HC Deb 17 May 1881 vol 261 cc687-90

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, For what reason the Queen's County has been proclaimed under the Protection of Person and Property (Ireland) Act; and, if it be true that Patrick Meehan, Patrick Doran, and John Redington, of Maryborough, in the Queen's County, have been arrested under the provisions of the said Act; and, if so, on what reasonable suspicion?


, in reply, said, the only answer he could give to that Question was that, after very careful consideration, the Government had acted on their responsibility, and had thought it necessary to proclaim that county for the prevention of outrages. The hon. Member asked him on what reasonable suspicion certain persons had been arrested. He could not give the precise words of the arrest, and he would not like to make any mistake. Of course, the Papers would be laid on the Table in the usual form; and if the hon. Gentleman wished him to read the warrant, of course he should do so.


said, that he wished to make a few remarks on this subject, and would therefore conclude with a Motion. He was well acquainted with the inconvenience of these Motions of Adjournment; but he was compelled to take the course which he was now doing in consequence of the Chief Secretary having; refused to state the grounds on which the Queen's County had been proclaimed. He had a Return in his hand from which it appeared that within the last four months there had only been six agrarian crimes in the Queen's County. There was no other county in the British Empire where there had been less crime committed than during the last four months in the Queen's County. To show the manner in which the Coercion Act was now worked, he would only refer to one case, that of a burning which took place in his own neighbourhood a short time since. For that a man named Lalor was arrested on suspicion, although there was not the slightest evidence against him to go before a Court. The very fact of this man's arrest would establish the fact that the burning was a malicious one, and would thus play into the hands—


rose to Order. He wished to know whether the hon. Member was in Order in debating a question on a Motion for Adjournment, when he had raised the same point on a similar Motion two or three days ago?


When the hon. Member spoke on this question, the Motion before the House was that the House do now adjourn. That Question was disposed of, and I am not prepared to say that the hon. Member is, strictly speaking, out of Order now, although, as I have often said, this is a most inconvenient course to pursue.


said, that the proclamation of the Queen's County was playing into the hands of the landlords. He was very well aware—and in the Queen's County they were very well aware—on whose recommendation the Queen's County had been proclaimed. It was on the recommendation of the magistrates, and he would give the House a sample of those gentlemen. In January last, six respectable young men who were collecting subscriptions for the Land League were summoned before the magistrates at Petty Sessions, and although the persons whom they had solicited swore that they had not been intimidated, the magistrates disregarded the evidence, and convicted the accused. The assistant barrister reversed the decision on appeal, and now two of those men had been arrested merely to vindicate the magistrates' unjust decision. These men were respectable merchants in Maryborough, and yet the police went to their houses at 2 o'clock in the morning, broke in their doors, and only gave them five minutes to dress before they took them to gaol. One of them had a large sum of money in the house, and he had no time to secure it before he was taken to the station and conveyed to gaol. He asked was that right or honourable treatment for respectable men? He said it was unjust and cruel. On what grounds were these men arrested? The right hon. Gentleman bad refused to answer that question; but he would tell them he had a copy of the Warrant, which he would read.


I submit, Sir, that the matter which the hon Member is placing before the House has nothing to do with the Motion for Adjournment; and I hope the House will not allow any important matter such as this may be to be introduced when the House itself has no opportunity of expressing an opinion thereon.


May I ask, Sir, is it not the fact that the hon. Member for Wareham (Mr. Montague Guest) moved the adjournment of the House yesterday on the question of Tunis, which was a much more important matter than that now under consideration? I would also ask you, Sir, whether the hon. Member for London (Mr. Alderman Lawrence) is entitled persistently to interrupt the hon. Member, at the same time skilfully endeavouring to conceal the fact by putting his Notice Paper before his mouth?


having made no reply,


, resuming, denied that these three gentleman bad ever committed a breach of the peace of the kind alleged against them. He challenged the right hon. Gentleman to go down to that place and hear the case, even from the policemen and magistrates from whom he was getting his instructions in this matter. He challenged him to bring the matter to trial, and he would find that he was thoroughly deceived by the local authorities in Maryborough. He believed the arrest of these men was intended by the right hon. Gentleman as a blow at the Land League; but the best weapon the right hon. Gentleman could make use of against the Land League would be the introduction of a good Land Bill, which the Bill at present before the House was not. ["Order!"]


The hon. Member is not entitled to refer to the Land Bill, which is not now before the House.


said, he did not intend to refer to it any further; but he would advise the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to be cautious. There were men in Ireland connected with the Land League who were anxiously waiting for the time when the present leaders should be removed. These men were not the friends of the landlords or the friends of the Government; but they were men who thought the present leaders were not sufficiently advanced, and who would be more likely to give trouble to the right hon. Gentleman than the men who now guided the movement. He would advise the right hon. Gentleman, before he made further arrests in the Queen's County, to go down there and inquire, not from the landlord side of the question, nor from the officials from whom he was getting information, but to hold an inquiry in public, where he could have the members of the Land League and their accusers face to face. He begged to move the adjournment of the House.


, in seconding the Motion, wished to bear testimony to the fact that there was not a particle of evidence against the men who had been arrested to sustain the charge of intimidation. The case had come before him and his brother magistrates on appeal, and was investigated with the greatest care.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— (Mr. Lalor.)


wished to state his belief that the number of arrests which had taken place in Ireland, and the character of those arrests, were creating not merely irritation, but exasperation in that country. He wished to tell the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Forster) that if he went on in this line of action he and the Irish landlords would produce an insurrection in Ireland.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 23; Noes 317: Majority 294.—(Div. List, No. 204.)