HC Deb 27 February 1882 vol 266 cc1798-803

Resolutions [24th February] reported.

Resolution 1.


asked whether any steps would be taken to bring before the criminal tribunals of the country those constables against whom a verdict of wilful murder had been returned by the Coroner's Jury, in the case of those persons who lost their lives in the affray which took place in County Mayo?


was understood to say that he should carefully consider whether a further investigation of the circumstances referred to should take place.

Resolution agreed to.

Resolutions 2 and 3 agreed to.

Fourth Resolution read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


said, that on a previous evening the Attorney General for Ireland had stated, with reference to the detention of Mr. Brennan, that he was not in possession of the facts of the case. He (Mr. Sexton) was now in a position to supply them from a document which he held in his hand. It appeared that the summons was dated the 24th October, and that on the 29th October, two days before the case came on for hearing at Petty Sessions, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) signed a warrant against Mr. Brennan for "unlawfully assembling with others," the charge being identical with that in the summons. His charge against the Government was that they had imprisoned one man—Mr. Brennan—on the charge on which the 26 other persons, who were present on the occasion in question, were acquitted.


pointed out that the hon. Member for Sligo was not accurately informed of what occurred at the Petty Sessions. The statement of the hon. Member was accurate so far as it related to the summons against Mr. Brennan and several other persons for taking part in an illegal assembly. It was also a fact that Mr. Brennan was detained under the Protection Act. But the cause had not been dismissed—it had been adjourned for three months in order to see if the state of the country would improve in the interim; and he would read a statement by telegram from the Crown Solicitor, which had been received in answer to his inquiry upon the subject:— Mullaghmore case, which was adjourned on the 18th. of last November by Moloney, R. M., for three months, in order to see if state of country would improve in the meantime, came on yesterday. Counsel for defendants asked for dismissal, on the ground that the adjournment had been given for the purpose of giving defendants a chance of good behaviour for three months. I opposed, and showed real grounds of adjournment, and asked to have the defendants returned for trial. Cliffony constable, examined by defendants' counsel to show country quieter; proved 'Boycotting' was going on extensively. All Justices presiding decided on further adjourning case to May 5, to see if country would improve in the meantime. It appeared, therefore, that the case was still pending against the men; and when the adjourned hearing came on, if the magistrate did not dismiss the case, the Crown Solicitor would apply to have them sent for trial. In order that there should be no mistake as to the particular case, he, on Saturday, inquired if the telegram he had received was in reply to the telegram he had sent earlier in the day, and in which he had asked for a full Report of the Mullaghmore case in order that he might put the House in possession of the facts. The reply he received was— Your second telegram received. My last telegram was in reply to your first, and is my report of the Mullaghmore case of unlawful assembly on the 4th of last December.


said, he did not think the Attorney General for Ireland had at all improved the position of affairs by the statement he had just made, Twenty-seven men were charged with the same offence; but one of them was imprisoned under the Coercion Act, and the other 26 were brought up, tried, and acquitted. The one man was kept in prison all the time, and was still undergoing a term of imprisonment. An extreme injustice was being practised upon the man, who would probably, had he been tried, have been discharged altogether. He could not imagine what defence could be set up for such an extraordinary proceeding.


said, he trusted they would get some explanation in addition to that just offered by the Attorney General for Ireland. The Chief Secretary had been charged so often with unfairness in the matter of arrests that he should be especially cautious what steps he took to secure the payment of rent to one of his Colleagues in the Government, the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Evelyn Ashley). The hon. Gentleman might or might not get his rent; but the fact remained that a principal Land Leaguer, Mr. Henry Brennan, had been thrown into gaol under the Coercion Act, while 26 men who were engaged in exactly the same crime, if it were a crime, were discharged. The assembling was admitted—the police could prove the whole of the men were there—and it was simply a question whether the assembly was an illegal one. What did the Government do? They cast Mr. Henry Brennan, who was the chief champion of the tenants on the estate of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Wight, into gaol under the Coercion Act; but not so with his comrades. At one time they were told the men were discharged; at another time that they were convicted; and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had succeeded so admirably in throwing such a haze over his intentions, that he (Mr. Healy) confessed he was at a loss to understand what he really was going to do. They had an important Member of the Government holding an estate in Ireland; and they found that because that Gentleman was not getting his rents the chief Land Leaguer on the estate was cast into gaol, while the subordinate men had not been similarly treated, although the liability of the whole of them was equal, and although there was no dispute about the facts. The Chief Secretary said the other night that he knew nothing of the case, and that there was so much intimidation in the country he could not get evidence. Why, his own police were on the spot; besides which Mr. Brennan and the other 26 men admitted that they assembled. The only question that remained was whether the assembly was illegal or not, and that ought to be at once decided in the interest of all parties. On Friday morning last he pointed out that such proceedings as that they were now considering was not unusual on the estates of Members of the Government. The county of Water-ford was proclaimed by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, six months ago, to enable the Duke of Devonshire to get his rents. Mr. Douglas Pyne, who certainly could not be considered a village tyrant, a midnight marauder, was arrested, because on the estate of the father of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) he was the chief man who this year aided the "no rent" policy, and who last year refused to pay more than Griffith's valuation. There was no doubt that the Government availed themselves of the Coercion Act in order to enable their Colleagues to get their rents. Let the Chief Secretary get up and deny that he had arrested 27 men on a Common Law charge, that he had released every one except one, and that that one was the chief difficulty on the estate of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Wight.


said, the hon. Gentleman had stated that the Government had made arrests in order to secure the payments of rents to one of their Colleagues. The only reply he could make was that that assertion was not true.


rose to Order. Last year, when he said that a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman was not true, the Chairman ruled him out of Order. The right hon. Gentleman now stated that a remark made by him (Mr. Healy) in the House was not true. He begged to ask if the right hon. Gentleman was in Order in what he had just said?


I presume the right hon. Gentleman referred to a statement made by the hon. Gentleman, in which case he was in Order.


said, that was so. He supposed the hon. Gentleman believed he had been rightly informed; but he had been wrongly imformed; his statement was not true. Mr. Henry Brennan's arrest was in no way connected with the question of the payment of the rents of the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight. As a matter of fact, he believed the rents of the hon. Gentleman had been paid. Mr. Brennan was arrested because they had good reason to believe he was leading men in unlawful assemblies, and also in intimidation and "Boycotting." The hon. Member asked why they did not try the case. He could only refer the hon. Gentleman to the one great reason why the Protection Act was passed, and that was that there was the greatest difficulty in obtaining convictions. [Mr. HEALY: The police were on the spot.] He (Mr. W. E. Forster) was aware of that; but the police were not jurymen. It was thought necessary that these men should be arrested for the sake of the peace of the district; and he was glad to say the course pursued by the Government had been successful, because the district had been far more peaceable since the arrests.


said, they had heard from the Attorney General for Ireland that these 26 men were made joint defendants with Mr. Henry Brennan, and they had just been told by the Chief Secretary they had not yet been brought to trial; but the case had been adjourned from time to time for the purpose of seeing whether the district would become quieter. The Chief Secretary for Ireland also told them that the district had become quiet. If that was so, he would like to know why the summonses were not dismissed? The right hon. Gentleman informed them, moreover, that the Government arrested Mr. Henry Brennan because he was a foremost man in intimidation and in "Boycotting;" but the fact was that the warrant issued for Mr. Brennan's arrest said nothing at all about intimidation and "Boycotting." The offence mentioned in it was "unlawful assembly." The fact was, the right hon. Gentleman had arrested one man out of the 27, he had cast that one man into gaol under the Coercion Act, and he allowed a charge at Common Law to hang over the heads of the other 26. An extraordinary distinction had therefore been drawn between the men, all of whom admitted their share in the offence, if offence they had committed. The right hon. Gentleman or the Crown Officers had not brought these men to trial, because they knew very well they could not prove the assembly was unlawful; and if they could not do that they would not be able to justify the arrest of Mr. Brennan.


said, the Chief Secretary had entirely failed to make out his case. In this particular case, the contention of the right hon. Gentleman that there was a difficulty in obtaining evidence entirely broke down, because all the men admitted the assembling, and they were there in the presence of the police, who could give evidence against them if they were so disposed. In point of fact, the police gave evidence against the 26 men, and, he and his hon. Friends believed, they gave evidence against Mr. Henry Brennan. In addition to that, the tribunal before whom the men had been brought was composed of the magistrates of the district; and it certainly seemed to him a very strange thing if the Government could not depend upon the Resident Magistrate and the County Justices to administer justice in the case of any men arraigned before them. If the Chief Secretary for Ireland was right in his statement made to the House, and upon which he founded his case for the Coercion Act, the case of Henry Brennan was entirely outside the range of that Act. His hon. Friend would do well to divide the House against the Vote, in order to mark their sense of the unfairness with which Mr. Henry Brennan had been treated by the Government.


said, that, upon the authority of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, they learned that the district was now quiet, and that it was to secure this end that Mr. Brennan and his comrades had been proceeded against. They were entitled to know from the right hon. Gentleman if it was the intention of the Government to release Mr. Brennan, and to dismiss the summons against his 26 friends?

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 108; Noes 11: Majority 97.—(Div. List, No. 29.)

Subsequent Resolutions agreed to.