HC Deb 12 May 1882 vol 269 cc559-80

, in rising to call attention to the Grand Jury system in Ireland; and to move, "That, in the opinion of this House, immediate reform is required," said, the subject of Grand Jury reform had occupied the attention of the House for a considerable period. In 1842 a Royal Commission inquired into and reported upon the working of the system; in 1868 a Select Committee of the House of Commons, consisting of 16 Members, all of them belonging to the landlord class, reported in favour of its reform. Founded upon the Report of that Committee, the Government of the day brought in numerous Bills in 1872, 1873, 1876, and 1878. The neces- sity for reform being so urgently felt, a promise was made in Her Majesty's Speech at the beginning of last Session that the question of Local Government would be dealt with. But while the Government passed two Coercion Acts, which had worked badly, and one Land Act, which had worked likewise, the subject of Grand Jury reform was left untouched. In the Queen's Speech this Session no allusion was made to the subject, or, indeed, to any other Irish measure of concern. The House must be aware of the anomalies of the system. Grand Juries practically consisted of landlords, because all the Irish magistrates were landlords. These magistrates were selected as Grand Jurors by the Sheriff, who was himself appointed by the Government. The associated cesspayers were balloted for by the magistrates out of the highest rated occupiers in the district; but they were not compelled to attend, and there was no security for the proper representation of the people, so that the entire fiscal arrangements of the country were dealt with by a class which had no community of feeling with the people. To give an idea of the extent of this power, he might mention that last year the Grand Juries throughout Ireland expended £1,240,000—that was to say, a number of gentlemen, simply because they had been called by the Lord Lieutenant to be justices of the peace, mulcted the people to the extent of £1,240,000, without those people having any popular representation to check it. He had several times called attention to the manner in which Grand Juries presented compensation for malicious injuries. Their duties at present were of a very multifarious nature. They had the making of bridges and roads, and, until recently, the building of courthouses and county gaols. Now, there were two Bills before the House by which it was proposed to extend their powers still further. He referred to the Corrupt Practices Bill, which proposed to give them power of levying money to defray the expenses of Election Petitions where the Judges thought fit; and the coercion measure introduced last night by the Home Secretary, which proposed that in the cases of murder or malicious injuries to human beings, the Grand Juries should have the same power of presenting compensation as in the case of injury to property. He saw no reason why, if compensation were given for malicious injuries to property, compensation should not also he allowed in cases of murder and malicious personal injury, and would not object to the powers to be conferred by those Bills if the tribunal to present the compensation was a fair one, impartially selected, and that it represented the people. He would give a few examples of how they discharged their fiscal duties. The Cork Daily Herald of March 17th reported the case of a man named Hayes, who claimed compensation for malicious injury to what he called a valuable mare. The Presentment Sessions allowed £10. Before the Grand Jury Hayes claimed £80; and a dialogue took place between some Grand Jurors and the solicitor for the taxpayers, during which Captain Somerville stated to the solicitor—"If you interfere any further we will make it £80." The solicitor replied that if the Grand Jury held out such a threat they could do what they liked, and he would retire from the case. The Grand Jury then passed £54 compensation. The veterinary surgeon proved that the valuable mare was alive and well, and had sustained no injury whatever. The hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) was recently refused a Select Committee to inquire into a case in which the Grand Jury of Galway levied an assessment so as to exclude all their own property, and to throw it exclusively on the tenants of the hon. and gallant Member. Enormous sums were also given by the Cork Grand Jury at the last Assizes to several persons. These cases came on appeal before Mr. Baron Dowse, who, perhaps, commanded the utmost amount of public confidence, and he, in several cases, considerably reduced the amount. In one case, where £300 was given to a man named Copithorne, from Skibbereen, the learned Judge reduced the amount one-half, remarking that he was not sure but that even this was too much compensation. It was clear that, wherever the Grand Jury considered they might inflict a fine upon persons having popular sympathies, they invariably did so in a merciless manner, and resorted to many methods of excluding themselves and their friends. But when a man who was a Land Leaguer claimed compensation for malicious injury, inflicted, perhaps, by landlords or by Emergency men—and several cases of this kind had occurred—the claim was rejected. James Brown, of Birr, a man of popular opinions, sought compensation for the malicious burning of a hayrick, and, notwithstanding clear evidence of malice, the Grand Jury absolutely quashed the presentment. His contention was that, whether the Grand Jury system worked fairly or unfairly, being an anomalous system, it ought to be abolished. It was too much for the House to say that in the 19th century, when popular representation had come into play in all other bodies having the disposal of public money and the taxation of the people, the Grand Jury system, which represented nobody but the landlords, was to be maintained. He believed that no subject in Ireland excited the popular feeling more than the action of the Grand Juries at the Assizes. He did not impeach their conduct so far as concerned the bringing in of true bills, but the exercise of their fiscal powers with regard to the management of local affairs. The matter had been investigated by Royal Commission and by Select Committee; but the time of the House was taken up in passing Coercion Bills, and an important subject like this the Government did not think it worth their while to deal with. Virtually, the Grand Jurors of Ireland consisted of the magistrates, and no one else; and particularly in such matters as giving compensation for malicious injury and the making of roads, the rates they imposed should fall equally upon all classes. Under such circumstances, they would not have the same ground of complaint; but here Grand Jurors had not merely the power of enforced compensation in the country over which they had jurisdiction, but they had positively the power to pick out certain districts to allot the whole amount upon certain parishes. They were told by the Home Secretary that the Bill introduced on Thursday night was to be retrospective; and, therefore, if the relatives of the noble Lord claimed compensation for his dreadful murder, the inhabitants of Phœnix Park, the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary, would be mulcted in the amount. This was one of the extraordinary outcomes of the Bill of Thursday night. He would not oppose the granting of compensation for malicious injury to persons any more than he would for damage to property, so long as the body giving the compensation was a representative body. He should certainly offer the greatest opposition to any proposal for handing over such increased power to a body which simply represented the landlord class—a class described by the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) as the "residuum of Cromwellism." What he complained of was that, whereas the Government and the Conservative Administration admitted the necessity of local self-government, and that the powers of Grand Juries ought to be restricted, the Government, by the Bill which they introduced last night, actually proposed to enlarge the area of the operation of the Grand Jury system in Ireland. The Grand Jury question was one upon which the Irish people felt very keenly; and whilst they welcomed an Arrears Bill to deal with their temporary necessities, they felt that the standing requirement of the country was good government. The re-modelling of the Grand Jury system and the establishment of County Boards he took to be a necessary foundation of law and order in that country. The best way to train the people to habits of law and order was to enable them to govern themselves, to infuse into them a feeling of responsibility, to make them feel they were a part of the body politic, that they were within the pale of the law, and that if they were taxed they were represented. The subject was one on which the Government admitted its responsibility; and what he wanted to place on the Books of the House was a Resolution that a reform was not only needed, but was urgent. He trusted that before long they would have vigorous legislation on the subject. He felt regret that while beneficent pledges put into the mouth of Her Majesty by the Government at the opening of Parliament should so frequently be disappointed, pledges of Coercion Bills were always kept. It was a bad thing to teach the people of Ireland that the demands of the Tories, who had no sympathies with the people, and who regarded them as simple machines for grinding out rents, would be listened to by the Government, and that there would be no hesitation in bringing forward repressive legislation; while, at the same time, the Government paltered with its pledges to introduce beneficent measures such as he now demonstrated to be necessary and urgent. In conclusion, he begged to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.


, in seconding the Motion, said, that reform in the Grand Jury system was more imperative than ever since the Government proposed by their new Bill to confer very important additional powers on the Grand Juries of Ireland. Such reform lay at the very basis of the restoration of confidence amongst the people of Ireland. The grievance had been admitted. A couple of years ago the present Government undertook to deal with the question of County Government in Ireland; but they abandoned their design in order to bring in the Bill which afterwards became the Coercion Act, and which had proved so disastrous to Ireland. There was no one who had any knowledge of the relations between the Grand Jurors and the cesspayers, between the landlords and the mass of the people of Ireland, but had his memory stored with cases of the most scandalous injustice and of the most gross partiality on the part of the Grand Jurors whenever they had the opportunity of showing their partiality at the expense of the people. The hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) had done good service to the cause of the people of Ireland, and to the cause of order, in drawing attention to the defectiveness and shortcomings of the Grand Jury system of Ireland, especially in connection with the new Coercion Act. Most important powers under the Bill were proposed to be conferred on Grand Jurors, and they might be perfectly sure that these powers would be exercised, especially at the present crisis, in entire accord with the injustice which had become traditional. If there was any way in which the Grand Jury system could be made more effectual in stirring up class hatred that would be by the proposed working of the Compensation Clauses of the new Coercion Act. Many instances could be adduced of the way the Grand Juries gratified, in the most despicable and cruel manner, a party grudge. He referred particularly to a resolution of a Grand Jury in Galway, which exempted every part of the county except the land owned by the Liberal and Home Rule Member for the county (Colonel Nolan) from an imposition of a rate of 8s. or 9s. in the pound for compensation for some alleged malicious act. This, when first mentioned to the House, was thought by some to be an unaccountable freak of Grand Jury caprice; but when it became known that the tenantry on whom this imposition was made was that of the man who had shown the first great example of justice to the peasants in the West, everyone knew that the hon. and gallant Member was being struck at through his tenantry. It was the conviction of very many persons that the rick-burnings, the maiming and mutilation of cattle, and other instances of malice and brutality paraded in the newspapers, were stimulated and encouraged by the way in which compensations were assessed. When these took place on the land of the landowning class, they were sure to receive, not only compensation, but an amount far above the market value. In County Wicklow a rick of hay, the property of Mr. Gordon Tombs, was found to be on fire. It was not known whether it caught fire accidentally or was the work of an incendiary; but the whole population of the district turned out to extinguish the flames. Nevertheless, the Wicklow Grand Jury persisted in regarding the fire as malicious, and saddled the population of the district with the payment of £300 compensation. No doubt, many a landowner in the district must have reflected that compensation for malicious injury was a more profitable line of business than disposing by sale of ricks of hay in the open market. On the other hand, nothing could induce a Grand Jury to grant compensation for the malicious destruction of the property of those known to be in sympathy with the popular Party. In the North of Ireland, a couple of months ago, a case occurred of scandalous partiality. The lady occupying the Roddy Hotel allowed posting horses to be hired by a Land Leaguer in Donegal, and although it was proved beyond doubt that one of the horses was poisoned with arsenic, the Grand Jury refused compensation. There was no honesty, no respect for justice, and no sense of decency—no regard for public opinion in these bodies, and to increase their powers would be the more effectual means of making worse the present condition of things. Unless they were deprived of their powers of partizan decisions and unjust taxation and corrupt jobbery, it would be impossible to instil into the minds of the people of Ireland confidence in the administration of public business. There was not a county in Ireland in which they could not collect 50 tales of jobbery and partiality of a scandalous nature on the part of Grand Juries.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that the Grand Jury system in Ireland should be immediately reformed,"—(Mr. Healy,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he could not support the Motion of the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) if it went to a division, because it was evidently impossible for the Government to deal with that question this Session. His own opinion, however, of the demerits of the Irish Grand Jury system, taking it in its fiscal capacity, was as strong as that of the hon. Member for Wexford. He believed that one of the reforms that were most needed in Ireland was the establishment of County Boards. Had it not been for the circumstances in which they found themselves at the present moment, he should not have taken part in the debate; but they knew that by the new measure the Government had introduced it was contemplated to give very large powers to Grand Juries in the way of levying compensation for murder or malicious injury, and of applotting the amount on certain districts. He did not say a word now on the principle of levying those fines; but he maintained that, if they were to be levied, the Grand Jury was not the body which should either levy or applot them. To require them to do so would be putting on them an invidious task, and one of which they could not acquit themselves with satisfaction to the community. The initiative rested with the presentment sessions, by whom the most ridiculous things were passed, and afterwards passed again by the Grand Juries. If the Government must bring in the clause for giving the compensation to which he had referred, he hoped that they would consider whether they ought not to take the matter entirely away either from the presentment sessions or the Grand Juries, and leave the Executive to deal with it, as in the case of the proposal in regard to the police.


said, that having served for 40 years on Grand Juries in Ireland, he could not pass unnoticed the ferocious attack made, not on the Grand Jury system itself, but on the persons connected with it by two hon. Members who had spoken from below the Gangway on his side of the House. If the description given by the hon. Members was taken as correct, one would imagine that the Irish Grand Juries were the most corrupt set of people in the world. He flung back that imputation with scorn. In no country in the world would there be found country gentlemen who were performing their duties under more difficult circumstances than the country gentlemen of Ireland now experienced; and they were still determined, as far as they were permitted, while their lives were spared, to continue the performance of their duties in that country where Providence had placed them in some way to guard the interest of their poorer neighbours. The statements made by the hon. Member who introduced the Motion were without foundation, because he omitted altogether to mention a most important portion in the system. No presentment could be made unless it had been before the magistrates in Quarter Sessions, who had with them the associated cesspayers of the district. It rested with the Grand Jury to applot the amount of damage, and say where it was to be placed; but it rested with the cesspayers in session first to say whether the injury was malicious or not. In reply to the charge that paid juries refused to grant roads to Roman Catholic chapels, he would say, coming himself from a district which was mainly Protestant, that the Grand Jury had been most scrupulously regardful of the wants of their Roman Catholic neighbours, and had stretched a point on many occasions to give them accommodation to reach their places of worship. When his own house was burnt the Grand Jury of his county refused to give him any compensation; whereas they might have done otherwise if they only wished to support the landlords of Ireland, as had been unjustly imputed to them. Those gentlemen had endeavoured to do their duty faithfully under the system which existed. Whether it was the best sys- tem he did not say. When a Bill on the subject was brought in he would express his opinion upon it. But he now personally hurled back with indignation the foul aspersions which had been cast on the gentlemen of his native country.


said, he believed that there was no section in the House, and he doubted whether there was any individual Member, who did not agree in the abstract Resolution now presented for consideration by the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy). From every part of the House sympathy with the object of the Resolution had, at some time or other, proceeded, and Bills had been brought forward on that subject, which, owing to circumstances over which those having charge of them had no control, had not hitherto resulted in legislation. He, on the part of the Government, entirely sympathized with the Resolution, but took exception to the word "immediate," which, if adopted, would make it imperative on the Government to deal with the matter at once, a task beyond their power, having regard to the business to be done in dealing with a subject of this kind. He thought, with the hon. Member for Coleraine (Sir Hervey Bruce), that they should not mix up objections to the system with individual miscarriage. Everyone who knew Ireland—and that was an expression which he was obliged to use frequently—knew that in that country a most unhappy propensity for jobbing prevailed. It was not confined to any class or to any profession. In his long and varied experience he had found that one of the main objects of one body or class in Ireland was to correct the jobbing propensity of some other class or body. He did not think, therefore, that the Grand Juries should be singled out as a class which, above others, were persistent and consistent jobbers. There was one matter in which Ireland could compare favourably with any other part of the United Kingdom, and that was with regard to public roads. The roads were entirely under the control of the Grand Juries of Ireland. [Mr. HEALY: Who pays for them?] The Irish people paid nothing in the shape of turnpike; they paid county cess. Up to the passing of the Land Act of 1870 Grand Jurors did not, as a general rule, pay the county cess for any land except that in their own occupation; but that Act altered the incidence of the cess on landlord and tenant as to all lettings subsequent to that Act in which it was not excluded by express agreement, so that it was borne as to one half by the person who received the rent, and as to the other half by the person who paid the rent. Grand Jurors were not exempted from the Land Act of 1870, so that they did not at present constitute a body which did not pay part of the taxes they disbursed. The broad ground that the Government and also the Opposition recognized was that representation should always accompany taxation. That was the principle that governed the Poor Law, and it worked well; and, beyond all doubt, at the earliest moment of public time that was at the disposal of the Government, there was no matter relating to Ireland which demanded, and would receive, more immediate attention than this. He could not agree with the hon. Member for Wexford that Ireland had not received at the hands of Parliament her proper share of attention.


I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon. I said "except as regards the Coercion Acts."


said, that this Session, at any rate, there had been no Coercion Acts. Speaking from painful personal experience, having had to be in the House from half-past 4 in the day till all hours at night and the small hours of the morning, he protested that three-fourths of the time of the Session had been occupied, in one way or another, with Business connected with Ireland. The hon. Member said a Coercion Bill was going to be introduced. Would not the hon. Member support a measure for sustaining and increasing the powers of the ordinary law in order to bring criminals to justice, and not allow the country to be stained so foully as it was last week? The hon. Member misconceived the Bill which would be laid before the House in assuming that the provisions of the Irish Grand Jury Act would be embodied in the measure. The Bill was intended to strengthen the hands of the Administration, and any powers relating to compensation contained in it would be placed entirely in the hands of the Executive. If the Executive were unable to deal fairly and justly in the matter, that would not be a reason for opposing the Bill itself, but rather for displacing the Executive. With reference to the distinguished nobleman who was at present administering affairs in Ireland, he thought no one would deny his honesty of purpose and desire for fair play. In malicious injury cases, any party discontented with the finding of the Grand Jury was at liberty to have it reviewed by a Judge and jury. The question ought not to be run away with simply because the hon. Member was able to lay his finger on one or two isolated cases. He was sorry to say that he was old enough to have acquired by experience the lesson which he had asked the House to apply—not to judge a question without hearing both sides. He was not acquainted with the facts of the particular cases mentioned, and he would ask the House to suspend its judgment in the matter till it had heard both sides; but he had made inquiry into one of these cases which was the subject of a Question—namely, Hayes's case—and in that case he thought a gross act of injustice was done to Hayes at the presentment sessions.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Judge actually reduced the Grand Jury's presentment?


Yes; but how much did he reduce it? Hayes was what we call a "Boycotted" farmer, who had an exceedingly well-bred filly. This filly was stabbed. There was no question of accident in the matter. It was clear and distinct malicious injury done to a man who fell under the popular ban. Could anyone say it was not a grossly inhuman and savage thing to wreak personal spite on the poor beast? The mare was stabbed, and thus the man's pocket was injured. She was worth about £35 or £45, but the presentment session gave him £10 and kicked him out of Court with insult. The Grand Jury gave him substantial damages, which were traversed before the Judge and a Petty Jury and reduced. That showed that if the system was wrong in principle it did not always work with injustice. He must ask the House not to run away with the notion that because a system was bad in principle—which he thought the whole House accepted—that therefore it was wrong to all intents and purposes. Practically the system did not work badly as a general rule; theoretically it was entirely wrong; politically the Government were most anxious, and, indeed, were pledged, as far as he recollected, by the Queen's Speech, as were the Opposition by their action, to revise the system at as early an opportunity as possible, and in doing that to carry out the canon that representation should accompany and control taxation. Of course those who did not succeed were apt to smart under a sense of injury and, in the belief that they had been grossly wronged, to express themselves in language almost as sweeping as that used by hon. Members opposite below the Gangway; but he put it those hon. Members whether it was not of greater importance now to relieve the immediate necessities of the tenants, to try and restore harmony between the estranged classes in Ireland by the proposed Bill with regard to arrears, than to attempt to deal with the requirements of the Grand Jury system? Was it not also more necessary that the arm of the law should be immediately strengthened, so as to be able to bring criminals to justice, than that county government should be reformed? The reform demanded by the Resolution was rendered impossible this Session by the state of Public Business; and the Government, therefore, while they sympathized with those who desired to reform the Grand Jury system, could not accept a Resolution pledging them to immediate legislation on this subject. He trusted, therefore, that the matter would not be pressed further; but that the Government might have their opposition to the Motion obviated by its withdrawal.


said, he did not rise to continue the debate, but to make an appeal to the hon. Members representing Irish constituencies. He agreed with the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite that it was impossible for obvious reasons to give practical effect to the Resolution. The subject was a very large and technical one, and he did not propose to discuss it; but he wished to appeal to hon. Members below the Gangway not to proceed with the debate in the tone adopted by the first two speakers. How could they ever arrive at a satisfactory solution of any question in Ire- land if speeches were to be made in which such sentiments were expressed? He had been perfectly amazed to hear one hon. Member declare that the Grand Juries had "no honesty, no decency, no respect for public opinion," and that "there was not a county in which you could not find many cases of oppression." It was not wonderful that the hon. Member for Coleraine (Sir Hervey Bruce) should have made a strong protest, which, for his own part, he heartily endorsed, against such wholesale charges. Those charges were almost always indefinite, and there was, therefore, no chance of specifically refuting them. By way of testing their general accuracy he might mention that the whole matter had been considered by a Select Committee in the year 1868, which was composed, among others, of the following Gentlemen, all of them good specimens of loyal and patriotic Irishmen—Lord Mayo, Mr. Chichester Fortescue, Mr. Maguire, Mr. Blake, Sir William Gregory, Sir Colman O'Loghlen, and Colonel French. The Report was unanimously adopted; and in answer to the charge as to the honesty and the decency of Grand Juries, he would quote this passage— Such are the principal objections to the existing system; and having carefully considered the whole of the evidence, your Committee have come to the conclusion that, however open to objection certain portions of the Grand Jury system may be, its administration is generally pure and economical. That was the opinion of the Committee. There had been, no doubt, grave charges made against individual members of the landed classes in Ireland; but it had been almost universally admitted that the landlords who held great estates and were prominent in their counties were as good landlords as could be found anywhere, and those were the men of whom the Grand Juries were usually composed. He did not wish to say anything in recrimination; but he did appeal to hon. Members, if they wished to carry the debate on, not to indulge in language or make indefinite charges which could have no other effect than to stir up fierce antagonism between the various classes which had to live together and who ought to live in harmony in Ireland.


said, that, as the last surviving Member in that House of the Select Committee of 17, to which refer- ence had been made, he desired to offer a few words on the subject. He wished that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had quoted more extensively from the Report; for, had he done so, he would have found that the Committee was unanimous in favour of some reform of the system. No doubt some very unjust charges had been made against the Grand Juries; but he believed there was much of which the ratepaying community might fairly complain. There was taxation without the power of properly controlling expenditure, as the cesspayers were not fairly represented. The Grand Jury were the nominees of the Sheriff, and they nominated the associated ratepapers. In his own county (Waterford), the Duke of Devonshire and the Marquess of Waterford were the largest landowners, and in that capacity he desired to allude to them with every respect. The Duke of Devonshire, though a good landlord, was an absentee; and, notwithstanding that he drew £40,000 a-year out of Ireland, the only property for which he was assessed was Lismore Castle, and the cess for it must be under £25. The Marquess of Waterford drew £30,000 from the county; and as there had been very few tenancies created on his estate since 1870, his case formed an instance in which nearly all the county cess was paid by the tenants. This arose from the fact that on his estate, as well as that of the Duke of Devonshire, there were very few evictions, and consequently few re-lettings, since 1870, so that hardly any of the tenants on either estates came under the benefit of the Act enacting that in all lettings since 1870 the cess should be divided between landlord and tenant. It was so also with numerous tenants throughout Ireland. Another very great grievance the ratepayers suffered under was that they had to bear all the cost of the lunatic poor, which, he was sorry to say, were increasing. In the City of Waterford they had only to walk from the workhouse, which was supported equally by landlord and tenant, across the road to another institution, the lunatic asylum, for which the tenants were solely taxed, while they had no voice in the election of the Board of Governors. Though the subject of Grand Jury reform had been before the House close upon 18 years, no step had been taken to carry out the important recommendations of the Select Committee. He fully agreed with the Attorney General for Ireland that there were more pressing subjects to be disposed of; but when that was done, he earnestly hoped that this long-standing grievance would form part of the Government programme next Session.


, as one who had expressed very strong opinions on this subject from time to time, desired to say a few words now. He believed that next to the demand for Irish remedial legislation in respect of the Land Law, there was no question of more importance than that now before the House. The whole Grand Jury system of Ireland, from top to bottom, tended to jobbery and corruption. Yet, if there were one branch of this system of jurisdiction which he would continue to repose in Grand Juries, it was that of adjudicating upon cases of malicious injuries, and of any assessments in connection with them. The greatest protection that men had from crime in Ireland was the power of Grand Juries to compensate them out of their own pockets and out of the pockets of their neighbours. Though the Grand Juries had not been economical or altogether fair in the expenditure of public money, he must say, from his own experience in the North of Ireland, that they had always exercised a wise, careful, and conscientious jurisdiction in connection with the assessments for malicious injuries. He could not agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Plunket) that the Grand Juries were mainly composed of the great landowners of the country. If that were so, they would have a better state of things. In the county of Tyrone, where there were such great landlords as the Duke of Abercorn, Lord Belmore, and others, he ventured to say that for the last 20 years not one of them had acted as a Grand Juror. They were represented by agents, who had no land in the county, and were often entire strangers. The same was the case in the county of Monaghan, where there were such great landowners as Mr. Shirley, Lord Clonmell, the Marquess of Bath, and Lord Dartrey. The whole Grand Jury system required to be re-modelled. The people must have representation, and until they got it there would be amongst them irritation and excitement. There being no second opinion as to the necessity for reforming the system, he hardly knew the object for bringing forward the present Motion.


, in supporting the Motion, observed that this was not a question of individual representation on Grand Juries. It was a question of system. There were many systems in Ireland which needed reformation, but none of them more so than that of Grand Juries. The great complaint was that under the Grand Jury system in Ireland there was a power of taxation without representation. Outside a certain number of families in the counties, no one ever saw a Grand Juror selected from year's end to year's end. It should be remembered that, while the Grand Jurors had the power of taxation, many of them never paid 1s. themselves. None but the immediate relatives of Grand Jurors were appointed collectors of county cess, and these gentlemen were paid 9d. in the pound, while the Guardians of the Poor paid only from 4d. to 6d. for collecting a rate, which was much more troublesome. He had known many instances in which respectable and solvent men had offered to collect the county cess for 5d. in the pound, and others were preferred and paid 9d. in the pound. In his own town, within the last few years, the Grand Jury took a site for a court-house from the brother of a Grand Juror; they laid out £300 or £400 upon it; and when the court-house was built and the contractor paid, it was then discovered that the man had no title. Certainly a compact had since been entered into, and they had taken possession; but the system remained the same. In the payment of claims they were equally careless. They were not directly elected from the cesspayers, but were simply the nominees of the High Sheriffs. The Attorney General for Ireland said Grand Juries were not the only bodies in Ireland who practised jobbery. Very true; but in every other case the people had the power of putting aside the jobbers at the elections. They had no such power with the Grand Jury. The right hon. and learned Gentleman also told the House that since 1870 in all lettings the county cess was divided between landlord and tenant. But the fact was, that in nine cases out of ten, the landlord or agent had written the tenant out of his right. At all events, in seven cases out of eight which had come within his own knowledge, that had been done.


explained that in the case mentioned by the hon. Member, the Grand Jury were not in fault. The case turned upon the construction of a document.


said, the necessity for reform in regard to the Grand Jury system in Ireland was generally admitted, and the only question before the House was the time at which reform could be effected. It was evident nothing could be done this Session; but he hoped that next Session it would be one of the first measures taken in hand by the Government of the day. It had been said that the great object of the Grand Juries was to protect the interests of their poorer neighbours. Certainly in Londonderry their poorer neighbours did not give the Grand Juries much credit for doing so. Personally he had had but little experience in serving on Grand Juries, because being a Liberal in politics he was probably ineligible to be chosen. Notwithstanding that, he paid more county cess than half the others on the list. Those who served were usually hangers-on and agents without property. The money expended by the Grand Juries amounted to £1,500,000, and the cesspayers had no voice in connection with that expenditure. They might be told that although the cesspayers had no direct voice or vote in the expenditure of the public money, the control was in the hands of the associated cesspayers, together with the magistrates. But these were in the first place chosen by the Grand Juries, who, of course, were careful to select men who were not obnoxious to them. Thus the cesspayers could not be said to represent the people. The question had been trifled with for 15 years by both the great Parties in the State. He did not regret the delay which had taken place, for he believed that in the coming Session of Parliament, or very soon at all events, the question must be dealt with, not only for Ireland, but for England as well, in a broad and comprehensive spirit, and they should yet have in Ireland a proper and thorough system of Local County Government.


said, he supposed that the only useful object of the Motion was to ascertain the views of the Government, and when they proposed to deal with the matter. This was not a question of who was or who was not selected to serve on Grand Juries. It was a broad question of the right of taxing the occupiers of land in Ireland without permitting them to be represented in the taxing body. It was a most serious thing for people to be taxed by those who did not represent them, and this it was that made the Grand Jury system more objectionable than anything else they could imagine. In no other part of the world did they find such a system as that which existed in Ireland. Why should matters have been left, not for 15 years, but for 30 years, in such an objectionable state? He could only account for it upon the principle that in everything Ireland was to be left behind, and that everything which concerned Ireland was to be shelved. He could not complain that Ireland had not occupied a great deal of the time of the House during the last two years, for it certainly had; but he could not understand why the Government should have ignored this question for 14 years previous to that. When it was dealt with, he hoped it would be included in a broad measure of local government for Ireland, and that the Act of 1870 would no longer be disregarded as a dead letter. He hoped that, short as this Resolution was, and short as the discussion would be, they would have the effect of inducing the Government to bring forward the question and deal with it on the first opportunity.


said, there could be no doubt that very serious abuses had arisen under the present Grand Jury system. Large sums were expended out of the cesspayers' money by Grand Juries in building handsome banquetting halls and other rooms for their own exclusive luxury and comfort. This required correction. A year or two ago a leading Dublin journal published a series of articles on the subject; and from a perusal of these articles he was very much surprised to find how widely diffused those abuses were amongst the Grand Juries in the different counties in Ireland. As the matter was now thoroughly ventilated, and the great majority of the House were satisfied that the system required amendment, although not disposed to deal with it at present, he hoped that the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) would not press his Resolution to a division; for if it was an adverse division, he felt that it would be most injurious to the cause. The best service the hon. Member could render the interests he had advocated was to withdraw his Resolution.


said, he did not agree with the hon. Member, for his experience went to show that the largeness or the smallness of a majority or minority had very little to do with the final settlement of a question in that House. He remembered the case of the Malt Tax. The minority supporting the appeal was 18; but, in spite of the smallness of the minority, one of the first taxes repealed by the Government was that very tax. The whole question resolved itself into what suited the convenience or the supposed interests of the Government for the time being. Nor could he agree with the hon. Member for the County Limerick that they were flogging a dead horse. Altogether they had succeeded in extracting from the Government a more or less pathetic reply that at a period more or less remote they would take up the question. They acknowledged the necessity of a settlement of the question, and that question cried loudly for reform. The only way to get that reform was to keep bringing the matter under the notice of the Government. That taxation and representation should go together there could be no difference of opinion; but this Grand Jury system went a great deal further than even taxation and representation. The hon. Baronet the Member for Coleraine (Sir Hervey Bruce) gave a very warm character to the jurors of the county of Derry; but Derry was differently situated, in some respects, from any other county in Ireland. A very large proportion of the land of the county was in the hands of Companies who had no representation from their properties on the Grand Juries; and the result was that there was in the county of Derry a comparative scarcity of suitable persons for grand jurors. From time to time, traders of the City of Derry had got on Grand Juries for the county of Derry, and had also held the position of High Sheriff; and he thought the county of Derry did not fairly represent the system pursued in the various counties of Ireland, and that it was not an instance which could be quoted. With regard to the question of taxation and representation, the hon. Baronet also said that these grand jurors were very careful of the interests of their poor neighbours. That might be the case in the county of Derry; but certainly, in his experience in some counties with which he was more or less acquainted, it was not so. The sort of men who usually got the position of high constable were men who were political supporters of the dominant Party in the county; and he thought it a reprehensible system for a Grand Jury, which had the power of taxation in the county, to use that power to further the interests of political Parties by giving situations to their hangers-on at a higher rate than was given to others. Grand Juries were not entitled to the very warm praise with which one or two Members of the House had spoken of them. Grand Juries gave the county printing to Conservative newspapers for the purpose of giving them a partizan support. That was done at the expense of the ratepayers, to his knowledge, so far as concerned the county of Antrim, for in that county the Grand Jury refused to give the county printing to a printing establishment, which was quite as respectable as the Conservative newspaper which the Grand Jury patronized, although the printing establishment whose offer was declined would have done the work for several hundred pounds less. The Government urged that there were matters of a more urgent nature than this question of the Grand Jury system. He knew the Government were bound to satisfy the prejudices of a certain class of Englishmen by bringing forward a Coercion Bill; but he believed the second most urgent question in Ireland was the question of county government. He never heard a farmer speak of the system who did not say that the system of Grand Jury government was one of an urgent nature. He thought, in dealing with the matter, they ought to refer to individual cases, and then draw inferences from these individual cases. With regard to the general principles of the question, the hon. Member for Wexford mentioned a case in the South of Ireland in which a large award was made by a Grand Jury; and he thought such cases showed the partizan spirit of the Grand Juries. It was pointed out by the Attorney General that the parties aggrieved could appeal from one Court to the other; but that meant a further burden of law costs upon the unfortunate sufferers. Grand jurors were selected from a certain particular ring in county society, and they kept all the patronage within their own circle. As to the division of the county cess between landlord and tenant, that only happened in cases where there had been an alteration in the rent or tenancy; and, therefore, the argument of the Attorney General came to the ground on that, as well as on all other points in the controversy. The whole case against the Grand Juries was too strong to need argument; but he hoped that the hon. Member for Wexford would press his Resolution to a division.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 118; Noes 24: Majority 94.—(Div. List, No. 78.)

Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."