HC Deb 18 February 1881 vol 258 cc1224-5

asked Mr. Attorney General for Ireland, Whether it is the fact that at the recent Cork Winter Assizes Judge Fitzgerald stated in his address to the Grand Jury that "every farmer's boy in the country appeared to carry a gun or revolver;" whether most of the cases for trial were charges of forcible entry of farms, in which the parties were charged with taking possession of lands "by force and arms;" whether it is the fact that in such cases the Grand Jury had to return the Bills of Indictment to the Crown Solicitors for the purpose of having the allegations as to the use of "force and arms" struck out, there being no evidence to sustain the same; and, whether the charge of Judge Fitzgerald had considerable influence in inducing the Government to introduce the Coercion and Arms Bills?


Sir, I believe the learned Judge did, on the occasion referred to by the hon. Member, state that, as far as he could see from the official Reports furnished to him, every farmer's son or boy in some parts of the country appeared to carry a gun or revolver. With regard to the second part of the Question, a very considerable number of the cases for trial at the late Munster Winter Assizes were for the crime known as "forcible entry," which, like any other crime of violence, is generally described in the indictment as committed "with force and arms." Those technical words, however, are not at all necessary, having been long since dispensed with by Act of Parliament. In most of those cases which were tried at Cork there was, as I am informed, evidence of the assailants having carried firearms. In a few cases, however, in which it was not shown that firearms were so carried, some of the Grand Jury, misapprehending the meaning of the word "arms" in the technical formula "with force and arms," appear to have felt a difficulty about finding the bills; and to facilitate matters, as those words were wholly unnecessary, they wore struck out of the bill, the offence of "forcible entry" being sufficiently charged without them. As to the last part of the Question of the hon. Member, I must very respectfully decline to offer any answer to it. Information on that point must be obtained, if at all, from a Cabinet Minister.