HC Deb 17 March 1870 vol 200 cc72-3

said, he wished to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether his attention has been drawn to a leading article in "The People" paper of Wexford, of March 12, in which, among other expressions of a very similar nature, the following words are used:— If a few bad landlords have been shot, or shot at, perhaps by men maddened by their inhumanity, if a few other crimes of violence have been committed, which it is impossible to classify with 'agrarian outrages,' and which, we may add, are as nothing either in atrocity or in number when compared with the dreadful murders constantly committed in England; we are told forsooth that this constitutes a 'reign of terror,' and that exceptional legislation of a severely coercive nature is just now the one thing needful for Ireland. But these sanguinary champions of the 'rights of property' as they call them, as if Providence ever endued one man or one set of men, with 'the right' to defraud another, seem to forget that, according to the opinion of the whole civilized world, evicting landlords really deserve to be hanged, not shot. Assassinations of any kind, even the assassination of one of these territorial ogres, whose ruthless cruelty seems to exclude them from the pale of civil society, is a terrible crime banned by God and man, and Heaven forbid that we should attempt to extenuate its atrocity. But still we are entitled to ask, if 'the terror' does reign, who are to blame for it? Are the people of Ireland? No, surely, but the men who have shown no mercy to the people. If bad landlords are shot, if the whole country is agitated and disturbed, who should be held responsible for the result; and, whether he considers that words such as these directly inciting the peasantry to deeds of violence and bloodshed, should be used with impunity by the Press?


Sir, it is somewhat dangerous to give an answer upon an isolated passage of the kind read; but, so far as I can understand it from what my hon. Friend has read, I should agree with him that such language ought not to be used with impunity. At all events, the best answer to his Question will be the Bill I am about to introduce.