HC Deb 23 June 1879 vol 247 cc425-6

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether his attention has been directed to numerous declarations by boards of guardians and other public bodies in Ireland stating that the extreme agricultural distress menaces large sections of the agricultural population with ruin, unless a generous abatement of rents is granted; whether he has been informed that the Catholic bishops and clergy in Galway, Tipperary, Kerry, Waterford, and other centres of agricultural industry have also declared the inability of the tenantry to pay existing rents in the present severe distress; and, whether the Government propose to take any steps to alleviate the existing distress in Ireland?


Sir, my attention has been called to the various expressions of lay opinion referred to in the first portion of the Question; but with respect to the expressions of clerical opinion alluded to later on, I have no official information, or, in fact, any knowledge at all. I need hardly say that it is a matter of deep concern to Her Majesty's Government that, unhappily, distress exists in agricultural circles in many parts of the United Kingdom; but it is a satisfaction to the Irish branch of the Government that we have reason to believe that this distress, though unhappily prevailing, is less acutely felt in Ireland than in many other parts of the Kingdom. As the hon. Member and the House are aware, an opportunity will shortly occur for the whole subject being fully considered in its entirety by the House, and, therefore, I will not enter into it at present. If, however, I rightly understand the hon. Gentleman in the last part of his Question, to ask whether the Government intend to introduce a Bill for the reduction of rents, my answer is, certainly not.


I protest entirely against the implication involved at the end of the right hon. Gentleman's answer, and I think he has treated with very unjustifiable levity a very grave subject. ["Order!"]