HC Deb 25 March 1878 vol 238 cc1948-54

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether he can lay upon the Table any copy of a charge or address reported to have been delivered on the 18th instant to the grand jury of Deny by Mr. Justice Keogh; and, if there be no official record of that address, whether the report in the "Freeman's Journal" of the 19th instant may be taken as correct?


May I be permitted to intervene, in order to save the time of the House, and ask the right hon. Gentleman, Whether it is true that the proceedings to which the charge or address referred were, to a large extent, a commemoration in honour of persons who have been tried for, or convicted of, treason or murder?


And, before the right hon. Gentleman replies, may I ask, Whether the commemoration to which the charge refers did not take place on the Feast of St. Patrick, which has already been recognized as a legal holiday on the part of this House?


I will first of all say that there is no obligation resting upon Judges to furnish copies of their charges or judgments, nor are they in any way responsible to the Government. I therefore did not feel it my duty to make any inquiry upon this subject; and, as I have no means of testing the accuracy of newspaper reports, I had intended to have confined my reply to a statement of these facts. I, however, received a letter this morning from Mr. Justice Keogh, which, in justice to so highly-valued a public servant, I have no doubt the House will allow me to read. It is as follows:—

"Roebuck Grove, Miltown,

"23 March 1878.

"Sir,—Having seen a Notice given by Mr. A. M. Sullivan, of an intended Question in the House, I addressed a letter to my friend the Attorney General, of which I enclose a copy. I fear the Attorney General had left London before my letter reached him, and I am informed here to-day that he has gone to Galway on public business, and will not be in his place on Monday night. Under the circumstances, I hope you will pardon me for sending you the enclosed, to put you in possession of the facts, that you may either state them, or, if you think proper, read my letter. I am anxious that I should not be exposed to unmerited obloquy in the House, of which I was for many years a Member, and for whose good opinion I entertain the highest value.

"I have, &c,

(Signed)"William Keogh.

"The Eight Hon. James Lowther, M.P.,

"Chief Secretary."

The enclosure is as follows:—

"Judges' House, Londonderry,

"21 March 1878.

"My dear Attorney General,—I perceive by the papers that Mr. A. M. Sullivan has given Notice of his intention to ask the Government if they can lay upon the Table any authorised report of my observations to the Londonderry Grand Jury. I am not in the habit of preparing my addresses to juries, and cannot therefore furnish the Government with any such report, but I have no desire to question the substantial accuracy of that contained in 'Derry Sentinel' of Tuesday last.

"I had to comment on the very large number of persons (97 in all) awaiting their trial for party riots of every description. I deprecated their continuance, and appealed to the citizens of Derry to allow the processions which were about inarching on that day, to proceed without the violent interruption which had been threatened. In doing so, I had not for an instant in my mind any intention to speak disparagingly of what is called the 'National Festival,' and which was, in fact, past and beyond my thoughts. I had, however, before me the arches hung across the streets, under some of which I walked, the inscriptions on them proclaiming the intention of the processionists to celebrate the memory of the socalled 'Manchester Martyrs;' the portraits of Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Eobert Emmett; the 'I. B. B.' being the initial letters of the late suppressed Fenian conspiracy; 'Ireland for the Irish;' 'The Harp without the Crown;' the French flag fastened against a house wall, whilst the flag of England was not allowed to be seen. I spoke of those things as disgraceful, and I bogged of the loyal inhabitants of Derry to treat their exhibition with silence and disdain. I have reason to believe that my advice was acted upon, and that in consequence no serious collision took place.

"As I have already been misrepresented in some public journals on this subject, I trust I may rely upon you to have the matter set right should it come before the House of Commons, and in doing so you may make any use you think proper of this letter.

"Yours, &c,

(Signed)"William Keogh.

"The Eight Hon. the Attorney

"General for Ireland."

These letters will supply an answer to the Question just put to me, with private Notice, by my noble Friend the Member for King's Lynn, and also to the subsidiary Question by the hon. and learned Member for Louth.


Sir, I have to say that the extraordinary length of the defence which has been read—["Order!"] —I am about to conclude with a Motion, and can put myself in excellent Order— a course I should not have attempted to pursue if the reading of that defence, in answer to my Question, had not been so very long, going into particulars befitting more a subsequent stage of this question than that of an answer to the House. Therefore, I regret that this has put upon me the necessity of taking a course which the House generally has an objection to pursue. I wish to take this opportunity of moving the adjournment of the House for the purpose of saying that it is not correct, according to The Londonderry Sentinel report, for Mr. Justice Keogh to say that he then referred to emblems and flags, for his words were "the commemoration of that day—a commemoration nothing but disgraceful." "The commemoration of that day" was the commemoration of St. Patrick's Day, the national festival of Ireland, which is a religious festival, honoured by Protestants. [A laugh.] I hear an English Member, whom I have the pleasure of knowing, laugh at the idea of this being a religious festival. As I said the other night, we have our religious festivals in Ireland, and we know how to observe them. But in Ireland we are not in the habit of celebrating fast-days by picnics of thousands to Epping Forest and other places. I am sorry to say that in the report of the matter now furnished, the Eight Hon. Mr. Justice Keogh has attempted an equivocation. ["Order!"] I am perfectly in Order, and if I were not, I should be called to Order by the Speaker. I will produce the report in the newspaper to which he has referred, and I will prove that the report in the paper is irreconcilable with the assertion made in his defence. He referred, according to the report of the newspaper he himself has named, to the commemoration of St. Patrick's Day, about which he said there was nothing to commemorate but disgrace, and he referred to other commemorations with glowing pride and eulogium, and said they were noble and good. Those to which he referred with praise were commemorations of the spilling of blood, perhaps most justly, in rebellion against an English King. They were deeds of war, bloodshed, and struggle; whereas the national festival of Ireland, then being celebrated, which he calls nothing but one of disgrace, was the commemoration of the conversion of our country to the Gospel and the truths of Christianity. We are not about to suffer this language to pass without challenge; and the House will have an opportunity in good time for saying whether it is conducive to the respect that ought to be paid to law in Ireland that from the justice seat the anniversary of the death of the Saint who converted our country to Christianity is to be spoken of as a disgrace. I now say the attempt to put a new colour on the statement by Mr. Justice Keogh in the letter just read to the House is irreconcilable with the words he uttered, and is only, I am sorry to say, an absolute evasion of the truth. I beg to move the adjournment of the House.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Sullivan.')


Before putting this Motion, it is right that I should point out to the House that I have repeatedly called attention to the great inconvenience arising from moving the adjournment of the House when hon. Members are not satisfied with the answers they receive to Questions. That observation applies with special force upon the present occasion, when the conduct of an eminent Judge is called in question, not by a substantive Motion, according to the ordinary practice of the House, but on a Motion for the adjournment of the House.

The Question is that the House do now adjourn.


Sir, I sympathize with your objection to Motions of adjournment; but I think the blame of this Motion should be placed upon the proper shoulders. Now, this is not the first time that Ministers have availed themselves of the opportunity of answering Questions to enter into debatable matter, which places hon. Members who may venture to put Questions in a very awkward position. I think the Motion for adjournment on the present occasion more excusable than any other that we have recently heard. This is not the first time that the conduct of Mr. Justice Keogh has been brought under the notice of Parliament. It is not the first time that evidence has been brought forward to show that a gentleman is permitted to occupy a seat on the Judicial Bench in Ireland who is nothing more than a religious and political firebrand. ["Oh! oh!"] I repeat the assertion deliberately. ["Order!"] Well, I presume if I am out of Order, I shall be called to Order by the proper authority. The career of this extraordinary personage may be summed up in a few words. He is a gentleman who obtained a seat in this House by the adoption of principles which, ever since he became connected with the Government, he has availed himself of every opportunity of denouncing in most violent terms. Mr. Justice Keogh obtained his seat as the champion of Catholicism.


I rise to Order. When the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) was speaking, I own I felt very doubtful whether some Member ought not to rise in his place to put it to the hon. and learned Gentleman whether he was not entirely out of Order in a matter of this description? If he desired to challenge the conduct of a Judge upon the Bench, he should not have done it in this manner; but by a mode made to the House upon having before him the letter read at the Table of the House by the Irish Secretary. He should have moved, in the first instance, for the production of that letter. The hon. Member for Mayo, who has just spoken, will give me leave to ask him, and, if necessary, through you, Mr. Speaker, whether he can be in Order, upon a question of adjournment, to challenge the conduct of a Judge, without due notice, and describing him as nothing more nor less than a political and religious firebrand. I hope the hon. Member for Mayo will take an opportunity of withdrawing these words; for I certainly feel that expressions of this kind should not be allowed to be made without a distinct protest on the part of the House,


I am bound to say-that, in my judgment, the expression used by the hon. Member for Mayo was improper; and I consider that such an expression should be withdrawn. It appears to me that, when it is proposed to call in question the conduct of a Judge, the Member desiring to do so should take that Constitutional course which is laid down, and move an Address to the Crown.


I gladly, Mr. Speaker, withdraw any expression which you, in the exercise of your authority, declare to be improper, and express at the same time my regret at making use of it. If I had been afforded an opportunity of going briefly into the history of Mr. Justice Keogh, I think that the epithet which I applied to him would not, perhaps, have excited so much opposition. I might have quoted the testimony of one who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; who, when certain words of Mr. Justice Keogh were once brought under his notice, said he had never heard anything which formed so distinct a recommendation to assassination as the words which Mr. Keogh used when he was utilizing the religious and political feelings of the Irish people in order to obtain a seat in this House. When he had obtained a seat, and when the Government offered him a reward, which he knew could only be the prize of his abandonment of his religious and political principles, he took it. Under these circumstances, and having regard to the many scandals which have arisen in connection with the administration of justice for which Mr. Justice Keogh is responsible, I rose for the purpose of saying that the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) was justified in the course he has taken.


I rise to Order. I venture to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is competent for a Member of this House to say of one of the Judges on the Bench that he was the cause of scandal?


I am afraid those who appear anxious to pro-coed with the ordinary Business are not going the right way to achieve their purpose. It is not my intention to speak at any length, as I shall take an early opportunity of proving every one of the accusations I have made, and then we shall see whether Mr. Justice Keogh is prepared to explain them.


If it is the intention of the hon. Member to make a Motion bearing upon the conduct of Mr. Justice Keogh, this discussion is certainly most irregular.


I wish to say one word. This morning I was in possession of a letter from Mr. Justice Keogh, in which he declares that he is perfectly prepared to meet the charges made by the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan), and if the hon. Member (Mr. O'Connor Power) brings, as he says he intends to do, the case of Mr. Justice Keogh before Parliament, I am quite convinced there are many others, besides myself, who will be prepared to justify that distinguished Judge, and to do him that honour which he fully deserves, and show the honourable position which he holds in the feelings of the people of Ireland.


I beg to withdraw my Motion. I should not have made the observations which have fallen from me if the document of Mr. Justice Keogh had not been read at full length. I had not the remotest idea of raising a debate; but when a letter like that is read, which raises controversial matters, and which is so calculated to prejudice public opinion inside and outside the House, I felt it my duty to call attention to it.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.