HC Deb 11 August 1871 vol 208 cc1492-514

rose to move that a prompt, searching, and impartial inquiry be made into the circumstances connected with the interference by the Irish Executive with the right of meeting in Dublin on the 6th instant. The hon. Member said he felt deep regret at the necessity of his having to move the Resolution of which he had given Notice; but a grievous wrong had been done in Ireland — the Executive Government in utter disregard of their duty to the Sovereign, to the people, and to the Constitution had dispersed by force a meeting convened for a lawful purpose, and shed the blood of a large number of the citizens of Dublin wantonly and illegally in their desire to trample on one of the most sacred and cherished rights and liberties of a free people. Under these circumstances, painful as was the task of arraigning the conduct of the Irish Executive, he could not shrink from the duty of inviting the attention of the House to the disastrous course adopted, and asking their judgment thereon. At such a time as this when the general Government was sedulously enforcing the doctrine that identical laws and a similar mode of administering them in England and Ireland was an essential feature of their policy, he looked upon the question involved in his Notice as one of great importance, because the action taken by the Irish Executive seemed to import that Her Majesty's Irish Executive intended there should be one rule in England with regard to the right of holding public meetings and presenting Petitions, and another in Ireland; that, in fact, there was to be freedom in England, but that in Ireland the constitutional liberties of the people were to be crushed by the batons of policemen. In England, meetings such as he did not wish to describe by any special epithet, but which inculcated Republican doctrines with a freedom that must astonish many, had been held in the Royal Parks, in Trafalgar Square, and other places directly under the control of the Government without being interfered with; but a meeting called for a legal and lawful purpose in Ireland, for the purpose of asking the Sovereign to carry to completion a work of mercy which she had commenced, had been dispersed by the police, blood being freely shod, and over 100 persons injured more or less severely. The men who had, with a frankness almost amounting to daring, accepted the consequences of this calamitous contempt for the law, for the peace of the country, for the lives and for the liberties of the people, were the worst enemies of British connection, and had done more by the one day of bloodshed and riot which they inaugurated to stimulate the cry for home rule than the association organized for promoting that change could effect in years. They practically told the Irish people there was a union in name, but no union in fact. The same laws might apply, but they must be administered in a different spirit and in a different manner, and while the rights of the people would be protected in England, in Ireland they would be extinguished in the blood of the people. Several questions had been put upon the Notice Paper of that House with regard to the circumstances attending this meeting, and in answer to one of the principal of these it was frankly stated that no sworn informations had been laid before the authorities to show that any breach of the peace was expected to result from the holding of the meeting now under consideration. Even the elastic conscience of a police spy could not be stretched to the point of suggesting that a breach of the peace was expected to result from the meeting if it were permitted to be held. Notwithstanding this the meeting was forcibly suppressed by the police contrary to law, and without even due notice of such intended suppression having been given. Having briefly stated the preliminary circumstances relating to the holding of the meeting, the hon. Member said he admitted that in Phœnix Park, as in the English Parks, lawful meetings, such as the one to which his Motion referred, could be legally prevented if proper steps were taken by the proper persons for the purpose; but they could not be dispersed by force, and he could not conceal the fact that in England, although, the law was the same in the two countries, no meeting had been dispersed by the use of bludgeons, nor had the free soil of England been stained by the blood of freemen anxious to exercise the right of meeting in public for the discussion of public questions. As he had said, the law relating to the right of meeting in the Parks and public places was precisely the same in England as in Ireland. That law, as laid down by Lord Westbury—while he was still Sir Richard Bethell — Lord Chief Justice Cockburn, and Mr. Justice Willes, was that meetings in Royal Parks could only be prevented by locking the people, anxious to hold such meetings, outside the Park gates, and that once inside the gates people could only be prevented holding meetings by, in the first place, the service of notices upon each of the individuals taking part in the proceedings; and in the second gentle removal of the "trespassers" if the notices were disregarded. The Government which was in power at the time this opinion was given was the party predecessors of the men who, instead of acting on the legal advice of the Law Officers of their own party, allowed a lawful meeting to assemble in the Dublin Park, placed the police in ambush, and, having entrapped the people illegally, dispersed the crowd with merciless and brutal force. When a large Reform meeting was about to be held in Hyde Park, London, the then Cabinet—Lord Derby's—considered the opinion of Sir Alexander Cockburn, Mr. Justice Willes, and Lord Westbury, better known as Sir Richard Bethell, and they acted on it. They did not entrap the people by allowing them to assemble, and then batter their heads with bludgeons. They were, however, dealing with the English people, and, possibly, that was the chief cause for their keeping within the law. They said we have no legal authority to disperse a lawful meeting, but we have a right to control the Park gates, and they locked the gates and shut the people out, as they were by law entitled to do. The House would remember what followed. By some mysterious operation the rails were levelled with the ground, and the people, no longer shut out, crowded the Park; but neither sabre nor baton caused English blood to flow, and meetings have since been freely held in Hyde Park. Lord Derby's Government then took an opinion from their Law Officers—the present Lord Cairns and Chief Justice Bovill—and the question put to them was— Whether, supposing a number of persons to have already entered Hyde Park, and to form themselves into a meeting for the discussion of political subjects, there is any legal authority to disperse such meeting by force, even though a general notice had been given that meetings of that description would not be allowed? The question then put by Lord Derby's Cabinet applied precisely to the circumstances which had occurred in Dublin. A public notification had been given that a meeting was about to be held in the Phœnix Park. But on Saturday night—he might almost say surreptitiously—a counter notice was signed, not by the Police Commissioners, not by the Lord Lieutenant, not by the Chief Secretary, not by the Under Secretary, not by any known officer of the Government, but by a respectable and inoffensive gentleman named Hornsby, Secretary to the Board of Works, and whose very name was unknown to 1 per cent of those who were likely to attend the meeting. That notice was issued late on Saturday night, though it was known for some days that the public meeting, which this notice was professedly designed to prevent, was about to be held on Sunday. He would like to inform the House who were the men, and what the association under whose auspices the meeting was about to be held. They were the members of an association whose president was one of Her Majesty's counsel in Ireland; and it was announced that a Member of that House would take the chair — almost in itself a sufficient guarantee that order and decorum would prevail during the proceedings. Moreover, the association to which he referred had for many months held public and official communication with the officers of the Government. On a previous occasion a meeting had been announced to be held under the auspices of the association at a place called Cabra, about a mile and a-half or two miles from Dublin, and it was part of the programme that those who were to attend the meeting would assemble in their respective quarters of the City and suburbs, and form processions, which would pass through the thoroughfares of the City. A notice was issued, signed by the Commissioners of Police, stating that such processions through the public thoroughfares would not be allowed. The consequence was that an interview took place between some members of the association and the Under Secretary for Ireland, and that an official correspondence passed between them, the result being that the moment it was shown to the association that the law empowered the police authorities to prevent the processions through the public thoroughfares they abandoned that part of the programme, and a large meeting of the most orderly character was held. He mentioned these circumstances to show that the association had proved itself to be worthy of confidence by its previous acts, and that if it had been properly communicated with in the present instance the collision between the police and the people might have been avoided. That, however, had not been done; no official communication had been made to the president of the association which had called the meeting, or to the intended chairman, Mr. Smyth, who no doubt was not one of those nervous men who, if he felt that he was perfectly right in holding the meeting, would have abandoned what he would regard as a public duty. But be that as it might, the police did not go through the formality of communicating with him, though his address was well known to them, and he was within easy distance—not one mile and a-half from the Police Commissioner's office. Now, he would return to the question which had been put to Lord Cairns and Lord Chief Justice Bovill, and the answer which they had returned to it. They said— We are bound to state that, though the legal right of removal is such as we have described, we do not think that in the case of any large assembly that right could practically be exercised with safety, or that such an assembly could be dispersed by force in the sense in which the term is ordinarily understood. The right of removal is a right to remove each separate individual as a trespasser by putting him out of the Park, using just so much force (and no more) as is necessary for that purpose. It is a separate right against each individual. The assembly, assuming it to be orderly, are not united in doing an illegal act, and there is no right to disperse them or coerce them as a body of rioters or disorderly persons. … . On the whole, we should answer the question proposed to us by saying that in our opinion there is not for any practical purpose a legal authority to disperse by force a meeting of the kind supposed, consisting of a large number of persons, and that whether notice has or has not been given beforehand." [28th July, 1866.] It was not true, then, as was alleged by some, that the law of the question was uncertain and undefined. The law was clear and indisputable. The Crown had just so much power over the Royal Parts as a duke has over his ducal park, or any hon. Member in this House has over his demesne or his field. Any person coming into the park or field, if he come against the will and consent of the owner, is a trespasser, and he may be ordered off, and, refusing, may be removed with just so much force as is essentially requisite, but no more. The concurrent opinions of Chief Justice Cockburn, Lord Westbury, Lord Cairns, Mr. Justice Willes, and. Mr. Justice Bovill, declared that to be the law. In England these opinions were accepted and acted on, but in Ireland the bludgeon of the policeman was above the law. He (Sir John Gray) would ask if any Gentleman in that House would dare assault a trespasser on his field with bludgeon, or pitchfork, or spade; and the Irish Executive had no more right to assault with a policeman's baton than the private owner had to assault with scythe or pitchfork any trespasser on his field. He would ask the House for a moment to examine the law as to the Phœnix Park. By the 14 & 15 Vict. c. 22, the Chief Commissioner of Works in England, who previously exercised control over the Phœnix Park, was empowered to depute his authority to the Commissioner of Public Works in Ireland; and in that Act the Phœnix Park is tabulated with, scheduled, so to speak, with Hyde Park, and the other English Parks. The law of England and Ireland applicable to all the tabulated Parks was therefore identical, and the law, as laid down by the eminent legal authorities cited, as applicable to Hyde Park was applicable to Phœnix Park. There was no legal authority to disperse a lawful meeting held in that Park by force. What was the course pursued by Lord Derby's Government when the law of England was declared on that matter by Lord Cairns and Chief Justice Bovill? Did that Government order the police of London, with batons in their hands, to go and disperse any meeting assembled in Hyde Park? Nothing of the kind. He introduced a Bill to alter the law and make the holding of a meeting in any of the Royal Parks a misdemeanour—a criminal offence. But the people of England, Lords and Commons, unwilling that the ancient laws of England should be altered, refused to convert a mere trespass into a criminal offence, and the Bill was withdrawn. The late Lord Derby, speaking in "another place," said that, according to the opinion of the law officers of a preceding Government, they had a right to exclude the public, but not to eject by force, or otherwise interfere with persons who had obtained entrance into the Park without previous notice, unless they were misconducting themselves; and that even in that case the Crown had no right beyond that which an ordinary proprietor had to remove trespassers on his property; that the Crown had a right to remove them gently, using just so much force as was necessary, but no more. They might have their pound of flesh, but no blood. But blood was shed in Ireland, because it was Ireland. Instead of dealing with these persons in Dublin as trespassers, they were dealt with as rioters and vagabonds, and charged upon by the police with drawn bludgeons, not by order of Mr. Hornsby, as was at first thought, but, as it now appeared, by order of the Irish Executive. He would not trespass on the time of the House by reading in full the extracts he had made from the speech of Lord Derby on that occasion. He would, however, briefly state the substance of it. He had said that his Government took the only course which, according to the legal opinions before them, they could have taken—namely, that of excluding the people by shutting the gates of the Park; that the unfortunate results of that proceeding were well known, and that certainly, whatever might be the rights of the Crown, his Government were not disposed to repeat the experiment which had led to such disastrous consequences. Now, he must do the present Government of Ireland the justice to say that they did not repeat that experiment by keeping the people out of the Park at Dublin. On the contrary, the gates were flung open, the people allowed—nay, encouraged to assemble. The police went there, but they were kept in ambush, and hidden from the view of the people. When the chairman was chosen there were only three policemen loitering about the place, just enough to make a show of authority, seemingly as if to watch the proceedings. Those who issued or procured the issue of the proclamation against the meeting ought at least to have had the prudence and foresight to act in such a way as to prevent bloodshed, but instead of doing that they seemed to act as if their object was to stimulate a riot. Had they marched a force of 20 men to the base of the pillar, taken possession of the site of the proposed meeting, warned the people off, and prevented a gathering, they might have suppressed the right of public meeting and the right of petition—but there would have been no breaking of skulls, no bloodshed. This they did not do, and he contended that when a Government resolved to suppress a popular right it was their duty to do it with humanity, if they did it at all, and not do it with the certainty of creating riot. But, instead of moving boldly, one police officer and two or three attendant policemen went to the place of meeting. They went up towards Mr. Smyth, the chairman, when the people on the sloping steps leading to the base of the monument, reaching over to see what was going on, overbalanced themselves and came accidentally pell-mell upon all who were lower on the slope, including, of course, the policemen. The Times' correspondent, describing the occurrence in a special telegram, said— Their hats were knocked off, and themselves roughly treated; they retired, and proceeding to the other side of the monument, they saw a large force of the metropolitan police coming up. These the crowd received with groans and hisses, and on coming up they formed into a compact body and proceeded to the base of the monument. The order was given to clear the ground. The police moved round to where the chairman and other persons were; the police rushed in freely using their batons; they caught hold of Mr. Smyth and others of the party in a violent manner. The telegram went on to state that— Many of the crowd resisted and remonstrated, but their resistance and remonstrances were unheeded, and all who resisted were unmercifully struck. Many of them were knocked down and had their heads broken. All the eye-witnesses agreed in saying that the rush was due to accident, and was not an attack on the police constables; and that when the police, who were placed in ambush, came up, they belaboured the unresisting crowd, tripping up those who were flying, and then brutally beating them when they fell. It was then, and not till then, that the people standing at a distance, and quite unconnected with the proceedings of the meeting, picked up stones and threw them at the police. This account of the conduct of the police was confirmed by the reports in various newspapers, many of whom were hostile to the views of the promoters of the meeting; but he would not read the extracts he had marked, as he had already trespassed too long on their indulgence. The police having battered and beaten off the ground the persons at the meeting, then proceeded to clear the Park by similarly brutal force, and beat in a similar way persons who had never heard of the meeting; and nearly 100 people, including men, women, and children, were more or less seriously injured. He asked whether the law was different in England and Ireland, and whether, there being no legal authority to disperse such a meeting by force in England, Irish subjects of the Queen were to be thus treated simply because they happened to be Irish? He had put this Notice in its present shape because of the bold avowal of the Government that Mr. Hornsby's proclamation was issued by their direction, and that they, and not he, were responsible for it. He had been told that he should have asked for a police inquiry into the matter; but such an inquiry would have been useless, inasmuch as the police merely acted under the orders of their officers, and the only evidence that they could have given was as to the number of heads they had broken. It might be interesting to statisticians, but of no use to those who were anxious to maintain order in Ireland. Possibly an examination of the batons might tell whether A 20, or some other of the force, rejoiced in breaking ribs, or, like an Indian brave, sought glory in scalps; but he had no idea of transferring to men in an humble position, who only obeyed orders, the guilt of the outrage committed by command of a superior power. What he desired was that a full inquiry should be had into the whole of the circumstances attending the dispersion by force of a lawful meeting, so that it might be ascertained by whose orders the police had acted, and whether there was really one law for England and another for Ireland. He objected to the course adopted by the Government in the matter as being illegal.

Was the meeting illegal—were its objects unlawful? If they were, then it was the duty of the Government to prevent such a meeting from being held. But there was no pretence that it was unlawful in its objects or intent. The promoters convened the meeting at a place away from the thoroughfares, and in an out-of-the-way corner of Phœnix Park, in order to petition Her Majesty to extend her clemency to certain prisoners, and so complete a work of mercy already well-nigh accomplished by Her Majesty. If the meeting was unlawful in its purpose, then they must arraign the Queen, for she released seven-eighths of the prisoners. The Irish Ex-excutive by that act had done more to obliterate the union than the Home Rule Association could do in ten years. They had practically told the Irish race that, though they were united with England, the right of public meeting belonged to Englishmen, but was not to be allowed to Irishmen. They had told them that the right of petition belonged to free men, but not to them; and the Irish people would not be slow to conclude that the sooner they acquired the rights of freemen by trampling on the union the better. He (Sir John Gray), however, contended that the right to petition, the right freely to meet, either to ask for a redress of grievances, or to petition the Sovereign on any public question, was guaranteed by Magna Charta, by the Bill of Rights, and by many recent statutes and declarations. It was part of the Constitution, and to violate it was to relieve the subject of his allegiance. Against this violation of the Constitution—a violation in blood—he appealed to English Gentlemen; and while his personal respect for the high officials who committed this outrage against the constitutional rights of the people—the most sacred and cherished of them—would prevent him from saying anything personally hurtful to the feelings of any of those who were guilty of that wrong to the Sovereign and to the people, he must say they had proved themselves unworthy of the confidence of that House. He would not say of them in the words of Chatham, when speaking of the Ministers who advised the King to condemn the legitimate use of the right to petition, that they were knaves or fools; but instead he would say in the alternative words of that great statesman, that they ought rather be sent to school than intrusted with the government of such a country as Ireland. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.


, in seconding the Motion, said, he must remark that the Session began with the passing of an unconstitutional and aggressive Act against the Irish people, and was to close with the discussion of as great an outrage on the liberties of the people of that country as their history recorded. The blood of Irishmen and of Irish women and children had been spilt almost in the sight of the Heir Apparent to the Throne of Great Britain. He would remind the House that, while the meeting in Trafalgar Square had assembled to protest against the annuity to His Royal Highness Prince Arthur, the people of Dublin had given him a loyal and hearty welcome; but while the meeting in London was held in defiance of official warning, the meeting in Dublin was dispersed, without notice, by force. It was a poor requital for the heartiness with which they had received the members of the Royal Family who had visited the country; and it was, further, a great violation of the law. If the authorities had determined to prevent this meeting, it surely would have been only decorous on their part to have informed the Member of that House, who had agreed to take the chair, of the reasons which had induced them to take that step. Instead of that, a notice was issued by a man named. Hornsby, and posted up in a few places in Dublin, setting forth that the police had directions to prevent the meeting which was intended to be held in the Phœnix Park. Why was not that notice signed by a responsible person, and why did it not take the form of the Proclamation issued with respect to the Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square meetings, and recite the words of the Act of Parliament which made the holding of such meeting illegal? It was generally believed that the defenceless people were entrapped into a place where the police could make an attack upon them. There was no sworn information upon which these proceedings were taken, and neither the Lord Lieutenant, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, nor the Commissioner of Police had any legal right to disperse the meeting. He maintained that if anyone died from the injuries received in the Phœnix Park on that occasion the person who inflicted such injuries would be liable to be put on his trial for murder. His hon. Friend (Sir John Gray) simply asked for an inquiry into the circumstances such as was granted in the case of the riot in Hyde Park in 1855. Ireland was entitled in this respect to the same justice as was granted to England. A leading article in The Times in reference to the late riot commenced with the assertion that nothing could be more calculated to bring about mischief between the two countries than partiality in the administration of the law, and the writer went on to ask whether the authorities in London would have dared to do what had been done in Dublin. What occurred in 1866? The people insisted on holding a Reform meeting in Hyde Park; and when opposition was made to them they threw down 1,400 yards of railings, and broke the windows of Sir Richard Mayne and other obnoxious persons. Was there any prosecution of these people? None. In 1867 there were Reform meetings in Manchester and Edinburgh—where were they held? In the public Parks. Was there any attempt made to prevent these meetings? None. But Ireland was to be differently treated. Would the House not listen to their grievances? They asked for inquiry. Would it be refused? He was a party man; but he would not support a Government which refused to order a searching inquiry into this most deplorable event. The Solicitor General for Ireland would, no doubt, attempt to mystify the House; but he defied him to show that the meeting was either illegal or tumultuous. Had the people assembled conducted themselves in a riotous manner he admitted that the authorities would have been justified in dispersing the meeting; but it was quite otherwise. The people did not even march in procession to the meeting, and no stones were thrown till they had been driven from their position more than a quarter of a mile. There was not a stone to be found within a quarter of a mile of the place where the attack was made upon them, where there was nothing but grass. But if it were alleged that stones had been thrown at the police, let that form part of the inquiry. If such meetings were illegal, why had not the recent meetings in Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square been dispersed? If these meetings were legal, he insisted that the meeting held in Phœnix Park must, on the same grounds, be held to have been perfectly legal. It seemed as though there was some feeling of revenge against the people of Dublin for some act done by them. In 1867, the then Home Secretary (Mr. Walpole), finding it impossible to prevent Reform meetings in Hyde Park, introduced a Bill to enable him to do so; but that Bill he had been obliged to withdraw. There could be no doubt, therefore, that the people of London and of Dublin, so long as they properly conducted themselves, had a perfectly legal right to hold meetings in the Parks; and he specially relied on the speech delivered on that occasion by the present Chief Commissioner of Works, in which he stated that, while there were classes in the country to whom portions of the Parks were devoted for their amusement in many ways, he did not see why the people should be excluded from having portions even for holding meetings. The fact was, that there was a police despotism in Dublin. According to law the people who intended to hold such a meeting as that in the Phœnix Park ought to receive 24 hours' notice of the intention to stop it; but no such notice was given in this case, and those who were captured were taken before 12 o'clock next day before a magistrate. They were fined too small a fine to give them a right to appeal; and how could the people go with confidence before such a man and demand justice? He appealed for justice to that House, and he asked hon. Members to lay aside all party feeling, and teach Ireland that when a grievance was brought before them they were prepared to redress it.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is essential to the ends of justice and to the peace of Ireland, that a prompt, searching, and impartial inquiry be made into all the circumstances connected with the disastrous interference by the Irish executive with the right of free meeting in Dublin on the 6th of August inst., which resulted in injury to the persons of a large number of the citizens of Dublin,"—(Sir John Gray,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he thought it somewhat extraordinary that the hon. Members who had occupied nearly two hours in making fervid appeals for fair dealing between the two countries should exhibit such reluctance to hear any statement opposed to theirs by attempting to interrupt the explanation he was about to make on the part of the Government by calls from an hon. Gentleman who was going to speak on the same side as themselves. He regretted that the discussion of this matter should have to be proceeded with at so late an hour—nearly 1 o'clock—for it was impossible that his statements on behalf of the Government could now receive from the reporters the attention he should desire. He hoped, however, that it would be made known that deplorable and much to be regretted as were the circumstances of this case, they had been greatly exaggerated in the accounts which had appeared in the public Press. A plain and simple statement of the facts would, he believed, cause a very different feeling to prevail upon the subject throughout the country. In answer to the hon. Members for Kilkenny and Cork (Sir John Gray and Mr. Downing), who asked whether there was one law for England as to public meetings and another for Ireland, he replied that there was not. [Sir JOHN GRAY: I said that the law was the same, but the administration of it was different.] That statement he emphatically denied, and he now would proceed to show the House that the object of the meeting in question, the time for which it was called, the place where it was to be held, and the other circumstances attending it made it the duty of the Government to exercise the power which they had never abandoned, either in the case of England or of Ireland, of preventing public meetings for certain purposes in the public Parks. With regard to the Motion, it was quite impossible for the Government to accede to it either in its form or substance. He did not think that an inquiry was essential to the peace of Ireland, and the expression "disastrous interference" prejudged, to a great extent, the question which the hon. Member wished to be inquired into. He also denied that there had been any interference with the right of free meeting in Dublin in any other place than that where the meeting now in question was held. The authorities had only interfered with the right of meeting under particular circumstances in a particular park which was the property of the Crown. With regard to the substance of the Motion, it proposed to include in the inquiry not only the conduct of the police in repressing the meeting, but also the conduct of the Irish Government in directing that the meeting should be prohibited. The Government did not shrink from any inquiry into their conduct; but if an inquiry were to be made Parliament should be the tribunal to make it, and not a Commission of any kind. They were prepared to lay their case before Parliament, and submit to the judgment that it might pass upon them. With regard to an inquiry into the conduct of the police, he thought it possible, though the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) attached little importance to that point, that such an inquiry might be necessary; but the present moment was premature for the purpose, as there were persons in custody for having committed a breach of the peace, and others had signified their intention of taking legal steps to test the lawfulness of what had been done. Some of the cases were already before the magistrates. In one way or another the proceedings of last Sunday must come before the Courts of Law, and there was no tribunal that could be appointed by that House could so properly investigate the matter as the ordinary Courts of Law. Should further inquiry be necessary, it would be the duty of the Government, without interference or prompting on the part of the House, to take care that a full and searching inquiry was made; but at present, at all events, there was no case for inquiry, and it would undoubtedly be premature. Two questions were involved—the legal power of the Government to prohibit the meeting, and, supposing that power to exist, the policy of exercising it. The first question he would leave to be dealt with by the Solicitor General; but he might state that the Irish Law Officers of the Crown were consulted in 1869, and they gave it as their opinion that the public had no right to meet in Phœnix Park except by the will of the Crown; and that opinion was acted upon at the time, and the proposed meeting was prohibited. As to the policy of exercising the power, he quite admitted that what had occurred of late years with respect to Hyde Park had raised a certain difficulty in dealing with the question. He was perfectly aware that in 1867—the railings having been pulled down in 1866—a meeting was held in Hyde Park, after notice had been given by the Government that it would not be permitted; he was also aware that subsequently political meetings had been held in Hyde Park, and the Government had not thought it necessary to interfere; but it was entirely untrue to say that the Government had ever relinquished their right, if they thought it necessary, to prohibit any meeting proposed to be held in a London park. No one had said that the power of the Government was to be exercised in a different manner in Ireland; all that they said was that in Ireland, as in England, they must use their discretion as to whether the power they possessed was to be exercised in a particular case or not. Supposing the Irish Government had thought it desirable to issue a positive prohibition of all political meetings in Phœnix Park, he was unable to admit that such a prohibition would be any slur on the inhabitants of Dublin or any indignity on the Irish people. It did not follow that it was most for the convenience of the people of Dublin generally that the Park should be used for public meetings; it was possible a large majority of the people might think that political meetings ought to be held elsewhere, and that the Phœnix Park should be exclusively reserved, as hitherto, for pleasure and recreation. Even were such a general prohibition enforced, he could not admit there would be any slur on the people of Dublin. It was perfectly well known that most of the provincial towns of England which had provided themselves with parks had adopted a by-law that they should not be used for any political or public meeting. The Irish Government claimed no power which the English Government did not claim as to exercising judgment and discretion when a meeting could be properly permitted and when it could not. He now came to the history of the meeting which was advertised on the Saturday in one or two Irish papers and by placards posted about the town. It was advertised as a "monster meeting," and, although there was not necessarily anything wrong in that, still it showed that it was not the kind of meeting which the Government should be expected to encourage, because it was not for discussion and for the instruction of the people, but its object was, if not intimidation, yet to produce an effect by a display of force. The advertisement ran— Agitate for the release of the political prisoners still confined in English dungeons. Protest against the cruelty of their prolonged incarceration. Simultaneously there appeared in The Irishman in reference to the "Monster Demonstration to take place in Phœnix Park" this language— It is intolerable that alien Princes should come here in search of welcome while the power they represent still holds 50 Irish patriots in prison. It is only the duty of the people to demonstrate that patriots are dearer to their hearts than Princes. Consider for one moment who these patriots were. The House was aware that the great majority of Fenian prisoners had been released. Those who remained in prison were not political prisoners at all; they were soldiers, who, in addition to the crime of high treason, had committed the crime of breaking the oath of allegiance they had taken to their Sovereign, and had also conspired to seize upon, and, in some instances, to murder, their brethren in arms. There were also those who had participated in the crimes of Manchester and Clerkenwell, and these were the prisoners referred to in the advertisement as patriots. There were other considerations. Phœnix Park had never been used for a public or political meeting, and yet Dublin had not been altogether a stranger to political agitation or to monster meetings. [Mr. M'CARTHY DOWNING said that in 1792 10,000 people met in the Park to petition Parliament.] That might be so; but it was not necessary to go further back than the present century to justify generally the statement he had made. In 1869 the Amnesty Association announced a monster meeting to be held in the Park; the notice was signed by the responsible leaders of the Association; the Law Officers of the Crown gave the opinion to which he had referred; it was decided that the meeting should not be permitted; notice was sent to those who signed the advertisement; and the meeting was held at Cabra. In this case no such notice could be given because the advertisement was not signed, and it was not even dated from the offices of the Amnesty Association. True, it named the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Smyth) as chairman; but it did not appear to the Government that an anonymous announcement of that sort would justify them in making any communication to him; and he did not think if the hon. Member addressed the House he would say he was not aware that notice had been given that the meeting would not be allowed. It must be remembered that unlike Hyde Park, Phœnix Park was the only park Dublin possessed, and it was much used, especially on Sundays, for amusement and recreation. In London, if a meeting were held in one park, people could go to another; but in Dublin, if people did not wish to run the risk of being interfered with by those attending the meeting, they must absent themselves from the Park altogether. In Dublin, as he was informed—he could not speak from local knowledge—there was no want of suitable places for public meetings. It was generally understood, he believed, that the meeting would not be attempted to be held in the Phœnix Park, but that it would be held at Harold's Cross, which, he was informed, would have been quite as convenient a place. It must also be recollected that in the Phœnix Park was situated the residence of the representative of the Queen, and that a demonstration which might be perfectly innocent in a place like Hyde Park, where there was no such residence, might assume a different character if held in close proximity to the residence of the Lord Lieutenant, assuming as it might the form of a threatening of the Queen's representative. Further, it must not, he thought, be forgotten that there were at the Viceregal Lodge at the moment the Prince of Wales, Prince Arthur, and Princess Louise, and after the passage which he had read from The Irishman it was, in his opinion, impossible altogether to disconnect the intention of the promoters of the meeting from an attempt to make a political demonstration of a character somewhat offensive to the tenant of the Viceregal Lodge. ["No, no!"] He wished to hear how those Gentlemen who cried "No" accounted for the paragraph to which he alluded, and which it must be borne in mind appeared in a paper which was edited by a gentleman who took a very important part at the meeting. ["Name!"] Mr. O'Byrne. Now, some remarks had been made on the point that the notice which had been issued preventing the meeting was signed with the name of Mr. Hornsby; but it was signed by him on behalf of the Commissioners of Public Works, who, as everybody in Dublin was aware, were the persons who regulated everything connected with the Phœnix Park, and who were the proper persons to issue the notice. Any doubt on that point would be removed by the fact that Mr. Nelson, the Secretary of the Amnesty Association, communicated personally with Mr. Hornsby in 1869. He now came to the measures which had absolutely been taken for the suppression of the meeting. He had already stated that the Irish Government held themselves responsible for the resolution not to permit the meeting, and they were no doubt equally responsible for the measures which had been taken by the police. But he had no hesitation whatever in acknowledging that the greater part of the arrangements were left by the Lord Lieutenant and himself to Colonel Lake, the Chief Commissioner of Police, a gentleman of great experience, and who was perfectly prepared to assume any responsibility which might attach to him. He was not ashamed to say that the Lord Lieutenant as well as himself thought the arrangements could be better made by a gentleman of his (Colonel Lake's) experience than by persons less acquainted with such matters. Colonel Lake made, he had no doubt, the best arrangements in his power; but it was impossible for him or for anyone else to foresee exactly what occurred. Having information on which he thought he could rely that the intention of holding the meeting in the Phœnix Park would be abandoned, he was of opinion that it would be better not to attract too much attention to the matter by parading ostentatiously a force of men on the spot. He sent up to the barracks close to the Park for the force which he considered necessary, and they were paraded, he (the Marquess of Hartington) was informed, in the paddock close to the Park, so that everybody entering the Park could see them, and could see that something unusual was going on. A few constables merely were kept on the spot as a precautionary measure, to take notice of what occurred, and keep order. Colonel Lake had assured the Lord Lieutenant and himself that he considered he had an ample force on the ground and in the neighbourhood, not to disperse those who had already gathered, but to prevent the assembly of any such meeting. He must admit, however, that Colonel Lake himself acknowledged that he was, to a certain extent, taken by surprise. A very few minutes before the occurrences to which attention had been called began, there were not apparently more people than usual in the Park. The first thing which arrived was a cab, which was covered with a placard stating that a meeting was to be held. That was followed almost immediately by another cab, in which was the hon. Member for Westmeath, and other persons who, he believed, intended to take part in the meeting. The arrival of the first cab appeared to have been taken as a kind of signal, for, with greater rapidity than the police thought possible, a great number of people congregated on the ground, as if by pre-concert, and formed a considerable crowd. As to what followed, there was, of course, an immense discrepancy in the accounts. Hon. Members were aware that certain accounts were given in the newspapers by the reporters, who were no doubt in a somewhat prominent position in the execution of their duty, and who naturally would give a somewhat excited description of what occurred. He had, however, received the accounts which had been given by the police, which he believed to be truthful, though they might not be accurate in every respect. He was informed that they would be substantiated in every particular on oath. It appeared that after the hon. Member for Westmeath and other gentlemen with him arrived they seemed so eager to form a meeting that they actually ran ["No, no!"] from the place where they got out of the cab to the steps of the monument. Mr. Hall, the superintendent of police, made his way to the monument at the same time. He admitted that he ascended the steps in order to remonstrate with the hon. Member and his friends. He was, however, violently repulsed. He made another attempt, and the same thing happened. He was hurled from the top of the steps to the bottom, and was then seized by several persons, who made a most violent assault upon him. He was happy to say that some of the gentlemen who took a prominent part in the meeting did what they could to save him; but, notwithstanding that, he was subjected to a severe assault. It was stated to Mr. Hall by the hon. Member for Westmeath and those who were with him that it was their intention to hold the meeting at whatever risk, and at that moment the police, who were stationed in the neighbourhood, arrived on the spot, and the order, he was informed, was given them to fall in. Then, and before a blow had been struck by any of the police, many were hit by stones which were thrown at them. The superintendent, on whom an assault had already been committed, and who saw that the promoters of the meeting were determined to hold it, gave an order to his men to advance. After that order had been given, he (the Marquess of Hartington) did not think there was any substantial difference between the accounts of the police and the reporters, excepting that it was denied by the police that they had used any unnecessary severity. There was no doubt that after some time, and after stones had been thrown at them, some members of the force lost their tempers somewhat, and they might possibly have attacked people who took no part in the riot. The circumstances of the case had been greatly exaggerated; but he was prepared to say that there was no foundation whatever for the statement that the police attempted to disperse the meeting by force. Everything had, in the first place, been done to induce its promoters to abandon their intention of holding it, and while they were still persisting in holding the meeting the police were attacked with stones. After that, and after the assault which had been committed on Superintendent Hall, there was, he apprehended, no longer any question of an orderly meeting being dispersed by force, but a riotous assembly. There was one statement which had been made over and over again, but which had been denied most emphatically by the police, and that was that women and children had been struck by them. In the hustling and violent proceedings, no doubt, some women and children might have been touched; but that they were deliberately struck by the police was most positively denied. Another statement had been made about what was called "the unprovoked attack" on the band. The facts were these. The conflict had been going on for some time, when the band, followed by an enormous crowd, arrived. The band was playing what he believed was recognized as a Fenian air; and no doubt the band and the accompanying crowd were looked upon as a reinforcement by those who had attended the meeting. It was only prudent, therefore, under the circumstances, to prevent the reinforcement from joining the main body, and that was the reason for the dispersion of the band. He did not know that there were any other circumstances of the case which it was necessary for him to go into. He had stated the ground upon which the Government thought it right to prohibit the meeting, and also why they thought it incumbent on them to use the power for that purpose which they possessed. He had also stated, as far as they had come to his knowledge, the measures taken for the suppression of the meeting, and the circumstances which occurred at it. He need not say that he deeply regretted what had occurred; he regretted that any of the citizens of Dublin should have received injuries, or that there should have been any collision between the Dublin population and the police. It was to be regretted on every ground; but more especially because it gave some colour to what he might call the frightful exaggerations which had been indulged in. He hoped the House would not agree to the Motion of the hon. Member, which, it must be admitted, involved a direct Vote of Censure on the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and on himself.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Colonel White.)


said, it was not in his power to assent to that Motion, because the taking of Supply depended on the debate being brought to a conclusion.


said, he would support the Motion for Adjournment. It was essential that the people of England should have full information of the facts of the case, and he had noticed that the reporters had not taken the trouble to give the statements of his hon. Friends who brought forward the Motion, while they had exhibited much activity in taking notes of what had fallen from the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington).


said, that as the matter affected him personally, he must appeal to the House to give him an opportunity of vindicating himself and impeaching the Government.


said, he would suggest that Supply should be relieved from the Motion on the understanding that, in the course of next week, perhaps on Thursday, an opportunity should be given to hon. Gentlemen to express their sentiments on the subject.


said, he would agree to that, provided the First Minister of the Crown would give an assurance that the discussion would be proceeded with next week.


said, he would accept the suggestion.


said, he believed the best course would be formally to withdraw his Motion for the present, with the purpose of renewing it when the opportunity for discussion was afforded.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

SUPPLY—considered in Committee.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.

House adjourned at Three o'clock in the Morning.