§ MR. REDMOND
asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether his attention has been called to numerous complaints made by the relatives and friends of the suspects in Kilmainham as to the difficulty of obtaining admittance to visit them; whether it is a fact that, owing to the deficient number of warders, it frequently happens that only one visit can take place in that prison at one time; and, whether he will take care that the number of officials be so increased that, when necessary, at least three or four visits can take place simultaneously in the prison?
§ MR. SEXTON
wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman, at the same time, whether he was aware that each visit occupied nearly 20 minutes, and that not a fourth of the "suspects" could receive daily visits?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I must ask the hon. Member for Sligo to give Notice of his Question. As regards the Question of the hon. Member for New Ross, it is not the fact that at Kilmainham only one visit can take place at a time. Four warders are employed especially for visits, and prisoners may be seen in the infirmary at the same time.
§ MR. REDMOND
said, that, in consequence of the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, he begged to give Notice that he would ask him, in two or three days time, to reconsider the matter and inquire into it. He could state, from his personal knowledge, that visitors 1429 were kept waiting a considerable time. ["Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is aware that, in giving Notice of a Question, he cannot enter into matters of debate.
§ MR. REDMOND
said, he felt so strongly on this matter that, in order to put himself in Order, he would conclude with a Motion for the adjournment of the House. ["Oh, oh!"] He had no desire whatever to inflict this Motion upon the House; but the right lion. Gentleman was misinformed on this matter as upon others. He (Mr. Redmond) could state positively that he had himself been kept waiting as long as an hour, and had then to go away from Kilmainham without paying the visit he went there to pay. This was because there were not sufficient warders in Kilmainham to enable more than two visitors to go in at the same time. In Kilmainham complaints had been made to him by some of the warders that they were short-handed ever since the Coercion Act had been in force; they bad complained to him that their work had been doubled; and, as far as the prisoners were concerned, very few of them were able to receive visits during the day at all. That was a matter which touched them very materially. There were men in Kilmainham Gaol whose homes were hundreds of miles away—men whose relatives could only afford to make the journey once during the full term of their imprisonment, and, in consequence of that delay, were obliged sometimes to spend two or three days in Dublin before they could see their friends, and sometimes they had to leave without seeing them at all. He made that statement on the authority of the officials of the prison, who had stated that they wore short-handed and their work was doubled, and that they had received no extra remuneration of any kind. He did not think he was called upon to make any apology for intruding his Motion at that time of the evening in a matter that affected very closely the welfare of a number of Irishmen. Every poor man in the clutches of the right hon. Gentleman was deprived of the visits of his friends, because in many cases he had removed them as far as he could from home. Then they had this economy, he supposed, which made provision for only two or three visits taking place. He 1430 spoke of these matters from personal knowledge, and let the right hon. Gentleman now stand up and assure him that he would have further inquiry made into this matter. Let him state that if the officials were short-handed in Kilmainham, or in any of the other prisons, he would see that the prisoners were not allowed to suffer anything in consequence. He begged to move the adjournment of the House.
§ MR. SEXTON
, in seconding the Motion, said, he was actuated in doing so by the desire to refer to a letter he had received in reference to the Limerick Prison. The right hon. Gentleman had told them repeatedly that complaints should be made to the Prisons Board; but he could assure the House that such complaints had been made again and again, and that they had been treated with silent disregard. The writer of the letter was a prisoner in Kilmainham. He stated that the arrangements for visits were very inadequate. Four hours a day were allowed for visits, and a quarter of an hour for each visit. There were men in the prison from Clare, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, Cork, and Waterford; and friends of those in the immediate neighbourhood got tickets at an earlier date than those far away, who were constantly disappointed, though the others, in many instances, gave way in their favour. The number of visitors averaged 44 or 45 a day; but only about four visits could take place. He wished to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that that was virtually a repeal of the rule of the Lord Lieutenant, which laid down that each prisoner should receive one visit per day. The writer of the letter from which he had quoted went on to say that there were two objectionable closets situated near the end of the cell, one of which occasionally overflowed. He had called the attention of the Governor, the doctor, and the Prisons Board to it; but the nuisance had not been remedied. He had recently spoken to the doctor again, and his reply was that the whole of the sanitary arrangements were about to be remodelled. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken as to the manner in which complaints should be made. He might say that yesterday he had written to the Chief Secretary in reference to the subject of visits, and he supposed the letter was treated as were the other complaints.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Redmond.)
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that if the hon. Member had sent him a copy of the letter he would have instituted an inquiry into the matter.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he had not seen any such letter. [Cries of "Stopped!"] Perhaps the hon. Member would now send him a copy of the letter. He would have an inquiry made into the truth of the statements. With regard to the speech of the hon. Member for New Boss, he desired to say likewise that if the hon. Member would send him particulars of the day on which he was detained he would institute inquiries and see if there were any reasons for the detention. Without being acquainted with dates and particulars he could not give answers to complaints. There must be some limit with regard to the liberty of prisoners to receive visits. In every possible way reasonable visits ought to be allowed. If the hon. Member would send him particulars of his complaints now, that would give him an opportunity of testing how far visits to "suspects" were available. Had the particulars been sent a few days ago the Question might now be answered without delay.
§ MR. HEALY
remarked that, in reply to some Questions from him, the Prime Minister recently made a similar demand for particulars. They did not feel that there was the slightest use in sending the right hon. Gentleman any letters of particulars, for this reason. The right hon. Gentleman would merely send those letters to the incriminated parties—the prison officials—and the incriminated parties would, as a matter of course, deny everything that had been alleged, and this stereotyped reply would be laid before the House as the conclusion of this matter. If the right hon. Gentleman would undertake to select an independent person—so indifferent was he as to who the person was, provided he was independent and removed out of the sphere of the prison officials, that he had no objection even to the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton)—and request him to go to any of the prisons in Ireland and inquire into the grievances of the prisoners, they would 1432 be content. They would then send to the right hon. Gentleman oceans of correspondence. To provide for the visiting of each "suspect" every day was a mere matter of mechanical arrangement. The answer of the right hon. Gentleman was—"We must only make the best arrangements we can." That was not a proper answer. Proper arrangements should be made for the carrying out of the rules which the right hon. Gentleman laid on the Table of the House. A quarter of an hour was surely short enough for a man in prison to be allowed to see and speak with his wife or his friends without restricting it. There were, perhaps, 100 men in Limerick Prison. The Governor of that prison was a man whose conduct was notoriously bad, against whom many complaints had been made, and who, owing to some of those complaints, had been transferred from certain prisons. He provided only one cell for visits, which prevented most of the prisoners receiving their friends for the miserable quarter of an hour that the rules allowed. Suppose complaints were sent in reference to that prison to the right hon. Gentleman, he would forward them to Governor Eager, who would deny every one of them, and the right hon. Gentleman would read his denials to the House. If the Government so eon-ducted themselves towards Englishmen, their life as a Government would not be worth a minute's purchase. But because the right hon. Gentleman knew his majority did not depend on the Irish Members, little attention was paid to their complaints. Their only object and hope in bringing forward these complaints was to try and shame him before the country and before Europe into something like a compliance with his own rules.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
wished the right hon. Gentleman to state plainly whether he would make suitable arrangements for the carrying out of his own rules, so that every prisoner might receive a visit each day? Asking to have these arrangements made was not putting forward any unreasonable request.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
could only say that the rules were put to the House regulating the visits. Whether other arrangements for the prisoners could be made he could not say; but if he found 1433 that visits could be multiplied in a manner consistent with the character and good management of the prison, he would endeavour to see that it should be carried out. He would try and discover what other arrangements could be devised for enabling prisoners to receive visits from their friends; and if he found they could be multiplied he would do so.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, that, although certain rules were laid down for visiting, those rules could not be effectually carried out by the machinery which now existed in the prisons. The right hon. Gentleman said he wished to bring his rules into effective operation; but it seemed to him that the House gave him power to form his own opinion, and to supply the means of carrying his rules into operation. There was not the slightest use in laying rules upon the Table of the House if the right hon. Gentleman was to have the power of considering whether he would put them in reasonable and fair operation. The Chief Secretary for Ireland heard the complaints of the hon. Member for New Ross (Mr. Redmond) as if he were cross-examining an expert witness at the Old Bailey; and the right hon. Gentleman seemed to raise a doubt as to whether the statements of the hon. Member were true. He did not think that was a proper way in which such complaints should be treated by a responsible Minister of the Crown. In past times they were told if they had any complaints to make against the treatment of prisoners those complaints should be made to the prison authorities. But now he said a complaint to the authorities should be sent through a Member of Parliament, who could send it to the right hon. Gentleman, who could then form his own conclusion upon it. Was that, he asked, a legitimate and proper mode of carrying out the duties of the right hon. Gentleman's Office? They knew, as an hon. Member opposite told them the other night, that the right hon. Gentleman was ignorant. ["Order!"] But there was no reason why he should be ignorant of the Correspondence that came into his Office, for he ought to be acquainted with all his official duties.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
What I said was that people who had heard the right hon. Gentleman's speech at Tullamore probably said, as they went home—" He is very ignorant; but he means 1434 well." On that ground they would excuse many things that he did. I believe the right hon. Gentleman knows a great deal more than he chooses to tell us.
§ MR. REDMOND
, in asking leave to withdraw his Motion, said, the Chief Secretary for Ireland had stated that he would look into this matter and see if he could not do something to make his rules work better—that he would do what he could to have those rules carried out, so that every prisoner, as far as possible, and so far as was consistent with the discipline and the good management of the prison, should be able to avail himself of the rules, which provided that each prisoner should be visited as often as possible. He would not raise the question again for some time. He would wait and see if the right hon. Gentleman would facilitate those visits; but if, after Easter, they found he had not been able to do anything in that direction, he and his Friends on that side of the House would do all they could to force the matter upon the attention of the House.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.