HC Deb 04 July 1877 vol 235 cc752-72

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he did so simply for the reasons denoted by the title of the Bill, for the better administration of justice at Petty Sessions Courts in Ireland. He assured the House that never was there a Bill brought before it which would do more to give the working classes in Ireland confidence in the administration of the law in Petty Sessions Courts than the Bill which he was moving for second reading, and he could also assure the Government that the people had not confidence in those Courts as at present constituted, for very good reasons. There were, no doubt, many good and faithful magistrates in Ireland; but, at the same time, there were still a large number who did not bring credit to the Bench. The local magistrates represented the landlords throughout the country, with very few exceptions; the stipendiary magistrates represented the Government, and there was no one to represent the ratepayers and the people. Hon. Members, he was satisfied, would see that that was a state of things which required some improvement, particularly in a country like Ireland, where the majority of the landlords differed from the great mass of the people in class, in religion, and in politics; but that would be passed over, if the laws were administered on equal terms to all. He maintained, without fear of contradiction, that in one-half the Petty Session cases in Ireland the law was not administered as it should be. And the consequence was, there was more disaffection created in Petty Sessions Courts in Ireland than in all the other Courts in the country. He proposed to give the power to the ratepayers of electing one magistrate for each Union in Ireland. Among those ratepayers he had included every landlord who would register his claim to vote, as at present, in the election of Poor Law Guardians, but for one vote only. He was not going to interfere with, or deprive the Lord Chancellor of, the power he at present enjoyed in the case of the other magistrates, that of refusing to sanction any magistrate who, he thought, was unfit for the position, or to remove any magistrate whose acts were such as to unfit him for so responsible a position. He proposed that the person elected should retain office for five years, and be eligible for re-election, and that the Chairman of each Union should act as returning officer, to save expense; and that the votes should be taken by Ballot, the same as at Parliamentary and municipal elections. Those were the different clauses of the Bill, and hon. Members would see it was very short, and he hoped satisfactory. It might be said he was introducing a new law into the country in giving the nomination of magistrates into the hands of the people. He was not introducing a new law in the Bill; but he was asking the House to extend u. privilege to the county ratepayers which was at present enjoyed by many towns and by all the cities and boroughs in Ireland. The mayors of all the cities and towns in Ireland were invested with the commission of the peace. The commission of the peace was also given to the Chairman of the Commissioners of 22 or 24 towns in Ireland, and all he asked was to extend that privilege to the ratepayers of each Union. Some hon. Members might oppose the Bill on the ground that elected magistrates in America were not all that magistrates should be; but it might as well be argued that the system by which the Members of that House were elected should be abolished, because some of the Senators in America were supposed to have acted corruptly. He appealed to the House, in the interests of justice, to pass the Bill, and he promised them that the working of it would be so satisfactory that the House would feel pleased that they gave this liberty to the people. The Bill, as he had said, was simply to transfer the nomination of one magistrate in each Union in Ireland from the Lieutenant of the county to the ratepayers of the Union. It did not interfere with the present power of any person. It left the Lord Chancellor the power of rejecting the candidate elected by the people, if he considered him unsuitable. If it was opposed on the broad ground of election by the people, then he should regret the constitution of that House, which was composed of those sent by the people. Then, again, they had the coroners, a body who held a very responsible position, elected by the people, and many Boards in Ireland were also elected in the same way. The Irish were a justice-loving people, and the House might be confident they would elect none but men who would discharge their duty above board, and without fear, favour, or affection. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the second reading.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. O'Sullivan.)


in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day three months, said, he did so, believing that it was quite unnecessary for the administration of justice in Ireland. In Armagh, there were already 85 magistrates to a population of 180,000. In Cavan, which he knew, perhaps, better than any other Member of that House, there were 85 persons in the commission of the peace to a population of 140,000. In Fermanagh, there were 71 magistrates to a population of 92,000; and in Monaghan there were 61 to a population of 114,000, and he could not see how it would promote the administration of justice to admit two or three persons chosen from amongst the Poor Law Guardians of each county. In Cavan there were certainly four Unions, and in Fermanagh and Leitrim there were three; but in most of the counties, there were only two. Already the number of magistrates was quite sufficient for the due administration of justice, and he had never heard any complaint as to their decisions, though he was certain, from his knowledge of the people, and moving among them as he did, to hear of any legal decision which was considered faulty. In fact, he believed that the people were entirely satisfied with the commission of the peace as it was at present constituted. In addition to the local magistrates there were a number of stipendiary magistrates appointed by and responsible to a great extent to the Government, and they attended the Petty Sessions regularly, and were gentlemen of all shades of opinion. In some parts of the country they belonged to one political side, and in an- other to another; and such being the case the people had as much confidence in them as they had in the local magistrates. There was certainly a recent very remarkable case, in which the proceedings of a magistrate in Ireland were questioned; but it was the only case of the kind that he knew of, and if the decisions of the local magistrates in Sessions Courts did not meet with the approval of the people, it would soon be brought to the knowledge of the House. The Bill would change the whole system of the appointment of magistrates in Ireland, and if it were to become law, as he was perfectly certain it would not, a demand would be made that the whole of the magistrates should be appointed by the people. The Poor Law Guardians of Ireland were entitled to the greatest respect; but they were not qualified for the magisterial bench, and he opposed the Bill, being of opinion that it would not confer the slightest benefit upon any portion of the community. The Irish magistracy would compare favourably with the magistracy of Scotland, or of England; but if the Bill were to pass there would be a number of men appointed from the Poor Law Guardians who would be supposed to teach law to those already in the commission of the peace. It would be casting a slur upon the whole bench of magistrates, both local and resident, and, therefore, upon the grounds he had stated, he would move its rejection.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. De La Poer Beresford.)


in supporting the Bill, could only say that the counties to which the previous speaker (Mr. De la Poer Beresford) had referred were very fortunate, if the decision of their magistrates had been free from complaint. He did not wish to make out that the magistrates of Ireland were very bad, or worse than English magistrates; but the whole circumstances of the case in Ireland were different from that of England, and he only abstained from giving instances of complaints because it would be getting into troubled waters, and departing from the line of argument adopted by the hon. Member for Lime- rick (Mr. O'Sullivan). In former times a number of the judicial officers in Greece and Home were chosen by the people; and, in the present day, in some parts of the United States, in parts of Canada, he believed, and in Russia the magistrates were elected. The same principle was also adopted in France up to the date of the Restoration, so that England was an exception to the general rule, which gave a certain amount of local power to the people in the appointment of judicial officers. As a general rule the property of Ireland was held by Protestants, while the great mass of the people were Catholics, and it was a source of dissatisfaction that the result of this state of things was to give a large numerical preponderance in the magistracy to Protestants. The present system gave a good deal of political influence to Lords Lieutenant, upon whom the Bill would act as a wholesome check. The power of reversing appointments to the commission of the peace was, no doubt, vested in the Lord Chancellor; but that power was very little exercised, and when the Lord Chancellor happened to be a Conservative, people were slow to ask him to interfere with appointments made by a Conservative Lord Lieutenant. The Bill would not do everything; but it would do a great deal of good. It was a very modest attempt to remedy existing evils; and, perhaps, when it got into Committee, he should feel it his duty to propose that the appointments should be rather more in number than the Bill provided for, and that they should be for a longer term than five years. The Poor Law Guardians were perhaps not all fit to be magistrates; but it was not asked to make them all magistrates; and in every Poor Law Union there would, no doubt, be found a man who from his education and practical knowledge of the state of the country, would be quite as fit to sit upon the Bench as some of those to whom the administration of justice was at present entrusted. The present system acted unfairly to the commercial classes by shutting out the enterprizing man, who had made a fortune by his industry and energy, from a position to which his son, though perhaps of very inferior ability and energy, would be eligible by inheriting the land purchased with his father's wealth. In some cases the popular nomination might fall upon a man of the commercial class, and much advantage would result from such an appointment; and at other times a landed proprietor might be elected whose qualifications were now overlooked by the Lord Lieutenant. There was ample control over the abuse of the power of election; for the Lord Chancellor, under the Bill, would have a right to refuse the appointment of any man without being required to assign any reason whatever. It had been urged as a reproach to the people of Ireland that they had no respect for the law; but if this were true, there was every reason for it. Until 80 or 90 years ago the people enjoyed no power of election whatever. It was the policy at one time for the English Government to attempt to crush out all popular organizations, and in the smaller towns people did not elect their town councils and corporations. Only within the last 10 or 12 years had these elections in the small towns been revived, and very good effects had followed the election of Town Commissioners. Local questions were now discussed in a reasonable manner. So also this Bill was a step towards bringing the people into association with law, and by that means there would be a gradual respect for the magistracy as a body not altogether selected from the aristocratic class. That the people, he argued, should have no power to have a voice in selecting those by whom the law was administered involved not only a hardship, but a great anomaly, seeing that they were entrusted with the election of Members of Parliament by whom the laws were made.


said, he would not attempt to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Captain Nolan) throughout his elaborate speech. Before he came down to the House, he felt curious to know what arguments would be brought forward to support the Bill; for on looking through it, it seemed to him to consist of two or three propositions which the circumstances of the case did not at all warrant. Allusion had been made to the office of mayor as a precedent for the election of magistrates. It might be taken for granted, certainly, that the Lord Mayor acted as a magistrate while he held office; but when the case of Town Commissioners was cited, he (Mr. Verner) wished to point out that a Commissioner was not necessarily, by virtue of his position, a magistrate; and, in fact, it often happened that the Chairman of the Commissioners was not a magistrate, although in many cases the Lord Chancellor was recommended to, and did, make such appointments. He found very good reasons for not liking the Bill. They had had opportunities of seeing the effect of electing Judges and magistrates, and when the hon. and gallant Gentleman enlarged upon the special precedents of America and of Russia, he could not point to any beneficial results, and made out but a weak case. They did not in this country want that thorough democracy'' which existed in America, and just as little did they want the order of things found in Russia. The hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan), in supporting the principle of the Bill, urged that if it was objected to, they might as well object to popular election of Members of Parliament. He said the House might as well be abolished, because it was popularly elected. Well, hon. Members had had an instance lately of the effects of extreme popular election as regarded the House of Commons, and he believed they were not much enamoured of it. One argument brought forward by the promoters of the Bill was that there were not enough Roman Catholics in the magistracy. If that principle went for anything, it meant that the lower orders of the people had an idea that if a Roman Catholic magistrate were elected, he would have a bias towards them. He (Mr. Verner) could not see that that would conduce towards upholding the administration of justice in Ireland, that people should think that any magistrate on the bench should have an inclination towards any particular religion. Such an idea must tend to degrade justice in the eyes of the people. Other features of the Bill also would altogether disorganize the proper state of things in Ireland. The Lord Chancellor would no doubt have absolute power to put any election aside; but he would ask the House to imagine what a turmoil and discontent there would be if the Lord Chancellor exercised his authority, and disregarded the elected of the people. The appointment was to last for five years only, and anyone ordinarily cognizant with human nature would know that a man once elected to the Bench would like to continue there, so that during those five years he would court the favourable opinion of those who elected him; and, certainly, the canvassing in the Unions would be attended with every possible evil effect. Another proposition was, that the expenses of the elections should be paid out of the rates, and that the officials of the Poor Law Union should be employed in conducting elections. To that he objected, that there was a general outcry against the burdens thrown upon the rates in Ireland, and when occasion offered, no Gentlemen were more ready to join in that cry than the hon. Members supporting the Bill. It was a very just complaint also, that multifarious duties were thrust upon the Poor Law officials which it was never intended their shoulders should bear. Such a Bill as this would still further divert the attention of the officials from their proper duties, and divert the rates from the objects for which they were raised. He joined his hon. Friend (Mr. De la Poer Beresford) in his opposition, and he hoped the Bill would be scouted out of the House.


thought the Bill an unpretending one. It would only have the effect of making a very small addition to the existing number of magistrates, and the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Verner) had grounded his objection on false premises, for his (Mr. Downing's) hon. Friend (Mr. O'Sullivan) had founded the merits of the Bill, not on any desire to cast reflection on the magistrates of Ireland, or even on the necessity of adding to the number of justices, though he might fairly have done so, but he said—" We wish by this proposal to give the people a share, through their representatives, in the administration of justice." There were precedents in favour of such a course. The hon. Member for Armagh was in error in supposing that the power of appointing Town Commissioners as magistrates was vested in the Lord Lieutenant. The power of selection was in the Commissioners as a body, and the name being transmitted to the Lord Chancellor, he was then appointed by the Lord Chancellor's warrant. Those appointed to the town councils were exactly the same class as were appointed to the Boards of Guardians, and, in fact, were sometimes members of both bodies. When the disturbing element of election was referred to, it should be remem- bered that it occurred now every 25th of March, when the chairman, vice chairman, and deputy chairman were elected. These were often elected from the elected Board of Guardians, and if fit to preside over 20 or 30 ex officio educated gentlemen, intelligent farmers, and shopkeepers, surely they were quite fit to sit upon the Bench. No objection could be taken to the number of the magistracy, for, at present, they were in the proportion of one to every 20,000 of the population in some districts, and the addition of four to the 85 in Cavan would be but small. In the progress of election, however, the Bill might be amended. For his own part, he should prefer that the magistrate should be elected by the Board of Guardians. The ratepayers having, in that Board, elected their best men, they again would elect the best man among themselves. As to the introduction of religious bias, he thought that an hon. Member from the North of Ireland should be the last to say anything about that.


said, that if the precedent just cited were followed, the Bill now under consideration could not pass, because it provided for the election of magistrates by the popular vote of the ratepayers. He wished to show what would be the effect of the Bill. We had had some remarkable examples in popular elections within the last few years. Take, for example, the county of Tipperary. The qualifications for the election of Members of Parliament were not now so low as this Bill proposed to give; but some years ago, the constituency returned as their Member O'Donovan Rossa. He was elected by a large majority. If this Bill had then been law, and seeing that the franchise for elections to Boards of Guardians was lower than that for Parliamentary Elections, the result of an election in that county, with the then existing popular feeling, would have been that men defying the law would have been elected to sit on the Bench to carry out the law. To such a preposterous result would this Bill lead. Later very much the same thing took place in the election of John Mitchel. He believed the existing system was one of moderation between two extremes, and although the election of magistrates by popular vote was not part of our Constitution, yet the system by which they were appointed did not keep out of view popular interests and popular wishes He did not think we ought to go to' America for an example, or import into Ireland the despotic system of Russia. In the latter country, it should be remembered, popular elections were very different things from what they were here. It was new to him that the administration of justice in Ireland generally did not carry with it popular confidence, and that the number of magistrates appointed in Ireland did not bear a numerical proportion of Protestants to Roman Catholics. It was to him a most painful thing that the religious argument should have been imported into the question, for there was a general desire throughout the country that the difference of religion should be kept within as narrow limits as possible, and it was unfortunate that it had been brought forward. They should give credit to all for purity of purpose when sitting on the bench of justice. Too often these differences had been used for agitation, although he did not for a moment accuse the hon. and gallant Member for Galway of so using the argument. He (Mr. Bruen) deprecated the introduction of canvassing for a seat on the Bench, and for a candidate to have to pledge himself to follow a particular line of conduct. He opposed the Bill, and trusted the House would, by its decision, declare, first, that the accusation brought by it against the administration of justice in Ireland was unfounded; next, that the present mode of appointing magistrates was a fair one, and that the interests of all classes were sufficiently attended to, and that the change proposed would be a most dangerous one.


said, that he intended to support the second reading, and he did not wish to give a silent vote. He submitted that the people of Ireland did not feel the same confidence of justice in Petty Sessions as there was in County Courts and Supreme Courts. He did not mean to state that there were not some most excellent magistrates in that country, but what he desired was to see more confidence in those Courts. The principle of the Bill was not without precedents. Such a judicial office as that of coroner was filled by popular election, and the aldermen of the City of London were elected; so, also, in Scotland, he believed that many seats among the magistracy were filled by election. The Bill was a small one, and did not propose to do more than add one magistrate to each Union. The mode of election, he agreed with the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Downing), should be through the Board of Guardians, and not direct from the ratepayers; but that was a detail, and it was only the principle of the Bill they now had to deal with. With regard to the remarks of the last speaker (Mr. Bruen) it would be impossible that, had the Bill been law, either O'Donovan Rossa or Mr. John Mitchel could have been elected, for neither were qualified. Besides, the Lord Chancellor would have full power under the Bill to prevent any improper appointment.


said, that although he was of opinion that there might be some improvement made in reference to the appointment of magistrates in Ireland, yet he could not give his concurrence to this Bill. He believed it would be impossible to adopt a more vicious principle than that of making popular favour or disfavour a reason for the election or non-election of a magistrate. He should be sorry to see the magistrates and Judges in his country elected under the influences resorted to in the United States. In that respect, he should be very sorry to assist in Americanizing our institutions, as it would be a change for the worse. It was admittted by all, even by those most favourable to the Republican system in the United States, that the popular election of those discharging judicial duties, was the great blot on the system, and would prove fatal to the best interests of the country, if allowed to continue. The Bill contained another objectionable principle in regard to the term of office—five years and no longer—unless re-elected. This was more vicious even than the original popular vote for selection in the first instance; it would be a fatal revolution, destroying the great principle that those discharging judicial duties—which must in their nature be often unpopular—should hold office during good behaviour, and not be liable to removal either by public caprice or the displeasure either of the Government or the Crown. Such a system would be a scandal to the seat of justice. He should vote against the second reading, because the Bill, if carried, would materially lower the character and im- peril the independence of the magistrates of Ireland.


said, he could not, on behalf of the Government, assent to the second reading of the Bill, which was one proposing an entirely new system of appointing justices. What was the evil that the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan) proposed to remedy by the Bill? He thought the hon. Gentleman was under some mistake as to the practice under which borough magistrates were now appointed, because there was no analogy between that practice and the method proposed under this Bill. Borough justices were appointed in England, as in Ireland, with the exception of the unreformed Corporation of the City of London, solely by the Crown. Mayors under statute exercised the functions of justices; but that was a very different thing indeed from the election of a person for magisterial duties only by the ratepayers. The appointment of justices in towns under the 17th & 18th Vict., called the Towns Improvement Act, had been referred to, but that again was not analogous to anything proposed in the Bill. Under that Act a list of the Commissioners elected was submitted to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland for the time being, stating the ages, professions, &c, of the persons elected, and it was lawful for the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, if he saw fit, to select from that list persons as justices for towns. The persons so selected were only appointed magistrates during their term of office, and only had jurisdiction within the boundaries of the towns for which they were elected Town Commissioners, and then only so long as the Lord Chancellor thought fit. He wished to point out that that gave entire discretion as to the appointment of persons to be justices to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. But what was the principle of the Bill now before the House? The principle was that justices should be elected by the ratepayers of the Unions. The ratepayers of the Union were to elect the persons as justices, not for their Union alone, but for the whole county. The persons so elected were to hold their office for five years; there again differing from any magistrates now existing. This Bill had been recommended by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Downing) and the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Captain Nolan) as a simple and modest attempt to alter the law. He was bound to say that to his mind it was a proposal to initiate a most important change—perhaps, one of the most important changes that could be conceived—in the judicial constitution of the country. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had gone, as he had done on former occasions, to foreign countries for examples, and had drawn his arguments in support of the Bill from the system adopted under a pure democracy in America and under a complete despotism in Russia. He did not wish to dilate upon the merits or faults of the form of Government in either of these countries; but he ventured to say that there was nothing in the judicial administration of the law there which would justify us for a moment in going to either of them for an example. They heard sometimes a great deal said about the unfair action of the Government in the appointment of justices; but that opinion, at any rate, did not appear to be shared by the promoters of the Bill, because under the present measure they left to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland the same veto which he now had over the recommendations of Lords Lieutenant of counties. The magistrates to be appointed were to be recommended to the Lord Chancellor by the ratepayers; they were now recommended to the Lord Chancellor by the Lords Lieutenant. He might say, in passing, that he thought there was some ground for doubting how far this measure had been thoroughly considered by its promoters, when they found such important differences between those who supported it as, on the one hand, the strong opinion in favour of election by the ratepayers, and, on the other hand, the preference expressed for election by the Guardians themselves. These were two very different matters, and upon that he might say that if the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan) had intended to follow any system now existing, he certainly never had any right to incorporate the election by the ratepayers in the Bill. One defect in the Bill was, that it contained no Proviso defining any qualification for persons to be appointed. In its present form a person might be resident in America, but, notwithstanding that, he might be elected a justice by the ratepayers of Limerick or Tipperary; therefore O'Donovan Rossa and John Mitchel would have been eligible if this measure had been the law of the land. So far as he could understand, it seemed to him that the measure was an attack upon the Lieutenants of counties, and in connection with the point he had listened with great pleasure to the disclaimer of his hon. Friend the Member for Carlow (Mr. Bruen) of any wish to treat this subject from a religious point of view. He believed that the Lieutenants of counties in Ireland, varying as they did in their religious and political opinions, exercised their privilege in the appointment of magistrates with fairness and discretion. But the magistrates must and ought to be selected from persons of education and leisure, irrespectively of their connection with any particular religious Body. If they simply took account of the persons in the community who were possessed of those qualifications, the necessary result would be, under present circumstances, a large preponderance of Protestant magistrates. ["No, no!"] He scarcely understood, indeed, how this Bill could be supported on religious grounds. He believed that under such a system it would too often be proved to be impossible for a Catholic to be elected as magistrate in a county where there was a large majority of Protestants, or a Protestant elected in a county where there was a Catholic majority. ["No, no!"] Well, they had an opportunity of seeing to what extent Party and religious feelings could influence persons in such matters, in the mode in which appointments by corporations and other public bodies were too often filled up; he feared that in every case in those parts of Ireland, if there was any truth in the arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite, where the majority required protection, it would be just in those very places that the magistrate representing the opinions of the minority would have no chance whatever of election. He ventured to say that the present system, whatever its faults, was, at any rate, better than the system proposed to be substituted for it. Complaint had been made that the appointments of magistrates were too much confined to landowners. He thought that it was quite right and proper for the Lieutenants of counties to select men who had made their fortunes in commercial pursuits. But when he remembered questions which had been asked of him during the past Session, with regard to the bankruptcy of a certain magistrate, he felt that although the Lieutenants of counties might have to the best of their judgment recommended such persons to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, it was by no means unlikely that circumstances might subsequently arise, which would cause the Lieutenant to be much blamed for his recommendation. The hon. and gallant Member for Galway had appeared to think that the removal of Roman Catholic disabilities, which had been long ago effected, was an argument for this change. With that view he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) could not coincide; and he trusted the House would by their vote that day repudiate any desire to accept or make any such change as was proposed by the Bill; and that if any fault was found in any particular instance in the appointment of magistrates in Ireland, it would be brought before the House, when it would be his duty to make such a reply as might be required by the circumstances of that particular case.


said, he was rather surprised to hear the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland give as his experience, that it would be impossible for a Protestant to be elected in a Catholic district, and vice versâ. Did the right hon. Baronet know that in the Catholic city of Dublin, save under very exceptional circumstances, a Protestant was elected Lord Mayor in regular rotation to a Catholic; and that whilst in Cork, Limerick, and Waterford, Protestants were selected in due rotation, in the vaunted, enlightened town of Belfast a Catholic had never been been elected mayor? The hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Bruen) had stated that the charge that the local administration of justice did not command the confidence of the people was quite new to him, and had felt pained that such an element as the religious one should have been imported into the case—not for the purpose of justice, but, as he charged, for the purposes of agitation. Well, he (Mr. Callan) would not rest on his own private opinion against that of the hon. Member, but would refer the House to a letter of one who, though a Catholic, would not be accused of any partiality towards the Catholics of Ireland. He referred to the noble and learned Lord Chancellor under the late Government (the Lord O'Hagan), who, under date of January, 1872, wrote as follows:— Unfortunately there are other places, especially in the North of Ireland, in which there is no representation, or a very inadequate representation, of Catholics, and in some cases of Presbyterians, amongst the local magistracy, and the result not unnaturally is the creation more or less of that distrust which the Commissioners describe as affecting the trial of Party questions, even by persons in whose honour, impartiality, and justice on all other occasions the people implicitly rely. Wherever it is fairly possible to prevent that unhappy result and take from the local tribunals the appearance of sectarian exclusiveness by the appointment to the commission of fit and competent magistrates in whom all the members of the community can place reliance, the Lord Chancllor thinks the appointment should undoubtedly take place. He (Mr. Callan) felt confident that such a judicial expression of opinion would have much more weight than the private opinion of any hon. Member, however personally estimable. He was surprised to find the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Catholic county of Carlow so bitter an opponent of a Bill which afforded some chance of a Catholic being elected a magistrate for that county. Carlow, with a Catholic population of 45,000 out of a total of 51,000, with some 50 magistrates, had only two Catholic magistrates, and yet the Member for that county cried out—" Oh! the religious element should not be imported into the case; the Catholics don't complain." Well, he (Mr. Callan) hoped that when next the hon. Member appeared before his constituents, the Catholic people of Carlow would remember the attitude taken by the hon. Member. The right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary, too, had repudiated the idea that there was any partiality or partizanship shown in the appointments to the magistracy, and had taken upon himself to affirm on their behalf that the Lords Lieutenants of counties had "exercised their power of appointment with fairness and discretion." Whatever courage might be displayed in making such an assertion, there was a great lack of discretion, as the following statistics would show. Take the county of Donegal, for example, with a population of 218,000, of whom upwards of 165,000 were Catholics. There were only two Catholic magistrates out of 119. In Tyrone, with a Catholic population of 130,000, out of a total of 215,000, or more than half, there was not one single Catholic magistrate among the 120 justices of the peace. And it was from that county that the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary drew the instance to point an unworthy sneer at the merchant-traders of the country districts in Ireland. The 77,000 Catholics of Londonderry County, out of an entire population of 173,000, had but a solitary member of their community among the magistracy of that county, numbering over 106. He next came to his (Mr. Callan's) native county of Louth, of which Lord Rathdonnell was the Lieutenant. There were in that eminently Catholic county, with a population of upwards of 70,000, 64,000 Catholics, wealthy men of honour and education, equal in every respect to their Protestant neighbours. There were only eight resident Catholic magistrates out of some 47 or 48, or less than one-fifth of the whole, and this disparity arose not from any want of fully-qualified Catholics, but from the intense bigotry of the Lord Lieutenant of the county, who had persistently and determinedly refused to appoint a Catholic to the commission of the peace. In fact, the only 10 Catholics who had been appointed were not appointed until he (Mr. Callan) had brought the matter before the House in 1872. He would instance one case, and that only because the Gentleman in question was well known to many hon. Members, and esteemed by all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance—his hon. Friend the junior Member for Louth (Mr. Kirk), who enjoyed the confidence of the people of his district, in which, Catholic to the core, there was not a single Catholic magistrate; and though his name had been prominently brought before Lord Rathdonnell, the Lord Lieutenant of the county, he would not appoint him to the commission of the peace. The right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary had made reference to borough magistrates. In the town which he (Mr. Callan) had the honour to represent (Dundalk), the Bench for years had been equally divided—three Catholics to three Protestants. Just before the General Election of 1868 one of the Catholic magistrates had died, and immediately after an application was made to have the borough magistrate appointed to the commission for the county, but that application was contemptuously rejected. And yet Mr. M'Ardle, the senior partner in the well-known firm of M'Ardle, Moore, and Co., in whose favour the application was made, had been then eleven times sucessively unanimously elected Chairman of the Dundalk Town Commissioners. He had during all that time acted as borough magistrate, with satisfaction to the authorities and to the public; had been recommended for the vacancy by the late venerated Primate of Ireland, by the borough Member, by the two Catholic magistrates on the Dundalk Bench, Messrs. Kelly and Coleman, by Lord Claremont, the brother of the then Chief Secretary for Ireland, and he (Mr. Callan) was authorized to state strongly by the resident magistrate, Captain Coate, a Tory of Tories, and by the chairman of the county, Mr. Neligan. He had also within the last two or three years been recommended by the Town Board; but the public recommendation had been treated with the same scant courtesy as had been the private one—namely, acurt refusal. He thanked the House for its courtesy and attention, and would go more fully into the subject on the Motion of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Fay) when it was discussed. The right hon. Baronet's objections were entirely directed to the details of the Bill. He (Mr. Callan) supported the Bill, though he was not much in favour of it, for he believed that if it passed in its present shape, the result would be that while the ratepayers in the Southern counties would elect Protestants almost sooner than Roman Catholics, there would not be the slightest chance of a Catholic being elected in the North.


in supporting the Bill, said, the hon. Members for Armagh (Mr. Verner) and Carlow (Mr. Bruen) deprecated the introduction of religious differences into this question, and the remedy they proposed was to entirely exclude Catholics. Of course this would be a fine way of excluding religious differences. It was said that the Bill introduced the American system; but he denied that, and the promoters of the Bill were prepared to accept Amendments even to the length of allowing the elections to be made by Boards of Guardians. The Bill was meant to apply a remedy to a prejudicial state of affairs existing now in the Irish judicial system which was not regarded with satisfaction. Everywhere the appointments to the office of justices of the peace were found to correspond to territorial and caste distinctions. This fact would, in itself, if they had not abundant proofs of the magisterial misuse of functions, form a practical objection of the strongest kind to the continued maintenance of the present system. The objections that had been brought forward were mainly objections on matters of detail. With regard to the limitation of the duration of the power of the Union justices, the supporters of the Bill were not tied to a duration of 5 to 10 years. If hon. Gentlemen holding Conservative views preferred to make Union justices tenants of their offices for life, he did not think there would be any objection on the part of the supporters of the Bill. They were prepared to go any reasonable length to meet the objections of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. All they asked was, that the present system of arbitrary and caste domination in Ireland might be amended to the very limited extent of allowing ratepayers or Boards of Guardians to choose a small number of magistrates as representatives of the most substantial and respectable portion of the community, in order to temper and correct the present system. They did not go any further than that, although he personally was inclined to go very much further, believing, as he did, that the only real objection to the Bill was, that it was a great deal too moderate.


said, he had heard nothing from the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary or the other opponents of the Bill to convince him that the measure was not just and necessary. They had been told in the course of the debate that there were sufficient magistrates on the Bench in Ireland already. He did not say that they were not sufficiently numerous. It had also been said he had not shown that justice was badly administered at Petty Sessions in Ireland; but he could have mentioned many instances of unjust and extraordinary decisions had he not desired to avoid trespassing on the time of the House. He would now mention one case which had occurred in his own county. Two men were summoned on the same day before the magistrates for not having taken out licences for their dogs. One was fined 5s. and the other only 1d. Now, the man who was fined 5s. had a very large business to attend to, and forgot all about the matter; while the person who got off with a fine of 1d. was the very person who ought to have registered the dogs, being the clerk to the magistrate. The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Verner) objected to popular election. Well, there might be a good many who entertained that objection who would not have the chance of sitting in this House again. Then the hon. Member objected to the provision he (Mr. O'Sullivan) made for the amendment by the Lord Chancellor of the election when it was an improper one. He was surprised that a substantial Conservative like the hon. Gentleman should have taken such an objection. The expenses of the election were also objected to, although they would not be more than £5, and in the poorest Unions in Ireland this would not amount to the hundredth part of a penny. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Downing) thought the Bill ought to give the power to the Guardians instead of the ratepayers. He would not object to the power being given to the Guardians, if they could vote by Ballot and if they were elected by Ballot; but he objected to giving that power to them while they were nominees of the landlords and their agents. The hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Bruen) had spoken of the introduction of the religious element into the Bill. He had avoided that altogether, and he had never said one word about religion. He might say that there were Protestant magistrates in Ireland in whom he had more confidence than he had in many Catholic magistrates. As to the objections of the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland, he thought they might be considered in Committee. It was said that a Protestant magistrate would have no chance of being elected in a Catholic district. Now, as to the validity of that objection, he would appeal to many Protestants on his side who had been elected entirely by Catholics. He would also refer to the case of the county of Tipperary, an exclusively Catholic constituency, which at a former election returned a Protestant—namely, Colonel White. Need he refer to the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt), and a dozen other hon. Members whom he saw around him? No. He thanked God the South of Ireland was free from bigotry, which he knew existed to a very large extent in the North. The alleged difference of opinion had been referred to as existing amongst the supporters of the Bill. There was really no difference of opinion between himself and the hon. Member for Cork, only that he did not wish the Poor Law Guardians to have the power of election unless they were elected by Ballot. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kildare (Mr. Cogan) objected to giving the people any more power. He did not wonder at that, for the last Election showed that the power of the people was very strong, and unless he was greatly mistaken, the right hon. Gentleman would find that unless he went in for Home Rule he would stand very little chance. He could not see that a single reasonable objection had been brought against the Bill. He did not want to introduce the election of magistrates all over the country, he only wanted to introduce a sprinkling of representatives of the people—namely, one magistrate from each Union, so that the people might have more confidence in the administration of justice. He said that the people were not represented on the magisterial Bench. The landlords were represented by an overwhelming majority, the Government were represented by the stipendiary magistrates, but there was not a single representative of the people.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 36; Noes 178: Majority 142.—(Div. List, No. 217.)

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for three months.