§ MR. M'COAN
asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether, in view of the peaceful condition of county Wicklow, as attested by the Judges of Assize and of the County Court, and, as admitted in a recent Return, that the chief or only reason why the county was and remains proclaimed is its "geographical situation," he will recommend to Earl Spencer the withdrawal of that proscription, which affects the constitutional liberty of more than 70,000 people?
§ MR. TREVELYAN
As appears from the Parliamentary Return referred to by the hon. Member, His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant quite recently decided that he could not revoke the proscription of the County Wicklow, and I cannot give the recommendation sought for.
§ MR. M'COAN
said, he must trespass briefly on the time of the House to show the extreme hardship of the case, and to put himself in Order he would conclude with a Motion. The county of Wicklow had been one of the quietest and most law-abiding in Ireland. Under the iron rule of the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), only four men were arrested in the county under the Coercion Act then in force; one of these was an unjust and despotic arrest, and after considerable efforts had been made on behalf of the innocent man, he was at length released. Notwithstanding the small number of arrests in the county, it was proclaimed and was subject to all the hardships of the old Coercion Act, and the still sterner severities of the new one. He had applied to the present Executive, asking whether the outlawry could not be removed, and the reply was that they felt bound to endorse the act of their Predecessors. The fact that Earl Spencer and the present Chief Secretary felt bound to endorse and continue the 589 action of the late Chief Secretary indicated, he thought, the extreme danger that lurked under the present Coercion Act, even as administered by these two Gentlemen. It showed how it might be abused, and how despotism could be practised under it. A Return he had moved for showed that in 18 months there had been 124 offences for which conviction had been obtained, and there had been no complaint of failure to obtain conviction. Of the total of 124, 62 were trumpery cases of threatening letters, and he described them as trumpery on the authority of the Judge of Assize. There were 16 cases of injury to property, one riot and affray; four came under the elastic head of intimidation, and the remainder were trivial offences. The Lord Lieutenant, while gratified with the quietness of the county, said the necessity for its being proclaimed arose from its geographical position, and this should not be regarded as a reflection upon the inhabitants. They, however, did not share the opinion of His Excellency. The charge of Baron Dowse to the Grand Jury at the County Assizes contained expressions of congratulation upon the absence of crime as compared with other counties. There were only five bills to go before them, and three of these were substantially the same offence. Two were for threatening letters, the accused being two boys, aged respectively 14 and 16. The other cases were for petty larceny. Notwithstanding the notorious fact that the county of Wicklow was less touched with the virus—as hon. Members above the Gangway would say—of the Land League teachings, the Lord Lieutenant thought proper, on account of its geographical position, to proclaim the county. To show the consistency of Earl Spencer, although Wicklow was proclaimed on account of being unhappily coterminous with the county of Dublin, at the same time half the county of Carlow, which was coterminous with Wicklow and no less disturbed, was free from proclamation. He believed also that the County Wexford was not proclaimed, although it had the stimulating advantage of being represented by his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Healy), and although he believed its criminal statistics were much heavier than either those of Wicklow or Carlow. How was it that the anomaly 590 existed in one county and not in the other two? He had hoped that cases of this kind would not have continued under the present Chief Secretary; and he trusted the facts he had adduced would induce the right hon. Gentleman to recommend the Lord Lieutenant to reconsider the matter. He begged to move the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. M' Coan.)
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, he should best meet the sense of the House by simply stating that he did not propose to continue the discussion of the subject. Districts were proclaimed in the interests of the public safety, and were carefully considered with a view to those interests; and it was certainly not expedient that those who were responsible for the public safety should give the reasons for the proclamations, nor was it consistent with the public safety that they should do so. He could assure the hon. Member that the matter would not be affected, and the withdrawal of a proclamation would not be expedited, by a debate in the House. It would soon be the duty of Lord Spencer and himself to consider whether the proclamation of Wicklow and of other districts should be continued, and they would do so with the utmost desire to relax the administration of the law, wherever it could be done with due regard to the public interests. The process would not be quickened by the prolongation of the debate. He meant no disrespect to the hon. Member by declining to continue the discussion; and he trusted the House would be allowed to proceed with its ordinary Business.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, that almost all Questions asked by Irish Members were inconvenient, and if such an objection were raised on every occasion, they would be precluded from asking any Questions. He certainly thought that the Chief Secretary might state the reasons for which the county of Wicklow had been proclaimed, especially as he had been asked to do so by an hon. Member who had not very strenuously opposed the Coercion Bill. If, as seemed probable, a Dissolution was at hand, he hoped that Irish constituencies and Irishmen in the English constituencies would show whether they ap- 591 proved the conduct of those of their Representatives who had so often been conspicuous for their absence when the Coercion Bill was under discussion. Out of 130 Divisions on the Bill the hon. Member for Wicklow (Mr. M'Coan) took part in only about 40. But they all knew that even a worm would turn at last.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.