HC Deb 28 July 1871 vol 208 cc424-8

said, he rose to move for Copies of the Evidence taken before a Public Court of Inquiry held at Glin, in the county of Limerick, by certain Constabulary officers into charges affecting constable M'Kinly and sub-constable M'Carthy; of the Report of the said officers, and of the Order dismissing from the service said sub-constable M'Oarthy and sub-constable Madden. And, in the event of the said Return being refused, to move the following Resolution:— That, in the opinion of this House, the dismissal of the said sub-constable M'Carthy, and the confiscation or discontinuance of his pension after nineteen years' service was arbitrary, unjust, and cruel. The facts of the case were simply these—sub-constables M'Carthy and Madden had been in the constabulary service in Ireland, but were dismissed the service under the following circumstances:—M'Carthy had been 19 years in the service, and in 1868, whilst stationed in the county Clare, he got into bad health, and was sent by his inspector, with an excellent character, to Dublin for medical inspection. He there entered Stevens's Hospital, where he was pronounced by two eminent medical men to be labouring under heart disease. He was thereupon recommended for a provisional pension, not having completed his 20 years' service, when he would have been fully entitled to a pension. He returned to Clare in 1869, and was soon afterwards sent to Glin, on the Shannon, in Limerick, that place being near the sea. In March, 1870, he was ordered not to be employed on active duty. It appeared that upon a certain day he was sitting in the barrack kitchen, reading his Prayer Book, in company with sub- constables Madden and Perrin. Constable M'Kinly, a Scotchman, having entered the kitchen and looked over the shoulder of M'Carthy, observed to him that he was praying to saints. M'Carthy denied it. After some interchange of words between the two sub-constables, Madden, who was listening, observed to M'Kinly, that if he looked into his own Book of Common Prayer he would find that prayers to saints were recommended. The result was a bet of 5s. between M'Kinly and Madden, the former asserting that there was nothing of the kind to be found in the book. Whereupon the book itself was produced, and it was found that it contained a prayer for the intercession of saints. Madden then demanded his 5s., but M'Kinly refused to pay, denying that he had made any bet at all. These facts having come to the knowledge of the sub-inspector he reported the matter to head-quarters. A Court of Inquiry was thereupon held upon M'Carthy and Madden, and the result was that an Order was issued by the authorities in Dublin by which they were both dismissed the service. He (Mr. Synan) submitted that that was a most unjust and arbitrary proceeding, wholly unwarranted by the evidence adduced at the Court of Inquiry. He on-treated the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in considering the case of these men, not to allow himself to be influenced by the prejudices of the local constabulary authorities. In conclusion, he begged to move for the Papers mentioned in his Notice. It was the duty of the House to see justice done to the lowest and meanest of Her Majesty's subjects. M'Carthy had no appeal for justice except to that House, and unless it interfered he was helpless and without remedy. The poor man was on his way to the workhouse with his wife and family.


, in seconding the Motion, said, he must warn the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) that great dissatisfaction prevailed amongst the Irish constabulary. The best men were leaving the force and emigrating to America, because promotion was not by merit, but of the men who preferred the most cases and most annoyed the public The stereotyped answer to any complaints made to the Government was that they could not interfere with the head of the Constabulary Department, and thus there was no appeal even in the case of the most unjust decisions. He had not the slightest knowledge of the circumstances of this case until he heard the statement of his hon. Friend (Mr. Synan), which impressed him with the belief that injustice was done to these two men in dismissing them from the service. It was impossible to deny M'Carthy's right to demand a copy of the Papers. The police force in Ireland required re-organization—the time had come when there must be a change in the system, and the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland could not undertake a more useful and popular duty than to inquire into the organization of the Force, with a view to its alteration and improvement.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "there be laid before this House, Copies of the Evidence taken before a Public Court of Inquiry held at Glin, in the county of Limerick, by certain Constabulary officers into charges affecting constable M'Kinly and sub-constable M'Carthy: Of the Report of the said officers: And, of the Order dismissing from the service said sub-constable M'Carthy and sub-constable Madden,"—(Mr. Synan.) —instead thereof.


said, he did not think the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Downing) had given any very valuable assistance to the mover of the Motion, for he had frankly admitted that he knew nothing whatever about it. He regretted that he was unable to accede to the Motion, and he believed that no practice could be more injurious than to set up the House of Commons as an appeal from the decisions of tribunals properly constituted, and in which, speaking generally, the Constabulary felt perfect confidence. The facts of the case were these. A complaint was made by M'Carthy to the effect that sub-constable M'Kinly had unjustly withheld from him a sum of money to which he was entitled, M'Kinly having lost it in a bet. He (the Marquess of Hartington) had no wish to attribute to sub-constable M'Carthy a bad character; but his character was not so absolutely free from reproach as the hon. Member would lead the House to suppose, for there were passages in the career of M'Carthy that gave rise to the impression that he was in the habit, to some extent, of shirking his duty, and of preferring frivolous complaints. The Report in reference to this charge of M'Carthy was that it was frivolous, and it recommended that he should be summarily dismissed from the Force. But the Inspector General declined to act on that recommendation, and ordered a Court of Inquiry to be held, before which M'Carthy might substantiate the charge made by him, if he was in a position to do so. The Court, after hearing the evidence on both sides, decided that the charge against M'Kinly had not been proved, and thereupon the sentence followed, which he (the Marquess of Hartington) could not admit to be too severe; for he need hardly say that a more serious offence could scarcely be committed by a police constable than that of preferring false charges against a comrade in the Force. The evidence no doubt was of a contradictory character; but it was material to observe that M'Carthy in his sworn testimony varied from his original statement as to the presence of certain witnesses who when examined denied that any such occurrence as alleged had taken place in their presence. The officers could have no motive whatever for arriving at any unjust finding, and he thought that they, having had the witnesses all before them, were better qualified to form a sound opinion than the House of Commons could be from merely reading the documents. Then as to the pension. It was true that M'Carthy had been 19 years in the Force, and that, on the recommendation of a medical report, he had been granted a temporary, not a provisional pension of £13 10s. for six months. At the end of that time he was re-examined, and being reported fit for duty was readmitted into the Force, and it was not until a considerable period after that time that he committed himself by the act which forfeited his claim. He (the Marquess of Hartington) could only express his regret that M'Carthy's conduct should have deprived him of the pension which another year's service would have entitled him to receive. There could be no doubt about the facts, for he (the Marquess of Hartington) had telegraphed to Ireland specially for information on that point. Under all the circumstances, he could not help regretting that this case had ever been brought before the House. He did not mean to say that if there were a doubtful case it would not be proper that it should be brought be- fore the House; but when the evidence was taken not privately but publicly the case was different. The hon. Member (Mr. Synan) had inspected the Minutes of Evidence in the case, and he (the Marquess of Hartington) must say that the Court of Inquiry was a better tribunal than that House would be in such a case.


said, he regretted the decision at which the noble Marquess had arrived. It was evident both from his own (the Marquess of Hartington's) statement and that of the hon. Member who brought forward the Motion, that considerable doubt, if not positive conflict, existed as to the facts. Much dissatisfaction existed both in the Force itself and in the district with the decision, and the obvious, simple, and satisfactory way to meet and get rid of this dissatisfaction would have been to produce the Papers. The way in which the noble Marquess had attempted to meet the case was, in his opinion, far from satisfactory.


said, that whatever might be the merits of this particular case the Motion itself was useful, for it was well known that the action of the heads of the Irish Constabulary force was in many cases arbitrary and unjust. One case had come to his knowledge where an officer after 30 years' service, and after being many times complimented publicly, was dismissed without inquiry and without pension, and was now rotting in a debtors' prison. The matter was too important to be passed over sub silentio, and if the Government when appealed to by members of the Force were naturally unwilling to interfere, the only possible appeal was to the House of Commons.


said, the question raised in this case was not as to the form of procedure, but whether the man convicted, and punished by the heads of the Force was guilty or not. That was a question which could only be solved by the production of the Papers. It had an exceedingly suspicious look when the Government refused the details of a case which an hon. Member showed conclusively to be one of doubt and direct conflict of testimony.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 58; Noes 9: Majority 49.