HC Deb 17 June 1879 vol 247 cc24-5

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether, having regard to the peaceable state of the county of Donegal, the Government have any intention of withdrawing the extra Police Force which has been stationed in Fannet consequent upon the murder of the late Lord Leitrim?


in reply, said, he must remind the noble Lord of what really took place in Donegal. There was a murder, to which it was not necessary to refer further than to call attention to the fact that three persons, including the late Lord Leitrim, were deliberately murdered under circumstances which could not leave any reasonable doubt in the mind of any candid observer that the facts connected with it were matters of notoriety in the county. Notwithstanding the offer of a very substantial, he might say, in fact, almost unprecedented, reward, no evidence whatever was forthcoming. Certain persons against whom there was primâ facie evidence were arrested on suspicion; but the evidence was not sufficient to justify the Government in putting them on their trial, and when released they were received with something in the nature of a popular ovation. Under these circumstances, it appeared to him that the neighbourhood was very justly charged with the cost of maintaining the police force which was considered necessary for the security of the district. It also appeared that persons who had no right whatever upon certain lands had, contrary to law, returned to those lands, which it seemed they had formerly occupied, and that otherwise resistance had been made to the execution of the law. The Government did not, therefore, think they would be justified in reducing the police force of the district. With regard to the contribution of the inhabitants towards the cost of maintaining the police, the Government did not intend to enforce payment of the tax now becoming due, provided any further attempt to resist the authorities was abandoned. If peace was restored in the district, no further contribution would be levied; but if any further attempt should be made to resist the law, the tax would be enforced.


Might I be allowed to ask the right hon. Gentleman, when he says that persons re-entered on the lands contrary to law, Whether there is any other case except that of a respected Presbyterian lady, the Widow Algoe, and if so, what are the other cases; and, also, I wish to ask, why the persons against whom there was not sufficient evidence were not brought to trial; and, furthermore, when the innocent men who so long suffered in prison were released, if any recompense were made to them?


Before the right hon. Gentleman answers the Question, I would ask him, Whether any contribution has as yet been levied or collected for the maintenance of this extra police?


A contribution has been levied, and partially collected. As to the Question of the hon. and learned Member for Louth, I cannot, of course, without notice, give details; but the information we have received is to the effect that there have been several such cases. As to the reasons why those persons to whom he refers were not brought to trial, I stated that there was sufficient primâ facie evidence to justify their committal; but we could go no further. Conviction is a very different matter.


Then may I understand that these men have been discharged, there being no case to warrant their being put on their trial; and, if so, are they not innocent persons in the eyes of the law?


Sir, I must really refer the hon. and learned Gentleman to the Law Officers of the Grown, if he wishes to know precisely the law on the subject; but what has taken place is this—those persons were committed for trial; they were not put on trial, but they were not discharged.