HC Deb 31 March 1885 vol 296 cc1147-50

said, before the Motion for Adjournment was put he would like to ask the Solicitor General for Ireland whether there was to be any compensation given to the five men in the Craughwell murder case, who were discharged within the last few weeks after being kept in prison for two years and a half without trial? He would like also to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman whether he would be able to give any undertaking that this system of long imprisonment without trial in Ireland would not be persisted in? If these cases were the cases of five respectable Englishmen, who were kept in gaol for two years and a half without trial on a fearful charge, and then dismissed without a shilling of compensation, and without the slightest apology, and with only a third-class ticket to their native towns, he would like to see the English Minister who would stand up in that House and defend it. This grievance had occurred not merely in the Craughwell cases, but had happened in the Ballyforan case and the cases of the Tubbercurry prisoners, and was constantly occurring. Only last week Baron Dowse felt obliged to refer to the subject of prolonged imprisonment without trial in far stronger terms than he (Mr. O'Brien) had at his command. In these cases the men were torn away from their homes, shut up in solitary cells, and subjected to all sorts of subterranean intimidation. Of course, it was impressed upon them that with a Green Street jury, whether they were innocent or guilty, the inevitable result would be that they would be sent to the gallows or penal servitude. If they were broken down by this system, a trial took place and a conviction was had, and it was another feather in the cap of Earl Spencer. If, however, the men could not be bribed or intimidated they remained in prison in solitary confinement from Assizes to Assizes, and in a large number of cases from year to year. In the Ballyforan case one man named Kennedy hung himself in his cell after an interview with Mr. George Bolton, and a man named Nolan became insane. In the Craughwell murder case five men were kept for two years and a half without trial, subject to this fearful system of torture; and then they were dismissed under the cowardly system of nolle prosequi, their health ruined, their business destroyed, and even their reputations under as dark a cloud, because the Crown, after all this punishment, would not admit their innocence, but sent them away branded with the imputation that they had simply escaped because the Government had not been able to lay their hands upon sufficient evidence to clinch the case against them. They were not even afforded an opportunity of establishing their innocence by being permitted to take their trial before a jury. Their acquittal would in that case have been rather an awkward testimony against the régime of Earl Spencer, and the blood and iron policy which he upheld. He believed that the Irish Members had a right to demand that there should be some understanding from the Government that this system should come to an end. These men, in addition to being dragged from their homes and subjected to a regular system of torture, were afterwards compelled to undergo a second system of police persecution. Mr. Fitzgerald, of Cork, after having been cruelly wronged, was, after a trial, triumphantly acquitted even by a Green Street jury, but was never since able to stir out without being dogged by detectives. Indeed, so far had this gone that when he called upon the representative of The Freeman's Journal in London to complain of the way he was followed, the detective who was watching him actually knocked at the door, forced his way upstairs, and asked Mr. Fitzgerald to come away, as he would die of cold outside. This might excite smiles from the hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench; but he assured them that it was a serious matter for those whose business and reputation were at stake to be followed about the world by a pair of policemen. He called upon the Solicitor General to give an undertaking that the efforts to ruin men by such a system of espionage would not be continued.


said, he wished to explain that he had nothing to do with the withdrawal of the Notice of Motion given by the hon. Member for South Warwickshire (Sir Eardley Wilmot). If the hon. Member had been under the impression that there would not be a Sitting that was not his (Lord Richard Grosvenor's) fault.


expressed his surprise that no apology had been made on the part of the Government for the acts to which his hon. Friend had drawn attention. They had heard a good deal about the endeavours of the Government to establish a just and stable Government in Egypt. No Government that had existed in Egypt had been half so unjust or tyrannical as that which now existed in Ireland. If the Government was not prepared to give these men compensation, at least they ought to have the decency to put them upon their trial in order to establish their innocence, and to show their fellow-countrymen that the charge on which they had been imprisoned was without foundation. He complained strongly of the treatment to which untried prisoners were subjected, and announced his intention of again calling attention to the case of Myles Joyce.


said, that in the Craughwell murder case five men were arraigned at the Assizes; but on the first occasion their trial was postponed for the production of a witness who was supposed to be in America. On the next occasion one man was convicted and sentenced to death, and at another trial at the next Assizes another man was found guilty and also sentenced to death. The Crown then, with what he considered an exercise of clemency, entered a nolle prosequi in the other cases, and it was to these men that it was suggested that there should be compensation given. In the Ballyforan murder case, which had also been referred to, after some delay there was a conviction upon the capital charge in one of the cases, and in the second case the jury disagreed, and the accused were allowed out upon their own recognizances to come up for trial when called upon. He thought he should not be asked to give any opinion about what occurred at the door of The Freeman's Journal office, as he knew nothing about it.


asked, whether one of the prisoners in the case to which the hon. and learned Gentleman had referred was not a policeman residing out of the district altogether?


admitted that there had been a policeman concerned in the case.

Question put, and agreed to.

House adjourned at Ten o'clock till Thursday 9th April.