HC Deb 13 September 1886 vol 309 cc325-8

Resolutions [10th September] reported.

Resolutions 1 to 9, inclusive, agreed to. (10.) "That a sum, not exceeding £8,326, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Public Record Office.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

I have already informed the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury that I should be obliged to raise a question of importance on this Vote. I propose to move a reduction of the Vote by £100, part of the amount voted for the translation and editing of Irish Papers relating to the Brehon Laws. This is a question of the utmost interest in Ireland, and in order that the Secretary to the Treasury may be able to cut short the discussion I hope that he will see his way to make this concession. My object is that this Vote may appear on the Estimates of next year, and not after an interval, as has hitherto been the case. If the hon. Gentleman will consent to strike off £100 of the Vote, it can be taken in the Estimates, of next year. We trust, by having an opportunity of bringing forward this question on the next Estimates, we shall be able to effect a reform which is of pressing importance.

Motion made, and Question proposed) That a sum, not exceeding £8,226, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Public Record Office."— (Mr. Dillon.)


I hope the hon. Member will not press the Motion for the reduction of this Vote. As I understand the matter, his object is to have a further opportunity next year of bringing forward this question. I think it is almost certain he will have the opportunity he desires. My own impression is that the £200 placed on the Estimate will not be expended; indeed, I think it may be taken for certain that it cannot be expended. I may say, as a matter of fact, that the gentleman now engaged upon the work is paid only when the work is wanted—he is paid for the publication of one additional volume, and has not to proceed with the whole. I think the hon. Gentleman will see that the amount now voted will not be expended in the financial year.

MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)

Do we understand from the Secretary to the Treasury that the editing of the remaining volumes—for there are, altogether, 10 in Irish, six of which have already been translated by the most eminent scholars, whilst the seventh is in process of being translated, so that there are only three that remain to be dealt with—I say, therefore, are we to understand that the work of translating and editing will be regularly continued? I understood the hon. Member to say, when he was addressing the House, that the amount we are now voting would not be expended within the financial year. [Mr. JACKSON: I believe so.] Well, it is an unusual thing to ask for money to be voted when it is not for the financial year. I think it is irregular. There was no money voted last year for the purpose for which the present Vote is asked. I do not know that there has ever been money specifically voted for this purpose before. Hitherto, I believe, the question has always been raised in connection with other Irish Votes. Well, I should like now to know, if this sum is not to be expended during the current financial year, what assurance we shall have that we shall have an opportunity of discussing the question some other year? If we do not get some assurance on that point I think my hon. Friend ought to force on his Amendment, so as, if possible, to reduce the Vote, render it necessary for application to be made to Parliament next year, and in that way afford us another opportunity of discussing the subject.

MR. T. P. GILL (Louth, S.)

I think if the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury will recall the fact that there has been no Vote for this purpose for the last few years he will be much more ready to accept the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). The whole question of these translations requires looking into; and we ask that such provision shall be made for the reduction of the Vote as will secure that the subject shall be brought up again next year, when we hope to open up matters of great importance. The translating and editing of these works is a matter of great importance from an archæological, historical, and legal point of view. Students in all parts of the world take great interest in it. This Commission has been sitting and drawing money from Parliament for the past 34 years. Three Members of it were originally necessary to form a quorum; but the House will be astonished to hear that there is only one Commissioner now living, and that it is impossible for him to form a legal quorum—I refer to the Bishop of Limerick, Dr. Graves.


I do not wish to interrupt the hon. Member; but perhaps he is unaware that the Commission has been reconstituted.


That is a fact I was not entirely certain about. The information, at any rate, is not to be found in any of the Records of this House. I have been for some time engaged in looking up every bit of information that is to be found—in the Libraries, the Stationery Office, the Record Office, and everywhere else where information is procurable—in regard to this matter; and so far the information with which I have been furnished goes to prove that there is no evidence to show the existence of a Commission. On the contrary, there is no Report to be had since 1864. The Report of 1864, I understand, was the last Report published by the Brehon Laws Commission; consequently there is every reason why we should have this matter gone into. There is the greatest dissatisfaction amongst those who take an interest in Celtic studies in Ireland, in England, and, I may say, all over Europe, at the way in which the work connected with these Brehon Laws is being done. M. d'Arbois de Joubainville, and other leading Celtic scholars in France, Germany, and elsewhere have made complaints that there has been a Commission sitting 34 years that has published four volumes, and is only now publishing a fifth. The thing is an absurdity. We ask a very reasonable thing in requesting that this Vote should be reduced, so that the matter will be brought before us next year. There was no Vote for the Commission last year, and we have no security that the same thing will not happen next year, and that it will be impossible for us to renew this discussion for years to come. All that the Motion before the House will do will be to give us another opportunity for discussion. The demand we now make, therefore, is not an unreasonable one. It will rob no one, and will only secure that the subject will be brought under notice again next year.

MR. LEAMY (Cork Co., N.E.)

I hope the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury will consent to the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). Of course, the hon. Gentleman will understand that we who take part in this discussion are in entire sympathy with the work of the Commission. We desire to see the Brehon Laws translated, and all we want now is that we shall have an opportunity of discussing the work done by the Commission during the last 30 years. We are not quite satisfied with the work. It is, however, too late to enter into a discussion of that matter to-night. It is more than probable that the hon. Gentleman would not be able to give us the information we want. He, presumably, does not himself possess sufficient knowledge of the matter to be able to inform us upon it.


I can promise that an opportunity will be afforded for the discussion of the subject next Session.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

Then I have the greatest pleasure in withdrawing the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Resolution agreed to.

Remaining Resolutions agreed to.