HC Deb 12 April 1878 vol 239 cc1259-63

MR. O'DONNELL rose to call attention to the action of the Government in Donegal with reference to the murder of the late Lord Leitrim, and to move— That it is unconstitutional, unsuited to promote the ends of justice, and calculated to foster disbelief in the impartiality of the Law.

DR. KENEALY rose to Order. He had a Notice on the Paper prior to that of the hon. Member for Dungarvan.


said, that the hon. Gentleman was not in his place when the Motion now before the House was made, and that he had called upon the hon. Member for Dungarvan, who moved his Amendment.


Then I move the adjournment of the House.


The hon. Member for Dungarvan is in possession of the House.


accordingly proceeded to address the House. He said: I do not know, Sir, that I could better bring the facts of the case before an audience which is so largely composed of English Gentlemen than by supposing an imaginary case, which, with the substitution of a few names of persons and places, may easily afterwards be applied to the case of this deplorable murder in Donegal, and to the manner in which the Government are carrying on the inquiry for the discovery of the assassins. I would ask the House to imagine that on some morning the news appeared in the London papers that a terrible outrage had occurred in some quiet dale of Cumberland, in the midst of a population conspicuous for their law-abiding virtues, conspicuous for their patient industry, and conspicuous for the practice of their duties of family and civil life. I would further ask the House to suppose that a landlord in Cumberland, accompanied by two servants, had been suddenly attacked in a lonely part of the country, and had been shot down, and not only he, but his casual assistants and servants ruthlessly murdered along with him. Such an occurrence as that happening in Cumberland would have riveted the attention of England. But if, on further inquiry, it was discovered that while no portion of Cumberland was more conspicuous for its orderly virtues, and for the absence of vice and crime, yet, nevertheless, that that portion of what was believed to be a happy English county, had been for years practically at the mercy of one man who, by the lamentable shortcomings of the English Land Law, had been enabled to execute the caprices of some baron of a semi-barbaric stage and civilization by means of the chicanery of nineteenth century legal procedure; if, further, it had been discovered that for more than a quarter of a century these Cumberland dalesmen had been exposed to the tyranny of a mental and moral torture, that they had been in the power of a man of iron will and ruthless passion, who practically exercised absolute power—if it was known, on inquiry, that whole villages had been cleared away, that the valleys in some cases had been swept clear of their inhabitants, that over all was continually hanging the doom of eviction, or of some punishment akin to eviction; and if, Sir, it was known that in spite of all that continual harassment and torture, these wholesale evictions and that systematic extermination, the relation between the landlord and his Cumberland tenantry had never been stained by one excess of an agrarian character on the side of this unfortunate tenantry; if, further, it were ascertained that the only case in which that Cumberland landlord had been exposed to outrage, attempted violence, and attempted assassination, was when his life was attempted by the uncle of the humble girl whom he had dishonoured— ["Oh, oh!"]—it would have flashed with a strength of conviction upon the minds of all men that in such a long-tried and law-abiding community—["Oh, oh!"]—whom no extremity of suffering during 25 years had goaded to a violation of the law— it would have struck every Englishman talking to his brother Englishman that it would be in the highest degree unlikely that these peasants had entered into a widespread conspiracy of a mere agrarian character, and that the murder which had taken place would have required an enormous amount of proof to bring it within the category of mere attempts levelled against life and property, if, on further examination, it was shown that this landlord was known throughout all the Northern counties as "the bad Earl." ["No, no! and "Shame!"]


I beg to ask, Sir, if this is language which is fit to be addressed to the House of Commons?


I ask you, Sir, to protect the privilege of speech in this House, when that speech is confined to the truth.


, resuming: If such a man had been noted for his debauchery——[Cries of disapprobation.]


I ask the hon. Member whether he can give proof of what he says, or whether he is maligning the memory of the dead Earl on a matter of which he has no knowledge?


There seems to be a systematic attempt to interfere with the freedom and independence of Parliamentary speech.


The language which the hon. Member has addressed to the House is, no doubt, to be deprecated as being very strong; but, at the same time, I am not prepared to say that he is not within his right in using the expressions in question.


I have endeavoured to push my forbearance to the utmost in the case of the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. King-Harman). What I state, it will be for this House to consider the value of at the conclusion of my speech. I am endeavouring, at present, to bring the broad questions of right, of law, and of justice before the House. I have carefully taken a sort of imaginary case, and this House will be able then to find out whether that which have imagined with regard to Cumberland may be a parallel capable of application elsewhere. Sir, if it was found that this landlord, known throughout all the Northern country of England as "the bad Earl," had carried on practices of debauchery, and had carried them on not only by means of the vulgar wiles of seduction, but by means of his authority and power as a landlord—by means of the power of eviction so plentifully placed in his hands—if it was known through all the country, beyond the possibility of a doubt, commented upon in the public Press, denied nowhere and by no one, that he had placed the alternative of eviction or dishonour before the peasant girls on his property, and that when his infamous advances had been slighted, he had carried out his threat of eviction——


Mr. Speaker, I beg to say that I see Strangers.


The hon. Member, having taken notice of the presence of Strangers, I am bound to take the course I have taken upon a former occasion, and to put the Question at once to the House, Whether Strangers be ordered to withdraw?

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 57; Noes 12: Majority 45.

Agnew, R. V. Elphinstone, Sir J. D. H.
Assheton, R. Fremantle, hon. T. F.
Beresford, G. dela Poer Gibson, rt. hon. E.
Blake, T. Giffard, Sir H. S.
Bourke, hon. R. Gordon, W.
Burrell, Sir W. W. Halsey, T. F.
Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G. Hamilton, right hon. Lord G.
Charley, W. T.
Cordes, T. Heath, R.
Carry, J. P. Holker, Sir J.
Crichton, Viscount Knight, F. W.
Cross, rt. hon. R. A. Knowles, T.
Dalrymple, C. Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.
Davies, D. Lindsay, Col. R. L.
Dyke, Sir W. H. Lloyd, S.
Edmonstone, Admiral Sir W. Lloyd, T. E.
Lowther, hon. W.
Egerton, hon. A. F. Macartney, J. W. E.
Mandeville, Viscount Sidebottom, T. H.
Mellor, T. W. Somerset, Lord H. R. C.
Merewether, C. G. Spinks, Mr. Serjeant
Noel, rt. hon. G. J. Stanhope, hon. E.
Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H. Talbot, J. G.
Tennant, R.
Onslow, D. Thynne, Lord H. F.
Puleston, J. H. Wheelhouse, W. S. J.
Read, C. S. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Ritchie, C. T. Winn, R.
Round, J.
Sanderson, T. K.
Scott, M. D. TELLERS.
Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J. Gordon, Sir A.
King-Harman, E. R.
Burt, T. Lowe, rt. hon. R.
Cameron, C. Power, J. O'C.
Delahunty, J. Whitbread, S.
Gladstone, rt. hon. W. E. Whitwell, J.
Hartington, Marq. of
Hopwood, C. H. TELLERS.
Jenkins, E. O'Donnell, F. H.
Kenealy, Dr. Parnell, C. S.

After this division, Strangers were excluded, and it was understood that the debate proceeded for some hours:—at the end of which time——

Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the action of the Government in Donegal with reference to the murder of the late Lord Leitrim is unconstitutional, unsuited to promote the ends of justice, and calculated to foster disbelief in the Impartiality of the Law,"—(Mr. O'Donnell,) —instead thereof.

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

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Committee deferred till Monday next.