HC Deb 24 June 1878 vol 241 cc128-31

asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, If Her Majesty's Government will take measures to relieve Ireland of the charge of £80,000, or whatever may be the exact rateable proportion, which she now pays annually for the maintenance of Volunteer Corps in England and Scotland?


Sir, I do not see in what manner it would be possible to effect such an arrangement as the hon. Member seems to contemplate. The charge which is voted for this or any other service is, of course, to be defrayed out of the general Revenue of the country to which Ireland contributes, and there is no intention to relieve Ireland of her rateable proportion.


Sir, with a view to placing myself in Order, I shall conclude the brief remarks I intend to make with a Motion for the adjournment of the House. The reply of the right hon. Gentleman, despite the courteous terms in which it was conveyed, was, after all, a direct refusal to relieve Ireland of this great annual charge of £80,000, to which she is subject for the maintenance of English and Scottish Volunteers. And this, too, in the face of the recent refusal to allow Volunteers in Ireland itself. It is needless to say that the conduct of the Government in this matter will be viewed in Ireland with the gravest dissatisfaction. But it should be regarded with dissatisfaction in England also. Is it not an attempt to obtain money from Ireland by a system of what I shall not fear to call false pretences? You deny us the right to bear arms in the defence of our own land—a right enjoyed by every free people—and yet you say to Europe that we are free. You say in this European crisis that you can present an united front to your foreign foes, and yet you are compelled to debar 5,500,000 of the Irish people the use of arms. Do not disguise it from yourselves that this is not well known abroad. But if, in the face of this fact, you will not allow us a Volunteer Force, why take our money for the support of yours? Our country is struggling to right herself after centuries of misgovernment unparalleled in history—her population has diminished by millions, while her present resources, able to maintain double her present population, remain undeveloped and neglected. And this is the country which you would still further impoverish by abstracting from her revenues vast sums, of which this English Volunteer charge is only an example. Of course it is done insidiously, under the guise of so-called Imperial taxation; but there is in the result no difference between it and the forced loans which you tell us Russia makes in Poland. The system in either case is as ruinous to Ireland as to Poland. Of course, you say, when we demand grants for the pressing needs of our country, that the laws of political economy forbid such expenditure. But those laws do not forbid the expenditure of Irish money for the improvement of English harbours and the maintenance of London museums and even London parks. What could we not do in Ireland with such a sum as £80,000 a-year? There are questions of vital moment to Ireland which could be satisfactorily solved by the retention of even this money in the country. It is needless to point out, for it must be evident to all, what immense advantage this money would be to us in the reclamation of our waste lands. Or it would give a system of technical education to the artizan youth of Ireland. It would enable our country to take advantage of her magnificent position as the highway for trade between Europe and America, by direct steam communication between Limerick and Galway and the United States. It would enable us in some measure to realize the vast wealth which the neglected fisheries around our coasts present. Divided in fair proportions between all sections of the Irish people, it would still leave to Irish Catholics ample means for the support of a Catholic University. In the face of the recent proposal of the Government, what would it not do for intermediate education? The Government have set forth as a great boon the £1,000,000 which they propose to give for intermediate education; but that £1,000,000 would only yield about £35,000 a-year, while you take £80,000 a-year from us for your Volunteers. I might add that works of great national concern, such as the drainage of the Shannon, and the improvement and extension of the canal system, would be greatly aided if we were allowed to devote this money—which I must again repeat is ours—to such a purpose. You are always saying that Ireland's contention against England is based on what you are pleased to term "sentimental grievances." I submit I have shown to you, who are a commercial people, and boast that you reduce everything to figures, that this is no sentimental grievance, but a very practical one indeed. It is the first time it has been presented to the notice of Parliament, and I feel assured that a sense of shame must arise in the minds of all who love honour and fair play, that this injustice should exist, and when exposed should be allowed to continue. Of course I am not unmindful of the fact that you consider it a great inconvenience to have this subject brought before the House at this time. But I have to remind you that Ireland suffers a far greater inconvenience—nay, more, a grievous wrong—by being thus victimized under your system of Imperial taxation, which robs her for your benefit. I beg to move, Sir, the adjournment of the House.


I rise to Order. On a late occasion, the Speaker told the hon. Member for Meath that it was exceedingly inconvenient to raise a debate by moving the adjournment of the House. I would ask, whether, in view of any hon. Member stopping a debate upon a question which most intimately affected the three component parts of the Kingdom, he is in Order?


I have repeatedly pointed out to the House that the moving of the adjournment when Members are not satisfied with the answer to a Question is most inconvenient. In a matter of this kind the House must be the judge. If the hon. Member insists after what I have stated, he is undoubtedly at liberty to proceed with his Motion.


I am fully sensible of the inconvenience of this course; but I also think of the inconvenience to my country to have to pay this charge, and I intend to bring this subject fully before the House.


If the hon. Gentleman intends to bring this matter on in the regular way, he is now altogether out of Order in anticipating the discussion of his proposed Motion.


I fear it would be impossible to bring the subject before the House this Session, and therefore I bring it forward in this way, in order that hon. Members may have during the Recess an opportunity of considering it, so as to relieve this injustice. I move the adjournment of the House.


said, he would second the Motion. He was glad that attention had been called to the matter in the leading newspapers. The Times considered that the question deserved consideration, inasmuch as great changes had taken place in the country since 1858. He was likewise of opinion that the decision Lord Palmerston had come to in 1858 relative to establishing Volunteers in Ireland should be revived—the social and political condition of the country having so much changed since that time. It had been said that the Protestants would use their weapons against the Catholics, and the Catholics against the Protestants; but this had not been found to be the case in Canada, for there Protestants and Catholics had worked amicably together. He protested against the adjutancies being given to English officers, while Irish officers were totally excluded from such privileges. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would see some day or other that it was unreasonable to expect Irish Members to vote money for which their country could receive no benefit. The same thing might be said with regard to the Yeomanry. £74,600 a-year was included in the Estimate annually for Yeomanry, and the adjutancies of these regiments were given exclusively to English officers, Irish officers being totally excluded.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the House do now adjourn."—(Mr. O'Clery.)


remarked, that a great deal of good might be done in Ireland with the money which they were compelled to spend on Volunteer Forces. He thought they really could not have the conscience to as kIreland to pay so much for English Volunteers.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 12; Noes 306: Majority 294.— (Div. List, No. 186.)