§ Order for Second Beading read.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON
said, he rose to move that the Bill be now read a second time. As it was identical with that which he introduced last year, he would not enter into details. The Act it proposed to abolish was passed in 1850, and admitted by all parties to have been eminently unsatisfactory in its working, besides having been administered with great partiality. It was with peculiar pleasure that he was present at a meeting in Belfast, presided over by the Duke of Abercorn, when he moved the following resolution:—That inasmuch as the Party Processions Act has greatly exasperated party feeling, and led to the disturbance of the public peace, this meeting is strongly of opinion that a law which experience has proved to operate most unfairly against one particular section of the population, and which has remained a dead letter in its operation as regards other portions of the population of Ireland, is unjust and should no longer be allowed to remain on the statute book.That represented the feeling of the population of Ulster. On the part of the loyal Orangemen of Ulster, he could safely say that it was never their design, in any of their demonstrations, to offer the slightest offence to any of Her Majesty's subjects, or to hurt the feelings of their Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen. He thought that, in the eyes of reasonable men, the real offender was not the peaceable citizen, who paraded the streets with a green banner or an orange scarf, but the ruffian whose political insanity made him resent the use of these emblems, and so deserve legal restraint. He must do the present Government the justice to say that they by their action had condemned the Party Processions Act, for they had instituted no prosecution for its violation. He believed they were about to repeal the Ecclesiastical Titles Act, on the 939 ground that it had been allowed to remain a dead letter; and he submitted that this Act so treated should not be allowed to remain on the statute book. He could not join in the strictures passed on the Government for not putting the Act in force; and he strongly censured the action of grand juries in this respect. If grand juries were to refrain from meddling in politics, and attend to the financial affairs of their counties, it would be more to their credit and the benefit of the country. He did not, in bringing forward this Bill, seek to interfere with any particular party; he asked nothing for the Orangemen of Ulster which he was not prepared to concede to all classes of Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland; but he did appeal to the House to pause before proceeding any further in the path of suppressing Irish liberties. He wished for equal rights to all, and could not see why it should be penal to wear green in Tipperary any more than to wear orange in Down. He regretted the absence of the lion. Member for Tralee (The O'Donoghue), who last year supported this measure, and observed—The main object of the Act was, no doubt, to prevent the recurrence of exhibitions which, whenever they took place, must necessarily wound the feelings of every Catholic. It might be said, 'Do you, then, mean to give full scope to those who would insult and annoy your Catholic brethren?' His answer was that the law had failed to accomplish the aim proposed; that, like all other penal laws, it created and fostered a spirit of resistance to authority; and that, while partially removing from public view certain emblems much cherished by some, it had given fresh vitality to feelings and passions which would only yield to influences far different from those that a penal law could bring to bear."—[3 Hansard, cxciv. 1552.]He quite believed this, and he would also trouble the House with an extract from a speech by the First Lord of the Treasury on the 15th of February, when he said—The fact is that the infusion both of English and of Scottish blood has poured into the elements whereof the Irish character is composed a spirit of pride and of ready self-defence—that sentiment which has made England and Scotland ever prompt to rise in defence of what the people deliberately believe to be their rights."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 338.]Those words had been read and pondered over in Ulster, and had fostered the feeling they described. The only reason alleged by the Chief Secretary for Ireland for the maintenance of the Act last Session, was the fact that its repeal 940 during the passage of the Church Bill would have been tantamount to giving the Orangemen a licence to make demonstrations. But the effect of the continuance of the Act had been to double the number of processions. It excited the feelings of the Orangemen; its technicalities were evaded, and the demonstrations went on all the same. Outrage and bloodshed prevailed in Canada while an Act similar to this was on the statute book, for it encouraged those who ought to have lived in peace with each other to make attacks on rival demonstrations. The Act was repealed by the unanimous consent of the Canadian Legislature, and on the 17th of March the Hibernian Societies had their processions, and on the anniversary of the battle of the Boyne the Orangemen commemorated without opposition the triumph of liberty. He hoped, therefore, to have the concurrence of this House in his Motion for the repeal of this Act. Unless the Government desired to drain Ulster of its loyal inhabitants, and to send them to a more free and happy land, they ought to assent to its repeal. It could not be said that there was any tendency in these processions to disturb the peace of Ireland, for he would particularly draw the attention of the House to the fact that, while the state of affairs in Tipperary was such that the Government had had to bring in their Peace Preservation Bill, the Judges of Assize in Ulster were congratulating the grand juries upon the amount of order prevailing there. Mr. Justice Lawson, in charging the grand jury at Belfast on the 24th instant, said—It would be scarcely possible to find in any part of Her Majesty's dominions a county and town having such a vast population, and such varied industry, in which a smaller amount of crime would be presented for the consideration of the Judge of Assize than that which is presented on the present occasion.… I have also observed with great pleasure that there is on this calendar no case of riot involving a party complexion—no case of agrarian outrage. Therefore these circumstances justify me, as I now do, in congratulating you very sincerely on the state in which you find this great county.Mr. Justice Keogh, in charging the grand jury at Downpatrick on the 21st instant, said of the cases to be dealt with—They are all such crimes as might be expected to arise in any portion of the Empire, and bear a very favourable contrast, indeed, to the extent of your country, and the large population within 941 it. This is a circumstance which I cannot avoid saying contrasts very favourably with other portions of the kingdom; and it is highly creditable, in my humble opinion, to the magistracy, to the resident gentry, and to all classes of the population of the county of Down.These were the words of two eminent Judges of different creeds. They referred to two counties, Antrim and Down, where very large processions took place last July. He did not maintain that Orange demonstrations were a means of preserving the peace; but, certainly, those who took part in them were not participators in the outrages which disgraced Ireland. He must pay a tribute to the good feeling which was springing up in the North on the part of Roman Catholics, many of whom I he had the honour to represent, who were desirous of living at peace and in good neighbourship with their Protestant fellow-subjects, and who wished to see all these irritating and aggravating enactments swept from the statute book. It would have been possible for the Roman Catholics to have attacked recent Orange processions, and to have provoked riots; but they had abstained from doing so, and he hoped this forbearance would become more common than it had been. He trusted that the Government would do what it could to arrest the causes which set class against class, and creed against creed. On the 30th of June last year the Chief Secretary for Ireland, confessing that he was not much in love with this Act, promised that an impartial inquiry should be instituted into its operation to enable the Government to decide whether it ought to be maintained and enforced more regularly, or whether a change ought to be made in its provisions. With that promise he was satisfied; but he had not since heard of any such inquiry. Those who claimed relief did not come as suppliants on bended knee asking favour from the Government or from Parliament; but, as a race "energetic and massive in character, and determined not to be trodden down," they asked for equal justice and freedom for all. In conclusion, he moved that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ VISCOUNT CRICHTON
, in seconding the Motion, said, he objected to the Act, and asked the Government to assent to its repeal, because it was evidently intended to apply to only one por- 942 tion of the community of Ireland, and it had been held by the Law Officers of more than one Government that the Act was powerless to reach some processions of an obnoxious character. He objected to exceptional legislation against a particular class and not affecting the community at large. If the processions this Act aimed at led to a breach of the peace or annoyed the Roman Catholics, the common law was able to deal with them. He denied that these processions were intended to produce animosity on the part of Irishmen of a faith different from those who took part in them, for the processions were held for many years without exciting such animosity. In 1832, when the first Processions Act was brought in by the late Earl of Derby, Mr. O'Connell said that the first Volunteer corps which fired a salute before the statue of King William in Dublin was a Catholic brigade commanded by the Marquess Wellesley; and, so far from there being any jealousy, there was not a Roman Catholic who did not rejoice in the success of King William and in the defeat of King James; there was not a Catholic who did not hold the character of the former in the greatest respect, and treat the latter with the severest contempt. The spirit of a great portion of the community was not to be put down by any feeble enactment; but the State might control that which it could not repress. Last year the Government had sent what it called a message of peace to Ireland; but whatever it might be to a certain portion of the people, to the Protestants and Orangemen it was not peace, but a sword; Protestants and Orangemen felt that they were betrayed and cast off by the Parliament of England; and was it to be wondered at that they had become somewhat lukewarm in their attachment to the authority of that Parliament, and that they had ceased to regard the Union of the two countries with the feelings they formerly did? We now had an opportunity of repairing, in some degree, the wrong done to the Protestants last year, and he hoped the opportunity would not be allowed to pass. Among those who gave the Government the warmest support in passing the Peace Preservation Bill were the representatives of the constituencies it who asked the Government to assent to this measure; and he asked would it be wise at the present time, when a large 943 section of the community was openly hostile to the continuance of the Union between England and Ireland, to supplement last year's legislation by refusing to repeal this odious and penal enactment?
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. W. Johnston.)
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
I do not propose to detain the House at any length; but it will be convenient that I should state in a few words the view the Government take of the Bill of my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. W. Johnston). I must say at once that the hon. Member regards processions and party demonstrations in Ulster much more favourably than I am able to do. It is perfectly true that Ulster in many respects enjoys an amount of peace and freedom from crime of which it is justly proud, yet I cannot in any way connect that comparative peace with the practice of holding party processions. On the contrary, Ulster enjoys freedom from many kinds of crime not in consequence of, but in spite of, these party demonstrations, the effects of which are not confined to Ulster itself, but many of the worst results of which are felt at a distance. An orange demonstration in Ulster produces a green demonstration in Cork, and vice versâ, and that kind of see-saw of party demonstration goes on between North and South year after year. Therefore I am not prepared to sing the praises of party processions in Ulster or anywhere else, and I am not prepared to accept the doctrine which my hon. Friend lays down, very broadly and very candidly, that everyone is in this matter to be left by the law to do as he pleases. My hon. Friend's doctrine is—"Let all, whoever they may be, have their processions, so long as we have ours;" and this is a simple and easy remedy, but it is not a rule of action which is at present consistent with the peace and safety of Ireland. My hon. Friend complained of no inquiry having been made since last Session, and he implied that there had been something like a violation of a pledge given by me; but if he will refer to what I said he will find I merely claimed for the Government the liberty of making inquiry, if it were necessary, either by means of a Commission or through the sources of 944 information which they have at their command. It cannot be said there has been no inquiry, because there has been an inquiry which the Government directed, and which, though it embraced only one particular case, was of great importance, and threw considerable light upon this matter—I mean the inquiry by Commission into the Derry riots, the Report of which I strongly commend to the attention of my hon. Friend, and to anyone who wishes to know what those on both sides in politics, and who have the best means of information, think of great party demonstrations and processions in Ireland. The Government have also information of their own, and they have given still further consideration to the matter beyond that which they gave last year. The course we propose to take is this—I shall have pleasure in assenting, on the part of the Government, to the second reading of my hon. Friend's Bill, because we do not think it right or expedient that the present Party Processions Act should be continued. I hold it to be exposed to many of the severe criticisms passed upon it by the hon. Gentleman opposite and by others. I concur in much that was said by my noble Friend opposite (Viscount Crichton); I think there is no doubt the Act was directed against processions of a party character only, and its definitions and technical restrictions and conditions have had the effect of making it unequal in its operation, without any intention when it was passed to bring about that result. It is undoubtedly true, as my noble Friend said, that, owing to the technical provisions and definitions of the Act, processions of one character come within its reach, while processions of another character, which may be far more formidable and dangerous, far more contrary to the law and inimical to the peace of the country, cannot be dealt with under the provisions of the statute. I was glad to hear my hon. Friend, in his opening observations, give credit to the present Government for their desire in administering this law to deal equally with all; I can assure the hon. Member that this is the spirit in which the Government have acted. He also said, with truth, that the case of the procession at Dublin was no exception to that rule; if it had come within the Party Processions Act, we should have been doing no less, in not putting it down, than we did in the case of many 945 great demonstrations in Ulster; but we were advised that it did not come within the technical provisions of the Act; the banners, flags, and emblems used were those of the trades of Dublin, and not such as, in the opinion of our Law Advisers, were aimed at by the Act. What was done on that occasion was strictly police action, and was done to prevent an unnecessary and excessive demonstration in connection with a lawful public meeting, as the demonstration in its original form would have caused very great inconvenience and disturbance in the streets of Dublin. Those who organized and conducted it complied in the main with the requirements of the police, and took care that there should be no collision in the streets, and that the wishes of the Government should be strictly carried out. While I say that the Government accede to the Motion and consent to the second reading of the Bill, I must not be understood to imply that the Government think that in the present condition of Ireland public open-air processions may be permitted without restrictions, or that we think it would be safe at present to deprive the Government of the power of dealing with such processions, no matter where, in what form, or under what circumstances they may be held. It will be my duty after Easter to bring in a Bill for the purpose of giving powers to the Government of dealing with processions in Ireland, everywhere and under all circumstances; and I hope the provisions of that Bill will give satisfaction, and remove all sense of injustice as between one class of Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland and another. I can assure the Mover and Seconder of this Bill that they will find all inequality removed by the provisions of the Government measure; but we cannot agree that in the present condition of Ireland the subject requires no legal regulation at all.
LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he would support the second reading of the Bill, because he wished to remove from the statute book a law which was so framed that it conveyed to a portion of our fellow-subjects the idea that it was directed against them, and which was not carried out with impartiality. If it had not been for the action of the Government in times past, these exhibitions would have died out before now. There was at one time a tendency to discourage 946 them; they were becoming harmless and less frequent, and far less obnoxious to the Catholics, who played in the bands, and otherwise took part in them; but what had revived them, and caused so much hostile feeling, was that the Government neglected to carry out the law with impartiality in the South. He must remind the House that this enactment, which originated in 1832, was then enforced for twelve years. After that for six or seven years there was no law on that subject, and he believed that had it not been for the unfortunate events which took place in 1848 or 1849 all parties would have been agreed that the law should remain in abeyance. He wished particularly to call the attention of the House to the words of the Earl of Clarendon, in 1850, when the present Act was being discussed. He said—This was a Bill to put an end to all processions—a Bill which was directed against no particular party, and would be confined to none.If the Government had carried out the Bill in the sense so clearly and properly stated by the Earl of Clarendon, he ventured to state that no disturbances would have taken place. There had ceased to be much excitement with regard to those processions, and they had ceased to arouse any political animosity. By what he must call, however, the unfortunate neglect of duty on the part of the Government, with respect to the Dublin procession of 1864, animosity and bitterness had been re-animated. On the occasion of the meeting at Dublin, which was perfectly illegal, the place was for six or eight hours completely in possession of those who wore acting illegally, with the Lord Mayor at their head, and nothing was done; but Orangemen of the North were prosecuted, dragged before the authorities, and punished. How, then, could anyone say the law was impartially administered? The object of the Dublin demonstration was ostensibly to found a statue to O'Connell; but the board which used to stand in Sackville Street inscribed "Site of the statue to O'Connell" had been removed. As a violation of the- Act in any particular was held to be a violation of the whole Act, there could be no doubt of the illegality of the Dublin meeting, which, indeed, according to the reports in The Freeman and the other daily papers, contravened every provision of the Act, excepting that relating to fire- 947 arms. Irrespective of Lord Carlisle's circular, there was another sent out by the head of the police shortly before the Orange demonstration, and that official pointed out that any one of the acts mentioned in the statute constituted a violation of the whole statute. Could, then, the intelligent population of the North of Ireland regard such a violation of the Act as he had referred to without saying that the law was not impartially administered? The sense of injustice thus engendered led to the irritating exhibition at Londonderry and the bloodshed which followed. The fact was, that the knowledge that the majesty of the law had been insulted in the South of Ireland led to a counter demonstration in the North; and until the Government showed a determination to deal equally with all classes and denominations, these demonstrations would go on increasing, and there would be a feeling of discontent in the North of Ireland. He was glad, therefore, that the hon. Member had persisted in proposing the present Bill, and he was also glad that the Government intended to assent to the second reading. He trusted that when the Government introduced their own measure it would be found to modify some of the provisions of the present law, which appeared partial in their application, and then he hoped that the new law would be administered with fairness to all classes.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR, IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
said, he would have been glad had the House been content with the intimation given by the Chief Secretary for Ireland that the Government were willing to accede to the second reading of the Bill, with a view to the introduction of a measure for dealing with the evils which the Party Processions Act was intended to meet; but, as the noble Lord (Lord Claud Hamilton) had made some remarks in reference to the administration of the law, it was necessary for him to set the House right with respect to certain matters not accurately stated by the noble Lord. He should not have thought it necessary to address the House had the noble Lord followed the same course as the hon. Member for Belfast, who, in his able and candid speech, had acquitted the present Government of any charge of having administered the law partially. All persons regarding the cir- 948 cumstances with a calm and rational mind would come to the conclusion that the Government had done everything in their power to maintain the law; and if the noble Lord had been a Law Officer of the Crown—as it was well, perhaps, for the country he was not—he would have found some difficulty in deciding that the procession in Dublin, when the Lord Mayor of that city attended, was a violation of the Party Processions Act, for it was not the mere display of emblems that constituted a violation of the Act. A procession might carry and dispay emblems, flags, and banners, and not necessarily come within the Act. The Act provided that all assemblies of persons in Ireland who should meet and parade together, or form processions, and should bear, wear, or have amongst them firearms, or other offensive weapons, or banners or emblems, the display whereof was calculated to excite animosity between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects, should be unlawful assemblies. Now, if the noble Lord had been called upon in the Castle of Dublin to decide upon the matter, would he have felt himself justified in stopping a procession intended to do honour to one of the greatest men Ireland had produced—a procession carrying no illegal banners? If such a procession, headed by the Lord Mayor, and attended by a number of eminent men, together with Prelates and clergy of the Roman Catholic Church, could be brought within the purview of the Party Processions Act, he was unable to conceive what procession could be excluded from it. He believed that the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, at that time Attorney General—than whom a fairer-minded man never held that office—gave his opinion that there was no power and no necessity for interference with the procession on the part of the Executive. He thought he had said enough to acquit the Executive Government of the charge brought against them by the noble Lord. The whole object of the noble Lord's remarks seemed to be to show that the Government were not fairly and equally administering the law; but for that charge there existed no foundation, though if such a charge had been brought against the late Government it could have been sustained. He would ask the hon. Member for Belfast what was his opinion of the present 949 Governor General of India (the Earl of Mayo), and of the way in which the Party Processions Act was carried into effect, when a celebrated individual was tried and convicted at the Downpatrick Assizes, and whether he thought that case was an example of the fair administration of the law? He would call the noble Lord's attention to another procession in Dublin—namely, the procession to commemorate the Manchester martyrs, as they were called, when banners and colours were carried through the streets, and empty hearses were drawn along, accompanied by large bodies of men. Now, if the procession in memory of Mr. O'Connell were illegal, then à fortiori was the procession he had just mentioned illegal. That procession, however, was not interfered with; and who was at the Castle of Dublin then? The Duke of Abercorn; and the First Lord of the Treasury was the Earl of Derby. Those were the observations which it occurred to him to make on what was called the impartial administration of the law by the late Government; and, whenever the time came to vindicate the present Government, he would prove that every effort was made by them to administer the law fairly, and that if there wore any sins of omission or commission, they were chargeable not on the present but on the late Government. With regard to processions generally, he would just make one observation. There was a difference between a procession to commemorate the memory of a great man and lay the foundation stone of a monument to him, and a procession, the sole object of which was to perpetuate the remembrance of civil war and to excite animosity between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects. With the permission of the House he would read from the evidence of Dr. M'Knight, given at the Londonderry Commission in August last, some remarks which put this subject in its true light. He says—Wherever these displays are intended as a commemoration of the victories of one political party in the State over another, they tend inevitably to perpetuate the original feud. There never has been in ancient or modern times, and there is not, any civilized community in which the celebration of the victories of any party over another in civil war was allowed, with the single exception of Ireland. No statesman who understands the importance of national unity would allow it.He had now only to repeat that the 950 Government were prepared to introduce a Bill after Easter, which would not be obnoxious to the charge of dealing lightly with one party and severely with another; but would deal equally with all, whether Trojans or Tynans, so that Protestants would not be able to point to Catholics, nor Catholics to Protestants, as persons unduly favoured. There would be one law for all, and no Irishman whatever would be allowed to violate it with impunity.
§ COLONEL WILSON - PATTEN
said, he would not enter into the discussion as to the mode in which the law had been administered by one party or another; but he demurred to the attack made by the Solicitor General for Ireland on the administration of Irish affairs by the Earl of Mayo, and he thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman must certainly have been hard up for a ground of censure, when he had to make a personal appeal to the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. W. Johnston) in reference to Lord Mayo's conduct in a certain case. It was not in accordance with good taste to call upon the hon. Member for an opinion on Lord Mayo's conduct upon his coming in contact with him in so painful a manner. In all those matters Lord Mayo acted with good faith, without the intermixture of any personal feeling; and it was impossible to overrate the independent attitude of Lord Mayo in the painful position in which that noble Lord was placed while conducting the affairs of Ireland. With regard to the Party Processions Act, if the Government had said it was necessary to maintain it, he should, contrary to the opinion of several hon. Members, have supported them in that decision; and if he had anything to find fault with in the conduct of the Government, it was because they had taken him rather by surprise in expressing their readiness to repeal the Act without, at the same time, stating what measure they meant to substitute for it. The Party Processions Act was brought in with a greater unanimity of feeling than he ever recollected to have seen manifested in that House with regard to any measure relating to Ireland; and, before repealing it, the House ought to have some information as to the nature of the new law, which he should not object to if calculated to stop these party demonstrations, only tending to keep up animosity between 951 different classes. He should not oppose the repeal of the Party Processions Act, as the Government, upon their own responsibility, said they could do without it.
§ MR. VANCE
said, he should not have risen but for two statements of the Solicitor General, which he desired to controvert. The first was that the Duke of Abercorn had not administered the Processions Act of 1860 impartially; and the second was that the O'Connell Procession was not an illegal procession. Now, he (Mr. Vance) asserted that the Duke of Abercorn's Government did administer the law impartially, and that the O'Connell Procession did come within the provisions of the Party Processions Act as an illegal procession. The Solicitor General had intimated that a party procession to commemorate events in the reign of King William was a different thing from a procession to commemorate a man like O'Connell. But the law was intended to attack all such celebrations. When the Earl of Clarendon brought in the Act of 1850 he stated that it was directed against no party and was intended to give a triumph to none, but to put down the processions of both parties if they assumed an illegal character. Now he considered that that sort of legislation, forbidding the use of flags and processions in Ireland which were tolerated in England, was very objectionable. However, if there was such a law it ought to be administered impartially, which had not been the case. The O'Connell Procession was of a formidable and alarming character, and for more than two hours the streets in the vicinity were completely blocked up, "Garryowen" and other party tunes were played, and great numbers of green flags were exhibited. Some persons asserted that green was not a party colour; but there could be no doubt that it was, as opposed to orange. Other processions of a similar character took place; but there was no attempt to put them down. With regard to the processions of 1868 prosecutions were commenced. In Dublin the jury, belonging to the green party, would not convict; whilst the jury in Belfast did convict. It could not, therefore, justly be said that the Government of the Duke of Abercorn acted partially in the administration of the law. He thought the Government were acting wisely in consenting to the repeal of the 952 Bill. The prosecutions under the Processions Act in the North of Ireland had never been of a formidable character, the parties generally being a few boys. Processions of a peaceable and loyal character ought to be permitted in the North, if it were only to counteract the effect of those of a disloyal and treasonable character in the South. Thousands of persons sympathizing with the Fenian movement were allowed, during the former administration of those who now hold the reins of power, to parade the streets of Dublin unmolested, and violate the Processions Act with entire impunity.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
said, he rose to express his regret at the course which had been taken by the Government. No one was more anxious than himself that a cordial feeling should exist amongst all classes in Ireland; until that was the case that country would never advance in prosperity. But he considered the present moment most inopportune for seeking the repeal of the Party Processions Act, which had now been in force for a great number of years. The announcement would be received in Ireland with anything but feelings of gratitude. A Bill of Pains and Penalties was about to be sent to Ireland, and it would operate in Munster, Leinster, and Connaught, rather than in the other Province. It would be said that a special concession had been granted to Ulster, and that there was a disposition to favour Ulster beyond any other part of the country. He had seen communications stating that the repeal of the enactment would place Ulster in a position of great danger, and he believed that the Government were assuming a responsibility of the consequences of which they were not fully aware. Among various letters which had been received on the subject he had one from Dr. M'Gettigan, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Raphoe, than whom there was no more dispassionate and calm Prelate in Ireland, and another from another Roman Catholic Prelate, Dr. Dorian, and they declared that it would be unwise—at least, premature, to disturb the present law. He did not say that he would not be prepared to support the repeal of the law at some future time; but he considered that the present was a most inopportune time for repealing it. The Act was passed in 1832, and it remained the law until 1845, 953 when, with the consent of all parties, it was allowed to expire; but, in consequence of the melancholy occurrence which took place at Dolly's Brae in 1849, when a number of people were shot down without any provocation, the law was revived in 1850, and in such a form that it was accepted by the Earl of Enniskillen and the Earl of Roden in the House of Lords, and by every Member of the Opposition in this House. When the Bill was introduced into Parliament in 1832 the late Earl of Derby declared that it deserved the support of the warmest advocates of political liberty; and Sir Robert Peel said the measure was a very desirable one, as he was aware of the very injurious effects produced by these processions on the minds of both Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, and the right hon. Baronet also stated that it was peculiarly for the interest of the Protestants to avoid processions which exasperated the great body of their countrymen. The real question was, as to how these things would affect the public mind—how they would affect the masses? The green was no party colour—it was the national colour, and he was surprised to find any one describing it as a party colour; but the Act now proposed to be repealed was directed against the use of colours and badges in the North which were well-known symbols of party. Lord Derby, in 1832, said it was a question whether the Orangemen of Ireland were not the blind and bigoted exponents of an expiring faction, who obeyed the law so long as it suited them and no longer. Only the other day he (Mr. Downing) saw a pamphlet of the proceedings of the Orange Society in Ireland for the year 1869, and he found from that that no less than twenty-three individuals in Armagh and in other counties had been expelled from the Orange lodge because they had centred their affections upon Catholic girls. He had heard the Government accused of partiality in these matters, and he believed that they were open to that accusation; but their partiality went entirely the other way. There might be one or two exceptions; but when did they ever hear of any number of Orangemen who had been convicted and punished for violating the provisions of the Party Processions Act? It was notorious that Orangemen were always acquitted of such charges. Only 954 last March, at the Assizes at Monaghan, while a number of Roman Catholics were prosecuted and sentenced to terms of twelve months', eighteen months', and two years' imprisonment for such offences, seventeen Orangemen, against whom similar informations had also been laid, were not prosecuted. Mr. Warren, now a Judge, was then the Attorney General, and the informations against the Orangemen were never acted upon. Party processions were still carried on in the North, because magistrates did not like to exert against their neighbours the powers given them under the Act of imposing a fine for the first offence, with an alternative of one month's imprisonment, and for the second offence a fine of £10, or two months' imprisonment. There had been a partial administration of the law by the magistrates and by the Government, and he blamed the Government for coming down to the House now, without any previous notice, and saying they were willing to repeal an Act which had received the sanction of every great statesman, and offering to introduce another Bill after Easter, the provisions of which at present were altogether unknown. As to the processions and meetings held in the South of Ireland, he asked had arms ever been seen in the hands of parties engaged on such occasions? He had never seen them, and that was the reason why these meetings always passed off without bloodshed. He was sorry to find the Government giving their assent to the repeal of a law which, though it had not always had its proper effect, was, at all events, a wise and judicious law. He was sorry to say that he had read very strong speeches, nearly approaching sedition, delivered, in the North of Ireland, and one gentleman had gone so far as to threaten that he would kick the Crown into the Boyne; but hon. Gentlemen opposite never got up to complain of language of that character. He might read to the House speeches that had gone even beyond sedition. It was, however, a very useless course to bring forward language which was used under strong feelings of excitement at public meetings. He trusted that the Government were taking the right course in the matter; but he was bound to confess that he was very much afraid of it at present.
§ MR. MOORE
said, he was sure the English Members must have come to the conclusion that, if Parliament was to devote its attention exclusively to the consideration of Irish questions upon Irish ideas, and from an Irish point of view, the Irish entertainment that was presented before them was, at all events, of a very varied character. After such heavy pieces as the Irish Church Bill, the Irish Land Bill, and the Irish Coercion Bill, it was a change, at all events, to discuss such lighter interludes as the cases of Captain Madden and Captain Coote, in which nothing more serious than the dismissal of magistrates and sheriffs had occurred; and if that were not enough, they had the members of the Irish corps de ballet to present to them on the floor of that House their graceful movements in the old piece of the Orange and the Green. He intended to support the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Belfast (Mr. W. Johnston). He was not, like his hon. and learned Friend opposite, bound by any such instructions as he had been kind enough to read.
§ MR. MOORE
was in the habit of acting according to his own honour and conscience, and did not accept letters of marque from any gentleman, lay or ecclesiastic. He supported the proposition of his hon. Friend, first, because he believed that "peace on earth" could only be sustained by "good will among men," and that "goodwill among men" would never be permanently established on the basis of penal legislation. Secondly, he believed that men of good will and strong will were rising up in Ireland, with a tendency to patriotic reconciliation, and were only prevented from shaking hands with each other by seeing on their wrists the badges of State control. They knew that—Love, light as air,At sight of human tiesSpreads its light wings,And in a moment flies.Nothing was more exasperating than the feeling that either party was inclined to be in collusion with the State in imposing on the other the bitter bonds of penal legislation. The House had heard it stated that the memory which Irishmen in the North sought to celebrate was an evil memory—even a disgraceful 956 memory; he saw nothing in it that was either evil or disgraceful. It was the memory of the rights of conscience manfully and successfully asserted. Unfortunately, 200 years ago men could not assert their own rights of conscience without keeping down the consciences of other people—a policy which seemed still to have traditional representatives in the Member for Armagh (Mr. Vance) and the Member for Cork (Mr. Downing). In point of fact, at that time men had to try the simplest issue that could be tried between one man and another—it was a question of beating or being beaten, and the Protestants of the North naturally accepted the former alternative. The Penal Laws had been characterized, and most justly characterized, as infernal; but he modestly believed that if Catholics had had the best of the battle, they would have imposed on their fellow-subjects Penal Laws too. At that time people could not assert their religious rights without fighting for them, and it was the happiest consummation of the present day that no man could now more degrade his own religion than by evincing his disposition to tight for it. He believed that Orangemen were coming to the same conclusion as other men. Twenty years ago the Orangemen of the North seemed to have forgotten the real spirit of their ancient traditions; they seemed to have forgotten that William of Orange, whose memory they justly venerated, was as much in advance of the opinions of his own day as they were behind theirs. But he rejoiced to see there were now growing up in the North of Ireland men of a totally different description—Orangemen in whom the real mind of William of Orange lived again, and who had found a heart and voice in his hon. Friend the Member for Belfast. The Orangemen of the North were beginning to see that their favourite fruit was likely to nourish best amid the green leaves in which nature had placed it; and, if it were not a strained conceit to pursue the metaphor further, he thought he could already perceive in the Irish orange tree, what he had often seen in other lands—the fragrant blossoms of another crop filling the air with the perfume of promise.
§ MR. STACPOOLE
said, he thought the time had not yet arrived for the repeal of the Act. The Act had worked well so far, and a further experience of 957 it was necessary; but he trusted that in a short time the Government would be able to repeal it, and that then all animosities would die out and all parties be at peace. Both parties were very much to blame, for nearly all these processions were offensive to one side or to the other, and he was not sorry to see that the Government were anxious to deal effectually with the evil. As to the oases which had been referred to where men charged with these offences had escaped conviction, that did not arise through the fault of the Government.
§ MR. W. VERNER
said, that as a magistrate he had always acted in these cases, when they were brought before him, with the strictest impartiality. He was not disposed to view the green as a party colour, for he had often worn the shamrock on the 17th of March in order to show that he was not ashamed of his nationality, and that he acknowledged it to be the duty of all Irishmen of every class and creed to pull together, as far as possible, in promoting the real interests of their common country. He did not see how the Solicitor General for Ireland could compare a procession in honour of King William, to whom they owed their civil and religious liberty, with a procession headed by flags on which were displayed harps without crowns, and which, in fact, denied the sovereignty of the Queen, and the constitution and laws of the realm. In the same way he looked upon a flag bearing an effigy of the Pope, who was a foreign prince who pretended to divide or monopolize the allegiance of the people of Ireland, as a party emblem of the most offensive character. He was an upholder of the principles of the Orange Society; but he had always done his best to keep its more excitable and ignorant members in order, and to impress on them the necessity of obeying the laws of the land. He was obliged to support the second reading of this Bill; and if the Government brought in a Bill justly and impartially framed, that would be fairly administered between all classes and creeds, they would have his hearty support.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, that though not from Ulster, yet, as a Northern man, he had some personal experience of Orange processions. He strongly objected to processions which were accompanied by firing parties, and he had promised his hon. 958 Friend the Member for Belfast (Mr. W. Johnston) his support if a clause were introduced in the Bill giving the magistrates powers to adjudicate summarily in the ease of persons found in processions with arms in their hands. In so doing he felt sure that he should be borne out by the general feeling of his borough (Dundalk), one of the most Liberal and Roman Catholic constituencies in Ireland. He did not regard the Orange flag with the same horror as the Solicitor General for Ireland, which reminded him of the terror with which a red flag was said to inspire a turkey cock. He hoped that the provisions of the Peace Preservation Act would be applied wherever they were required; but if the Government brought in a Bill after Easter to suppress the right of public meeting, he should oppose it most strenuously in every stage.
§ MR. O'NEILL
said, he would venture to thank the Government, in the name of many of those whom lie represented, for having consented to the second reading of this Bill. He thought, too, that the thanks of those interested in this subject were also due to his hon. Friend the Member for Belfast (Mr. W. Johnston) for the determination he had shown in keeping this question before the House, and he congratulated him on his success to-day. He must also say that he could scarcely find fault with the Government for having decided to bring in a Bill, when the Party Processions Act had been repealed, to regulate processions in future, and for this reason—He must candidly confess that at one time it appeared to him that the Party Processions Act might act as a salutary safeguard to the public peace. It certainly did seem strange that the walking in procession, the display of certain colours, and the playing of certain tunes by one portion of the community should exasperate and irritate another portion of our fellow-subjects; but so it unfortunately had been that such displays had given rise to much religious and political party feeling, resulting, unfortunately, sometimes in riot and even in bloodshed. Therefore, he would go so far as to say that he thought there was justification for the passing of this Act, and he hoped he might be able to support the Bill soon to be brought in by the Government. But what had occurred with regard to the Party Processions Act? When it 959 was first introduced, Sir William Somerville in that House, and the then Lord Lieutenant in the other House of Parliament, as had been already mentioned to-day, declared that the Act would not be applied as against any particular portion of the community, and would give a triumph to none; and, accordingly, when the Protestants in the North of Ireland on one or two occasions incurred punishment under the Act, they naturally felt no irritation, believing that the Act would be equally enforced when it was broken by any other persons. But, when in 1861, 1862, and 1864, the large processions which had been alluded to occurred in Dublin, and when these processions were allowed to pass off without any interference from the Government, then the Protestants of the North of Ireland might, he thought, incline to the opinion that the law, though general in its wording, was being applied against only one party; and he confessed he then began seriously to doubt the wisdom of this kind of legislation. In the beginning of 1865 this question was brought before the House by Sir Hugh Cairns, and the answer which was given by the then Attorney General for Ireland was, that though the procession, with all its accompaniments, had taken place, yet the law had not been broken, because green was not a party colour. Now, he might say, with regard to whether green was a party colour, that whatever the law as to this might be, the natural view of the matter would, he thought, be that, though no doubt when party questions did not come into prominence, green was the national colour, yet surely, when party was concerned, green was as much a party colour as orange was a party colour. But if green be not a party colour, let not orange be a party colour. He meant, let not the wearing of either one or the other colour subject the wearer to break the law. He admitted that there might have been some reasons for hesitating about repealing the Party Processions Act; but he believed, considering what had occurred relating to it, that the advantage of repealing it would be greater than that of keeping it upon the statute book. He would say, then, let Protestant and Roman Catholic walk equally in procession on any days that they might desire to do so; and, if breaches of the peace should arise from 960 those processions, let them be punished, and punished, if necessary, rigorously, by the common law. He believed that the Government and the House, by consenting to the passing of the Bill, would have removed at least one source of that bitterness and unfriendly feeling which, as they must all admit, militated against the peace and prosperity of Ireland.
§ MR. SAUNDERSON
said, he was strongly of opinion that, in the present disturbed state of Ireland, all processions, of whatever character, were a great misfortune and ought to be avoided, and the grand jury of the county where he resided had adopted a memorial to the Government to that effect. It appeared to be thought that party processions were almost exclusively indulged in by Orangemen; but where he lived the Orangemen within the last few years had not given way to party processions of any kind, and it would be hard to discover the existence of Orangemen but for their persistent use of large drums, not in the streets, but generally in their houses. It did seem to him so extraordinary a kind of amusement to beat with great vigour large drums in small rooms that on one occasion he asked one of the operators why they did so, and the answer he received was that these large drums drove terror into the Papists. How that could be it was not for him to say. With regard to the colour of green, he might say that what would not be a party colour in England might be a party colour in Ireland. Unfortunately, upon the occasion to which he referred the green colour was looked upon by the Orangemen as a party colour, a fight was the consequence, and one man was killed. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Downing), it appeared, did not think much of the Protestant magistrates. He might inform the hon. Member that in some districts of Ireland Protestant magistrates were absolutely necessary, because Roman Catholic gentlemen could not be got who were qualified to act in that capacity. Upon the general question he might say that, as far as he was himself individually concerned, he regretted these party processions and exhibitions, and had invariably tried to put them down, and nothing more offended him than to see the house of God made a flagstaff for a party emblem. But he did not agree with the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. W. Johnston), that there 961 should be no Party Processions Act for Ireland, because he believed that the peace of the country could not be preserved without some such Act. While, however, he was in favour of having such an Act enforced, he held that it should be enforced against both parties equally. He hoped that in the Bill to be introduced by the Government a clause would be inserted enabling the Government of the day to prevent any procession or demonstration which, in their opinion, might lead to the lamentable results that had made his unhappy country so notorious.
SIR HERVEY BRUCE
thanked the Government for not opposing the repeal of the Party Processions Act. Though it was not intended, the present Act operated in a one-sided fashion. Its object when it passed was for the purpose of putting down Orange processions in the North of Ireland, and it had only been applied to Orange processions. He was not going to defend those processions, for he looked upon them as stupid and senseless ways of commemorating great anniversaries. They were, at best, meaningless, and he could not, therefore, uphold such party demonstrations; but if they were to be put down in one Province, he held that they ought also to be put down in another. It was certainly invidious, to say the least of it, that loyal Orangemen in the North of Ireland should be prevented marching in procession to celebrate a great event while rebels in the South who marched under the green, not as the emblem of nationality, but as the symbol of sedition, should be allowed to do so without hindrance. It was not right that such persons should go scot-free while Orangemen were punished for honouring a great anniversary which, as had been pointed out by the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Moore), secured the liberties of Roman Catholics as well as of Protestants. Many Protestant gentlemen would have no objection to march under the green as representing nationality, who would now refuse to do so, seeing that it had been so openly made use of as the symbol of rebellion. The hon. Member for Cork had accused the Ulster magistrates of partiality, and with violating the law. [Mr. M'CARTHY DOWNING: I said nothing of the sort.] Then the hon. Member, in the heat of his own eloquence, must have been car- 962 ried away to use expressions which he did not mean or did not understand when he employed them. The hon. Gentleman had certainly said something to that effect. He had accused the Ulster magistrates of not dealing out justice to the Roman Catholics. Now he (Sir Hervey Bruce) could only say, in reply to that, that no one would be more glad than himself to help to expose any such case, and to have it punished; but he did not believe the existence of any thing of the sort, save in the imagination of the hon. and learned; Gentleman. He quite agreed with what had been said to the effect that churches ought not to be made use of for the display of party emblems. Such conduct was, in his belief, a mistake. He hoped that the Bill to be introduced by the Government would be general in its provisions, and not for the punishment of Orangemen only, and he trusted that party processions would then altogether cease.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Tuesday 3rd May.