failure and serious miscarriage in the administration of the law.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
Sir, being single-handed in representing the Government of Ireland in this House, I feel that I rise under considerable disadvantage to answer so able a speaker as the hon. and learned Member for Belfast, and for that reason I ask the indulgence of the House while I endeavour, to the best of my power, to follow the observations which he has addressed to us. I do not wish to be thought at all to dispute the right of the hon. and learned Member to consult what he no doubt conceives to be the interest of his constituents in bringing this subject before the House on the present occasion. Neither am I unwilling to acknowledge the temperate manner, upon the whole, in which he has submitted his remarks to us. In the course of those remarks he referred to the unhappy disturbances at Belfast. I can, on behalf of the Government, cordially concur with the hon. and learned Gentleman in the expression of deep and heartfelt regret at the painful circumstances and the unhappy differences which occurred in that town last August. But I would put it to the House whether, laying aside considerations of local interest, it would not have been better, upon public grounds, if this Motion had been postponed; whether the Motion is not to some extent premature and inopportune. I ask whether in the interests of all parties concerned, in the interests of justice, on which the hon. and learned Member laid such stress, in the interests of that public order to which sectarian animosities are so inimical, it would not have been infinitely preferable to defer the bringing forward of this Motion, at least until the Report of the Commissioners, together with the evidence taken before them, had been laid on the table of the House. Now, I told the hon. and learned Gentleman the other day that that Report would be forthcoming in a very short time. Apparently he has not thought fit to wait till that time arrives, but in spite of the suggestion made to him by an hon. Gentleman below the gangway, he has persisted in entering upon this question now. I do not find any fault with him on that ground. I will not shrink from meeting the hon. and learned Gentleman fairly on the issues which he has placed before the House. One of these issues is as to the administration of the law against processions in 348 Ireland. I maintain that the action of the Government has proceeded on a strictly constitutional interpretation of the law as it exists. I hope I shall be able to show that to the House. I hope I shall be able to vindicate the Government as far as regards that important paragraph of the notice which the hon. and learned Gentleman has put on the paper. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in the opening of his remarks, alluded to what he called the impartial administration of the law, evidently with the view of leading the House to believe that the present Government, as regards the Law of Processions since the Act of 1850, had not been impartial in their administration; and he alluded particularly to the case at Gilford near Belfast, and to the recent O'Connell procession in Dublin. Now, I should like to refer to the course of legislation as regards this subject. It was referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman, but one or two particulars were omitted which it may be as well to supply. It is perfectly true that before 1832 the law in Ireland was as the hon. and learned Gentleman stated—that is, before 1832 a party procession having a tendency to break the peace was considered a misdemeanor at common law; but the magistrates had great difficulty as to the course which they should pursue, and the question which rendered the interference of a magistrate so difficult was that as to the precise moment when these meetings became illegal, the magistrate should have the oath of an informer declaring his apprehension that a breach of the peace would ensue; and even when that oath was obtained the magistrate had to exercise his discretion lest he should interfere with an assembly that was perfectly legal, or should admit a meeting to continue which was illegal. That being so, the Government of that day—Lord Derby being then the Whig Secretary for Ireland—introduced a measure in 1832, and that measure the hon. and learned Gentleman would have the House to infer was directed against general processions of all kinds; but the real truth is, the measure introduced by Mr. Stanley had direct reference to the Orange processions in the north. What were the remarks of Lord Derby, then the Whig Secretary for Ireland, in introducing that measure?—He acknowledged that the title of the Bill was calculated to awaken constitutional jealousy; at the same time, in the provisions of the Bill itself there was nothing to alarm the warmest 349 advocate of the most extensive political liberty. The object of his Bill was not to fetter the manifestation of political opinion in anyway whatever. His Bill was directed against party processions connected with religious subjects, and calculated to maintain and prolong religious animosities, which moved with banners exciting angry feelings, and which were not unfrequently armed, ready to meet the conflicts they provoked."—[3 Hansard, xiii. 717.]It is quite evident, therefore, from the discussion which took place at the time, that the object of the Whig Secretary for Ireland of that day was directly against the Orange processions in the north. ["No!"] There can, I believe, be no doubt on the subject. There had been serious rioting in the north in 1831, and the Government were therefore induced to bring forward this measure. I will not refer to the provisions of the Act—they have been alluded to by the hon. and learned Gentleman—but they are very distinctly to the point. The Act was not against processions in general, but against those which celebrated or commemorated festivals, anniversaries, and political events connected with religious and other differences. What was the course which the House took on that occasion? Mr. O'Connell was then in the House, and he most violently attacked Mr. Stanley, maintaining that if the magistrates were not partisans the law was sufficient to down these processions, and complaining that the Government allowed them to neglect their duties. As regards the Orange processions, he mentioned a curious fact:—They were for many years subject to no kind of jealousy with the Catholics; on the contrary, in the year 1782, the first volunteer corps which fired a salute before the statue of King William III. in Dublin was the Irish Catholic Brigade, commanded by the Marquess Wellesley. So far from any jealousy being entertained with reference to the events commemorated on that occasion, there was not a Catholic who did not rejoice to reflect that King William succeeded and that King James was defeated. There was not a Catholic who did not hold the character of the former in the greatest respect, and regarded the latter with the greatest and most sovereign contempt; therefore, there was no rational ground for these processions being considered as an insult to the Catholics."—[3 Hansard xiii. 1038.]It is, therefore, quite evident—as I put it to the House—that the object of what was done was to put down the Orange processions in the north of Ireland. The late Sir Robert Peel also spoke in support of the Bill, and perhaps I may be allowed to quote a few lines of what he said on that occasion. He said— 350To celebrate the battle of the Boyne and the birthday of King William would have little effect in this country; but the battle of the Boyne was commemorated in Ireland with the view of celebrating the defeat of the Roman Catholics. There could be no other object in view, and he therefore most anxiously wished that this source of irritation should be put an end to."—[3 Hansard, xiii. 724.]I have therefore, I think, clearly shown that the impression of Parliament at that time was that the measure was, in truth, directed against the anniversary celebrations of the Orange party in the north of Ireland. As was justly stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman, that Bill was renewed several times. It continued in force for five years, but it was renewed in 1838, and again in 1844. The hon. and learned Gentleman, however, fell into a slight error in saying that the Bill ceased altogether in 1844. It certainly was not renewed after the Government of Sir Robert Peel, but in the latter year Sir James Graham, then Home Secretary, in reply to a question as to the intentions of Government with reference to the expiring Act of 1832, stated that—Judging from the experience of past years, he had reason to hope that the Protestants of the north of Ireland would, on the approaching anniversaries, abstain from processions as they had so wisely done for several years past…He was happy to say that Government, under all the circumstances, felt justified in limiting the duration of both these Bills (the Secret Societies Act, and the Orange Procession Act) to the 31st of August, 1845."—[3 Hansard, lxxvi. 137.]It was, therefore, in 1845 that the Bill introduced by Lord Derby in 1832 finally ceased. The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the renewal of the Act in 1850, but he omitted altogether to state the reasons why the Act was then renewed. In 1849 some most unfortunate occurrences had taken place in the north of Ireland. There was the unhappy conflict at Dolly-brae, in which lives were lost, and in 1850 the Government of Lord John Russell felt bound to consider whether it would not be well to renew the operation of the Bill of 1832. The Government of 1850 renewed the Act, but there was this difference between the Bill of 1850 and that of 1832, that whereas the Act of 1832 was specially directed, as I have said, against celebrations of anniversaries by the Orange party in the north of Ireland, the Bill of 1850 had a more general effect. The Act declared that all assemblies of persons in Ireland meeting and parading together, or joining in procession, for the purpose of celebrat- 351 ing or commemorating any festival, anniversary, or political event, connected with any religious or other distinctions or differences between any classes of Her Majesty's subjects, or of demonstrating any such religious or other difference or distinction, and who shall bear any firearms or other offensive weapons, or any banner, emblem, flag, or symbol, the display whereof may be calculated or tend to provoke animosity between Her Majesty's subjects of different religious persuasions, or who shall be accompanied by any music of a like nature or tendency, shall be and be deemed an unlawful assembly, and every person present thereat shall be and be deemed to be guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall, upon conviction thereof, be liable to be punished accordingly. Now the House may not know—and I say it by way of parenthesis—the House may not know what the music referred to is. I have therefore to make, under the authority of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin, a very curious and interesting statement of what that music is. The right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin was not always what he is now. He once was a man, I will not say with more liberal notions, but he certainly took different views of things from what he does now. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was counsel for a man named Duffy. Duffy was tried with O'Connell, in 1843, and the right hon. Mr. Whiteside was his counsel. Mr. Duffy was the proprietor of the Nation newspaper. Mr. Whiteside was then justifying the meetings that took place for the repeal of the Union, and compared them with the Chartist meetings in England, which he also espoused. [Mr. WHITESIDE: I deny that.] The speeches and the other proceedings of that trial are contained in a volume published by authority, and I will just quote a few remarks made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. There had been at some of the demonstrations a temperance band which was disapproved by the Attorney General of the day, afterwards the present Master of the Rolls in Ireland. Well, the right hon. Gentleman said—I shall now call your attention to two or three circumstances in relation to these meetings. The first peculiarity connected with them is the attendance of the temperance bands. The Attorney General (now the Master of the Rolls), T. C. Smith, must have a very inharmonious turn of mind if he objects to the Irish people seeking so innocent an amusement. I say that it is com- 352 mendable in them to do so, although I cannot say that these temperance bands are very harmonious. But did the bands play party tunes, like the bands in the north of Ireland? The good and loyal music which they play is 'The Protestant Boys will carry the Day,' 'The Boyne Water,' 'Down, down, Croppies, lie down.' These are the only loyal tunes in the north; they despise all other music, and many a broken head and black eye were the result of not joining with the loyal bands who play these loyal tunes. They never play 'God Save the Queen' there at all, and because the temperance bands play it the Attorney General says it is rank treason. I never heard of a fouler or darker conspiracy to murder harmony.Now, it is such music as that, it is these "loyal tunes" which lead, as the right hon. Gentleman said, to broken heads and black eyes, that the Act of 1850 was intended to check; and I think you will allow it was very necessary and desirable to put a stop to occurrences which produced such serious breaches of the peace. The Act remained in force till 1860, and the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite omitted to refer to the measure passed in that year. [Sir HUGH CAIRNS: It had no application to my question. It had an application to the meeting in Dublin.] In speaking of the procession in connection with the O'Connell monument the hon. and learned Gentleman alluded to the flags with harps upon them and no crown, and led the House to believe that it is against the law of the land to carry a green flag. The hon. and learned Gentleman, therefore, implied that those flags were party emblems. He taunted me with having said in the House that I thought green was the national colour. I am still under that impression, and am not aware that when any one wears a green badge he is necessarily to be deemed a rebel. At any rate, I know that when Lord Bglintoun came to Ireland his hat was covered with green ribands, and he had a shamrock in his buttonhole. And yet the hon. and learned Gentleman said, that because the Government had allowed green flags to be carried they were much to blame. In 1860, in consequence of some very unfortunate occurrences in the north of Ireland, it became absolutely necessary to increase the power of the Government in regard to processions, when they were accompanied by banners and flags. Accordingly, in that year, after an animated debate, the Government succeeded in passing an Act for five years, which it will this year be my duty to propose to the House, either to renew or to abandon as may be determined. In order to show how necessary it was that 353 such a measure should he adopted, I will mention one or two incidents which happened in the north of Ireland. In Londonderry a flag was hoisted in the cathedral in defiance of the Bishop. It was removed by one of the curates, and the doors of the edifice were locked. The mob, however, effected an entrance by a back way, and more flags were hoisted. The curates were sent to remove them, but they were opposed and obliged to retire; and then the cathedral bells were rung. In County Fermanagh, at Ennis-killen, Ballymena, Lisbellaw, Tempo, and elsewhere, similar occurrences took place. Fortunately, the Act was employed to prevent a repetition of these acts, and the law is now very stringent concerning them. The hon. and learned Member for Belfast accused the Government of not behaving impartially in regard to the demonstrations in the north and those at Dublin. He made especial reference to the conviction of a couple of small boys, as he called them, at Gilford, in the north.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
No, that was at another place. I mentioned six men at Gilford, who were described in the petition as married and having families.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
Ah, but people marry so young in Ireland that they might be boys all the same. In fact, it is impossible to know in Ireland exactly what a boy is. I was talking to a gentleman in Dublin who said, pointing to some one who passed, "What a fine boy that is." "Why," I exclaimed, "he is an old man." "Oh!" said my friend, "he is a boy for all that, and a broth of a boy." To return, however, to the processions in 1861, 1862, and 1864. The hon. and learned Gentleman had particularly referred to the procession at the M'Manus funeral in Dublin in 1861, and to the procession to the O'Connell monument in 1864. He had very truly said, there was no impropriety in raising a monument to one of the greatest and most patriotic Irishmen who ever lived; but he wants the House to believe that the Government did not act in accordance with the law on that occasion. I have taken much pains to inquire into the subject, and hold in my hand the opinion of the present Attorney General for Ireland, which, as he has not a seat in the House, the House will, perhaps, permit me to read. The Attorney General says— 354With respect to the procession which took place in Dublin upon the occasion of laying—
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to interpose on a point of order. I will not offer any objection, as the Attorney General is not here, to the reading of the opinion he has given, but I should think the House would like to hear also the statement of facts on which that opinion was based.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
The facts were contained in the reports of the police, which at the time of the occurrences were coming in every half hour and hour, and which were naturally submitted to the Law Officers of the Crown for their advice as to the course the Government should pursue. The Attorney General's opinion refers to what took place in 1861, 1862, and 1864.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
I rise to order. I always understood that the opinions of the Law Officers of the Crown given to the Crown were private communications. I have known them to be asked for on many occasions, and always refused by the Government. I have known Gentlemen in this House ask for police reports and the opinions of counsel; and I ask you, Sir, whether this opinion ought to be read to the House?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
As a matter of Order I do not apprehend that there is anything contrary to the Rules of the House in reading or quoting any opinion of the Law Officers. It is a question of discretion on the part of the Government, not one bearing on the Orders of the House. There may be occasions when they may be properly read. As a general rule, no doubt, they are not laid before Parliament, and for this reason, not because it would be against any Order of the House, but because the Law Officers would be more cautious in expressing an opinion if they knew that it was to be laid before Parliament and the public. But, as I have said, there may be occasions, like the present, when it is convenient and proper for the convenience of the House that such opinions should be made known.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
I apprehend that our object is the elucidation of the truth. The hon. and learned Gentleman has charged the Government with not acting in a legal and straightforward manner. I wrote to the Attorney General for Ire- 355 land, and he has sent me his opinion in order that I might submit it to the House, if I thought fit. It is not, therefore, to he considered as an ordinary private opinion given to the Government of Ireland, and I think it will help us to arrive at the truth if it is read. The Attorney General Bays—With respect to the procession which took place in Dublin on the occasion of laying the first stone of the O'Connell monument, I have to observe that I carefully read all the police reports which were submitted to the Government in reference to that procession, both before it took place, during its progress, and upon its termination, and I was then, and am now, clearly of opinion that there was no ground whatever for treating it as a party procession within either the Party Procession or Party Emblems Act, or as an assembly illegal at common law. There was no display of party banners or emblems.You will see this scarcely coincides with the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman that green is a party colour—There were no party tunes, no firearms, the meeting was peaceful and orderly, and no person ever swore, or even tendered an information, that 'it was calculated to create animosity between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects, or to lead to a breach of the peace,' in the language of the Act. The executive Government, therefore, did not, and could not, legally interfere to stop the procession; they took all proper measures to prevent the consequences which are always likely to arise from the gathering of a great crowd. The result was that there was no breach of the peace, and no injury was done to person or property. The occasion was a lawful one, and unless every great crowd which assembles to welcome a public character, or to celebrate his memory, is to be pronounced unlawful this crowd could not be.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
I must rise again to a point of Order. I understood, and I believe the House understood, that the right hon. Baronet was going to read the opinion given by the Law Officer of the Crown for the guidance of the Government. It now appears, however, to be merely a statement made for the purposes of this debate. May I ask, Sir, whether the right hon. Gentleman is in order?
§ MR. SPEAKER
Whether the document is or is not such as the hon. and learned Member describes, the question does not in the least degree involve a point of Order. If a document is read in this House it may be called for, and made a public document, but its production in this debate is not against the Rules of the House.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
It is quite evident that the hon. and learned Gentleman is actuated by some motive in the course he has adopted of endeavouring to prevent the reading of the document. I am only 356 desirous that the truth, and nothing but the truth, should be arrived at. When I asked the Attorney General for a statement which I could present to the House, and he sends me the one I am reading, it surely must be the wish of the House that that statement should be known. I look upon it as a fact to be noted, that an enormous assembly like that should last for three hours and a half without a breach of the peace taking place. The Attorney General thus continues—I have further to observe that the Government, by my advice, adopted precisely the same course with respect to this procession as they have always done with respect to Orange processions in the north."[Namely, complete impartiality.]"The Government has never taken upon itself—No, not even the Government of Lord Derby. [Sir HUGH CAIRNS: They brought in a Bill.] Yes, at the fag end of the Session, when, of course, it could not be carried—The Government has never taken upon itself to prohibit a procession except upon sworn information of the strongest character. The uniform course is to direct the constabulary to attend in sufficient numbers to prevent a breach of the peace, to take down the names of the parties attending, and to summon them in case there should be any violation of the law. Such were the instructions given in the case of the O'Connell procession; but as the police reported that there had been no violation of the law, and as no private individual ventured to swear that he believed there was, it is plain that the Government could have taken no further action; could not have instituted any prosecution, and it is equally clear that they would not have been justified in prohibiting a lawful assembly, nor could such prohibition have been legally enforced. I may mention as a case clearly in point"—and to this I would direct the particular attention of the hon. and learned Gentleman—That upon one occasion the Government was asked to prohibit and to prosecute the usual procession of the apprentice boys of Derry. The Law Officers were consulted upon the subject, and they advised that as no information had been sworn that the procession was calculated to lead to a breach of the peace the Government could not interfere.
desired to know who was the Attorney General for Ireland whose statement was being quoted?
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
continued—With respect to the Catholic University procession all the above remarks apply to it. With respect to the M'Manus funeral procession, I am free to admit that it was of a very objectionable character, and for a purpose avowedly seditious, but it was managed with such apparent order and decorum that the Government did not feel that they could effectually interfere with it.357 That is the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown upon the three particular events referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman—namely, the M'Manus funeral in 1861, the Catholic University procession in 1862, and the gathering on the occasion of laying the foundation stone of the O'Connell monument in 1864. The document I regard as a conclusive vindication of the impartiality of the Government, as it clearly shows that in the case of the 'prentice boys of Derry, as well as in that O'Connell procession at Dublin, there has been an impartial administration of the law. [Major KNOX repeated his question amid renewed cries of "Order!"] Having alluded so far to these occurrences, I will now come to the Belfast riots, and I here claim the attention of the House, because the hon. and learned Gentleman was, contrary to his usual practice, not quite aboveboard in his statements. In his remarks upon this subject he commented upon the absence from Ireland of the Members of the Government. Now, as the hon. and learned Gentleman is aware, the Belfast riots commenced on the 8th of August. [Sir HUGH CAIRNS denied that that was the time of the first outbreak.] That is a proof of the hon. and learned Gentleman's inaccuracy. It is true the Lord Lieutenant was absent. It is true that I was, and I have never ceased regretting that I should have been absent at the time, but the real truth is, that domestic matters kept me away from my duty at the moment. I have scarcely during the four years I have held office been down to my place in the country for a week together, but it must not be supposed that because my own family affairs necessitated my presence elsewhere I was therefore ignorant of what was going on. I received daily intelligence and was daily, I may say sometimes twice a day, in communication with the authorities at the Castle of Dublin, and assisted with my humble advice as far as I possibly could. But if I had been in Dublin it is not likely that I should have gone to the scene of the riots in Belfast. In case of the Garibaldi riots at Birkenhead the Home Secretary for the time being received no censure for not going to the place, nor was he on the occasion of the riots at Birmingham blamed for not taking up his quarters at the Angel Hotel in that town, nor was he, as a spectator, present at the Chartist riots at Newport. It is not, as the hon. and learned Gentleman would infer, the Government who are to blame, nor does any charge of miscon- 358 duct attach to the constabulary or the military. As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows very well, the local magistrates entirely failed in their duty. That is where the shoe pinches. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but the Lord Lieutenant of the county himself had the boldness to assert in the town of Belfast that, if the local magistrates and the Mayor of Belfast had remained and done their duty, the thing would have been snuffed out in a few hours. It is perfectly true that the Lord Chancellor was absent at the time. There were in his case also, I am sorry to say, domestic reasons which compelled him to be away. The hon. and learned Gentleman should be very careful in throwing out these insinuations, of the Members of the Government being derelict in their duty, because he appears to imply that we were willingly absent. It is true that the Lord Chancellor was away, but my gallant friend General Sir George Brown, the Commander-in-Chief, one of the Lords Justices, was in Dublin. The only remaining Lord Justice is the Archbishop of Dublin, he with the Lord Chancellor and the Commander-in-Chief having been sworn in as the three Lords Justices in the absence of the Lord Lieutenant—and I doubt if that Prelate could have rendered the slightest assistance if he had been present in directing the manoeuvres of the troops or quelling the riots. I maintain, therefore, that as the Commander-in-Chief was on the spot, the very best man was at his post. The hon. and learned Gentleman, moreover, insinuated that we were taken by surprise, and that we sent down six or seven stipendiary magistrates at the close of the disturbances, and when I said "No, no," he treated it in anything but the frank manner which I could have wished. It is all very well, but when I said that Sir George Brown was there the hon. and learned Gentleman laughed, and appeared to think that that fact was of no consequence. The real drift of the observations made by the hon. and learned Gentleman has been, by premature and inopportune remarks, to shift the responsibility from the local authorities of Belfast on whom it really devolves to the shoulders of the Government. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that he did not intend to enter into the particulars of the Belfast riots, but he did so as fully as he thought proper for his purpose, and in a most unhandsome manner—["Order!"]—but I will prove it—in a most unhandsome man- 359 ner seemed to insinuate that the Government, by making one of the Commissioners Law Adviser to the Crown before the issuing of their Report, had endeavoured to steal a march upon what might be otherwise the impartial decision of the Commissioners. Now, I am anxious to meet all the insinuations which have been thrown out. The House will remember that there were two periods in the Belfast riots. Upon the Saturday of the first week it was supposed that the disturbances were at an end. They broke out again, unhappily, with greater violence on the Monday after, and this lasted until the next Thursday. But the hon. and learned Member for Belfast grossly exaggerated the facts. He said 1,800 of the constabulary were poured into the town of Belfast. Now, the truth is—and it is well that it should be known—that the force of constabulary sent to that town consisted of fifteen sub-inspectors, twelve head constables, and 899 constables and sub-constables—less than one-half the number mentioned by the hon. and learned Gentleman. No doubt a very large force was congregated, but a very large force was required. There was but one stipendiary magistrate at first, but afterwards in the second week of the disturbances additional magistrates were sent down, and, if I am rightly informed, two of them only arrived on the Wednesday of the second week. No doubt there were six magistrates in all there, but, unhappily, their presence was rendered necessary by the violence of sectarian animosity which prevailed in that town, and the disturbances arising out of which we had hoped had been quelled at the end of the first week. Well, now I come to the number of persons awaiting trial at the ensuing assizes for participation in those disturbances. There are twenty in custody at this moment, and there are sixty-four on bail. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Belfast said there were 120. [Sir HUGH CAIRNS: I beg pardon.] Yes. [Sir HUGH CAIRNS: I said nearly 120.] But it is nearer 50 than 120. All this shows the evident tendency of the hon. and learned Gentleman to exaggeration in this matter. With respect to a far more serious question—that is, as to the appointment of Mr. Barry as a Commissioner—I was aware beforehand that the hon. and learned Gentleman was going to attack Mr. Barry in this House. I do not know how it came to be known, but things will leak out, and in Dublin I heard that the hon. 360 and learned Gentleman proposed to attack Mr. Barry, one of the Commissioners.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
I stated to the right hon. Baronet myself what I was going to say about Mr. Barry.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
I admit it, but I took it in confidence. [Laughter.] Yes, I took it in confidence. Mr. Barry wrote to me, saying that he had heard that statements were to be made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Belfast, and, therefore, he submitted to me this refutation of what has proved to be a most unfair attack by the hon. and learned Member for Belfast. "It is quite true," says Mr. Barry, "that in 1855 there was a suit instituted, with the Attorney General Keogh's sanction, by Mr. Rea against the corporation of Belfast for an illegal application of the corporate funds in purchasing lands." There was a decree against the corporation; and, in 1858, a Commission was issued to Belfast to inquire whether the expenditure was bonâ fide. Now, let the House observe, the hon. and learned Gentleman said that Mr. Barry was mixed up with this business. But how? And then let them ask themselves whether he was not a proper person to send as Commissioner in 1864, or whether he was to be precluded for ever from so acting simply because he had once tainted his fingers with anything connected with the corporation of Belfast. In 1858, Mr. Barry was a barrister, and was employed as junior counsel by some opponents of the corporation, but this was six years previous to the issue of the last Commission. But again, the fact had been referred to that on that occasion it was proposed in writing to the Commissioners to go into certain evidence. The Commissioners ruled that the evidence was irrelevant; a protest was handed in, and Mr. Barry left Belfast, and the Commissioners went on with the inquiry. And that is why the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Belfast taunts Mr. Barry with protesting in 1858 against a Royal Commission, and now, in 1864, accepting the office of a Royal Commissioner. The first Commission had no connection whatever with the riots at Belfast, or with the matters which the present Commission has to report upon. Because Mr. Barry was six years ago a junior counsel in the case referred to, is that to be considered as an obstacle to his appointment upon the present Commission, the subjects of inquiry being so wholly different? Mr. Barry's only other professional 361 connection with Belfast since 1858 was about two years ago, when Mr. Lytte consulted him about his power of sending Mr. Rea to gaol for abusive language. Now, as to the mode in which the inquiries of this Commission were conducted:—The hon. and learned Member for Belfast would lead the House to believe that the inquiry had been mo9t unfairly conducted, and was most prejudicial to the persons who were awaiting their trial. The hon. and learned Gentleman left out of sight altogether the fact that Mr. Barry was not the sole Commissioner, but that he had Mr. Dowse as a colleague, who conferred with him upon all matters, and acted as joint Commissioner. So far, however, from the public opinion in Belfast being against the Commission, as one-sided or improperly conducted, we have the fact that the principal member of the corporation, who took a most active part before the Commission, testified in open court to the entire fairness and impartiality displayed. The Orange, or ultra-Protestant party, brought down a counsel express from Dublin to represent them. [Mr. WHITESIDE: No!] The right hon. and learned Gentleman has been in Dublin lately, and must know the counsel I refer to—Mr. Exham. [Mr. WHITESIDE: No; I know it from himself.] I have often noticed that the right hon. and learned Gentlemen is very inaccurate upon occasions, and so I cannot implicitly trust him now; but I appeal to the hon. Baronet below the gangway whether it was not a matter of common notoriety in Dublin that Mr. Exham went down to Belfast to represent that party before the Commission. [Sir COLMAN O'LOGHLEN: Hear, hear!] He appeared there, and expressed himself to the same effect. Now, we have a numerous if not select press in Ireland. The press of Dublin represents all parties and all classes, and the Dublin papers were unanimous as to the independence and impartiality of the Commissioners. I put it to the House, then, is the fact of having been concerned years past in a litigation about corporation funds to be a disqualification for investigating facts connected with Belfast riots? If that be so, then it is remarkable that nearly all the lawyers, and even nearly all the Judges, are so disqualified. Mr. Baron Deasy, who is to try the rioter3, was mixed up in the suit I have referred to. Judges Keogh and Christian were counsel against the corporation. Judge Fitzgerald, Baron Fitzgerald, and Judge O'Hagan were for 362 the corporation. Mr. Brewster was first against and afterwards for the corporation. The present Attorney General was for, and the present Solicitor General was against the corporation. Then, I say, the objection taken by the hon. and learned Member for Belfast is unworthy of him. He knows that we selected two of the best men known for their impartiality, and whose characters were guarantees that they would do their duty fairly to all classes and sections of the community, and yet he comes forward with this paltry case against the Chief Commissioner, declaring that, because that gentleman happened six or eight years ago to be junior counsel in an inquiry before a Commission, therefore he was now unfitted to act as a Commissioner. The hon. and learned Member for Belfast says that the Commission was after all without value, as it was signed only by "G. Brown, General." The hon. and learned Gentleman knew perfectly well that when the Commission was issued not only the General Commanding- in- Chief, but the Lord Chancellor, myself, and the Law Officers were all in Dublin, and that the subject was long and anxiously considered by us, and when it was determined to issue a Commission it was signed only by General Sir George Brown, because he was the only Lord Justice who had been in Dublin during the whole period of the riots, and knew all the facts; but the Commission was approved by all the authorities in Dublin, by the head of the Government, and by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The hon. and learned Gentleman endeavoured to make the House believe that the Commission was different from that of 1857; but such was not the case. The Commission we issued was precisely the same; but we thought, that as some years had elapsed since the Report of the first Commissioners, and as no action had been taken upon it—not even by the hon. and learned Gentleman himself, during his year and a half of office—we thought it well to ascertain whether the opinion of the Commissioners of 1857 would be confirmed in 1864. The Report has not yet been laid upon the table of the House, but I understand it will be in a few days, when it will be exposed to the critical examination that it is likely to receive at the hands of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I think it would have been far better if they had waited until its production before they brought on this discussion. 363 It is undoubtedly the fact that Belfast has been long, unhappily too long, subject to these periodical ebullitions, but you cannot attribute them as arising from the acts of this or that Government. They result from circumstances which it is impossible to control, and which all public men have deplored from time to time. It is a very curious thing that this factious spirit has shown itself in Belfast, or rather in the province of Ulster, ever since 1788, and from that date until the present time Ireland has been periodically distracted by feuds which are a disgrace to a civilized and Christian community. I am not advocating the cause of either party. I deplore, as much as my hon. and learned Friend, the existence of this unfortunate spirit. The population of Ulster is nearly equally divided between Protestants and Catholics—the number of Protestants being 947,000, and of Catholics 966,000, and they still think it fitting to celebrate their rival anniversaries, which ought long since to have been forgotten. Is it right, is it fair, is it generous, that the anniversaries of the Battle of the Boyne and the 12th of July, should be celebrated and the animosities thereby engendered kept alive after the lapse of 175 years? In this country the spirit of the people is totally different, for we have, out of consideration to the feelings of others, ceased to keep up even the anniversary of Waterloo; and in Scotland, do the Highlanders and Lowlanders still celebrate Killicrankie and Culloden? No; they are too wise, too just, and too conciliatory so to do; and would to God the north of Ireland were animated by a similar right spirit. I have made myself acquainted with the progress and the wealth of Belfast, and I have been astonished that a city of so much promise should destroy its character by giving vent to such animosities as exist among its population. I hold in my hand an extract from a speech—the first delivered by Mr. Grattan in the House of Commons after the Union. He was speaking on the Catholic question, and he said—I do not wish to revive in detail the memory of those rebellions to which the hon. Member has alluded. The past troubles of Ireland, the rebellion of 1641, and the wars which followed, I do not wholly forget; but I only remember them to deprecate the example and renounce the animosity."—[1 Hansard, iv. 917.]I wish that feeling was more prevalent among Irishmen of the present day, and that they would permit these animosities to cool down. Mr. Grattan further adds— Sir Robert Peel 364If all the blood shed on those occasions, if the many fights in the first, and the signal battles in the second period, and the consequences of those battles to the defeated and to the triumphant, shall teach our country the wisdom of conciliation, I congratulate her on those deluges of blood; if not, I submit and lament her fate, and deplore her understanding; which would render, not only the blessings of Providence, but its invitations, fruitless, and transmit what was the curse of our fathers as the inheritance of our children."—[Ibid. 923.]These words were spoken sixty years ago. Unhappily the prophecy of that great orator is fulfilled, because we see these senseless and idle animosities still going on. I do not believe them to be political animosities. I believe that a mistaken religious feeling is at the bottom of them all. Mr. Grattan further states, alluding to the various benefits conferred on Ireland by certain changes which he had been instrumental in effecting—I call my countrymen to witness if in that business I compromised the claims of my country or temporized with the power of England. But there was one thing which baffled the efforts of the patriot and defeated the wisdom of the Senate—it was the folly of the theologians."—[Ibid. 937.]That is the truth at the present time, it is the folly of the theologians, it is the eternal strife among the religious elements of Ireland, that prevents that country from keeping pace as she otherwise would do with the progress of this country. It is very easy, doubtless, to legislate, but you cannot legislate in a manner to counteract this disturbing cause. Macaulay has very truly said, in alluding to this subject—It is far less easy to eradicate evil passions than to repeal evil laws, and that long after every trace of national and religious animosity has been obliterated from the statute-book national and religious animosities continue to rankle in the bosoms of millions.This is precisely the case of Ireland in the present day. Happily the statute-book has been purged of all those penal laws which once oppressed the people; and, notwithstanding in their place, mild and wise laws have been passed, we see that it is impossible for the Legislature, let them do what they will, to eradicate the evil passions of violent sectarian animosities. It, therefore, only remains for us to hope that men of position and of character, like the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Hugh Cairns), will unite and use all their power to endeavour to smooth down this unfortunate irritation. I have endeavoured, I fear imperfectly, to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman through the various parts of his speech, particu- 365 larly those regarding the conduct of the Government in issuing the Commission. The animosities at Belfast are still kept up, and we find that one party blames the Protestants and another the Roman Catholics as occasioning the late riots; but, on whichever side the fault may lie, I think no man who has made that country his study will differ from me when I say that the fault rests upon certain institutions which exist there. I am not making an attack against any one party. I am merely stating that which is truly and honestly the case. There are institutions in the north of Ireland which the leading men in the country cannot control, and I find it stated that the leaders of the Orange societies in the north have greatly deplored the outrages which have taken place and wish to put down these demonstrations. The hon. Member nods assent to that statement; but I say as these institutions cannot be controlled they ought to be deprecated, because their effect is simply to perpetuate national animosities. I say that we ought by all means in our power to put an end to these demonstrations and the institutions to which I refer, and the feelings I have heard of should be discarded altogether by a Christian country. I shall trouble the House with but one more quotation from the words of Bishop Berkeley, a most eminent Prelate of the Irish Church, who was considered, I believe, by all parties to be a most excellent and honourable man, and which are not inapplicable on the present occasion. He addressed these words to the Roman Catholic priesthood—Be not startled, reverend Sirs, to find yourselves addressed by one of a different communion. We are, indeed (to our shame be it spoken), more inclined to hate for those articles wherein we differ, than to love one another for those wherein we agree. But, if we cannot extinguish, let us at least suspend our animosities, and, forgetting our religious feuds, consider ourselves in the amiable light of countrymen and neighbours.This is one Irishman speaking to Irish Roman Catholics, he being of course a Protestant. He continues—Let us for once turn our eyes on those things in which we have one common interest. Why should disputes about faith interrupt the duties of civil life, or the different roads we take to Heaven prevent our taking the same steps on earth? Do we not inhabit the same spot of ground, breathe the same air, and live under the same Government? Why, then, should we not conspire in one and the same design to promote the common good of our country?But I maintain, in concluding these remarks, that this is the spirit in which 366 we have endeavoured to administer the laws of Ireland, for the common good of the country; and I fearlessly assert that there has been no desire displayed on the part of the Irish Executive otherwise than to deal out without fear and without partiality even-handed justice to all classes and sections of the community.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he had never before risen to address the House under such feelings of depression and alarm as he then did in following that most extraordinary oration which they had just heard. He ventured to say that no person occupying the important position of the right hon. Baronet, and having the grave responsibility of answering his hon. and learned Friend on this question, could be justified in adopting the tone he had done. The right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) began in a tone of levity quite un-suited to so grave a subject, and because he had not listened to the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns), and had, consequently, confused two stories together, made jokes about the difficulty of telling what the term "a boy" meant in Ireland. He stood there as the representative of the Government, to answer a very grave charge—no less than that of maladministration of justice and guilty connivance with a most wanton violation of the statute which had already deluged one city with blood, and had given rise to feelings of distrust as to the administration of the law and alarm as to the future throughout a great portion of Ireland; and it was not fitting that he should reply to so grave a charge by such a speech as he had delivered. He called upon the right hon. Gentleman, instead of reading beautiful selections of fine sentiments, to act upon the noble principles which were enunciated by the authors. Had he acted upon those principles? Had he not shown that he could not meet fairly and straightforwardly the case which was brought forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman as to the procession in Dublin? Having completely shirked the main gist of that part of the question, he wound up with a sort of lecture to the North of Ireland, telling them to avoid that misconduct which, he said, was at the root of all the discord of Ireland. He asked the right hon. Gentleman next time he addressed the House to go a little more into detail and tell them whether he thought that these unfortunate occurrences originated in the North, and that that portion of the country was more disturbed 367 than other parts of Ireland. Was he so ignorant as to think that there were larger bodies of troops and more police in the North than in other parts of the country, and that the North was the scene of riot, discord, and tumult? If so, the time which he had passed in Ireland had been spent to very little purpose. He (Lord Claud Hamilton) asserted, without fear of contradiction, that so far from the North being the scene of religious discord and animosity between different classes ever since the scourge of the famine, when the clergy of all denominations were brought into familiar intercourse at the boards of relief, and learnt to know each other's virtues and appreciate each other's good qualities, the former animosities between Protestants, Presbyterians, and Catholics had ceased, and Protestants and Catholics acted together as Poor Law Guardians, and sat together upon mixed juries in the courts of law with the same good feeling and entertaining for each other as much respect as was generally to be found among men who were engaged in the performance of public duties. The suggestion that the North of Ireland was the scene of discord and sectarian dislike among the inhabitants was an aspersion which was both unfounded and unjust. There was there less crime and less poverty, fewer soldiers and fewer police, than in any other part of Ireland; the people lived together in harmony, and in consequence of their right feeling had been blessed with greater prosperity than was to be found among their fellow subjects elsewhere. Those who originated that most mischievous procession in Dublin had incurred a very grave and serious responsibility. They had apparently reanimated political disunion, they had sought to revive and had partly revived religious and sectarian discord, and one great city had already been deluged with blood directly owing to that cause. The right hon. Baronet had entirely avoided going into the real merits of that illegal meeting in Dublin. In speaking of it he had repeatedly quoted a letter from the Attorney General. Did he mean the late or the present one? [Sir ROBERT PEEL: The present Attorney General.] He was glad to hear that, because it would have been most improper to have committed the late Attorney General to opinions prejudicial to persons whom as a Judge he might now be called upon to try. In his speech the right hon. Baronet was pleased to describe that great meeting at Dublin as a Catholic procession—as if 368 it was a religious and not a political ceremony. That was a complete, although, of course, an involuntary misrepresentation, as he would show by the words of the chief actors themselves. There was a most extraordinary organization—drilling and marshalling of thousands of men for a purpose which certainly had not been carried out, because he gathered from the statements of those who were most favourable to the erection of the monument that no money had been raised, no design or artist selected, and that since the day on which that most mischievous meeting was held no steps had been taken towards its completion. He quite admitted, however, that considering that the constant boast of that remarkable and distinguished man, Mr. O'Connell, was that he could drive a coach and six through any Act of Parliament, there could probably be no better way of doing honour to his memory than by occupying for hours all the thoroughfares of the capital of Ireland with an illegal meeting. [Sir ROBERT PEEL: A legal meeting.] He would in a moment show by reference to better authorities than the right hon. Baronet that the meeting was illegal. He did not wish to go into the details of that great procession; but, according to Freeman's Journal, there were in it twenty-five bands, some thirty processions of trades with banners of every kind, and a number of religious fraternities and other bodies delegates from different parts of Ireland, forming a mass of he did not know how many thousand men, carrying over 100 banners, thousands of bannerets, and sashes innumerable—though he was happy to believe that there was not one from the North of Ireland. If these men had been seen together in the North of Ireland with a sash, a flag, and a drum they would have been seized by the police; and yet these tens of thousands were arrayed in Dublin, and were allowed to stop all the thoroughfares for hours. If this had been a religious procession, God forbid that he should have said anything about it; but he would prove that the chief actors distinctly announced that it was distinctly a political procession intended to revive the mischievous repeal agitation. Most of the mottoes upon the banners had reference to an organization for the purpose of carrying by numbers some object which was only partially pointed at, but which it was very evident was to be carried by force. Mr. O'Connell always abhorred physical force, and persistently and con- 369 sistently denounced it; but in the procession of his professed admirers there were numerous references which showed that it was by it that they looked to attain their object. One motto was, "Stand together brothers all." That recommended combination for the purpose of getting united action. A very favourite figure was that of Brian Boru, or Borhoimbe, who was not a canonized saint, but a great warrior. He was represented upon a green flag, with the motto, "O for the swords of former times!" Against whom were those swords to be turned? Another banner was a green flag, having upon it the picture of a man with a pike. Did not that remind us of all the awful periods of civil war in Ireland? The motto to that was also "O for the swords of former times!" [Sir ROBERT PEEL: It is a line of Moore's.] That made no difference. The implication was to invite combination for a particular purpose—and against whom were the swords to be turned? Another favourite motto was "Self legislation is the right of the nation;" and there were numerous others of the same character all tending to invite combination and union as against a common enemy, and to provoke animosity. Then came the tunes played on the occasion, of which there were several, that principally played being "Garryowen," which was notoriously a party tune, and which was calculated to arouse the feelings of one section of the Irish people, as the tune of "Boyne Water" was said to be those of another. But he would show from the speeches that this great meeting constituted an assemblage convened for a political object, and that to revive that mischievous agitation for the repeal of the union, which had already done so much detriment to Ireland. At the meeting one of the leading men—a magistrate himself, and who ought therefore to be one of the last persons to glory in the part he took on the occasion—said, as reported in the Freeman, speaking of the monster meetings held by O'Connell—That the dearest wish of that distinguished man's heart—the legislative independence of his country—yet remained to be inscribed on his shield.It was clear from those expressions that the Lord Mayor of Dublin, who used them, would be glad to see something like a renewal of those monster meetings which had been so wisely discountenanced. At the dejeuner, Mr. P. J. Smith spoke as follows:— 370There was a higher motive and a nobler spirit animating that meeting; it might have been read in the crowded gathering, in the laurels and rosettes, all green. They wanted to be united men, who, if boldly led, would go to some decided end.He proceeds to praise Smith O'Brien, "one of the truest patriots he ever knew;" proposes a monument to him, as "they should honour all their patriots." Another speaker, Mr. C. J. Carrick, of Limerick, said—He came from the old city of Patrick Sarsfield, and was only anxious for the hour when they could strike a blow for Ireland.They were longing to strike a blow for Ireland—against whom? Against their peaceful fellow-countrymen who did not take the same view that they did? Did the right hon. Baronet mean to tell him that that was not language calculated to excite alarm? But turning from lay speakers to the clergy, he found that the Bishop of Ross said—I am firmly resolved to use every influence that I possess as a bishop to further the principles of O'Connell, and to teach my flock that they ought not to be slaves, hanging on the tail of England, or on the Legislature of the Saxon, but to take the position of freemen.Was not that a proof that the Bishop had come to the meeting, not as a man of religion, but as a politican? Then came the Archbishop of Cashel, who said, "the men of Ireland never will be slaves," an announcement which was received with immense cheering. It was perfectly clear from the words he had quoted that the men who took a leading part in that mischievous proceeding had in view the organization, marshalling, and collecting of forces, in order to obtain a political object; that object being, beyond doubt, to throw off the "yoke" of England. But he would now pass to the legal part of the question. He held in his hand a document which ought to have been produced before, entitled, "Instructions for the Guidance of Magistrates in Suppressing Party Processions," which had been issued by the Irish Government, and he would ask the right hon. Baronet opposite whether he had never perused those instructions, and whether he did not know that a noble and gallant Lord who had greatly distinguished himself in the service of his country abroad, but who was now settled down in Ireland, had been informed, on the part of the Government, that the instructions in question were sufficient for all purposes? He had heard the predecessor in office of the right 371 hon. Baronet say that the words of the Act on the subject of processions were meant to apply impartially to all classes in Ireland, and the 13th of Victoria pointed out in distinct terms the offences which fell within the provisions of the statute; but from the tone of the right hon. Baronet any one would have imagined that the North only was intended.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
No, no! What I said was that Lord Derby, when Whig Secretary in 1832, brought in a measure which solely applied, in the view of the Government of that day, to the class of processions there.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, the observations of the right hon. Baronet on that point might have been omitted, as they had only the tendency to mislead those who did not hear the whole of his speech. Lord Carlisle, dealing in the first instance with the Act, stated in his instructions that the parading against which it was directed need not be in military array. "Any meeting," he added, "and placing of persons so met in ranks or in any order of march, or procession, would he within the Act."They (or some of the party) must either have arms or offensive weapons, or wear party colours or emblems, or have with them party flags or banners, &c.; or they must be accompanied by music 'of a like nature and tendency,'—that is, playing party tunes or singing party songs. An assembly of persons meeting and parading, or joining in procession under any one of the foregoing circumstances, falls within the meaning of the Act.Such meetings or assemblies with music and without flags, or with flags and without music, came within the statute, and the persons taking part in them were liable to a prosecution and punishment. In the circular of Instructions the justices of the peace were called upon to act for the suppression of such illegal processions. Now, it had been notorious for three weeks or a month before the event that these illegal proceedings were to take place in Dublin; and although the Lord Mayor, the chief magistrate of that city, had marched at the head of those twenty-four bands, which played those notoriously party tunes, no step had been taken to indict him. Was that an impartial administration of justice? If such an administration was to be the rule in Ireland, surely some action ought to be taken in this matter. The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary had something to do with the administration of the law, and he hoped the right 372 hon. Gentleman would explain why he had not interfered to prevent such an assemblage or to prosecute those who had taken part in it? The Instructions to which he was referring the House had been issued from Dublin Castle by order of the Lord Lieutenant, for the guidance of magistrates all over Ireland. The magistrates in the north of Ireland had acted on them, and had carried out the statute. As a magistrate and a grand juror he felt it his duty to put the law in force, and to punish by fine and imprisonment persons engaged even in cases of comparatively small assemblages. But what did the Instructions say in regard of assemblages of more than twenty persons?—A more prompt course should be taken in the case of processions formed of greater numbers or having any arms. The parties assembled are guilty of a misdemeanor under the first section of the Act; the assembly is unlawful, and every person engaged in it is liable to prosecution by indictment. It is, therefore, competent to any magistrate at once to issue his warrant on the spot to apprehend them, or any of them, with a view to their being made amenable to justice. Those with arms, or carrying banners or other emblems, or drums, should in such cases be at once arrested.The magistrates in the North of Ireland interpreted the statute and the Instructions from the Castle in the way, as he thought, they ought to be interpreted, and punished offenders; and yet impunity was given in the capital of Ireland to persons whose very positions ought to teach them the necessity of obeying and upholding the law. If the parties to the Dublin processions were not to be punished there ought to be an investigation into the cases of those who had been punished in Ulster, with the view of giving them compensation. But in addition to the Instructions issued to the magistrates, he held in his hand a document sent all over the North of Ireland, six weeks before this illegal meeting in Dublin, by the authority of the Inspector General of the whole of the constabulary of Ireland. This was a cautionary notice, and he should like to know whether its circulation had been confined to the North of Ireland. It was as follows:—Cautionary Notice.—By the 23 & 24 Vict. c. 141, any person who shall publicly exhibit or display upon any building or place, or who shall wilfully permit or suffer to be publicly exhibited or displayed, any banner, flag, party emblem, or symbol, or who shall publicly meet and parade with other persons, or play any music, or discharge any cannon or firearm in any public street, road, or place, if such acts are done wilfully, and knowingly, in such a manner as may be calculated or 373 tend to provoke animosity between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects, and lead to a breach of the public peace, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by fine and imprisonment. All persons are hereby cautioned to abstain from any breach or breaches of the above recited Act. Strict orders have been given to the constabulary to take down the names and residences of all offenders, in order that they may be proceeded against as the law directs. All drums, fifes, banners, emblems, or symbols, and fire-arms, brought out and used on such occasions, are liable to be seized.—HENRY JOHN BROWNRIGG, Inspector General of Constabulary. Constabulary Office, Dublin Castle, 21st of June, 1864.According to a letter read by his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, the Attorney General had received no information on the subject of the illegal assemblage in Dublin; and how was that? If the Instructions which he had just read to the House had been issued to the constabulary generally, why had they not obtained the necessary information in Dublin? There was no use in eloquent speeches about the pacification of Ireland. What alone would pacify that country was a well-founded assurance that justice would be impartially administered. He did not justify the shedding of blood. God forbid! But he asked the House whether the fact of persons being put in the dock and punished in the North of Ireland for offences which were allowed to be committed with impunity in other parts of that country, was not calculated to inflame the people of Ulster with a burning sense of injustice. He had known a charge under the Act to be brought against some men and boys in a part of the country where the majority of the constabulary were Roman Catholics. The men and boys were charged with having walked in procession and played fifes, but without exhibiting flags. In reply to the magistrates the police stated that the accused had conducted themselves with good temper, and offended no one; but the charge was made in obedience to the general orders issued to the constabulary. He had the permission of Lord Longford to read the following letter, which he had written for the purpose of ascertaining how matters really stood with respect to these processions:—Pakenham Hall, August 22, 1864.My Lord,—Having observed that a party procession, to all appearance illegal, has been permitted to take place in Dublin, and having observed that similar processions have been prohibited elsewhere, I have the honour to request that you will obtain from the Irish Government instructions for the guidance of magistrates, whether the law for the prevention of party emblems and processions is still in operation, or whether 374 it is only to be put in force with reference to any particular portion of the community.LONOFORD.To the Lord Castlemaine, Vice Lieutenant, county of Westmeath.To a letter, enclosing the one he had just read, Lord Castlemaine received this reply—Dublin Castle, Sept. 9.My Lord,—I am directed by the Lords Justices to acknowledge the receipt of your Lordship's letter of the 27th ult., enclosing one addressed to your Lordship by the Earl of Longford, and to state that the magistrates of Ireland, who in every district receive from the Government the statutes of the realm, cannot need to be informed that the Acts for the prevention of party processions and emblems are still in operation and apply equally to every section of the community. I am further to inform your Lordship that definite instructions with reference to those Acts and the mode of their administration have already been given to the magistracy in those counties in which party processions and the exhibition of party emblems have prevailed, by a circular dated the 22nd day of June, 1861.In reference to the observation that those Instructions had been sent to the magistrates in those parts of Ireland in which party processions &c, had prevailed, he again asked was it intended that the law should be carried out in one part of Ireland and not carried out in the other parts of that country? "I am to observe," the letter went on to say, "that these Instructions are ample, precise, and sufficient for the guidance of every magistrate." Every one must agree in that; the Instructions were so ample and precise that there could be no doubt the Act had been violated by every one who took part in the procession; "and their Excellencies," it continued—do not consider that any new instructions for that purpose are required. Their Excellencies are not aware that any party procession or exhibition of party emblems has taken place in the county of Westmeath, and I am to add that if the law has been violated by the procession in Dublin, to which the Earl of Longford has thought fit to refer, the Irish Government would have been prepared to enforce it, and endeavour to visit its violation with the proper legal penalties; but no information whatever was at any time laid before the Executive in Dublin, which would have warranted it in dealing with that procession as a violation of the Acts adverted to.He had pointed out that it was the duty of the police and the magistrates to report the case; and yet here were their Excellencies stating that they had got no information, although the capital town of Ireland had been blockaded—he might say besieged—for eight or nine hours. Unless some fair answer were given on this point, there must be an inquiry as to whether 375 these same Instructions had really been issued for the guidance of the Dublin police and magistracy. If not, to allege that justice was impartially administered was a mere mockery. The close of the letter betrayed some annoyance at the manner in which the case had been taken up—Their Excellencies feel bound to state that there do not appear to them to be any grounds for the assertion put forward by the Earl of Longford that the procession in Dublin was a party procession. Their Excellencies are wholly unaware of anything which justifies in the least degree the assumption, both in your Lordship's letter, and in that of the Earl of Longford, that the Irish Government is not prepared to support the magistracy in impartially and fearlessly carrying out the Acts of Parliament, and they cannot but regret that such an assumption should have been made by persons of your Lordship's eminent position.He asked any impartial Englishman to say, after the statements he had read, whether it was possible to believe that the law had been impartially administered. A sensitive observant people like the Irish would not fail to notice that there had been a failure of justice and a deviation from duty on the part of the Government in conniving at and probably encouraging an act of the most irritating nature. Mere vague assertions on the part of the Government would not suffice. Either it must be admitted that the law had been set in motion in the North under an erroneous impression, and compensation must be made to the parties who had suffered, or else it must be clearly explained why a most wanton and ostentatious violation of the law had been permitted in Dublin. The population of the North of Ireland felt much alarm at these mischievous agitations, for himself, he regarded the last that had occurred as one of the most unfortunate occurrences that had happened for years. In any case, he trusted prompt means would be taken to prevent a repetition of such occurrences which had sown alarm and discomfort in districts hitherto undisturbed by sectarian violence.
§ MR. M'MAHON
regretted that the time of the House had been wasted on a profitless and useless discussion. Of all people in the world, the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns), and those who sat on the same bench with him, ought to have been the last to revive a topic of this kind. They ought to be content with the predominance they had so long enjoyed in Ireland—they might enjoy it, and sing songs of triumph about it in 376 Ireland, without forcing on the attention of English and Scotch, and even of Irish Members, so unprofitable a discussion as that now before the House. Gentlemen above the gangway ought to be the last to originate such a discussion. The late riots in Belfast might have been lawful, honourable, and profitable riots—justifiable according to the letter of the constitution as understood in that part of the country—those riots might have been of a different character, but whether they were proper and constitutional riots was not the question now to be considered, for it could not be satisfactorily considered until the Report of the Commissioners had been laid on the table of the House. He strongly suspected that the discussion had been forced on to forestall and destroy the genuine inquiry as to these riots, and exhaust the patience of the House for future investigation. He regretted that the noble Lord the Member for Tyrone (Lord Claud Hamilton) should have affected that these Belfast riots were a sort of offshoot of the procession in Dublin. If the Dublin procession was a violation of the Party Processions Act, why were not any of the persons who took part in it prosecuted? The Act of 1860 gave power to any person, without the leave of the Crown, to lay an indictment against any of the offenders before any criminal court in Dublin. Until some steps had been taken to prosecute those who had taken part in the Dublin procession, if it were unlawful, it was inexcusable to attempt to plead it in the House of Commons as a justification for the transactions at Belfast. He believed that all these profitless debates about Ireland arose necessarily from the exceptional and anomalous manner in which Ireland was governed. If Ireland were treated as an English county, it would not have taken twelve days to have quelled the recent riots. Suppose there were no Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, but a Home Office existed there as it did in England, would not measures have been taken which would have suppressed these riots, just as a riot in England would have been? The Preston riots were suppressed in a few days; and when the riots occurred at Bristol, the Mayor, who was alleged to have neglected his duty, was prosecuted for it. One of the allegations against him was that he had not acquitted himself well on horseback. But it was ruled from the Bench that it was not necessary for a Mayor to be a Dragoon. If, as 377 it had been asserted, these riots were attributable to the neglect of the local authorities, the proper means would be to try them for that neglect of duty. But no; no such inquiry had been instituted, but in its place an useless preliminary debate in the House of Commons. As long ago as 1857 a Commission had reported that the disturbances in Belfast were in some degree owing to the defective organization of the police there. In every town in Ireland, except Londonderry and Belfast, the police were under the management of the Government; in these two towns they were under the control of the municipal authorities. A Commission had reported that the organization of the police in Belfast ought to be altered, and the Gentlemen opposite, who called themselves the Liberal party, and who had been in power ever since that time, were responsible for the fact that that alteration had not been made. The Government had been attempting to catch votes in that House by what they had done rather than attempting to do justice to the people of Ireland. It was the duty of the Government, if they did nothing else, to change the management of the police of Belfast. A recommendation to this effect was given in the Report issued in 1857. The Government had been taunted for not doing it, and he trusted that on the appearance of the coming Report the Government would bring in a Bill withdrawing the police from the control of the municipal corporation of Belfast. All these party displays, processions, and riots in the north of Ireland arose from one cause—the existence of the Established Church in Ireland, which only held out rewards, honours, and protection to those exclusively who believed certain theological propositions. So long there would be those in Ireland who would attempt to maintain the predominance which they had so long enjoyed. The only proper mode of dealing with the question was by adopting the voluntary principle, and thus placing all parties upon the same footing. There was another thing which the Government should do; the Government had removed over and over again gentlemen from the magisterial bench because they thought the Act of Union ought to be abolished, and they ought now to strike out from the commission of the peace all those who would not disavow any connection with the Orange Society. If this were done this Society would 378 soon sink into such a position that it would give no further trouble.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
Sir, I wish to make a few observations upon a point which has not been, I think, sufficiently considered by those who have taken part in this debate. I agree with the last speaker that some profit may be derived from the debate if we clearly understand the principles that are involved in the discussion. The clear and temperate statement of my hon. and learned Friend (Sir Hugh Cairns) has put the House in possession of the question, which is, in my opinion, one of the utmost importance to the future government of a large kingdom. It is a question which touches the privileges, or what are supposed to be the privileges, of this House. The facts that led to this question are admitted. A warrant had been issued by a gentleman who was described by the right hon. Baronet as the sole Lord Justice. Under what circumstances was that warrant issued? A sad, melancholy, and stupid riot broke out in Belfast on the 8th of August—the House will notice the date. On that day where was the Government of Ireland? I may be told that Lord Carlisle, whom we all respected for his virtues, his gracious conduct, and his admirable courtesies in private life, was at that time disabled. We understood he had resigned; at all events, there was no Lord Lieutenant. It is admitted by the right hon. Baronet, that the Lord Chancellor was absent, so that the sole Governor of Ireland was Sir George Brown. There is, not, I believe, a more gallant veteran in the British service. It is said he served under Wellington. He served in the Crimea; he was sent to Ireland to enjoy his otium cum dignitate. And in all Europe you could not find a gentleman more innocent of all knowledge of the nature, effect, and tendency of the warrant he issued. Let us consider for a moment what that warrant is; for I fear we have on more than one occasion addressed the Crown to issue Commissions of Inquiry, to which Commissions it was supposed the privileges and powers of the House were communicated. Our privileges are vast, but they are incommunicable. How can we communicate to a Commission, even by an Address to the Crown, the privileges we possess? We may summon witnesses, pay them, compel them to come, publish reports, and not allow any power in the kingdom to quarrel with us for so doing. But what is the authority of per- 379 sons appointed as a Commission under an Address to the Crown by this House? Lord Coke has been referred to; but in the days of Lord Coke, when the principles of constitutional law appear to have been better understood than they are now upon the Treasury Bench, Commissions of Inquiry into crimes and offences were held to be void, because they wanted the warrant of an Act of Parliament, and the power did not exist even in the Crown to give these gentlemen the power they presume to exercise. This question arose in a very interesting way, when O'Connell was at the bar of Ireland. The House of Commons had just passed an Address to the Crown to issue a Commission to inquire into the corporations of Ireland. Observe what followed. There was no interference with the criminal law, there was no question of any trials about to take place, and there was no obstruction of public justice. The Commissioners, with their reporter, visited Cork, and there arose the case which is known as the case of the "Golden Loaf." It arose in this way. The Commissioners arrived and opened their court. They called upon all persons who had any accusations to make against the corporate body to come in and say what they pleased. Accordingly, a master baker, having a grievance, appeared before the Commissioners and narrated it It appeared that some years ago a person, whom he named, was mayor of the city, and it was the custom of the bakers of the city to give the mayor a golden loaf. They, wishing him to regulate in their favour the assize of bread, presented to him what contained within it that which was acceptable to his feelings. This baker made his statement to the Commissioners, and the reporter took it down—The Court: Is there anything else you have to say?—Witness: I have an instance of a j£10 note slipping into the mayor's pocket from off the Board-room table of the House of Industry, and it never slipped out since.The Mayor was absent from Cork at the time, and the first notice he got of anything before the Commissioners was the description of himself, which he read in the newspapers. The reporter who accompanied these gentlemen handed the evidence to the witness, who corrected it, and then it was sent to the newspapers. The Mayor was advised by an eminent counsel to move for a criminal information against the witness, upon the ground that he bad been a party to the publication of a 380 gross libel. The point was argued by Mr. O'Connell and Mr. Holmes, and it was said that the publication was privileged because it was a full and accurate report of the proceedings in a court of justice, or, at all events, in a court of inquiry held under a Resolution of the House of Commons, and that although the statement might be defamatory and scandalous, yet that the witness was protected, just as he would have been if the statement had been made before a Committee of the House itself. It was insisted, on the other side, that there was no power in the Crown to issue such a Commission, and that even an Address of the House of Commons would not give it any validity. The case came by appeal to England; and the Lord Chief Justice of the day, in delivering judgment, said that it was contended that a right existed to report truly the proceedings of a court of justice; but that principle was not applicable to the present case, because this was a commission of inquiry and not a court of justice; it had not the characteristics of one, but was preparatory to some ulterior measures and for the purpose of inquiry merely. The evidence was entirely ex parte, and the proceedings bore less analogy to those of a court of justice than to those before a police magistrate or at a coroner's inquest. If, therefore, those proceedings were defamatory they might tend to prejudice the public mind and to defeat the ends of justice if the case were brought to trial. And Mr. Justice Burton said that it was impossible to say that those proceedings took place before a tribunal which had any analogy to a court of justice, for a court of justice had authority to hear and determine cases, whereas the tribunal in question could hear merely; the Commissioners were only to inquire into certain facts; they could not give an acquittal; they were empowered to hear evidence, and that ex parte—not for the purpose of being communicated to the public, but of being returned to another place. He then said that anything which might inflame the public mind where a man was likely to be tried was a high crime and misdemeanour, and that to publish it was not merely unconstitutional, but illegal. Well, take another case—a case which I myself argued—I mean that of Mr. Jardine, a magistrate and a man of wealth—not like the unfortunate artizans of Belfast, who were not, however, because they were poor, to be deprived of their title to justice. Mr. Jardine was 381 brought before a magistrate charged with having been engaged in some alleged riotous proceedings; but the charge was not entertained. He was brought up a second time, but the magistrates thought there was no case. Then the Government of the Lord Lieutenant of that day (the Earl of Clarendon), ordered a gentleman, whom I call an illegal inquisitor, to go down and inquire into the case. I deny his authority. It was illegal. Where did he get this authority? Two gentlemen arrived in a town and begin to inquire into your character, your behaviour, your politics behind your backs. Is that legal? Mr. Jardine brought the matter into the Court of Queen's Bench by applying for a criminal information against the newspaper which had published the report of the proceedings of this unconstitutional tribunal. And it was admitted by the court that if there were in consequence of the report any prejudice done to the individual there was no justification. The matter was brought before the House of Lords by one who is not only a statesman and a poet, but a good lawyer, also—I mean Lord Derby; and there was a defence by Lord Clarendon to this effect—that knowing that the inquisitor could not act without a commission of the peace, he had made him a magistrate before sending him down. But anyone acquainted with the law could have pointed out that in doing so he had acted with more cunning than candour, because the Commissioner was to act not as a magistrate, having Mr. Jardine before him on summons, but acted by virtue of his commission and under the authority of it. It was then understood that they were to have no more of this irregular tribunal. At a later period a case arose which might be in the recollection of the House, and only that gentlemen in Ireland are upon this subject quite incorrigible, I should ask the House to put an end to all dealings of this description—dealings which would not be tolerated in this country. This was the case of Mr. Balfe. Mr. Balfe had taken some part in an election—it was said that he had personated the voter, but that was not the fact. Down went a Commissioner to know whether he had done this thing. The Government had as much authority to send him down to inquire as to cut off Mr. Balfe's head, and I know what I should endeavour to do in such a case. The Commissioner, Mr. Demoleyus, was a most courteous 382 gentleman. He went very cautiously to work, and said to the parties, "Will you consent to be sworn?" No doubt the learned inquisitor thought that the consent which gives the power of administering an oath in arbitration cases in civil matters could be brought into an inquiry such as he wished to preside over. The persons did consent to take the oath, and the Commissioner, without a jury, in the capacity of an illegal inquisitor, investigated the question of Mr. Balfe's guilt or innocence, and reported that he was innocent. The matter was brought before the House by the hon. Member who then sat for Portarlington (Colonel Dunne), and the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Bernal Osborne) made one of his spicy speeches upon the occasion. The right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary for Ireland, now the Colonial Secretary, who was the offender, with that gravity that belongs to him, said on that occasion, "How can you complain? Is there not a clause in the Act regulating the constabulary which enables the Lord Lieutenant to appoint persons to administer an oath?" Hon. Members turned to the Constabulary Act, and found there—Be it enacted that the Lord Lieutenant shall have power to direct the Inspector General to appoint two persons to examine into the conduct or misconduct of all persons connected with that vast force, and to administer an oath.The argument of the right hon. Gentleman was that because the Act of Parliament gives power to administer an oath a person who had no Act of Parliament in his favour could do the same. That was the most unfortunate argument I think I ever heard from so clear-headed a Gentleman. But the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department flew to the rescue. I think, however, his candour forsook him on that occasion, for, even when he seems to be striving against it, I must do him the justice to say that despite all his efforts his native candour compels him before he sits down to admit what he thinks; but in this case he was obliged to admit what he believed, that there was neither law nor reason in the case.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
Would you oblige me with them? I wish to quote them correctly. I certainly understood the right hon. Gentleman then to give us a pledge 383 that that ridiculous Commission would be the last of the series. I understood that to have been the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman. If I misunderstood him so much the worse for him and his Government, because, I venture to say, before this debate closes every impartial man will be of opinion that a more unconstitutional act could not have been done than for Sir George Brown or any other man to assume an authority which does not belong even to the Sovereign that sits on the throne. It is said that this is a matter of small importance. It is no such thing. Let me touch for a moment upon the practice of administering an oath in illegal proceedings. We passed an Act of Parliament to forbid that a magistrate or any other person should presume to administer an oath unless in legal proceedings pending before him. In the time of a Judge, never to be named without respect, for his noble character and for the constitutional principles which he always enunciated—I mean Lord Denman—a magistrate presumed to hold an inquiry and to take an affidavit affecting the character of a clergyman, and sent them to the Bishop of Exeter. This clergyman was advised to indict the magistrate, who was indicted accordingly, for administering an oath in a matter in which he had no jurisdiction. The case, known as "The Queen v. Knott," came before the Court of Queen's Bench; and when the counsel for the magistrate said it was a matter of small consequence, Lord Denman observed that false evidence might be given upon such an inquiry, though the parties would not be liable to an indictment for perjury; and thus a kind of mock tribunal was erected before which the characters of absent persons might be sworn away without relief; there was the semblance of a judicial proceeding without the reality. Can anything be more clear? Such was the light in which Lord Denman regarded this proceeding. "A mock tribunal!" Persons administering an oath who have no legal authority to administer it. That is the case here; and, therefore, if even this were an inquiry asked for by an Address from Parliament, which it is not, I ask what kind of tribunal is that which allows the administration of oaths without the power to punish a witness for perjury, and without the power to protect him? We have in England a beautiful system of law. We are not living under an American President, who can do what he likes. Our laws are clear and precise. 384 I venture to think that they are the best in the world, and I desire to have them enforced as they are found recorded in the statute-book, with all proper safeguards for liberty and for character—not as they are laid down in Dublin Castle, even though stamped with the signature of that veteran soldier Sir George Brown. There is another point to be borne in mind. The courts of justice in England have, throughout a long course of time, been inflexible in punishing those who reflect upon men not yet tried. In the case of the Brighton riots some years ago an innocent man was shot by a soldier or a constable. Before the trial reflections were cast by a newspaper upon the person who had shot him. The newspaper said it seemed extraordinary that a town which, above all others, had been conspicuous for its order and tranquillity should all at once become a scene of tumult, and a place for the shedding of innocent blood. That seems moderate; but the journal in which this language appeared was brought into the Court of Queen's Bench, and Lord Ellenborough said it had commented upon the conduct of the civil power, represented the calling out of the military as unnecessary, and contained an ex parte statement of the facts, so that the rule for a criminal information must be made absolute. Nothing was more important, said this learned Judge, than that trials should take place without the creation of prejudice in the minds of the jury on one side or the other. In a subsequent instance, Lord Ellen-borough distinguished between cases in which comments were made upon the conduct of persons where the trials were not yet begun or not yet concluded, and those in which both sides had been heard and the matter finally determined, where public comment is salutary and must be permitted. He said that every one might be questioned in a court of law, and called upon to defend his character and life, and that there could be no security for either if comments were allowed to be made beforehand, and if the prejudices of the jury were thus excited. I could multiply opinions expressed by our best Judges establishing the same principle, and in what a perfect light is our law thereby exhibited! Punish a man with hesitation—punish him severely and promptly; but, even while the arm of the law is raised to punish, convince him that you do so with impartiality, with temperance, and with justice. That has not been done in the case before us. You see what is the prin- 385 ciple laid down by the Judges. And what is our complaint? These riots occur in August; but from that hour to the present not one of the rioters has been brought to justice. [Sir ROBERT PEEL: They could not be.] The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken, for the custom has been in all riots of this kind to issue, after a certain interval, a Special Commission. It is especially necessary in this case, because there are no winter assizes in Ireland; and the result will be that by the end of March these men will have been seven months imprisoned. Look at the hardship of that. The loose, desultory, and vague speech of the right hon. Gentleman cannot extricate the Government from the consequences of this serious state of things. For what are the facts? Two Quarter Sessions have elapsed since the riots; but, though some of the offences charged are trifling, and though gentlemen of high station sit at these sessions, which are presided over by one of Her Majesty's Counsel, the authorities would not allow one case to be tried there. Thus, no special Commission being issued, there being no winter assizes, and no trials at the Quarter Sessions being allowed, none of the prisoners can be tried till the end of March. Meanwhile, to the surprise of the world, this warrant is suddenly issued from Dublin Castle. Now, there is no use in telling me that other Commissions of Inquiry have issued. My answer is that we have complained of those inquiries; we have brought them twice before Parliament, and twice into the Queen's Bench; and we now ask whether the House of Commons will sanction the appointment of this unconstitutional tribunal, and will sanction such a usurpation as in the case before us. Refer me to the book and page of the Act of Parliament which authorizes you to institute this court, and do not answer me by saying that you can issue a Commission of Inquiry into the fisheries, or other subjects of that class. After a recital of the fact that riots had taken place, the warrant proceeded:—"We do authorize and nominate" the Commissioners to hold a Court of Inquiry; the "we" being apparently Sir George Brown. The Commissioners were to inquire into—The existing local arrangements for the preservation of the peace of that borough, the management and jurisdiction exercised within it, and the amount, and constitution, and efficiency of the police force usually available there; the proceedings taken by the magistrates and other 386 local authorities towards the prevention or suppression of the said riots and disturbances; and whether these authorities and the existing police force are adequate to the future maintenance of order and tranquillity within the borough; and whether any and what changes ought to be made in the local, magisterial, and police jurisdiction, arrangements, and establishment, with a view to the better preservation of the public peace and the prevention or prompt suppression of riot and disorder.Now, I will adopt the hint of the right hon. Baronet, and will not read the opening statement of the learned Commissioner. It may be fancied by some of those who hear me that a Judge should hear the evidence first, and state his conclusions afterwards; but the peculiarity and the novelty here are that Mr. Barry, one of the Commissioners, begins by describing the whole affair, denounces the rioters, declares that the whole civilized world has heard of these occurrences, and, having pronounced this opinion upon the character of the riots, says that he will now proceed to hear the evidence. A solicitor next appears before the Commissioners, as he states, on behalf of forty of the prisoners; and this is the colloquy that passes. Mr. M'Lean asked, whether the Commissioners had power to examine witnesses on oath. The answer was, "No." Then, he asked, bad the Commissioners power to compel the attendance of witnesses? The answer of the inquisitor was again "No." Then would a witness who stated an untruth be liable to proceedings for perjury? The chief inquisitor, with considerable animation, said, "Certainly not." Then Mr. M'Lean asked, whether inquiry would be made into the causes of the riots? The answer was, "Not directly," except so far as they bore upon the points of inquiry referred to in the warrant. ["Hear!"] I quite understand that cheer—of course the Commissioners did everything which they said at that time they could not do. Now this gentleman said, "Under these circumstances I beg to withdraw," and he handed in on the part of certain of the prisoners a protest to the effect that the inquiry, as conducted, was calculated to reflect upon persons about to be tried, and would be prejudicial to them by disseminating false reports of their guilt amongst those from whom the jury would be taken who would have to try them. The Commissioners received the protest, but they did not and could not give an answer to it, and the Government have given no answer to it, save in the unconstitutional and 387 elaborate speech of the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who appears to rest under the delusion that we in this House, who represent something in that country, should allow him, who represents nothing there, to govern Ireland in the fashion he is prepared to do, as indicated in this case. On what principles was the last inquiry at Belfast conducted? The Commission sat forty days, twenty-two of which were occupied with the case of one McCormack, who has been committed for murder. The whole of the evidence as to riots was brought before the Commissioners in the case against that man. If the Report to be laid on the table contains the same statements that have been communicated to me, they will be read with great pain. The Commissioners asked whether the details on which the counsel was entering were important, and the skilful Nisi Prius lawyer replied that they would be useful to show the time when the military came up. That was not it; but the object was to prejudge the case with respect to what was described as a brutal murder, but which, when the accused man has the opportunity of being heard, will receive a very different colour. The Commissioners after hearing numerous cases of assaults gave notice that they would not give any attention to anything but specific charges, so that the persons charged might have the opportunity of appearing before them and rebutting the accusation. What is that but trying the case? The evidence was not on oath, perjury could not be assigned, and charges might be made behind a person's back. This is not English law, yet it is justified by those who boast of being the champions of English freedom in this country. Will you tell me how the accused man, who is in prison, could appear before the Commission? He would be very glad to remove from the place where he is. The man, McCormack, is charged with murder under these circumstances:—He went to the police-court two months before to look after a friend's case, and while standing there an inquiry was made whether an informant could identify a person accused. At the request of the magistrates a number of persons were placed in a row, and the man I have referred to made one of the number. The informant looked at the persons in the row, and said that none of them were in the riot. The man went back to his work in September, and in November he was arrested on the information of the very 388 same person who had failed to identify him before. The man applied for bail, his master, who fully believed his innocence, offering to become surety for him to the amount of £500. An application to bail was made in the Irish Court of Queen's Bench, but it was resisted by the Solicitor General, on the ground that as on the information he was charged with a positive crime, they were bound to keep him in custody, and the consequence was that he was now in prison awaiting his trial for murder, and the Court of Queen's Bench felt bound to detain him in custody. If, however, the information I have received be true, not five minutes will elapse after the learned Judge's charge before the jury will acquit him. I do not blame Her Majesty's Government for that, because the law is against them; but what I do complain of is that the right hon. Baronet does not appear to conceive that it is the publication of the matter which reflects on the man before he is tried, and hearing his case behind his back. Well, the Commissioners at last said that they would not hear a case reflecting upon a person unless the man so reflected on had the opportunity of appearing and answering the statements against him. But they had no right to demand an answer or to enter into any specific case, and every step of this proceeding shows the value of our constitution in not allowing new-fangled inventions to grow up, and in providing that persons shall be tried according to the good old practice, according to which the court has the power to hear, to determine, condemn, or acquit. Many years ago a Commission was issued on the pretence that it was necessary to inquire respecting the police force of Belfast. I recollect hearing a gentleman—a merchant—describe the town of Belfast and its police force. When my friend first knew the place it had only 25,000 inhabitants, now it has 140,000; and it was, therefore, contrary to common sense to suppose that a police force which was adequate at the first period would be sufficient when the population was so much increased, and numbers of persons have poured into the town, some of them being restless and ill-behaved. The police of that time only carried big sticks, and not arms; they appeared in the market-place, chased the little boys, and preserved the peace of the town; but it is quite evident that will not do now. That naturally led to the inquiry into the state, condition, 389 and efficiency of the police force of Belfast. Well, the Commissioners of 1857 investigated the subject, and reported thatthese matters lead us to believe that in the constitution the police force there are serious errors calling for immediate remedy, and to recommend that a total change should be effected in the mode of appointment and the management of the local police of Belfast.They add, at the end of the Report, that they wish that two Roman Catholic gentlemen should be added to the police of the town. The very first thing done by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland under Lord Derby's Government, was to offer the commission to two Roman Catholic gentlemen, and the thanks of the community were given for the measure so adopted. The next step taken by Lord Derby's Government was to introduce a Bill in reference to the formation of the Belfast police; and on the 4th of June, 1858, Mr. (now Judge) Fitzgerald stood up on the floor of this House, and said that the late Government had appointed a Commission to inquire into the causes of the outrages, and that those gentlemen had reported a state of facts that would startle the House; and they said that the police force was plainly insufficient to protect the town; that it was the intention of the then Government to have proposed legislation in reference to the subject, and especially as to the police arrangements of Belfast, which were undoubtedly in a very unsatisfactory state; and he said that he did not think that the Government would do their duty to the people of Belfast if they left the police in that condition, and my noble Friend the then Secretary for Ireland (Lord Naas), replied that a Bill dealing with the police of the towns of Ireland generally was in preparation, and that when it should be seen he thought that all the wishes of the hon. Gentleman would be fulfilled. [See 3 Hansard, cl. 1535.] Now, any hon. Gentleman referring to the report of the then head of the constabulary in reference to the Belfast police will see that some valuable suggestions of that officer were embodied in the Bill which the Government of Lord Derby introduced. [Sir GEORGE GREY: Not before July.] Better to do it in July than not do it at all. It is easy to object, but not so easy to perform. That Bill was brought in, and it was opposed by the hon. Gentlemen now sitting on the Ministerial Benches. My right hon. Friend, then the Secretary of State for the Home Depart- 390 ment, had approved that Bill, and gave us his assistance in preparing it, not thinking it unworthy of his position to visit us in Ireland for the purpose. If that Bill was wrong in its details, why did you not correct them? It was founded on a report and designed to meet a crying evil demanding an immediate remedy; and why did you not, when your own Attorney General admitted it would be a failure to leave matters as they stood, bring in a measure that would have prevented a repetition of those disgraceful riots which the Commissioners feared would break out again if the police force were not remodelled? The Bill which we brought in was not a party measure, but one of a wise and prudent character, intended to preserve the peace of the country; and when we are asked why we did not carry it? the answer is, because of the unjustifiable opposition you offered to it. But I acquit the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary of all blame or even knowledge as to that, for at that time he did not occupy his present position, and the best possible defence I can make for the right hon. Gentleman, and I do it in all sincerity, is, that his mind was a perfect blank upon it; he had not then been concerned with Irish affairs. Sir, I was surprised to hear hon. Members below the gangway applauding the right hon. Baronet while he was trying to vindicate the policy of this unconstitutional and inexpedient Commission. What would the hon. Member for the county of Longford (Mr. O'Reilly) think if, while his proceedings at the election for the county which he represents were about to be inquired into, before he had an opportunity of being heard in the House, a Commission was sent down to Longford to investigate his conduct. [Mr. O'REILLY made a remark which was not heard.] He would remind the hon. Gentleman that a bad precedent, even though set against those from whom you differ to day, may be set against yourselves to-morrow, and you may yourselves suffer from the mischievous and unconstitutional doctrine that you have sanctioned. What would he have said when O'Connell was on his trial if, before he was tried, a Commission had been sent down to inquire into the nature of the riots, the nature of the assemblies, and the nature of the meetings he summoned to be held? He would have been amongst the loudest advocates to say the prisoner ought to be tried fairly and according to the Constitution—not by a Commission 391 issued alike against law, precedent, and the Constitution. Beware how you sanction such things. Ireland is our country, and if it is to be governed by English law the sooner we have done with it the better. That law is a perfect and wise system when it is not marred and perverted by these mischievous innovations. Let hon. Gentlemen, then, not be too elated with the result of this Commission, even though it was founded on the high authority of Sir George Brown. The right hon. Baronet began by complimenting my hon. and learned Friend upon the moderate tone in which he had introduced this serious constitutional question to the notice of the House; but by a strange inconsistency he had not gone far before he began to treat my hon. and learned Friend's speech as a very intemperate piece of declamation. I do not know that the northern blood of my hon. and learned Friend often leads him to indulge in impassioned invective; but we may be all open to this censure; and fortunate is it for us all that we have a Mentor so calm, so philosophic, so unmoved as the right hon. Baronet, to point out to us the path in which we should walk, and not only to instruct us about our own country, but to tutor us in that art of eloquence of which he is so great a master. The right hon. Baronet hinted that my hon. and learned Friend had mistaken the law, and said it seemed to him that the law was originally pointed against processions of a certain character more usual in the North. The right hon. Gentleman was wrong if he meant to represent that, under the 5 & 6 Will. IV, nobody could be prosecuted unless it was in connection with an anniversary known to the Protestants of Ireland. The Legislature was not so partial as that; I deny it on behalf of the Parliament. It has been held that the walking in procession with banners on the 18th of December to commemorate the shutting of the gates of Derry, or to celebrate the return of Daniel O'Connell to Parliament, were offences against the Act of William IV., and certain funerals were held to be instances of the same thing. But the law which is now in force is as clear as daylight. I do not wish the House to think that I complain of Parliament for enacting this law, still less of the Judges for enforcing it. Because if you choose to pass a law declaring that nobody in Ireland is to sneeze, it is the duty of the people to try and obey it, and you must Bend everybody to prison who is seen com- 392 mitting that illegality. If you pass a law declaring that no processions shall take place, the Judges are bound to execute it—they are bound not to raise quibbles, but to do the thing which they are called upon to do. And what is that? It is admitted on all hands that the words of the statute were adopted for the very purpose of including all kinds of processions within their scope. These words embrace all assemblies of persons who shall meet and parade together, or join in procession, or wear, bear, or have with them firearms, or other dangerous weapons, or a flag or other symbol, the display of which may be calculated to provoke animosity between various classes of Her Majesty's subjects, or who shall play music or sing any song which may be calculated to provoke animosity, &c. I will not say a syllable in favour of that law. It is very doubtful whether in a free country there ought to be such a law. I do not know why you should send to prison a man who thinks fit, it may be in his unnecessary display of feeling, to say that he rejoices in the Revolution, or in the advent of King William III., or why you should send to prison any gentleman who thinks fit to meet to commemorate the life or character of Daniel O'Connell. But that has nothing to do with my argument now. When we come to consider whether we should renew that law, I will deal with that question. But what I say, and what I charge the Government with, is that the administration of the law in their hands has been feeble, partial, and unjust. Did the House observe how we were met to-night in argument? A novel and unconstitutional expedient was resorted to. A letter was produced, written by the Attorney General for this debate, not on any case that has been submitted to him, but to serve the turn of a distressed Chief Secretary in a difficulty. And that is the way in which the Chief Secretary goes through the mockery of representing Ireland here! If he is obliged to get a letter from his Attorney General, on what was it founded? Did he introduce the M'Manus procession which I do not understand any counsel at the bar to say was lawful? There were many thousands present at that ceremony, and what was their language? Treason, and nothing more nor less. Who was Mr. M'Manus? I saw him tried. I was concerned in the case of Mr. Smith O'Brien, and also of Mr. Meagher, of whose career as a general in America we have heard so 393 much. They were tried for their lives; and I do not hold it to be any ground of censure against me that I did appear as counsel for those persons who, although I admit I did not agree with them, trusted their lives to my feeble advocacy. I was not prepared for the right hon. Baronet's last comments on the discharge of my professional duty. He has a right to criticize as much as he pleases what I say here; but I am not responsible to him for what I say elsewhere. He has no right to cut out the miserable quotation he gave us to-night of what I may have said twenty years ago, when I was, perhaps, not as wise as I may have since become, for I was not so favoured then as I am now with the right hon. Baronet for my instructor. But this man, M'Manus, was sentenced to be executed. He was pardoned by the mercy of the Crown; for I make bold to say that this is the most merciful country in the whole world towards those who attempt to subvert its laws and Constitution. This gentleman was pardoned and I believe he escaped to California. And when he was said to have died there, certain men holding his opinion, spoke of bringing his body back to Dublin. The first thing we heard of was that the head of his own Church forbade the body being brought into any church of the Roman Catholic religion, and also forbade any priest appearing at the ceremony. It was clear, then, that they did not approve it. These men proclaimed their intention on a given day—the Sabbath day—to perambulate the streets of Dublin in the large numbers to which I have referred—they commenced at 8,000 and swelled to 50,000—with the music which they thought suited to the occasion, and not to hold the ceremony for four or five hours after they began their march. They did not disguise their object. They had no fear of the Government. Their object was revolution. An American captain came over and made inflammatory speeches to the assemblage. The procession turned out of its way to march past the Castle of Dublin. The meaning of these acts was, they sought to overturn the existing Constitution, and to establish in its place a republic on the last American model. They avowed that perfidious doctrine which inspires every good subject with horror, "England's weakness is Ireland's opportunity." They declared that they wanted to strike down that very Government that spared them in their folly and their madness. That was 394 the procession; it was a treasonable procession, and nothing else. These things were the origin of what occurred afterwards. "What!" it was said in other parts of the country, "are we to be punished—we who walk and do nothing, when such a procession as that walked unnoticed before the Castle?" What an encouragement to young men to adopt revolutionary opinions, and to break the law, which would assuredly bring down punishment on their heads afterwards! If you could perserve your gravity, I would read to you the statement of a prosecution which was sent to me the other day. Here is the information, the indictment, and the trial. The House heard the right hon. Baronet read from a paper that, in regard to this great procession, no information was laid before the Crown; but is it a fact that not one of the police whom we pay to preserve order and peace announced to the Government what they saw and heard? And might not the Secretary have said, "Go and lay an information against the ring-leaders?" Why did you not do so? Because when that procession marched past, you sat shivering for an institution you ought to defend. You had not courage to bring the law to bear upon them, and left them to walk unnoticed; while every constable, by a general order all over Ireland, makes an information whenever he sees even the most trifling violation of the law. Is that the manner in which you would bind to you a high-spirited people? Be just and equal in your administration, when the law is broken punish—then only will it rest on a firm basis in Ireland. Look at this case. Three young men were charged with an offence against the Act. A constable said he saw five or six men in a cart, one of them displaying a sash, while another had two drumsticks. They were all arrested and taken before the magistrates. Another constable said the young man hid the sash under the seat, and he found it there. The sash and the two drumsticks having been found, the prisoners were committed for trial. And what were they charged with? He had the indictment before him, and it ran that they "then and there wilfully, knowingly, unlawfully, and publicly did meet and parade with divers other persons unknown, and, did play music—to wit, did beat a drum, in a certain public road or place there situate, in such a manner as was calculated and did tend to provoke animosity between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects." The Crown prosecuted in this serious case, and 395 what was the defence of the prisoners? If the author of The Pickwick Papers were here, I think he could dress it up to some advantage. The learned counsel for the defence urged that no procession had been shown, unless the horse going first, then the driver, then the car, and then the people by the side of the car, made a procession. One car could no more make a procession than one man. The learned Judge, amid general laughter, directed an acquittal. The case referred to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns), and which was mistaken by the right hon. Baronet in his hurry, took place on the 1st of August—the date of the great procession in Dublin was the 8th. On the 1st of August the question was raised how many make a procession. It was then held that these three lads formed a procession. The constable said, "I have you all." There was another procession. It consisted of eight persons. They were tried, and the jury, in obedience to the direction of the Judge, found the prisoners guilty; but they added a recommendation that the Judge would not sentence them to imprisonment, as the harvest was ready and no harm had been done. The Judge, however, would not listen to the recommendation, and sentenced them to three months imprisonment. The word "calculated," in the Act, was of great importance. In each case the question was put to the jury whether, considering the facts proved, and considering what they knew of the country and its inhabitants, they believed that the procession was such a one as was contemplated by the Act? The Judge said he had more than once explained to juries that it was of little importance whether any one was offended by the procession, and the real question was whether it was calculated to give offence; and he said it appeared to be worse than trifling to award a nominal punishment, but that it occurred to him that three months' imprisonment was enough to carry out the Act of Parliament, but that where mischief arose the punishment would be double. Seven of the eight men were convicted, and suffered three months' imprisonment for that trifling procession; but what was done when 50,000 men marched through Dublin on the 8th of August, with banners, music, and mottoes? I do not complain of the law, what I complain of is the administration of the law. The right hon. Baronet says that in this case there were no mottoes which would 396 have justified the sending of the case to a jury. I can only say that a friend of mine read one of these mottoes, "O, for the swords of former days!" and I turned to that impartial reporter Saunders', a paper without politics, to see whether my friend's statement was confirmed. I found there, among the banners described, the one I have named, "O, for the swords of former days!" What was that motto for? Was it to make play with? The right hon. Gentleman says the Motion is premature; but I have observed that that is always said of any Motion which the Government does not like. They ask us to wait for papers, and when we consent the papers are not forthcoming; and, in fact, the time never arrives when it is perfectly convenient to the Government to discuss a disagreeable topic. The right hon. Baronet, when he went to Belfast, took a courageous course—he threw all the blame on the local magistrates. He said that the Lord Lieutenant of Antrim had censured the local magistrates. But where was the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland? one would suppose he was a friend of the present Government. I am happy to say that the present Lord Lieutenant, whose conduct in Ireland has gained him general respect, had nothing whatever to do with the matter, but other Members of the Irish Government are certainly open to reproach. The Lord Lieutenant of the county of Antrim took upon himself to censure the magistrates; but where was he himself all the time? He was in Belfast, and had power to call out the military, the constabulary, the entire posse comitatus of the county; but he did nothing of the kind. He contented himself with making a speech at the Freemasons' dinner, where he ought not to have made it, and left the military operations to the direction of the right hon. Baronet. Those who had at their command the whole civil and military authority of the country, and who neglected to wield it for the preservation of the peace, were the principal offenders. Upon them ought to fall the burden of blame, and not upon the local magistrates, some of whom exposed their lives in the discharge of their duties, and whose case has yet to be investigated. A mayor of Bristol was once indicted—in a constitutional manner—for his conduct during certain riots which occurred there, but he vindicated his character completely. If you turn to the report of the proceedings, you will find what a different thing is a calm, dispas- 397 sionate trial before a constitutional Judge, compared with the calumnies and aspersions of an irregular inquiry by a Commission. I do not complain of gentlemen leaving Ireland. It would seem that they all left it; and that the country would have drifted out into the Atlantic if it had not been held fast by Sir George Brown. I suppose the civil administration of the island will now be given to Sir George, while the Chief Secretary superintends the operations at the Curragh. I do not say that the responsible officials should never quit Ireland, but that, when they do go away, they should leave behind them some one acquainted with the circumstances of the people, and that they have no right to put forward their absence as an excuse for any difficulties that may arise if they neglect that precaution. I have been behind the scenes only for a short time, it is true; but still long enough to know that the stipendiary magistrates correspond directly with the Chief Secretary. The latter can remove them from one place to another, and can give them instructions quite independent of the local authorities, but which the stipendiaries are bound to obey. Now, what is complained of by the men of all parties is, that when the first report was sent up by the stipendiary magistrate, explaining the absurd beginning of the riot in Belfast due to the proceedings in Dublin, direct orders were not sent to the stipendiaries to place patrols on the streets where the disturbances broke out when the workpeople were coming from the mills. Had such an order been given, further difficulties might have been averted. If the Government officials omitted to adopt these necessary measures, what right have they to shift the blame from their own shoulders upon those of the local magistrates? The right hon. Gentleman says that an attack has been made on Mr. Barry. This is an error. No imputation is made on that gentleman personally. All that is said is, that no person who is charged with an inquiry into matters affecting the relations of the Government and the magistrates ought to be a Government official, employed as private adviser at the Castle before he makes his report, and afterwards liable to be sent down to the spot to conduct the prosecutions. As to Mr. Exham, it is true that that gentleman did appear before the Commission, but only as counsel on a fiscal question for certain ratepayers, who were afraid the recommendations of the Commissioners might increase their burdens. There 398 can be no doubt that the investigation has been altogether partial and one-sided. The right hon. Baronet, in addition to his own comments, favoured us with a number of choice quotations from Grattan, Macaulay, Berkeley, and others. It is satisfactory, of course, to receive this proof of his reading and erudition, and good quotations from eminent writers are always interesting; he was, however, bound to show that their opinions were applicable to the subject, so as to illumine the House with the superior light of their intelligence. But I must own that I could not trace the bearing of the extracts on the question before us. I think they would apply almost equally well to any subject that is likely to come before the House during the next ten years. Nor could I comprehend what the right hon. Baronet's comments on the "fury of theology" had to do with the present topic. The right hon. Baronet concluded by saying that he stood alone. Now, I have a sincere personal respect for him, because he has always been courteous to mo, and I have never heard him utter an opinion in regard to Ireland, which did not do him credit; but it is really painful to listen to such an admission. Why does the right hon. Baronet stand alone? He lectured the people of the North of Ireland on their violence in the expression of opinion—a violence which, it is obvious, is subsiding among the upper and middle classes—but has the right hon. Gentleman forgotten the speeches he made on a memorable visit to the North, which were thrown in my face as being so much stronger, and having more the true ring than any that had been heard for a long time? Is it for him to prescribe moderation of language, and to asperse the honest, industrious, and good men of Ulster, who owe their prosperity to their own ability and activity, and who share their prosperity with men from whom they widely differ, both in religion and politics, after such speeches as he then made—after making such a declaration as, that he did not care two pins' points for the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland? The present situation of the Government reminds me of a passage in our history, but which concerns the noble Viscount under whom he serves, rather than the right hon. Gentleman himself. The noble Viscount the First Minister is a popular and sagacious statesman, and we all admire his genial temper, and his cheerful, courteous way of managing the business of Parliament; but it is quite 399 possible for a Minister of the Crown to pass in England for an able, amiable, and popular Minister, and yet to create in Ireland a feeble and unpopular administration. I have read in former times of an able and eminent Minister, whose opinions and statements were sometimes quoted in that House—Sir Robert Walpole. Now that was a sagacious, wise, able, and discreet Minister. It was even said that he had saved the country. Nevertheless, Walpole established in Ireland almost the worst Government with which it was ever cursed—the Government of a uarrow-minded ecclesiastic—Primate Boulter. Swift saw the failure of that Government, and felt it. He had, however, the folly to suppose that the vigour of his genius, the power of his pen, and the greatness of his abilities as a political writer, would make some impression upon the mind of the great Minister. Swift accordingly visited London—he had an interview with Walpole—he told him that the Government of Ireland was in the hands of a clique—that the gentry were excluded from office, and that there was no sympathy between the people and the Executive. But the warning voice of Swift made no impression whatever upon the mind of Walpole, Walpole telling him that the Government of Ireland was whatever he chose to make it. The Minister and the patriot separated. But what followed? The great Minister overrated his powers and forgot what a man like Swift could do, inspired by genius, animated by patriotism, and inflamed with indignation. Swift returned to Ireland. He wrote down the Government, derided the Ministry, defied their power, and became the idol of the nation. That mighty writer, despised and spurned by the sagacious Minister, became, by the principles he laid down, the author of that great political crisis of 1782, to which the right hon. Baronet has referred, when Grattan, that inspired patriot, stood forth as the genius of liberty in the Irish Parliament, and exclaimed—You are no longer a wretched colony, returning thanks to her Governor for his rapine, and to her King for his oppression. Spirit of Swift! Spirit of Molyneux! Your genius has prevailed? Ireland is now a nation!And this has a moral in it. I warn the right hon. Gentleman that the exhibition of to-night will not strengthen his administration. I defy him to govern any country in the way he is endeavouring to govern mine. Her Majesty's Ministers 400 are now attempting to govern Ireland in a manner the people will not submit to. On behalf of my fellow-countrymen I ask to be governed by laws founded upon equity and reason. I ask for a full measure of justice. I tell the Government that Ireland will not be satisfied with less, and I am ready to admit that the highest ambition ought not to covet more.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
The right hon. and learned Gentleman in his speech tonight has wandered from the distinct issue raised by the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns), and I hope we shall not be led away by his fervid eloquence from the real subject of debate. I cannot help thinking that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is an illustration of the inconvenienee which must attend an inquiry into the occurrences at Belfast before the Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into them has been laid upon the table of the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has not only impugned the appointment of that Commission, but has gone into the details of what he alleges occurred before it, of which the House can have no knowledge, and his object seems to have been to lead the House to believe that the inquiry was partial and unfair, tending to interfere with the due administration of the criminal law in the case of those persons who have been committed for trial. I cannot help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman would have acted more impartially if he had abstained from the course which he has adopted to-night; and would have exhibited a conduct more worthy of the high position he occupies in the Bar of Ireland, and in this House, if he had abstained from pledging his legal reputation to the assertion that a man who is now under charge of the highest crime known to the law will be acquitted, although the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland has refused an application made in his behalf to he bailed. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has also, in a manner unworthy his position, indulged in repeated sneers—for I can call them by no other name—against a gallant and distinguished officer Sir George Brown. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly well aware that the necessary powers are invested in the Lords Justices in the absence of the Lord Lieutenant, and that one of those Lords Justices is invariably the Commander-in-Chief. The right hon. Gentleman has insinuated that the issuing of the Commission was the act of a military chief 401 acting upon his own responsibility and without any communication with the Government, and has imputed to Sir George Brown conduct for which there is no foundation. The issuing of the Commission was the Act of Her Majesty's Government. I myself am entitled to a share of the blame (if there be any), inasmuch as I entirely concurred in that step. I did so because I felt that as a large and populous town like Belfast had been in possession of a mob for several days, and ten or eleven lives had been lost in the streets, and great injury done to persons and property, it was the duty of the Government to institute an inquiry, not into the causes which led to those disturbances, but into the conduct of the local authorities upon the occasion. That Commission was issued in accordance with numerous precedents which might be quoted. The inquiry was instituted, as has been the case with many others, for the purpose of ascertaining, with a view to legislation, the actual condition of the police and the magistracy. I believe there has been no Government within this last century which has not issued Commissions of this kind. An inquiry of a similar kind was made some years ago by a distinguished member of the Bar into the conduct of magistrates at Birmingham. When complaints were made of unnecessary violence by the police in suppressing disturbances in Hyde Park, a similar Commission was instituted, and the inquiry resulted in the prosecution of some members of the force. If we are debarred from any inquiry but by the ordinary methods, I am afraid the Executive power must abandon one of its principal functions, and that it will be powerless to check those abuses which occasionally prevail. I believe that when the Report of the Commission is laid upon the table of the House it will be found that the gentlemen who have conducted the inquiry have acted with prudence and impartiality, and that no prejudice, through their mode of conducting it, will have been done to those who now await their trial. The object of the Commission is entirely distinct from any inquiry into the conduct of the persons accused of criminal offences. The right hon. Gentleman has confounded two things very distinct in themselves; he has confounded Commissions which are occasionally issued for the purpose of inquiring into some criminal charge brought against individuals with general inquiries into the con- 402 duct of police and magistrates. The first class I have always held to be objectionable, and in the case of Mr. Balfe, to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, I said the sooner the practice of issuing them is abandoned the better; but the latter have frequently been attended with beneficial results. The principal charge made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and the only one to which I attach any serious weight, is the charge of a partial administration of justice. That charge was brought forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns), and repeated in still stronger terms by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin. It is true that he does not justify the riots of Belfast, which were a disgrace to any part of Christendom; but he seems rather to insinuate that there was some slight justification for the riot in consequence of the procession which took place in Dublin on the occasion of laying the foundation stone of the memorial to the late Mr. O'Connell. But any intention to give offence by that procession had been disavowed. It was said that the Government allowed the O'Connell procession to pass through the streets of Dublin without interfering, or taking any measures to enforce the Party Processions Act, which it is alleged was violated upon that occasion. Upon that subject I think my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland has given a complete refutation of the charge. It has, indeed, been alleged, but the allegation has been met by distinct contradiction, that party emblems were used upon that occasion. No party mottoes were exhibited, and there was nothing to bring the procession within the Party Processions Act, as calculated to create animosity or to lead to disturbance of the peace. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says there was one motto of a party character, "O, for the swords of former times!" but, I believe that is the first line of a melody of Moore's; and if that line is intended to excite animosity, then all I can say is, that animosity is more easily excited in Dublin than it is anywhere else. Then it is said that there were green flags. I am speaking in the hearing of hon. Gentlemen who can correct me if I am wrong, but I am told that the flags used upon the occasion were the flags belonging to the different trades' guilds which formed part of the procession. The right hon. and learned Gentleman 403 talked about flags bearing harps without crowns, and there is no doubt there were such flags, but these could not be held to be party emblems. He also complains of the opinion of the present Attorney General, Mr. Lawson, that the procession did not come within the provisions of the Party Processions Act; but it was given after a careful consideration of the police reports, and of the whole facts of the case. I do not justify that procession. Any large assemblage of persons which is calculated to provoke a breach of the peace is unlawful under the common law. But it became a matter of consideration with the Government whether it should interfere by force to prevent the procession, and whether it would not be better to take precautions to prevent any breach of the peace, rather than forcibly to stop the procession. That question the Government decided after careful consideration, and I think events have shown that it was a wise, prudent, and proper course. Then with respect to the M'Manus' funeral, I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman misrepresented the opinion of the Attorney General, who I did not understand to state that that procession was lawful. The right hon. Gentleman does not put it that the procession at M'Manus' funeral was unlawful within the meaning of the Party Processions Act; but he says that it was a large assemblage of persons, and that over the grave some speeches were delivered which contained treasonable expressions. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say, that if he had been one of the Law Officers of the Crown, or that even now, not being a Law Officer but knowing all the facts, he would have advised that it was the duty of the Government, either in the case of the O'Connell procession or in that of M'Manus' funeral, to have called out the garrison and all the police of Dublin to stop by force those processions? I may tell him that on neither of those occasions did a single breach of the peace occur, but all passed off quietly. The O'Connell procession not being illegal within the Party Processions Act, and no information having been sworn by any inhabitant of Dublin that he believed it was calculated to excite animosity or to lead to a breach of the peace, the Government took the wisest course in not interfering, but in taking precautions to prevent disturbances, which, happily, were successful. I believe that the imputation cast upon the Government of a 404 partial administration of the law is wholly groundless. It is easy for the right hon. Gentleman, although he is a lawyer, to ridicule an indictment framed to enforce the' Party Processions Act; but he must know that the 12th of July, the day on which the trifling occurrence took place about which he amused the House, has in former times been marked by serious riots, owing to the non-enforcement of the law. Those riots have ceased of late, and surely the Government is entitled to credit for having maintained peace by putting an end to scenes which were disgraceful to Ireland. When the Report of the Commission is laid on the table, I believe it will be found that the proceedings under it were perfectly regular. It was not a judicial tribunal to receive evidence upon oath, but simply to collect information which it was the duty of the Government to obtain; and I hope the Report will lay the foundation for successful legislation to prevent the recurrence of such lamentable proceedings.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, that had it not been that he took part in the procession of the 8th of August he should not have risen upon this occasion, but it was only right that he should give his testimony as to the character of that demonstration. He at that time occupied an official position in the city of Cork, and had been deputed by the corporation to attend to represent them upon an occasion when it was intended to pay proper respect to the memory of O'Connell. At the meeting of the corporation, when he was so deputed, there were present several Conservative Members, who united with their Radical and Catholic brethren in a desire to pay respect to the memory of a great Irishman. lie confessed that having been kept seated in a carriage for five hours the proceedings of the day were rather a bore to him; but he had opportunity of watching the conduct of the people, and he never remembered to have seen before such evidence of good feeling on the part of a vast population. The people turned out as for a national holyday, with the sole object of paying respect to one whom all Irishmen ought to respect. O'Connell had been dead nearly eighteen years, and surely now the animosities of former times might be allowed to pass away. All Irishmen, however differing from O'Connell in past times, might now properly respect the greatness of his genius and the splendid achievement of which he was the author. He had done 405 more for the peace of Ireland than any other individual. As the author of emancipation, which led to the breaking down of the barriers which formerly separated one class from another in Ireland, O'Connell had done much to produce that better spirit which had grown up in all parts of Ireland except in a portion of the northern province. Upon the occasion referred to he noticed the banners that were borne, and he found they were the ordinary banners of trades and temperance societies, and he denied that there were any offensive banners or emblems, although he admitted that some of the wands were tipped with green. But surely no Irishman, whatever his politics, would say that green was a party and not a national emblem. Out of Ireland all would accept green as the national colour, and he could not understand why they should not so regard it in Ireland. Then it was said that party tunes were played, and "Garryowen" was especially referred to. But "Garryowen" was constantly played by the bands of Her Majesty's regiments in Dublin immediately after "God Save the Queen," and it was also played at the theatres, and he had never heard it objected to as a party tune. The hon. and learned Member for Belfast by his Motion sought to anticipate the Report of the Commission; and, as representing a constituency which strongly sympathized with Orange views, the hon. and learned Member was justified. His object clearly was to take off the edge of the Report, and to soften the condemnation that must be pronounced. It would have been fairer to have waited for the Report and the evidence, and then he would have found that there was no inquiry into the criminality or innocence of individuals, and it would be seen that if ever a Government was justified in issuing a Commission, such an occasion was found in this instance, and if a Conservative Government had been in power he believed they would have taken the same course. No Irishman who was worthy the name of a freeman would regard these abominable outrages which had occurred at Belfast, otherwise than with sorrow and disgust. He wished to know whether hon. Gentlemen thought that when civil war had been going on for more than a month in one of the provinces of the kingdom the Government were not right to make an inquiry to ascertain why such civil war had occurred, why the civil power had been completely paralyzed, and why such a state of things existed as brought 406 a blush of shame to the cheek of every Irishman. Last year he had asked the Government to legislate upon this very question, and to suspend a financial Bill until they had grappled with the cause of the disturbances in Belfast, and the remonstrances then made to the Government had been fully justified by the events that had since occurred. The right hon. and learned Member asserted that the riots in Belfast were owing to the demonstration in Dublin; but he felt bound to deny the truth of this suggestion. The Catholics of Dublin would have been the most ungrateful people that ever were insensible to benefits conferred upon them had they refused to pay some public mark of respect to the memory of the great Catholic who had rendered such services to them, to their country, and to their Church. What was there in their act which should have induced a class in Belfast to burn his effigy with every mark of scorn and contempt, to carry the ashes in a mock funeral procession, and to attack a charitable institution under the control of a religious body? Those were the acts that really gave rise to the Belfast riots, for the gauntlet having been once thrown down, it was doubtless taken up by the Catholics, and then the lamentable transactions took place which were such a disgrace to the country. He thought the hon. and learned Member was afraid of the evidence that would come out in consequence of the Commission. When asked whether, if he had been Attorney General for Ireland, he would have suppressed the Dublin procession, the hon. and learned Gentleman did not say he would have done so, and he defied the Government to have acted otherwise than they had done, when everything was conducted with good humour and without the slightest violation of the law. The hon. and learned Gentleman had described the affair as a mere wanton ceremonial, there being neither plan nor money for the monument; whereas in fact there was no less a sum than £10,000 in the Bank, contributed for the purpose by Catholics of eminence remarkable for their loyalty, including several of the Judges on the bench. He trusted when the Report was laid upon the table no party spirit would manifest itself in that House, but that they would all do their best to prevent a recurrence of a state of things which was a reflection upon our modern civilization. In the mean time he must say he did not think, in reference to this unhappy affair, that the Go- 407 vernment was open to the charge either of a feeble or a partial administration of the law.
§ MR. HENNESSY
rose to address a question to the Attorney General. He saw over the Speaker's chair and in other parts of the decorations of the House green shields and a harp without a crown. They had been told to-night that was arrant treason, and he should like to know from the Attorney General, whether those who built that House, or who designed the decorations, were guilty of treason?
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that if any proof were needed that the O'Connell procession in Dublin was of a party character, it would be found in the speech of the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire). It was, in truth, a Roman Catholic procession to mark the gratitude of the Roman Catholics to O'Connell. He could remember Mr. O'Connell in that House, and no one who shared with him that recollection, and remembered the gigantic meetings convened at Tara and elsewhere for the repeal of the Union, could doubt that Mr. O'Connell was a party leader. What could the people of Belfast think but that this was a party procession? And the folly of which they had been guilty showed their sense of the injustice of which they were the victims. A few foolish lads burnt an effigy on a certain bridge in Belfast. The people felt acutely that all processions there, in memory of events to which they owed their freedom, should be strictly forbidden by the operation of the law, which in Dublin was defied by the mere force of numbers. The result of that debate showed conclusively that the Processions Act should be enforced everywhere or that it should be repealed. The operation of the law was to bring any Government into disgrace which had the meanness to allow processions of 80,000 in the South, and yet put it in force against processions of 200 or 300 in the North of Ireland. The fact was the idea of Protestant ascendancy had passed away. The Protestants had been made to feel that they were a minority, and they appealed to the House for justice, though what had passed boded that they would have very scant justice meted out to them. Whether this Motion were well timed or not, the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Hugh Cairns) acted under the sense that some of the inhabitants of the town he represented were prejudged, and he ought therefore, at least, to be excused for bringing it forward, even if he were, as the hon. Member (Mr. Maguire) had said, 408 seeking to mitigate the severity of that blow which was about to be dealt to those unfortunate men who were awaiting their trial for these outrages.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, he had not meant to refer to those who were awaiting their trial. He had alluded to the party which the hon. and learned Gentleman represented in that House.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
He was glad to find that the hon. Member had thought fit so to explain his words; but he could not help thinking that they naturally meant that the hon. and learned Member for Belfast was seeking to mitigate the severity of the blow which seemed to have been prepared by the issuing of that Commission. He (Mr. Newdegate) should add that he trusted that this Report would not be delayed, because if ever there was a document which ought to have been presented to the House at its meeting it was one which, being known to exist, and being based upon a semi-public inquiry, was calculated to affect the verdict which would be pronounced upon men who might very soon stand upon their trial for their lives. He begged to observe that when hon. Members talked about the Protestant ascendancy in Ireland, it ought to be remembered that they spoke of that which had long passed away. The Protestants in Ireland were a minority, and he trusted that when they looked to their fellow Protestants in England they would not find that their position as a minority was held to disentitle them from assistance.
reminded the noble Lord at the head of the Government that on the last day of last Session he called his attention to the fact that the Dublin procession was about to take place. The noble Lord informed him that he knew nothing about it, but the Irish Government would, no doubt, look after it. It now appeared from the statement of the Chief Secretary that the Government were all away, and that the whole matter was left in the hands of a gallant General, than whom certainly no man more gallant could have been selected to deal with it. Under these circumstances, he suggested that the Government should take into consideration the propriety of terminating the farce as now enacted in Dublin Castle. In his (Major Knox's) opinion, that, in lieu of a Lord Lieutenant, it would be advisable to appoint a Secretary of State, who, from his high position and character, would have the confidence of all classes; that he would 409 then during the Session be in his place in the House of Commons, the responsible Minister of the Crown, and at other times in Dublin, to represent Her Majesty.
SIR HERVEY BRUCE
said, that the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland appeared to be ignorant of the meaning attached to different colours in Ireland, for he confounded the crimson flag displayed on the tower of Derry Cathedral with the orange and blue flags. His right rev. Friend the Bishop of Derry, falling into a similar error when he first went to that city, ordered the removal of the flag, but upon communication with the Castle he was told to let it alone, because its display was not in violation of the Party Emblems Act. He (Major Knox) believed that the hoisting of the crimson flag, in commemoration of the glorious achievements of former days, of a nature very similar to those commemorated under the purple and orange did not come under the Party Emblems Act, and therefore the right hon. Baronet, having no power to prosecute, could not claim for his Government an impartial administration of justice on that score. In former times so little was the display of the crimson flag regarded as an offence to the Roman Catholics that a Roman Catholic prelate used to walk with the 'prentice boys of Derry at their annual commemoration, and did not refuse to be present at the drinking of a chartered toast which had since been discontinued out of regard to the feelings of the Roman Catholics.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
hoped that the Chief Secretary would lay the Report of this Commission upon the table on an early day, in order that the House might have an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon all that had occurred at Belfast.