§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he wished to call the attention of the Government to the reports contained in the morning papers stating that two of his constituents had been arrested and placed in prison—namely, Mr. Murphy and Mr. Campion, of Rathdowney, in the Queen's County. He was perfectly certain these two men were among the last in Queen's County who would aid or abet any transgression of the law. It was perfectly impossible to conceive what offence they had been guilty of which would justify their arrest; but he supposed that, as had been done in other cases, the Government would be prepared to shelter themselves behind the powers which had been given to them, and under which they had already seized Mr. Doran and others, of Maryborough, and placed them in Naas Gaol. The difficulties of the 200 others who were confined in Ireland were very well stated in a letter which he had just received from Mr. John Reddington, now in prison. He said it seemed to him very unlikely that any of those now in prison would be released without signing some compromise; that he was charged with inciting to intimidation, while, as a matter of fact, he had always been most anxious to prevent breaches of the law; and that the men who felt as he did on this question should not be handed over to the tender mercies of the Government. He asked what would become of those men in prison who wanted to bring cases 733 before the Land Commissioners? He was conscious of having sinned too deeply in the eyes of the powers that be, because he ventured to assert his own right, to expect pardon, except he was prepared to sign a compromise, and, consequently, he was likely to remain in prison some time. His father and mother were old and decrepit. He had an extremely strong case to lay before the Land Commission. His landlord, although he lived within three miles of the property he occupied, never came near it, and a few years ago he raised the rent 100 per cent over Griffith's valuation. Unless he was allowed to obtain legal advice, he could not appear before the Land Commission. This man was respected throughout the country by all who knew him, and was utterly incapable of doing the thing complained of, or attempting to break the law. But, at the same time, he was a man of determination, and never hesitated to say that which he thought ought to be said, and assert his right. This man appealed for information, and he (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) thought the appeal was a very reasonable one, as to what facilities would be afforded to men like him to bring their cases before the Land Commission. This man's relatives were entirely dependent on his exertions, and were entirely unable to look after his interests. Such had been the tyranny of the landlord class that if it were not for some bold, determined spirits the great bulk of the tenants could never have been induced to assert their rights as they had done manfully during the last 18 months. He, therefore, asked the Government how they proposed to deal with these men after the rising of Parliament, when the Land Commission was at work, and what was the alleged reason for the arrest mentioned in this morning's papers of Mr. Campion and Mr. Murphy?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he was not aware the hon. Gentleman was about to bring forward this case. As to the last question, he could not answer it until he got information. If the hon. Member put the Question down on the Notice Paper he would give him what answer he could, in accordance with the previous answers he had given on these matters; but he was not in a position at present to make any statements at all upon the subject. He would take care 734 that no man who was arrested under the Protection of Person and Property Act should be, if he could possibly prevent it—and he thought he should be able to prevent it—in any way damaged in making applications in reference to his holding under the Land Act if it became law. The hon. Member wished to find out in what way he would carry out that intention. He must ask for time to consider the way in which he would carry it out. He admitted it would be unjust for a man to be deprived of his power of obtaining a judicial rent, and of having his case for a fair rent put before the Commissioners for the reasons named by the hon. Member.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, one part of the answer of the right hon. Gentleman was more or less—rather less than more—satisfactory. He stated that tenants arrested would have an opportunity of putting their case before the Court. Now, they had a great deal of experience as to the promises of the right hon. Gentleman, and it would have been more satisfactory had he been a little more explicit in his reply. Then, with regard to the other part of the question, his reply was most unsatisfactory, for they were always led to believe that no imprisonment would take place unless the right hon. Gentleman himself specially and carefully examined the charges made.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that he did examine the cases personally; but he declined to make a statement from memory when he had not received Notice and had not the Papers before him.
§ MR. BIGGAR
thought it remarkable that, having examined the cases, the mind of the right hon. Gentleman should appear to be a perfect blank on the subject. The replies of the right hon. Gentleman conveyed the impression that the right hon. Gentleman knew nothing of the case. They would require every statement made by the right hon. Gentleman put down on paper, and a rigid examination of details.
§ MR. HEALY
asked if it was the invariable rule of the right hon. Gentleman to look into every case? If that were so, it was a matter of some satisfaction, for he would rather fall into the hands of the right hon. Gentleman than those of Under Secretary Burke. They knew that the right hon. Gentleman had, unfortunately, been led astray, while the 735 bent of the mind of Mr. Burke was against the tenants. He was a most odious tyrant in every relation with his tenants. He presumed that the "reasonable suspicion" on which those men were arrested arose from the moral consciousness of the right hon. Gentleman. In the Irish Office there ought to be kept a précis stating opposite each man's name the grounds on which he was arrested.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
repeated that he looked into every case; but if he had had Notice he would have been able to give a more precise answer. He must, in the strongest possible terms, repudiate the description which the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) had given of Mr. Burke, and he defied the hon. Member to get that description endorsed by the tenants. He believed there was rarely to be found a man who was more sympathizing with the tenants or more ready to redress hardships than Mr. Burke.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.