HC Deb 30 April 1883 vol 278 cc1431-2

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether a letter has been addressed to Earl Spencer by the Rev. James O'Laverty, P.P. M.R.I.A., Holy-wood, "as a priest and most loyal subject," representing to His Excellency that— Widespread dissatisfaction is felt by the Catholics of Belfast and its neighbourhood at the insult offered to them, and the want of reliance on both their loyalty and conscience, which has been more than merely implied by the party or parties called ' the Crown,' in the late treason-felony trials at the Belfast Assizes; whether it is the fact, as stated in that letter, that on the first of these trials no Catholic was admitted on the jury, which was an exclusively Protestant one, and that on the second trial only one Catholic juror was empannelled; and, whether, in view of the Rev. Mr. O'Laverty's deliberate statement that the proceedings of the Crown officials during these trials "have contributed as far as in them lies to foster rebellion and disaffection" among the Catholics of Antrim, he will advise the Lord Lieutenant to institute an inquiry into the system upon which juries in political cases in Ireland are struck?


It is the case, Sir, that the Rev. Mr. O'Laverty ad- dressed such a letter to the Lord Lieutenant; but it is not the case that any jurors were set aside because they were Roman Catholics. As a matter of fact, no inquiry was made by the Crown as to the religious persuasions of any of the jurors on the panel. No exception is ever taken to the cause for which a prisoner challenges any juror, and in case of challenges made by the Crown the circumstances which the officials of the Crown look to are circumstances entirely apart from religious persuasion.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say by what fortuitous circumstances it happens that, though the religion of jurors is never inquired into, it always happens that the persons told to stand aside are Catholics?


Will the Chief Secretary inform the House who has given him the extraordinary information which he has just communicated to the House?

[No reply was given to these Questions.]