HC Deb 13 September 1886 vol 309 cc177-9
MR. TUITE (Westmeath, N.)

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether, during the trials of the prisoners charged with conspiracy to murder at Barbavilla, in the county of Westmeath, on the police being cross-examined as to the facilities afforded the M'Keons, the chief Crown witnesses, to meet and confer, privately or otherwise, before the second information was made by the younger M'Keon, Judge Lawson made use of the following observation:— 'To insinuate,' said he, 'that the M'Keons had interviews while in the hands of the police, is to insinuate that the very sources of justice are polluted, and he scouted the insinuation as an impossibility;' whether, since the trials, Constable Fitzgerald, a man of exemplary character in the Constabulary force, has made the following statement, which he offers to affirm upon oath:— On a morning immediately after young M'Keon was brought from Clonmel to witnesses depôt, business brought me at an early hour from another part of the city towards the depôt. I came up to old M'Keon and Head Constable Lynch, who were standing about ten or fifteen yards from the depôt. We spoke to each other, and the conversation turned on the Barbavilla case. Lynch said Pat (meaning M'Keon, then present) was trying to help him with it. He then said he had M'Keon's son there, but could get nothing out of him. Old M'Keon then said 'When I have a talk with him it will be all right,' or, 'Let me have a talk with him and it will be all right.' I asked Lynch if he meant to do so, when he clearly gave me to understand that he did. In fact, old M'Keon said he had come up from Castlepollard expressly for the purpose with him (Lynch). In a very few minutes after this I saw both father and son together in a room in the upper part of the building. MAURICE FITZGERALD, Sergeant; whether it was subsequent to the above interview that the younger M'Keon made his third deposition of the 17th of July, in which he swore to the formation of the conspiracy at the house of the widow Fagan; whether in the deposition of the 17th May he made no allusion to it, and on the 27th June he merely said— I was at the house of the widow Fagan the Friday week before the murder; whether it was upon the holding of this meeting the whole case against the prisoners hinged; whether he is aware that one of the jurors who convicted the prisoners made the following statement, in a letter addressed to the Rev. John Curry, of Collinstown, in the county of Westmeath, which letter has been published in The Freeman's Journal:I have no hesitation in stating that I would have acquitted the prisoners if it had been proved on their behalf that the M'Keons had an opportunity of communicating with one another while in the hands of the police; whether it was proved at the trials that the M'Keons were men of disreputable character; and, whether, having regard to the above facts, and to the evidence offered by the Rev. John Curry, establishing the innocence of the prisoners, he will cause a sworn inquiry into the means by which the convictions were obtained?

MR. T. D. SULLIVAN (Westmeath, S.)

Arising, Sir, out of that Question, I beg to ask the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland, If he is aware that after the trials and sentences on the prisoners were carried out, Patrick Cole, one of the principal witnesses for the Crown, made a declaration in the presence of a number of witnesses, stating that the evidence given by him on the trials was false?


(who replied) said: I have no report of what Mr. Justice Lawson said during the trial; but I am informed that he made some such observation as that quoted when, in reply to a question put by him, Head Constable Lynch stated that the M'Keons had no opportunity of meeting before young M'Keon made a certain statement to the constable in Clonmel. He could hardly, however, have conveyed that they had not at any time had opportunities of communicating, as it was shown that such opportunities existed after a certain period. I have read in a letter of the Rev. John Curry that Sergeant Fitzgerald made the statement referred to; but I have not been able to learn anything more about it, beyond that it is not consistent with other matters reported to me. It was proved at the trial that young M'Keon's character was bad; but nothing disreputable was alleged, as far as I am aware, against the old man. It is the duty of the Lord Lieutenant to consider any application made to him for the remission of punishment, and to inquire into the circumstances on which it is based. This duty he will always be ready to perform; but he has no power to direct any kind of sworn inquiry. In answer to the further Question put by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. T. D. Sullivan), I have only to say that on the first trial the man Cole was not examined at all. He was examined on the second trial, and I believe it is a fact that he subsequently made a statement that there was no truth in his evidence.

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W., and Sligo, S.)

asked if the right hon. and learned Gentleman was aware that Sergeant Fitzgerald was in the police force?


replied, that Sergeant Fitzgerald was in the police force.


Has Sergeant Fitzgerald himself been asked?


My recollection is that he was asked; but, although I have communicated with the Constabulary by wire, I have not been able to ascertain whether he has been recently asked or not.