HC Deb 23 March 1885 vol 296 cc266-94

moved, in page 15, column 2, line 22, to leave out "Limerick." The hon. Gentleman said, that the object of the Amendment was to omit from the Schedule the City of Limerick in order to preserve to it the two seats which it now enjoyed. That city differed, in many essential respects, from any of the Irish boroughs which had already been discussed in connection with the Bill, and therefore he was not at all discouraged by the series of failures which had attended the efforts of his hon. Friends who had endeavoured to secure their continued representation. Limerick was one of the three cities which it was proposed to deprive of one half of its representation, leaving, of course, the other half. The other two were Galway and Waterford. The proposal with regard to the City of Limerick, although it appeared, on the face of it, to be a perfectly reasonable, and, perhaps, a perfectly just one, would, if the circumstances of its surroundings were carefully examined, be admitted to be one of extraordinary hardship. The population of Limerick was very slightly short of the limit which, under the Bill, was necessary to entitle it to retain its present representation. The population of Limerick at the Census of 1881 was 49,000, or only 1,000 short of the number that was necessary to entitle it to retain a second Member. But it would be remembered that when the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister asked leave to introduce the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill, he distinctly stated that no hard-and-fast line would be drawn. The right hon. Gentleman also assigned a reason on the same occasion, in words which he would quote, as it was that reason which induced him (Mr. Kenny) to bring forward this Motion. The right hon. Gentleman said that there were one or two cases where the towns proposed to be dealt with were within a few hundreds of the limit, and they would be considered as actually touching the limit. In accordance with that explanation exceptions had been made in the Bill, and no statement had been made, either by the Prime Minister or the President of the Local Government Board during the continuance of these discussions, to lead the House to believe that the Government had come to a determination to exclude constituencies nearly up to the limit, in regard to which a fair case could be made out. The peculiar circumstances connected with the City of Limerick were, first, that it was exceptionally situated. It was the centre of an extremely prosperous district, and it possessed great natural advantages which, if properly attended to, were susceptible of enormous development. It was situated on one of the finest rivers in the Kingdom, and at a point of the river where its expansion would enable the navigation to be carried on to an extent fully as great, if the circumstances of Ireland would permit, as the navigation now carried on at Liverpool. Its commercial importance, therefore, if these natural advantages were developed, might be greatly extended. Some of these natural advantages had been utilized to a greater extent, probably, than in any other port of Ireland, with the exception of Dublin and Belfast. Another point entitling Limerick to favourable consideration was this—it had been constantly increasing in population since 1881. It seemed at that time to have touched bottom, and to have become a decreasing population; but since that year a steady increase had taken place. It must also be remembered that the City of Limerick was the capital of a large district comprising at least four counties, and the city itself extended partly into the county of Clare and partly into the county of Limerick. Under the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill, however, the representation of those districts had been very much cut down, and they presented a most unfavourable contrast with other portions of Ireland. The population of the united districts of Clare and Limerick, to which he referred, and in which the City of Limerick was situated, was 332,000, and that large population in future, as arranged by the present Bill, would be represented by only five Members, thus giving one Member to every 65,000 inhabitants. That was most unfavourable when contrasted with the representation of almost any other portion of Ireland. Let hon. Members take, for instance, the population and representation of the county of Kerry, and it would be found that a population J of about 200,000 would return four Members to the House of Commons, giving one Member to every 55,000 people. The population of the county of Galway was 241,660, and in future it was to be represented by five Members, giving one to every 48,500 of the population. Tyrone bad a population, including the boroughs, of 197,200, and it was to be represented in future in the ratio of one Member to every 49,000 inhabitants. If a similar basis of representation as that adapted in Tyrone were allowed to prevail in the district of Clare and Limerick, the difference in population in Clare and Limerick, as compared with that of Tyrone, would be 125,000, and yet it was proposed under the present Bill that it should be represented by one Member only. That was the proportion be had arrived at by various processes of calculation, and it certainly presented an anomaly which he thought it was almost impossible to equal, not only in Ireland, but in England or Scotland. A further circumstance in connection with this district was that the county of Clare would, under the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill, be more unrepresented than any other portion of Ireland. The unit of representation in the county would be 70,200 under the Bill, while with an additional Member it would be considerably over 60,000, thus giving a population of more than 65,000 to each Member under the Bill. The President of the Local Government Board would, no doubt, take exception to any argument he might advance with regard to the under-representation of the Irish boroughs. The right hon. Gentleman had already, in the course of the discussion, endeavoured to point out that the Irish boroughs would even, under the present Bill, be still over-represented. Now, he thought that, to arrive at a fair argument and decision upon the particular case which he wished to submit to the Committee, it should be argued, not so much upon the future representation of the Irish boroughs as upon their present representation, and the proportion which it bore to the representation of the Irish counties under the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman told them that the future representation of the Irish counties would be one Member for every 52,000 persons, and in the boroughs one Member for 47,000 persons. That was what it would be under the Bill; but as it at present existed the proportion of representation in the Irish counties presented a very curious and striking anomaly, seeing that there was one Member in the counties for a population of 81,000, whereas in the boroughs there was one Member for a population of 19,000. But the circumstances of Ireland in this respect did not present anything in the nature of an unusual anomaly, because in the whole of the United Kingdom the proportion of representation in the counties was one Member for 47,000, and in the boroughs one for 41,000. He maintained that in regard to the Irish boroughs exceptional indulgence should be extended to them, especially at a time which was marked as an era of returning commercial and manufacturing prosperity. It would be most unfortunate for these constituencies if, under such circumstances, the representation of the principal cities of Ireland was to be reduced. He made no complaint of the elimination which the Prime Minister proposed to make of the small boroughs. Those small boroughs had no special commercial claims or interests which deserved special representation, and it was only fair and just to merge them in county districts. But it was quite different in the case of the large cities and important towns like Limerick, which had interests altogether distinct from those of the surrounding agricultural districts. It had large shipping and manufacturing interests, which were showing signs every day of returning and awakening prosperity. Probably another reason which the President of the Local Government Board would advance against his appeal on behalf of the City of Limerick was that the present boundaries in the city were extensive, and that to extend them further was an idea that was quite untenable, and could not be accepted. It was perfectly true that the present boundaries of the City of Limerick were somewhat extended into the rural portion of the county; but he maintained that that was no argument whatever against a further extension, because the proposal which he intended to make, and which he had down on the Paper, as a consequential Amendment, if the present Amendment were accepted, was that a portion of the district should be admitted within the boundaries of the City of Limerick, which was entirely an urban district—namely, the parish of Castleconnell—as closely allied to Limerick as Rathmines was to the City of Dublin, or any of the suburban districts of London to any part of the Metropolis proper. He therefore thought that any argument on this head advanced against him by the right hon. Gentleman would be completely met by the fact that where the boundaries extended pretty far into the rural districts the extension would only exclude places that contained a purely urban population. He thought that fact would fairly meet the objection which he was probably right in anticipating from the right hon. Gentleman. A further circumstance connected with the City of Limerick, which he thought entitled it to fair consideration under the Bill, was the peculiarly favourable geographical and commercial position it enjoyed. He had already said it was most favourably situated for the purposes of commerce; and that was so much the case that when it was contrasted with other Irish cities, the stable industries of which had declined—as, for instance, the City of Galway—it would be found that the great flour trade of Limerick had doubled and trebled within the last 20 years. That enormous increase of an important industry in Ireland was entirely owing to the favourable position and the advantages possessed by Limerick. But that was only one of the innumerable evidences there were of the increasing prosperity of the city. At present there was exported from Limerick more agricultural produce than from any other city in Ireland; certainly there was only one—the City of Dublin—which could possibly compete with it. He believed, however, that the amount of exports from Limerick by railway and by river was larger than from any other city in Ireland. There were many other claims which might be put forward on behalf of Limerick. For instance, it was exceedingly well situated for the development of the shipping industry. At the present moment it possessed a considerable number of floating docks, and a fine graving dock, and it was capable of admitting vessels of something like 5,000 tons burden. Further, the Harbour Board of Limerick were introducing a system of dock accommodation which would place them in so favourable a commercial position that they would be able to bring up in future, within a reasonable distance of Limerick, vessels of more than 6,000 tons. It might, therefore, be admitted that the day of Limerick's approaching prosperity had already dawned. He did not know whether anything in connection with its historical celebrity would entitle the City of Limerick to special regard or attention from either the President of the Local Government Board or the Postmaster General. He thought it would be of very little use to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade upon such a ground as that of historical interest, because the right hon. Gentleman had a mind which was of an exceedingly practical and unemotional description. But when the Prime Minister asked leave to introduce the Bill, it would be found reported in Hansard that he said the Bill would neither be regardless of history nor destructive of ancient rights. The right hon. Gentleman distinctly made that declaration; and if all the constituencies of the United Kingdom were taken into consideration, there was not one that could exceed the historical and ancient associations of the City of Limerick. It was as old as the Irish Parliament, and was entitled to return two Members to the Irish Parliament. No doubt, under the Act of Union that proportion was reduced; but the reduction was admitted to be so unjust that on the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832 the old representation was restored. He had pointed out already that since that time, although Limerick might have fallen off in population, it had increased in prosperity. The decrease in population had already ceased, and the turning-point had been reached. If he might refer, for a moment, to the historical claims of the City of Limerick, although it had not the same distinction Drogheda could boast of an account of its massacre, or of being dear to the people on account of that massacre, it was certainly much more endeared to the Irish people on account of its successful resistance to tyranny and despotism. Its citizens succeeded in escaping massacre by repelling those who endeavoured to oppress them, and it was one of the memorable circumstances of Irish history that if Limerick was forced to yield it yielded on terms that were honourable to itself and to Ireland. There were many other considerations which would lead Irishmen to hope that the Government would see their way to allowing the City of Limerick to retain its present representation. He was not one of those who would be supposed to pay deference to any mere argument in favour of historical distinction on behalf of a constituency. He would prefer to base his argument and appeal upon the present position of the city—upon its reviving industry, upon its increased hopes of future prosperity, and upon the situation it occupied in regard to the surrounding districts. Any person who knew Limerick would recognize the marvellous change for the better which had taken place there within the last six years. A great many of the mud hovels which formerly disfigured the outskirts had given way to larger and more improved residences. The general condition of the people was one of increased contentment, and there was a spirit of enterprize abroad among the merchants. Nothing, therefore, could be more fatal, nothing more calculated to repress the development of the industry and enterprize of the city, than to deprive it of its full share of representation. He would further urge upon the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, that in considering the question he ought to consider Limerick, not only in itself, but as the centre of a great and important district. It was in the centre of a district which under the Bill was grossly under-represented. He had endeavoured to show that whereas the district of which Limerick was the capital was only represented in the proportion of one Member to 65,000 population, almost every other district in Ireland was represented under far more favourable conditions, although there were very few districts which were able to contrast favourably with the district of which Limerick was the commercial centre. The city of Limerick, as the Committee well knew, was possessed of a vigorous and spirited municipality. It was showing signs of its recognition of the duty which was thrown upon the people of Ireland to help and aid themselves, by reviving Irish industries which for 100 or 150 years had been strangled by unjustifiable legislation. These were only some of the considerations which might be advanced on behalf of the claims of Limerick. He very much regretted that his hon. Friend the Member for Carlow (Mr. Dawson) who was a native of Limerick, and had been brought up there from his boyhood, and was well acquainted with every item of interest in connection with the city, with its trade, its commerce, and its shipping, was at that moment absent in Ireland. His hon. Friend had an Amendment upon the Paper to the same effect as his own, and if his hon. Friend could have been there to move it, a better case might have been made out for retaining the representation of Limerick. However, in the absence of his hon. Friend, he would urge the Government to take into favourable consideration the claims of Limerick, on account of its present position, on account of its awakening prosperity, and on account of the position it occupied with regard to the surrounding districts, together with the unfavourable conditions in which the surrounding districts would be placed in consequence of the arrangements of the present Bill. He begged to move the Amendment he had placed upon the Paper.

Amendment proposed, in page 15, column 2, line 22, to leave out "Limerick."—(Mr. Kenny.)

Question proposed, "That 'Limerick' stand part of the Schedule."


said, the hon. Member who had moved the Amendment had argued as if Limerick were an increasing place. That, however, was not the case.


remarked, that it had been increasing for the last four years.


said, he had made inquiries on the subject since the Notices of Amendments in regard to Limerick were first given, and he was informed by the Irish Registration Office that it was not the case that there had been any increase in the population of Limerick since the last Census. On the whole, although the borough population of Ireland generally was increasing, and was very considerable in the three largest towns—namely, Dublin, Belfast, and Cork—yet if those towns were taken away the increase was very slight. The Returns showed that in the population of Ireland generally there was a decrease, but that in the borough population there was a large increase. Nevertheless, if the population of the three large towns were taken out of the calculation, Limerick would have no part in the slight increase which would still remain. On the contrary, it would be found that the population of Limerick had become slightly less. There was, therefore, no force in the argument that an additional Member should be retained for Limerick, because, although the population was now below the general limit which had been fixed, it was a growing population. His next objection to the proposal was, as the hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. Kenny) had anticipated, in reference to the extraordinary size of the area proposed to be included within the boundaries of Limerick. Limerick was already the largest borough, except one, that would be left in the Bill.


asked what was the other one?


said, it was either the town of Galway or Cork. Limerick was far larger in area than any borough in England that would be left in the Bill, and far larger than any borough which had not been turned into a county district. It embraced an area of between 33,000 and 34,000 acres. Almost the whole of its population lived in a very small part of that area. Indeed, it was a very concentrated population; 39,000 people lived in an area of 2,000 acres, and the rest of the population lived outside in an area of 31,000 acres. The proposal now made was to extend the boundaries of Limerick in a manner which was entirely unknown elsewhere. Already the borough of Limerick was virtually a small county district, and a large agricultural district formed part of the borough for Parliamentary purposes. It would be converted into a real county district if they were to attach to it the village of Castleconnell, which the hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. Kenny) proposed to add. No doubt, Castleconnell contained an urban population; but if they went on extending the boundaries of a borough they must inevitably, some time or other, come to some urban population. Having made use of these special arguments as to the case of Limerick, which the hon. Member had rightly anticipated that he would make use of, he must remind the Committee that there was still a further view of the case. If they were to give a second Member to Limerick it could only be done at the expense of some other constituency, and probably at the expense of one of the Irish counties, and he did not think it had any just claim to such exceptional treatment. Why should they give to a population of 49,000 persons a Member taken from a county with a much larger population?


said, that his excuse for intervening was that he had an Amendment on the Paper upon the same subject. He could not say that he was at all sorry that the Members for the City of Limerick, who ought to have been present to defend that city, were conspicuous by their absence, and that the task had fallen upon his hon. Friend, whose sympathies for Limerick were very strong, but who himself represented the borough of Ennis. He thought the arguments of the President of the Local Government Board fell very far short of those which ought to have been addressed to the Committee in defence of the proposal contained in the Bill, which amounted substantially to the disfranchisement of a population of 49,000. The right hon. Gentleman had not told the Committee why the arbitrary limit of 50,000 was laid down in the Bill, nor had he told them whether any departure from that limit of 50,000 was to be allowed. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman, who could answer the question because he was entitled to speak again, whether, instead of being short of the 50,000 limit by 1,000, Limerick had only been short of it by one, or two, or 10 persons, would the Government have taken one Member from it, and have conferred the seat upon another constituency? He thought some Member of the Government ought to state to the Committee distinctly upon what principle the Bill proceeded. He could understand a Bill being brought in upon either of two principles—either upon the principle of equal electoral districts, or upon the principle of going upon the old lines of the Constitution. If they adopted the former and would add together the county and city of Limerick, they would have a population entitling the City of Limerick to two Members, and the population of the county and city to four Members, because the population of the county of Limerick exceeded the fixed limit which the compact between the two sides of the House gave by 26,000, and if they threw the 26,000 into the City of Limerick, and adopted the principle of equal electoral districts, Limerick, county and city together, would certainly be entitled to four Members. The Government could only justify their present proceeding by the fact that they had not adopted a scheme of equal electoral districts. Under the compact they laid down an arbitrary line which struck a heavy blow at the City of Limerick, and gave an additional grievance to the borough population of Ireland. Then, again, what would have been the result if they had gone upon the old lines of the Constitution? If they had framed the Bill on Constitutional lines, he defied the right hon. Gentleman and the Government he represented to deprive an ancient borough, as old as King John, enjoying a representation in Ireland as old as the Irish Parliament, and a representation in the British Parliament as old as the British Parliament—he defied the right hon. Gentleman on Constitutional grounds to deprive the City of Limerick of one of its Members. It appeared, however, that in order to please the Opposition, Her Majesty's Government had entered into a compact by which an arbitrary line was struck, with the result of throwing the Constitution into a kind of hotch-potch. He maintained that the Government had framed their Bill upon no principle whatever. Why had they fixed the 50,000 limit? Did they arrive at that figure by a toss up. It was a curious circumstance that in the town represented by his hon. Friend (Ennis) a jury, was recently sent back twice by a Judge to consider their verdict, and because they did not agree they were sent back a third time; when they came back they immediately delivered a verdict. Astonished at the rapidity with which they did so, the Judge expressed his surprise, when a member of the jury told him that it was a very easy matter seeing that they had tossed up. Upon that announcement the learned Judge lectured them, abused them, and finally drove them out of the jury-box. Upon leaving the box one of the jury remarked to the Judge that he thought they had quite as much right to toss up for a verdict as the Government had to toss up for a 50,000 limit, and thus disfranchise Limerick. His complaint was that the arbitrary limit of 50,000 laid down by the Bill struck the City of Limerick very hardly, because it was only just under the limit, and it might have been placed above it by a very legitimate extension of its boundaries for half-a-mile in one direction. Already, as the right hon. Gentleman had pointed out, the Parliamentary limits of the borough of Limerick extended for four miles outside the borough, and they had so existed from the days of Henry VII., when the city sent Members to the Irish Parliament. What the hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. Kenny) asked was that the boundary should be extended so as to include Castleconnell, which would add some hundreds more of a homogeneous population. What was the statement made to the Committee by the right hon. Gentleman a fortnight ago? The right hon. Gentleman told them, in dealing with the Instructions given to the Boundary Commissioners, that the English Commissioners had directions where they found a homogeneous population to extend the limits of the borough to that population, so long as it did not interfere with any other arrangement. Now, if the limits of the borough of Limerick were extended to Castleconnell, a place well known to anglers from England, the Boundary Commissioners would have obtained at once a population of more than 50,000. Then, why had they not done in Ireland what they had done in England? In connection with the English boroughs, the Boundary Commissioners had been instructed to take evidence with the view of extending the area of a borough, so that it might include places where a homogeneous population could be found. In this case the extension of the boundary for half-a-mile would have secured the necessary 50,000, and Limerick need not have been disfranchised. Why, then, had the Government declined to give similar Instructions to the Boundary Commissioners for Ireland, and had placed no discretionary powers in their hands? As a matter of fact, when this point was brought before the Boundary Commissioners at Limerick they rejected the evidence tendered to them, and said they could not entertain it. The only place in Ireland where the Boundary Commissioners had been allowed to exercise a discretion was the borough of Belfast, and he certainly could not see how the exception in that case could be defended. By what argument could it be contended that an area was so large that it ought not to be extended when the extension was simply undertaken with a view of including a homogeneous population? There could be no question that Castleconnel contained a homogeneous population, and if the evidence which the people of Limerick were prepared to produce had been received, the Commissioners would have been bound to admit that a good case had been made out. The third objection of the right hon. Gentleman to the Amendment was of a most arbitrary kind. The right hon. Gentleman said—"Where are we to find the Member?" It was the case of Mrs. Glass's hare over again—they must first catch their hare. Surely it ought not to be difficult for the Government themselves to find a Member. Whose act was it that had deprived the Government of the power of giving Limerick an additional Member? There were two disfranchised boroughs in Ireland already, and surely one seat might have been given from them to Limerick. Then, again, there were two Members for Trinity College, Dublin, and one of those seats might have been given to Limerick. But by their compact with the Opposition, the Government had negatived the Motion to reduce the representation of Trinity College to one Member, and now they took advantage of their own wrong for the purpose of limiting the representation of Limerick. Was that a proceeding they could justify; and was it worth while defending a grievance which could not upon any principle be justified? The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) would sustain no injury by losing the additional Member for Limerick. The loss would be to the Government themselves, in making a grievance which they might have avoided—a special grievance that would irritate and provoke a population of 232,000 persons in the county and city of Limerick, and the county of Clare. He was afraid there was no use in discussing the question; but he should like to ask what argument had been advanced by the Government in defence of their Bill? There was only the arbitrary declaration that no Member could be found unless they robbed some other constituency. It was all very well to talk of robbing Peter to pay Paul; but why had they robbed Paul? The robbery was their own act, and they were taking advantage of it in order to say that under the compact they found themselves powerless in the matter. Surely, if they had entered into a compact, it wa3 still competent for the parties to that compact to alter its terms. Had they the courage to alter it; and why had they not, when they were called upon to remedy a grievance which could be sustained by no argument whatever? Why was a population of 232,000 in the counties of Limerick and Clare to be left with two Members for 60,000 persons each; and why was Limerick, because it fell short of 50,000 by a few hundreds, to have an arbitrary rule applied to it, and be deprived of one-half of its representation? He failed to see why the county and city together should not have the advantage of the surplus population. It was not necessary to argue the matter further. He did not know what course his hon. Friend meant to pursue—whether he meant to go to a division or not; but, with the few body of supporters he saw around him, he did not think his hon. Friend would gain much by a division, except it were taken by way of a protest. Of course, under any circumstances, the Government would act in this case as they had acted in regard to all other protests.


said, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, in dealing with the question, had addressed himself solely to the question of population. It was quite true that the population of Limerick had decreased somewhat considerably from what it was at the time of the first Reform Bill. But anyone who was familiar with the City of Limerick must know that in many material respects it had exhibited a great advance. There had been an advance in commerce and in industrial pursuits of all kinds, and it was still at the present day continuing to make rapid progress. There could not be any doubt that when that revival took place which he trusted soon to see in regard to the manufacturing industries of Ireland, Limerick was one of the cities which was bound to advance in a very rapid ratio. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed out that very few cities possessed a larger area. No doubt, Limerick covered a very large space of ground besides the rural district to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and there could be no doubt whatever that the facilities which existed at hand for the erection of residences, factories, and works of all kinds, would be made available whenever a proper stimulus was applied in order to bring about the further development of the industry of that city. There would then be such an advance in the population as would fairly entitle it to two Members. How was the City of Limerick treated at the time of the Great Reform Bill? Its importance in every point of view was taken into account, although there were at the time a considerable number of claims for representation. A distinguished statesman (Mr. Stanley) made these pertinent observations upon the state of things at that time. He stated— The additional Members are given to Cork, Belfast, and Waterford, not on account of the increased population of 60,000, 48,000, and 28,000 in those places, but because there are great and important interests in those towns which require representation. He (Dr. Lyons)"maintained that those great and important interests which Mr. Stanley referred to still remained, and, as far as those interests were concerned, Limerick was as much entitled to representation now as it was when it possessed a population of 60,000. It must be borne in mind—and this was a point which, in dealing with the question of Irish representation as based upon population, he thought the Government ought to take very seriously to heart— that the population of Ireland, under what he would venture to call an improper stimulus to emigration, had been reduced below its natural limits. If there had not been such an artificial stimulus, it was extremely probable that not only the City of Limerick, but many other districts in Ireland, would have had a population much beyond that which they were enjoying at the present day. He had always thought, at the time the Imperial Government first addressed itself to the stimulating emigration from Ireland, that the day might come when the diminished population of the country would be brought forward as an argument for depriving Ireland of some of its legislative rights in connection with its representation. That day had now arrived, and he was sorry to see so many arguments in the direction of restricting the representation based upon the fact of the decreased population of the country. It was quite true that the population of Limerick, as well as of many other important cities in Ireland, had fallen below the mechanical limit fixed by the Government for depriving particular constituencies of their political power. In this case the deprivation only involved the cutting off of one Member; and speaking in all frankness upon the subject, because he believed he was not altogether in accord with the views of the hon. Members who now represented that city, he was certainly of opinion that considerations of that kind ought properly to be kept out of view in dealing with the representation of Ireland. He spoke upon the question simply as one of principle, and he begged to add his voice to those of hon. Members opposite in pressing upon the Government the important claims of Limerick to a fuller consideration than it had met with in reference to the retention of the two Representatives which it at present enjoyed. It was quite true that by including within the limits of the borough a population which really belonged to it a very fair method would be afforded for getting out of the difficulty—a difficulty which, after all, was a mere mechanical one, relating only to the question of population. He entertained no doubt in his own mind that the prosperity of Ireland would be completely revived before the end of the century, and that the City of Limerick would very soon be entitled, even in point of population, to the privilege it now asked for.


said, he had not yet abandoned the hope that the representations which had been made by his hon. Friends might soften the determination of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. Perhaps it might have been in vain to hope that any appeal addressed to him from those Benches might have had the slightest effect upon his decision; but, on the other hand, the right hon. Baronet might not be insensible to the appeal of so devoted a follower of Her Majesty's Government as the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the Committee. The speech of the hon. Gentleman was somewhat remarkable. It contained an admission that Her Majesty's Government had adopted an improper system in the stimulus they had given to Irish emigration, especially as it was a system of emigration produced and brought about by unjust and cruel laws. Even so slight an admission as that—that the stimulus which had been given by Her Majesty's Government to emigration was an improper stimulus—was a startling admission coming from that quarter of the House. He regretted that the hon. Members for Limerick were not present; but, at the same time, he thought the City of Limerick had lost nothing from the fact that their case had been placed in the hands of his hon. Friend the Member for Ennis (Mr. Kenny). His hon. Friend had addressed the Committee in a practical and exhaustive speech, in which he had brought forward nothing but relative facts. The right hon. Baronet in dealing with the case relied upon one principle, and one principle only; and so far as the principle was concerned, it was one on which he (Mr. Sexton) was bound to say he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that the average of county representation in Ireland as laid down in the Bill was a population of 52,000 for each Member, and that it would be improper to take any portion of that representation away from the county in order to give it to a place with a less population. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in that principle as a general rule; but the arguments of his hon. Friend, in introducing the Amendment, had relation also to the present position of the very important urban district of Limerick, which was increasing rapidly in population, and which in a very short time would have reached the limit laid down in the Bill for representation by two Members. In looking over the maps which were appended to the Reports of the Boundary Commissioners for England, he could not see that there had been any serious objection to the enlargement of a borough boundary. Let them take the case of Warwick. There they had a town which was a simple dot in the centre of a large area. Beyond it was another town also surrounded by a large rural area, and the two towns of Warwick and Leamington were separated by a road at least a mile and a-half long. Yet it was proposed in the Bill to effect a junction between those two towns, and to continue the representation of Warwick. Then, again, let them take the case of the borough of Sheffield, which some years ago they were told contained an area of nearly 20,000 acres. In point of fact, there were numerous bodies in England which would run Limerick pretty close, and if hon. Members would study the maps they would soon see that numerous boroughs had had their boundaries extended for the special purposes of this Bill, without any particular captious reference being make to the size of the areas. His hon. Friend the Member for Ennis (Mr. Kenny) proposed that the already large area of Limerick should be still further increased. The objections expressed to that proposition were, no doubt, of considerable force; but all that his hon. Friend proposed was to take in a village standing on the very verge of the present Parliamentary area —a watering place, and a place of recreation and retirement for the people of the City of Limerick. It was a place which had no interests separate and distinct from those of Limerick itself; and, in point of fact, it was a mere annex to Limerick. His hon. Friend proposed to add that place to the present Parliamentary borough. Therefore, when the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board, with his usual accuracy, stated that the constituency of Limerick, as suggested by the hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. Kenny), would include many thousands of acres, it was really somewhat late in the day, and might even deserve the epithet "paltry," to object to an addition which only involved an extra 1,000 acres. The right hon. Gentleman was virtually straining at a gnat in the case of Limerick, while in reference to other boroughs, such as Warwick, he was chivalrously swallowing a camel. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the population of Limerick was not increasing; but the right hon. Gentleman upon that point had not spoken with his usual precision. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to some Returns and information which he had received from the Office of the Registrar General for Ireland; but it would have been much more satisfactory if the right hon. Gentleman could have quoted figures in support of his contention. If hon. Gentlemen had referred to a Petition which had been presented to the House on behalf of the Corporation of Warwick, they would have found that the population of Warwick was not nearly so large as had been stated, whereas the population of Limerick was rapidly increasing, and was likely to be augmented by a variety of causes, among which was the decline of tillage. There could be no doubt of the fact that at the present moment the people were being driven from the rural districts into the towns for refuge or employment. At any rate, some better argument than the quotation of some vague Return should be offered to the Committee. His (Mr. Sexton's) assertion was that the population was increasing, and in that assertion he was supported by the Corporation of Limerick; and in regard to the steady decline of tillage in the Province of Munster it was likely to go on increasing, seeing that a large number of persons were constantly giving up rural occupations and going into the city for the means of obtaining a livelihood. A reference had been made to the population of the city in 1832, when the Re-form Act re-affirmed the claim of Limerick to have two Members. At that time the population of the city was 60,000; no doubt it had very much decreased since; but the fact which was stated in the Memorial from the city could not be denied—that the tonnage of the port was increasing, and that the advantages of Limerick as a commercial and shipping centre were now becoming fully recognized, and should not be forgotten in considering the claims of the city to Parliamentary representation. In 1832 the tonnage of the vessels frequenting the port was only 50,000; last year it was 180,000 tons, or within 20,000 tons of having been quadrupled in a little more than half-a-century. It was a great railway centre; it was the site of the four great Munster fairs; it was throwing out important suburbs; and in every respect it deserved consideration at the hands of Parliament. There was another argument which deserved some consideration, although no doubt it would receive very little sympathy from the Committee. He referred to the fact that the state of Limerick had lately been conspicuously affected by the action of the Irish Executive. It had been made the seat of one of the Hibernian Pashas whom the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) sent over to rule the country a few years ago, and the consequence had been that the additional police force quartered upon the locality, and the attempt to levy an excessive Police Tax, had been the cause of much heartburning and indignation. The questions arising out of the action of the Irish Government had not yet been settled, and yet it was sought to deprive the city of one-half of its representation. Personally, he felt satisfied that however that matter was dealt with, and if Limerick were altogether deprived of a voice in Parliament, its citizens would be fully able to give a good account of themselves. Another argument in favour of the City of Limerick was that it was the principal port on the Western Coast of Ireland. No one would deny that hitherto the Western ports had been badly treated by the Treasury, and that they had suffered greatly from neglect. They had not been able to obtain those loans from the Treasury which had been freely granted else; in developing their resources they had been hampered and impeded in every way, and they had not been able to compete, on equal terms, with the ports on the Eastern Coast of Ireland. Nevertheless, there were five or six of those ports which had long been struggling to maintain a commercial position—Limerick, Galway, Sligo, Tralee, and others, represented only by eight Members. Sligo had already been disfranchised; it was proposed under the present Bill to disfranchise Tralee; a Member each was to be taken away from Limerick and Galway; so that the Western seaports, with a population of more than 200,000, and extending over eight or nine counties, would in future only possess two borough Members—one for Limerick and one for Galway—a position most deplorable in which to place important interests which preeminently demanded the personal attention of Representatives in Parliament. In these days the ports of the Western Coast of Ireland constituted a special interest altogether distinct from the agricultural interest which predominated in Ireland; and if it could be avoided, without inflicting unjustifiable injury upon other interests, not only ought the representation of those seaport towns to be prevented from falling into such a contemptible minimum as to numbers, but it ought to be further increased. He did not ask that any Member should be taken from a county and given to the City of Limerick. It might be asked where he would propose to take a Member from. The hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. Kenny) had referred to Trinity College. In the course of the discussions upon this Bill, everybody referred to Trinity College, because, no matter how bad a case might be made out for any other place, the case of Trinity College was worse. The Irish Members could, therefore, always ask for a Member from Trinity College, quite certain that the balance of equity would be on their side. Trinity College, with its 4,000 electors, returned two Members. Limerick, with a population of 49,000, was to return only one. Surely the right hon. Gentleman would admit that it would be much more equitable if the two cases were reversed, and that Trinity College, with 4,000 electors, should return only one Member, while Limerick, with more than 8,000 electors, should return two. If the Government were not prepared to get a Member from Trinity College, it would be easy to take one from the disfranchised boroughs of Sligo and Cashel. It was at present proposed to give the seats formerly enjoyed by those boroughs to England; but why should they be given to England? He maintained, in the first place, that the Government had no right to disfranchise those boroughs at all, and if they had a right to disfranchise them at the time they committed the offences, their status as Parliamentary boroughs ought long ago to have been restored. Seventeen years had passed away since those Irish boroughs had sinned against the mandates of Parliamentary Electoral Law. What was their sin? Some half-dozen people offered bribes and perhaps half-a-score of the electors took them. They were now widely extending the franchise in Ireland, and they had the audacity to wipe a borough like Sligo off the electoral roll, while they retained upon the English roll in England boroughs which had been proved to be sinks of political infamy. It was not necessary to name the places to which he referred; but hon. Members knew very well that there were boroughs in England in which the bribers were numbered by hundreds, and in which the persons who took the bribes might be counted by thousands. Certainly, if they were to take away the seats from the boroughs already disfranchised for bribery in Ireland, they did not do so on the ground of any moral superiority among the English constituencies. If they compared the Election Petitions from England with those from Ireland, and if the principle were admitted that where superiority prevailed a borough should be entitled to enfranchisement, he might claim that all the seats taken from the English boroughs should be given to Ireland, instead of those taken from the Irish boroughs being handed over to England. Personally, he saw no reason why the settlement arrived at in the Act of 1832 should be disturbed. So far as the decrease of population was concerned, the reduction had been brought about by misgovernment on the part of the Rulers of the Irish people, and that certainly ought to form no reason for the disfranchisement of a single constituency in Ireland. He maintained that the representation of the towns in Ireland, and especially of the seaport towns, constituted a special interest, and he would point out that the moment selected for disfranchising this interest was the moment when the House had actually appointed the Committee to consider the best means of developing the almost extinguished manufacturing industries of Ireland. It was also a moment when the minds and energies of the Irish people were directed to the development of their manufacturing industries. Everyone had come to the conclusion that the country could not continue to go on with agriculture alone, and it would be a most unfortunate thing if at such a moment the House of Commons cut down the representation of the Irish boroughs to such a point that the views and interests of the Irish people would have no prospect of being clearly enunciated in Parliament.


said, he thought the Committee would be of opinion that the City of Limerick had lost nothing in consequence of the absence from the House of its Representatives, because the two hon. Members for Ennis (Mr. Kenny) and Sligo (Mr. Sexton) had advocated the cause of that city with great force and ability. For his own part, he had not been aware that so much could have been said for Limerick. A complaint was made against the Government that they had not defined the principles of their Bill. There were five or six Amendments upon the Paper containing a similar proposal to that which was now made with regard to Limerick, and as the Government had been unable to accept proposals similar to that now made in respect of other boroughs, it would be seen that they could not now accede to the application which was made in the case of Limerick. He thought it must be taken as agreed to by both sides of the House that the limit of 50,000, fixed by the Bill, must be the limit entitling a town to return two Members. The hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. Kenny) proposed to add to Limerick another place; but the only question was whether Limerick had a fair ground for being excepted from the rule. What was the real position of the City of Limerick? It had already been pointed out that Limerick, instead of having an urban population of 50,000, had only an urban population of 39,000; and if they gave Limerick another Member, they would have to reduce the borough representation elsewhere, or take a Member from some county. It was now proposed to extend the boundaries of Limerick by including Castleconnell within them, Castleconnell being, as the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) had himself admitted, a mere village. Indeed, he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) very much doubted whether the inclusion of Castleconnell would add 1,000 to the population of the borough. Some years ago he had spent some days there fishing upon the Shannon, and a very pleasant time he had. The hon. Member, however, was quite right in describing it as a mere village. It certainly did not contain a population of 1,000; and he very much doubted whether, if all the surrounding parishes were added, the population of 39,000 would be swelled up to 50,000. But the Committee had already, in various cases, refused other claims on behalf of other places, and the Government had not acceded to a claim for extended boundaries either in the case of a single or a two-Membered constituency. The real question was, whether it was possible, in a matter of this kind, to give an additional Member, that would involve the taking away of a Member elsewhere. The hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) admitted, himself, that if it were a question of giving Limerick an additional Member, or taking one away from any Irish county, there was no argument in favour of it. But there was no other way of moving in the matter. The House had already rejected the proposal to take a Member from Trinity College. It was contended that Trinity College was over-represented. No doubt that was a very convenient argument, and it had been somewhat frequently handled; but there was no getting over the fact that the House had already decided to leave Trinity College, Dublin, with its two Members. Therefore, the only possibility of giving Limerick another Member would be either to reduce the borough representation elsewhere, or to take a Member from some Irish county. Hon. Members below the Gangway admitted that they did not want, nor was it possible to reduce the county representation of Ireland; and, 'therefore, they must be relegated to the plan of taking the additional Member from the borough representation, and he confessed that if the borough representation was to be increased, there were some other places with much stronger claims than Limerick. For instance, the claim which had been made on behalf of Drogheda, for one Member, was a much stronger one than the claim of Limerick for a second Member. The case of Limerick had not been sustained, and under the circumstances he felt bound to ask the Committee to reject the Amendment.


said, the argument of the right hon. Gentleman seemed to him to amount to this—that there were many other places in the same position as Limerick; and, therefore, in order to retain a second Member for that city, it would be necessary to commit an act of injustice elsewhere. The right hon. Gentleman had made no attempt whatever to reply to the arguments of his hon. Friends the Members for Ennis (Mr. Kenny) and Sligo (Mr. Sexton), and it was, therefore, idle to prolong the discussion; but he felt bound to protest, in the strongest possible way, against the slur proposed to be inflicted upon Limerick by this partial disfranchisement. Limerick was going to lose one of its Members for the very reason which the Prime Minister had refused to recognize as a reason for reducing the representation—namely, the temporary reduction of population by the enforced emigration and lack of employment which had materially reduced the population of the country from what it was at the time of the Union. The right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken seemed to recognize the theory that the decline in the population of the Irish seats was to go on perpetually under English rule. He had not had the advantage of listening to the statistics of the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board; but he knew Limerick intimately, and he strongly supported the view taken by the Corporation of Limerick that the population of that city, within the last four or five years, instead of declining, had been rapidly increasing, while its commercial importance and its trade had unquestionably been growing. It was not a matter of very much consequence to the Irish Representatives whether a particular county or city in the South of Ireland had an additional Member. They were not con-tending for any political advantage in the matter at all; but they must all recognize that it was not for the public advantage that a commercial community of this kind, which, as his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) had pointed out, was the chief of the Western seaports of Ireland, should be completely swamped by the agricultural community which surrounded it. Under the new arrangement, Limerick would be the only urban constituency within a radius of something like 60 miles. Within that area was the disfranchised borough of Cashel, and he regretted that the Postmaster General had not noticed the alternative proposed by the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton)— that a seat should be secured for Limerick by retaining one of the two seats of which Ireland had already been unjustly deprived. The population of Limerick, up to within a few years ago, was fully up to the standard which would have entitled it to two Members, and it was almost certain that it would be so again. Even a small slice of the immediate neighbourhood—namely, the parish of Castle connell, would bring it up to the requisite 50,000; and he thought the Government would do a graceful and a wise thing, and a thing which no one would raise any objection to, if they could, by some such arrangement, retain for Limerick its two Members. The people of Ireland could not help thinking that if the population of Limerick had been true blues, and as amenable to Castle discipline as was the case in Belfast, the Government would have found some means of enlarging its boundaries and of retaining its Representatives.


remarked, that after the very exhaustive way in which his hon. Friends had put forward the claims of the City of Limerick to continue its right of returning two Members, he could not hope to say anything further that was likely to influence the Government in the decision which they already appeared to have arrived at. At the same time, he wished to state briefly that he thought the Government, in not accepting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. Kenny), were refusing to do an act which would have been received as a very gracious act of justice by the people of Ireland, and the people of Limerick especially. It was generally considered throughout Ireland that one of the greatest blots in the Reform Bill was to be found in the fact that the city and borough population of Ireland did not receive that proportion of representation which their numbers entitled them to. And of all the cases of injustice done by the Bill to the boroughs and cities of Ireland, there was none more grievous than the proposal contained in the measure with regard to the City of Limerick. It had been pointed out very clearly and very strongly, both by the hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. Kenny) and later on by the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), that Limerick possessed an overwhelming claim to the right of returning two Members to Parliament. He had been struck by the strength and the force of the observations which had just fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Mallow. There was not a shadow of a doubt in the minds of the Irish Members that if the City of Limerick, instead of being a National city, had been a stronghold of Orangeism and of landlordism—a city composed of men who were altogether in favour of British rule—the mere difference of 1,000 below the 50,000 limit would not have prevented Her Majesty's Government from retaining for Limerick her two Members. Surely it was a monstrous thing to say that a city should be deprived of half its representation which next year, or a few years later, would be fully up to the required standard, as far as population was concerned. There was every reason to hope that the population of Limerick would be quite up to 50,000 in a very short time, and while the limit of 50,000 was taken as the standard for disfranchising a city, no provision was made for continuing the representation in the case of cities and boroughs whoso population was rapidly growing. He thought some provision ought to be inserted in the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill to provide that when a city or borough reached the required standard of population it should have its full complement of Members. The town he had the honour to represent (Wexford) would probably, in the course of a few years, reach upwards of 15,000 inhabitants, and yet it was to be disfranchised. Although it was admitted that every town with 50,000 population should have a Member, when Wexford reached that number there was no provision in the Bill for restoring the representation it would have lost. He certainly thought that the City of Limerick should be made an exception to the 50,000 limit. The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General appeared to think that a conclusive argument against giving Limerick two Members was that it would be objectionable to take a Member from any of the agricultural districts of Ireland. He did not think, however, that hon. Members on that side of the House at all intended to convey the impression that it would be unfair to take Members from certain counties in the North of Ireland in order to give them to cities such as Limerick. At the same time, it would be undesirable, no doubt, to interfere with the present redistribution of seats in the counties of the South of Ireland; but if they did not take one from Trinity College, whose rights had already been saved, they might, upon every ground of justice, go to certain quarters of the North of Ireland and take a seat from the Orangemen, because the Orangemen already had a far greater share in the representation in that House than their numbers entitled them to. He thought, when the news reached Ireland to-morrow that the Government were determined to draw such a hard-and fast line, and that they would not make an exception even in the case of Limerick, it would be received with very much the same feeling as that with which the people of Ireland received the news of another transaction a good many years ago, on the part of the British Government, with which the City of Limerick was not altogether unconnected.


said, he had no wish to trouble the Committee with any further remarks, or to press the Amendment to a division. He would only say that the City of Limerick was very hardly dealt with by the Bill. If the district in which the City of Limerick was situated were divided into equal electoral districts, instead of having four Members, it would be entitled to five and a-half, so that by the present Bill it was losing its right to one and a-half more. However, seeing that it was hopeless to expect to carry the Amendment, after the determined stand made against it by Her Majesty's Government, he would ask the leave of the Committee to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule agreed to.