HC Deb 07 February 1884 vol 284 cc265-80

said, that before the Address was further proceeded with, he desired to call the attention of the House to some facts in connection with a visit of his to Londonderry, of which he had a very lively and bitter recollection. He would not delay the House long in referring to the incident which he had in his mind, and he thought, before he concluded, he should be able to show distinctly that in Ireland, and in the circumstances he was about to refer to, the Government were still continuing the pernicious policy of sustaining the minority as against the majority by the aid of the power of the Crown and the assistance of armed troops. The scenes which occurred in Londonderry on the 12th of November last year would be in the recollection of the House. He had promised some young men in the city, who were anxious to improve themselves in self-culture, to go down and address them in aid of their library on a subject of Constitutional interest—one proposing to the people a Constitutional weapon instead of the blood-stained one which had been constantly used in that city. He had been led to suppose, by incidents which occurred before his visit, that he would have been received there in a very different manner from that in which he was received, because the city of Londonderry consisted of 29,000 persons, of whom 17,000 were Roman Catholic and National, while the remaining minority were made up of all the other sects of the city. Although the overwhelming majority was with him and the Party he represented, the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) had gone to that city a few days before, and had spoken against the very principles he (Mr. Dawson) went there to lecture on and to vindicate. The right hon. Gentleman was received without passion; and therefore all his (Mr. Dawson's) fears in regard to the possibility of riot or tumult had been set at rest, seeing the way in which the right hon. Gentleman was received when he visited the city, in order to broach doctrines of a different character. He did not act, however, merely upon assumption; but he took the precaution of informing the people that he wished to choose a subject that should not excite violent passions against any citizen. He asked permission to deliver his lecture under cover, and he applied for the use of the public hall of the city for the discussion, because he was unwilling to be the cause of riot in a city which had unfortunately earned notoriety for such scenes. He was informed that the Corporation were prepared to give the City Hall for the purpose of his lecture, on the condition that the meeting would be decorously conducted and carried on in a manner that was likely to be beneficial to the people of the city. But immediately before his arrival at Londonderry, on his approach to the city, he found that the people had been instigated and excited to violent proceedings by the use of the most vio- lent language that could be employed by noble Lords, sons of former Viceroys of Ireland, who egged on the people of that city to deeds of murder and assassination, which they were well nigh carrying into fatal and lamentable effect. How could he hope to escape the enmity of these noble Lords—how could he escape their vulgar vituperation and threatening language, when even a noble Lord who had a seat in that House had not spared the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown, the first man in the world, but had pointed him out as a scourge and plague that ought to be removed? [Laughter.] He did not know at which part of his remarks the House was smiling, whether it was when he described the right hon. Gentleman as the first man in the world, or the attacks upon him by the noble Lord. To a passionate Orangeman an attack of such a nature was not of a trifling character, and when he (Mr. Dawson) went to Londonderry he was able to see what the attitude of the Orangemen was, and the action that was taken in consequence of these incitements. On his way to Londonderry he came to Omagh Station, where the carrying of arms was illegal. He saw the station filled with policemen, and in the presence of their officers the men got into the carriage next to the one in which he sat and began to fire a fusillade to intimidate him from doing that which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster), who had locked up a considerable portion of the people of Ireland, admitted that he had a perfect right to do. These officers saw this violation of the law, they saw this firing off' of arms in a proclaimed district, where the carrying of arms was illegal, and these officers of the law remained quite passive while the law was being broken. If it had been possible to transfer the scene to Limerick, or Tipperary, the House knew very well that few of these breakers of the law would have found themselves before the night closed out of custody. Well, he proceeded to Londonderry. The Corporation of that city gave him the use of the public hall; they took a deposit of money, and made a contract. It was a sacred contract, and the Corporation, composed largely of magistrates, entered into it knowingly. They let the hall and took the money for the use of it, and they made no intimation that anything was likely to go wrong until he arrived in the city, for they did not retract the permission to use the hall until he had arrived in Londonderry, and then at the last moment they did break their word. The troops of the Queen kept back the thousands of persons who sympathized with him, and they allowed 300 or 400 Orangemen to break open the hall and take possession of it, thus breaking not only the law, but the contract which they had entered into. He and his friends went up to the hall without arms. They had no intention, although they were there in thousands, of storming the hall; but, at his request, they remained perfectly quiet and kept the peace. When, however, they came up to the hall, they found, to their surprise, that it was bristling with a riotous and armed mob. They further found that riotous mob using firearms with deadly effect, because two people wore shot in immediate proximity to the carriage in which he sat. One of these men was still in danger of the death which it was intended he (Mr. Dawson) should suffer. It did not surprise him that Orangemen, hounded on by noble Lords, should act in that way, but it did surprise him that the troops of the Queen should be drawn up at that building to protect the minority in their murderous attack on the people. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he could deny these facts; and, if not, whether he could justify them? How could the Irish people be expected to respect the law, when they found the Queen's troops, for whom they all paid alike, drawn up to protect a murderous minority in firing upon an unarmed people below? He failed to see why the people of the country should be called upon to pay taxes in order to support a murderous minority in acts of assassination. He was asked whether an attack should be made on the hall; but he said "No." He remained in his hotel, and, although there were thousands who sympathized with him, he would not provoke a breach of the peace. When asked if he would make an attempt to enter the hall, in declining, he distinctly stated that he and his friends had law and order on their side. There were Resident Magistrates there to inquire into the matter; and it was for them to find out how it was that the streets were kept clear of the people who sympathized with him, while they were allowed to be freely frequented by those who were opposed to him. He was asked by the magistrates if he wanted protection, and he said—"No; withdraw your soldiers and police. What I complain of is that you have afforded no protection to me and to others who are engaged in a peaceable and legal work, while, at the same time, you do protect those who wish to murder us." The Resident Magistrate expressed a hope that he would not take a band with him if he went to lecture in another hall, and the magistrate added that it was illegal to have a band after sunset; but while the Resident Magistrate was making that remark an Orange band passed the window playing Orange tunes. The Resident Magistrate saw at once that while he was proposing a check upon him (Mr. Dawson) the law was being set at defiance by his opponents. The Queen's Writ did not run in Londonderry, but the Orange Writ did run, and it was well that Catholic blood did not flow. The Resident Magistrate went out to inquire how it was that bands were playing, and he came back with the explanation that it was the local magistrates who had allowed it. Therefore, between the local magistrates and the Resident Magistrate, that was the state to which law and order were reduced in the City of Londonderry. It was a vivid illustration of the effect of propping up a small murderous minority in Ireland over the overwhelming will of the vast majority of the Irish people. He thanked the House for having listened to his remarks upon a matter in which he was personally interested; but he trusted that his excuse would be found in the peculiar nature of the facts he had adduced. He was prepared to vouch for the full accuracy of the incidents he had mentioned, and he promised that further details should be given by his Colleagues when the general question of the policy of the government of Ireland came up for the consideration, and he hoped the condemnation, of the House and of the public.


said, he was afraid that the hon. Gentleman the late Lord Mayor of Dublin (Mr. Dawson) was in a state of considerable ex- citement. In fact, the hon. Member appeared to have persuaded himself, although he had not persuaded the House, that he (Lord Claud Hamilton) was almost as bad as the hon. Member's late colleague, Mr. James Carey. The hon. Member had accused him (Lord Claud Hamilton) of being a promoter of murder and assassination. Now, what was the truth of the "cock-and-bull" story to which the House had just listened. The hon. Member, when he was Lord Mayor of Dublin, was invited, or advertised at all events, in the City of Londonderry to deliver a lecture on the franchise. In an ill-advised moment the Corporation granted the use of their old historic hall for that purpose. The moment the fact became known in the city a considerable feeling of indignation was aroused, not that the people of Londonderry objected to the use of the hall for the delivery of an ordinary political lecture, but they knew, from what had been going on around them, that the object of obtaining the hall was not for the delivery of a political lecture, but that it was merely part of a plan for making a great national display within their historic walls. He (Lord Claud Hamilton) was appealed to by some of those whom he was proud to look upon as his former constituents, to do all he could to avert the public disgrace with which the city was threatened. He took the liberty of issuing a placard, a portion of which, with the permission of the House, he would read. He had written saying that— As a Member of the Legislature, as a former Representative of Londonderry, and as one who will always taken a deep interest in her welfare, may I be allowed, through your columns (The Derry Sentinel), to address a few words of warning to her citizens in regard to this so-called lecture. The Lord Mayor of Dublin, as such, is unquestionably entitled to every respect from the position he occupies as Chief of the Municipality of our capital city. But he is to appear in Londonderry to-morrow, not in his capacity of Lord Mayor of Dublin, but as an emissary of that organization which, for the past few years, has devastated the three Southern Provinces of our country, and has made the name of Ireland a bye-word among nations. He further pointed out that the hon. Member was not only a servile follower of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), but that he was an active member of the Land League when it rejoiced in the joint leadership of Messrs. Parnell, Davitt, Sheridan, and James Carey. He reminded his former constituents that the Lord Mayor's term of office had been disgraced at intervals by studied disloyalty to the Queen, and her Representative, the Lord Lieutenant. That was the course of the action which he (Lord Claud Hamilton) took then, and which he was prepared to take now, as a course which justified the inhabitants of the City of Londonderry in preventing the Lord Mayor of Dublin from obtaining a footing in their historic Town Hall, and in making a demonstration on behalf of what was wrongly called the National Party of Ireland. The House knew what followed. He was not there; but there was no doubt that the Town Hall of Londonderry was seized by a large party of Loyalists and Apprentice Boys of the city, who held it for the rest of the day against all comers. No doubt they acted in a manner which was unusual; but they acted from their natural instinct of loyalty. Had he been present among them, he would have taken his place at their head. The hon. Member for Carlow said that when he arrived at the city he found everything quiet. The hon. Member knew that when he arrived there he was met by a carefully-organized demonstration, with the banners of the Land League bearing seditious emblems flying; he was escorted by that demonstration into the city, and up to that time no noise, disturbance, or symptom of riot occurred. The House would remember that all this had been a matter of inquiry, and had been reported upon. No sooner, however, had the hon. Member left his hotel than shots were fired from the procession which followed his carriage. [Cries of "No, no!" from the Irish Members.] That had been distinctly stated in evidence. It was given in evidence that the first shots—they may have been harmless shots, and they may have been fired from weapons that were not loaded with shot; but it was distinctly given in evidence that the first shots came from the procession which surrounded the hon. Member. The sound of those shots excited those who were in the Town Hall, and, in an ill-advised moment, a man—who he was he (Lord Claud Hamilton) could not say—fired two shots from the hall. Whether those were the shots which wounded two persons he did not know; but every well-disposed man would join with him in regretting that they were ever fired at all. At the same time, although he strongly condemned the act, it must be remembered that the shots were only fired after other shots had been fired by those who accompanied the procession. The hon. Member for Carlow charged him (Lord Claud Hamilton) with inciting to assassination. He was at a loss to know what the hon. Gentleman meant; and he would ask him to produce a single word that he had uttered in justification of that assertion, and to sustain so serious an indictment. What vindication could the hon. Member make for such a statement against any Member of the House? It was a matter for great regret that such accusations should be made against any Member of the House, when every hon. Member must know that there was not the slightest ground for them.


I will answer the noble Lord out of his own words. He advised the people of Derry to oppose me by every means in their power. They adopted that advice, and used firearms as the most effective means.


continued: The hon. Member seemed to forget that the city of Londonderry was situated in the Province of Ulster, and they were accustomed in that Province to appeal to Constitutional means of opposition, and not to murderous weapons. Therefore, he said, the charge of the hon. Member could not, in the slightest degree, be sustained. The hon. Member also brought a charge against the authorities. It happened that the Town Council was sitting in council assembled at the moment the hall was taken possession of, and that accounted for the door being open and the hall being entered and seized. The Corporation themselves had not the slightest idea that it would be taken possession of. If any blame attached to anyone, it must fall upon those who took possession of the hall; but he thought, under the circumstances, that they were perfectly justified in their action. After the hon. Member for Carlow was refused admission to the hall, he proceeded to another part of the town, and he had an opportunity of delivering his lecture in another room. From that moment he (Lord Claud Hamilton) believed that perfect peace and quiet were restored. No further outrages were committed, and the riot came to an end. The hon. Member seemed to think that he was justified in making all these charges against the Loyalists, because, in the loyal city of Londonderry, a representative of the Land League was opposed. Now, whether the majority of the people of Londonderry were Catholics or Protestants he knew not; but they were, in the main, loyal; they wished to remain loyal; and if they were only preserved from these invasions of the Land League, under the guise of delivering moderate speeches, when the real object was to spread broadcast the infamous doctrines of the Land League, they would remain loyal and peaceable. They felt quite sure that, if the doctrines of the Land League were to prevail, the connection between Ireland and England would not long continue. They strongly objected to the delivery among them of lectures of that kind, accompanied by all the paraphernalia of disloyalty; and whenever an attempt was made to invade them in the same manner they would adopt exactly the same course. The Loyalists of Ulster took no part in preventing legally constituted meetings for Constitutional purposes; but it was known that the hon. Member for Carlow was accompanied into Londonderry by one of the most notorious organizers of the defunct Land League as his bottle-holder, and whenever the National League should attempt to obtain a footing in Londonderry, or in any other part of Ulster, the Loyalists were prepared to repulse them in a similar way. Whenever members of the Land League attempted to indulge in Ulster in disloyal speeches, in speeches inciting to sedition, to the separation of the United Kingdom, and to the destruction of Government, the Loyalists of Ulster would consider it their duty to intervene if the Government themselves did not interfere to prevent such meetings. He was satisfied that if these meetings were allowed to succeed in Ulster, they would ultimately lead to civil war. The Loyalists of Ulster were still a majority of the people of that Province, and they would take care of themselves in the event of the Government not interfering to prevent disloyal meetings.


said, he rose to ask a simple question of the noble Lord who had just sat down (Lord Claud Hamilton). The noble Lord told the House of Commons that he was prepared to abide by every word he had uttered in the Recess, and by every word he had written. He wished to ask the noble Lord whether, in the presence of the House, he was prepared to abide by the following words which he had spoken in Londonderry upon a re-recent occasion? The noble Lord said—"If the Government do not prevent these hordes of ruffians from invading us"——


The hon. Member seconded the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, and he has, therefore, exhausted his right to speak.


said, that as it would be out of Order for his hon. Friend (Mr. Sullivan) to continue the debate, he (Mr. Harrington) would read the passage in the speech of the noble Lord which his hon. Friend referred to, in order that the House might see whether, in the spirit of the boast the noble Lord had just made, he was prepared to substantiate and abide by the words he had uttered. The noble Lord said— If the Government do not prevent these hordes of ruffians from invading us, we will take the law into our own hands, and we ourselves will. That was the expression used by the noble Lord, who put himself forward as the representative of law and order in Ulster, and the opponent of disloyalty, and what he was pleased to call the dismemberment of the Empire. This was the example of law and order which the noble Lord set. If, instead of being a scion of a noble house and one of the minority in Ireland, he belonged to the people and was a Representative of a National constituency in Ireland, the noble Lord would, as he himself (Mr. Harrington) had done, have found himself in prison on a plank bed. He (Mr. Harrington) had had some experience of the justice which Her Majesty's Government dealt out in Ireland, and for an observation which, side by side with the statement of the noble Lord, was as innocent as any that was over delivered in that House, Her Majesty's Government had sent him to prison. He had had to undergo 12 months in prison, and afterwards two months on a plank bed. He challenged those who called him and his Colleagues disloyal, and the apostles of disorder and outrage, to point to anything they had ever said that was so opposed to law and order, and so calculated to lead to a breach of the peace, as these expressions of the noble Lord. There was another observation of the noble Lord which deserved the attention of the House. When he spoke those words the noble Lord had evidently his eye upon the House of Commons, because he said he spoke them on his full responsibility as a Member of that House. This was the example which the noble Lord wished to set to the people of Ireland, in order to teach them obedience to law and order. The noble Lord appeared to think that when the people of Ireland tried to give effect to their opinions, and the Government made no attempt to suppress them, he was entitled to take the law into his own hands. Did not the noble Lord think that the people of Ireland might be tempted to take the law into their own hands, and deal with his miserable minority in the same manner? The noble Lord had said that the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Dawson), the late Lord Mayor of Dublin, went to Londonderry as an emissary of the National League. To that statement he (Mr. Harrington) was ready to give a most unqualified contradiction. He was the responsible Secretary of the National League in Ireland, and he had never known, except from the public journals, anything whatever about his hon. Friend's visit to Londonderry. He was fully prepared to say that his hon. Friend did not go there with the sanction, or at the request, of the National League. His hon. Friend was not a member of the executive of the late Land League. He would not stop to question, after the extract from the speech delivered by the noble Lord at Londonderry, which he had read to the House, the good taste of the noble Lord. The noble Lord, however, had stated that James Carey was a member of the Land League. To that statement he (Mr. Harrington) also gave an unqualified denial. James Carey was not a member of the Land League, but he was the pet in Dublin of the friends of the noble Lord, and was put into the Corporation as the nominee of the Conservatives of Trinity Ward. The votes that returned him to the Corporation were the votes of Trinity College and Merrion Square. James Carey had had no connection with the Land League. ["Oh, oh!"] He repeated that James Carey had had no connection with the Land League. He had never been a member of the Land League; but he had a connection with the friends of the noble Lord; and bad and infamous as James Carey was, had he been in Ulster at the time of the late agitation, he (Mr. Harrington) believed the friends of the noble Lord would not have disdained to avail themselves of his services and assistance. The friends of the noble Lord appeared to have had no other object than the incitement of the people to murder those who were obnoxious to them. The noble Lord, who had pretended to the House that he knew everything about Londonderry, now confessed that he did not know whether the majority of the people of that city were Catholics or Protestants. He (Mr. Harrington) would read to the noble Lord the opinion of one of the gentlemen who assisted in the demonstrations in the North as to the constitution of the people of Londonderry. He referred to Colonel Waring, a gentleman with whom, no doubt, the noble Lord was well acquainted. Describing the scene in Londonderry on the occasion which had been referred to, Colonel Waring said, after he had returned from the demonstration, and was giving an account of his exploits— When he found himself in Bishop Street, Derry, on Thursday morning, with about 500 good and true men about him, surrounded by near as many thousands of Catholics, he did feel that they were a remnant, and perhaps a very small remnant. They were not only a remnant in Londonderry, but in Ulster also; and the parade which they made, and the placards which they issued, were only meant to deceive the people of England, and especially the Members of that House, so that they might be prevented from passing such remedial measures as the people of Ireland believed to be just and necessary. The noble Lord had said that the majority of the people of Londonderry were loyal and Constitutional. If that were so, and if the majority of the people were loyal and Constitutional, what harm could it do to those loyal and Constitutional people that the Lord Mayor of Dublin should go down and lecture to them upon the franchise? Did the House think that the mere mention of the franchise had such weight with the friends of the noble Lord and his minority, or that their loyalty was of so ephemeral a character that a lecture on the franchise would occasion it to disappear altogether? And if the majority of the people were Catholics, why was it that the majority of the magistracy were not Catholics? How was it that in the whole City of Londonderry there was but one Catholic magistrate? Why was it that the administration of the law, not merely in Londonderry or in Ulster, but throughout Ireland, was left to such Gentlemen as the noble Lord and his colleagues? [Lord CLAUD HAMILTON: I am not a magistrate.] He thought the House would be very much delighted to hear that the noble Lord was not a magistrate, and he (Mr. Harrington) only wished that he could receive an assurance from the Irish Executive that he would never be a magistrate, because the noble Lord had stated that, if the Government did not step in at his dictation, and do what he considered right, he would take the law into his own hands. It was evident, therefore, that the noble Lord ought not to be a magistrate. He (Mr. Harrington) would not trouble the House with any further remarks on this subject. He would only say that if the noble Lord wished the people to follow his example—if he wished the people of Ireland to be incited to crime and to outrage—he could not take a better way of doing it than by standing up in that House to justify the campaign which he and his friends had carried on in the North of Ireland. The noble Lord must be aware that, after these placards were issued, some of those who were associated with him at the meeting attacked the houses of those who were friendly towards the Lord Mayor. In some cases, the houses were attempted to be set on fire, and in numerous instances individuals were attacked. His hon. Friend the Member for Carlow (Mr. Dawson) had a narrow escape of his life, a shot having been fired at him, which wounded a man standing only a few yards from him. Hon. Members well knew that great excesses had been committed in the North of Ireland; and when the noble Lord rose to explain his conduct, he (Mr. Harrington) had thought that, at least, he would have had the decency to explain that, although he had called the people forth and issued these placards, he had not contemplated such grave and serious outrages as those which followed. Instead of taking that course, the noble Lord had justified all that had been done, and had even gone the length of stating that, if he had been in Londonderry at the time, he would have taken his place beside the rowdy "Apprentice Boys" who attacked the Lord Mayor of Dublin. The noble Lord added, that he should do in the future as he had done in the past. Therefore, if Her Majesty's Government wished to govern Ireland, and to make the law respected, they must not disregard the warning they had received, and should not, by giving way to the wishes of the noble Lord and his friends, hand over to them the government of the country. If they heard, from time to time of outrages in Ireland, it was not by hon. Members on that side of the House that agitation and bitterness of feeling had been stirred up. He challenged the noble Lord to show any instance in the South or West of Ireland of sectarian feelings having been drawn forth by the National agitation. No, it was to the friends of the noble Lord that belonged the honour of having called forth bitter memories of religious disputes among the people of Ireland. If the Government did not change their minds, but continued to have one law for the friends of the noble Lord, and another for the people, they might depend upon it that they would have a difficult task, in the future, in governing the country.


I rise to make a few remarks upon a subject of considerable importance; but my speech will be so short that it can hardly be called a speech at all. I rise to state a fact, in order to explain why it is impossible for me at this moment to enlarge upon the subject. I will merely say that the hon. Member the late Lord Mayor of Dublin (Mr. Dawson) has quite unconsciously placed me in a position of considerable embarrassment by raising this question at this moment. It is quite evident to the House, after the statements of the noble Lord, and also of the other side, that certain events took place at Londonderry of a very ex- cited character, which gave rise to such varied emotions, that those who took an active part in them could not be expected to allow many days to pass before they brought them under the notice of the House. I do not propose to enter into the question of what is called the invasion of Ulster, and the measures which were taken by the parties opposed to that movement in order to counteract that invasion. There is an Amendment upon the Paper of the House, condemning the Government in carefully-studied and most Parliamentary language for its treatment of the meetings in Ireland, and especially of the meetings in Ulster during the past Recess; and I wish to reserve what I have to say until I have heard the observations of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), and the charges which, I am told, hon. Members opposite are going to make. I think it will be the best opportunity for making a defence of the action which the Irish Executive have taken in the matter. I have only now to say that what passed at Londonderry was a matter of such gravity that the Government found themselves unable to act upon the knowledge which was before them in the shape of reports from the Resident Magistrate, and the evidence taken before the bench of magistrates at the committal for trial of certain persons who were charged before thorn. In all the other cases which have occurred in Ireland during the Recess, however important they have been—and there were several—we have had materials on which to arrive at a decision. Decisions have been arrived at on grave questions, which no one will deny were very definite indeed; but in this case we considered it necessary to obtain further evidence, and also to obtain the judgment and assistance of legal men, whose coolness and impartiality could be relied upon, and we accordingly appointed two gentlemen—Mr. Bewlay and Mr. Piers White—one of them a Protestant and the other a Catholic, to make an investigation. Those gentlemen went down to Derry, and held an inquiry there; but, owing to various circumstances, principally connected with the family of one gentleman, they have only just been able to lay their Report before Her Majesty's Government. That Report will be at once examined with the great care which so grave a question demands, and as soon as they have made up their decision Her Majesty's Government will only be too ready to communicate it to the House; but, until that decision is arrived at, I should not be justified in entering upon any side issue.


said, he would not have placed the right hon. Gentleman at the disadvantage to which he had referred, if the Government had agreed to the Motion for the adjournment of the debate.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Parnell.)


Sir, I shall not offer any opposition to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.

Question put, and agreed to.

Debate adjourned till To-morrow.

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