HC Deb 05 April 1883 vol 277 cc1494-6

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether the fact has been reported to him that immediately before the recent election of a guardian of the poor for the electoral division of Temple, union of Tubbercurry, county Sligo, the estate-bailiff on the property of the local landlord, Mr. Alexander Perceval, Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant, and High Sheriff of the county, sent round to the tenants of that gentleman and delivered to each of them the following message, "The Master ordered you to vote for Mr. Alexander;" whether, on the day after the election in question, processes for rent, including the hanging-gale, were served on those tenants of Mr. Alexander Perceval who had voted for the popular candidate in opposition to Mr. Perceval's nominee; whether the course of conduct detailed amounts to an offence against section 7 of the Crime Prevention Act, which declares intimidation or incitement with a view to cause any person to do what he has a legal right to abstain from doing—namely, to vote for any particular candidate at an election—to be an offence against the Act; whether the Government intend to take notice of such conduct on the part of a gentleman, who is not only a justice of the peace, but the principal officer of I the law in the county; and, whether a new election will be ordered for the electoral division of Temple?


said, that perhaps it might be convenient for the Chief Secretary to answer at the same time the Question of which he had given him Notice. It was, If his attention has been called to the practice adopted by the Roman Catholic Clergy in many districts of Ireland, of going round to the houses of voters, after the voting papers for the election of Poor Law Guardians have been distributed by the constabulary, and insisted on seeing the papers filled up and signed in their presence; and if he is aware that this course was followed in the electoral division of Killargue Union of Manor Hamilton, county Leitrim, at the recent elections; if he is also aware that bands of armed men have gone round the houses of many voters both in that, and other counties at night, with the view of intimidating voters from supporting any but the popular or Land League candidates; and, what steps it is intended to take where these practices are known to have prevailed?


Sir, I have had but very short Notice of one of these Questions, and very much shorter Notice of the other, and so I have not had much time to make inquiry into the matters. With regard to the Question of the hon. Member for Sligo, I telegraphed to the police; and from the reply received it appears that the facts are not, perhaps, altogether as they are described in the Question. I am informed by the police that the estate bailiff told the tenants that it was Mr. Perceval's desire that they should vote for Mr. Alexander; and I am bound to say, at the same time, that we got from Mr. Perceval a telegram, which he sent, no doubt, on seeing the Question in the papers, in which he says he did not desire his bailiff to go and give the injunction to the tenants stated; and I leave it to the hon. Member to reconcile, if he can, the statements of the police and Mr. Perceval. Mr. Perceval is not now High Sheriff. [Mr. SEXTON: He was last year.] The processes for rent had been served on nearly all the tenants on the estate, including some of those who voted according to Mr. Perceval's wish, before the election took place; and it is not believed by the police that the election had anything to do with the service of these processes. From the information at present before them, the Government do not consider the case one in which a prosecution ought to be directed under the Prevention of Crime Act. The Government has no power to annul an election. With regard to the Question of the hon. Member (Mr. Tottenham), I have not obtained any information about these alleged practices; but I may say that if such things as armed bands going about at night to intimidate voters occur, those who are engaged in them will bring themselves within the Prevention of Crime Act. With regard to the practices alleged in the first part of the Question, I have no information on the matter; and it was to prevent such practices as those referred to in both Questions being indulged in by any party whatever that the Government intend bringing in a Bill to make the election of Guardians of the Poor take place by ballot.


Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to consider the propriety of prosecuting the estate bailiff?

[No reply was given.]