HC Deb 28 June 1872 vol 212 cc340-4

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, If his attention has been called to a letter in the "Freeman's Journal" of the 25th instant, purporting to be addressed by the Earl of Granard, Lieutenant of the county Leitrim, to the meeting held in Dublin on the 24th of June for the purpose of protesting against the Judgment pronounced by Mr. Justice Keogh upon the Galway Election Petition, in which letter the language of that learned Judge is characterized as "scurrilous invective, and insulting accusations;" whether he considers such language towards one of Her Majesty's Judges befitting the head of the magistracy of a county; and, whether he will take any steps to ascertain the authenticity of the letter?


Sir, before that Question is answered, as I wish to ask another, I wish to observe that the House must recollect that on Monday week I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether the Government or the Lord Chancellor of Ireland had taken any step in vindication of the dignity of the Judicial Bench, in consequence of the outrages that had been committed upon the person of Mr. Justice Keogh, such as the slanders referred to by the noble Lord? Now, it is a matter of very great importance that the right hon. Gentleman should answer this Question to-day, because I believe that in the course of next week Mr. Justice Keogh will be going circuit in Ireland. Mr. Justice Lawson is to accompany him, and he has been warned not to travel in the same coach with him lest he should be shot. Mr. Justice Keogh's wife has also received letters of a most scandalous description, threatening her husband. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that the right hon. Gentleman should inform the House and the country what steps have been taken by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland in his position as Lord Chancellor, and acting with the impartiality which should govern his acts, for the purpose of stigmatizing such conduct as that referred to by the noble Lord. I beg to give the right hon. Gentleman Notice that if his answer be not satisfactory I will move the adjournment of the House, with the view of having the whole subject discussed without further delay.


rose to address the House, but


at once interposed, and said: I must beg to be allowed to answer Questions as they arise, as it is impossible for me otherwise to do them justice. The right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) has put his Question in a tone to which I must say I am not entirely accustomed, and which I do not think consistent with the relations that ought to subsist between Members of this House. [Sir ROBERT PEEL: In what particular?] But I shall give to the right hon. Gentleman an answer which I think will be quite as much as he can reasonably expect, because, although he states this is an urgent matter, which admits of no delay, he has given me no intimation of his intention to put this Question to me. [Sir ROBERT PEEL: I did so last Monday week.] Nor did he on the former day give any intimation of his intention to put the Question. What I have to say is, that every precaution which can be taken by those who are responsible for the administration of Government has been taken for the protection of Mr. Justice Keogh, and likewise everything has been done to support the law, and to punish those who break the law, which could suggest itself to the minds of Her Majesty's Government. Beyond that, I must leave the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether, with regard to the interests he has at heart, he is acting prudently in giving the details he has done on the present occasion. The duty of the Executive Government is perfectly plain. It is to do all that lies in their power for the protection of all persons, especially those holding the high office of Judge, for the vindication of the law, and for the punishment of those persons who break it. With reference to the Question of the noble Viscount (Viscount Crichton), my attention has been called to the letter in The Freeman's Journal to which he alludes. Beyond saying that, I beg leave to decline to answer the Question which he has put, and that upon two grounds. The Lord Lieutenant of a county is an officer of State, and in my opinion any allegation against him of any offence which he may commit—if he commits an offence—is not a matter to be disposed of consistently with the respect which is due to his office in an answer to a Question. The House of Commons is disposed to give much indulgence to Ministers in making replies to Questions; but I look on the matter involved in this Question as one of such considerable gravity that I do not think it ought to be dealt with by way of reply to a Question addressed to the Government by an independent Member of this House. Besides that difficulty, I have another reason, and it is this—I do not think that the time has arrived for any declaration of opinion by Her Majesty's Government upon any of the expressions that have been used by any persons or parties in Ireland with reference to this very grave question—apart from what I have just said with regard to the vindication of the law, which is a totally different matter—the time, I say, will not have arrived either for that declaration of opinion or for the discussion of the question of the exercise of executive discretion until the whole case shall be in the possession of Parliament, by the publication of the whole or the essential portions of the evidence, and on which depends the judgment to be formed of the proceedings that had to be taken, and consequently a judgment formed upon the language used by those persons who had commented on the case.


asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland, If it is true that a form of declaration with reference to the subscription being raised to defray the expenses of the Galway Election Inquiry was sent to the members of the police force, Dublin, or any portion of them, by the officers of the force, or the Commissioners, and that the services of some members of the force who refused to sign such declaration were "dispensed with?"


said, he had been informed, in answer to inquiries which he had made, that no form of declaration with reference to the subscription being raised to defray the expenses of the Galway Election Inquiry had been sent to the police force, or any portion of it, by the officers or the Commissioners of Police. What had occurred was this—On the 8th of June a letter appeared in The Freeman's Journal with the signature "One of the C Division," stating that a few members had subscribed £1 5s. 6d. towards the "Nolan Defence Fund." Thereupon it appeared that certain members of the force who felt annoyed that the police should be publicly mixed up with political matters drew up and signed the declaration referred to by the hon. Member. It was their spontaneous act, and the document was left on the desk in the Reserve Boom at the station for any man to sign it who felt so inclined.


asked Mr. Attorney General for Ireland, What steps he has taken to carry out the Order of this House, of the 13th of June, that a Copy be laid before it of the judgments pronounced by the several Judges of the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland, on the Special Case laid by Mr. Justice Keogh before that Court respecting the late Galway Election, and when their judgments would be presented to the House?


said, there was no doubt that an Order had been made by the House for the production of these judgments, and he was informed that the Order had been served in the proper quarter. There would be some delay, however, in the matter, owing to the circumstance that there was no authorized reporter of the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland; but he was informed that the judgments would be obtained, and that they would be laid on the Table of the House with as little delay as possible.