HC Deb 09 May 1884 vol 287 cc1842-5

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether his attention has been called to a letter in The Daily Express of the 23rd April, and to a leading article in the same paper of the 24th April, signed "Vigilant," with reference to the recent appointment by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland of Mr. John Hamill to the commission of the peace for the county Louth; whether the statements made with respect to Mr. Hamill are correct; whether he is the same Mr. Hamill who presided at a meeting of the Town Commissioners of Dundalk on the 23rd April, when a vote of condolence to Her Gracious Majesty the Queen, which had been passed at the previous meeting of the board, was rescinded; whether it is the intention of the lord Chancellor of Ireland to appoint to the commission of the peace for counties in Ireland persons who neither reside in the county nor possess any property qualification; and, whether there would be any objection to lay upon the Table of the House a Return giving the names of all those magistrates who, in the past four years, have been appointed "county magistrates," not having been recommended by the Lieutenant of their respective counties, together with a statement showing the amount of property each possesses in the county, and the reasons for such appointments? I may also ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the late Lord Chancellor Law did not decline to appoint Mr. Hamill?


Before the right hon. Gentleman answers this Question, I would ask whether Mr. Hamill did not hold the Commission of the Peace for the borough of Dundalk for three years before his appointment to the county; and, whether, as regards the vote referred to, it is a fact that it was not rescinded at all, but expunged on the ground that when it was passed the board was resolved into a sanitary committee, and was not, therefore, qualified to deal with the subject?


I would also wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether Mr. John Hamill is not one of the most considerable owners of property in Dundalk (the county town of Louth), and also the owner of considerable property in the adjoining county of Monaghan; whether he has not been twice elected in two successive periods to the chairmanship of the Town Commissioners of Dundalk; whether he has not, under Commissions of the Peace issued by three successive Lord Chancellors— namely, Lord O'Hagan, the late Mr. Law, and the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, acted as a magistrate in the borough; whether he was not recommended by the board of Town Commissioners for the magistracy; whether he has not discharged the duties of his magistracy in the borough with intelligence and independence, and without complaint from any quarter; and, whether, in the opinion of the Chief Secretary, any different or higher standard of qualifications is required for the due discharge of magisterial duties in counties from that required in boroughs?


I followed the Question of my hon. and learned Friend to the best of my ability, and I believe what I am going to say will cover all the points raised, except the question as to the unanimity of Mr. Hamill's election to the chairmanship of the Town Commissioners, as to which I am not aware. With regard to the general question, I am not willing to enter into a matter which I could not answer in less than a quarter of an hour, as to the difference between the qualification of a county and a borough magistrate; but I have no hesitation in saying that Mr. Hamill is qualified both for one and the other. I have read the letter and article referred to in the Question asked by the noble Lord, and I do not propose to enter into the statements therein contained with respect to Mr. Hamill, which are of a personal nature, and which, after all, if submitted, would not be to his disadvantage, but would be distinctly to his credit. I refer to the allusion to his early history. What I am able to state is that Mr. Hamill is a gentleman of position and independent means. He was appointed a magistrate for the town of Dundalk so far back as 1881 by Lord O'Hagan when Lord Chancellor, and was re-appointed to that office by Lord Chancellor Law, and later still by the present Chancellor. He has discharged his duties as magistrate and as chairman of the Town Commissioners in an efficient and upright manner. He was strongly recommended to the Lord Chancellor for the Commission of the Peace for the county of Louth, to which the Lord Chancellor, after particular inquiry, appointed him. I believe the recommendation of his colleagues on the Town Commission, who best knew him, was unanimous. He presided at a meeting of the Town Commissioners of Dundalk, he being the chairman of that body, when the vote of condolence to Her Majesty, passed at a previous meeting, was rescinded simply on the ground of its having been irregularly entered on the minutes of the Board; but it is not true that he objected to such a vote being passed. On the point of his duty on this occasion he consulted the town clerk, and found that there was no other course which he could legally pursue. I cannot speak as to the intention of the Lord Chancellor as to future appoint- ments further than merely to say that I am satisfied he will appoint fit and proper persons to the Commission of the peace, for which I am advised that no qualification such as being the holder of property in the county is necessary. I have reason to believe, however, that Mr. Hamill holds property largely in the county of Louth, though the part of the county is the borough of Dundalk, and he is also a considerable landowner in an adjoining county. The general Return asked for cannot be given, as there are no materials for preparing it except as regards the appointments made by the present Lord Chancellor since his accession to Office.