§ MR. O'DONNELL
, in rising to call attention to the refusal of Irish magis- 1875 trates to accept bail for bailable offences, and to move—That such conduct is an abuse of the powers of the magistracy, is most unjust to accused persons, and is calculated to lower the respect for the authority of the Law in Ireland,said, this was a very serious question, and he hoped that Her Majesty's Government would return a favourable response to the claims which the Irish Members would put forth to-night on this subject, because there could be no surer or more easy way of facilitating the relations between the Irish Party and the Ministerial majority than by frankly and courteously giving an ear to complaints such as these, and endeavouring to remove the cause of those complaints. He regretted that, in making this appeal to the Members of Her Majesty's Government, he did not find even so much as one Member of the Government connected with Ireland in his place on the Treasury Bench. He could easily lay before the House in support of his case a very large number of particulars, and the single county of Galway would furnish cases of a serious character; but he had no desire to multiply unnecessarily the instances he wished to bring before the House, and he would mention those instances which might be taken as typical. In complaining of the Irish magistrates who refused to accept bail for bailable offences, he thought he was entitled to lay stress upon this fact —that the object of bail was not to allow a power to inflict punishment, but that the object of bail was simply to obtain security that the accused person should be in his place to answer the alleged offence. A magistrate, when an accused person was brought before him, was entitled to consider, if it was a bailable offence, whether he could or could not grant bail with a sufficient certainty that it would be safe for the production of the accused on his trial; but the magistrate went entirely beyond his duty, and compromised the dignity of that law which he was appointed in a subordinate position to administer, when he converted bail into a means of punishment. The conduct of a magistrate at Drumlish had already been brought before the House. The question had been asked, whether that official had not said that he would refuse to grant bail to any accused person advocating 1876 the principles of the Land League. The correctness of this version of the magistrate's words had been denied; but, on the other hand, the reporter by whom they had been recorded was positive that he had taken the statement down correctly. The Law Officers of the Crown in Ireland had declared that as a matter of fact bail had been aceepted in nearly all cases recently brought before the magistrates at Drumlish. That this should have been the case showed how salutary was the effect of discussion in the House of Commons. He would now turn to the conduct of the magistrates at Tralee in refusing bail to the residents in that town and the neighbourhood who were accused of belonging to the Land League and holding an illegal court in connection with it. It was shown that no witnesses were forced to attend this tribunal, which was merely a court of friendly arbitration, and the persons charged were most respectable, and in a position to give bail to the extent of thousands of pounds. Subsequently, a superior Court ordered their liberation on bail, but not until they had been shut up in gaol for five weeks. The point to which he wished specially to draw attention was that the magistrates who refused bail in this instance were the political opponents of the persons brought before them. Nothing, he held, could tend more to diminish the authority and dignity of the law than such conduct as that which he had described. The conduct of the magistrates towards the members of the Land League in the neighbourhood of Galway had been most oppressive. It would be an intolerable grievance to the Irish people if in the next 18 months, during which there was to be neither law nor liberty in Ireland, the magistrates of the country were to be permitted to make a law for themselves and to anticipate the action of higher tribunals in accordance with their own feelings. Unless some authoritative declaration were to be made from the Treasury Bench, it was to be feared that the Irish magistracy would go vastly outside the provisions of the Coercion Bill, and an almost unlimited power of arrest on suspicion would be exercised by magistrates of the mental capacity of the one who had been intimidated by the whistling urchin at West Newcastle. He trusted that the Attorney General 1877 for Ireland would admit that he had not dwelt on this important subject at undue length, and that he would give some assurance that the actions of the magistracy under this important Bill would be carefully supervised. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
, in seconding the Resolution, said, that it would at any time be one worthy of support; but it was especially so at a time when a Bill had just passed through that House giving increased powers to the Irish magistracy. The Irish magistracy had never enjoyed the confidence of the people, in consequence of the tendency they had shown to exceed their powers. The magistrates of Ireland had been unable to restrain their impatience and to wait for the passing of the Coercion Bill, and had been continually threatening what they would do when it became law. It was only just that the Irish people should be made acquainted with the limits within which the powers of the magistracy were confined, in order that they might be prepared to resist any undue exercise of magisterial power in violation of the law. The people should be informed that, under the Coercion Bill, it would not be legal for magistrates to lock up or arrest persons except under the warrant of the Lord Lieutenant, and that they had no power to imprison anyone for resisting the payment of an unjust rent. He hoped that the people of Ireland would assert their right to take measures against magistrates and policemen who acted in the way he had indicated. He was anxious to draw the attention of the House to the manner in which a Land League meeting had been proclaimed at Causeway, in Kerry, on the 6th of February. The reason given for proclaiming that meeting was that certain magistrates were to be abused, and that a riot was to be apprehended. There was not the slightest foundation for either of those grounds for the action that was taken. The House might suppose that the magistrates referred to in the proclamation were magistrates residing either at or near Causeway, and that any denunciatory reference to them might have exposed them to personal violence or endangered their houses or property; but that was not so. The magistrates referred to were the magistrates mentioned by the 1878 hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell), who had presided at the taking of the depositions against the executive of the Kerry Central Land League at the gaol in Tralee. None of those gentlemen resided near Causeway, or was in any way connected with the district. Some of them resided 30 or 40 miles away, and none of them nearer than 15 or 20 miles from Causeway, so that if any person had been disposed to resort to violence it would have been physically impossible for him to do so. He unhesitatingly said there was nothing like facts on which to base that proclamation, and he challenged a contradiction of the statement. He had seen the Resolutions, and there was no reference in them to the magistrates in Kerry or elsewhere, or to the magistracy as an institution. The proclamation rested simply on surmise, and the magistrates jumped to the conclusion at which they wanted to arrive. But the utmost limit of illegality was reached— and to this he wished to draw the attention of the Attorney General—when Mr. Massey, the stipendiary magistrate, read the Riot Act, and then, with the military and police, drove the people out of the village of Causeway, as if a riot had taken or was taking place. The House was aware that it was a very general practice for country people to assemble in the main street of country towns on Sundays or holidays, many of them being labourers who came for the purpose of being hired, and the others people who met there to talk and chat over different matters. But Mr. Massey, in a military sense, occupied the town and its approaches. He drove the people out of the main street. He would not allow any outsiders of the district to come in, and some of the most respectable inhabitants of the town were only able to reach their homes by going through the most humiliating process of intercession to Mr. Massey. He (The O' Donoghue) very much feared that disastrous consequences would result from the unconstitutional and illegal action of the magistrates in these matters. He submitted that it was the duty of the Government to check this conduct of the magistrates, and that the power of the magistrates in Ireland ought to be reduced to the dimensions which prevailed in England. A whole countryside, he might say, were in favour of a land meeting; but 1879 two or three landlords, who were magistrates, put their heads together and concocted a proclamation based on facts which were purely imaginary. These practices had naturally a most irritating effect upon the whole people of a district. With regard to the question of the Tralee Land League, one remarkable circumstance connected with it was, that at the end of the proceedings, which lasted several days, it was perfectly clear that the magistrates had but the very vaguest idea possible of what the persons before them were charged with. He earnestly appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to check this violent action of the magistrates. He could not signalize his term of Office in a way more beneficial to Ireland than by bringing in a Bill to repeal those Acts passed in former times, which gave the magistracy of Ireland undue powers.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the refusal of Irish magistrates to accept bail for bailable offences is an abuse of the powers of the magistracy, is most unjust to accused persons, and is calculated to lower the respect for the authority of the law in Ireland,"—(Mr. O'Donncll,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. SEXTON
regarded the matter of this Motion as of great importance and of very considerable urgency. It was of great importance because the people of Ireland were at present engaged in a struggle in which the people were on one side and the landlords on the other; and as the landlords in Ireland had in their own hands the entire operation of the magisterial power, he thought it was of very great importance that that House, at the present crisis, should narrowly watch the way in which the magistrates of Ireland used their power against the people in the cases that might arise. He thought the question was also one of considerable urgency, because the magistrates had, in several cases, resorted to the course of sending people to prison for bailable offences. With regard to the resident magistrate at Drumlish, his action was unconstitutional and illegal, and his declarations were a scandal and a disgrace on the 1880 administration of justice. This magistrate declared he would not accept bail for any Land Leaguer brought before him; and, further, that he would not accept any Land Leaguer as bail for any accused person. The only question for a magistrate in regard to a bailable offence was whether there was any probability that the accused person, if admitted to bail, would abscond. They had been told very lately in that House, by a most eminent Member of the Government, that there was no intention, either by the Coercion Bill or otherwise, to apply unnecessary vexatious measures to the members of the Land League. He presumed it was the intention of the Government to give the members of that body the same fair play and the same opportunity of appealing to the process of the law which was extended to all other subjects of Her Majesty. If that were so, he was entitled to protest against the conduct of the resident magistrate at Drumlish, and to call upon the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the Representative of the Government, to say whether an official of the Government should be allowed to overthrow the settled and Constitutional rules of law, and to substitute for them arbitrary and, he would say, silly rules of his own invention? As to the Tralee case, the conduct of the magistrates was wholly indefensible; it was a shameful and cowardly prosecution. The magistrates wore landlords, and the defendants were tenants and friends of tenants engaged in a legal agrarian struggle. The object of his hon. Friend was to prevent the Irish magistrates from being allowed to substitute their own arbitrary will for the rules which had been framed by wise men for the protection of accused persons. If an accused person was able to procure solvent bail he was entitled to be released from custody; and it required no argument to prove that a person entitled to his liberty should not be cast into prison. It did not require any argument either to prove that the recent procedure of the magistrates was calculated to lower the respect for the authority of the law in Ireland. The most unlettered of the people knew that when the magistrates sent persons to prison because of a prejudice they had against them they were craftily and in a cowardly manner exercising their authority in order to defeat a movement at 1881 which they had no other means of! striking. He hoped that the Government, remembering that they had now extraordinary powers, would see that the ordinary law was applied in a regular and honest manner. He respectfully claimed from the Government some assurance that, while they had plenary authority to imprison any man in Ireland who was disagreeable to them, at least the persons who might he brought before magistrates and dealt with by the ordinary process of the law should have the usual rights and privileges extended to them which were commonly granted in such cases.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, this question was so important that it was fully entitled to be discussed at the present moment, even though its discussion might lead to the temporary postponement of Business in itself very important and necessary to be done. If the rules laid down by certain Irish magistrates with reference to bail were to be adopted, they would lead to very serious results during the crisis which they were now facing. He had a Motion on the Paper in reference to part of the proceedings touched by his hon. Friend; but the question was much more effectively raised by the Motion now before the House. The particular question to which he wished to call attention was the conduct of the resident magistrate at Drumlish, county Longford. Contrary to the glowing statement of the Chief Secretary, he had the best authority for saying that there was no such thing as the desperate strategem represented for attacking the military, because the occurrence took place where no cover was afforded to the people on either side. But there might have been a very serious disturbance when the military, having got mixed up with the people, would have found it difficult to defend themselves. Fortunately the people were not disposed to resort to extremes, and they had the advantage of having the excellent advice of the Roman Catholic clergyman of the parish and some other gentlemen of influence. Arising out of this matter, a great number of men were arrested, and sent for trial by the resident magistrate, who announced that he should refuse to accept bail from any person who was a member of the Land League, on the plea that that body was an illegal society. The effect 1882 of that ruling would have been very serious to the accused, as there was hardly a respectable farmer in the district who did not belong to the League. Some Questions were put in the House on the matter, and, after some paltering, the decision of the magistrate in regard to bail was withdrawn. He had received information from people in the country, upon which he could implicitly rely, to the effect that Mr. Lloyd, the magistrate in question, was not himself inclined to strain the law against the people arrested. On the contrary, he availed himself of every opportunity to do what he could for them; but he had probably acted in pursuance of direct instructions from the authorities in Dublin Castle, who wished the attempt to be made tentatively of refusing bail when tendered by members of the Land League. If that was true, it became a matter of the very gravest importance; for if the magistrate had succeeded in candying out his decision, no doubt in every other case throughout the country the same course would have been followed. That would have brought about a condition of things which would have deprived the great majority of the Irish farmers of the right of giving bail, and would have left them helpless, at the mercy of the police, the magistrates, and the Castle. When they had the magistrates of Ireland almost entirely opposed to the Land League, and the whole mass of the tenant population in support of it, there was nothing more dangerous, nothing more likely to lead to disturbance, or, at least, to disaffection, than the decree set on foot, and supported by the Government, that no member of the great organization of the Land League should be allowed to be accepted as security for anyone charged oven with the most trumpery offence. It was therefore of great importance if there should be no truth in that statement that it should receive an explicit and complete contradiction on the part of the Government.
§ MR. HEALY
mentioned a case in which three men were brought before some magistrates—one of the men being charged with interrupting a meeting, and the other two with expelling him from the meeting. The man who interrupted the meeting had been sent to it for that purpose by magistrates, and was released; but the other two men were detained in custody in spite of 1883 offers of bail. When the two men were brought up the next day, one of them was fined a shilling, and the other was dismissed. What object had the magistrates in refusing bail? It must be to punish the people. All the magistrates were landlords, and that was the way in which they dealt with the people. The Government supported these landlord magistrates; they did not listen to the appeals that had been made to them to appoint to the Bench solicitors and other gentlemen unconnected with the land. The magistrates were personally interested in half of the cases brought before them. It was true that when a case was called on, in which one of the magistrates present was personally interested, he said—"I won't adjudicate in this case;" but he gave a hint to the magistrates as to how they should deal with it. The magistracy were a festering sore on the face of the country, and must be altered before any improvement could come.
§ MR. DAWSON
observed, that if there were an impartial magistracy and a pure administration of justice in Ireland, there would be far less necessity for having in that country the best of our troops, who might be sent to other places, where perhaps their veteran courage and skilled discipline would come more to our aid. He would give the case of Carlow County, as one with which he was specially acquainted. In that county there was an overwhelming majority of Catholics. Yet out of 5 3 magistrates there were only two Catholics, and 49 out of the 53 were landlords. If a similar state of things existed in Bulgaria, and a Christian population were governed solely by Turkish Mahommedan officials, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would denounce that state of things and enlist with him the sympathies of the House. He (Mr. Dawson) contended that when a case came before the magistrates of Ireland the matter was judged before the complainant had opened his lips. Therefore he held that the question of the Irish magistracy was one which ought to come before the House of Commons with great force at, the present moment. It was all very well to say that there was an unwritten law, but what was the cause of it? Was it not that the law of the land was put in the hand of those who hated the Irish people. Why, laws of such a 1884 character as that were enough to disgrace the Statute Boob of even the irresponsible Sultan of Turkey. The continuance of the present unjust system in Ireland would leave England before the world in the position of sending out raw and unfit troops to sustain their rule in remote parts of the world, while they kept the flower of their Army to keep in subjection people who, if fairly and justly treated, would be their strongest allies in the hour of danger, and a model to the rest of the population of the country. The Irish people were an integral part of the Empire. They paid their quota of taxation. They furnished soldiers to the Army and sailors to the Navy; but in laws they were not equal. The fact that the magistrates had refused bail in the cases referred to proved that the magistrates of Ireland did not meet the necessities of the case, and were utterly against the sympathies of the people, and this endangered the British rule in that country.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, there seemed to be a misapprehension in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite as to the functions of the Executive Government with respect to the magistracy in Ireland. He thought if there was one principle more firmly established than another in our system, it was that the judicial establishments, high and low, should be kept, as far as possible, from the influence of the Executive. The duties of the magistrates in granting or refusing bail were regulated by statute. For many of the less serious offences the magistrates had a discretion to grant or refuse bail. Parliament had thought fit to commit that discretion to the magistrates, and unless fraud or improper motives were proved that discretion ought not to be called in question here. He did not understand hon. Members opposite to allege that the magistrates, in refusing bail, had acted corruptly and wrongly. ["Hear, hear !"] We'll, he did not think that that was the charge of the hon. Member who had brought forward the Motion. Some instances had been cited to the effect that some of the magistrates in Ireland had exercised their jurisdiction of refusing or granting bail with harshness and severity. He wished to take the earliest opportunity of stating that the action taken by the magistrates in the cases referred to had been, as far as he could see, 1885 quite right. One case referred to was that of a number of persons charged with riot at Galway. In the case of a charge of riot bail might or might not be allowed; and in that case the magistrates, in the exercise of their discretion, did not allow bail. Another instance cited was that of a procession of troopers and men belonging to the Holycross Land League, who entered the demesne of a lady and perambulated it and terrified her. For an offence of this kind the persons charged were refused bail. The question of granting bail in that case was brought before the Queen's Bench in the shape of a Motion. The reason given there for the refusing bail was that the riot was a serious one, and that any reasonable bail that might be asked for would be sure to be forthcoming, owing to the connection of the persons accused with the Land League. The Queen's Bench affirmed the decision of the magistrates, and held that in that instance it was right to refuse bail. In other cases reliance might be placed on the security of bail that the person charged would be forthcoming on the day of trial; but if Land Leaguers, or other members of a body possessed of ample funds, wished to avoid a trial, the forfeiture of £100 or £200 would not prevent their failing to appear to answer the charge against them. The next case referred to was where persons had been refused bail for a riot at Drumlish; but the same argument also supported the action taken by the magistrates with reference to the accused persons. Other cases had been referred to; but he might remind hon. Members that where there was the least ground for complaint as to the action of the magistrates in refusing to grant bail for bailable offences, there was a remedy by appeal to the Court of Queen's Bench. The Tralee case was one of a peculiar and novel character; and not only was it a novel case, but it was also a very serious one. That matter had been taken before the Court of Queen's Bench, and that Court had held that it involved a very high misdemeanour, which even nearly approached treason. The House had been told that the confidence of the people of Ireland in the magistrates was utterly destroyed by their action in the instances referred to. He hoped that this was not the case, and that the House would 1886 not think there was anything to deserve the condemnation that would be involved by the passing of this Resolution. He appealed with some confidence to hon. Gentlemen opposite as to whether, upon the whole, the magistrates deserved the very sweeping charge that was made against them in this Resolution of having abused the powers they were called upon to exercise in the cases brought before them. He would put it, indeed, to the hon. Gentleman who had moved the Resolution whether he thought it worth while to press it to a division.
MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
said, that his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland had met the Motion in a candid and courteous spirit; and he concurred in the opinion expressed by him that a sufficient case had not been made out to justify the House in passing the Resolution. The discussion, however, which had taken place had not been without its uses. He had given a considerable amount of attention to proceedings of magistrates in Ireland, and had come to the conclusion that they had reversed the principle of law on the question of bail. That principle was that all offences were primâ facie bailable. No doubt statutes had been passed restricting, in certain cases, that Common Law principle under which magistrates ought not to inflict punishment before trial; but merely take steps to insure that the accused person would be present to take his trial. In many instances, however, the Irish magistracy, instead of proceeding on the principle of admitting all persons to bail except in extreme cases where they might be expected to refuse bail, had rather gone in the opposite direction, and had, practically, refused bail in all agrarian cases. He wished to point out that, in many cases, this refusal of bail by the magistrates was, practically, a denial of bail altogether. It was idle to point out that all such persons had a right to appeal to the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland, because it must be plain that in the great majority of cases the expense of finding solicitors and counsel was so great that an appeal was, practically, beyond the reach of the parties. Take the Tralee case. The Attorney General said that was a serious case, because a number of persons were charged with holding a Land League Court. An offence of that kind might 1887 under certain circumstances, be very gave and serious, approaching to the character even of high treason; but, on the other hand, it might be an exceeding venial offence; and if all that took place was the seeking to treat certain disputes as to the ownership of land by the quasi-arbitration of this Court, it was giving it too dignified a name to call it misprision of treason. The person charged was a householder and the proprietor of one of the principal papers in that part of the country; and it seemed to him an exceedingly hard case to suggest that he should be sent for trial and be kept waiting in prison until his trial, so that he received punishment before his guilt or innocence had been determined. It was important at this time that the great Constitutional right of the accused to bail should be jealously and carefully guarded, for the reason that these so-called agrarian offences were dealt with by the magistrates, who composed the very class against whom they were supposed to be directed.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
expressed his regret at the absence from the House of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
, resuming, said, that as the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland had now returned to his place he hoped that be would have the politeness to remain and listen to his speech. With all deference to the argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) maintained that this extraordinary state of things existed in Ireland—that those who as members of the Privy Council directed prosecutions were Judges of the land, the executive and judicial functions being thus combined. The resident magistrate also usually acted as a detective, being instrumental in getting up cases on which he afterwards adjudicated.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
contended that it was so, and that the magistrates received their instructions from Dublin Castle, as was shown in the case of the Chief Secretary's recent Circular. The 1888 magistrates knew as well as possible what Dublin Castle wanted, and they acted accordingly. He regretted to find that the White boy Acts were not to be allowed to become absolete. Those barbarous and iniquitous Acts wore a disgrace to a civilized Government; and if the official duties of the right hon. and learned Gentleman (the Attorney General for Ireland) had left a spark of generosity or manly feeling in his breast he would, before leaving Office, endeavour to have them removed from the Statute Book. These laws enabled the Courts to inflict punishment so severe as transportation beyond the seas for life for what ought to be offences against the Civil and not against the Criminal Law. With regard to the question of bail, it was simply a mockery of justice to tell the poor tenant farmers and shopkeepers living in remote districts that they could appeal to the Court of Queen's Bench in Dublin, for many of them could not even afford the railway fare to Dublin, much less the expense of £15 or £20 in feeing counsel. And supposing a poor tenant did go there, he would find a landlord on the bench, or a sympathizer with the landlord, or a Rabagas who had risen from the National politics of his youth to the anti-National politics of his age; or, to use the phrase of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, "from dirt to dignity." He could give an instance of the class of magistrates in the locality with which he was acquainted. The other day a magistrate got drunk—not an unusual course with those functionaries, he could assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman—and was locked up by the police. A brother magistrate came, and he did not know that he was any better so far as sobriety was concerned, and let him out on bail. The next day one magistrate adjudicated the case of the other, and the magistrate who had offended the law and had been locked up was fined a penny. The dissolute landlord and magistrate class had the right of public meeting in their hands, could disperse meetings; and if a declaration was made that there was a riot they could shoot down the people. The landlord tracked the tenant through every phase of his private, social, and political life. The House had often of late heard the grounds upon which the Chief Secretary had brought forward his coercive measure. It was that there was 1889 a village tyrant and a dissolute ruffian in every part of Ireland. He could tell the House that there were village tyrants and dissolute ruffians in every part of Ireland; but they were the Irish landlords, and not the Irish tenants. That was a fact as notorious as any fact in Irish history. A more ill-conducted, dissolute, and vulgar body of men did not exist. Paltry and petty in their ideas, drunken and mean in their character, they had side by side the pride of the Spanish Hidalgoes and the meanness of the lowest members of society; and these were the men who swaggered and dispensed the law from the judgment seat.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: —Ayes 85; Noes 18: Majority 67.—(Div. List, No. 98.)
§ Main Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. M'COAN
, who had on the Paper a Notice of Motion to the following effect:—That the present constitution of the Irish Magistracy and the whole body of the county officials throughout Ireland was incompatible with the proper administration of justice and operated inequitably as against the Catholic population of the county;said, that, though he understood the Motion could not now be put, he gladly availed himself of an opportunity of ventilating the subject which he had vainly sought earlier in the Session. If he was not provided with statistics to support his allegations, the fault was not his but that of the Government, who refused the Return which would have enabled him to quote chapter and verse for every statement he should make.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. M'COAN
proceeded to say that the main facts of the case were sufficiently notorious to form the foundation of some remarks which might not un-usefully be addressed to the House. In calling attention to the magistracy and the general body of officials in Ireland, it was no part of his intention to attack either the class or individuals belonging to it; and, being a Protestant himself, he could not be suspected of being in- 1890 fluenced in this matter by any religious bias. But the constitution of both bodies was eminently unsatisfactory. The grand objection to the magisterial body in Ireland was that while 9–10ths of the population were Catholic, 19–20ths of the magistrates were Protestants. It might be said the reason of that great preponderance of Protestants on the Bench was the difficulty of finding properly educated and qualified Catholic nominees. There might be something in that; but it did not entirely account for the enormous disproportion that existed. In the county of Wick-low, which he had the honour to represent, which was essentially a Catholic county, there were 93 magistrates, only three of whom were Catholics, 80, at least, of the remaining 90 being either landlords or land agents, who constituted a class that was antagonistic to the great body of the agricultural population in interest, feeling, and faith. Now, he knew a score, at least, of Catholics whose position, wealth, and social status qualified them for the Commission of the Peace; and yet it was many years since a single Catholic had been appointed. In Carlow County there were 52 magistrates; and of them 50 were Protestants, and two Poman Catholics, and 49 were landlords, or agents of landlords. In other counties there was the same disproportion, and the like might be said of the official classes generally— that was to say, the Lord Lieutenant and Deputy Lieutenants, Clerks of the Crown, Clerks of the Peace, Clerks of Petty Sessions, Crown Prosecutors, and members of Grand Juries—all were composed of Protestants in the same vast disproportion. What was the result, practically, of a great administrative caste composed in this way? Of these gentlemen individually and collectively he did not wish to say a word beyond this, that very substantial injustice was done to the great body of the people. There was a universal want of confidence on the part of the Catholic population in a magistracy thus composed. The Grand Juries administering county finance were nearly all Protestants; and the allegation was that they employed the money in Protestant rather than in Catholic channels. There was an unbroken chain of abuses running through the whole of these administrative functions. The fault did not lie with the present or the late 1891 Government. The evil had been patent for many years, ever since the Union. One especial reason for calling attention to this state of things now was to be found in the Bill which had recently passed that House and the new powers given by it to the Government. Those new powers would not be confined to the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary, as they must of necessity be at the mercy of a whole army of subordinates, including Protestant police-inspectors. The magistrates in Ireland consisted of two classes—the great unpaid, and the stipend diaries, called "resident" magistrates. The unpaid were mainly landlords and land agents. No doubt, many of these gentlemen were perfectly competent to discharge the duties committed to them, and did credit to the Petty Sessions Bench; but they had the fundamental disqualification that they were essentially Protestant, and the only way to cure that evil was to leaven them by a considerable addition of Catholic colleagues. More objection attached to the resident magistrates than to the others. They consisted largely of ex-Army officers. They were the nominees of Lords Lieutenant of counties and of the large landowners, and they were usually men who had failed in some other calling, and whose appointment was secured by jobbery and influence at Dublin Castle. At the same time, there were at the Irish Bar many thoroughly sound lawyers who, although they had not succeeded in their profession, were well qualified to discharge the duties of resident magistrates, and who would be glad to accept these appointments if they were thrown open, as they ought to be, to those who were best fitted by education and training to fill them. Therefore, his suggestion would be, as he could not press his Motion to a division, that it was expedient and desirable that a large addition should be made to the Catholic element in the county magistracy, there being admittedly abundant material for the purpose; and as regarded the stipendiary portion of it, the Attorney General for Ireland was a better judge than he was how far such a reform as he had suggested was advisable, and how much available material for the purpose there was in the Four Courts. He should at the earliest opportunity, at a later period in the Session, endea- 1892 vour to shape a Motion on the question which would enable the House to have it discussed at greater length, and take such action as the proper administration of justice and fair play to the Irish people required.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, the question brought under the Notice of the House by the hon. Member for Wicklow (Mr. M'Coan) was one of the first magnitude. It would be an important one at any time; but it was especially so at the present time, when exceptional powers were to be placed in the hands of the Executive of Ireland. It was a long time since Parliament granted Catholic Emancipation; but it had not yet become a reality in Ireland. In 1833 and 1834 this subject was discussed in a manner and spirit which amounted almost to an impeachment of the Government of that day; and the evils which then prevailed existed now. Lord Mulgrave, who was Lord Lieutenant, and the permanent Secretary, the lamented Mr. Drummond—a man thoroughly worthy of the position which he filled — perceived the evils which existed, and they set themselves to remedy them; but what was the effect of their policy? Why, the whole magistracy of Ireland combined against them, and the conduct of those men who had laboured so much for Ireland was debated in that House—they had to submit to the "Boycotting" of the age in which they lived. The magistracy of Ireland now were very much the same as Lord Mulgrave found them in 1834; and what he (Mr. Sullivan) wanted to impress upon the Government was that a change in the system was absolutely necessary. When Catholic Emancipation was being passed, alarmed Protestants said it would extinguish Protestant ascendancy; and Sir Robert Peel gave a reply which breathed the spirit of all English legislation for Ireland. He said that to render Roman Catholics eligible to sit on the Magisterial Bench was one thing; but to allow them to get the appointments was quite another. Mr. Froude had commented strongly on the fact that emancipation in this respect was still so far from being a reality. No doubt, it was a great concession that there were Catholic Judges on the Bench in the Four Courts in Dublin; but it was in the Petty Sessions alone that the administration of justice 1893 was brought home to the masses of the people, and it was there they were affected, by class prejudices and traditional oppression. In Ireland the landlord class, from whom the magistracy was recruited, differed from the mass of the people in personal interest, in political feeling, and in religious profession; whereas in England the magistracy in the rural districts was divided from the population by the distinction of property alone; and, consequently, the country gentlemen who acted as magistrates looked upon the people as being under their protection and care. In Ireland magistrates conducted themselves as if they were acting in the interests of a garrison, watching the white Kaffres around, and noting their sullen discontent and active sedition. Magistrates, in fact, appeared to think that they were appointed more for the purpose of maintaining what they considered to be the rights of property than for that of administering the law. In nine cases out of ten in Ireland the appointment of a man as magistrate depended upon his being the owner of broad acres, or the agent of a landowner. But another qualification was also necessary—namely, that the candidates should conform to the political prejudices of the Lord Lieutenant of the county. The post of magistrate, he held, should not be given as a reward for Party servitude. The Irish Representatives considered it their duty to bring this question before the House, as they felt that the people would never recognize religious equality while the present state of things existed. He knew a case in which a gentleman— Mr. John Warren Payne, a gentleman of great ability and great influence, one for whom, personally, he had the greatest respect, the agent of the Earl of Bantry —sat on the Petty Sessions Bench, in a a court-house situated on his Lordship's estate, and tried men for trespassing in search of underwood in the demesne. In that case the people could scarcely regard him else than as prosecutor and judge, and could have no sufficient confidence in his impartiality. Surely such a circumstance as that was not calculated to increase the confidence of the people in the administration of justice. He would only add, in conclusion, that his hon. Friend (Mr. M'Coan) had called attention to this matter in the hope of eliciting from the Government a declaration that the 1894 present system would receive their earnest attention, and that the Lord Chancellor would in future be permitted to select candidates for magisterial appointments without reference to the nominations of Lords Lieutenant of counties, who were, in many cases, political partizans.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR, IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
regretted exceedingly that now, for the first time for a great many years, there had been introduced into that House what he might, perhaps, designate as an unseemly controversy—that religious persuasion should be a qualification for the administration of justice. He thought at last they had arrived at a time when justice might be administered without regard to whether the administrator of justice worshipped according to the convictions of his own faith in one Church or in another. He could not, however, fail to recognize the thorough sincerity of the hon. Members who had brought this subject forward, and who had shown a moderation which deserved respect, if not admiration. With reference to the first part of the Motion, he had to point out that the magistracy in Ireland consisted of four classes. The first class were the resident or stipendiary magistrates, appointed by the Government; and on looking through the list of those among the resident magistrates whom ha knew, he had found that at least 14 of them — there might be more—professed the Catholic faith. The next class of magistrates was composed of the borough magistrates, who were appointed by the Lord Lieutenant. His hon. Friends would find that there was no instance of the appointment of a borough magistrate being due to his religious persuasion. In the third class were the Town Council magistrates, appointed under the Towns Improvements Act. In their case, the Council recommended a person to be appointed by the Lord Chancellor, and the person so recommended was always appointed. The county magistrates formed the remaining and largest class. There was no difference whatever between the mode of their appointment and the appointment of county magistrates in England. The Lord Lieutenant of the county, who was usually the custos rotuiorum, was considered to be the person best qualified, from the sources of information 1895 at his command, to recommend to the Lord Chancellor the persons most fitted for appointment to the Bench. The recommendations made by the Lord Lieutenant of the county wore examined by the Lord Chancellor, with whom the initiative did not lie. There were, however, exceptional cases in which persons had been strongly recommended to the Lord Chancellor as persons who ought to be placed in the Commission of the Peace, but not by the Lord Lieutenant of the county. The course adopted in that case was that the Lord Chancellor inquired the reason why such a person had not been recommended to him by the Lord Lieutenant of the county, and, if it had happened by inadvertence, the Lord Chancellor required the recommendation to come to him through the regular channel. But if the reason for the omission was not satisfactory, the Lord Chancellor had jurisdiction, which, however, was rarely exercised, to appoint without a recommendation from the Lord Lieutenant of the county. Having occasion last Session to make some inquiries upon this subject, during the absence of his right hon. and learned Colleague the Attorney General for Ireland through illness, he (the Solicitor General for Ireland) had received a letter from the Lord Chancellor, from which he would read extracts to the House. His Lordship said—As to how many Catholics qualified for the commission of the peace have applied to the Lieutenants of counties, and been rejected, the I have been in my own time very few indeed.And his Lordship further proceeded—I have always regretted the disproportion between the number of Episcopalian Protestants, Catholics, and Presbyterians in the magistracy of the counties; and I have felt that to inspire the people with confidence in the administration of justice everything practicable should be done, notwithstanding the disparities of wealth and position—[which make the difficulty]—for the purpose of redressing this inequality. I have striven to do so whenever I have had an opportunity of interference, and fit and qualified candidates for the commission could be found.How was it, then, that the state of things described by the hon. Member could have occurred?
§ MR. M'COAN
said, he did not mean to say that persons recommended had not been accepted; but that there were Catholics who were well qualified for the Bench who ought to have been appointed.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
How was it, then, that persons properly qualified had not been brought under the notice of the Lord Lieutenant of the county; and, if passed over by him, that an application was not made to the Lord Chancellor? Was it not a little too much to complain that persons were not appointed, when the necessary stops were not taken to lay information before the persons who had power to appoint?
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
said, it was no hint, but was a fact which was perfectly well-known in Ireland. The hon. Member had been so long absent from Ireland that he was not as well acquainted with the facts of the case as others were. The Lord Chancellor proceeded to say that there was a settled system which gave the initiative to the Lords Lieutenant of counties; but that since he came into Office last May — and his letter was written in August—he had not received a single complaint with which he could deal. Was not that an answer to the case that Catholics were not appointed to the Commission of the Peace? He would pass from the Lord Chancellor's letter to refer to the county with which he was himself the most familiar, and in which he had lived the greater part of his life, the county of Cork. The Earl of Bandon, a Conservative by family and tradition, and a Protestant, was Lord Lieutenant of that county. During the three years his Lordship had been in office he had appointed, or rather recommended the appointment of, 67 magistrates. The county measured about 80 miles from cast to west, and 40 from north to south. The great bulk of the landed property belonged to Protestants. The hon. and learned Member for Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan), a Cork man, would, bear him out in his statements. Of those 67 magistrates 26 were Catholics. He (the Solicitor General for Ireland) had recently had occasion to recommend to Lord Bandon for the Commission of the Peace a Catholic magistrate, and the application was hardly made when the appointment was complete, and the gentleman was now sitting on the Bench at Mallow. Within the last few days he again had occasion to bring under 1897 the notice of the same Lord Lieutenant of the county a gentleman for the Commission of the Peace in a district where a magistrate was needed, and the gentleman he recommended was a Catholic engaged in commercial pursuits. [Mr. M'COAN: In Mallow?] No, not in Mallow. The hon. Gentleman was wrong again. He was a gentleman who had won his spurs in commerce; and it was very much to be regretted that, owing to the false pride that pervaded the country, there were not more Irishmen willing to win their spurs in the same manner. At all events, as far as the county of Cork, the largest county in Ireland, was concerned, it was not open to the reflection that none were appointed to its magistracy but territorial aristocrats. The Earl of Bandon had informed him that there was not a Catholic in the county properly eligible for appointment to the Bench whom he would not be happy to recommend.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
replied, that the Lord Chancellor did not refer to Cork; but his own observations were directed to that part of the country with which he was personally acquainted. He would next deal with that part of the question which related to county officials. He would again ask the hon. and learned Member for Meath, whose knowledge was probably more extensive than his own on this subject, to confirm what he said. As to contracts, he would say that five-sixths of them were given to Catholics, because by far the larger proportion of the contractors professed that creed. He had hoped, however, that these miserable distinctions of creed on such questions were forgotten and buried in the past. It was by no means uncommon for Catholics to be appointed High Sheriffs and to be chosen as foremen of Grand Juries. He thought that the redress of the grievances complained of lay in the re-constitution of county government, and he believed the present Government would act upon the principle that representation ought to accompany taxation. It was to the future, and not to the past, that they were to look for the redress of all those matters which they had been taught to consider grievances and wrongs. This Govern- 1898 ment was going to remedy the grievances; and one of the greatest misfortunes was that, owing to matters to which he should not further refer, this reform had been so long postponed. In conclusion, he hoped the hon. Member would be sufficiently satisfied with having called attention to the subject.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
thought the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman was very satisfactory, and had confidence in the intentions of the Government to introduce measures of redress. But he did not think that the appointments to the Bench should be confined solely to landlords. He thought the Government would, under the peculiar circumstances of the country, see that large tenant farmers should be put upon the Bench. It would contribute a great deal to the fairness of opinion of the Bench; for in Ireland the magistrates were not merely the administrators of justice, but they influenced the local appointments and the general management of the poor law in the neighbourhood. The tenants were, at present, unrepresented to a very largo extent on the Commission of the Peace. He had no complaint to make so far as his own county was concerned; but there was one particular part, Connemara, which was in a bad way, nine-tenths of the magistrates being Protestants among a population 95 per cent of which was Catholic. The Government would require to watch very closely that the recommendations of Members of Parliament were attended to by the Lords Lieutenant, so that an adequate number of Catholics were appointed. They did not ask for as many Catholics as Protestants—they did not desire a revolution—but they certainly desired a change from the present system.
§ MR. FINIGAN
urged that the time had come when the religion of a man should no longer bar him from holding the office of a magistrate, or from fulfilling any other official position. Dublin Castle was notoriously corrupt, and the officials, with the exception of the Lord Lieutenant, trod in the paths of injustice and prejudice towards Ireland. Their policy was directed to the keeping up of the garrison system in Ireland, and the retention of the magisterial power in the hands of the dominant class. The Lord Lieutenant was, more or less, a mere signatory power in the hands of these 1899 officials, who seldom did any act of justice irrespective of creed or politics. As to politics, he would sooner have Conservative than Liberal magistrates, for the former were of a higher class, and he had found them more straightforward in their policy than many so-called Liberals. In illustration of his argument against the present system of selecting magistrates, he might refer to the case of a certain young nobleman who, when he was thought unfit to remain in the Army, even as a private, was raised to the dignity of a county justice in the model county of Cork. Another instance he might mention was that of a large landowner, of very eccentric ideas, in the county of Clare. That gentleman had not only manufactured two of the outrages which were reported in the Returns now lying on the Table of the House; but when he had a difference of opinion with a brother magistrate, he pointed a pistol at his head and asked him to go and settle the matter outside. In conclusion, however, he might add that it was not against the men, but against the system, that he argued and protested; and he contended that magistrates ought to be chosen who had the confidence of the people, and not simply 011 account either of landlord influence, or of their readiness to acquiesce in every act of the officials of Dublin Castle.
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
said, he could not admit that the statement which had been made by his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland with respect to the magistracy of the county of Cork was strictly correct. He quite agreed with the hon. Member who had drawn attention to this subject as to the necessity for putting other persons upon the Bench than merely landed proprietors. The names of gentlemen who, to his knowledge, were well qualified for the Commission of the Peace had been before the Lord Lieutenant of the county for the last 12 months. As to its being the fault of Members of Parliament or others interested in recommending Roman Catholics that they had not applied to the Lord Chancellor, he confessed that, up to the time when his hon. and learned Friend spoke, he, for one, was in complete ignorance that that was the case, having thought that the Lord Chancellor would not interfere except in the most glaring instances.
§ MR. BYRNE
complained that magistrates in Ireland were chosen from Party motives and as the reward of Party services. Too much weight was also given to property qualification, to the neglect, sometimes, of moral character. He knew of an instance in which a magistrate was drunk six days in the week, and caused great public scandal by his intemperate habits. He must remind the House that the magistrates had the administration of the Licensing Acts in their hands. They could grant licences to every man, and allow public-houses to be established at every cross-road; and, on the other hand, they could refuse licences, so that people could not get the refreshments they required. They had power to commit people to prison or to release them on bail according to their whims or fancies. They had also everything to do with the police arrangements and the disbursement made in connection with the Grand Jury system. The Poor Law in the country also made a large number of the magistrates ex officio guardians, and thus they had the administration of the poor rates. Such men ought to be thoroughly schooled in law, instead of being almost entirely ignorant of it. He believed there was a case where a magistrate know so little of the law that he had ordered the military to fire on the people without himself having taken the precaution to read the Riot Act. As to the county officials, they were all of the same religious persuasion as the other dominant classes, and even the governors of gaols were not Catholics. All these officials had no interest in the people, and had no feeling for them. The magistrates and officials ought not only to be humane men, but well qualified, so as to administer justice in the country in a manner that would cause everyone to respect the law.
§ MR. CALLAN
regretted that the hon. Member for Wicklow (Mr. M'Coan) brought forward this subject at so inopportune a moment. It was a question which ought to be discussed on its merits, and not as a stop-gap. That being his opinion, he would not have intervened in the debate but for the letter of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland which the Solicitor General for Ireland had read. It was well known that Lord O'Hagan was elevated to the high position of Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1869, not on account of his ability or of his knowledge of law, but expressly for the pur- 1901 pose of inspiring confidence among the Roman Catholics of Ireland that the social and class inequalities which existed in the country would be redressed. So great were the inequalities in Ulster, that in 1871 a Commission was appointed by Earl Spencer to inquire into the complaints made by the borough of Dungannon. The Lord Chancellor, in his remarks on the Report then made, commented in decisive language on the unfair and unrepresentative character of the Tyrone magistracy, among whom Catholics and Presbyterians were almost unknown. Lord O'Hagan left Office in 1874, having been Chancellor for five years; but the state of affairs at the end of his tenure of Office was absolutely worse than when he entered on his functions. For many years past it had been very difficult to procure the appointment of Roman Catholic magistrates, and political interest and political manoœeuvres had often been used with that object. Thus, in 1868, Mr. Chichester Fortescue had undertaken to advocate such appointments, in order that, on taking Office, he might be re-elected without opposition for Dundalk. But the change had not been made in places whore it was not equally necessary to nurse Whig interests. In Donegal, for instance, the Roman Catholic Bishop had complained that the magistrates were exclusively Protestants. He could not refrain from supporting the Amendment, as he regarded the question as having, not merely a social, but a sectarian as well as a political aspect, and as being one which demanded and required the earnest consideration of the Government.
§ MR. LITTON
, in supporting the Amendment, said, he was convinced that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland felt acutely the position in which he was placed with regard to the magistracy. No one could shut his eyes to the fact that the Roman Catholic magistrates were few in Ulster, and the Lord Chancellor would be glad to remedy the defects of proportion to population; but the appointments were always made on the recommendation of the Lords Lieutenant of counties. That power was the usual preliminary one. It was solely used by those gentlemen; and, unfortunately, some of them resided out of the counties and know little of the persons fitted for the Bench, and conse- 1902 quently their common excuse was that they had no personal acquaintance with those gentlemen who were brought under their notice. There were many Roman Catholic gentlemen who were entitled to seats on and who would adorn the Bench, and who would administer the law with honour to themselves and credit to their country; but they were not known to the Lord Lieutenant, and therefore they were not recommended and not appointed. It was, however, a most fallacious argument to say that because the Roman Catholic population was the larger, therefore the Roman Catholic magistrates should be in proportion, because there were many reasons why that should not be so. He believed that a Lord Chancellor of Ireland could not, even for a Party purpose, take a case of candidature for the magistracy out of the ordinary course. Of this he was quite sure—that the present Lord Chancellor could not and would not do so.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, he quite agreed with the course taken by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and that it was the system which they attacked and not individuals. He would, however, dismiss that question, and call attention to the Notice which he had placed on the Paper, which was—That the Law regulating the application of 'fines' and fees in Petty Sessions Courts—Ireland, ought to be assimilated to that existing in England.In his opinion, the grievance which had been brought before the House was largely traceable to the fact that in the case of petty sessions clerks' remuneration, and that of other officials, its amount depended to a great extent upon fees on conviction. It was the interest, therefore, of those officials that the number of convictions should be multiplied. The same had been the case in this country until the Howard Society brought the matter before Parliament, which, in the course of a single Session, redressed the grievance; and he, therefore, hoped it would, with the same promptitude, assimilate the Irish to the English usage.
§ MR. LALOR
said, religious intolerance might be charged against them; but he pointed out that those people who complained of intolerance were the very men who supported it. In Queen's County there were 80 magistrates, of 1903 whom only eight were Catholics. This was a disparity which could not be favourably regarded by the population, the vast majority of whom were Roman Catholics. It was also a just subject of complaint that the possession of landed property seemed to be the chief and almost the only qualification for the magistracy of Ireland.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, this was one of the many subjects in which the Irish people were peculiarly interested, and in respect to which they had a very great and substantial grievance. He did not bring wholesale charges against the magistrates of Ireland; but he had no hesitation in asserting that many of them were thoroughly partial in their conduct, and not at all qualified to hold the position assigned to them. In his opinion, the appointment of magistrates ought to rest in the ratepayers, and not in the Lord Chancellor, through the Lord Lieutenant of the county. If the ratepayers were competent to select Members of Parliament, members of Poor Law B'oards, Town Commissioners, and Town Councillors, they were surely competent to choose persons to administer justice. If this power were only vested in them, he felt sure that a greater confidence in the administration of justice would be found to exist. In point of fact, the present mode of appointment was a mixture of political corruption and social favouritism by the local lieutenants of the different counties. He hoped the Government would take into consideration the desirableness of devising some means by which the ratepayers might appoint magistrates in whom the Irish people could repose confidence. Next to the Land grievance, the administration of justice by magistrates was the greatest grievance in Ireland.
MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
said, the importance of this question was very great. It was so important, that he deeply regretted that it had been brought forward for discussion at a time when it could not be considered without a certain amount of prejudice. Indeed, he should not have interposed personally in the debate, if it were not for the fact that he had been given to understand, upon the best authority, that there was no intention on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War of proceeding to make his 1904 Statement upon the Army Estimates at that hour (12 o'clock). The particular reason why he should ask the attention of the House for a moment or two was that the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Callan) had referred, in a manner which he was afraid he must say was marked by a considerable appearance of personal acrimony, to the name of Lord O'Hagan, the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He (Mr. Russell) had had the honour of knowing Lord O'Hagan intimately for many years of his life, and he would be wanting in respect for his character and attainments if he did not say a word in his noble Friend's behalf. The position of the Lord Chancellor, in reference to the appointment of magistrates, was recognized to be one of very great difficulty indeed; and, as had been truly said, if there had been shortcomings on the part of Lord O'Hagan in the appointment of magistrates, those shortcomings were not due to any want of desire on his part to do perfect justice, but to the system which he had to administer. He (Mr. Russell) was able to say, from his own knowledge, that his noble Friend had taken great pains to mitigate the evils of the present system. Hon. Members representing English constituencies knew that it was a uniform rule to appoint magistrates only from among those who were recommended to the Lord Chancellor by the several Lords Lieutenant of counties. The present Lord Chancellor had, however, in some exceptional cases, whore the recommendation of the Lord Lieutenant had not been forthcoming, mot the difficulty by making the appointments directly himself. The precedent was, in his (Mr. Russell's) opinion, a perfectly sound, reasonable, and just one. To show the difficulties in which the Lord Chancellor was placed in the matter, he might mention that he himself had been requested by Lord O'Hagan to make inquiries in England whether there were any known cases in which the Lord Chancellor had appointed magistrates on his own responsibility, in the absence of nominations from the Lord Lieutenant. He had accordingly placed himself in communication with the Secretaries of three successive Lord Chancellors, and he had not been able to find one case in which the Lord Chancellor of England had appointed a magistrate except 1905 on the nomination of the Lord Lieutenant. Notwithstanding that fact, Lord O'Hagan, in his desire to do justice, did, as he (Mr. Russell) had stated, act on his own sole responsibility. He gave the noble and learned Lord every credit for having done so; and he was sorry that the hon. Member for Louth had thought it necessary to introduce the name of Lord O'Hagan in what certainly appeared to him (Mr. Russell), although he hoped he was mistaken, a tone of considerable personal acrimony.
§ MR. CALLAN
remarked, that he had not introduced the name of the Lord Chancellor at all, but had simply commented upon statements made by previous speakers.
§ MR. GRAY
said, that in the county which he had the honour to represent— Carlow County—the great majority of the people, as was the case elsewhere in Ireland, were Roman Catholics. The proportion was something like 40,000 Catholics to 10,000 Protestants; but out of the 52 magistrates, only 4 were Roman Catholics, the remaining 48 being Protestants. All the county officers were Protestants, almost to a man. The Lord Lieutenant was a Protestant; and it was believed that if a Lord Lieutenant was occasionally appointed of a different religion, it would afford an easy means of reforming the present system. The Crown Prosecutor was a Protestant and a land agent; the Clerk of the Peace was a Protestant; the Crown Solicitor was a Protestant. Thus, all the appointments which were not in the gift of the Lord Chancellor, and which were conferred without any nomination at all, wore given to Protestants. The Returning Officer was a Protestant, and all the officers of that class were Protestants. The result was to destroy all confidence in the administration of justice wherever the question of religion was brought to bear. This was not the case in England, where, although the bulk of the population were Protestants, the public appointments were made irrespective of religion. The speeches to which they had listened were full of instructive facts, showing the abuse of the present system. Where such abuses were perpetrated, was it possible that the people could have much respect for the administration of justice? The hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell) seemed to 1906 think that the existing state of things was the best that could be provided.
MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
said, he had not expressed any agreement in the system. On the contrary, he thought it was highly objectionable.
§ MR. GRAY
continued: The hon. and learned Member said that in England all the appointments were made on the nomination of the Lord Lieutenant of the county. He (Mr. Gray) did not believe that that was the invariable rule; and he would appeal to the learned Attorney General whether there were not representative bodies in England who had the right of nominating magistrates? If so, he thought it was a precedent which might very well be followed in Ireland. He believed, also, that there were instances in England in which certain persons, by virtue of their position, became ex-officio magistrates. ["No!"] He thought there were such cases in London; and although he did not remember the name of the town at that moment, he had certainly read the report of a discussion in which the Town Council claimed the ancient right of nominating magistrates. If they wanted to insure respect for the administration of justice, it was most necessary that they should alter the present mode of appointing magistrates. It was not the business of the Irish Members to provide a remedy. It was enough for them to point out the abuse, leaving it for the Government to devise the remedy. The Government were paid for it. They had taken Office and the emoluments of Office, and, in doing so, they had accepted the responsibilities of the position—one of them being the remedy of all grievances that could be pointed out. The Government might have taken a great step if they had consented to give a Return of the name, religion, and occupation of every magistrate appointed in Ireland. There was no great offence in asking a man who held a high official position to state the nature of his occupation and religion. But Her Majesty's Government did not think that any reform in this respect was required, and therefore they refused to grant Returns. The information could readily have been obtained and placed on record, for where there was the will there was the way. There was no intention and no desire to enter upon an Inquiry. The appointments were in the gift of the Crown; but there was no 1907 desire to pay deference or respect to public opinion. The difficulty was not of a mechanical or administrative character; but if they took the whole body of the appointments, from the Castle down to the lowest official, it would be found that they wore permeated by a want of sympathy with popular demands.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said: The hon. Member, having moved an Amendment, Las exhausted his right to address the House.
§ MR. HEALY
desired to say a few words in support of the proposition. It was a matter upon which they all felt deeply. He was sorry that hon. Members were impatient. If the House at the present moment were groaning under the infliction of Irish grievances, it must be remembered that what they were having now was only a very small instalment of the grievances from which Ireland was suffering. ["Question!"] He thought this was the Question. With regard to the appointment of county officials, he hold in his hand a Return of the magistrates and officials in the county which he represented — Wexford. A similar Return was asked for from the Government some weeks ago; but the Government refused to grant it, and the consequence was that the Irish Members Lad been obliged to pay out of their own pockets the expense of procuring the information which it was the duty of the Government to supply to them as Members of that House. He presumed that, in reality, Her Majesty's Ministers were anxious to suppress the facts. The Return for Wexford contained the names of the Lord Lieutenant, the Deputy Lieutenant, the Clerk of the Crown, the Clerk of the Peace, the Crown Solicitor, the resident magistrates, and the petty sessions clerks. It also showed their profession and occupation, whether they were landlords, their religion, whether resident or not, together with observations upon each case. It showed that, although the population of Wexford was overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, out of the entire number of magistrates only one-fourth were of the religion of the great majority of the people, the remaining three-fourths being of the religion of the minority. That was the case in regard to the Wexford magistrates. But the Resolution 1908 went further, and dealt with the whole body of officials in Ireland. The hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell) said the Lord Chancellor was unable to remedy this state of things, because he was required to make the appointments upon the recommendation of the Lord Lieutenant. That was quite true, and they saw the result in such counties as Donegal, where the Lord Lieutenant, who was the father of several noble Lords in that House—the Duke of Abercorn—would never appoint anybody who was not a Tory; and it was futile for anybody but a Tory to offer his services. For his own part, he failed to see why the appointment of Lord Lieutenant should be a political appointment, and he should be glad to see a Bill brought in to abolish the present system and enable popular Lords Lieutenant to be appointed, who would see that justice was properly administered. It was no answer to say that the Lord Chancellor could not interfere. If the Lord Lieutenant made appointments that were objectionable, they should not receive the sanction of the Lord Chancellor. The grievance with regard to the magistrates was not confined to the magisterial Bench, but it extended throughout the whole of the local government of Ireland. The magistrates had complete sway over all the local bodies. They had the control of the Grand Jury, of the Poor Law Board, and of the Bench; and as those were the only three channels for the administration of justice in Ireland, it would be seen that the grievance was not a sentimental one. There was not merely a difference of religion between the magistrates and the bulk of the people, but an entire difference of feeling. They formed two separate and distinct classes. He had known the Grand Jury to be composed entirely of magistrates; and by Act of Parliament one-half of the Poor Law Boards were composed of magistrates. The larger the number of the magistrates the heavier was the taxation imposed. The collector of county cess in Ireland was allowed 8d. in the pound, while the poor rate collector was only allowed 6d.; so that the man who collected for the Grand Jury, who were all magistrates, received 2d. in the pound more than the man who collected for the Poor Law Boards, in which there was something in the shape! of popular representation. The Grand 1909 Jury always gave the collectorship of the county cess to one of their own friends, who was enabled to pocket an extra 2d., notwithstanding the distressed condition of the country. He thought this was a substantial grievance, and that if the Government were in earnest in desiring to remove the evils of Ireland they could easily got rid of it. Then, again, with regard to the potty sessions clerks, it was a constant matter of complaint that the petty sessions clerks practically ruled the roast, and that the magistrates were completely under their thumb. They were invariably opposed to the people, and he had known one of them declare that the law was so-and-so, and hand to the magistrates, by way of confirmation, an open Bible instead of an Act of Parliament, trusting to the ignorance of the persons he was dealing with not to discover the fraud. The magistrate connived at the imposture, and inflicted a fine of 20s. and costs. That was the way in which justice was administered in Ireland under the rule of the petty sessions clerks. The Clerk of the Crown, the Crown Solicitor, the Clerk of the Peace, and, indeed, the whole of the Irish county officials, were under the direct control of the system of landlordism, and not one of them possessed the confidence of the Irish people. In a very recent case a magistrate, writing to the parish priest, advised him to use his influence with the tenants in inducing them to hand in their rents, significantly hinting that at the present moment he had no wish to put ill force "the infamous law of coercion" that was about to be carried out. The hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. Finigan) referred to a certain noble Lord—Lord Berehaven—who was an Irish magistrate. This noble Lord twice enlisted as a private in the Guards, and he sat upon the Bench which sent him (Mr. Healy) for trial under an obsolete statute. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not envy the state of the minds of hon. Members who could cheer such a travesty of the administration of justice. The landlord system was in existence, and they did not know how to get rid of it. A little common sense was wanted. A few months ago the magistrates were officially instructed how to use the White boy Act; but it might be of some use now to issue a Circular instructing them to use a little common sense. He was very glad the House had afforded hon. Members from Ireland an oppor- 1910 tunity of discussing and ventilating this subject, for he was sure this debate would have done some good in Ireland. He had been happy to recognize the speech of the Attorney General as one delivered in something like tolerable language. The hon. and learned Gentleman had made his observations as mild as he possibly could for the Irish Members, and there could be no doubt that the tone of this Government official would have a good effect, and that the lesson would not be lost on the magistrates. No doubt, some hon. Members would go away with the idea that they had lost another day; but this was not a feeling with which he concurred. What had occurred to-night would be read in every village in Ireland. [Cries of "Divide!"] Hon. Members received the speeches of Irish Members with the usual jeers and scoffs; but the people of Ireland would read what had been said, and it would have a sedative effect on their minds. The observations of the Legal Advisers of the Crown would go as a message of peace to Ireland, and would have a good effect on the Irish magistrates themselves. Hon. Members knew how sluggish were the ordinary channels of information inlreland—how, in some places, the people were 50 or 60 miles from a railway, and consequently did not get a newspaper, perhaps, more than once a-week; but in time they would read accounts of what had taken place to-night, they would see how the conduct of the magistrates had been brought before the highest Assembly in the United Kingdom, and how the magistrates had been mentioned by name. They would learn at length that Mr. So-and-so was not the highest individual on earth, and entitled to the highest consideration and reverence, and they would take heart. However English Members might go away with the feeling that they had lost an evening, he should not do so; but, on the contrary, should leave firmly convinced that they had had a useful discussion, and had done well.
§ MR. W. H. JAMES
said, the Motion which had been brought forward was one for which, on its merits, a good deal might be said. The fees paid for the administration of justice should be in accordance with the number of convictions obtained; but he did not think he should be doing his duty as an independent supporter of the Government if he 1911 did not raise an humble protest against the proceedings of the evening. He did not for a moment dispute that hon. Gentlemen who had raised this discussion were technically within their right; but the Secretary of State for War came down to make a most important Statement to the House this evening—one of the most important yearly statements made by Ministers—and one which he was sure he was was not exaggerating the feelings of hon. Members when he said was looked upon at the present moment as of unusual importance. Several hon. Members, in harmony with the feelings he entertained on this subject, had declined to go on with the Motions they had on the Paper; but hon. Gentlemen who sat on the opposite Benches, not satisfied with having up to this time monopolized the whole of the Session, had thought it expedient—no doubt, within their right—to proceed with their Motions, and had occupied six and \a-half hours of the time of the House this evening. He protested againt such a proceeding, as damaging to Parliament and the English Members.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he should not have addressed the House if it had not been for the observations of the hon. Member who had just spoken. He (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) felt the deepest interest—in fact, he was as much interested as any other hon. Member—in the Statement the Secretary of State for War was to have made tonight; and he had waited until now in the hope that even at this late period the right hon. Gentleman might have been enabled to bring forward the Statement. The observations of the hon. Member who had just sat down implied —as, no doubt, it was the hon. Gentleman's intention to imply—that the conduct of the Irish Members was dictated by a wish rather to embarrass the interests of the Government than to advance in any degree the genuine interests of Ireland. But any one who knew the genuine interests of Ireland, and considered for a moment the character of the grievances put forward to-night, and compared them in importance with the Statement the right hon. Gentleman was expected to make, would admit that, however important that Statement might appear to Members of the House generally, to the Irish Members the redress of the grievances of their country was 1912 far more important. The Irish Members1 had seized this, the first opportunity, of presenting their grievance in its nakedness and strength—because they felt the importance of presenting a grievance in this way, they could not allow the evening to pass without availing themselves of an opportunity which might not again occur for a long time.
§ MR. SEXTON
also felt bound to say that the Irish Members had been justified in the course they had adopted. [Cries of "Divide!"] His observations would not be in the least shortened by interruptions of this kind. He joined in protesting against the observations of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. W. H. James). On the Question before the House, he himself might have had some observations to make, because the county he represented, as well as others, suffered in consequence of the maladministration of the law by the magistrates; but he rose now merely for the purpose of saying that, to his mind, it was the duty of the Irish Members to take the first opportunity that offered to bring this subject before the House, the Government now having acquired almost the uncontrolled settlement of the Order of Business. In the course of a day or two an Act was to come into force, practically giving the Irish magistrates certain powers over the liberties, and perhaps the lives, of the Irish people; and his hon. Friends around him would not have been doing their duty to their fellow-subjects if they had not availed themselves of the opportunity of bringing on this discussion, particularly as it might be weeks, and perhaps months, before another opportunity presented itself. The liberties of the Irish people were of as much importance as any scheme of Army Reform.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Supply considered in Committee; Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Wednesday.