HC Deb 09 May 1877 vol 234 cc599-611

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, its object was to enable a member of the Irish Bar to practise in England and a member of the English Bar to practise in Ireland. It did not propose to abolish either Bar, but provided that the Benchers of the King's Inns in Ireland should admit members of the English Bar to practice in Ireland and that the Benchers of the English Inns of Court should admit Irish Barristers to practise in the Courts of this country. It was an extraordinary thing that the distinction between the English and the Irish Bars should have been maintained so long. Any man having a medical or surgical degree in Ireland could practise his Profession in England, and our English medical man could practise in Ireland. An Irish clergyman could be appointed to a living in England, and a graduate of the Dublin University could obtain an ad eundem degree from the University of Oxford or of Cambridge. He could not understand, therefore, on what principle it was that a distinction such as now existed should be kept up between the Bars of the two countries, and why an Irish barrister should not be admitted to the English Bar, or an English barrister to the Irish Bar without the necessity of eating dinners or passing an examination. The Bill proposed that a roll of English barristers entitled to practise in Ireland should be kept at the King's Inns, Dublin, and that rolls of Irish barristers entitled to practise in England should be kept at the English Inns of Court. The Bill did not propose to give any absolute right to an English barrister to practise in Ireland, or an Irish barrister in England. It only provided that a member of either Bar might present a memorial to the Irish or English Benchers to practice in Ireland or England, as the case might be, and the Benchers would have power to grant this permission. The moment a man was so admitted to practise at the Bar of either country he would become subject to the Benchers of that country, and might be disbarred or prevented from practising in the same way as if he had been originally a member of the country in which he was allowed to practice. English barristers would have the same rank in Ireland as they had in their own country, and the same rule would apply to their Irish brethren practising in England. The Bill, however, provided that no member either of the English Bar admitted to practise in Ireland, or any member of the Irish Bar admitted to practise in England, should be allowed to hold office in the country of the Bar to which he was admitted ad eundem. Thus the measure did not amalgamate the Bar of the two countries—it merely conferred a right to practise, and he did not see why this right should be denied when it was granted in the case of all other Professions. He did not think for a moment the English Bar could imagine that a few barristers from Ireland could deprive the English Bar of any portion of their practice. Under the Judicature Act a right was given to sue an Irish resident in Westminster Hall, and although that had been protested against the fact remained. He thought it hard that an Irishman so sued should be deprived of the right to have Irish counsel for his defence. The Irish Bar generally approved the first part of the Bill, in favour of which a resolution had been passed by the Munster Circuit. But he must admit that the same unanimity did not extend to the second part of the Bill, which enabled Her Majesty, if she thought fit, to send an Irish Judge to go Circuit; or sit in banco in England, when from the press of business there was not enough of English Judges to dispose of it. It was often said that there were too many Judges in Ireland and too few in England. For this state of things this provision would supply a remedy. In like measure the Bill would give power to the Queen to send over an English Judge to go Circuit or sit in banco in Ireland; but, although this power was formally given, everyone knew that it would never be exercised, as the English Judges had quite enough to do to dispose of their own work. In this respect he admitted that the Bill would practically be one-sided. It was said that one effect of the Bill would be to abolish the Bar of Ireland. Nothing could be further than this from his wish. As the son of an Irish Judge he would be the last to propose as to advocate any measure that would abolish the Irish Bar. He did not believe that would be the effect of the measure, and he certainly thought the time had come when the distinction between the two Bars should be done away with, and that they and the Judges of the two countries should be rendered interchangeable. The right hon. and learned Baronet concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.

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


hoped his right hon. and learned Friend would be satisfied with the courtesy shown him by not entering Notice of opposition to his Bill, in order that he might be enabled at any time to obtain a discussion upon it, and that he would not be disappointed if he did not receive any further support from the Members of the English Bar in that House. If his right hon. and learned Friend's proposal were of equal advantage to the Bars of both countries, why was it that there was not the name of a single English Member on the back of the Bill? He found, however, it was introduced by four Members of the Irish Bar. His right hon. and learned Friend had, ho believed, expressed a desire for Home Rule. He wished Irishmen to have the regulation of the internal affairs of their own country. [Sir COLMAN O'LOGHLEN: Hear, hear!] Why, then, was the right hon. and learned Gentleman not satisfied with the Home Rule which Ireland possessed in respect to her Bar, which was exclusively under the management and control of the Benchers of the King's Inns and of the Bar itself? He should have thought that the principle of Homo Rule was altogether opposed to the introduction of English Judges and barristers into Ireland in the manner here proposed. He could assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the members of the English Bar were perfectly willing to allow Ireland Home Rule in this matter; they had no wish to intrude their rules or themselves upon their Irish friends. His right hon. and learned Friend said the Bill only enabled the Inns of Court here to admit an Irish barrister to a sort of ad eundem degree. As a matter of fact, they had perfect freedom to do that at present if they pleased; but what the Bill said was, not that the Benchers might admit a member of the Irish Bar to practise in the English Courts, but that they should do so; for under the 4th clause, if the applicant got a certain certificate from the Benchers of the King's Inns, the English Benchers must admit him. But, apart from these considerations, he was unable to give the Bill his support. He denied at once that he was speaking in defence of vested interests. He did not deny that he did not desire the competition with the English Bar which would be provoked by the migration of the Irish Bar to England in search of a larger area of practice and more lucrative practice. In consequence of the comparatively limited area of practice in Ireland there was little competition there, and a barrister obtained rank much more easily in Ireland than in England. It would be very unjust to allow a man who had obtained the rank of Q.C. in Ireland to bring that rank over to England, and there take precedence over English barristers who had made their way much more slowly and with more difficulty. Thus his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland would by this Bill take rank at the English Bar over everyone except the Attorney General for England. Then there were other objections to the Bill. The King's Inns in Ireland were voluntary bodies. They could make their own rules, and Parliament had no control over them. Supposing the King's Inns chose to diminish their time for admission to the Bar to one term, while the English Inns retained the three terms, as at present, the result would be that people would go over to Ireland to be called there in order that they might afterwards be admitted ad eundem in England. He repeated that the English Bar obtained no reciprocal advantages for those which the Bill would give to the Irish Bar. As for the interchange of Judges, the right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to have forgotten that the laws of the two countries were not the same, and that a Judge could not be expected satisfactorily to administer laws with which he was not familiar. He had a great many objections to the Bill in detail; but after the radical defects he had pointed out he did not think it worth while to mention them.


said, that the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) was an instance of the manner in which Irish complaints and claims were received in that House. Whenever Irishmen asked to be put upon the same footing as Englishmen they were told—"English laws do not suit you;" and that whenever they asked for special laws they were met with the argument that no distinctions of that kind ought to be set up between the two countries. At present Irish Barristers did not enjoy reciprocal rights with English Barristers. If a Board of Trade, Revenue, or other inquiry was held in Ireland, it was always English barristers who were employed by the Government or the authorities in connection with it; while, on the other hand, Irish barristers were not allowed to attend Irish cases in England, with the exception of Appeals to the House of Lords. Therefore, he maintained that there was not equal justice done to the Bars of the two countries. A similar injustice was done in the case of the winding-up of assurance. Great injustice had been done in a recent case by preventing Irish policy-holders being represented by Irish barristers and attorneys before arbitrators employed to hear the several cases, and the same observation applied to proceedings before the Railway Commissioners when Irish counsel had not been allowed to practise even in cases relating to Irish railways. The truth was there was no reciprocity in the treatment of the two Bars, but quite the reverse. Everything was claimed for England, and the Irish Bar and solicitors were left out in the cold. He did not, however, wish to abolish the distinction between the Bars of the two countries, or to confer upon them the rights or privileges which it was the aim of this legislative enactment to extend to them. He consented to put his name on the back of the Bill upon the understanding that the principle of the Bill was that a member of the Irish Bar, if by his examination and from his having attended the required number of lectures he had shown himself perfectly competent and fit for the Profession, might come over to England and practise, or vice versâ in the case of an English barrister. They did not demand that a man should come over to England and insist on being called. He would be admitted, of course, on the lowest round of the ladder; but he asked that proficiency in Ireland should be regarded as proficiency in England? In England the Inns of Court had control, but in Ireland there were statutable enactments which did not affect England. There was no reciprocity. Take, for instance, as an example the case of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan). He had just passed his examination and kept his terms, and had. been called to the Irish Bar, having passed a most satisfactory and creditable examination, but coming over to England he had to turn about and commence again de novo. He would be extremely sorry that the Bill should go to a division, although the principle of it was one he was ready to support. He would, however, prefer if the right hon. and learned Member withdrew the Bill, and another was introduced by an English lawyer.


said, that with all respect for his right hon. and learned Friend (Sir Colman O'Loghlen), he regarded the Bill as thoroughly anti-Irish and anti-Home Rule in its scope. Remarking that, he should say, with great respect to the introducers of the Bill, it might shortly be described as for the purpose of converting Irish barristers into English barristers and Irish Judges into English Judges, and at the same time converting English barristers and Judges into Irish. Had its provision been restricted to the last operation, he should not have had so much fault to find with it, for on the principle ipsis Hibernis Hiberniores perhaps those Englishmen who were admitted to the Irish Bar might be converted into better Irishmen than, unfortunately, many of the present Irish barristers were. Prior to 1782, Irish barristers were a patriotic body of gentlemen, and in that year the most powerful eloquence in favour of Irish legislative independence came from the Irish Bar; and from the Cornwallis Correspondence he found that the most difficult task of Lords Cornwallis and Castlereagh was to overcome the opposition of Irish barristers to the Union. They were then so thoroughly Irish and patriotic that they enrolled themselves into a corps of Irish volunteers to resist, by force, encroachments on the liberties of the country, but unfortunately the Union occurred, and subsequently he found that their patriotism vanished away. He might mention as an example the case of Mr. Plunket, who was one of the most vehement opponents of the Union, but who, after it was carried, so far forgot—he would not say his patriotism—but so far forgot that he was an Irishman as to take the leading part in the prosecution of Robert Emmett, which led to the conviction and execution of that illustrious man. He mentioned this not to throw discredit on the memory of Lord Plunket, who afterwards served as Solicitor General and Attorney General for Ireland, but to show the necessary tendency of the Union to estrange the members of the Irish Bar from national feeling and national interests. The result was that there had sprung up in the minds of the Irish people a great distrust of that profession which under other circumstances would have been one of the most powerful upholders of their liberties. Hence since the Union they had gradually become the tools of successive English Governments, and since 1852 this had been exemplified in a remarkable manner. When, as some hon. Members might recollect, a so-called independent Party was formed in the House to advance the interest of Ireland, the Party was headed by Mr. Gavan Duffy, Mr. Lucas, Mr. Sadlier, and Mr. Keogh. But Keogh was not able to resist the bribe of a Solicitor Generalship, offered as the price of a betrayal of his cause. An Irishman of distinguished talent, he talked one doctrine to the peasantry of the West; but when the inducement of office tempted him, he forgot himself, and accepted what he declared he would never do. Similar instances of betrayal of the popular confidence followed to such an extent that it was scarcely possible for an Irish barrister to obtain a seat in the House of Commons without having previously shown that he was pure and beyond suspicion. The effect of the Bill would be to increase largely a system of place-giving in Ireland as the reward of political services. At present it had been said there was a place for every three barristers; but under the Bill that field would be enlarged to an almost unlimited extent—all the English places would be thrown open. He believed this Bill would not tend to improve the character or increase the patriotism of the Irish Bar. If there was any distinction between the English and Irish Bar it was this—that whereas in England barristers were made Judges because they excelled in their profession, in Ireland they were made Judges not because they were the best men, but because they were the best Party men, and the consequence of the passing of this Bill would be that Irish Barristers would be made Judges in England, not because they were better qualified than English Barristers, but because they had rendered some disgraceful political services to the English Government of the day. Considering these circumstances, he trusted the House would reject the Bill.


protested against the unfounded attack which the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) had made on Lord Plunket and Mr. Justice Keogh, two of the most distinguished ornaments that had adorned the judicial bench. The remarks of the hon. Member were really not germane to the Bill. The general principle of the proposal of the right hon. and learned Member for Clare was one which met with his entire approval. It was a mistake to suppose that any professional jealousy was felt by the English Bar in connection with this subject. For his own part, he would be very anxious to support any Bill which had for its object to establish a reciprocity between the Bars of the two countries. What he understood to be desired was that qualification in Ireland should be qualification in. England, and to this he, for one, offered no opposition, always assuming, as he thought they might safely assume, that a proper qualification was required before admission to the Irish Bar. The Bill, however, in its present shape went further than that, and was open to objections. He therefore hoped the second reading would not be pressed.


said, if they were to take the Bill of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Clare, as it stood, it would admit Irish barristers to come to England and, acting upon the authority provided by the measure, claim, according to their standing, precedence of the English barristers, and vice versâ, the English barrister might go to, and claim precedence, at the Irish Bar. Was it intended that Irish Judges should go Circuit in England and that English Judges should go Circuit in Ireland? If so, great inconvenience would necessarily arise, as the customs of the two countries were so dissimilar. There was no feeling of jealousy in the matter; and, for his own part, he would be glad if something could be done in the direction which had been indicated: but he thought it necessary, in the first place, that an entirely new Bill should be drawn up. He therefore hoped his right hon. and learned Friend would acted on the suggestions given to him and withdraw the measure.


said, he thought they might at once sweep away all notions that there could be any professional jealousy between the English Bar and their brethren in Ireland. The right hon. and learned Member for Clare had said that his object in bringing this Bill forward was to have the question debated, and the course of the debate had clearly shown that there was not perfect agreement among the members of the Irish Bar themselves as to the particular mode in which the question should be settled. Moreover, the moment the effect of the provisions of the Bill was pointed out, it seemed to be admitted that they went a great deal too far. He might mention that although it was not a common thing or a matter of right, yet at present members of the Irish Bar might be admitted by the English Inns of Court to practise at the English Bar, and there was no reason to assume that if an application with that object was properly made, it would be rejected. It ought also to be borne in mind that at the present moment the members of the Irish Bar had the same right of access as any others to the English Bar. At the same time, he would be very glad to see arrangements come to by which the members of the two Bars would be brought more closely together than they were at present. He had listened, however, in vain to hear that this matter had ever been brought before the Benchers of the various Inns of Court, or that there had been any attempt made to get the Judges in Ireland and in England to give it their consideration. Before legislating on such a subject it seemed to him that some interchange of opinion on the part of the Judges and the Benchers was most desirable. He thought the right hon. and learned Gentleman would exercise a wise discretion if he withdrew the Bill, and in the course of the Recess sought to promote that interchange of opinion. Before sitting down he felt it to be his duty, holding, as he did, a position intimately connected with the administration of justice, to say a word in justification of the character of the Irish Judges. In his opinion, the charges which had been brought by the hon. Member for Meath against those Judges were entirely unfounded.


said, this was a question in which the people of Ireland felt deep interest. He thought there might be some such improvements in the matter as suggested by the hon. Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon), without going the full length of the Bill of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Clare. He protested strongly against facilities being given to transfer Irish barristers to England. The effect would be that the business of Ireland would be left to second and third-class men, as all the first-rate men would be attracted to England. At the same time, he thought leading Irish barristers should be allowed to practise in England in business originating in Ireland and subsequently carried over to England. Some change might be made in that direction with great advantage. The area of practice at the Bar of Ireland was very small as compared with the area of the English Bar; and in great commercial cases, with which the Irish Bar had not much opportunity of obtaining experience, he thought it would be advantageous, when such cases came on for trial in Ireland, if English barristers, possessed of that knowledge which practice gave them, were to be called over to Ireland for the conduct of such questions. With regard to barristers becoming "patriots," he must say he never saw an Irish barrister yet who had good practice and became a patriot who did not lose his business. He hoped the Bill would be withdrawn, and some less pretentious measure introduced.


said, he had been absent on Committee duty upstairs when the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) spoke, and therefore could not refer to the exact words used by him; but he understood the hon. Member had made an attack of an unjust and personal nature on one whose name he had the honour to bear. He did not know that if he had heard the attack he would have condescended to reply.


wish, Sir, to be allowed to set myself right. Certainly, I did not intend any attack on Lord Plunket or his personal character. In fact, I expressly stated I did not mean to do so. I merely cited his case as an example of the injury the Union did to Irish interests in depriving the country of the services of men on whom reliance was placed as patriots.


Then on that subject he need not say more. He deemed it right, however, to refer to the imputations cast by the hon. Member for Meath, as he was informed, on Mr. Justice Keogh. Such personal attacks were frequently made in that House, without Notice, on that eminent Judge, and were wholly undeserved and unjustifiable. He would only remark that when the charges had been fairly brought up in that House for discussion and decision they had been repudiated by large majorities. However, after what the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had said with reference to that subject, it was unnecessary for him, on the present occasion, to say another word. With regard to the Bill, he hoped the right hon. and learned Member for Clare would avail himself of the suggestion of the Home Secretary, and not proceed further with it at the present time.


thought it possible that the majorities to which the hon. Member referred had been due to Party considerations, and he added that in the bonâ fide opinion of the people of Ireland Mr. Justice Keogh was not an impartial Judge.


reminded the hon. Member that the character of Mr. Justice Keogh was not the Question before the House.


said, what he wished to point out was that when Mr. Keogh's character was discussed it was decided by a Party vote.


again reminded the hon. Member that that was not the Question before the House.


said, that after the temperate speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had introduced the Bill, it was much to be regretted that the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) had made the speech they had just listened to, as Mr. Justice Keogh's conduct had been brought forward in the House of Commons and had been fully discussed and decided upon. The hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) had not said a word which really related to the proposal which had been put forward, but had instead made an attack upon an eminent dead Irish Judge, and upon one of the most eminent Irish Judges now living.


rose to Order, wishing to know whether, after he had expressly repudiated any desire to attack that eminent dead Irishman, Lord Plunket, the right hon. and learned Gentleman was entitled—having heard what he then said—to charge him with having made such an attack?


said, he would leave the character of Lord Plunket to the history of the country; but with reference to the other distinguished person who had been named by the hon. Member for Meath and to the rest of the Irish Judges who had been alluded to, he would say that he did not think any body of men——


submitted that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not in Order in discussing the character of the Irish Judges.


had only meant to say that he did not think it necessary to say a single word in defence of those eminent men, as their character was well known both in that House and elsewhere. The hon. Member for Meath in his remarks had made sweeping charges on the character of the Irish Bar; but he seemed to forget the great names that were connected with the history of the Irish Parliament. O'Connell himself was an Irish barrister, and the leader of the Party to which, he believed, the hon. Member belonged, was one of the most distinguished members of the Irish Bar. If the hon. Member had borne these and similar facts in mind, perhaps he would not have felt called upon to make the extraordinary observations he had made with reference to the Bar of Ireland. In conclusion, he would only express the hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Clare would accept the suggestions of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and withdraw the Bill.


regretted that any such discussion as that they had just listened to had arisen, and he concurred in the observations of the right hon. and learned Attorney General. He was willing to agree to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that the matter should be left to mutual communications between the Benchers in Ireland and England. He would therefore withdraw the Bill.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn: Bill withdrawn.