HC Deb 19 March 1866 vol 182 cc488-9

said, he rose to ask Mr. Attorney General for Ireland, Whether his attention has been called to a statement reported to have been made by a Mr. W. S. Gwynn at a meeting of members of the Established Church held at Antrim on the 12th, "that one of the principal landlords in that part of the country had embodied a large number of his own tenantry, whom he had supplied with arms; and the same gentleman had employed drill-sergeants to instruct these tenants;" whether such conduct is legal, or is contrary to the Illegal Drilling Act, and what steps, if any, the Government propose to take on the subject?


(Mr. LAWSON) said, he begged to state, in reply, that his attention had been called to the report in the newspapers of a speech purporting to have been delivered by Mr. Gwynn at a meeting of Protestants held at Antrim on the 12th instant, and certainly there were some extraordinary statements in that speech, Some expressions were there employed with reference to the Lord Lieutenant having stated that he expected an immediate invasion of the country, which he had his noble Friend's authority for stating were entirely destitute of foundation. With regard to the hon. and gallant Gentleman's question as to landlords proposing to enrol their tenantry, he had no hesitation in stating that such a proceeding would be illegal. The hon. and gallant Member asked what course it was proposed to take on the subject. Until the case arose the Government could not take any steps in the matter; but similar repre- sentations and applications had been made by very loyal-gentlemen in that part of Ireland to the Irish Government, proposing and suggesting that they should enrol and drill their tenants and place them at the call of the Government; and they had all received the same answer—namely, that the Government were perfectly competent and ready to defend all Her Majesty's subjects; that they declined to give any sanction to such a proposition as that which had been made to them; and they warned the persons making them that they would incur a serious responsibility if they carried out their proposals.