§ MR. HEALY
asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether the following paragraph from the "Enniscorthy Guardian" of the 7th instant is correct:—On Wednesday an affair took place in Enniscorthy which perhaps was the most unwarrantable stretch of authority ever attempted. In two or three places placards, a copy of Which is given below, were posted on the walls. No sooner had these caught the eye of the vigilant constabulary than they at once tore them down. This was repeated twice:548Wexfordmen assemble in your thousands at the Court-house, Wexford, on Friday next, the 6th instant, at two o'clock, to witness landlordism degraded, to the collection of unjust rent through the sheriff, and to see the resources of Buckshot Forster liberally supplied for what he himself denounced as the enforcement of injustice. Contingents will attend from the various branches of the Land League. The land for the people. God save Ireland;'whether the police admitted they tore down the placards by order of the head constable; and, whether the Government sanction such proceedings; and, if not, what notice has been taken of the matter?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Yes; I understand that the placard in question was pulled down by special order of the head constable; and I think that the head constable acted perfectly right.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
asked, whether the reason why the right hon. Gentleman approved of the head constable's conduct was because the words "Buckshot Forster" appeared on the placard?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Sir, it appears to be thought that it is a matter of necessity and duty that Gentlemen sitting on this (the Treasury) Bench should give a reply to every Question put to them. There is no necessity for that. A Question must be answered according to the way in which it is asked, and at the discretion of those to whom it is put. This Question is manifestly for the purpose of insult. There is no more reason why a person in my position should be called on to answer it than any other person. I only state that I am perfectly ready to meet any charge that may be brought against me with regard to those placards.
§ MR. HEALY
begged to move the adjournment of the House. ["Oh!"] As the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think he had put the Question to insult him, he only wished to disclaim any such intention. He must explain that his attention had been called by a resolution of the Land League branch to the matter, and he was asked to put the 549 Question in that House, and he had done so. He had put down a Question with regard to it, and, to make the Question clear, he had quoted the placard quite irrespective of the fact that it contained the words "Buckshot Forster." The question was not whether the right hon. Gentleman was bound to answer the Question, but whether he approved the conduct of the constables in pulling down the placard, and by what law or authority it was done. Force seemed now to be the only rule in Ireland, and the right hon. Gentleman who put that rule in force went down to Bradford, and thanked the people of Bradford for their kind reception of him in the name of the people of Ireland. The most comical thing was that while, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University said, the Government had not the respect of a single man in Ireland, from Cape Clear to the Giant's Causeway, the Chief Secretary for Ireland went to his constituents and thanked them in the name of the Irish people. That placard incident was a sample of what was occurring every day in the country. Surprise was expressed at outrages being committed. His (Mr. Healy's) surprise was that many more were not committed. And he could tell the right hon. Gentleman that if he continued to support the police in arbitrary acts, he would find that ten times more outrages would occur, those outrages being the only resource which those unfortunate people had against highhanded proceedings.
MR. ALDERMAN W. LAWRENCE
rose to Order. He asked Mr. Speaker, whether it was competent for a Representative from Ireland to threaten the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant that if he persisted in the course he was pursuing ten times more outrages would be committed in Ireland, and to say that that was the only resource against the rule of the right hon. Gentleman which would be left to the Irish people? He asked, also, whether the House was to listen to those threats, and incitements to the people of Ireland?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The course taken by the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) is taken entirely on his own responsibility. I deplore the language which I have heard this evening, coming both from him and from the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell). 550 The hon. Member has also, on his own responsibility, moved the adjournment of the House, not being satisfied with the answer he received to a Question. As the House knows, I have very frequently pointed out the great inconvenience arising from Motions of this character—Motions of which, within the last few days, we have had three examples.
§ MR. HEALY
said, he had not moved the adjournment of the House on account of dissatisfaction with an answer, but in order to protest against the statement that he had put a Question on the Paper for the purpose of insulting the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Heaven knew that they had sufficient means of attacking the right hon. Gentleman without doing that! He was going on to say, when the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Alderman W. Lawrence) interrupted him, that if the people of Ireland had no means of protecting themselves against the unwarrantable aggression of the right hon. Gentleman and his armed forces in Ireland it would not be surprising if the outrages were multiplied. He would give an illustration, in something which had taken place on Saturday, of the high-handed conduct of the Executive in Ireland. Two evictions were made the other day, and 13 souls were left on the roadside, and one of the police who attended it was stated to have shed tears. That was very different from the behaviour of the police, whose conduct in the county of Wexford the right hon. Gentleman justified. There had not been a single agrarian outrage in Wexford for a considerable time past; and yet in spite of that the right hon. Gentleman allowed the police to insult the people by tearing down their placards, which were put up in the most legal manner. If illegal, had not the right hon. Gentleman plenty of power under the Protection of Person and Property Act? A hundred people had already been arrested under that Act on the most frivolous and absurd charges; and as anybody could be arrested on "reasonable suspicion" of posting the placards, the Government could not plead that they were without sufficient power.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he felt obliged formally to second the Motion, for the simple reason that when he asked that Question of the right hon. Gentleman, 551 he did it deliberately, for the purpose of obtaining an expression of opinion whether it was the use of insulting epithets to him on the placard that caused him to have them taken down. The fact that the right hon. Gentleman was popularly known in Ireland by epithets not complimentary was by no means without precedent in Ireland. There was a former Chief Secretary who was known as "Orange Peel;" and if that Chief Secretary had approved of the tearing down of placards, because he was alluded to in that way, it would have been legitimate for the Irish Members of that day to call attention to the pettiness of motive which such conduct revealed. Looking at this placard he saw nothing objectionable in it, except the reference to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary; and although words personally disrespectful to the right hon. Gentleman had been used in the placard, that was not a reason why he should authorize the police to interfere with and obliterate the expression of opinion on the part of the people. If the appearance in public prints of opprobrious epithets towards Members of the House was to be a ground for the suppression of those Papers, they would soon have a very considerable diminution in the journalistic literature of Great Britain. He was still under the impression that if the right hon. Gentleman had been referred to in this placard more in conformity with his own account of himself to his constituents at Bradford, there would have been no interference by the right hon. Gentleman's police auxiliaries. The placard called on the people to make a silent protest against what they all thought most condemnable; and if they had not referred to the right hon. Gentleman in Parliamentary language, however privately he (Mr. O'Donnell) might object to the use of un-Parliamentary language, he had a perfect right, with all respect to the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman about himself, to inquire whether it was merely the personal insult to himself that led him to authorize the Irish constables to do that which English constables would not be permitted to do; and, if necessary, he could quote a great number of cases. The right hon. Gentleman might be a little more tolerant of even these heated expressions on the part of isolated individuals of the Irish nation, considering 552 that he himself set the example of calling names. The right hon. Gentleman had denounced a whole class of most respectable men as village ruffians—[VOICES: Dissolute ruffians!]—that was the language he applied to respectable traders, Poor Law Guardians, and similar respectable members of society, and it was on this class that he vented his disappointment, under the Coercion Act, for his failure in Ireland.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Healy.)
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
(who rose amid cries of "No, no!" from the Ministerial Benches, and "Agreed!" from the Opposition Benches above the Gangway) said: I will detain the House for only a few minutes. As far as regards this House and myself, I feel it would not be necessary for me to say a word. But I will just state that when I alluded to insult, I was referring, not to the Question of the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy), but to the Question of the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell), and I am of opinion I was justified in using that word. I understood that these placards were pulled down, not on account of the use of the particular words referred to, but for a perfectly justifiable reason—that they were summoning persons to come together in thousands on a particular day to interfere with the legal act of a sheriff in connection with an auction. I think that that was abundant reason, and I think it was sufficient reason for prosecuting anyone who put them up, or instigated others to put them up, if they could have been discovered. The hon. Member for Dungarvan chooses to say that I applied the term village ruffians—[A VOICE: Dissolute ruffians!]—to a large class of respectable persons in Ireland. I think it will be in the recollection of the House that I applied it only to those persons who committed outrages, or instigated others to commit them.
said, he wished to enter his protest against it being supposed that the prefix "Orange," as applied to Peel, was an opprobrious epithet. It was a compliment rather than an insult.
§ MR. BARRY
said, the question was a very narrow one. If the police had acted legally in pulling down the placards, 553 he should like to know under what statute they acted; and, if they had acted illegally, why was their conduct approved? The Constabulary, no matter how they outraged public feeling in Ireland, were sure of a defender in the right hon. Gentleman. He thought, considering that the county of Wexford was entirely free from agrarian crime, that there was not even a threatening letter, it was an extraordinary thing to defend this outrageous conduct of the Constabulary. All he would say was that conduct like this could lead only to results such as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Healy) had indicated.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, he must express his regret that any language or epithet should have been used calculated to insult the Chief Secretary for Ireland, or any Minister of the Crown. Having said that, he would remind the House that buckshot for shooting down the Irish people had been introduced by the Predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman. As to the placards, was it not for the interest of the landlord that the people should attend the sale? He desired to know whether the police were to be allowed to tear down a placard calling upon people to attend a public auction; or whether it was intended by the Government that public auctions in Ireland should be conducted in the presence of the auctioneer and the man in charge of the cattle? [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh at the bare idea of an auction being conducted in a secret manner; but he (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) did not sympathize in their sentiments by any means. He knew that they would not care to have auctions in which they were pecuniarily interested conducted in such a manner. Perhaps the Chief Secretary for Ireland, or the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Law), would tell them whether the police tore down the placards illegally; or whether there was a statute empowering them to do so. If they had the statute behind them, let the House hear where it was to be found. He believed, although he did not think the Chief Secretary for Ireland had acted under the impression, that the placard was torn down on account of the sentence reflecting upon himself. The reference to the right hon. Gentleman was most offensive and unjust; but, while he could sympathize 554 with the natural feeling of irritation on the part of the Chief Secretary for Ireland at being identified with a certain class of ammunition, he told him to beware how he encouraged the Irish police in their lawlessness in tearing down placards.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, the question had been asked more than once, under what statute the police tore down the placard. It was torn down because it was an inflammatory placard, asking the people to assemble in their thousands, not to attend and bid at the auction, but to witness "landlordism discredited" in its attempt to enforce an unjust rent by execution of a writ from a Superior Court; and, in effect, for the purpose of obstructing the sheriff in the discharge of his lawful duty. As such, the police had a right to tear it down, not under any statute, but in accordance with what was much more important—namely, the Common Law of the land. [A VOICE: What statute?] The placard was illegal at Common Law; and, in his humble opinion, the police were perfectly justified in removing it. He hoped that after that explanation this irregular discussion might cease.
§ SIR RAINALD KNIGHTLEY
rose to call the attention of the House to the repeated Motions which were made for the adjournment of the House. He did not wish to see that privilege abolished; but he should like to see it regulated; and he rose to call the attention of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), who had a Motion on the Business of the House on the Paper for to-morrow. He should like to ask the hon. Member—
§ MR. PARNELL
rose to Order. He said, as far as he could gather from the remarks of the hon. Baronet, he was discussing a Motion which now stood on the Paper. He desired to know, whether the hon. Baronet was in Order in discussing, upon the Motion for the adjournment of the House, a Motion which stood on the Paper?
§ MR. SPEAKER
So far as the hon. Baronet may have been discussing a Motion on the Paper for consideration to-morrow, he was not in Order.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he entirely agreed with the hon. Baronet. That power of moving the adjournment ought not to be abolished. If wisely 555 preserved, it enabled Members to bring forward matters with which they could not otherwise deal. He was anxious to bring before the House a matter similar to that which had been raised by hon. Friend. It was only on Saturday night last that three men, whom be knew to be perfectly incapable of crime, were arrested in Queen's County. ["Question!"]
rose to Order, and asked, whether the hon. Member could refer to matters totally foreign to the subject before the House?
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
, resuming, said, he wished to show why the House should adjourn. He held that there were some things even more important than the Land Bill. The rights of property were secondary to the rights of personal liberty and security. The right of personal security was entirely suspended in Ireland, and the powers which the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary for Ireland had vested in them were being used in the most wanton and unjustifiable manner. The three men referred to who had been arrested within the last 72 hours were perfectly incapable of crime. They were men with a character as good as that of anyone on the Ministerial Bench. They enjoyed the respect of all who knew them, and the only offence they had committed had been an offence against the landlords of the Queen's County. Those landlords monopolized the magistracy. They held every post of influence, and they had on their side a law which the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary for Ireland admitted to be unjust. These three men in question were some time ago charged with having intimidated a certain individual in Maryborough. They were found guilty, and the magistrates sentenced them to two months' imprisonment in default of paying a fine. They appealed to the County Court Judge, and the decision was reversed, the man who was alleged to be intimidated swearing that he was not intimidated at all. The magistrates, however, had informations sworn against them, and the three men were arrested recently upon a charge of intimidation which was never committed at all. He thought the right hon. Gentleman ought to make some statement with regard to the reason why these men were arrested at 2 o'clock in the morning and lodged 556 in gaol, without having been proved to be guilty of any offence whatever.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that the Government might have avoided the unpleasantness which had taken place during the discussion, if they had adopted in the beginning the course which they had since followed as to the supplementary Question of the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) with respect to the statute under which the Government had acted in tearing down the placards. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, instead of doing so, however, had immediately risen and, with a great show of indignation, said that he did not consider it his duty to answer insulting Questions. There was nothing insulting in the Question. The right hon. Gentleman had given no reply, and did not draw any distinction whatever between the two Questions when he refused to answer either. If the right hon. Gentleman had followed the course which he (Mr. Parnell) had pointed out, or if the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Law), acting for him, had given the information required of the Government, and informed the House that the action had taken place under the Common Law of Ireland and not under Statute Law, all reasonable grounds for his hon. Friend's moving the adjournment of the House would have been taken away, and the discussion might have been avoided. He also wished to say that in such circumstances Irish Members had no other course left them than that which they had adopted. It was very difficult for them to obtain any time for bringing those things to the attention of the House, or to obtain any information which they required. He Himself had been endeavouring to obtain some information with regard to the offences alleged to have been committed by the persons arrested under the Coercion Act in Ireland, and thrown into prison by the right hon. Gentleman. He had, however, been unable to obtain any opportunity to move a Resolution on the subject, owing to the way in which the Business was blocked. He hoped the louse would be good enough to recollect that they had placed Ireland in an exceptional position, and had given the Government exceptional powers over both the liberties and the property of the people of Ireland. They must, 557 therefore, expect that Irish Members, when they found that those powers were used, would take a course which was undoubtedly exceptional, and undoubtedly inconvenient.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.