§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland, If he can give the Return of Memorials, &c. relative to the Peace Preservation (Ireland) Acts and Protection of Life and Property Act (of which Notice has been given); whether any Memorial was presented for the release of certain alleged Ribbonmen; whether such Memorial or 845 Memorials were signed by any Justices of the Peace for the county; and whether those alleged Ribbonmen have been set at liberty, and are now at large in the county Westmeath; what wore the grounds upon which such release was sought; and, whether any Memorial was presented praying for the release of alleged Ribbonmen on the ground that, if kept in pay, they would give secret information, and also protect, in their evictions of tenantry, those landlords who paid them?
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
, in reply, said, the noble Lord had asked for two Returns. One—a Return of the names of the persons arrested in the county of Westmeath under the powers of the Peace Preservation and Protection of Life and Property Acts, showing the time of detention of each prisoner and the names of those in custody—there was no objection to give, except that most of the information that would be comprised in it was already in the possession of the House; but the other for the copy of any memorials, with the signatures, which had been presented for the release of any of the prisoners, he could not consent to furnish, because communications relating to the Act in question had been always looked upon as confidential, and it would be unfair to the persons who made them that they should become public property. Nineteen persons had been arrested as Ribbonmen under the provisions of the Act referred to, but since July last none had been imprisoned. Some of the memorials that had been presented had been signed by Justices of the Peace, but for the reason he had already given he could not state the grounds on which the release of the men was sought. The last part of the noble Lord's Question was a serious imputation upon the landlords of the county which the noble Lord had the honour to represent (Westmeath), and he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) was convinced that the Question was only put with the object of obtaining a refutation of certain allegations which had been made. He could say that the report on which the noble Lord had based this portion of his Question was entirely without foundation.