(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £17,866, 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 Offices of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in Dublin and London, and Subordinate Departments.
§ Mr. TUITE (Westmeath, N.)
Upon this Vote I wish to call the attention of the Committee to the continued imprisonment of the Barbavilla prisoners; and so strongly do I feel as to the innocence of these unfortunate men, that so long as I am a Member 349 of this House I shall never tire of bringing their case forward. I believe the prisoners to have been unjustly convicted. Evidence has been forthcoming since the trial to show that the basis of the verdict found against them was altogether false, and that the evidence was a tissue of concocted perjury. The police assisted the Crown witnesses to make up the story, or series of stories, told in the several depositions made from time to time; and it is to the character of the evidence given at the trial that I mean to direct the attention of the Committee, as also to the character of the Crown witnesses by whom the depositions were made. Now, Sir, it will be remembered that in the early part of the year 1882 a diabolical murder took place in the county of Westmeath. A gentleman named Smyth was returning from church in his carriage when he was fired at; but the assassin missed his aim, and a lady—Mrs. Smyth—who was riding in the same carriage, was unfortunately killed. The whole country denounced the crime, and in no district was it more denounced than in that in which it was committed. The crime was denounced on the following Sunday from the altars of the Roman Catholic churches, and the persons who knew anything of the matter were implored to come forward and bring the real perpetrators of the crime to justice. What took place? Several persons were arrested under the Crimes Act on suspicion of having committed the murder; but not a single charge was made against them. Secret inquiries were carried on from time to time, at which no material evidence was produced against the prisoners. All the time the police of the district were at work offering bribes and using every kind of intimidation to induce witnesses to come forward and implicate the unfortunate men who were in custody, and who, I venture to assert, were entirely innocent of the crime. A bribe of £2,500 was offered by the Government, and that, in itself, was no small inducement to the wretches among whom the police of the district were at work to trump up a charge. Night and day the police went among the scum of the locality, endeavouring to extract something by which they would be able to make somebody amenable. The fact was that no matter how the conviction was to be obtained, no matter how the 350 money was obtained, and no matter in what form so long as the officials and the Government in Ireland were satisfied, a conviction must be had. Well, Sir, 11 men were put upon their trial. They were tried in two batches. In the first batch the allegation of the Crown was that the prisoners were the actual murderers; but there was not sufficient evidence against them to sustain that charge. Therefore, an extraordinary proceeding was allowed by the Judge, who permitted the evidence for the murder to be used against the prisoners charged with conspiracy. They were tried under the provisions of the Crimes Act, and that Act enabled the most outrageous form of jury-packing which has ever prevailed in any civilized community to be resorted to. Roman Catholics, as they came forth, were told to stand aside: and no juror, unless he was known to be hostile to the prisoners, was allowed to go into the jury box. As an instance of the manner in which the jury was empannelled, I may state one fact that will, I think, be sufficient to convince any fair-minded man that justice could not be done to any person or persons under such a system. A Mr. Amos Vereker, when called, stated at once that he was a personal friend of Mr. Smyth, the gentleman whose life was attempted. Thereupon the prisoners' counsel challenged him for cause. Mr. Vereker was then examined, for the purpose of ascertaining whether he ought to serve on the jury, and he swore that he was a member of the same Orange Lodge to which Mr. Smyth belonged. Nevertheless, the triers found him competent to serve upon the jury. That lost the counsel for the prisoners one of the six challenges to which he was entitled. Finally, I believe, Mr. Vereker was challenged peremptorily by prisoners' counsel, and was not allowed to sit upon the jury. The circumstance shows the animus with which the jury was empannelled; and, notwithstanding the manner in which it and the juries at the subsequent trials were packed, there were several disagreements. In one instance there were 10 jurors in favour of an acquittal, and only two for a conviction. That fact alone is, I think, sufficient to prove the weak case of the Crown against the prisoners, and the unreliability of the evidence. At length convictions were secured, and the pri- 351 soners were sentenced to periods of penal servitude ranging from five to 10 years. One man named M'Grath was only sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment, although the evidence against him was the same as against any of the other prisoners. The same facts were proved against him on the trial, yet the Judge passed upon him a more lenient sentence; but it has been asserted since that the real reason was that he had paid his rent. That would appear to show the political aspect under which the trial took place. All the prisoners were alleged to belong to the Land League; and as long as that was the case it was quite sufficient in the eyes of the jury to justify a conviction. They were tried at a time of panic in Ireland—at a time when the jury selected from among the partizans of the landlord class were ready to denounce the Land League, notwithstanding the fact that that Association was simply seeking to ameliorate the condition of the tenant farmers of Ireland. M'Grath, it is asserted, got 12 months' imprisonment only because he had paid his rent. That man has since died in prison, and on his death bed he made a statement that the evidence of the Crown witnesses was a tissue of falsehoods, and that the conspiracy meeting, on which the whole case against the prisoners hinged, never took place at all, or, if it did, that he was not present at it, nor was anyone of the men alleged to have been there. The indictment charged the prisoners with having, on the 24th of March, attended this alleged meeting at which the conspiracy was stated to have been got up. Evidence was called to prove that this meeting was held at which the conspiracy was alleged to have been concocted, and upon that meeting the whole case hinged. Justice Lawson, in charging the jury in order to impress this fact upon them, stated—In conclusion, he asked them if they believed that the meeting of the 24th of March was held as deposed to, and that the prisoners were present, they should do their duty without hesitation; if they believed it was not held, or had a reasonable doubt on their minds, they should acquit the prisoners.We have now evidence to prove that this meeting was never held; that the evidence relating to the meeting was simply perjured statements concocted between the police and the Crown wit- 352 nesses; and we are able to prove from documentary evidence that some of the prisoners were five miles away at the time the meeting was said to have been held. We have the statement of Constable Fitzgerald, which proves that young M'Keon was sent for and brought to Dublin in order that he might have an interview with his father, who had promised to make him swear to a culpatory deposition. On the 27th of May young M'Keon had made a deposition, in which he said that he knew nothing about the meeting; but the young man improved as he went on, and in his third deposition he swore that he was present at the meeting. Now, between the time that he made his first and his third depositions we allege that this interview between himself and his father took place in the Phœnix Park at Dublin. Constable Fitzgerald is able to prove that, and here is his statement, which has a most important bearing upon the case—On a morning immediately after young M'Keon was brought from Clonmel to witness's depôt, business brought me at an early hour from another part of the city towards the depot. I came up to old M'Keon and H. C. Lynch, who were standing about 10 or 15 yards from the depot. 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.'That is shortly after young M'Keon was brought from Clonmel. At that time there was a charge of perjury hanging over him; but that charge was soon afterwards withdrawn by the police. Now, I maintain that a conviction obtained on such a basis is in the last degree corrupt, and requires revision and investigation. I believe that Constable Fitzgerald is prepared to affirm his statement on oath. Constable Fitzgerald is not likely to gain anything by speaking the truth, knowing well what the treatment he has already received at the hands of the Crown has been, simply because he had sufficient manliness to 353 come forward and state what he knew. At that time he stood first for promotion; but what was the course of treatment he received? He was sent to the wilds of Donegal, and there he has since remained without promotion, simply because he had the courage to come forward and make an effort to save these unfortunate men, perhaps from death, but, at any rate, from the terrible imprisonment which they are now undergoing. Now, what is the character of Constable Fitzgerald? I have received a copy of the character he has received from various superior officers, and here is one from Sub-Inspector Jacques, a gentleman who was very much mixed up with this prosecution, and who has profited by it to a very large extent. This character, I may say, was given before Constable Fitzgerald made his statement. On the 18th of March, Inspector Jacques wrote to Captain Butler—I beg to state that Sergeant M. Fitzgerald has been working under my observation since September, 1882. He is a most hard-working and zealous man. If ever faithful service deserved success his should have done. This is not my opinion only. It is also that of the Crown Solicitor, who more than once spoke to me on the subject. I fully agree with Mr. Chatterton, D.I., that unless this man's services are in some way recognized he stands in a much worse position than if he had never exerted himself in the discharge of his duty.That testimonial is signed by Sub-Inspector Jacques, who was the Inspector of the district in which Constable Fitzgerald was stationed. Here also is a letter from Captain Butler, the Divisional Magistrate to the Crown Prosecutor—29th August, 1883.Dear Mr. Julian,—I quite agree in the opinion you express of Constable Fitzgerald, and will be glad to bear testimony to his intelligence and zeal.—Sincerely yours,A. BUTLER.Twenty-five magistrates in Westmeath petitioned for his speedy promotion to a Head Constableship. The Mullingar Town Council, on the 7th of May, 1878, unanimously passed a resolution of high appreciation of his character and services in Mullingar. Captain Butler attests that he acquitted himself with credit in the Barbavilla cases. County Inspector Carr says in a Report dated the 8th of May, 1884—Sergeant Fitzgerald is a most excellent policeman, and his services are deserving of every recognition.354 Inspector Carr is at present chief officer in Belfast. So much for Constable Fitzgerald and his character, and so much for the truth of the statement he has made. Now, Sir, four of the jurymen stated most distinctly that if they had known that the Crown witnesses had had an opportunity of obtaining access to each other while in the hands of the police, they would certainly have acquitted the prisoners. One of the jurymen writes—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 (i.e. the two chief witnesses) had an opportunity of communicating with one another while in the hands of the police.What was the result of all this plotting? On the 17th of July, when M'Keon swore to the meeting, it is well known that he was in the hands of the police. M'Keon stated at the outset that he knew nothing whatever of that particular meeting, but by the connivance of the police he was afterwards brought to swear that he was present at it. Having, in the meantime, had an interview with old M'Keon, Head Constable Lynch swore that during the investigation the witnesses had no means of communicating with each other. I am prepared to prove that that statement is complete perjury, and I demand the prosecution of Head Constable Lynch. If not, why not prosecute Father Curry for having stated that Lynch committed perjury? I say that it is the duty of the Government either to prosecute Father Curry or Head Constable Lynch. Father Curry asserts that Head Constable Lynch has committed the grossest perjury in this case, and he is prepared, to prove his assertion by evidence if the Government will grant the full inquiry we now demand. Now, Sir, what is the character of the M'Keons? They have a most disreputable character—a character as bad as that which the worst member of society can possibly bear. At the time young M'Keon was arrested, there was also a charge of housebreaking and perjury against him. But let me read what the father of the elder M'Keon, and the grandfather of the young M'Keon, says of his own son—Since he was a boy 16 years of age he was nothing but a drunkard, a vagabond, and a rogue; in fact, he could not get too bad a character. He married at about 17 years of age, and I set him up in Collinstown. All I gave 355 him he drank and squandered, and he had to leave Collinstown and then went to Belfast to live. He had to leave Belfast during the time of the Fenians and went to England. He came back and had not a rag on his back, but drank all. He went about several places. … During the whole time he was constantly drinking, and had his wife and children starved.Here is what the same individual says of the younger M'Keon—He is, in fact, worse than his father. He was always plundering and thieving, and breaking into houses. The only character I could give of him is the worst of the worst.Another relative, an aunt with whom he lived, says of him—"He is a liar, a rogue, and a great blackguard." Surely, men of this kind are not men who should be allowed to be brought forward by the police to swear away the liberties of respectable men. I have had the pleasure of knowing some of these unfortunate men; I believe the whole of them to be innocent, and I know some of them to be among the most respectable men of their class in the country. One of them, William M'Cormack, farms close upon 400 acres of land, and belongs to one of the most respectable families in the county of Westmeath. I am satisfied, in my own mind, that he is no more capable of taking part in a conspiracy to murder than any hon. Member of this House. I believe the same may be said of almost every man who is suffering for this crime; and is it upon the evidence of wretches like M'Keon that you are going to refuse a further inquiry? But what an inducement the Government offer to these men to commit perjury. What must a sum of £2,500 have been to wretches of this description? Would they not swear anything for it? Would they not have been guilty of the most diabolical crime in order to obtain it? And yet upon the evidence of such men the prisoners were convicted. The chief witness for the Crown on the trial of the second batch of the Barbavilla prisoners was Patrick Cole. The second batch could not have been convicted without the evidence of that man; and since the trials he made a declaration that all the evidence he gave against the prisoners was a mass of perjury. I believe it is the fact that since then the Solicitor General for Ireland has thrown him over, and has withdrawn the Emergency men who were employed 356 for his protection. These Emergency men were kept with him until the time he made his statement. The elder M'Keon was in the employment of a Mr. Brogan, of Castlepollard, and it can be proved that M'Keon worked with Mr. Brogan upon the days that he asserts he was in Kil-patrick, when the conspiracy at Collins-town was hatched. The entries in Mr. Brogan's books prove that he was at work on the 23rd and 24th of March, and that he received wages on those days. The book containing these entries has been offered to the Executive Government, but they refused to accept it. It is quite evident that they were afraid of entering into a searching investigation for fear that the true circumstances of the case might be brought to light. What I contend is, that this man was working five miles away from where the conspiracy was alleged to have been plotted, and where he says he was present; and I assert that it can be proved by independent witnesses that he was drunk at Castlepollard, and had no opportunity of attending the meeting. Perhaps hon. Members will look at the depositions. It is stated that at this meeting a circle was formed, that there were two or three men from Dublin who were members of the Invincible Association, and who came down especially to concoct this conspiracy. It is sworn that at that meeting a book was passed round, and all the men present took the oath except the two Crown informers. Now, I appeal to the Committee whether it is not a gross improbability that men who were about to embark on a desparate deed of this kind would allow two men to be present while the conspiracy was being concocted, and not compel them to take the oath. I maintain that the evidence with regard to that meeting is a tissue of falsehoods, and that the prisoners ought never to have been convicted upon it at all. One of the Phœnix Park Invincibles is stated to have been there; but it can be proved that he was in Dublin, and his employer will bear testimony to that fact, showing that not only could he not have been present at the meeting, but that it was physically impossible for him to have been at Collinstown. I certainly believe that but for the evidence of Cole, who has now been thrown overboard by the Government, the second batch of prisoners could not have been convicted. Cole 357 made a special statement, and shortly afterwards a more solemn statement to his parish priest, in which he deliberately states that everything he said at the trial was a tissue of falsehoods. In the first instance, his wife stated—
I acknowledge that I encouraged my husband to offer evidence in the recent Barbavilla trials, and I did so knowing that the evidence he was to give, and did give, was concocted by him to satisfy the Crown and to save himself. I know that he knew the evidence he was giving in corroboration of M'Keon's evidence was untrue, and I know that he believed there was no meeting at the Widow Fagan's such as M'Keon deposed to, and in which my husband corroborated him.Three days later, Cole made this statement to Father Curry—I, Patrick Cole, of Kilpatrick, West-meath, seeking peace of conscience and pardon from Almighty God, do make, of my own free will, the following statement, in presence of the Very Rev. Hugh Behan, P.P., V.F., Enfield; the Very Rev. Joseph Higgins, D.D., P.P., Delvin; and the Rev. John Curry, Adm., Collinstown, who, at my request, have consented to receive it. I permit these clergymen to make what use they think prudent of this statement.I was arrested on the 11th July, 1883, on a charge of conspiracy to murder. My trial was finally fixed for the June Commission, 1884. I gave information on the 4th of June, 1884. I was induced to do so by the belief that I would certainly be convicted, having known how the prisoners previously tried on the same charge had fared, and also through consideration for my family. My first statement was rejected, inasmuch as it contained no information regarding the alleged meeting at the Widow Fagan's. I was further told by Head Constable Lynch that 'unless I made a clean breast of it,' and told all about that meeting, my evidence would not be taken. I subsequently made the statement which I afterwards swore to on two trials. I now declare that that evidence was untrue, except as regards my connection with Fenianism many Years ago. I swore to what was false when I said that I attended a meeting at the Widow Fagan's. I never knew of such a meeting. I do not believe such meeting was held. I had no personal knowledge of any meeting in or about Byrne's public-house, though I swore I attended one there. I may have said what Mrs. O'Dwyer swore about me, though I positively contradicted her evidence. I solemnly declare I had no connection with the alleged conspiracy. I know not why my name should have been associated with it unless it be that M'Keon, who gave information in the case, had an old spleen against me. I am the father of seven children, all young, who would become utterly destitute in the event of my conviction. It was principally in consideration for them that, in a moment of weakness, I took the steps of which I now heartily repent. I make this declaration to repair, as far as I can, the injury I inflicted on others.Signed this 14th day of September, 1884.PATRICK COLE.358Witnessed by Hugh Behan, P.P., V.F., Enfield, County Meath; Joseph Higgins, D.D., P.P., Delvin, Westmeath; John Curry, Adm., Collinstown, Westmeath.The Crown found that they could not convict the second batch; and surely it is not on the evidence of the elder M'Keon that the case against the second batch of prisoners is even entitled to consideration. I maintain that the Government are bound to release both batches of prisoners; but in regard to the second there can be no pretence for saying that there was the slightest evidence whatever. Cole said, in presence of Mrs. O'Dwyer and his own wife, in the course of an interview in the prison in Dublin during the progress of the first trials, that he would swear anything to get out of prison. On the trials he denied this; but in his subsequent declaration he admitted its truth. Now, is that a man upon whose statements you ought to keep these men in the horrors of penal servitude? Cole, it has been since stated by the Attorney General for Ireland, has had the Emergency men withdrawn from him, proving that the Government have, at any rate, entirely abandoned his cause. The facts which I have related are only a small portion of the evidence we wish to bring forward. It would be altogether impossible for a layman to go into the details of this very intricate case; but I think I have stated sufficient to warrant an inquiry. I say that the evidence we are in a position to offer is of such a character that no Home Secretary of England, if asked to review a conviction, could fairly consider it without directing the release of the prisoners. We are prepared to offer the most overwhelming proof as to the innocence of the prisoners and the baseness of the verdict which was returned against them, and we believe that the continuance of their imprisonment in the face of such evidence is calculated to shake the public confidence in the administration of justice in Ireland. Now, Mr. Courtney, instead of a conspiracy concocted in Westmeath to murder Mr. Smyth, I think I have proved that there was a foul conspiracy against these unfortunate men. When the Maamtrasna case was before the House the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Randolph Churchill) stated that the facts were such as to induce the 359 House to look carefully into the mode in which criminal trials were carried out in Ireland. "As a matter of fact," said the noble Lord, "the officials charged with the vindication of the law did not seem to have shrunk from any process in order to return a conviction, altogether irrespective of the guilt or innocence of the prisoner." These are important words, and they bear very strongly on my case. They warrant me in speaking as strongly as I have done in regard to the conviction of 11 of my constituents whom I believe to be innocent of the crime for which they were convicted. What was the opinion of the present Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst), expressed at the same time, in speaking on behalf of an independent inquiry being made into the Maamtrasna case? The hon. and learned Gentleman said—That he could understand a refusal to grant an inquiry at all; hut if the Government conceded any kind of inquiry he should have thought that for their own sakes they should secure the services of an independent Judge such as Lord Bramwell to conduct it, and that such inquiry as was proposed to he made was a perfect farce.Now, Mr. Courtney, I think that words like these coming from an important Member of the present Government ought to be sufficient to influence the Conservative Party, who are now in power, in deciding to concede the inquiry we now ask for. The request we make is not an unreasonable one. I believe that 11 of my constituents are innocent of the charges made against them, and that they are wearing away their lives in prison. Most of them belong to the respectable farming class in Ireland, and they are men who are, I believe, morally incapable of committing the crime attributed to them. They were tried at a time of panic, when the tension of the public mind was very great, and when, in fact, a conviction was endeavoured to be obtained on behalf of the Crown at any cost. These men have already endured imprisonments for years, and I believe it is the Constitutional right of every convict to have his sentence reviewed. I need not remind the House that the Government did grant an inquiry into the ease of Brian Kilmartin, and that he was recommended to be released by the Commissioner who was sent down spe- 360 cially to inquire into the case after an independent investigation. We offer now as strong evidence as that which was submitted in the case of Brian Kilmartin. We ask you to adopt the same course, and if you refuse to accede to our requests all I can say is that you are carrying out a policy by which you are seeking to prop up a wrong and rotten system of administering law and justice in Ireland. That inquiry, to be efficient, must be carried on on the spot, and I assert that the evidence which, in that case, will be forthcoming will be amply sufficient to secure the release of all these men. I may add that the Crown has already refused an investigation. There has, no doubt, been some sort of an inquiry at Dublin Castle; but it was a hole and corner investigation, one in which Mr. Deputy Inspector Jacques, of evil memory, and others who were interested in obtaining a conviction were examined. I would ask whether an inquiry under such circumstances could be a fair and satisfactory inquiry? Was it sufficient to secure justice to these unfortunate men? I maintain that it was not; and I say that in order to restore the confidence of the people in the administration of the law in Ireland you are bound to release these unfortunate men, and to bring to light the whole of this corrupt and foul conspiracy against the liberty of a number of innocent and respectable citizens.
§ MR. J. F. X. O'BRIEN (Mayo, S.)
I rise to support the appeal which has been made by my hon. Friend on behalf of an inquiry into the circumstances of the Barbavilla trials. The facts which have been mentioned by my hon. Friend should tend to convince any man who conscientiously considers the matter, that the course pursued by the Government has been such as to shake the confidence of the Irish people in anything like the due administration of the law. I believe that an independent inquiry will confirm the feeling that exists in Ireland, that the conspiracy of which these prisoners have been convicted was really a conspiracy hatched in Dublin Castle and not in Westmeath, and I believe that the result of an inquiry will not only confirm the strong feeling which prevails in Ireland, but will convince the English public that grievous in justice has been done to the prisoners 361 in the Barbavilla, the Maamtrasna, and other trials which have taken place in various parts of Ireland. If Parliament has any desire that good government should be established in Ireland its first duty is to satisfy the people of that country that injustice is not being done to them in the name of the law. My hon. Friend (Mr. Tuite) is naturally personally interested in the fate of the members of his own constituency, whose names he has brought before the Committee. I also, unfortunately, am interested in certain persons connected with my constituency. At the Winter Munster Assizes, in 1883, certain prisoners were tried before Mr. Justice Johnson—namely, Thomas Augustus McCawley, Patrick William Nally, Thos. Daly, James King, Matthew Meldon, and two others. The facts of the case in regard to that trial appear to be these. At that unhappy time the state of Ireland was very similar to the state of things which prevailed in this country at an earlier period of its history—I mean the period when Titus Oates had only to name any person as an accused person in order to secure that his fate should be actually sealed. At that time such a state of alarm existed in England that it was necessary to provide victims in order to appease the public feeling. At the time these unfortunate prisoners were tried in Ireland a similar state of things prevailed, and any wretched informer who chose to come forward to earn the money which the Government were extravagantly lavishing at that time was able to secure his object. There was never any difficulty in obtaining the aid of an informer, and his services were readily procured in accordance with the commercial principle of supply and demand. There was a great demand for informers at that time, and there was never any paucity of supply. As I have said, at the time that system provailed the Government were lavishing enormous sums of money in order to tempt informers to bring victims to them, and the police scattered themselves over the country, not only in the pursuit of their ordinary avocations, but in disguises, and being well acquainted with vicious characters all over the country, they soon hit upon men who could be utilized for their own purposes. The Mayo prisoners, in whom I am 362 specially interested, were the victims of a reckless informer named Coleman. This whole Mayo conspiracy was the creation of this man Coleman, and it was entirely upon his evidence that these unfortunate men were convicted. Any person who pays the slightest attention to the evidence given upon these trials—for these men were tried twice, the jury having disagreed upon the first occasion—any man who pays the slightest attention to the evidence will at once be satisfied that if the evidence of Coleman is subtracted there is no case at all against the prisoners. They were convicted solely upon the evidence of this man. Coleman's modus operandi seems to have been this. He went to the police and laid before them the names of certain persons against whom he wished to inform. He then arranged with the police that they should see him with those men at certain places at certain times. According to this arrangement the police went to the places appointed, and they saw Coleman with the men. There was no evidence given of any crime having been committed on these occasions; but the men were simply seen in the company of Coleman, and that simple fact was taken as a corroboration of the informer's evidence. Another very curious piece of corroboration which the Crown accepted was this man's own letters to the Sub-Inspector of Constabulary. It was a very easy way of making a case for the Government, that this man should be able to give his own evidence and corroborate it himself. To show what kind of character he was, I may say that, in giving evidence against the prisoners, he recklessly swore to the writing of one; of them, and afterwards acknowledged that he had never seen the man write. Nevertheless, this was accepted as a piece of corroborative evidence. I repeat that he swore to the handwriting of Patrick William Nally, and, on cross-examination, had to acknowledge that he had never seen him write. And to give an idea of what sort of man he was, I must state that, according to his own evidence, Coleman was a notorious drunkard, separated from his wife, and charged with living with another woman. He was further suspected of having committed a murder in America, and his parish priest swore that he was unworthy 363 of credit on his oath. Yet, upon this man's evidence these prisoners were convicted. It is unnecessary for me to tell the Committee what the state of feeling was which was aroused in the country in consequence of the way in which these trials were conducted. The feeling at this moment is exceedingly strong in the county of Mayo, and the belief is that these men are innocent, that they did not obtain a fair trial, and that they are now languishing in prison as the victims of a base conspiracy. They have been already for several years suffering penal servitude; and even if there had been a case against them at all; even if the evidence had been good evidence; if there was no reason to doubt the character of the evidence, I consider that a conscientious Government should reconsider the case and say whether, if there is the slightest room for doubt at all, men who have been suffering imprisonment for so long a time ought not now to be released. How much more should these prisoners be entitled to a merciful consideration when it is known that the evidence upon which they were convicted was evidence of a most infamous character. A portion of the corroborative evidence was the finding of some arms by Constable Campbell, who swore, on cross-examination, that the man Coleman was with him and pointed out where the arms were. Surely this ought to have been accepted as a proof that Coleman himself had put them there. Moreover, Coleman swore that he was one of a party who had conspired to murder Police Constable Beattie, and that an actual attempt was made to poison, and afterwards to kill Beattie by the use of an infernal machine. He also swore that he was one of a party who had lain in wait to murder a Mr. Scott and others. Yet this is the man upon whose evidence these men were convicted. I say that a Government who detain men in prison on evidence such as that can certainly have but very little regard for the cause of good government in Ireland. The feeling of the people in Ireland is very strong, not only with regard to the Barbavilla case, but also with regard to the Maamtrassna ease and Mayo case, and similar cases all over Ireland. The feeling is general that innocent men have been subjected to grievous injustice in almost the whole of these cases; and if 364 Her Majesty's Government have any desire to establish a healthy state of public opinion in Ireland, the first step they ought to take is to satisfy the public mind, by a vigorous investigation, that justice shall be done in these cases. There is another case to which I desire to call attention. A man named Lavin was convicted of sending a threatening letter, and was sentenced to seven years' penal servitude. He has now for three years been undergoing that penalty. Surely a sentence of that nature is far too severe for the sending of a threatening letter in regard to which, as I understand, no results followed. I think it is exceedingly desirable that the Government should pay serious attention to the whole of these cases, and I am certainly convinced that the fact of their taking them into their favourable consideration will be productive of most happy results in Ireland.
§ MR. DONAL SULLIVAN (Westmeath, S.)
I wish to say a few words in support of the case which has been brought before the Committee by my hon. Friend and Colleague (Mr. Tuite). As far as the people of Westmeath are concerned—and, indeed, very many in Ireland—they entertain a strong belief that the Barbavilla prisoners are entirely innocent, and they further believe that their conviction was obtained entirely by perjury. They are, therefore, of opinion that an independent investigation should be granted. There were four trials, and in two of them the jury disagreed. On the third trial the evidence relied upon was that of the man M'Keon—a man who has been proved to be of the most infamous character. I quite concur with what my hon. Friend has stated—that no man ought to be convicted on such testimony. Unfortunately, the Barbavilla prisoners were convicted because the Crown at that time was anxious to get a conviction at any hazard, and at any cost, and by any means, and it did not scruple to get other men to support the evidence of M'Keon, because it knew that M'Keon's evidence standing alone was so unreliable and so untrustworthy that no 12 men sitting upon a jury would believe it. Therefore, the agents of the Crown obtained other men, whose characters were quite as infamous, to confirm M'Keon's evidence, and by that means a conviction was obtained. Another 365 curious fact in regard to this case is the inequality of the sentences. The evidence adduced on the trial was substantially the same against the whole of the prisoners, who were all tried on a charge of conspiracy to murder Mr. Smythe, yet one man was sentenced to 10 years' penal servitude, another to seven years, and one individual was let off with 12 months' imprisonment. I should like to know from the Attorney General for Ireland, who, no doubt, will reply to the statements which have been made on this side of the House, how he can reconcile these punishments with the evidence which was given at the trial? I believe that the lucky individual who only got 12 months' imprisonment was a man named M'Grath, and it is asserted that the reason he escaped so lightly was that he had paid his rent during the time of the "No Rent Manifesto;" the other prisoners having refused to pay their rent. It is almost incredible that any man sitting on the Bench for the administration of justice should allow a matter of that kind to have any influence on him in passing sentence. But, nevertheless, it is so; and the belief in Westmeath is very strong that M'Grath got off with 12 months' imprisonment because he had paid his rent. I join my hon. Friend now in his appeal to the Government to grant an independent investigation so that we may set at rest the doubt which now prevails as to the guilt or innocence of these men. I hope and trust that we shall not be met by a refusal, but that the Government will consent to grant this inquiry, and so set at rest once and for ever this grievance, which is really one of the cruellest that has been perpetrated in the name of justice in Ireland for many years.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W., and Sligo, S.)
I shall not, at this moment, make any observations upon the cases which have been placed before the Government and the Committee by my hon. Friends the Members for Westmeath (Mr. Tuite and Mr. Donal Sullivan) and Mayo (Mr. J. F. X. O'Brien). It will be time enough to enter minutely into those cases when we have heard the reply which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland feels himself in a position to make. I think it is convenient that at this early stage of the debate I should submit to the right hon. Gentle- 366 man the Chief Secretary for Ireland some matters connected with the current administration of that country for which he is directly responsible. I asked a Question to-day about the position of Sir Redvers Buller. There has been a positive statement in the Press that Sir Redvers Buller has reported to the right hon. Gentleman that he has found, in the course of the investigation he has been actively and industriously making, that rents in Clare and Kerry and in parts of Cork are too high to be paid. The first reply of the Chief Secretary for Ireland was that the Reports of Sir Redvers Buller were confidential documents, and therefore could not be laid on the Table of the House. But there was a second Question put to the right hon. Gentleman as to whether Sir Redvers Buller had reported that rents were actually too high to be paid, and, in reply to that second Question the confidential character of the Reports of Sir Redvers Buller at once disappeared, because the right hon. Gentleman immediately replied that Sir Redvers Buller had not so reported. I admit, at once, that the Reports of Sir Redvers Buller, or of any other person engaged in the detection of crime, are such Reports as the Government have a right to treat as confidential so far as they relate to the detection of crime, because it may be said that a revelation of the information contained in the Reports might defeat the ends of justice. Therefore, I do not ask that the Reports of Sir Redvers Buller, so far as they relate to the existence of crime, or the means employed for the detection of crime, should be communicated to Parliament. But if Sir Redvers Buller, in the character of a Plenipotentiary acting on behalf of the Government, extends his Report beyond the question of the detection of crime, I submit that Parliament is entitled to know what it is that he has reported. The Rent Question in Ireland is urgent and acute. It imminently threatens social order in Ireland. The Government will be called on presently to declare their policy in regard to the question of rent. They will have to do so next week in this House; and I think I am not beyond my right in asking whether the representations and facts upon which the policy of the Government is based come from Sir Redvers Buller or any other person, and if so, we have certainly a right to know what 367 those representations and facts are. The Government have no right to declare, upon a question so important as that of rent in Ireland, a policy which is to govern their action, and then to keep from the Representatives of the people and from the people themselves the facts on which that policy is founded. Therefore, I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to lay on the Table not the Reports of Sir Redvers Buller, but those excerpts from them which deal with the question of rent, and the question of rent alone, which may influence the Government in determining their policy upon that question. I maintain that they have no right to found a public policy upon what they call confidential information, and refuse the Representatives of the Irish people an opportunity of determining how far that information is correct. I think the time has come when we ought to have more definite information than we have as yet received concerning the nature and conditions of the mission of Sir Redvers Buller himself. He has been driving about Kerry and Clare with military officers, magistrates, and County Inspectors of Police in his train; and he has been going about in an undefined dual character, as a detective of an extraordinary kind, and also as a magistrate. He seems to have power over the military and power over the police. He is responsible to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, and to no one else, and yet we cannot ascertain whether he supersedes the ordinary magistrates and officers of the Queen in the district with which he is associated. I venture to say that there is no no man in the House who is able to understand what the relations of Sir Redvers Buller are with the Inspector General of the Irish Constabulary. In the case of any difference of opinion, will the views of Sir Redvers Buller be overborne by the Inspector General, or is the Inspector General to impose his will upon Sir Redvers Buller? Further, as to the disposal of the military, whose directions are to be obeyed—those of the Prince of Saxe Weimar, or those of Sir Redvers Buller?—
Order, order! The observations which the hon. Member is now entering into have no reference to the subject of this Vote, but would be more properly discussed on the 368 Vote for the Salaries of Divisional Magistrates.
§ MR. SEXTON
The Chief Secretary for Ireland is a Minister responsible for the affairs of Ireland, and by far the most important officer at the present moment is Sir Redvers Buller. He is not a county officer, but his district includes the whole of the county of Kerry, and part of Clare; and I submit that I am entitled to ask the Chief Secretary to give some account of his mission. He is not only a magistrate, but an officer as well as a magistrate. As a matter of fact he is a Constitutional novelty.
I understand that the salary of Sir Redvers Buller is included in the Supplementary Vote which deals with the salaries of Divisional Magistrates. That Vote is now on the Table, and will come on in due course. In my opinion the discussion which the hon. Member is entering upon will be more appropriate upon that Vote.
§ MR. SEXTON
Well, Sir, if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary informs the Committee that the salary of Sir Redvers Buller is included in that Vote I will say nothing further now, but I will take another opportunity of addressing the remarks to the Committee which I had proposed to offer now. [Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH: That is so.] Then I will go on to another question. I wish to know what course the Government propose to take concerning the Proclamation of the Arms Act in Belfast and Derry? I propose to refer especially to the town of Belfast, but the Proclamation of that Act in the City of Derry is also a matter of some importance. The City of Derry was proclaimed in the month of July, and I think that before the end of that month the time had expired during which all persons were legally compelled by that Proclamation to surrender arms. I wish to ask, in the first place, if any arms have been surrendered in the City of Derry under the Proclamation of the Earl of Aberdeen, and if not why not? What is the theory of the Government on the subject? Is it that there are no arms to be surrendered, or that the persons who possess arms hold the Government in such contempt that they decline to obey the Proclamation? If so, do the Government acquiesce in that view of the authority and patience of the Executive Government so far as these per- 369 sons are concerned? I belive there have been some scenes in the City of Derry very lately which render it desirable that the Proclamation should either be frankly withdrawn, or carried into operative effect. For instance, during the election of the hon. Gentleman whom I now see opposite (Mr. C. Lewis), there were some violent scenes, in the course of which it would appear that the hon. Gentleman was surrounded by a disorderly mob, and that he shook his clenched fist in the face of the Resident Magistrate.
§ MR. SEXTON
Then I can only regret that the hon. Gentleman has refrained from contradicting the reports which have appeared in the Press of Ireland during the last few months. It is very singular that what was stated in the month of July has not been contradicted until it has been stated by me in this House to-night. Did not the hon. Member say on the occasion to which I refer—"Oh, Harvey, you scoundrel! Harvey, you ruffian!"
§ MR. SEXTON
I was drawn into them by the remark of the hon. Member opposite. My information is that arms have been largely used for illegal purposes. The case of the town of Belfast is far more important. That town was proclaimed under the Arms Act. On the 19th of July the Lord Lieutenant for Ireland gave notice by Proclamation that by the 26th of that month all arms not legally held in the town of Belfast were to be surrendered. I do not wonder that that Proclamation has fallen through, because the Town Council of Belfast held a meeting on the 4th of August, and one of the Councillors then present stated that the issue of the Proclamation without consulting the Mayor was a great breach of etiquette; another Councillor stated that it was the greatest breach of etiquette that had occurred for many years; and the gentleman who preceded me in the representation of the Western Division of Belfast being present at that meeting, stated that the Proclamation was a slur upon the town, 370 and that it was the absolute right of the Mayor to have been consulted before it was issued. Perhaps I may remind the Chief Secretary that when Belfast was proclaimed five or six years ago, under the Arms Act of 1881, there was no consultation with the Mayor, but there was a consultation with the Resident Stipendiary Magistrate and the Inspector General of Constabulary. The Inspector General of Constabulary applied to the present Mayor (Sir Edward Harland), enjoining him to have warrants issued for a search of arms. I wish to know how many search warrants have been granted since the last Proclamation has been issued; and if it is true that the only searches which have been made, as far as I have been able to discover, have been searches in the houses of Catholics, in regard to whom there was no reason at all to believe that they were in the possession of arms? The searches for arms have proved quite fruitless; but I believe, as a matter of fact, that the Government have persistently abstained from searching the houses of those who were connected with the faction which is notorious for the illegal possession of arms. Since the 26th of July there has been firing going on all night through, and constant fusillades in the streets of Belfast. On the 8th of August, and again on the 15th of August, these fusillades continued throughout the entire night, and on the last occasion from midnight until the middle of the next day. Have the Government inquired who the persons were who were in the possession of arms? Have they endeavoured to ascertain in what part of the town the people who use the arms lived? Is there any real intention to make the Proclamation operative, or is it to remain a dead letter? Of the courses that were open to the Government under the Proclamation, they adopted the worst. They have allowed the Proclamation to remain in formal existence without making any attempt to carry it out. In fact, it would have been a much better course to have withdrawn the Proclamation altogether. Certainly, the course dictated to them by public necessity and public duty, in view of the notorious occurrences in Belfast, by which the lives not only of civilians but of the Constabulary Force and of soldiers have been lost by the illegal use of firearms, was to have 371 put the Proclamation in force. As one of the Representatives of Belfast, I am most intimately concerned in this question, and I am entitled to ask whether the Government do or do not intend to carry out the Proclamation? I recently asked a Question concerning the granting of arms to Rifle Clubs in Ireland, and it was only upon a second attempt that I succeeded in obtaining an answer from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith). The right hon. Gentleman has assured me that it is a fact that certain rifle corps in Ireland are allowed to use the ranges at Her Majesty's barracks for the purpose of rifle practice, that they carry on drill under the instruction of a sergeant of Her Majesty's Military Forces, and by a sanction of some sort obtained from the Lord Lieutenant, they are alleged to procure, at cost price only, ammunition from the military stores. I wish to ask if that practice is to be brought to an end, seeing that the people of Ireland generally are to be disarmed? I must say that it appears to be a very strange practice to allow specially privileged bodies of persons to procure ammunition under such favourable conditions. Certainly, in a country where the bulk of the people are disarmed by a legislative enactment, it is particularly offensive and objectionable to allow Her Majesty's Forces to drill a privileged body, and to allow them to obtain ammunition under specially favourable terms. What will the British taxpayer say to a system under which he is obliged to pay taxes for supplying ammunition for the military purposes of the Crown when this ammunition is to be supplied to persons who may possibly shoot down the constabulary and soldiers we maintain in Ireland in order to secure the due observance of the law? What will the people of this country say when they find that the skill of regimental sergeants and the accommodation of the barracks are placed at the disposal of civilians, and paid for out of the money voted by this House? There is a general belief in Belfast that these Rifle Clubs have been a fruitful means of propagating the worst elements of the disorders in that town. What security will the Government take that the intimate relations of these Rifle Clubs with the authorities of the Crown and the supply of am- 372 munition shall not be made a means whereby encouragement is given to illegitimate and possibly criminal proceedings? What check is there on the issue of ammunition to a rifle corps in the very quarter where the fusillades take place, and where the police and the military were made a target of throughout the entire night? The evidence of the constabulary is that the ammunition used against them was of superior quality, that it was fired at long ranges, and that it must have been fired from excellent weapons. There is a well-founded belief that the weapons of the rifle corps were used against the soldiers, and that the ammunition was procured under this benevolent system at the military barracks. I trust that before this debate concludes we shall know how much ammunition has been given out every year from the Queen's stores to the rifle corps of Belfast. Was the ammunition issued with the sanction of the Lord Lieutenant?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS - BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
The sanction of the Lord Lieutenant, as far as I am acquainted with the matter, is given on his being satisfied that the club is a respectable club. I believe that the Lord Lieutenant has no control over the issue of ammunition.
§ MR. SEXTON
It is of equal importance to us to know upon what grounds the Lord Lieutenant comes to the conclusion that a rifle club is a respectable club. If ammunition is to be served out on specially favourable terms to rifle corps, the Government ought to be careful as to the nature of the club, and I certainly am of opinion that they would require such information if the club was a National Club. I am perfectly satisfied that in such a case they would institute the most stringent inquiry as to the re-pectability of each person included in the club. Therefore, I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will consider a club composed of Nationalists, and not of Orangemen, a respectable club? I must further ask how much ammunition was given out, and what security was taken that it should be applied to legitimate purposes? I certainly cannot assent to any system by which a great town like Belfast, torn to pieces by religious differences and subjected to rioting and disorder—I cannot assent to a 373 system by which ammunition is supplied by the Military Authorities at cost price to one section of the townspeople, with the result of not only endangering property, but life. I further wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman how far he has proceeded, up to the present moment, in reorganizing the Police Force of Belfast? I do not expect him to declare what ought to be the permanent measures that will be taken. That, of course, must depend on the Report of the Royal Commission; but what I want to know is what are the temporary measures by which he hopes to maintain the peace of Belfast until the Royal Commission report? I say that the Government are reponsible for the recent riots, because they failed to establish a police station at Queen's Island 22 years ago, when the shipwrights of Queen's Island made an attack upon the navvies working in the docks on account of difference of creed. It was the duty of the Government to have established a police station there and then; and the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that on the 4th of June last, when 600 or 800 shipwrights marched out of Queen's Island and made an attack upon 100 men at Alexandra Dock, the police ran away and did not return until the riot was over. I am perfectly satisfied that if the police had had a station on the spot, or even near it, a dozen determined constables armed with rifles or revolvers, or even with batons in their hands, would have prevented the rioting, the life of the boy James Carney would never have been taken, and there would have been none of the riots attended by bloodshed and the destruction of property which has since taken place. An extraordinary report comes to me on the best possible authority, although I must admit that I cannot altogether believe it. It is that in the district of Belfast, from which the police force were lately driven out, and in which the authority of the Queen was for a time superseded, Her Majesty's Government, at the instigation of the Rev. Dr. Hanna and other principal instigators of the riots, have agreed that the police force stationed there shall be Protestants, and Protestants of a particular political bias. It is true that the police of Ireland, as at present composed, is one-fourth Protestant and three-fourths Catholic; but the proportion in Belfast is different, 374 being three-fourths Protestant and one-fourth Catholic. Of that I do not complain, because the majority of the people there are Protestants; but what I do complain of is that the same proportion should not have been observed in other parts of the town when the riots took place. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to make a frank declaration that there is no intention of placing in the riotous districts of Belfast a police force almost entirely Protestant, because the main features of the riots were the attacks which were made by a riotous mob on the shops of the Catholics in that quarter of the town where the Catholics were very few. What is to become of these unfortunate people if the police employed for the protection of life and property are to be selected solely because they are Protestants? According to the statement made to me, Mr. Reed, the Inspector General of Constabulary, was asked a few days ago in Belfast, at a meeting of the Executive Committee, whether he had promised the Rev. Dr. Hanna—better known as "Roaring Hanna"—that on re-establishing the police in the Shankhill Road he would find everything satisfactory to him, and that the force would be composed of Protestants. The Inspector General was also asked whether he intended to allow the police to go back to the Shankhill, Road or whether the hopes of those who desired to see the re-establishment of a local force were to be realized. I trust, upon this point, to obtain some assurance from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, because it has been stated lately that the Government propose to give in upon the point and to consent to the establishment of a local force. It is certainly a serious matter if the highest officials of the Royal Irish Constabulary have given an undertaking to one of the persons chiefly responsible for the recent riots that the police who are to have charge of the Shankhill Road are to be a Protestant force. I know nothing whatever of the rumour, and I only repeat the statement, as it has been made to me, as a matter of duty, in order to ascertain what the views of the Government are. Before I sit down I wish to know what is the condition of the question in regard to the re-employment of Catholics in Belfast who have been thrown out of work in consequence of 375 the riots? The right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary said the other day that he believed most of the Catholics had returned to work, and that he expected, in the course of a few days, the rest would be restored to their employment. I asked if the observation applied to the establishment of the Mayor—Sir Edward Harland—and the right hon. Gentleman told me he could not say. I have here a letter from a person employed in the shipyard of Sir Edward Harland, and the writer tells me that altogether 150 Catholics have been obliged to leave the Island, and that only some half-dozen have resumed work, or less than 1–20th of the entire number. The remainder are anxious to go back, but they are afraid to do so, because no undertaking is given by the firm that they will be afforded protection. Now, Sir, the case of the shipyard on Queen's Island is only a type of numerous other cases in Belfast. The Government have hitherto refrained from bringing their influence to bear upon the employers. Of course, I know what the inclination of the right hon. Gentleman himself must be. He must surely desire that work should be re-established; he cannot expect that social order in Belfast can be placed on a sound and firm and satisfactory basis so long as there are a number of poor Catholic workmen who are kept by force from earning a livelihood. I think, then, that I do not ask too much from the right hon. Gentleman when I request him to communicate with Sir Edward Harland, the Mayor of Belfast, and press upon him the duty of adopting measures for the adequate protection of his workmen. I appeal to him also, from the high authority of his Office, to state to the Committee that the Government expect the Mayor of Belfast, for his own interests and for the public good, to take adequate measures for the prevention of further disorder, and to restore to work and the means of earning a living hundreds of poor Catholic people who are now burdening the local rates of the town.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I have no wish to interfere, in any way, with the consideration which the Government may give to the appeal which has just been made to them in this matter. But, during the course of the speeches which we have listened to tonight, I have heard of packed juries 376 and of convictions obtained at any price by perjured evidence. Now, I have served on several Commissions for the trial of prisoners under the Crimes Act in Dublin. [Laughter from the Home Rule Members.] Hon. Gentlemen may laugh, but I regard it as one of the most unpleasant duties which a citizen can be called upon to perform, and I have been made to know it, as probably some hon. Members are aware. I wish to say that as far as the question of informers is concerned, on every jury on which I sat under the Crimes Act, the Judge was most careful in telling the jury that they were not to rely upon the evidence of the informer if they did not consider that there was sufficient evidence without it. We were directed simply to take the evidence of the informer as supplementary, and not to found the verdict solely upon it. In every case that was the direction given by the Judge to the juries on which I sat, and I have no reason to doubt that it was given in every case that was tried in Green Street Court House. Therefore, the Committee must not run away with the conclusion that the verdicts were founded on the evidence of these men; there must have been other evidence, or otherwise it would have been impossible to have obtained a conviction. There is another thing I desire to say. It has been implied by hon. Members who have taken part in the debate that the special jurors in Dublin were simply as wax in the hands of the Crown, prepared to bring in whatever verdict the Crown chose to ask for. Now, I would put it to hon. Members below the Gangway whether, in several notable cases, political prisoners who stood in the dock were not acquitted without regard to the feelings of the Crown? I would instance the case of Fitzgerald. The jury in that case, although it has been described as a packed jury, acquitted the prisoner, and I object to sit by and hear my fellow-citizens libelled in this manner. I say that the citizens of Dublin are as intelligent, as upright, and of as high character as hon. Members below the Gangway, and they will compare with them very favourably in every respect in which the Committee may wish to draw a comparison. It is grossly unfair for hon. Members below the Gangway to say that the leading merchants of Dublin, who have sat on these 377 juries, and who have performed good service to the State during these trials, rendering it often at the peril of their lives, should be libelled by the assertion that they were merely as wax in the hands of the Crown, ready to bring in any verdict the Crown desired to obtain. As to the Barbavilla case, I express no opinion whatever. If the Government think it is a case for inquiry I sincerely hope they will grant aninquiry. The hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Sullivan) stated that there had been four trials of these prisoners already. Under those circumstances, I would ask a question which must occur to every man in this House. If the whole of this evidence was in existence, why was it not produced on one or other of the four trials which have already taken place? How is it that it only comes out now after the men have been convicted of this crime? I say, again, that I have no desire to interfere with any consideration the Government may give to the circumstances of this case. If they think that there has been a miscarriage of justice I should rejoice to see the prisoners set at liberty. But what I object to is that the citizens of Dublin should be libelled and the Judges misrepresented in this abominable manner. As far as my own personal knowledge goes, the citizens of Dublin brought to the consideration of these matters very great intelligence and the strongest desire to do their duty both by the prisoners and to the Crown.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
This question of trials in Dublin is one which does not involve, in itself, any question with regard to the character of Dublin jurors. No doubt the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, who is one of the most notorious of those persons who were constantly employed for the purpose of trying special jury cases in Dublin, is anxious to defend himself and his colleagues from the imputations which have been made against them. In this particular case, however, what we do is not to bring general charges, but to make specific statements which are perfectly capable of contradiction and disproof if the statements themselves are capable of being disproved. The statements made by my hon. Friend are perfectly clear and distinct. There is a well-known belief in Ireland that there was a miscarriage of justice in the Barbavilla case. I was in the Court House 378 in Green Street during a portion of the trial of these men, and I was present while the old informer, M'Keon, was giving his evidence. I am prepared to say that no juror who followed the evidence given by M'Keon could come to any other conclusion than that the man was all the time perjuring himself. No one who was not either hopelessly unintelligent or blindly biased by political faction could arrive at any other conclusion. Nothing could be more clear; and I am bound to say that as far as there were materials in his possession the prisoners were defended with great ability by Dr. Boyd—now Mr. Justice Boyd. It appears to me, however, that the special jurors in Dublin, at the time the trial was going on, were animated rather by a desire to strike terror into the people of the country than by the wish to do justice. The hon. Member alluded to the trial of Mr. Fitzgerald, but I think it was one of the last cases he ought to have referred to. If ever there was a case in Ireland in which a man was subjected to constant and systematic persecution; if over there was a case in which trumped up evidence was resorted to for the purpose of depriving an innocent man of his liberty, it was the case of Mr. Fitzgerald. So weak was the case of the Crown that as soon as the trial of Mr. Fitzgerald, which was put forward as a kind of test case, was disposed of, 11 other men were discharged from custody. I do not know that it is necessary to enter into the character of many of the persons who have been engaged as special jurors. The hon. Member spoke of Dublin merchants as serving upon these special juries. We all know what sort of persons the special jurors really were. There was one of these special jurors to whom I drew attention some time ago in this House. He was a person employed as a messenger in the Customs. That is a specimen of the usual Dublin merchant employed in a crisis like this for the purpose of securing the conviction of a prisoner. I do not think it is necessary to canvass the conduct of these men further. My hon. Friend the Member for South Mayo (Mr. J. F. X. O'Brien) has called attention to the conviction of the Mayo prisoners. The Mayo prisoners were convicted in the City of Cork, before a Cork special jury; but there were the same arrangements 379 in regard to the empannelling of special juries as those which were resorted to in Dublin. We know the manner in which the conviction of the Crossmalina prisoners was brought about. Even the Judge was browbeaten by the prosecuting counsel.
I think the hon. Member is travelling very widely from the question before the Committee. His remarks appear to me to be altgether irrelevant.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
On the first trial the Crossmalina prisoners were not convicted; but when another Judge was sent down the conviction was secured. My hon. Friend has related the result of the conviction. Some of the prisoners were sentenced to penal servitude for 10 years, and some of them for a less period. There is, however, a prevalent belief in the county of Mayo, not only among persons of the so-called disloyal class, but even among the loyal inhabitants, that if any man in the county of Mayo, by word or deed, had endeavoured to discountenance crime and outrage, that man was Patrick Hanney, now undergoing a sentence of penal servitude on a charge of conspiracy to murder. We know that in law the evidence of an informer is considered infamous; but if it had not been for the evidence of informers, I maintain that in no single instance would the special jurors in Dublin or Cork have arrived at the conclusion that the persons charged before them were guilty. The conviction in every case was obtained by the evidence of informers, the evidence of men of good character being altogether insufficient to prevent a conviction. There is another case to which I desire to draw the attention of the Committee. It is a case which was brought under the notice of the Earl of Carnarvon, when he was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, at a time when the present Attorney General for Ireland occupied a similar position to that which he now occupies. The present Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, in reply to a speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), when he brought forward a Motion last year in reference to certain convictions in Ireland, including the Maamtrasna case, also called attention to the case of the brothers Dela-hunty. He invited my constituents to 380 supply the Earl of Carnarvan with a statement of their views on the subject. I did supply the Earl of Canarvon, at the time, with a statement of facts regarding the conviction of the two brothers Delahunty. I do not think it necessary to trouble the Committee with a recital of those facts now; but there were two or three main points connected with the case which I think it would be well to state to the Committee. In the first place, these men were convicted of the crime of firing at the person of a man who had been a life-long personal enemy. There was no trace of shot found, no trace of a revolver or gun, and the whole charge depended on the testimony of the person who swore he was fired at, and a boy of weak intellect named Markham. It was upon this evidence that the two brothers were convicted of the crime of firing at the person, and they were sentenced to penal servitude for life. But a man named Slatter, about six months after the conviction, when lying upon his deathbed, made a declaration before two Resident Magistrates—Mr. Percival of the county of Ennis, and Mr. Crothy, Resident Magistrate for the Eastern Division of Clare. The death-bed confession of Slatter was that he had suborned the evidence, and that the statements made by Markham were altogether false. As soon as this charge was made, Markham left the country, and within a very short period every man connected with the prosecution left Ireland. I sent a statement of the facts of the case to the Earl of Carnarvon, and I clearly proved by affidavits that by no possibility could Markham have been where he swore he was on the night in question. Among the persons who made the affidavit to that effect was Markham's own brother. There was another point. Owing to no fault of the counsel who defended the prisoners, but owing to the defective manner in which these men's defence was got up, all the facts of the case were not got out. The prisoners were poor country boys; they had no money, and they were not able to instruct counsel in a proper manner. The solicitor originally instructed was a man who resided many miles away. The men were tried at the Cork Winter Assizes, and before the trial came on the solicitor left Cork and went to Dublin, leaving counsel very imperfectly instructed. When the 381 trial came on there was only one counsel present with very defective instructions indeed; but he was a very able man, and he made a fair case out of the very scanty materials with which he had been supplied. The counsel, however, was placed in a doubly embarrassed position, because he had no chance of communicating with his own witnesses beforehand, the solicitor having left for Dublin; and during the progress of the trial some material points arose on which it was very necessary that he should Lave consulted with the witnesses. Having no intermediary he was unable to acquaint himself with the whole state of the facts, even so far as his own witnesses were concerned, and counsel, therefore, was placed at a terrible disadvantage. It was not altogether the fault of the Crown, although the Crown did act, in the first instance, unfairly, because they moved the prisoners from one gaol to another, without giving the first solicitor who was instructed in the case an opportunity of knowing where the men had been sent to. The Earl of Carnarvon replied to my appeal on that occasion that he saw no reason for reconsidering the sentence; but he thought that if an application were made later on, the question of the duration of the sentence might reasonably be taken into consideration. Well, Sir, I make an application now for the reconsideration of the sentence. It is impossible to hope that the present Lord Lieutenant will reverse a decision arrived at by his Predecessor; but what I claim is that these men, having now already undergone four years' penal servitude, should have their case reconsidered with a view of securing a mitigation of the sentence. I maintain that in all the circumstances of the case a sentence of penal servitude for life was much too severe a sentence. It must also be remembered that the men were convicted at a time of great excitement, and of strained social relations in Ireland—at a time when sentences were passed very much in excess of what would be passed for similar offences in England and Scotland, or, indeed, anywhere else except Ireland. Therefore, having laid before the Chief Secretary the facts of the ease, I would ask him now to reconsider the sentence which was passed on these men with a view of obtaining their release. I may add that they were men of a most ex- 382 cellent character—quite of a different character from the persons who charged them with the offence, and who were persons of a notoriously bad character. If the right hon. Gentleman will inquire into the circumstances of the case I think he will he able to satisfy himself that the time has now come when the interests of justice be will satisfied by the release of the prisoners.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
As some hon. Gentleman opposite have appealed to me in the course of the debate it is convenient that I should say the few words I have to say at the present moment. I do not intend, and I am sure no one in this House would expect that in such a debate I should enter into a consideration of the facts of every case which has occurred, or address to the Committee arguments which ought properly to be only addressed to a Judge and jury. I may say that I have had no notice of a great number of the matters which have been brought before the Committee, and it would be altogether impossible for a Law Officer of the Crown to remember everything which has occurred during his own tenure of Office, much less matters with which he has had nothing whatever to do, and which had been begun, carried on, and ended before he had any responsibility for the administration of justice in Ireland. It so happens, however, that I know a little about one or two of the cases to which reference has been made, and without entering into arguments or discussing matters, which it seems to me the House of Commons is one of the very worst places in which to discuss them, I will say what has been done in the Barbavilla case. The case of the Barbavilla prisoners has been more than once, in the form of Questions or debate, before the House; and I should like to call the attention of the Committee to the progress of the case. The hon. Member is quite right in stating that the prisoners now in gaol and serving out their sentences were indicted for conspiracy to murder. The first four were put on their trial at the end of the year 1883, and the jury having on that occasion disagreed the same four prisoners were tried again before the Lord Chief Baron, in the county of Dublin, in the month of March following. That trial resulted in a ver 383 dict of guilty. I have read the pamphlet which has been published by Father Curry in reference to the case; and I also have read what took place at the trial. The greater part of the arguments put forth in that pamphlet, as well as the arguments used to day, are the very arguments which were addressed to the Judge and jury by one of the ablest counsel at the Irish Bar who appeared in the defence of the prisoners. There were two trials, one of which terminated in the disagreement of the jury, while the other resulted in a verdict of guilty. Everything that could possibly be brought forward by way of argument on behalf of the prisoners, and on behalf of the Crown, was brought forward. On the last occasion a verdict was found before the Lord Chief Baron, and everyone who is acquainted with that distinguished Judge knows that he is an eminent Constitutional lawyer; and that he would be the last man in any country to allow any topic to be pressed unfairly against a prisoner. Something has been said about the juries of the City of Dublin. Having had much to do with them during my life, I beg to say that I entirely endorse all the high encomiums which have been passed in their favour by the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell). In selecting the jury panel there was no officer who had any power to pick and choose. The jurors were selected according to a principle laid down some years ago—namely, that of alphabetical arrangement, from which principle there can be no deviation whatever. The matter was altogether beyond the control of any officer of the Government. [Mr. M. J. KENNY: How about the Crimes Act?] The practice under the Crimes Act was precisely the same except that instead of the jurors being selected from one venue they were selected from two. So much with regard to the first case. In the second case, four or five of the prisoners now under sentence were tried, and again there was an abortive trial. The case then came before another distinguished Judge, and the men were defended by eminent counsel, who had the advantage of being present at the first trial; but notwithstanding all the knowledge which was obtained in the first trial, and all the advantage which the prisoners possessed in consequence in rebutting the charge, the result was that a verdict 384 of guilty was found against them. It is not for me to say whether the verdict was right or not. All I say is that the result was obtained in the ordinary Constitutional way for determining the guilt or innocence of an accused person. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Tuite) has, in the course of this debate, said that he conceives it is right for any person who has been tried and found guilty to have his sentence reviewed in a Constitutional manner. I entirely agree with the hon. Member; but the Constitutional way is not by a discussion in the House of Commons. That has never been suggested by anyone. Hon. Members must know that no discussions take place here as to the way in which the Home Secretary for England exercises the rights which are intrusted to him. In the case of Ireland, advice in regard to the exercise of the Perogative of mercy is given to the Lord Lieutenant by the Lord Chancellor; and if every case is to be reviewed on the floor of this House, it would be impossible to get through the Civil Service Estimates in a month, or even in 12 months. There is, however, a Constitutional mode whereby persons who have been convicted, and who conceive that there are certain circumstances which ought to be taken, into consideration in order to secure a remission of the penalty, may secure that their case will undergo review. Now, what happened in this case? I find that the last of these prisoners was convicted in the summer of 1884, and long after that—namely, in the spring of 1885, when all the matters now referred to by the hon. Member had passed away—a Memorial was presented to the Lord Lieutenant by the friends of the prisoners, appealing to him to take the matter into consideration and exercise his judgment upon it. The Lord Lieutenant at that time was Earl Spencer, and he had, when the Memorial was first presented to him, the advantage of the advice of a distinguishedlawyer—the late Lord Chancellor Sullivan—who entered fully into everything that was brought to the notice of the Government in reference to the matter. Earl Spencer himself went through the case. Subsequently another Lord Chancellor—Lord Chancellor Naish—succeeded; his attention was also drawn, to the case, and he gave his advice. The result of that consideration was that Earl Spencer came to the conclusion that the 385 law ought to take its course. There was then a change of Government. A Conservative Government came in, with Lord Ashbourne as Lord Chancellor, and all the evidence was referred to him, as well as the statement of Father Curry. Now, the Government of that day had had nothing to do with the prosecution of these men, and they had no conduct of their own to justify in reference to it. There was no reason, therefore, why they should not bring to the consideration of the case a most unbiased and impartial mind, or why they should not deal with all the facts as readily and as impartially as an English Judge dealing with an ordinary case which might come before him in the ordinary course of his duties. The matter was carefully considered by the Earl of Carnarvon and Lord Chancellor Ashbourne, and the result was that they also decided that the law should take its course. Again, when the Earl of Aberdeen became Lord Lieutenant the cases were again considered by him.
§ MR. HOLMES
I know that it was on behalf of one of them at all events; but I should not like to state that it was for all. It will, therefore, be seen that successive Lords Lieutenant of Ireland, taking the advice of successive Lord Chancellors, have in every case arrived at the same conclusion—namely, that the punishment inflicted by the Judge upon these prisoners was a punishment which ought not to be interfered with. I would say, even now, that if a Memorial were addressed to the Lord Lieutenant, setting forth any new facts, the matter would not again receive the consideration which it is entitled to receive; but the only mode of inquiry provided by the Constitution in cases of this kind is an inquiry which has already taken place on more than one occasion.
§ MR. HOLMES
There is no power to hold sworn inquiries such as have been suggested. That, indeed, would be a new trial, such as is unknown to the English law and Constitution. So much in regard to the Barbavilla case. As to the Cross- 386 malina case, I happen to know something about that also. A conviction was obtained in the spring of the year 1884; but there had been a disagreement among the jury in the previous December. It is a remarkable circumstance that from the spring of 1884 down to the month of September, 1885, no representations were made, as far as I am aware of, to the Lord Lieutenant, or any other authority, on behalf of the prisoners. What occurred was that in the autumn of the year 1885 some members of the Boards of Guardians in the county of Mayo passed resolutions calling on the Lord Lieutenant to consider whether the sentence should not be remitted, and giving as a reason that crime was disappearing to a great extent, and that it was a desirable thing for the peace of the country that these men, who had occupied a good position, should return to society. No fresh facts were brought forward, and no arguments beyond those which had been addressed to the jury upon the trial. The matter was carefully considered, and the answer was only what might have been expected under the circumstances, that the law must take its course. No doubt, if there are any new facts which can be brought before the Lord Lieutenant in the ordinary way, and in the only way in which they can be brought forward, they will receive the attention they are entitled to. Hon. Members opposite seem to think that no trial can be conducted anywhere without a conspiracy on the part of someone to pervert the course of justice. Now, hon. Members generally in this House must know that the late Lord Lieutenant, who was himself responsible for these prosecutions, and the present Lord Lieutenant are high-minded English Gentlemen. They have done that which they were bound to do. They have considered fully the facts which have been put before them, and I have stated what the results of that consideration is. Of course, it must be, to a certain extent, obvious to hon. Members that a very strong case indeed must be made out before the decision already arrived at could be reversed. Reference has been made to a third case—that of the brothers Delahunty. That case shows the inconvenience of a discussion of this nature. Now, I know nothing of the case of the Delahunty's. I had nothing to do with 387 their prosecution, and the accidental circumstances which made me acquainted with the other cases did not occur in this. Therefore, I cannot say one word either one way or the other about it; but, as I have pointed out, a mode exists by which the opinion of the Constitutional authorities can be taken, and that is by the presentation of a Memorial. If a Memorial is presented it will receive full and careful consideration. It is clear that, as far as this House is concerned, the discussion which has been going on can lead to no profitable result. I have spoken as fully on the subject as I can. I have no wish to prejudge any proceeding which may take place. I have simply given an historical account of what has been done in the past; and I firmly believe that both in regard to the present Administration and the last their only desire was to carry out the law in Ireland firmly, but at the same time with justice, paying due regard to everything that characterizes the administration of the law in England.
§ MR. TUITE
The Attorney General for Ireland has stated that it is wrong to bring these cases before the House of Commons; but how, then, are the Irish people to ventilate their grievances? It is suggested that two Lords Lieutenant of Ireland have inquired into this case; but what was the nature of those inquiries? They brought forward men who have got large rewards, men who, having been third-class Inspectors, had been made first-class Sub-Inspectors, men who have received large pecuniary rewards; and I ask whether these are the sort of persons in whom the Lord Lieutenant ought to have unbounded confidence in inquiries of this kind? Certainly not. These are men who are themselves guilty of perjury and corruption in obtaining verdicts, and ought not to be brought into such an inquiry. If there is to be any investigation of the case of these unfortunate men it must be an impartial one. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland has told us there is no precedent for inquiry. But I say that the case of Brian Kilmartin is a precedent, and in that case an independent person was sent down to inquire into the facts which he reported upon, and in consequence of that the man was released. I know both the locality in which the murder was committed and the people, 388 and I say that a more exemplary class of men does not exist on God's earth. In order to mark the sense of our dissatisfaction I shall move the reduction of this Vote by the sum of £10,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed,That a sum, not exceeding £7,866, 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 Offices of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in Dublin and London, and Subordinate Departments."—(Mr. Tuite.)
§ MR. SHIRLEY (Yorkshire, W.E., Doncaster)
I must say I think the Attorney General for Ireland has not given an answer as satisfactory and conclusive as it might have been to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. The right hon. and learned Gentleman talks about the Constitution, and suggests that the Irish Members should pursue their Constitutional remedy. But have they got a Constitutional remedy? The very point on which they rely is that the Constitution is defective, and that, unless they bring their grievance before this Committee, they have no chance of obtaining redress. Now, Sir, I am quite alive to the inconvenience of constituting this Committee a Court of Criminal Appeal, with authority to review and reverse decisions arrived at in the ordinary Courts of Law. But justice is more important than convenience, and the Irish Members have no other course open to them. The Attorney General for Ireland seems to consider that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland is a kind of Court of Criminal Appeal. But he is nothing of the sort—not any more than the Sovereign is a Court of Criminal Appeal in England. The truth is that we have not got a Court of Criminal Appeal either in England or in Ireland at the present time; and the Constitution is, in my opinion, defective so far. I hope that the Conservative Government now in Office will take an early opportunity of improving the Constitution in this respect. Some years ago an attempt was made by a Liberal Government to establish a Court of Criminal Appeal, not only for the purpose of reviewing verdicts, but also of revising sentences, and the proposal had the support of the most eminent criminal lawyer we have in this country, Mr. Justice Stephen. Innocence will not be secure till such a Court is established; 389 and, in the meantime, I do not think it is matter for wonder or complaint if Members who believe that some verdict was given contrary to the justice and the facts of the case should bring it up before this Committee, and insist that a re-investigation of all the circumstances should take place. If there were a Court of Criminal Appeal it would be different, because then the case would be most properly argued and discussed before such a Court, and persons who brought it up before this Committee would be guilty of Obstruction, and of disloyalty to the recognized institutions of the country. But in the present state of the law, and under the present defective condition of the Constitution, there is not any adequate security that justice will be done; and I think it is quite right that important public cases, in which many persons are interested, should be discussed in Parliament.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA (Monaghan, S.)
I think the Attorney General for Ireland has made too much of the point that the House is not constituted for the revision of penal sentences. Now, all on this side of the House are desirous that there should be a fair trial in each case, and they ask for an investigation in order to bring about that result. That is what we have done before, and I desire to call the attention of the Committee to a case in point. The case of Brian Kilmartin has been referred to in the course of this discussion; but right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Benches may, perhaps, forget what that case was. On three distinct occasions Kilmartin was found guilty of firing on a man in the West of Ireland; the case was brought before the Lord Lieutenant for the time being, and it was two or three times also before this House as the subject of discussion. The case brought forward was this—that evidence had come from the man who had really committed the offence in the form of a confession on his death-bed that it was his hand that committed the crime, and that Kilmartin, who was suffering penal servitude at the time, was not guilty. Well, we know that the Government of the day, when the case was brought forward, said that Kilmartin had been tried by a jury before an eminent Judge; that the case had had the most careful consideration, and that the prisoner, who had been defended by able counsel, 390 had been found guilty. The case was brought forward again before the Government with a view to the exercise of the prerogative of mercy on the part of the Crown in favour of this man, and we were again met with a rehearsal of what had been done in order to show that what had been done was right, and that there was no hope for Kilmartin. I am not in the habit of frequently addressing this House in connection with persons incriminated, whether rightly or wrongly. For my part, I am of opinion that the Judges, although they may possibly go a little beyond their duty in times of excitement, are not likely to have a passion for finding persons guilty. But notwithstanding that one right hon. Gentleman had so strongly sustained the conviction of Kilmartin, and notwithstanding that I had the highest opinion of the legal acumen and personal justice of the learned Judge who tried the case, it was my opinion that they had not brought to the consideration of the case a perfectly unbiased mind; and I stated at the time that, so far as I was able to judge, the man suffering the horrors of penal servitude was as innocent of the crime for which he was suffering as the right hon. Gentleman then sitting where the Chancellor of the Exchequer now sits, or the Judge who tried the case. Sir Robert Peel was present on the occasion—
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
I shall bring my remarks quickly to a close. I say that two right hon. Gentlemen—one a late Chief Secretary for Ireland, and one whom I am proud to see Leader of the House, had the courage of their opinions. They were not carried away by prejudice; they spoke on the question, and got a promise from the Ministry of the day that the case of Brian Kilmartin should be inquired into. The Lord Lieutenant then sent down a Queen's Counsel to investigate it. The inquiry did not last long; the facts were gone over, and they were quite sufficient to obtain in a few weeks the liberation of Kilmartin. I do not know that such a decision would be come to in the Barbavilla case; but I do say that it is eminently a case into which inquiry ought to be ordered and carried out in the 391 same spirit which ruled in the case of Brian Kilmartin.
§ MR. DEASY (Mayo, W.)
I cannot congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland on the speech we have just heard from him, because it is but a repetition of speeches that have been made in this House for the last four or five years. I had some hope before the right hon. and learned Gentleman rose that, as a distinguished Member of an Administration at the head of which we have the noble Lord who was instrumental in bringing about a revision of the case of Brian Kilmartin, we should receive from him an assurance of a more satisfactory character than we have received. What has the right hon. and learned Gentleman stated? He has said that the Lord Lieutenant is prepared to receive any Memorial or representation which might be made on behalf of the men now suffering for these crimes committed in Ireland. In the first place, we know what has been the end of applications of this sort addressed to the Lord Lieutenant during the last few years. They get into the hands of interested individuals and come to nothing. When we last applied to the Lord Lieutenant, Mr. George Bolton was the gentleman who took the matter in hand. This House is aware of the character of Mr. Bolton. He is a convicted swindler; he is a man against whom the most serious charges have been made and proved. Yet this is the individual who is retained in the employ of the Crown, and this is the man to whom our Memorials and representations are sent before the Lord Lieutenant will give any answer about them. The idea of sending our case to that man is simply an outrage on the feelings of hon. Members on these Benches and of the people of Ireland. I cannot conceive anything more absurd than for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to stand up and seriously ask us to get George Bolton to review this case a second time. Why, he would be unworthy of his position as Crown Prosecutor if he allowed the Petitions to have any effect.
§ MR. HOLMES
Memorials of this kind never, under any circumstances, go to the Crown Prosecutor. I can assure the Committee that none of these Memorials were ever sent to Mr. Bolton.
§ MR. DEASY
I can only say that this information comes upon me by surprise. It is not the first time this statement has been made, although it is the first time it has been contradicted. But it is acknowledged that Mr. Bolton has been consulted by Earl Spencer in several similar cases; whether he saw the Memorial in this or not I do not know; but he has been consulted. That cannot be contradicted by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Perhaps Gentlemen who know very little about the state of affairs in Ireland and of the kind of men who administer the Criminal Law in that country may be disposed to say that Memorials should be sent to Dublin Castle, and be reviewed there. We are perfectly aware that it would be impossible to get the Irish Government, whoever it might be who ruled at Dublin Castle, whether Tory or Radical, to hold a satisfactory investigation of any of these cases which we now desire to be gone through in an impartial manner, unless they brought in men of independent character, who have no political bias, and who, for that reason, might be trusted to give an independent opinion on them. But, as matters stand at present, we have no hope from the arrangement which the right hon. and learned Gentleman proposes in this matter. I suppose that Mr. O'Brien, Crown Prosecutor in most of the recent cases, would be the person to whom the Memorial would be sent. It might or might not be so; but a man quite as bad as Mr. O'Brien would be appointed. The right hon. and learned Gentleman objects to our bringing this case forward in the House of Commons; but the House of Commons is the only place in which we can ventilate our views with any hope of success. The hon. Member above the Gangway (Mr. Shirley) has fairly said that if we had a Court of Criminal Appeal it would not be necessary to bring forward such cases here; but until that Court is established this is the only tribunal we have before which we can state the case of these prisoners, and from which we can expect anything like a fair and impartial verdict. I do not think we shall succeed in getting this investigation after the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman; but, at any rate, we shall have succeeded in exposing the infamous manner in which, convictions are 393 obtained in Ireland, and the fact that there are now lying in prison a number of men absolutely innocent of the crimes imputed to them. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has told us that these men have been convicted by the ordinary law. What was the Crimes Act? It was an Act passed to meet a certain state of things in Ireland, which the Government have acknowledged in the past month no longer exists; it was an innovation upon the ordinary law of the country; it was an innovation of the Constitution; it was a piece of legislation unheard of in the history of any country in the world. The argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland is certainly beyond my comprehension; and I think if the right hon. and learned Gentleman would give a little more attention to the study of Constitutional law he would be more careful in making these statements with regard to the methods by which prisoners were convicted in Ireland. I have in my own possession, as Member for Mayo, the case which an hon. Member has brought forward to - night. We have been told that six men charged with conspiracy to murder were sentenced to various periods of penal servitude, of from four years to 10 years' duration. Now, the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) has repudiated the idea of jury packing in Ireland. I have nothing to say at the present moment on the question of criminal trials in Dublin to which he has referred; but I do know something of one which took place in my own city during the time that the Crimes Act was in operation. I was in a position of advantage in this respect, because at the time those convictions were obtained I was Member for the City of Cork, and in that capacity I was obliged carefully to examine and scan the jury panel drawn up by those who were connected with the administration of the law. I remember on one occasion I took the opportunity of drawing attention to the manner in which juries were packed in the City of Cork, owing to the action of the Crown Prosecutor, and particularly to that of Mr. O'Brien. What was the case in the particular instance I am now referring to? I found that out of a panel of 160 or 170 men who answered to their names, when a special jury was 394 called 36 jurors were told to stand by on the part of the Crown. The prisoners had only the right to challenge six jurors when the jury was being empannelled. It was objected to one who had been summoned to serve on the jury that he had expressed his opinion beforehand on the particular case coming before the Court. No objection was taken by the prisoners' counsel until he had the book in his hand. Then they objected to his being sworn; and, strange to say, although the Crown had the right to direct any number of jurors to stand by, while the prisoner only had the right to challenge six, the Crown insisted on this man being sworn, and thereby deprived the prisoner of the right of challenge. That is only one instance within my knowledge. Now with regard to the change of venue. Mr. O'Brien explained why these men were brought down to the City of Cork from Mayo, a distance of 800 miles; he said it was because if the trials took place in the county in which the men lived an enormous number of witnesses would be brought forward in their defence. Well, I have never heard such a reason given by any man who claims to be a high-minded or impartial man. To say that these men should not have been tried in their own county, simply because a number of witnesses would be forthcoming to prove their innocence, is the most absurd and most criminal course that could have been taken. There were witnesses brought down to Cork; but these unfortunate men were in this position—that they could not go round among their friends to ascertain what witnesses they really ought to examine after the Crown case had been disclosed. The facts that I am stating are the preliminaries of what took place at the trial. In the first place, the prisoners were got down to Cork lest too many witnesses should be examined in their favour; and, in the second place, 36 jurors were ordered to stand by, the jury being ultimately composed of nine or 10 landlords and Orangemen, and a couple of Catholics very little better than the others. Nothing could be alleged against the character of those young men who were in the dock. Mr. Nally was a very prominent member of the Fenian Brotherhood, and a most respectable and well-conducted man. He farmed extensively, and was 395 possessed of 40 dairy cows. This shows that he had a large stake in the country, which would deter him from entering into such a conspiracy as that which he was charged with having belonged to. His connection with the Fenian movement would doubtless have been quite enough to have saved him from prosecution if the present Home Secretary had been Law Adviser to the Irish Government at the time, and I shall now call Mr. Matthews, Q.C., as a witness on Nally's behalf. I have said that Mr. Nally occupied a high position in the Irish Republican Brotherhood. I shall quote the opinions held by the Home Secretary of the sort of men who identified themselves with that Body. Those opinions go to prove that Mr. Nally's connection with the Fenian organization was a guarantee that he would be the very last man to be guilty of joining an infamous conspiracy of this kind. Speaking at Dungarvan on the 10th of September, 1868, he said—Now, my enemies have tried to point me out as a tool of the Tories. When I ask for your suffrages it is broadly and distinctly upon these grounds. I came here as an independent candidate, pledged to no Party, determined to support no Party that does not do justice to you, determined to oppose every Party that wronged your aspirations and disappointed your hopes.Speaking of the Fenians then in prison, he, on November 8, 1868, gave them his friendly word of sympathy—In those troubled times that have lately come over unhappy Ireland there have been men (alluding to the Fenians) who have come into collision with the law. They have been visited with a punishment which is certainly severe. Every true-hearted Irishman feels of those men that if they had armed against the law, at least they had deserved well of their country. Every man felt that those unhappy victims did feel for their country's wrongs, and were willing, if necessary, to give up their liberty and their lives for her cause. Every true-hearted Irishman cannot forget the accomplished mind of Luby, the eloquent pen of O'Leary, and the gentle, the childlike, the poetic soul of Charles Kirkham. If my opponent, Serjeant Barry, in prosecuting these men, had only represented the cold terms of the law, if he had contented himself with doing simply his duty as Crown Prosecutor, I think that, though not commending him, we would not have condemned him. But he did not content himself with that. He spoke of those unhappy men—he alone among Irishmen—in language that was unjust and ungenerous; that was untrue; that was cruel.
The hon. Member is now reading a document which 396 has nothing to do with the Vote before the Committee.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS) (Birmingham, E.)
The extract which the hon. Gentleman has read is tolerably accurate, and I stand justly punished.
§ MR. DEASY
I cannot enter into that, and I shall pass on. The only evidence against these men who were sent from Mayo to Cork was that of Coleman. He swore that he went to America in 1866, and had to return because a charge of murder was hanging over him in that country; and my hon. Friend (Mr. J. F. X. O'Brien) has stated what this man's moral character was; and, as a matter of fact, the Crown did not pretend that he was a man in whom reliance could be placed. The Judge led the jury clearly to understand that unless important corroboration of this man's testimony could be brought forward by the Crown they were bound to acquit the prisoners. When this man, Coleman, came from America he entered into service with a landlord named cuffe, and I believe that his relations with the people with whom he was connected would not enhance his character. But I do not say anything beyond this—that I believe no more infamous man was ever selected by the Irish Government to compass the conviction of innocent persons; and I do not think you could get on the face of the earth a man so low and base as this person, who was used for the purpose of convicting the prisoners. I might mention that this man's evidence only went to show that certain of the prisoners met together at certain places, and that he was with them; and the only point in which there was any corroboration of his evidence at all was that in several instances this man and others were seen speaking 397 together. But he swore distinctly that these men arranged to lie in wait behind hedges, at certain specified places in the county of Mayo, with a view to the perpetration of murder; that they made all the necessary plans several days previously; and that he informed the police of the intentions of the would-be assassins. Yet I may point out to the Committee that the police never sent anyone to ascertain whether his statement was false or true. How is it that the police did not send half-a-dozen of their force to seize these assassins and carry them to prison? Why, there was nothing more simple than to do this. The police were told that a certain number of intending murderers were in a certain field; but they made no attempt to arrest them, and nothing was done except that one of their number went upon an eminence on one occasion, and afterwards swore that he saw three men stretched by the side of a fence, but that he did not go near them and could not identify them. Then, with regard to another point, this man was the only one who swore to the handwriting in the letters produced. He recklessly swore to the writing of one of the prisoners, but in cross-examination he denied having seen the men write; and consequently the evidence on this point was absolutely worthless. The only corroborative evidence was that of a little boy 10 years of age. This boy was arrested and put into a room with Coleman, and the result was that everything that was desired by Coleman to be sworn to was sworn to. But when he came to Cork, in some way or other he seemed to have considered what he had done and the magnitude of the crime he had committed in giving evidence against these men, which he knew to be false. And although he was placed in charge of a police constable who admitted that he had actually tampered with this little boy with the idea of making him adhere to the story he had previously told, the boy swore in the witness-box before the Judge that there was not any truth whatever in his previous statement. The Crown Prosecutor endeavoured to compel the Judge to give a definition of the law with regard to informers—
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL) (Paddington, S.)
I rise to Order. I ask for your ruling as to whether it is 398 in accordance with the practice of the House that on these Votes it should be competent for hon. Members to review at length and in detail any judicial proceedings which may at any time have occurred in the course of a Government trial, particularly a trial in which the present Government have no knowledge of their own, which in no way concerns the present Government, and about which the present Government can in no way be held responsible? I want to know whether it can be in any degree possible to make progress with Supply if these proceedings, which occurred so long ago, are to be gone into in such immense detail by hon. Members? I put this question in no controversial spirit, but in the interests of the House of Commons and the country.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
Mr. Courtney, before you give your decision I wish to point out that you informed us it would be competent for us to raise these very points. I also wish to say that the noble Lord has not correctly stated what our position is—namely, that we feel it our duty to call attention to these cases.
It is not part of the duty of the Chairman to point out or examine into the inconvenience which may result from discussions of this kind. But it is certainly not competent to any Member to introduce an examination of judicial proceedings or processes of law which may have happened at any time or at any place. But where prisoners are in confinement in respect of whose trial there is an alleged miscarriage of justice, it is, I think, competent for hon. Members to present to the Government for the time being the reasons why they consider that the prerogative of mercy should be exercised.
§ MR. DEASY
I was proceeding to say that the Crown Prosecutor endeavoured to induce the Judge to bully the jury into receiving the uncorroborated evidence of an informer which they ought not to take into consideration. Now, the reason why this person endeavoured to bully the Judge into giving a decision in favour of the Crown was that Coleman alleged he was a member of the Fenian Organization, and that before his arrest he was in communication with the police relative to the working of that Society. It was contended for the prosecution that this fact made him a witness whose testimony did not in law 399 need corroboration. He swore that in December, 1880, he joined the Organization; but he never said a word about the conspiracy until he found that there was money going about, and thought that he could get some of it from the Government. It was then that he came forward and offered himself to the police; but the police paid no attention to his statements, as I have already shown. Having regard to all the circumstances, I say it is preposterous to suppose that any man in his senses would place the least reliance upon the evidence of Coleman. But an unseemly scene took place between the Judge and the counsel, who tried to force the Judge to recall the jury from their room when they were considering their verdict, in order that he might direct them to consider the evidence of Coleman as untainted and reliable. But the Judge refused to be dictated to by these gentlemen, and the result was that the jury disagreed. The prisoners were re-tried. The second trial took place on the 25th of March, 1884, and on that occasion the Crown were more fortunate in having as presiding Judge Mr. Justice Lawson, who is well known for partiality; and I certainly say that in any case of a political nature over which he presides very little fair play is to be expected.
§ MR. DEASY
I withdraw the expression, and shall proceed only with a summary of the case. If hon. Members are anxious to know the true character of this Judge I have no doubt it will be found in Hansard. The same thing occurred at the second trial as at the first. There was, practically speaking, no evidence; but this time Mr. O'Brien took care that there should not be a single juryman sworn to try the case who had been concerned in the first trial. There were 10 Orangemen empannelled and two Catholics who were in the habit of attending Orange Lodges and were prominent members of the "I.L.P.U." The jury, then, consisted of 12 men who, by reason of their associations, were incapable of taking an impartial view of the case. In the frame of mind in which they were at the time, it is difficult to understand that they could consider the evidence on the part of the prisoners, or that they could show any doubt of 400 the testimony which might be put forward on the part of the Crown. Accordingly, a verdict of "guilty" was brought in, and the prisoners were sentenced to penal servitude for terms varying from five to 10 years. I would ask, in conclusion, that this case which has not been before the House before, except, perhaps, in the shape of a Question, should receive attention at the hands of the Government and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland. Why should the Government not give us an independent man to look into this matter, as was done by a former Government in the case of Kilmartin? If we had an opportunity of stating the case of these prisoners before any impartial men or body of men I have no doubt in my mind as to what the result would be. I can only say that such proceedings as I have referred to have done more than anything else to shake the confidence of the people of Ireland in the administration of the law there. I do not know any man acquainted with the way in which the law is carried out in that unfortunate country during the last five years who would place any reliance in the impartiality of the Crown officials. The people are convinced, rightly or wrongly I do not say, that the very sources of justice in Ireland are polluted—they are convinced that nothing like justice can be had; and I say that if the Government will grant an investigation of these charges they would do very much to restore public confidence in the administration of justice; but so long as things remain as they are, so long will mistrust and dissatisfaction exist. We have taken the only opportunity open to us of reviewing these cases, and I hope that before the debate closes we shall receive a more explicit and satisfactory statement from the Attorney General for Ireland and, failing him, from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is well acquainted with the position of Irish Members in these cases. I hope the noble Lord will do for us, now that he is in power, that which he did when the Government of 1884 was in Office. We are anxiously awaiting his statement to learn that the case of the men now suffering, as we believe unjustly, will be taken into consideration.
§ MR. HARRIS (Galway, E.)
As the name of Mr. George Bolton has been 401 mentioned by my hon. Friend in the course of his remarks, I wish to say that it came to my knowledge that Mr. Bolton went in to a prisoner who was confined in the gaol at Ballinasloe under a very serious charge. He represented himself to be an attorney of that place, and endeavoured to get information from him.
§ MR. HARRIS
I was under the impression that the action of officials of the Government in Ireland was under the consideration of the Committee, and that I was within my right to mention the circumstance in connection with this Vote.
§ MR. HARRIS
Then, Sir, may I go on to discuss the action of the Government officials in A has cragh and Loughrea, where for several weeks within my knowledge investigations were held with the object of getting evidence?
I presume that the hon. Member refers to investigations under the Protection of Person and Property Act?
§ MR. HARRIS
Then I say that the Government should institute an inquiry into the way in which the Crimes Act was administered. The Act was passed in exceptional circumstances, and I am of opinion that the convictions obtained under it should be the subject of revision now that the normal condition of affairs is established; and further I say that the proceedings of the Crown officials in connection with it should also be revised.
There is no question now before the Committee as to revising what was done under the Act.
§ MR. HARRIS
One of the most important cases that occurred at the time was the case of Walsh of Connemara—["Order!"]—I think I should be allowed to discuss a conviction which resulted, as I believe, in an innocent man being hanged.
I have explained very clearly the conditions on which the debate must be continued. The hon. 402 Member must confine himself within those limits, or I must ask him to resume his seat.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
The idea of the noble Lord is that the Government has nothing to do with the trials which took place under previous Irish Governments. It is a most extraordinary theory to hold. If our information is correct, you have a great number of innocent men convicted and sentenced to penal servitude, and yet the present Government cannot see that they are responsible. That position, I maintain, is a most extraordinary one. But what is the position which we take up with reference to these cases? The same general principle applies to all; but the case in which I am particularly interested is that which occurred in County Mayo. We have a great deal of evidence which we are prepared and are anxious to lay before an impartial tribunal, and which we believe will satisfy such a tribunal that these men have been wrongfully convicted, and that they have not had a fair trial. I want to direct the attention of the Committee to what occurred in the Barbavilla case. A debate took place in this House on the 17th July, 1885, on the Motion of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), on that case. In that debate the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that it was undoubtedly the duty of the Lord Lieutenant to reconsider any case of this kind brought under his notice, and to make a most careful and searching inquiry, and that the Earl of Carnarvon would be the last man in the world to refuse to make inquiry into it. The right hon. Gentleman knows that I am stating what he said. Now, mark what follows. Had there been on that a promise of the then Leader of the House of an investigation into the case of the Barbavilla prisoners, by a reasonably impartial man, you would not have heard again one word about this case. I leave it to the sense of fair play of English Members to judge if there was any investigation which can be for a moment considered as calculated to satisfy the feelings of the people of Ireland and prevent further debate on this case. What did a reverend gentleman, the priest of the parish, do? He addressed a Memorial to the Earl of Carnarvon, and pointed out that it was 403 time to have an investigation of the ease. He said he had collected ample evidence to show, first, that the man was not guilty of the murder; secondly, that the evidence of the police was perjured—that the whole charge was concocted between the police and perjured witnesses. What happened? For three months there was absolutely no reply to the Memorial. After that the following reply was received:—I am directed by the Lord Lieutenant to inform you that His Excellency has given his best attention to the Memorial on behalf of the prisoners, and he feels compelled to come to the conclusion that there has been no miscarriage of justice, and that the law must take its course.Now, note what happened. The men interested on behalf of the prisoners did not know that an investigation was going on. The investigation was made with closed doors. We do not now know who conducted it; but we have reason to believe that the very officials whose conduct we impugn did so. There was no publicity about the transaction; and, as we think, the true facts were hidden from His Excellency. Is it reasonable to suppose that the people of Ireland are going to be satisfied with such an investigation as this? In the case of Brian Kilmartin, who was sentenced to 20 years' penal servitude, a similar demand was made. The House of Commons was in a reasonable temper, and an independent Dublin lawyer, who had no connection with the trial, was sent down to make an investigation on the spot. There was ample notice given of the investigation, and plenty of opportunity afforded to the people to produce their evidence in support of the innocence of the prisoner. The Commissioner reported to the Lord Lieutenant that Brian Kilmartin ought to be released. Why was not the same course pursued in the case of the Barbavilla prisoners and the Maamtrasna prisoners, and the other cases of which we complain? Until some such investigation is made—an investigation which will convince the people that you have given a fair opportunity to an honest review of the trials of these cases—it is idle to expect that this question will not be a thorn in the side of the House of Commons. I have pointed out to the Committee that this investigation was conducted with closed doors; not only so, but apparently precaution was taken, though I do not accuse the Earl of Car- 404 narvon of doing it deliberately, that the men interested in the fate of the prisoners should not lay before the Committee of Investigation the evidence they had to justify their position in the case. That is not all. There is a belief in Ireland that this investigation was eon-ducted largely through the men whose conduct was impugned, and who were the men responsible for the trial. I hope I shall not transgress the limits of Order in this Committee when I speak of the gang who organized the trials in Ireland under the Crimes Act. Bolton, French, and Peter O'Brien conspired together and were largely instrumental in punishing hundreds of innocent men. I am sure it is hardly necessary to recall to the notice of hon. Gentlemen the fact that one of these men has been since sentenced for a most abominable crime, and that another of the gang of three has been denounced by a Judge in England as a disgraceful criminal, although he has not been caught by the law—he escaped simply because he was clever; but his conduct was so disgraceful that many a man is serving 20 years for a less offence. The third man has not been convicted of any crime, but these three men worked together; and I say if these are undeniable facts—and I defy anyone to deny a single one of them—if it is an undeniable fact that the head of the Criminal Investigation Department in Ireland was proved to be one of the most infamous criminals we have had in Ireland for years, if Bolton was a man who would stop at no crime, and was utterly unscrupulous, and if Peter O'Brien has proved to be a man devoid of all human feeling, is it not reasonable, when men have been convicted of charges trumpdd up by a trio such as the one I have described, that the public of Ireland should demand an investigation into the trials before they can be satisfied that the men who were convicted are being justly punished. There is another strong argument why an investigation should be granted. These trials were conducted under a system which we persistently protested against. We warned the House of Commons, when it was engaged, three or four years ago, in passing the Crimes Act, that the result of that Act would be to send to penal servitude numbers of innocent men in Ireland. It was an Act, one chief provision of which was to enable unscrupulous officials in Ireland to pack 405 juries in the most monstrous way; and the power of packing juries was used to its utmost limits. I maintain that since the very officials who were responsible for the administration of the Act have confessed that it has broken down and utterly failed to achieve the objects which were in view by its framers—since Earl Spencer himself has confessed that it proved a failure in his hands, we are entitled to demand that the cases where men's liberties were taken away under this system of unscrupulous jury-packing, and in time of public fury and public panic, shall be inquired into; at all events that those cases shall be inquired into in which we are prepared to lay before the Committee of Investigation strong evidence to show that justice and fair play have not been meted out to the prisoners. Now, you have heard the case of the Mayo prisoners very fully stated, and I do not propose to go over the details again. All I will say is that I was personally acquainted with one of the prisoners—Patrick Nally. I cannot say of my own knowledge he was not guilty of the crime imputed to him; but my interest in the case is largely stimulated by the fact that I knew Patrick Nally, and that I cannot conceive him to be guilty of the offence with which he was charged. I knew he was a strong Nationalist. I knew that at one time he was a Fenian, and prepared to resist the British Government with arms if possible; but I could not imagine him engaged in a conspiracy to murder anyone; it is utterly opposed to anything I have ever heard him express in conversation. These prisoners were mostly poor men—Patrick Nally was a man of some means; but most of the prisoners were poor men—and I do say that greater cruelty and injustice was not committed than was involved in the way these men were tried. They were not taken to Dublin, where they might have had some friends, but they were taken to the City of Cork, which is, I may say, the ultimate extremity of Ireland from Mayo—there is only one other place like it, and that is Belfast. They were tried twice be-before juries carefully packed, and as you have already heard during the first trial the Crown Prosecutor, Mr. Peter O'Brien, did not hesitate to insult Judge Johnson on the Bench. Why? Because Judge Johnson, who was never 406 a great friend of ours—we often exchanged hot words across the floor of this House—acted the part of an honest man on that occasion, and tried to hold the scales of justice evenly. Although the jury was deliberately packed by Mr. Peter O'Brien, under a section of the Crimes Act, it could not agree to convict the prisoners; and when Judge Johnson refused to carry out in his Charges the instructions of the Crown Prosecutor he was insulted by Mr. Peter O'Brien, and was obliged to use pretty strong language in order to put down that official. I think that, if the Government had wished to behave decently, they would, after the first trial, have let the men go. They certainly took the men at the very utmost disadvantage. They took them away from their own county town to the City of Cork, which has an evil reputation for convicting persons on insufficient evidence; and they packed the jury which was to try them. There was a failure to convict the men; but they were brought up to be tried by a second packed jury. On the occasion of the second trial there was a Judge on the Bench whose conduct you, Mr. Courtney, have ruled it out of Order to characterize. All I can say is, that this Judge found himself more in sympathy with Mr. Peter O'Brien than Mr. Judge Johnson did, and the consequence was that these men were convicted on what we consider totally insufficient evidence. Any impartial Englishman who will read the story told by the informer will come to the conclusion it was not sufficent to hang a dog on. These men got heavy sentences on this evidence; and all we ask is—and I do not think it is an unreasonable request—that you should send over a man who is above suspicion—we shall be perfectly content if you send over one of the English Law Officers—to investigate the various cases, after giving us due notice in order that we may bring together the whole of our evidence. If you do this we will abide by the decision. But we never will allow this matter to rest as long as these men are kept in prison, and as long as you meet our demand by investigations held by we do not know who, held in the Castle at Dublin, of which we have received no notice, and before which we have had no opportunity of putting forward the case of the 407 prisoners. I have said that the juries were packed. Hon. Members who were in the House at the time will remember that when the jury-packing clauses of the Crimes Act were brought before the House, Member after Member of the Irish Nationalist Party stood up and said they infinitely preferred to leave prisoners in the hands of three Judges, a plan which was originally proposed; we thought that a prisoner would have a far better chance. I pointed out that it was almost impossible for a prisoner to escape, no matter how innocent he might be; because, in the administration of the Crimes Act, the evil system which has prevailed so long in Ireland of offering large rewards for evidence against all kinds of political offenders would be pushed to a greater extreme than before. Why, Sir, if you go down to a country where the people are very poor, and if you are not particular about the character of the men whose evidence you accept; if you go down to the West of Ireland and dangle before the population a £500 reward, you know you can get whatever you want. Where is there in the world a community of men from which you will not get a man to do anything for £500? If you do not require any character, if you are prepared to take the first blackguard who presents himself, you can in any country get a man to swear anything you wish for £500. You have gone to the poorest parts of Ireland; you have taken the lowest dregs of the population, and given them what to them is boundless wealth. That is what we charge you with doing. These things, small as they may appear to some people, are really of the very utmost importance. There are between 30 and 40 men at present lying in penal servitude—they are known as the Mayo, the Barbavilla, the Crossmaglen, and the Maamtrasna prisoners—and we are convinced that many of these men are innocent. We do not say they are all innocent; we never did; but we say a great proportion are innocent, and we think it would be scandalous on our part if we let this question rest, if we did not avail ourselves of every opportunity that offers to place the case of these men before the country. The Government say they will not give us an investigation—that is, an investigation which will satisfy us. I venture to say 408 they cannot maintain that position for a long time. This kind of thing has been very often tried before, and in the result has led to great dissatisfaction, great waste of time in this House, and to unfortunate men suffering for crimes which they have never committed. Of one thing the Committee may rest perfectly assured. If the Government refuse what we consider our reasonable request, they will hear of this matter over and over again. Over and over again this Committee and the House will be tormented by long-winded discussions upon this subject. It is only reasonable that it should be so. If any Englishman believed, as we are absolutely convinced, that constituents of his own were suffering the horrors of penal servitude for crimes of which they were absolutely ignorant, he would be recreant to his duty if he did not rise in his place time after time to torment, if necessary, the Committee into a consideration of their claims. I really do not see what ground the Government can have for refusing us this demand. They cannot say that it is because they do not choose to throw discredit on the administration of Earl Spencer, because it was only last year that the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill), then Secretary of State for India, and now the Leader of the House, declared, in reply to a speech of the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), that the Government did not consider they had a shred of responsibility for the action of Earl Spencer, or the administration of Ireland under the Crimes Act. Over and over again the present Chancellor of the Exchequer has declared that he considered the Crimes Act a measure thoroughly unsuited to deal with the difficulties of Ireland; and I recollect a very recent occasion when he said that so unsuited had it turned out, that he would as soon think of flying as of re-enacting it. The far wiser policy of the Government would be to meet our demand in a reasonable spirit. We do not want a partizan inquiry; we want an inquiry by a man in whom we have the most perfect confidence, a man who will give us an opportunity of stating our case before him; and I will give the pledge to the Government that if a fair inquiry is held we will abide by the decision, even if it goes against our clients, and never 409 trouble the House again upon the subject.
§ MR. P. McDONALD (Sligo, N.)
The right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland has merely repeated to-night the statement he made on the 17th of July, 1885, when, in the course of the debate which was raised by the Leader of the Irish Party (Mr. Parnell), he said that if a Memorial were sent to the Lord Lieutenant in that or any other similar case it would receive due and proper consideration. Well, Sir, within a week of that statement being made in the House of Commons, the administrator of Collinstown, the Rev. John Curry, sent a Memorial to the Lord Lieutenant. The rev. gentleman founded the Memorial upon the three grounds which have been alluded to by the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon)—firstly, that the evidence against the prisoners is a mass of perjury on the part of all the witnesses who swore directly against them; secondly, that the evidence of some of the police, which was believed by the juries, and was, in fact, the cause of the verdict, is also perjury; and, thirdly, that between all the perjurers the entire charge was concocted. Now, notwithstanding the strong statements which the rev. gentleman is prepared to substantiate, notwithstanding all the facts before the Lord Lieutenant, the Memorial had no effect in restoring the prisoners to that liberty which they ought to have if justice were done them. I maintain that at the trial sufficient evidence was brought forward to prove the innocence of these men. One portion of that evidence was incontrovertible—that is the account book which has been already alluded to. The chief informer, or principal witness, had sworn that he was working in the immediate neighbourhood, and that he was present at a meeting where the so-called conspiracy was concocted. Well, Sir, the account book which was produced at the trial, and which was not accorded the weight it deserved, showed that this informer M'Keon was working, not in the immediate neighbourhood on the day in question, but five miles away—namely, in Castlepollard. The prisoner's counsel urged very strongly that a conspiracy had been entered into by the two M'Keons, father and son, and that the result of that conspiracy was that the 410 one gave evidence which corroborated that of the other, and brought about a conviction. The counsel for the prisoners having dwelt upon this point, the Judge who tried the case, Judge Law-son, said—To insinuate 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. Well, Sir, one of the jurors wrote to the Rev. John Curry as follows:—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.The police swore that the M'Keons had no opportunity whetever of communicating one with the other, and I believe there was other evidence given to a like effect. But what was the fact? They did communicate, and communicated in such a way as resulted in a verdict of guilty being brought about. One of the police, Sergeant Fitzgerald, who worked up the case, becoming, I suppose, penitent for his complicity in the miscarriage of justice, has since the trial made this statement—On a morning immediately after young M'Keon was brought from Clonmel to witness's 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 H. C. Lynch, who were standing about 10 or 16 yards from the depot. 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 he 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 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.'Well, Sir, in the face of such a declaration, made, I believe, in the form of an affidavit, I can hardly imagine that the Lord Lieutenant will refuse our request. But after the conviction had been obtained, and the prisoners had for some time been suffering the penalty of a crime which they did not commit, the wife of one of the informers, who was brought 411 to penance on the occasion of some religious ceremony, and in the fulfilment of her religious duties, came to the Administrator, the Rev. John Curry, and made a statement which he took down in writing. The statement was as follows:—I, Jane Cole, wife of Patrick Cole, of Kil-patrick, Co. Westmeath, seeking peace of conscience and pardon from Almighty God, of my own free will, make the following statement in the presence of the Rev. Hugh Behan, P.P., V.F., and the Rev. John Curry, Administrator, who, at my request, have consented to receive it:—I acknowledge that I encouraged my husband to offer evidence in the recent Barbavilla trials, and I did so knowing that the evidence he was to give, and did give, was concocted by him to satisfy the Crown and to save himself. I know that he knew the evidence he was giving in corroboration of M'Keon's evidence was untrue, and I know that he believed there was no meeting at the Widow Fagan's such as M'Keon deposed to, and in which my husband corroborated him.Now, that was a statement made on a solemn occasion, and was the statement of Sergeant Fitzgerald. It may be asked—"Is this not the statement of a wife who was anxious to cover the transgressions of her husband and to shield him from the public obloquy?" That may be so; but the husband followed the example of the wife, for he came forward, and, perhaps in a still more solemn manner, made a declaration which proves the iniquity of the proceedings in these so-called criminal trials in Ireland. This man's statement is a long one; but I have no doubt the Committee will grant me their indulgence while I read it. It is—I, Patrick Cole, of Kilpatrick, Westmeath, seeking peace of conscience and pardon from Almighty God, do make, of my own free will, the following statement, in presence of the Very Rev. Hugh Behan, P.P., V.F., Enfield; the Very Rev. Joseph Higgins, D.D., P.P., Delvin; and the Rev. John Curry, A dm., Collinstown, who, at my request, have consented to receive it. I permit these clergymen to make what use they think prudent of this statement:—I was arrested on the 11th July, 1883, on a charge of conspiracy to murder. My trial was finally fixed for the June Commission, 1884. I gave information on the 4th of June, 1884. I was induced to do so by the belief that I would certainly be convicted, having known how the prisoners previously tried on the same charge had fared, and also through consideration for my family; My first statement was rejected, inasmuch as it contained no information regarding the alleged meeting at the Widow Fagan's. I was further told by Head Constable 412 Lynch that, 'unless I made a clean breast of it,' and told all about that meeting, my evidence would not be taken. I subsequently made the statement which I afterwards swore to on two trials. I now declare that that evidence wag untrue, except as regards my connection with Fenianism many years ago. I swore to what was false when I said that I attended a meeting at the Widow Fagan's. I never knew of such a meeting. I don't believe such meeting was held. I had no personal knowledge of any meeting in or about Byrne's publichouse, though I swore I attended one there. I may have said what Mrs. O'Dwyer swore about me, though I positively contradicted her evidence. I solemnly declare I had no connection with the alleged conspiracy. I know not why my name should have been associated with it, unless it be that M'Keon, who gave information in the case, had an old spleen against me. I am the father of seven children, all young, who would become utterly destitute in the event of my conviction. It was principally in consideration for them that, in a moment of weakness, I took the steps of which I now heartily repent. I make this declaration to repair, as far as I can, the injury I inflicted on others.Well, I think the Committee must admit that these declarations, solemnly made as they have been, prove conclusively the innocence of the prisoners. I am thoroughly convinced of their innocence; were I not so convinced I would not stand up in this House and make an appeal to the Government in their favour, to supplement the eloquent words my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) used in the appeal to the Government to re-open the investigation by sending down some impartial lawyers; and I would ask that no more impartial lawyers than the hon. and learned Gentlemen who are at present the Legal Advisers of the Government in this House should be sent to conduct the inquiry. I believe that in their hands justice would be done. I regret to say that in the past justice has not been done. By means of the machinery which the Government have used on the occasion in question, and on many other occasions, wrong, and grievous wrong, has been done, and the machinery which is most ready to hand is, as we all know, that of so-called jury packing. It may, perhaps, not be out of place to mention that on one occasion, when I was acting as a special juryman at one of the Commissions in Dublin, I happened to be in the box immediately over the head of official whose duty it was to draw out the cards on which were written the names of the jurymen. Instead of the cards being mixed up, as I 413 knew the law required they should be, they were arranged in oblong groups within the box, and the official—I will not give his name, as he does not now happen to be in the land of the living—took up the cards one by one, and if he found the name suited him he read it out; if, on the other hand, the name on the card did not suit him, he dropped the card and took up another. This went on until he had got a jury after his own taste. Now, that is a miscarriage of justice, such as no law should permit. But after all, Mr. Courtney, it is not the law we complain of so much—it is the administration of the law. The law we sometimes have reason to complain of; but we have ten times as often to complain of its administration. Be the law ever so good, if it be placed in the hands of men who will maladminister it, unquestionably justice will not be done. It was my duty to be present at the last Commission in Dublin, when the names of the jurors were called out on the occasion of the trial of Cruikshank for participation in the riot at Dublin. To my astonishment, I noticed objection taken to every name on the panel that did not suit the purpose of the legal advisers of Cruikshank, and no objection was made on behalf of the Crown to any name on the panel. The representatives of the Crown remained perfectly silent, and the counsel for the defendant had full liberty to object to whomsoever he chose. Why it is the Crown so acted in this case, or why they have acted differently in others, I do not know. It was my duty to make out the panel, and I made it out as fairly as I possibly could. To my horror I found that, fairly as it was made out, it was within the power of the Crown, by their silence and inaction, to allow it to be so manipulated as to lead to what I very much fear has been a miscarriage of justice. These are the things we complain of. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentlemen the Irish Law Officers, who I think are desirous of acting fairly and equitably between all parties, will take what has been said into consideration, and by all means advise His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant to re-open the inquiry into the Barbavilla case, so that the poor men, who I believe are unjustly suffering imprisonment, may be released.
§ MR. COX (Clare, E.)
All the defence the Government have made up to the present to the arguments of hon. Members on these Benches was contained in the promise that if Memorials were submitted to the Lord Lieutenant they would receive careful consideration. Such a promise was made last year by the present Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, who was then the Leader of the House; and acting on that suggestion an hon. Friend of mind forwarded a Memorial to the Lord Lieutenant setting forth the case of the Delahuntys. In reply, the hon. Gentleman received a letter from Sir W. S. B. Kaye, in which that gentleman said His Excellency had fully considered the case of the Delahuntys, and had been unable to satisfy himself that there had been a miscarriage of justice; and it was added—The trial was fairly conducted beforean able and experienced Judge, and there is no reason to think that the jury did not understand the evidence and facts submitted to them.What I submit to this Committee is that that statement was not altogether accurate. The jurors were not in a position, as stated in the letter of Sir W. S. B. Kaye, replying for the Lord Lieutenant, to judge or to understand the facts of the case. Of course, they could thoroughly understand all the evidence; but of one thing they were not in a position to judge. The principal witness made a deposition on his death bed. There was no particular reason why a man, knowing that it was his last deposition, should perjure himself. He swore that everything he had said against the Delahuntys in Court was false. The jury could not know that, because the deposition was made long after the trial. Another thing the jury did not know, because it only came to light afterwards, and that was, that there was deadly hatred and malice existing between all the witnesses for the Crown and the Delahuntys. Now, we cannot be satisfied with the somewhat stereotyped reply we have had from the Government in respect to the case of the Delahuntys and other prisoners. We insist on a full inquiry. I, as the Representative of a constituency in which most men—the clergyman, all the respectable people, even the magistrates—feel very strongly that the Delahuntys are innocent of the charge laid at their 415 door, would not be doing my duty if I did not raise my voice on behalf of these men. We will not be satisfied with any hole-and-corner inquiry in Dublin Castle. We have got these promises too often before; we know that they are worth nothing at all. If the Government will consent to a full and open inquiry in the broad daylight before any English Gentleman, any honest and impartial Gentleman opposite, we will be perfectly content to rest satisfied, whatever the result may be. But until fair and impartial inquiry is held we shall not fail to bring the matter before the House on every occasion that offers.
§ MR. HAYDEN (Leitrim, S.)
The right and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes), in reply to the questions put this evening by the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Tuite) and other hon. Members, condemned the practice of bringing such cases before the House. He may not be aware that the present Leader of the House (Lord Randolph Churchill), as late as last year, advised that this case should be brought forward. In acknowledging the receipt of a letter the Secretary of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer said his Lordship regretted that he had not time to go into the case of the Barbavilla prisoners; but he would communicate with some Members who were more closely connected with Ireland. The noble Lord was clearly of opinion that the House of Commons was a proper place in which to ventilate the matter. It was in this belief that the Irish Members have repeatedly brought the question before the House; and I assure the Committee we shall consider it our duty to bring these cases under the notice of the House and the country until the men suffering penal servitude, as we believe unjustly, have been released. One important point in the Barbavilla business has escaped attention. Young M'Keon, one of the witnesses who was principally relied upon by the Crown, deposed, on the 17th of July, that he was at a meeting at Widow Pagan's at which this murder was concocted; but two months before, on the 17th of May, he made a deposition in which he said nothing of the meeting at Widow Fagan's. In the course of examination by Dr. Boyd this occurred— 416Do yon recollect being examined before Mr. Woodlock before you joined the Army?—No answer.The Lord Chief Justice: Do you recollect that?—I do not know Mr. Woodlock.Dr. Boyd; The police magistrate in Dublin?— Yes.You were?—Yes.Were you asked there were you married?— Yes.Did you say you were not?—Yes.Was that true?—No; it was not true.Were you asked whether you had ever been apprenticed?—Yes.Did you say you had not?—Yes.Was that true?—It was not; but then I did not kiss the Book at that time.… Dr. Boyd, Q.C.: You may tell as many lies as you like when you don't kiss the Book?—Yes; I tell no lies.This man's impression was that as long as he could escape the penalty of perjury he was not obliged to tell the truth; but we can easily understand that he would not stop when it was a mere question of taking an oath. It was on evidence such as this man gave that men are now suffering the horrors of penal servitude. The chief actors in what has been very properly called the conspiracy against the Irish people has been alluded to to-night; men like Mr. French, Mr. Bolton, and Mr. Serjeant O'Brien. But one certainly not less conspicuous has escaped attention—Mr. Jacques. This man was one of those who took a very prominent part in working up the Barbavilla conspiracy case; and I recollect that within a very few weeks of the Barbavilla case coming on for trial he was engaged in working up a case against an hon. Member of this House. He deliberately denied that he held a conversation with reference to the case with the Resident Magistrate a few hours before the case of the hon. Member came on for trial. I was present when he held the conversation, and it was only when he was confronted by me that he admitted the fact. The conversation took place at 9 o'clock in the morning; at 12 o'clock he denied it; but admitted it before he left the witness box. It is through such instruments as this that men are now suffering penal servitude in Ireland. Such men as these were consulted by the Government when the so-called inquiry took place—it was upon the advice of such men that the release of the prisoners was refused. I ask English and Scotch Members is it fair that Irishmen are to be imprisoned on the evidence of interested parties of 417 this description, men whose sole livelihood depends upon the maintenance of cases which, through their original perjury, were trumped up? If, on inquiry, these cases were upset, what hope could men like Jacques and French have of being able to live in the country afterwards? It is by such men that "the very sources of justice are polluted," and it is their direct interest to maintain sentences, however unjust.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W., and Sligo, S.)
Sir, I listened with close attention to the speech delivered earlier in the evening by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes), and I say that it was by far the poorest plea I ever heard made on any question by a Law Officer of the Crown. The right hon. and learned Gentleman made an observation which is absolutely unfounded—that is as far as I can go in Parliamentary language—he said that these convictions were procured by the operation of ordinary Constitutional machinery. I invite the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider whether it can be said that convictions procured under an Act which was itself a suspension of the fundamental rights of the Constitution can be said to have been Constitutionally procured? The Coercion Act of 1881 entitled the Government to change the venue of any trial; and we all know that in this way any Attorney General had put into his hand a panel which enabled him to place the liberty, fortune, character, and life of any man opposed to the Government in the power of 12 of the man's political enemies. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman takes more than a perfunctory view of the duties of his post, if he gives Members of this House, and the English public generally, any credit for desiring to arrive at an honest conclusion upon the facts of Irish administration, I challenge him to stand up and say why he informed the House and the country that the convictions obtained under a Coercion Act were obtained in an ordinary Constitutional manner. The fact is directly the contrary, and I submit it is not in accordance with the usages or even with the decencies of debate that unguarded allegations of this kind should be made at the Table by persons in an official position. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says it is inconvenient we 418 should raise these questions here. Well, it is very inconvenient for these men to be in penal servitude. It may be inconvenient to the Law Officers to have to answer here; but we lose sight of the inconvenience when we feel the necessity. It is necessary we should raise these questions here, because our experience shows us that the only means by which we can procure an effective review and criticism of the acts of tribunals in Ireland is by using our Constitutional power on the floor of this House. What is the use of telling us it is inconvenient to come here with complaints like this when I can refer the right hon. and learned Gentleman to the fact that the only examination which was ever granted in one of these cases resulted in the release of the prisoner? Just about this time two years ago I happened one afternoon, when the late Prime Minister (Mr. Gladstone) was present, to bring up the case of Brian Kilmartin. A Member of the House who is now Leader of the Government (Lord Randolph Churchill) was sitting in his corner seat here. He was struck by the reasons I adduced why the finding of the tribunal should be reviewed, and the noble Lord, now Chancellor of the Exchequer, rose in his place and pressed upon the Government the duty of inquiring into the case. The noble Lord did that after the then Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Trevelyan) had from his place told the House that the verdict of the jury was found upon the most conclusive evidence, and, therefore, it would be absurd to re-open the case. That is our invariable experience of Irish officials whenever they are left to their own discretion. You never get Dublin Castle of its own will to re-open anything; their law is that whatever has been officially done shall never be undone. We are obliged to come here with our complaints; and, as I have said, in the only case in which we were successful—in the case of Brian Kilmartin—I raised the case on the floor of this House—the Government, instead of adhering to the canon laid down by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Holmes) that the Government can only conduct their inquiries in their own way in Dublin Castle, sent a gentleman down to the spot, in consequence of whose Report, Kilmartin, who had been sentenced to penal servitude for life, became a free 419 man. Do I say too much when I say that what was the result in the solitary case in which our representations upon the floor of this House, through the instrumentality of the noble Lord now Chancellor of the Exchequer, met with a favourable reception, may be the result in this case? We fervently believe that if our present representations were received favourably, men who are now suffering the unspeakable horrors of penal servitude would be released. Let us hear no more about inconvenience. I know of no inconvenience so great as suffering penal servitude; and so long as we think men are being inconvenienced unjustly, it will not do for any Law Officer to rise and tell us the House is being inconvenienced by the action we are taking. I am sorry to say that throughout his speech the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland avoided dealing with the vital and essential facts of the ease. He spoke as if we merely impeached the trials, as if we only asked that the trials should be re-opened. Surely the right hon. and learned Gentlemen is presuming on the ignorance of the Committee as to the facts of these particular cases. He tells the Committee that what we want is to re-open the trials. The fact is that our case rests, especially as regards the Barbavilla business, upon matters made public and notorious since the trials were held. What did the Judge in the Barbavilla trial say? He said that if the two M'Keons were allowed, whilst in the custody of the police, to communicate with one another for the purpose of arranging their story it would amount to a pollution of the sources of justice. Now, if these trials had taken place in England, if the persons convicted had been persons of most abominable life and the worst conceivable character, if the evidence against them had been the evidence of respectable persons, if other circumstances went in support of the verdict given, and yet if in one, or two, or five, or 20 years after the trial it came out that a certain circumstance was true which the Judge upon the trial had said if true would constitute a pollution of the sources of justice, what Law Officer, what Englishman would say that the verdict should be upheld for a single day without inquiry? Four of the jurors, men specially selected—four of 420 the men who had been eulogized by the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell)—had come to the public Press and stated that if they had known that M'Keon, the father, a rogue, vagabond, and drunkard, and M'Keon, the son, a wife deserter, burglar, and housebreaker, had been allowed to communicate with each other, they would not have agreed to the verdict. If four jurors in an English case came forward and said that if facts which had since come to their knowledge had been present to their minds at the time of the trial, they would not have found a verdict of guilty, I ask what English Home Secretary would refuse an appeal to institute an inquiry? No, Sir, he would feel bound by his oath and duty to the Queen to appoint an inquiry the very next day. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General has an opportunity of showing whether he is imbued with the same sense of justice. I think that if the Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews) were here, he would say—"If four jurors have publicly stated that they would not have found a verdict of guilty had they known certain facts which they know now, there is certainly room for inquiry." Sergeant Fitzgerald, a constable of long service and respectability, has stated that to his personal knowledge, at a certain stage in the progress of the case, M'Keon, the father, and M'Keon, the son—that is the member of the family who is the wife deserter, burglar, and housebreaker, as distinguished from the other member who is the rogue, vagabond, and drunkard—that the two M'Keons were brought into personal contact and left alone together; that young M'Keon had said he could not prove anything; whereupon the father said to Lynch—"Let me have a talk with him, and it will be all right." The young vagabond was brought into the company of the older vagabond who was responsible for bringing him into the world, and between them they concocted the story which led to the conviction of the prisoners. This happened after the younger ruffian had made two informations. The fatal question was whether a meeting was held at the house of Widow Fagan, in March; and Judge Lawson said to the jury at the trial— 421If you believe the meeting was held, do your duty; if you do not believe it was held, you must acquit the prisoners.Well, young M'Keon seems to have made two informations before the trial, one in March, and another, I think, in June. In neither of these informations did he say one word about a meeting at Widow Fagan's. How does the Attorney General for Ireland account for that? The man makes two elaborate informations, and neither in the first nor in the second does he say a syllable of having been present at a meeting at Widow Fagan's, or about any such meeting having been held. Judge Lawson said that if there was any doubt about the meeting being held, it was the duty of the jury to acquit the prisoners. Young M'Keon made a third information. When did he make it? After he had been brought into gaol; after he had been allowed to confer with his father, a more accomplished vagabond; after they had concocted between them the story which led to the conviction. There never was a clearer case of corruption, complicity, and perjury. In the interval between the two documents we now have it proved in evidence by Sergeant Fitzgerald that an interview was allowed between the two informers, a fact which, had the jurors known of it, would have caused them to disagree as to the verdict, and which the Judge said, if true, would amount to a pollution of the sources of justice. I say that four of the jurors have separated themselves from the verdict; therefore, in this matter, the Government have no longer the jury behind their back; a circumstance which the Judge upon the trial declared if it existed to be a pollution of the sources of justice, has now been declared by Sergeant Fitzgerald, a constable of experience, to be a fact; and I have endeavoured, without success, to procure from the Attorney General for Ireland some intimation as to whether the Government have or have not made some inquiries of Sergeant Fitzgerald; whether they have asked him whether this pollution of the sources of justice occurred; if they have asked him whether he saw within the walls of the prison what he describes. I defy any man in this House—no matter what his politics may be—to say in the face of the declaration of Judge Lawson, in the face of the declaration of the four jurors, and in the face of what 422 has since come to our knowledge through Sergeant Fitzgerald, to rise in his place and say the verdict ought to stand. The time of panic is over; the time of exceptional crime is over. I can understand, though I cannot sympathize, with the plea which officials and administrators sometimes make in times of peril and emergency, that the administration of the law must not be examined too scrupulously. They think they are entitled to strain the law when they regard the appearance of effectual vindication of the law as the first necessity of administration. But the time of panic and special excitement is over; the condition of society in Ireland is, generally speaking, orderly. There is no sign of any large amount of crime. These men are suffering penal servitude; the evidence which points to their innocence is complete, and therefore I trust my hon. Friends are entitled to persevere until they receive an assurance that the same kind of inquiry which was resorted to in the case of Brian Kilmartin will be held in the case of the 11 respectable men whose lives had never been tainted, whose characters had never been impeached up to the time of these accusations, and whose conviction and whose sentence to penal servitude rests practically upon the concocted evidence of two of the worst scoundrels who ever disgraced society in any country.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
I do not think there are very many Representatives from Ireland in this House who would not have felt themselves prompted to take the course of action adopted by my hon. Friend the Member for Westmeath (Mr. Tuite) if the hon. Member had not acted as he has done; for not only in the district of Westmeath, which is the immediate scene of the occurrences which form the basis of this debate, but in all parts of Ireland, from the North to the South, there has been, and there is, a very general feeling that gross injustice has been done to a number of innocent men. There is a feeling that it is necessary, in order to vindicate justice, and to liberate these innocent men from the horrible suffering which they are now enduring, that the case should be brought before Parliament as rapidly as possible. I can assure hon. Members of this House who do not represent Ireland, or know much of that country, that they must not be 423 very much, surprised if we take up the time of this House in discussing matters such as are now under discussion, because we have been taught in Ireland by bitter experience to know and to believe that the only chance we have of remedying grievances and exposing injustices is to be found in the opportunities which are afforded us of speaking in this House. Sir, I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland has behaved at all well in this matter. In the first place, I do not think that while the case was being explained by my hon. Friend the Member for Westmeath that he paid proper attention to the statements which fell from my hon. Friend's lips; and I think, Sir, that in cases in this House, where hon. Members from a strict sense of duty endeavour to explain gross injustices, that the least that could be expected from officials who are not too overburdened, and who are very well paid, would be that they should pay strict attention to the circumstances which are narrated to them, and that they should not by their demeanour in any way give rise to the opinion amongst any section of Members of the House that it is their intention to treat these matters lightly. They should endeavour to avoid giving the impression that as Law Officers of the Crown they desire to ignore these matters as subjects which have been brought up before, and which are grievances too old to be remedied. But I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland did not improve his position when he proceeded to speak. His speech was altogether lacking that sympathy which should be found in the tones of a Minister of the Crown when replying to Members of this House who endeavour conscientiously to do their duty, and who represent five-sixths of the people of Ireland. It is the belief of the Irish Members, and it is the belief of that vast majority of the Irish people whom we represent, that grave injustice has been done in this particular case which has been brought before the notice of the Committee, and that a large number of men are innocently suffering all the horrible tortures which attend the punishment of penal servitude. That is, I contend, a most grave state of affairs. I can understand a Minister of the Crown venturing to treat flippantly a case which is brought up by one single Member, or 424 a case which is brought up by two or three Members of the House. He may, in that event, profess to believe that the matter is a private and particular hobby of that particular Member or of those two or three Members. But the case is altogether different when, instead of being brought forward by one, or two, or three, or even a dozen Members, the matter is brought forward by 85 Members representing the people of Ireland. That at once raises a question into a different sphere from an ordinary grievance brought up by an ordinary Member. We are 85 Members in this House, and besides the Irish Members I believe that when a division is taken, after the matter has been thoroughly discussed, it will be found that our opinion is endorsed by a considerable number of English Members. I contend that a case put forward so determinedly and frequently by so many Members must be a case out of the ordinary way, and therefore must be a case that should be treated with all seriousness by a Minister of the Crown. The Attorney General for Ireland said in the course of his speech, when he was refusing the inquiry we ask for into this case, that there is no precedent for doing what we ask. Sir, we ask that justice shall be done to these men in Ireland, and I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that precedents are sadly lacking for the Government of this country doing justice to Ireland. But the sooner a precedent for doing justice to the people of Ireland is placed on record the better, and you cannot begin better than by releasing a number of men who are confessedly on all hands—who are admittedly by people who know most of the case—suffering imprisonment unjustly. Now, Sir, the great argument which the right hon. and learned Gentleman used in refusing to grant the inquiry of my hon. Friend was that it would be a very dangerous example to set to let it go abroad that the decisions of Courts of Law could be reopened, re-discussed, and re-decided in this House. I remember very well that in the case of the Maamtrasna conspiracy that argument was used with very great effect by the right hon. Gentleman who is now Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach). He said it would be altogether an intolerable state of affairs if it should become commonly believed that the decision of an 425 ordinary Court of Law was not decisive or binding, or if an appeal to this House could upset an ordinary decision given in Court. I commence at once by saying that I can understand that argument thoroughly, and can understand the motive which prompts the right hon. and learned Gentleman in refraining from doing anything which would let the idea go forth that the decisions of the Courts of Law can be repealed by the decisions of this House. That is a thing that would render the decisions of Courts of Law very shaky every where; but whilst I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman in that, I say that that is a rule which, like all other rules, has its exception, and there are times when it is not only desirable but it becomes absolutely the duty of the Representatives of the people to interfere and have the decisions of the Courts of Law reversed in this House. This case we are now discussing is particularly one which should form an exception to the general rule that decisions of the Courts of Law should be final; and it is upon the ground that we are speaking of a most exceptional state of affairs that we claim that an inquiry should be made, and that these people should be released from their imprisonment. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, in the course of his speech, said that it was inconvenient for us to bring on this discussion. The right hon. and learned Gentleman probably never as yet has experienced what it is to be shut up in a prison cell, waiting for the hour of his release to come, feeling that he has done nothing for which he should be confined in gaol like a common criminal. Sir, there are many Members on this side of the House the strength of whose position to-night lies in the fact that they have had that experience, and it is simply because we are more experienced in receiving English injustice than English gold in the shape of salaries that we can bring forward this case with earnestness, and that we claim that no right hon. Gentleman has the right, when we are pleading for what we believe to be the liberties and, perhaps, the lives of these unfortunate men, to get up and coolly and calmly say—"Oh! this affair is all very well, but it is an inconvenient discussion." Sir, the position these unfortunate men are occupying is very in- 426 convenient to them. It is the result of the abominable and tyrannical and unjust rule which has prevailed in Ireland. It is far more inconvenient to them to remain in prison, knowing themselves innocent, than it can be to the right hon. and learned Gentleman and to us to have this discussion. At all events, it would be as well if the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his Friends, at the outset of this discussion, understood that we Irish Members have a vast deal more regard for the humblest man in Ireland whom we consider to be unjustly imprisoned than we have for the convenience of the Government or of this House. What is it that my hon. Friend the Member for Westmeath has asked for? He has not asked for the unconditional release of these men. That would be, I believe, though a just, still, an extreme demand to make. All he asks for is that an inquiry should be undertaken by the Government into this case. Now, is there anything in the case that the Government are afraid of? Is there anything they are afraid of coming out to the light of day that they will not grant an inquiry? If not, why do they not consent to our demand? Let them consider what they will be doing if they grant an inquiry. They will, in the first place, be satisfying the demand which the overwhelming majority of the Members from Ireland are making on them; and, in the second place, if they are so thoroughly convinced of the justice of the decision which has been arrived at in the case they will have the extreme triumph and gratification of showing, as the result of the inquiry, that our case is altogether groundless, and that we have been wrong from the beginning to the end of the affair. That would be a very natural position to take up; but the fact is that the first assumption is the right one—that they are afraid of raking the affair up again. They are afraid, because they imagine that, as the result of inquiry, a great deal of injustice and jobbery in the way of the administration of the law in Ireland would be brought to light which would not tend to benefit or encourage the new Government in their progress towards the pacification of the Irish people. But on what grounds do we ask for a fresh inquiry? The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that everything which was in the charge which 427 was compiled by the rev. gentleman who lives in the neighbourhood of the Barbavilla occurrences, and is familiar with all the circumstances, have been brought under his notice. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says he has read the pamphlet which has been compiled by the rev. gentleman, that he has listened to every word that has been uttered in this debate by the hon. Gentleman who brought the subject forward, and that he read all that appeared in the public papers at the time of the murder and the trial. He says that all the facts contained in the pamphlet, and everything urged in the speech of my hon. Friend, and all that has appeared elsewhere was brought forward at the time of the trial. Well, that is notoriously not the case; and how the right hon. and learned Gentleman could have made such an astounding statement I do not know. I think it can only be accounted for by the fact that we must take with a certain amount of salt the statement that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made himself a complete master of the whole facts of the case in question. Had he done so he certainly never would have made the statement that all the evidence that is now before us was before the Court at the time of the trial. Such is not the case. Since the trial took place, and since these men were imprisoned, a large amount of valuable evidence has come to light bearing strongly on the case, and strongly pointing to the innocence of these men. You have already heard that four of the jury who found these unfortunate men guilty upon certain evidence, having had other evidence placed before them since, have expressed their regret at the result of the trial, and their extreme uneasiness as to whether that result was a just one or not. Now, in the face of these facts, in the face of fresh evidence newly come to light, I ask is it unreasonable that we should ask for an inquiry? In view of the new evidence recently come to light bearing upon the case, would it be unreasonable, on the part of the Government, to grant an inquiry into the affair? Well, Sir, if it were a thing of the dead past it might, perhaps, be urged by the Government that no good purpose would be served by retrying the affair over again. But let the Committee always remember that this is not a case affect- 428 ing merely the dead past. It is a matter affecting the liberties—aye, even the lives, I believe—of a large number of men who are believed by the whole country side in which they lived, and by the great mass of the people of Ireland, and by the great bulk of the Representatives from Ireland, to be innocent. In giving its decision the Government have to decide not merely whether they will perform a generous act or not, but whether they will refuse an inquiry which may result in the liberation and in the establishment of the innocence of a large number of men who are now in prison. I do not think there are any circumstances which could possibly be brought as evidence or argument which should have, or could have, more force or weight with this House or any assemblage of men than the argument that the liberties of men are depending on the result of the decision. I would ask hon. Gentlemen who do not represent Ireland to take a serious view of this case. I would ask them whether they really think that 85 Members from Ireland would come to this House and ask for an inquiry into the case of men imprisoned for murder if they thought that these men deserved imprisonment, or that they had committed murder? I do not think so, notwithstanding the prejudice there is against Irishmen in this House. I refuse to believe that there are very many men—Englishmen and Scotchmen—who would be willing to say that they seriously believe that 85 Irish Members representing such a large proportion of the people of the Sister Island would come here and ask for an inquiry if they were not firmly and honestly and sincerely convinced that they were asking for an inquiry which would result in. justice being done, and in the giving of liberty to men whose liberty is now unjustly kept from them. Sir, I want to know one thing from the Government. I want to know if 85 English Members, or the same proportion of English Members as 85 bears to the total representation of Ireland, were to come to this House and were to say—"There has been a certain case in which a large number of men have been imprisoned, a certain amount of evidence has come to light since the trial, and there is a general belief throughout the country that these men were unjustly imprisoned; there is a great desire that we should 429 ask you for an inquiry—an independent inquiry—to see what this evidence is worth, and whether these men are really justly or unjustly imprisoned"—I ask if the same proportion of English or Scotch Members were to come and make that request on behalf of the English or Scotch people in this House, would the inquiry be refused? An inquiry, Sir, would not be refused. If it were refused, that refusal would cause amongst the constituencies of the English and Scotch Members a feeling of indignation which would very quickly cause the Government to change their decision, and to give the inquiry that the people asked for. Now, you are always talking about the desire which this House has to govern Ireland as England and Scotland are governed—to give perfect equality, and to do by one country as you would do by the other. Well, we ask you in this matter to do what you know in your consciences you would do if the case were an English instead of an Irish one. We ask you to grant an independent inquiry into the whole case. We ask you to receive fresh, evidence carefully and calmly, to go over the whole case, and see whether, as we believe they are, these men are really innocently imprisoned or not. If they are innocently imprisoned, in the name of goodness release them; and if they are not innocently imprisoned, put yourselves in a position to come to this House and show us that we have been engaged in taking up your time so long in a mistaken cause. I feel, Sir, that the inquiry will not be granted. If it is not, the reason will be simply this—that the Government know that the proceedings at the original trial of these men could not stand the light of day. The Government know that there were things done at that trial which the people of England—now somewhat more educated in Irish affairs than they were at the time of that trial—would not stand. They do not want to bring to light a black record of jury-packing. They do not want to have a debasing and degrading system of hiring the most miserable hangers on at street corners, and paying them to give evidence against men accused of conspiracy to murder, laid bare to the public. They wish to avoid having these things raked up afresh. Well, if they do not want to hare these things raked up anew, 430 release the men. If you will not release the men, at least give an inquiry; and, if you do not give an inquiry, I may tell you frankly that the opinion which I know to be held amongst the men that I know best in Ireland—the opinion that you did not do justice in that case, and that you are afraid to allow a chance of your injustice being proved—will be strengthened, and that, consequently, your task of ruling Ireland will be rendered all the harder, and your failure in the task will be ultimately rendered all the more conspicuous. The Irish people are as open to conviction as any people on the face of the earth, and if you want to implant in them the idea that you wish to do justice to them grant this inquiry. Surely the fact that such a large portion of the people want the inquiry should be reason enough for granting it. If, as I said, you are not afraid of inquiry, grant it. If you do not grant it, the people will think that you are afraid of doing so, and the old idea—which I believe is, after all, the true idea—will go deeper into their hearts—namely, the idea that Irishmen can never get justice from you, nor their children, nor their country, so long as the administration of Ireland is controlled by Englishmen who laugh when we speak of men being innocently imprisoned, and by Englishmen who extend their wanderings to the most remote corners of the earth, but who know nothing at all of our country. And if that opinion becomes more deep-seated in the hearts of the Irish people, I am greatly afraid that it will result not only in inquiries being granted, but in something more likely being enacted than the serried roll of Royal Commissions proposed by the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Randolph Churchill) in expounding his Irish policy in this House. You are stronger than us, no doubt. You have some tens of millions of population, your Army and your Navy, whilst we are a few men representing an unarmed nation. You, no doubt, can afford to laugh at us. We venture to ask you to give liberty to our countrymen who have been wrongfully deprived of it. You can, I say, afford to laugh at our request as you have laughed at so many of our requests in the past; but though, you refuse our request, and laugh at us, you cannot get over the extremely un- 431 comfortable thing to have the attention of 250 or 300 Members in this Imperial Parliament occupied for so long with a question concerning such a poor little corner of the Empire. In the name of goodness, are not English and Scotch Members tired and disgusted—[Ministerial cheers]—at having the time of this Imperial Parliament occupied so much with the affairs of our country? Yes; you are tired—you say so now. Then I suppose that in the next division on Home Rule those hon. Members who cheer will do what they can to send us home to manage our own affairs. I can assure you that if you are tired of us, you are no more tired of us than we are tired of you. We hope the day may come when this mutual tire of each other may separate us from each other.
§ MR. A. BLANE (Armagh, S.)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, in his address this evening, said that the present Government had nothing to do with the prosecutions resulting in the convictions of the Maamtrasna, Barbavilla, and Crossmaglen prisoners. I think the statement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman is a little incorrect. In the case of the Crossmaglen prisoners, they belonged to the constituency I represent. I have known these men, who were very respectable. At the time when the Government were offering rewards for evidence and hiring witnesses under an Act which has now expired, injustices were committed which are now entirely in the hands of Her Majesty's Government to rectify. I remember the time these prisoners were brought before the magistrates at Armagh and committed for trial. So eager were the Government of that day to convict these prisoners that they absolutely deprived them of the right which all British subjects are supposed to enjoy—they deprived them of the right of trial by jury in the vicinage. They took these men from Armagh to Belfast, the Government of the day directing their Law Officers to change the venue to that place. The intention, no doubt, was to prevent the men getting a fair trial. It has been mentioned here that one of the Judges, Mr. Justice Lawson—to whom reference was made by an hon. Member who was called to Order by the Chair, but I will put the matter in another way so that the House 432 may judge of the fairness of the trial that these prisoners got—I say that, as has already been pointed out, Mr. Justice Lawson, who was a Member of the Irish Government and one of the Judges who rule Ireland during any interregnum in the Lord Lieutenancy, was one of the Privy Council who directed the venue to be changed from Armagh to Belfast. That was done on the advice of a man who belonged to the Orange Party—namely, Sir William Barker Kaye, a gentleman who has lived a long time in Armagh, not far from where I reside. I know him as identified with the Orange Society. He it was who prompted this affair. He, no matter whether the Whigs are in or Tories out of power, is one of those permanent holdfasts who prevent the Irish Government, when a change of Administration takes place, from being affected by the change of opinion which has brought about that altered position of Parties. He, I say, was the chief person who prompted the removal of these prisoners from Armagh to Belfast. The men were sent for trial amongst those who not only were their enemies politically and religiously, but who were the men who afterwards aided and abetted in the shooting down of Her Majesty's soldiers and police. The Judge who directed the change of venue was the Judge selected to try the prisoners. As I have said, he was a Member of the Privy Council directing the prosecution—he was judge and executioner of his own judgment. Such a thing as this could not occur in England; in fact, I do not know any English Judge who is a Member of the Privy Council.
The hon. Gentleman cannot have heard my ruling. He cannot now cast imputations upon the impartiality of the Judges. There is a regular Constitutional way of questioning the conduct of Judges, and it is that way which must be resorted to.
§ MR. A. BLANE
I bow to your ruling, Sir. At the trial of the Crossmaglen prisoners there was a man named Duffy I knew very well in Armagh. No man in Armagh would trust him a glass of whisky; but he was hired by the Crown. In this Vote the Committee is asked to vote the money which was paid to this man for his services at the Belfast trials. Duffy deserted his wife and children, and—
§ MR. ISAACS (Newington, Walworth)
I beg to ask you, Mr. Courtney, whether the fact of Duffy having deserted his wife and children is in any way connected with the Vote now under discussion?
I do not at present see the connection; perhaps the hon. Member will be able to establish it.
§ MR. A. BLANE
I wish to show the character of the man on whose evidence these men are in prison, and for whose detention the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is responsible. We know that in theory the Lord Lieutenant is the Governor of Ireland, but that in practice the Governor of the country is the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. These men were taken to Belfast and tried there. At Belfast, this Duffy, who had deserted his wife and children, was the principal witness against them. I think other crimes besides wife desertion could be brought against Duffy, but it is not necessary to bring them to light. At that trial, lest justice should be done to the prisoners, the Law Officers of the Crown challenged every Catholic who came forward. In a place where, of necessity, the Protestants must have had a majority on the jury, all the Catholics were challenged. Why, even Alfred the Great would have had no more chance of serving on that jury than of flying in the air. Well, trial by jury is a Catholic and not a Protestant institution. The fact, however, remains that Catholics were not thought fit to serve upon the jury lest these men should get a fair trial. I appealed to the last Government, as I have done to this, with regard to these prisoners. I appealed to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne (Mr. John Morley), and I got a similar answer to that I have received from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach)—namely, that if Memorials were addressed to the Lord Lieutenant, His Excellency would consider them and act as justice required. We all know what that means. It means that nothing will be done. We do not think that these men will be released from penal servitude; and yet, if I asked the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to point to one overt act of these men to injure anybody, he would be bound to say—"I cannot find one." They are punished 434 for something they have said, and not for anything they have done. If the right hon. Gentleman were asked what did these men do, he could only tell us of something they had said. That is to put the worst complexion upon the ease; and this Government can, scarcely with any show of decency, punish these men for what they have said, having regard to the speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Belfast, and that of one of the Lords of the Admiralty whom I see in his place (Lord Charles Beresford) in speaking at Marylebone. But, for what they may have said, surely five years' penal servitude is punishment sufficient. Is this not a fitting case for the exercise of mercy? Even if they were guilty, why not release them now? I am afraid we cannot induce the right hon. Gentleman to take our view of the matter. If these men were important personages in the State, the Government could not be more exacting and rigorous in seeing that the very utmost punishment was awarded. But these are poor men. I do not know whether I should meet with any success if I were to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether these prisoners are to be released? My own impression is, that as long as Dublin Castle remains, as at present, with Sir William Kaye as permanent holdfast there, like a barnacle on the ship of State, the Chief Secretary will have to return the answer frequently given up to this—the law must take its course. That is a miserable policy; it is not a generous policy. These prisoners are poor men, not important personages in the State, and their case is one in which I think the clemency of the Crown might very well be exercised, even at the eleventh hour. These men have already suffered five years' imprisonment. If this case had occurred in England, and doubts as to the innocence of the prisoners were persistently expressed by hon. Gentlemen, I have no hesitation in thinking that the Home Secretary would order their immediate release.
§ MR. W. A. MACDONALD (Queen's County, Ossory)
I should not think of troubling the Committee on this question, if I had not myself presented a Memorial to Lord Carnarvon last year, on behalf of the Crossmaglen prisoners, of whom my hon. Friend (Mr. A. Blane) has just spoken. Before preparing that Memorial I read everything on the sub- 435 ject I could read. There was not a line of the evidence, not a line of the Judge's charges—for the prisoners were charged in two batches—not a line of the speeches of the prisoners' counsel, or of the counsel for the Crown, or an important affidavit in the case which I did not carefully read. The deductions I made I embodied in my Memorial. Therefore, I trust the Committee will see that it is not from a desire to waste time, or to hear myself talk, that I rise on this occasion. In the summer of last year the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is now the Chief Secretary for Ireland, read a letter in this House from the Earl of Carnarvon, in which the noble Earl declared he would give careful consideration to any representation which might be made in reference to the Crossmaglen and other prisoners. In consequence of the reading of that letter I prepared and presented a Memorial to the then Lord Lieutenant. When I entered upon the task, I thought it possible that there had been a miscarriage of justice. When I finished my task, I came to the conclusion that there certainly had been such a miscarriage, and that the 10 men who are known as the Crossmaglen prisoners are absolutely innocent of the offence for which they are suffering, one five years', another seven years', and the remaining eight 10 years' penal servitude. Now, I want to explain to the Committee the ground upon which I think the Government ought to do one of two things; either to institute inquiry in this case, or else to let these prisoners out, because they have already endured penal servitude for three years for an alleged conspiracy as a result of which, not one person was fired at or injured. The circumstances of the trial were very peculiar. These men were agricultural labourers and small farmers living in Crossmaglen, in the county of Armagh, and under a Statute now fortunately no longer in force—the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Act, 1882—the venue was changed from the county of Armagh to the town of Belfast, where these men who, as I have said, were agriculturists, were tried for the most part by city men, who knew nothing of the peculiar circumstances of country life, and who knew nothing of the characters of the prisoners.
436 Hon. Gentlemen do not seem to think it is of much importance that trial by jury should take place in the county to which the men charged belong; but that is the fundamental idea of trial by jury. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but that, I say, is the underlying principle of trial by jury. The prisoners were tried in two batches. From the first jury all Catholics were excluded, and there were only one or two Catholics allowed in the second jury. That, of course, raised a strong presumption against them. Most of the jurors were taken from the most Orange districts of Belfast, from the people who are strongly hostile to any man who engages in any popular movement whatsoever. Though Judge Harrison had, at the previous Winter Assizes, given an order that all copies of documents in the ease should be furnished to the prisoners' counsel, that was absolutely left undone until the day before the trial. Thus the prisoners' counsel were prevented from having the opportunity of digesting the various documents introduced; and that was of vast importance, because, as I hope to show, the whole case really rested upon a certain document which was alleged to have been found—a document known as the "Crossmaglen Book." This "Book" was said to be a record of the proceedings of the Society. If the prisoners' counsel had been permitted to see this "Book," they would have been able to examine some of the 143 persons who, according to the contents of the "Book," had been sworn to murder certain landlords, and to put them into the box to show the absolute worthlessness of the "Book" upon which the case mainly depended. There was an informer in the case, as there is in so many other cases in Ireland. This man's name was Duffy. The Committee may be surprised when I tell them that Judge Lawson, who is notoriously not over favourable to the popular side, declared that if the case had rested upon the testimony of Duffy alone the prosecution could never have been sustained. Duffy was not only a deserter of his wife, but he swore that he had been a member of secret and murderous conspiracies from the period when he was 21 years of age, with the exception of two years when he was under the influence of a Catholic clergyman. This statement of his was placed beyond doubt by a question put 437 to him by Mr. Munroe, the prisoners' counsel, who asked—Do you mean to tell the Court that you would, in connection with this conspiracy, have murdered anyone who was obnoxious to you?And his reply was—Devil a bit but I would; I thought it a grand job to get into it.And this is the man on whose evidence the Crown so largely relied. [Interruption.] I shall not be deterred by the interruptions of hon. Gentlemen from doing my duty. There was the evidence of the Constabulary, and the principal witness of this class was Constable Gartland. He was a man who used the most extraordinary means to procure evidence. When I was in Dublin last year—
DR. TANKER (Cork Co., Mid)
Mr. Courtney, there is a Gentleman sitting second on the second Bench behind the Government who has been persistent in his interruptions both last night and tonight. I beg to call your attention to his conduct.
It is irregular to allude to any hon. Gentleman in that way; but I have no hesitation in saying that an hon. Member is not in Order in persistently interrupting another hon. Gentleman when addressing the Committee.
§ MR. W. A. MACDONALD
Last year, when I was in Dublin, a man who has prepared an affidavit in this case came to me in order to see if I could not do something for these prisoners. He declared that he had been unduly influenced by Constable Gartland to write down certain names on a piece of paper—the names of men who were supposed to be connected with the conspiracy. He had never had any peace of mind since he did this. He went to Canada, but came back in order to make what reparation he could for the wrong he had done while acting under the influence of the constable. Then the evidence of the Constabulary went to show that there were three books found in empty houses in various places, and it also went to show that the police had seen a number of men, of whom the prisoners were some, coming out of houses late at night. But in no case did the police declare that they had surprised a meeting, and the evidence seems to be utterly worthless when the Com- 438 mittee remembers that the Land League was then in full swing, and that the people, even if the evidence were true, might simply have been coming from Land League meetings. [Interruption.] Well, Sir, it is very difficult for any Member to put a case clearly and succinctly before the Committee when there is so much interruption; and I will only add that if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland really desires to do justice in this matter, I shall be happy to place a copy of my Memorial in his hands for his perusal. I am not afraid of the most thorough investigation of the case, for I have got dates and facts for every one of the statements contained in my Memorial and in my speech to-night. Then, again, with regard to this "Crossmaglen Book." This "Book" professes to be a record of the proceedings of this secret society, and it was used by the Crown as such. But it is not a book of minutes in any real sense of the word. It is hard to understand from its contents whether a meeting was held at all; indeed, it contains the most absurd contradictions. Either the evidence of Duffy was false, or the evidence of the "Book" was false. Duffy swore that he had been expelled from the conspiracy, yet no account of his ever having been present at any meetings is given in the "Book" until—[Interruption.] Mr. Courtney, I maintain—
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
Mr. Courtney, I beg to move that you do report Progress and ask leave to sit again. I may explain that my object in making this Motion is not to stop the proceedings of the Committee, but to ascertain, if possible, whether or not it is, in the opinion of the Committee, desirable that these Estimates should be properly discussed. If the Votes are to be discussed at all, they ought to be discussed in such a manner that each Member of the Committee shall have an opportunity of hearing the arguments advanced on one side and on the other. A large majority of the Members of the present Committee appear to be determined that our arguments shall not be heard. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) to use his influence with his supporters to induce them to give a reasonable amount of attention to the arguments advanced 439 from these Benches, and to allow the Business of the Committee to proceed in a proper and orderly manner. I am prepared to withdraw my Motion if the right hon. Gentleman will appeal to his followers to give a fair hearing to the arguments of the different speakers from these Benches.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Biggar.)
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS - BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
Sir, I am delighted to hear from the hon. Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar) that, in his opinion, it is desirable that these Estimates should be discussed. I certainly will at once respond to the appeal he has addressed to me. If he will use his influence with his Friends in order to secure that desirable end, I will do the same with my Friends behind me.
§ MR. E. HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
I shall be obliged to support the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar). I do not think the answer of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) is at all suitable to the occasion. It is a positive disgrace to the Committee that when a Gentleman like the hon. Member for the Ossory Division of the Queen's County (Mr. W. A. Macdonald), who suffers from an infliction which alone ought to insure him more than ordinary courtesy at the hands of hon. Members, is addressing the Committee and trying to gain the ear of this hostile Assembly, these exhibitions, which I will not characterize as I should like for fear of incurring your displeasure, should be indulged in. [Cries of "Agreed!"] No, Sir, we are not agreed. We are only agreed upon one point, and that is that the conduct of Gentleman opposite is disgraceful and unmanly in the extreme. We are agreed that it is not decent that this conduct should continue; we are agreed to enter a strong and emphatic protest against it; and, furthermore, we upon these Benches are agreed that we shall be heard, and that we shall make ourselves heard as long as we are in this House.
It is my duty to secure a hearing for each Member. The 440 hon. Gentleman is not entitled to threaten the Committee.
I endeavoured to point out that the hon. Gentleman must not threaten the Committee. I did not suggest he was disrespectful to the Chair.
§ MR. E. HARRINGTON
I did not intend to convey any threat to the Chair. What I wish to say is that we are within our right and privilege in speaking on matters affecting the lives and the liberties of the people who sent us here. Say they are convicts, thieves, robbers; say they sympathize with crime and outrage; you have given them the franchise, and they have sent us here as their Representatives. We have come here to represent the Irish people, three-fourths of whom believe in the innocence of these men. And, on the point of Order, I maintain it is right and just that men speaking in this House in advocacy of the claims of these prisoners should be listened to with respect. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ossory Division of the Queen's County (Mr. W. A. Macdonald) especially ought to be listened to with respect; indeed, I should be ashamed of myself if I were guilty of discourtesy to any hon. Member on that side of the House similarly afflicted.
§ MR. CRILLY (Mayo, N.)
I wish to support the Motion to report Progress, and I cannot help thinking that the best way to make progress is to allow Irish Members to make their statements. I, for one, represent a constituency in which one of these phantom conspiracies is said to have existed. [Cries of "Divide!"] This is the first opportunity I have met with of contesting that imputation, and I intend to use my privileges, as a Member of the House of Commons, in reference to the subject. I shall do so as strongly as I can, because I was sent here to represent the cause of these unfortunate men. I can assure the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill) that the easiest way in which these Estimates can be obtained will be by his obtaining silence on the Opposite Benches for a short time.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I think the indulgence of the Committee 441 ought to be extended to the hon. Member for the Ossory Division of the Queen's County, and I hope that it will be extended to him. I regret that these interruptions should have occurred; but, on the other hand, we have had a long discussion, and I trust that hon. Members will see the propriety of bringing it to an end as speedily as possible, in order that progress may be made with other Business.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W., and Sligo S.)
I am of opinion that the discussion on the Estimates should proceed as quickly as possible, and without interruption from these interludes. My hon. Friend also agrees that the Estimates should be discussed with a due regard to despatch; but surely such a declaration is premature from me, seeing that the various questions I have put in the course of the evening have received no answer. The right hon. Gentleman has had several questions put to him earlier in the discussion, to which, although I have been awaiting an answer, I have received none. My questions related to the administration of the Arms Act in Belfast and Derry, and to the ammunition supplied to the Rifle Clubs in Belfast.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I rose to answer the questions of the hon. Member (Mr. Sexton); but I observed that, unfortunately, he was not in his place, and, therefore, seeing that the subject which has been discussed is entirely apart from the questions he has raised, I think it better to reply to them at a later period.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I think this delay has emanated from the right hon. Gentleman. In answer to the statement of my hon. Friend, the right hon. Gentleman gets up and states that he is glad that the Estimates will be discussed with despatch. The right hon. Gentleman says now, with a smile, that he will tell hon. Members on the opposite Benches to keep quiet, if we go on in order and discuss the Estimates as he wishes them to be discussed. Of course, it is easy to understand that Parties on opposite sides of the House will not discuss those Estimates in exactly the same way and with the same views.
§ DR. TANNER
I was speaking, Sir, with respect to the Motion to report Progress, which, as I understand, is at the present time before the Committee. I certainly think that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman was out of place as coming from a Gentleman of so exalted a position in the House. I sincerely trust that we may be able to take up the Estimates in their proper order, and I hope that the conduct of hon. Members opposite which has brought about this Motion for Progress will not be persevered in, because the interruptions complained of must, I know, be disagreeable to you, and to every Member of the Committee; and, finally, I hope right hon. Gentlemen opposite will withdraw words which can only be regarded as a threat.
§ MR. BIGGAR
I am willing to ask leave to withdraw my Motion for two reasons—one being the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman to give a fair hearing to the arguments adduced by hon. Members on this side of the House; and, in the next place, because you have said, Mr. Courtney, that it is your duty to keep order in the Committee. I would point out to hon. Gentlemen opposite, that when they interrupt a speaker, their disrespect is shown not alone to the Member speaking, but to the Chair; and, further, having had some years experience in this House, I may remind hon. Gentlemen that when we on these Benches were a much smaller Party than we are now, we nevertheless insisted on making ourselves heard. I wish hon. Members opposite to understand that these interruptions do not avail, and that they will be of no assistance to the Government, whom they think they are supporting by their conduct. With these observations I ask leave to withdraw my Motion that you report Progress. ["No, no!"]
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. W. A. MACDONALD
Mr. Courtney, I ask no favour from this House. I simply ask for justice, and I should never have entered this House if I had believed that I should not be able to discharge my duty to my constituents. I have endeavoured to point out that there were some most important inconsistencies between the statements of the informer Duffy and 443 the entries in the "Crossmaglen Book." The man swore that he was expelled in April, but the "Book" did not record his name, as present at a meeting, until July of the same year. It was distinctly stated that this man was deliberately sworn and employed to murder Mr. Brooks; but the statements on this subject are absolutely inconsistent the one with the other. But a confirmation of the view I have taken is to be found in the action of the Government, who released one of the prisoners named Smith. This man was released three months after he was condemned to 10 years' penal servitude, and the then Chief Secretary (Mr. Trevelyan), in this House, declared that the reason why he was released was that he was extremely ill —in fact, that he was on the point of dying. At that time, another poor man was actually allowed to die in prison, and there is every reason to believe that his death was hastened by his suffering in prison before he was tried. But what did Smith do after he was released; did he make no effort on behalf of those who suffered with him? On the contrary, he went to a magistrate, and made a statement, in which he said that the "Book" was a fabrication; that he and the other four prisoners, who were tried in the same batch, absolutely refused to plead guilty, although extraordinary efforts were made to make them do so, and although they were told that if they did, they would get off with one month's imprisonment. Is that the action of men who were guilty? No; it is the action of men who knew they were innocent. If the Government will look into the records of the case in Dublin Castle, they will see their utterly unsatisfactory character, and, I believe, will do justice to these men. They will see that they have been already three years and a-half in prison for a conspiracy by which no one was injured, and that, therefore, they might be released; or, if they do not like to take this course, they may institute an inquiry into the whole case, which will show that the "Crossmaglen Book" is a fabrication. I have no wish to detain the Committee further than to say that I do not think this shouting down of Members, and interrupting one who came down late, not knowing that this case would be brought on this evening, is calculated to raise the Party opposite 444 in the eyes of the people of Ireland who are deeply interested in this case.
§ MR. J. NOLAN (Louth, N.)
I wish to say that I regard with serious concern any attempt made on either side of the House to prevent Members being heard, as tending to lower the tone of discussion—because this Assembly has a high character to maintain in the eyes of the civilized world. As an Irishman, I am sincere in saying that I am extremely anxious that the character of this Assembly should be kept up; and, particularly, because a number of my Colleagues present are likely to carry away with them the manners which they learn in this House, and I desire that the character of the future Parliament of Ireland should be a very high one. I find myself generally in accord with my hon. Colleagues on this side of the House; but I am not able entirely to agree with a remark which fell from one of my hon. Friends, who said that if this inquiry were not granted, the trust of the Irish people in the law would be considerably lowered. Now, I respectfully submit that that would be impossible, because the confidence of the Irish people in the administration of the law in Ireland is now at a very low ebb. I remember a story of an English gentleman who, riding through the streets of Dublin, saw 11 statues on one of the public buildings, and asking whom they represented, the cardriver said they were "Statues of the Apostles. There were twelve of them," he said; "but the Government were short of witnesses on a Crown trial going on at Cork, so they took Judas Iscariot down and sent him there." From the conduct of the Government in the course of this discussion I do not think it likely that they will turn a friendly ear to our complaint; and knowing that, I am afraid that when we go to a division we shall be in the minority. At the same time, I am not quite deserted by hope. In the first place, we have at the head of Her Majesty's Government in this House a noble Lord who has, on a former occasion, shown himself to be active in obtaining justice for a poor prisoner, and I have heard the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland spoken of by my senior Colleagues in our Party as a Gentleman distinguished for courtesy and kindness. Therefore I am encouraged to hope that they will make 445 a favourable response to our appeal. [Cries of "Divide!"] If hon. Gentlemen who think that this debate is going on too long will only take into consideration the fact that we are pleading for men who are suffering all the horrors of penal servitude, I think, with the exercise of a little humane feeling, they would not grudge us a few hours of debate. We fully believe that a large number of these men are suffering in innocence; and not only do I ask the right hon. Gentleman to think of those men who are thus suffering, but also to think of their wives and children, who would be, but for the charity of their friends, starving or in the workhouse. I was in Ireland during the Recess, and I became acquainted there with the case of one of those men who was sworn against and transported, and whose wife was lying at the point of death with a family of helpless children around her; and, as I have said, if it had not been for the sympathy and charity of friends they might now be in the workhouse. There is an important matter connected with these trials, and that is that they have all a sort of political application. I fully recognize that it would be neither expedient nor advisable to bring before the House of Commons all sorts of cases, and ask that in all those cases the verdicts should be revised; but here we have a number of cases of the same kind. All the three cases which have been laid before the Committee are cases in which prosecutions have been instituted on the ground of conspiracy, and means have been resorted to in order to procure convictions in which, rightly or wrongly, the Irish people have no confidence, but look upon them with the greatest amount of suspicion. My hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), in the course of his speech, stated to the House that the Judge in each of the trials was careful to explain to the jury that no attention was to be paid to the evidence of an informer. One of the witnesses in this case is well known to be a perjured informer, and a juryman in connection with the case stated that he had no hesitation in saying that he should have acquitted the prisoner if it had been proved that two informers had an opportunity of communicating with each other while in the hands of the police.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
What I said was that the Judge was careful in each case to tell the jury that unless the informer's evidence was corroborated that they could not convict upon it.
§ MR. J. NOLAN
Here, then, we have the statement that had it not been for the evidence of these informers the conviction of the prisoner could not have taken place. This is simply a charge of conspiracy which depends entirely upon the perjured evidence of informers, and on documents which would not be received in any other Court than that in which the case was tried. As far as the gentleman who was said to be the victim is concerned, I may say that I knew him when I was a boy, and I can assure hon. Members, from my knowledge of his character and from what I have heard of his character in the district, that he would be the last man that these people would think of selecting as a victim. [Cries of "Divide!"] I was remarking that the documentary evidence given in connection with this trial would be looked upon as unworthy of confidence in any other Court than that in which the case was tried; and in connection with this case I may say that these men, who were Catholics, were taken away from their native county and tried by a Belfast jury composed of Irish Nonconformists and Protestants. When I regard these matters, I look with a feeling of heart-sickness on the miserable state of the people in Ireland, and I hold that no man in his senses would say that an Irish Catholic peasant could have a fair chance before a jury composed of men under the influence of the Party spirit which animates them, and which is continually inciting them to strife with their fellow-men. These were the kind of jurymen selected to try the Crossmaglen and the Barbavilla prisoners; and if it were for no other consideration than that, I should think that the Gentleman responsible for the administration of justice in Ireland ought to reconsider these cases. If he does, I venture to say that not only will he be doing an act which will approve itself to his conscience in future years, but he will be the means of raising a weight of grief from the hearts of many humble men and women in Ireland.
§ MR. CRILLY (who, on rising, was met by cries of "Divide!")
said: I can quite 447 understand the impatience of hon. Members opposite, and I should scarcely have intervened at this period of the discussion if it were not that I desire, as the Representative of a constituency in which one of these conspiracies is alleged to have existed, to express, on my own part and that of my constituency, the belief that it is a thing of necessity to have an impartial inquiry as to the manner in which the conspirators were convicted, and into the nature of the evidence upon which these prisoners were sent to penal servitude. In course of time much has been said in this House with reference to these cases, but very little has been said, hitherto, in reference to these particular prisoners charged in connection with the alleged conspiracy in Mayo; and I wish, Sir, on this, the first opportunity I have, to express a hope that the desire we Irish Members entertain will be met by Her Majesty's Government. We have reason to put forward our request, because we have evidence in the past that many wrongful convictions have taken place in Ireland. We have the case of Brian Kilmartin, with which the House is familiar. Into that case an inquiry was instituted; and though the man had been sentenced to penal servitude for life, it was found that the evidence on which he was convicted was false and unreliable, and he was at once released. In the case of the Mayo conspiracy, the men were only sentenced to penal servitude for 10 years and under; and it is fair to assume that if, in the case of Brian Kilmartin, it was shown that the evidence was false, there is, at all events, a strong possibility that, in the event of an inquiry taking place, the evidence on which the men of whom I am speaking were convicted would be shown to be equally false. But we have other evidence, which goes to show that we are entitled to make this request, and that we can reasonably hope from the Front Treasury Bench for sympathy with the efforts we are making to obtain an inquiry. Why, in 1884, the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Randolph Churchill) voted with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) for a free and full inquiry into the cases we desire to have inquired, into now, and we find that the same noble Lord, referring to this question of the guilt or innocence of the various pri- 448 soners undergoing penal servitude in Ireland, described it as "this most difficult and anxious question." We find that another Member of the Government, the present Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst), who was then Solicitor General, declared, in reference to one of these cases, "that there were elements in it which demanded further investigation and inquiry." We, Sir, who represent in this Parliament the county of Mayo, and who are familiar with the facts of this case—we who are acquainted with the surroundings of this alleged conspiracy—declare that from our examination of the case we are convinced that there are elements—[Cries of "Divide!" and interruption.] I presume we shall divide when hon. Gentlemen on these Benches have finished their observations. I do not desire, in view of the impatience of the Committee, and in view of the fact that my Colleagues in the representation of Mayo have already spoken, to detain the Committee at any great length; but I desire to join other Irish Members in expressing the belief that the Government ought to grant the inquiry demanded. I desire to supplement what has been said by my Colleagues in the representation of the county by declaring that the characters of these men who are now suffering penal servitude for this alleged conspiracy, which we consider a phantom conspiracy, are as eminently respectable as those of any men in Ireland. So respectable is one of these men—Mr. P. W. Nally—that at the last Election it was a question whether he should not have given to him the representation in this House of his native county. On his trial, Mr. Tighe, who is not associated at all with the National Party, who is a Justice of the Peace for Mayo and Sligo, and who is High Sheriff of Mayo, declared that Mr. Nally had always been, so far as he knew, an industrious and respectable member of society. So high a character did he bear, even in the eyes of those who were responsible for the maintenance of law and order in Mayo, that the warrant which had been issued from Dublin Castle for his arrest under the Coercion Act was cancelled, and he was permitted in his own county of Mayo to hold a licence for the carrying of arms. Is it at all likely that a man who held this character in the eyes of those who were admittedly opposed to 449 him in his native county would be associated with this conspiracy?—this conspiracy which, we hold, only had existence in the imagination of the informer Cole-man, on whose evidence these men were sent to penal servitude. I myself am personally acquainted with the relatives of another of these prisoners, who, like Mr. Nally, occupied a high position in the county. I desire to express my conviction that this conspiracy never existed at all, and that nothing would have been heard of it, if it had not been for the desire of the informer Coleman to obtain some of the gold which he had seen so plentifully distributed in Ireland in 1881–2–3. I desire to endorse the hope that the request made from these Benches for an impartial and full inquiry will be granted, or, at all events, that these men whom we believe are the victims of a vicious system of government in Ireland will be released, and no longer submitted to the ignominy of penal servitude.
§ SIR WHITTAKER ELLIS (Surrey, Kingston)
I rise with great diffidence to address the Committee on this occasion. But, Sir, what I feel is that this Committee should entertain some respect for the regulations which govern public discussion. Now, it has been my duty to preside over many public assemblies, and the first duty of those who preside over public assemblies is to insist that the question at issue shall be spoken to—[Cries of "Order!" and "Chair!"]
Order, order! The Question before the Committee is the Vote for the Chief Secretary's Office. The hon. Member is not discussing that Vote.
§ SIR WHITTAKER ELLIS
I submit to your ruling, Sir. I submit that the Question before the Committee is a very simple one. The subject. I believe, is in one line, "Salaries, Wages, and Allowances." Well, I must say that I have sat in this House this evening now for many hours, and have hardly heard one word upon that Question. I have hardly ever heard it touched upon, and my only object in now rising is to ask you, Sir, whether we are adhering to the Question under discussion? ["Order, order!"]
I must again remind the hon. Member that he is entirely out of Order. He must not continue in that strain.
§ SIR WHITTAKER ELLIS
After your ruling, Sir, I certainly will not endeavour to address the Committee again. All I ask hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite is to adhere to the Question before the Committee. ["Order, order!"]
§ MR. SHEEHY (Galway, S.)
I would submit a case to the Committee which I conceive to be pertinent to this Vote; and I trust that the course I am taking will meet with the approbation of the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The case I wish to bring before the Committee is that of the Wood-ford evictions, and that of the police who attended them—
If I understand the hon. Member aright, he is going to remark upon the conduct of the police in reference to evictions. I would point out to him that those observations should be made upon the Constabulary Vote.
§ MR. SHEEHY
What I wish to do is to call attention to the immense loss which the State has to bear owing to the manner in which the Government permit the police to be employed.
In that case the hon. Member must reserve his observations until we reach the Police Vote.
§ MR. SHEEHY
There is another matter in connection with this Galway business upon which I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman on the Government Benches to give us some satisfactory answer. It is with regard to the men who were arrested at these evictions, and were returned for trial.
Those observations should be made on the Vote for Criminal Prosecutions and other Law Charges.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
I will endeavour to satisfy the hon. Baronet on the other side of the House (Sir Whittaker Ellis) by confining myself to advancing reasons why this Vote should be questioned. I believe that the Vote is for the salaries of the Chief Secretary and other officials. We were advised that we could raise the points which have been adverted to to night on this Vote for the Chief Secretary's salary and his Office. In doing so we 451 have been perfectly in Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland himself took part in the discussion, and in doing so he also was perfectly in Order. In the course of his statement the right hon. and learned Gentleman made some very strong observations, one of the strongest being that in which he deprecated our action in bringing forward the cases which we have asked the Committee to consider. He said that if -we were to investigate these cases here—[Cries of "Divide!"] I think some hon. Members of this House have brought with them here some of the manners of the hustings. The right hon. and learned Gentleman gave as a reason why we should not refer to these cases that if we went on discussing such matters the Estimates would never be passed. Well, Sir, all I have to say about that is, that it would be a very serious thing if the Army and Navy were deprived of their supplies. It would be a very serious thing if the Navy were checked in the prosecution of its scientific work; it would be a serious matter if the Army were left without its necessary supplies; but, Sir, serious as these things would be, it is a far more serious matter to us that there are innocent men Buffering at the hands of the Government. It is a most serious matter to the people of Ireland, and to the families of these men who are suffering, if, by means which have been condemned by hon. Members in this House, some of our fellow-countrymen and constituents are "wrongfully imprisoned in British dungeons. Amongst other things stated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman was this—that Members from this side of the House have advanced arguments which should have been addressed to the jury. Well, these arguments were addressed to the jury. These arguments were addressed to more than one jury for the purpose of establishing the innocence of these men; and if we ask this Committee to bring pressure to bear on the Government to institute an inquiry, what arguments can we bring forward except those that will establish the innocence of the prisoners, and those that will establish the right and justice of the demand which we make for an inquiry? But, Sir, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that we should not be justified in advancing these argu- 452 ments, unless something new had transpired since the time of the trial. Well, Sir, something new has transpired since the time of the trial. I will not trouble the Committee by again repeating the recantation which has been quoted so often to-night already; but there are a few lines which are quite new, which have transpired since the trials took place, and they are these. One of the jurors who were responsible for the conviction of these men said to the reverend gentleman whose name has been mentioned in the course of this debate—I have no hesitation in saying that I should have acquitted the prisoners if it had been proved on their behalf that the M'Keons, the two chief witnesses, had had an opportunity of communicating with one another while in the hands of the police.Well, Sir, in reference to this matter the Judge said—To insinuate that the M'Keons had interviews whilst in the hands of the police is to insinuate that the very sources of justice are polluted.It has been proved since, and it has been proved in this House, beyond yea or nay, that these prisoners had interviews with each other, and that it was in collusion that charges were maintained and brought home to the prisoners on their trial. These are new points since the trial, therefore the conditions demanded by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland are fulfilled. Then we have a right to demand an inquiry. We have been told, also, by the right hon. and learned Gentleman that we should proceed in the ordinary manner. What is the ordinary manner? Does he mean by Memorial to the Lord Lieutenant? Memorials have been prepared and presented; Memorials have always been prepared and presented in such cases; but they have been cast aside like so much waste paper. The only redress left to us is to use our position in this House in order to press the Committee to urge upon the Government that there is a case for inquiry. We shall rely upon our position in the House to bring that pressure to bear upon the Government. Have the prisoners been tried in the ordinary way? Have they been condemned in the ordinary way? ["Yes!"] No; they have not. They were not tried or condemned under the ordinary law; they were tried and condemned 453 under an extraordinary law. What was that extraordinary law? It was that commonly known as the Crimes Act; and what was the operation pursued under the terms of the Crimes Act? Why, money was scattered broadcast over the land; witnesses were subpœned and paid for; men were terrorized into coming into the witness-box; juries were packed; honest jurors were put on one side owing to their religious or political opinions; and by these means convictions were obtained. There was, Sir, at that time a white terror spread over the land; and perhaps it may not be out of place if, in order to illustrate the condition of the country at that time, I give the Committee one of my own personal experiences of that white terror which was spread over the land. My experiences of one of the many conspiracies that were set afloat against myself which, if they had been carried out to their utmost point, would have effectually been a bar to my being here to-night to plead the cause of these innocent men, who were found guilty by the very means which were set on foot in order to send me into penal servitude for life, if not to the gallows. I remember at one period of my life to have been the end, aim, and object of three conspiracies at the same time, two of them on the part of the Government, or with the cognizance of the Government. I think I told the Committee or the House on a previous occasion how I had to come before a secret inquiry under the Crimes Act.
§ MR. BYRON REED (Bradford, E.)
Mr. Courtney, I rise to Order. I wish to ask whether the hon. Member is in Order in narrating to the Committee his own personal experiences under this Vote?
I understand that the hon. Gentleman wishes to illustrate the manner in which these trials took place. I think he would consult the feeling of the Committee, and would, at the same time, be acting very judiciously, if he abbreviated his observations on this personal matter.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
I think, Sir, you will find that in the remarks I shall address to the Committee I shall keep as close as possible to the point. I am endeavouring to illustrate the state of things which prevailed in Ireland during the time when the majority of these pri- 454 soners were sent into penal servitude. I was stating, when interrupted, that I was brought before a secret inquiry. I was going on to say that I believed the reason of that was that it was thought that I could give some information to the magistrates in regard to the blowing up of certain of Her Majesty's buildings with dynamite. Well, at the game time I have reason to believe that I incurred the censure and the hostility of the dynamitards who had been guilty of these outrages. But the most nefarious conspiracy of all that was set on foot against me was on the part of a man whose name has often been before the Committee of the House of Commons. It was one very similar in nature to the conspiracy set on foot against the men whose cause we are pleading here tonight, and one which, if carried out to its utmost end, would have sent me either to the gallows or to penal servitude for life. What was it? Why, the notorious French, whose name is so familiar in this House.
I must ask the hon. Member to discontinue his personal references, and to deal with the main subject.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
I was under the impression, Sir, that the means employed to send these people to penal servitude by the employment of informers in an illegitimate manner would have been pertinent to the subject. If French is employed—["Order!"]—if any official of Her Majesty's Government is employed to get up an attack upon a Judge, and having fired on the Judge, and killed his horses and overturned his carriage, and having provided for his escape, incites people to come forward, puts a man in the dock, brings informers together—[Cries of "Order, order!"] I am dealing with an historical fact.
But it is quite wide of the Question before the Committee. I am anxious to give every indulgence to an hon. Member who is narrating painful personal experiences; but I must say that the hon. Member is travelling very wide of the Question. I must ask him to adhere more closely to the Vote.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
My contention is that the prisoners in the Barbavilla and Crossmaglen cases are in jail because they are the victims of trumped-up charges—charges trumped up in the 455 same way as certain people endeavoured to trump up charges against myself. I was to have been placed in the dock just like these prisoners. My liberty and life were to have been placed in peril; and I think, Sir, with all respect to your ruling, it would be well that I should enlighten the Committee by describing my own experience of the state of things which existed in Ireland at the very time that these men were sent into penal servitude. What I would say would illustrate the practices pursued by Her Majesty's Representatives in Ireland; and I hold, Sir, that my statement should not be rejected by the Committee, for I feel convinced that it would go far to convince the Government that there is a case for inquiry into all the convictions for conspiracy which have been referred to in the course of this discussion. I believe that if hon. Members would approach this subject with open minds, nothing could go farther to convince them of the justice of the demand that we are making than such a case, coming from the mouth of a man who was very near being made the victim of a nefarious conspiracy set on foot in the name of law and order. Sir, a white terror was spread over the land, and you had victims to that white terror. I myself know that Poff and Barrett, who were hanged in Tralee, were the victims of a trumped-up charge. I investigated that case; I saw the people concerned; and I know that the men who were hanged were innocent of the crime of which they were charged. I know, also, that Miles Joyce was innocent of the crime for which he was hanged.
I have already explained that reference can only be made to persons still in detention, with respect to whom Her Majesty's Government are under liability under the Vote in question. It is impossible, under this Vote, to enter into the circumstances of trials which have resulted in consequences such as have been referred to, where the Chief Secretary can be held in no way responsible.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
The case of Bryan Kilmartin has been referred to in this debate. He was released; but can you restore life to a man that you have hanged? You could restore liberty to Kilmartin, and what were the circumstances which brought about his release? A man was on his death-bed; he made 456 a confession to his priest; and so much respect had Her Majesty's Government of the day for the death bed repentance of the murderer, so much respect had they for the sacred functions of the Confessional, that it was sufficient for the Prime Minister of that day to stand up in his place, and say that an inquiry should be set on foot. An inquiry was set on foot, with the result that Kilmartin was released. But you cannot give back life to Myles Joyce and Francy Hynes. We have been told to pursue the ordinary course—that is, to appeal to the Lord Lieutenant. Pursue the ordinary course! As though the Law Officers of the Crown pursued the ordinary course in the case of those convictions! The ordinary course is to memorialize the Lord Lieutenant, and we are told that the Lord Lieutenant, in the first instance, acted on the best legal advice. What legal advice had he? He had the legal advice of those who procured these convictions wrongfully. He had the advice of the Law Officers and the Crown Prosecutors of the day. He had the advice of Mr. Serjeant O'Brien, who in one of the Kerry cases—and here I must refer to a name that you, Sir, forbade me to mention—congratulated the man French the notorious character who has since suffered penal servitude for a most abominable crime, upon having "steered the case very close to the wind." Serjeant O'Brien, who is listening to this debate to-night, having come over especially, I suppose, to hear what is said in order to defend himself—Serjeant O'Brien was appealed to, no doubt, and Mr. Bolton, I suppose, and all the other Law Officers of the Crown, the men who went sneaking into the cells, and told the prisoners that if they did not give evidence so-and-so would, and that the result would be that they—the prisoners they were intimidating—would be hanged by the neck until they were dead; the men who put all the rotten machinery of the Crimes Act into operation in order to procure convictions. I have not dealt with many political cases—I have not dealt with any. I have endeavoured to give an idea of the general law administration of Ireland, as conducted by the officers of the Crown. I had intended to illustrate what I meant by personal experience, and by the intimate knowledge of the country I had at the time. I was retarded and checked 457 to some extent; but still I trust that this demand will not go for nothing. I believe that irrefutable and convincing arguments have been advanced and have been placed before the Government, who know as much about these cases as do the Law Officers of the Crown themselves. I believe a good case for inquiry has been made out, and I trust the Government will signalize their period of Office, he it short or long, by doing justice in these cases. It is only justice we demand—not mercy; and if the Government give it to us I believe it will strengthen their position. I would urge them to yield to our demand for an inquiry, and I would only say to them, in conclusion—"Be just and fear not."
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W., and Sligo S.)
Will the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland reply to the question which has been put to him with regard to the Arms Act?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS - BEACH) (Bristol, W)
I understood that a reply was asked from me on another question, and I shall be happy to make it after the subject immediately before the Committee is disposed of.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 75; Noes 178: Majority 103.—(Div. List, No. 34.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
The hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) raised questions with regard to the North of Ireland, on which I should like to address a few words to the Committee. The hon. Gentleman first called attention to the Proclamation of the City of Derry and the town of Belfast issued by the late Government, and then says the Proclamation was allowed to exist without being carried into effect. I admit there has been great difficulty with regard to this Proclamation. In answer to previous Questions which have been addressed to me in the House by the hon. Member, I have pointed, out that the law, as it stands, does not permit any general search for arms by which alone such Proclamation could be really rendered effective, and that though searches for arms have been instituted in individual houses in Belfast, yet these searches 458 have failed of any result. [Mr. SEXTON: How many have there been?] I am not prepared to say how many, but in a good many cases, I know; and I entirely repudiate the suggestion that these searches have been made in. a partial manner. The hon. Member says he has heard that the searches were, as a rule, made in the houses of Roman Catholics. Sir, wherever there has been reason to suppose that any successful result could be obtained, steps have been taken by the Constabulary to initiate a search and to do what is possible under the existing law Of course, we have had in consideration the possibility of altering the law in order to make the Proclamation more effective; but, looking to the grave difficulties of the subject generally, we have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to deal with it in the present Session. I have called for Returns as to the number of arms surrendered, and I shall take the whole matter into further consideration. Perhaps I ought to say that as the Proclamation was issued on July 19, it was doubtless felt by our Predecessors that it was their duty, before issuing it, to consider what power they had to carry out the Act, and to take steps to secure that it should be put into operation. I do not wish to blame right hon. Gentlemen opposite; but I have not yet learnt that our Predecessors attempted to take any steps to carry out the Proclamation. There is no doubt, however, that the matter has been the subject of consideration under both Governments. The hon. Gentleman refers to the allowance of ammunition to the Rifle Clubs in Belfast by the War Office for the purpose of practising rifle shooting. Well, I have not had my attention drawn to this matter, and I am not prepared off-hand to express my opinion on it. It is rather more a matter for the War Office than the Irish Government, to consider whether any special privilege of this sort shall be accorded to bodies of persons joined together for the purpose of practising rifle shooting, which is now really becoming a scientific pursuit. [Laughter.] Well, everyone who goes to Wimbledon during the rifle meeting will know that that is so. [Mr. SEXTON: But how about shooting at other people?] I am coming to that point. If the ammunition issued for the purpose of prac- 459 tising rifle shooting is utilized for shooting at other people, or if injury to anyone is caused in this way, of course the practice is one that ought not to be continued, and the Irish Government would recommend the Secretary of State for War at once to check the issue of the ammunition. I do not at all know on what authority the hon. Gentleman has stated that the ammunition given to these Clubs is utilized for the purposes that he supposes. I have heard no evidence of any kind to lead me to that conclusion, though, if he can put any before me, I shall be much obliged to him. Then the hon. Gentleman went on to refer to the action of the Inspector General in. Belfast in replacing the Constabulary on duty at Shankhill Road, and he has asked me whether it is intended to place a police station on Queen's Island. I have inquired into that matter, and it appears that a police station on Queen's Island, at any rate at the present moment, would be absolutely useless. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are, on the one hand, a large body of Protestant workmen employed on Queen's Island, and, on the other hand, a large body of Roman Catholics employed in the Alexandra Dock. A present, a large force is being used to prevent any collision between these bodies of workmen going to and returning from their work. The mere establishment of a police station, which would only be occupied by a few men, would be of no use whatever in preventing a collision between these large bodies of men. Other steps have been taken for the preservation of the peace; but, of course, any permanent arrangements will have to be considered by the Royal Commission. The hon. Gentleman stated that he had heard that the Inspector General had selected Protestants only to do Constabulary duty on Shankhill Road, and he expressed some fear of the possible institution of a local police force in Belfast. Well, all I can say is, I am quite confident that the Inspector General is incapable of dealing with this matter in any partizan spirit, or of expressing any opinions which would in any way bind the Government in their attitude in the future. I entirely adhere to the observation which has been made, that the Inspector General is a man who would not pander to either Party in regard to the Con- 460 stabulary. The hon. Member has also asked me to express a desire that any persons who have left theire mployment in Belfast on account of religious difficulties should be reinstated. Well, Sir, I am quite sure, from communications which have passed between myself and Sir Edward Harland, that he would be the last man to be actuated by any desire to keep persons out of employment on account of their religion, and that if it were in his power he would prevent it. I do not believe—and I have already stated it in the House—that persons occupying the position of leading manufacturers in Belfast would be so blind to their own interests as to discourage the employment of Catholic workmen. No one can wish more than I do that these unhappy differences, which have produced such terrible results in Belfast, should pass away as rapidly as possible, and that a better feeling should prevail; and, for my part, I believe that the large employers of labour in Belfast will probably be more anxious than anyone to bring about a state of things tending to the welfare of the people.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
I am sure that anyone having had experience of the Inspector General of Constabulary will agree that he is in every way incapable of anything like partiality, or the desire to pander to one Party in Ireland more than another. I should like to make one remark with respect to what has fallen from the right hon. Baronet, regarding the carrying of arms in Belfast and Derry. The Proclamation was issued on the 19th of July, and the right hon. Baronet has stated that he had failed to find any evidence of the means to which the late Government intended to resort in order to make that Proclamation effective. We were only in Office a week or 10 days after the issue of that Proclamation; and, practically, we had no chance of making the provisions of that Proclamation effective. I cannot doubt that the present Irish Government have done exactly what we should have done had we remained in power, and I daresay that they have done their best to make the Proclamation effective. But hon. Members who were in the last Parliament when I had the honour of introducing the Arms Bill—if it can be called an honour—may remember that I did 461 not expect any great efficacy from that measure in detecting the possession of unlicensed arms. Neither then did I, nor do I now, lay great stress upon the Act; on the contrary, I said I thought that all these Acts are of little utility and of little efficacy. At the same time, I believe that one notion of the Irish Goverment in proclaiming Belfast and Derry was that there should be no sense of partiality felt by the people in the South and West of Ireland; that they should feel that as we carried out searches in the South and West of Ireland, so we should not shrink from carrying out searches in Belfast and Derry. One of our last acts was to issue warrants for searches for arms in 25 cases in County Kerry; but, to the best of my belief, not one of those warrants resulted in the detection of a single weapon. I should not be surprised, therefore, if the powers of search in Belfast and Derry, under the Proclamation of the 19th of July, should have the same result. But this is no reason why the Government should not do their best—and I am not at all prepared to deny that they would—to search into particular houses, whenever there is reason to suppose that arms are to be found there. As to the general disarmament of a city like Belfast or Derry, I think we must acknowledge that this is practically impossible. What they can do is to do what Lord Spencer's Government did in the case of Dublin and Cork. If the Government have reason to think that there are arms in public-houses or taverns, they can do something to alarm the unlicensed possessors of those arms, either into surrendering them, or into concealing them in places where their utility will become very doubtful. I simply wished to make these few remarks with reference to the Proclamation of the 19th of July.
§ MR. SEXTON
I wish to say, in reply to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), that only time can show what is the effect of the Proclamation, and also of the Crimes Act. But there was a feeling in Belfast that the scene of the late disturbance in that city was precisely in the quarter where the stores were, and the officers observed that the ammunition was of superior quality. That is why I ask that the Secretary of 462 State for War and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary should take steps to secure that the public stores of ammunition are not in the possession of persons who are not entitled to use them. The riots in Belfast were begun by an attack of the shipwrights on the Irish in the locality. ["No, no!"] I say that if there had been a couple of determined constables at the gate these men would never have got in, and this preliminary disturbance would have been prevented; and, therefore, I urge upon the right hon. Gentleman to consider the establishment of a permanent police force at the scene of disturbance, and that there shall be the same proportion as to creed as in the rest of the force in Belfast.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I could not promise that. The force at Shankhill Road will not be selected on the ground of creed.
§ MR. SEXTON
Three days ago 150 Catholics were employed in the yard who are now starving. What is the use of the right hon. Gentleman saying that Sir Edward Harland would prevent these men being kept out of employment if he could? If he were to say that if any of the men interfered with the Catholics he would be the first to dismiss them, and that the managers of the yard would prosecute and get them convicted, the whole thing would be put an end to. I wonder the right hon. Gentleman does not promise to use his influence with Sir Edward Harland and other employers to induce them to reinstate these men.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
With reference to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary (Mr. John Morley) and the present Chief Secretary for Ireland, I wish to point out that they have passed over one important point in connection with the administration of the Arms Act—that is to say, the impossibility of getting by search arms that are hidden away. I always said that would be impossible. I would also point out that the punishment is very different in the South of Ireland from what it is in the North for men who are found with arms in their hands; the man in the South gets 463 three months' hard lahour, whereas the man in the North is dismissed, although the law is that he should be imprisoned for three months. Therefore, I cannot understand how it is possible for anyone to stand up in this House and say there is impartial justice in Ireland.
§ MR. EWART (Belfast, N.)
I wish to point out, on behalf of the employers of labour in Belfast, that there is no disinclination to employ Catholics. I mentioned it to one of the partners of the yard a short time ago, and he assured me that they would be only too glad if the Catholic workmen would return, and that there was nothing whatever to prevent their doing so.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I wish to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the inquiry which has taken place into the question as to whether trawling should be prohibited in Galway Bay, or in any portion of that Bay. The Commissioners, as we were informed by the right hon. Gentleman a short time ago, were still considering this important subject; but they have not yet sent in their Report, although six months have elapsed since they commenced their labours. I do not agree with the opinion that the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries should be the sole judges as to whether trawling should be prohibited in certain circumstances or not. Their opinion on trawling would, of course, be valuable, although they might not be right in their views, and I think they might very well give advice to the Chief Secretary in this matter. I think the right hon. Gentleman should ascertain the number of fishermen who wish for, and the number of fishermen who are opposed to, trawling. I have a large number of fishermen amongst my constituents, and I can say that nearly all of them are very much opposed to trawling in Galway Bay. I have no doubt that they are right in their opposition, seeing that trawling interferes with their fishing; and one of the Coastguard officers declared to me that the paucity of fish there was due to the trawling which went on in the Bay. It is a very important question for both Scotch and Irish Members to consider how far the local fishermen should have a voice in the question as to how the water on their Coast should be fished—whether trawlers should be kept out of it. If 464 you push the principle to an extreme, and say that anyone may fish the water as they like, I do not see why you should not allow foreigners to go there. The case of foreigners coming over and fishing your waters is similar to trawlers coming in and driving out the ordinary fishermen, and I say that this is a very important point for you to consider. There is, of course, no objection to trawling in the open sea. As I have said, this is not a question to be settled by the Inspectors, but that the Chief Secretary should take their advice and at the same time give weight to the opinion of the majority of the fishermen in the locality. I think also that the right hon. Gentleman should consider whether he will not allow the Inspectors to have a first-class fishing vessel at their disposal, for the purpose of conducting experiments in Irish waters, which at present they have no means of carrying out. The cost of this would not be large, and would, moreover, be lessened by the return from the fish sold. I think these points are worthy of the attention of the Chief Secretary, and I hope he will be able to look into them.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to take into his favourable consideration the propriety of issuing an Order in Council, whereby herring fishing would be prohibited before the 10th of June. It is the opinion of fishermen all round the Coast that there ought to be a close season for herrings; and I am clearly of opinion that the proposal would be accepted by the owners of fishing vessels, both in England and Scotland. I think there should be no hesitation in prohibiting the fishing before the 10th of June, and also in preventing trawling within 20 miles of the coast. I hope to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that some steps have been taken to carry out the recommendations of the Commissioners. I was glad the other day to receive an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that he would advise the extension to fishermen on the North-West and West Coasts of Ireland, of the recent regulations with regard to loans. But if the right hon. Gentleman would add to the declaration which he made the other day that he would take steps to amalgamate the two funds, he would largely 465 increase the value of the concession he has announced, and do a great service to the fishing interest in Ireland. The last Report mentions that the Irish fishermen, on almost every part of the coast, are a respectable and courageous class of men, and, further, that the loans already made have been very punctually repaid, and that the arrears outstanding, excluding the promissory notes not yet arrived at maturity, are very small indeed. I shall be glad if the Chief Secretary will take note of these points.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
This question of Irish fishing is one of such great importance that no apology whatever is needed for bringing it forward at the present time. This is one of the subjects with regard to which we complain that the amount of money voted is too small. The fishing industry in Ireland is one which is capable of enormous development, and it is one which has been systematically neglected. There is no more capable public official than the Chief Inspector of Fisheries in Ireland; and for many years Sir Thomas Brady has laid before the House schemes for the improvement and development of the fishing industry in Ireland; and he has given examples of cases in which, by judicious generosity, great improvement has been made and a great development has taken place in the manner of fishing and the extent of the capture of fish on the South Coast of Ireland. The most notorious instance is off the Coast of Cork, where, owing to the generosity of the Baroness Coutts, who lent money to the men, the fishermen were enabled to engage in successful competition with other boats which came to the South Coast of Ireland for the purpose of fishing there. We say that if the Government were to do for other parts of the Coast what the Baroness Coutts did for the South Coast the same results would arise. During the 11 years in which these funds have been at their disposal the Government have lent nearly £200,000 to the fishermen, and of this sum less than £2,000 remains overdue. The loans have been discharged with the most exemplary fidelity. I know with regard to one county, in which many thousands of pounds have been lent in the course of a few years, that last year there was only the sum of £1 10s. overdue. Yet in that county nothing has 466 been done to encourage the industry. The fishermen there are of the poorest class, and can only afford to use the worst class of boats. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan) has spoken this evening on the subject of trawling. The Inspectors, in the Report of 1885, alluded to the practice of trawling, but expressed no opinion upon it. I am one of those who believe that the practice of trawling is a bad practice, and detrimental to fishing. I may mention that Galway Bay is 10 miles wide, although the portion available for fishing is considerably loss than that; and I believe that in Galway Bay, at any rate, the practice of trawling has a detrimental effect on the supply of fish. But the people there would not resort to trawling were it not that the boats are so bad that they do not venture to go out of sight of land to catch fish. But, Sir, if there were some means placed at the disposal of the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries, so that they might practise the artificial culture of fish, as has been done in America, the question would not give rise to anxiety as to the future supply of fish in Ireland. In America the Government have placed a fund at the disposal of certain officers for the purpose of effecting the artificial culture of fish, and the result has been extremely satisfactory. Sir Thomas Brady himself has been able—not out of any State funds, but out of his own private resources—to provide salmon ova, which have been shipped to Australia, which have proved most productive, and for which, unless I am mistaken, he has received the thanks of the Australian Government. I think that if we can ship ova to Australia successfully, we should not begrudge a little expense for the sake of improving the fish supply of Ireland. There is another point I will dwell upon for a moment, and that is the efforts which have been made by Sir Thomas Brady, out of his private resources and gifts of money which he has received from strangers—sometimes Canadians, sometimes Americans—to provide large boats in some places for the use of the fishermen. Now, Sir, in every case in which Sir Thomas Brady has been able to buy these large boats for the use of fishermen the results have been in every way satisfactory. I find that three years ago £250,000 was voted for the con- 467 struction of piers and harbours mainly for fishing purposes. This fund has now been pretty well exhausted; and I may say that, though it has been exhausted, it has, in the main, been most wisely expended. That expenditure is calculated to give a most excellent return to the nation; but I think that the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries have reason now to demand that there should be a further grant given for the purpose of further enlarging piers and harbours in Ireland. I see in the Report which the Inspectors of Fisheries Lave supplied to Parliament that reference is made to a new harbour near the mouth of the Shannon at Carrigafoyle, on which there has been £10,000 spent. There was a pier there previously, which was not, of course, so capacious as the new harbour; but the result of this expenditure of £10,000 has not been so satisfactory as the Inspectors of Fisheries would like, because now that the harbour is near its completion they report that it will not be able to accommodate vessels drawing more than 5 feet of water. The result is that the harbour will be of very little practical utility for the larger class of ships. Then my hon. Friend referred to the practice of French luggers and French boats coming right up to the Irish Coast. These boats come in to within half-a-mile of the Irish Coast, and sometimes nearer. Indeed, sometimes French seamen sail up the Shannon and land at Kilrush, and other places; and though there used to be a man-of-war in the Shannon, and though, I think, there is one there now, these war vessels are never used for the purpose of protecting the Irish fishermen against the depredations of the French fishermen. We heard only the other day of a case in which 11 English fishing boats were detained at Havre because they had trespassed upon French waters. I think it would be a most excellent thing if the Naval Authorities on the West Coast of Ireland retaliated on some of these French luggers, which visit the Irish Coast in large quantities at certain seasons of the year. I think that whenever Her Majesty's ships see these luggers in Irish waters they should seize them, and detain them until they receive an explanation from the French Government. Some time ago I called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs 468 (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), who was, I think, at that time Secretary to the Admiralty—I called his attention to this persistent encroachment of the French fishing boats on the Irish Coasts; but he was unable to promise that anything would be done for the protection of the Irish fishermen, and this notwithstanding our constant experience that gunboats belonging to Her Majesty's Navy have been put at the service of land agents in Ireland for the purpose of carrying out evictions. I think that is a gross and scandalous abuse of the vessels of the Navy, which, it seems to me, would be much better employed—as I believe they were intended by the Constitution to be employed—in the protection of the subjects of the Queen. I believe that the Government would do well if they would take into consideration the question of developing the fisheries of Ireland. These fisheries are capable of immense development. The Government have spoken of erecting large harbours. But large harbours are not what is required for the protection of these fisheries. It would be much better if loans were granted to the fishermen to enable them to buy proper boats and proper gear. It would be a good thing if the Government would send to these fishermen model boats and gear, with persons to instruct them in their use. That would be a most efficacious mode of developing the fishing industry of Ireland. I think if the Government acted in this way their efforts would very soon be repaid in a most liberal manner.
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
I wish to call the attention of the Government to just one question in connection with the fisheries of Ireland. It is very much the custom of those connected with the river fisheries to infringe upon the rights of the sea fishermen, if the latter have no legal claims where the river fisheries exist. There is a very special illustration of that at the mouth of Lough Foyle in the Northern part of Derry and Antrim. The unfortunate fishermen there are constantly having their nets torn and broken by the tug steamers belonging to the owners of the Foyle fisheries. The sea fishermen have attempted to get a legal boundary laid down for each class of fishing in this part of Ireland; but without satisfactory result, for the wealthy owners 469 of the river fisheries are able to injure to a very serious extent, sometimes to a ruinous extent, the rights and interests of the individual fishermen who carry on their operations outside the Lough. I am told that the same thing occurs in very many places, and not only so, but it very often happens that the owners of these river fisheries summon the outside fishermen for alleged trespass. They bring them up before the magistrates, who are their own personal friends, with the result that fines are inflicted upon the fishermen. These fines are, perhaps, not very heavy; but a penalty is imposed, and the convictions stand to be offered in evidence on a future day, when any proceedings are taken in the Superior Courts, as evidence of the owners of the river fisheries having a right to that to which, as a matter of fact, they have no legal title whatever. Of course, it is well known that any proceedings taken in the Superior Courts with regard to the rights of the fishermen are extremely expensive matters of litigation. It is utterly impossible for these poor fishermen to compete with the wealthy fishery proprietors who have legal rights to fish in the river. Now, what I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to do would be to instruct the Inspectors of Fisheries to, as far as possible, define the rights of the individual fishermen and the owners of river fisheries. It would be perfectly competent in them to do that. It would not give them an enormous deal of trouble to examine the title deeds of those who have river fishings, and to find out the extent of the fishings. If the Inspectors would point out the boundary of the two classes of fishermen, when the outside fishermen fished within the boundary of the river fishermen, they would be open to severe punishment; but, on the other hand, it is not desirable that the wealthy owners of river fishings should be able capriciously to drive the poor sea fishermen from place to place, hindering them from earning an honest livelihood. I ask that the right hon. Gentleman will increase the power and responsibility of the Fishery Inspectors, so that they can act, to some extent, as arbitrators between the two parties with regard to the boundary rights of each.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
The hon. and gallant Member for North 470 Galway (Colonel Nolan) referred to the question of trawling in Galway Bay, and rather suggested that I should disregard the views of the Fishery Inspectors and put down trawling in the Bay. Well, Sir, in the first place, the Fishery Inspectors are not irresponsible persons. They can only act under the law and the orders of the Privy Council, and that is some security in the matter. I should be sorry to take any action in antagonism to the views expressed by Gentlemen who are thoroughly competent to form an opinion on such a subject. I believe the question of trawling in Galway Bay is of old date.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I heard of this question 12 years ago, and I was also acquainted with the difficulty alluded to by the hon. and gallant Gentleman when he said that the fishermen of Galway Bay have a strong desire to go outside. I understand that trawling has been suspended in the Firth of Forth as a scientific experiment, and not from any idea of preserving the fish. It may be possible to make a similar experiment in Galway Bay, and I will make inquiries on the point. The hon. and gallant Member also referred to another old question—namely, the desirability of making a grant to place a vessel at the disposal of the Fishery Inspectors, to enable them to institute scientific inquiries, by which means they would be able to employ a great deal of their time very usefully. I can remember, 10 years ago, recommending to the Treasury of that day to place a vessel of that kind at the disposal of the Fishery Commission. My recommendation was not attended to; but I will renew it now, and I hope I shall be more successful. The hon. and gallant Member has also referred to the question of a close time for herrings. I understand that that system has been tried for some time at Loch Fyne, and has been found to be a complete failure. This experience, therefore, is not very promising for the success of any similar attempt in Ireland. It seems to me that the question should certainly not be dealt with by the Irish Fishery Board alone. When any system of this kind is adopted there must be general co-operation in it; and I believe that the Scotch Fishery Board would not be in favour of any- 471 thing of the kind. As the matter has been raised, however, I will endeavour to inform myself more fully with regard to it. Reference has likewise been made to the question of loans to fishermen. Since a Question was last put to me on the subject, I have received Reports from the Inspectors of Fisheries as to the possibility of extending the loans for boats, on the security of the boats only, to other parts of Ireland besides the Western Coast, and have taken steps to cerry out their suggestions. If that system is extended, so as not to give one county or district an unfair advantage over others, much good may be done. As regards the whole question of loans to the fishermen, I am glad to hear what has been said to-night by Irish Members as to the success of that system, which it was my good fortune to inaugurate when the Irish Reproductive Loan Fund Act was passed in 1874. I think a great deal more might be done in that way; and I will endeavour, to the best of my ability, to extend the system so as to enable the fishermen to obtain better boats and gear than they at present possess. We must not be blamed if we desire to have some kind of security for the money we may advance to enable these fishermen to carry on their difficult trade and render it more profitable. The hon. Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar) has referred to the quarrel which took place between the owners of river fishings and the sea fishermen, the latter being said to trespass upon the legal rights of the former. He suggests that the Inspectors should define the respective rights of the two parties. I confess I am not quite aware how far the Inspectors have power to do anything of the kind. I do not know whether there is any power vested in them by law to lay down limits beyond which neither party can trespass; but if any complaint is made to me by the fishermen, or by either party, I certainly will at once refer it to the Inspectors of Fisheries, in order that they may see what steps can be taken in the matter. Some remarks have fallen from more than one hon. Member upon the general question of the development of Irish fisheries. I am not going into that matter at this time of the morning; but I would venture to remind hon. Members that I have already stated to the House that we are extremely anxious to develop 472 not merely the small Irish fisheries, but—what is of much greater importance—the deep sea fisheries on the West Coast, and that we are about to take steps towards that end which I hope will be of great service.
§ MR. HOOPER (Cork, S.E.)
The right hon. Gentleman has not answered a question which is of great importance to my constituency. I refer to the question raised in the Report of these Fishery Inspectors with regard to the amounts from the Reproductive Loan Fund applied for and the amounts available in certain districts. This Report shows that whilst £13,000 has been applied for in the county of Cork only £600 is available; whilst, in a neighbouring county, there is £11,000 available, but only £800 applied for. Would it not be well to take into consideration the desirability of amalgamating these funds? With regard to the new rule which was sanctioned by the Earl of Carnarvon in January last, I would point out that it was not carried out for four months, and not until I had put on the Paper of this House a Notice of a Question to the Predecessor of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach). Application was made by my constituents, I think in February, and it was not until June that the answer came. I do not believe Sir Thomas Brady is to blame, for there is no more hard-working official connected with the whole Irish Administration than he is. He has earned the gratitude of the Coast people all over Ireland. But, whoever is to blame. I think it is a most unfortunate thing that the matter should be left in doubt, and that when it had been pending for months finally an answer should be given of an unsatisfactory character. As to the question of a close time for herrings, I am bound to say that I think the answer of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland will be received with great dissatisfaction on the Coast in my division. There is great dissatisfaction felt at the present condition of things, because large numbers of immature fish are taken in the nets before the month of June. I hope this matter will be considered, and that steps will be taken to prevent the wholesale destruction of fish which now occurs.
§ MR. E. HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
I cannot agree with the proposal of the 473 hon. Member for South-East Cork (Mr. Hooper), that money for reproductive loans should be taken from one county in order to give it to another. I do not at all object to a general amalgamation of the Reproductive Loan Fund; but I should like to say this—at present there is an amount lying unproductive to the credit of Kerry. Before that is touched I should like to point out that at the present moment there is a harbour being built in the county at a cost of £96,000, for the purpose of advancing the fishing industry of the district; and I trust that no steps will be taken which will have the effect of diminishing the means now at the command of the authorities for the completion of the work. I should like to say that I do not also agree with the recommendations which have been made with regard to a general close season. I know this—that even in two different parts of the bay, on the shore of which I was born, the seasons are three months asunder. If the question is to be approached it should be approached with great care, and after due consultation with the fishermen themselves, and with those interested in the localities. As to trawling, that is another matter which should be carefully entered upon, and with regard to which it is always necessary to keep in view local opinion—and by local opinion I mean more particularly the opinion of the men who live by this fishing industry, and I was going to say thrive; but, unfortunately, I cannot use that word. There is another matter which at once suggests itself when talking of these things, and that is the manner in which the Government neglects the fostering of the pilchard fishing on the Coast of Ireland. I have some practical knowledge of this matter myself. I have often and often been out to see the fishing. I have seen literally acres of fish at a time; I have seen them in such shoals that it would only have been necessary to throw out a seine net to fill from 8 to 12 yawls with them; but at such times I have known the fishermen consult together as to whether it was worth the trouble to take them. It is well known that there is no seine fish so easily taken as the pilchard. It does not shoot off like the mackerel, nor evade the net like the herring; but it remains in the net, where it can be easily picked up. But I have seen the fishermen leave the fish behind, simply 474 because they had no market for them. There is a great deal to be said on this fishing question. I have materials here with which to amplify my remarks; but I will not use them. My reason for speaking is that in Kerry at this moment they are engaged in the construction of a harbour, which it is hoped will be of great advantage to the fishing industry; and I wish, therefore, to press upon the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland not to be induced to give any rash promise which may prove prejudicial to that work.
§ MR. HOOPER
My proposal was that all the money at present unappropriated should be put into a common purse and distributed in the various counties as it is required.
§ MR. P. MCDONALD (sligo, N.)
I wish to supplement, by a very few words, the observations of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan) in reference to the subject of trawling. As representing a Coast constituency, many and repeated complaints have been brought before me in regard to this method of fishing, and I have endeavoured to draw attention to the matter by asking questions in this House. As yet, I have not received a satisfactory answer. Certainly the right hon. Baronet (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) has, this evening, shown a desire to take the matter under serious consideration. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that trawling should only be permitted outside a certain limit. The depredations of the trawlers are very much complained of off the Coast of Sligo. The fishermen complain that the trawlers come in from the outside district, and rob them of the profits which they ought to make, and of the fruits which they ought to reap from their labours. It seems to me that the principle which ought to prevail in a question of this kind should be the greatest good for the greatest number. We should consider whether it would not be right to legislate in such a manner as to prevent one individual from securing to himself all the profit and good which should belong to hundreds. If you carry out that principle—namely, that one man may deprive hundreds of their trade, you will admit the trawl, and will prevent hundreds of poor fishermen from obtaining that which they ought to have. I think, if the Committee will permit me to say so, 475 that this question of fisheries is one of very great importance. I think I am correct in saying it is of great importance when we remember that during last year the number of registered vessels used in Ireland for the capture of fish was 5,667, with crews of over 20,000 men, and close upon 10,000 boys. It is clear, therefore, that where there are so many persons employed the industry must be one of importance. The matter is one in which England is equally interested with Ireland, inasmuch as I have reason to believe that the people of England are larger consumers of the fish captured by the Irish fishermen than the people of Ireland themselves. We desire that our people should be employed in the taking of fish; and, OR the other hand, we wish the English people to become the buyers of the fish when taken. I shall now confine myself to a few observations regarding my own constituency. The fishermen of Sligo complain that they have not proper means of getting rid of their captures; consequently, they are not able to do the amount of work they otherwise would; but that, Sir, is not the greatest cause of complaint; it is this—if the fishermen had proper harbours and good gear they could raise a much larger quantity of fish. I have raised already the question of insufficient harbours, or, I may call it, landing stage accommodation. On one occasion I drew attention to the fact that one of Her Majesty's gunboats was not able to land with provisions which were sent to the starving people of the Isle of Moray in consequence of the fact that there was no landing pier on the island, and no landing pier on the mainland opposite. Under these circumstances, I think the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, and of all other Members of the Irish Government who are interested in the welfare of the Irish people, and perhaps still more interested in the well-being of the poor and struggling people of the Western districts of Ireland, ought to take this matter into consideration. Along the whole Coast of Connemara and Donegal there are equal complaints of the want of suitable gear and suitable landing accommodation. The Commissioners report that the fishermen are peaceable and orderly in both the districts. If the people are peaceable and orderly, and evidently disposed to be 476 industrious, I think it is the duty of a parental Government to help them in developing an industry in which the whole Kingdom is interested. Well, the right hon. Baronet (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), to his credit be it said, initiated a movement in the shape of the Irish Reproductive Loan Fund, for helping these poor fishermen to carry on their work; and I am pleased to say, judging from the Report that has been furnished, that of the loans that have been advanced, a very small remnant in the shape of arrears remains. The Report states that these arrears could be recovered, with few exceptions, if proper legal steps were taken. Now, that is an exceedingly satisfactory state of things which I am glad to say prevails, not only in my division of the county, but along the whole Coast. County Leitrim has no arrears at all; County Sligo has only £87 of arrears out of over £4,000 granted; Mayo £200 of arrears out of £9,000 granted; County Galway has only £600 out of £17,000; County Clare £114 out of £4,000; County Limerick owes nothing at all. Now, considering that these loans have been so punctually paid up, I think the system of the reproductive loans to fishermen in Ireland ought to be considerably extended, so that the men may be able to increase their business, and, at the same time, provide enough food for the people of the entire United Kingdom.
§ MR. HARRIS (Galway, E.)
In the county in which I live the fishing industry is of great importance. I believe that if the sea and inland fisheries were fully developed they would be just as valuable as the land. There is one point I wish to impress most strongly upon the Committee, and that is the necessity of better means for the conveyance of the fish, especially from the Western Coast. Very often fishermen make a large catch of fish; but they are not able to bring it to market while it is good, especially in the summer season. I trust that as the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary seems so very much interested in the development of the Irish fisheries, he will not neglect this important point in connection with this question. Now, upon the subject of trawling the fishermen of Galway have for many years complained of the damage done by trawlers. It is my 477 opinion that the fishermen are right in the view that they take in regard to trawlers. I gave evidence before a Commission on Fisheries which sat some 12 months or more ago, and I was careful to read all the evidence over, and nothing struck me more than the great discrepancies which were apparent; even the statements of Professor Huxley, to whom we all look so much on these matters, were contradicted by the evidence of experienced practical men, who gave data and facts for their statements. There is, unquestionably, a strong desire amongst fishermen that the system of trawling should cease. I think that that desire should be taken into consideration by the Government, and that the system of trawling should be put an end to. Well, Sir, it is a very great thing that within my memory of Connemara there were very many boats; in fact, the whole Coast line was covered with boats. They were the property of a very generous and good man, Mr. Martin, who is often mentioned with respect in these times. This man did what he could to encourage the fishing industry, and also to aid the fishermen in procuring little holdings on the sea shore. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to remember that though fishermen's occupations are on the sea they have to live on the land—that is, that their occupations are very uncertain, and that, as a rule, they have a double contingency to contend with. They have, first of all, the contingency of failures to make good catches at sea; and, in the second place, if they are small farmers as well, they have the contingency of failures of crops on their land. Returns have been presented to this House from our Consuls abroad, and in those Returns it is stated that in foregn countries freeholds—
I must remind the hon. Gentleman that the question of fisheries arises on this Vote in connection with the allowances to Inspectors of Fisheries.
§ MR. HARRIS
As regards the inspection of inland fisheries, I will say I agree with the observation made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar), that the question is worthy of great attention. I remember the time when all the rivers of the country were open; and when the Inspectors report upon the deterioration 478 of our fisheries, I hope they will point out that the rights which are being exercised by the riparian owners have a very detrimental effect upon the fishing industry. If a riparian proprietor along a narrow river chooses to exercise his right he can destroy all the salmon. ["Order!"] I do not wish to get out—though I am very often out of Order—but I trust the Government will take a large and comprehensive view of this great and important question. It is a question which extends itself very far beyond the limits which the Inspectors of Fisheries are confined by; it is a question of vast importance to these Islands. It is a question which affects not alone the general interests and wealth of the fishing community, but which affects, in a particular degree, the sea-fishing and commercial people as the English are. I maintain that we ought to put the Irish, English, and Scotch fisheries on an equal footing with the foreigner, and we ought not to allow individual rights to be exercised detrimentally to public rights.
§ MR. LALOR (Queen's Co., Leix)
I will not detain the Committee more than five minutes; all I wish to do is to offer a few observations with reference to the lunatic asylums in Ireland. The lunatic asylums in Ireland are nominally under the authority of a Board of Governors appointed by the Lord Lieutenant; but, practically, they are under the control and management of three medical officers. It is supposed that the three medical officers who have the sole control of these great institutions should be totally independent of and disconnected with each other, particularly in the matter of family ties. In my county we happen to have one district lunatic asylum. The medical superintendent of the institution is Dr. Hatchet, and the visiting medical officer is Dr. Jacques, who is a nephew of the resident medical officer. The Government Inspector of the asylum is the father—
Order, order! The asylums to which the hon. Member refers are not those visited by the Inspectors named in this Vote. They are Local Government Board Inspectors.
§ MR. COX (Clare, E.)
Mr. Courtney, I only desire to detain the Committee a very few minutes while I direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Sir Michael Hicks- 479 Beach) to the expenditure in the Veterinary Department. The Inspectors have very serious complaints to make. In the first place, they say that no provision has been made for the granting of allowances on retirement; that they are liable to be dismissed at a week's notice without any cause assigned, and without any allowance whatever. They also complain that, compared with the officers of a similar Department in England, they labour under very great disadvantages. The professional adviser in Ireland has only, according to the published Returns, £800 a-year, while the officer in a similar position in England has £1,000 a-year; the travelling Inspectors in Ireland have £300 a-year, whereas in England there is a travelling Inspector with £620, an Assistant Inspector with £400, a chief travelling Inspector with £350, three travelling Inspectors with £300 each, and several temporary Inspectors, who receive from £100 to £400 each; in Ireland the Veterinary Portal Inspectors get, on appointment, 10s. a-day; after three years' service, 12s.; after five years' service, 14s. 6d. a-day, which is the maximum, or a total of £264 12s. 6d. a-year—a very small salary, considering the standard of education which the men have to attain in order to fit themselves for the position. These gentlemen have important duties to perform; indeed, it is generally admitted that it was owing to their great exertions during the recent foot-and-mouth epidemic that the disease was confined within comparatively narrow limits. I am very glad to see sitting opposite the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Colonel King-Harman), because I think he will bear me out when I say that to the veterinary surgeons of Ireland was due, in great degree, the successful stamping out of the foot-and-mouth disease. I well remember the hon. and gallant Gentleman labouring very hard in his own county—Roscommon—to stamp out the disease. Now, the Veterinary Portal Inspectors are not allowed to have private practice. That is also a very great grievance. In some of the ports they are allowed private practice, but they are so largely occupied in the fulfilment of their official duties that they have very little time to devote to private practice; besides, they are removed from one port to another, so they 480 have very little opportunity of building up a private practice. Well, in looking at this Estimate I have to complain that some of the Portal Supervisors are not men with any veterinary training, but merely policemen drawing pension from the State. I find, in Dublin, two ex-policemen as Portal Supervisors; at Belfast, two District Inspectors; at Waterford, the District Inspector; at Cork and Derry, an ex-Police Inspector; and they are paid from £3 to £4 a-month. The travelling Inspectors, of whom there are two, are paid £300 a-year each. One, I know, is a veterinary surgeon; but the other gentleman has had no experience whatever; as a matter of fact, he is a retired Commander in the Royal Navy, drawing £350 from the State as retiring allowance, besides the £300 from the Veterinary Department, in addition to 15s. per day for travelling expenses. I ask the Chief Secretary (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) to explain how this comes about? I also ask him to give serious consideration to the grievances the Portal Inspectors in Ireland complain of. In the first place, their salaries are too small; and, in the second place, they are liable to be dismissed at a week's notice, irrespective of their length of service. What they wish is to be placed on the Civil Service basis; that retiring allowances may be given to them at the end of long service; and that if the Government consent to grant them superannuation allowances the time they have already served should be taken into consideration. The noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Randolph Churchill) has announced that it is the intention of the Government to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the Civil Service; perhaps the Government will bring the Veterinary Department in Ireland under the consideration of the Commission.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
Mr. Courtney, with reference to your ruling that the Inspectors of Lunatic Asylums must be dealt with upon the Vote for the Local Government Board, I beg to point out that there is in this Vote a charge for two Inspectors, and that these Inspectors are the very gentlemen to whom my hon. Friend (Mr. Lalor) wished to allude. Under those circumstances, I submit that this is the proper Vote to raise the question of the inspection of lunatic 481 asylums, and that it would be out of Order to raise it upon the Local Government Board Vote.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
Mr. Courtney, I venture to call your attention to the fact that although the Vote does include the salaries of the Inspectors to whom the hon. Member (Mr. Lalor) referred, it includes nothing whatever for medical superintendents or visiting physicians of any of the asylums, nor has it any reference to the Boards of the asylums.
It would be irregular to bring to the notice of the Committee on this Vote the connection between the Government Inspector and the gentlemen connected with the asylums. I was wrong in saying that the question ought to be raised on the Local Government Board Vote. I ought to have said the Vote in aid of pauper lunatics in Class VI.
§ MR. SEXTON
May I point out to you, Sir, that the pauper lunatic asylums are not those to which my hon. Friend calls attention? He desires to call attention to the county asylums.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
I submit to you, Sir, that the Vote for Pauper Lunatic Asylums is restricted to the charge for the maintenance of lunatics. I remember that on a previous occasion, when I attempted to raise a question with regard to the officers under that Vote, the Chairman drew my attention to the fact that the Vote was limited to the maintenance of pauper lunatics.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
So far as I know, the only Vote which defrays any portion of the expenses of the maintenance of lunatics is the Vote for Pauper Lunatics.
§ MR. SEXTON
If my hon. Friend desires to question the fitness of one or two Inspectors who are paid under this Vote for the office they hold, because of their relationship with another officer, is he not quite in Order?
The hon. Member may discuss the fitness of the Inspectors whose salaries are defrayed under this Vote; but that does not justify him in discussing the organization of any of these asylums.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
The facts of the case are given in the Reports of the Inspectors. The Inspectors of the asylums are practically the people at the head of the Asylums Department in Ireland, and we have to deal with that Department from the Reports furnished to us by the Inspectors.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £16,666, 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 Offices of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in Dublin and London, and Subordinate Departments."—(Mr. Lalor.)
§ MR. SEXTON
I submit to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland that there are two of these Inspectors—["Oh, oh!"] What is the matter? I must call your attention, Mr. Courtney, to the conduct of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Reigate Division of Surrey (Sir Trevor Lawrence), who persists in a course of continuous interruption. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland if he will consider this point? There are two of these Inspectors, one of them is closely connected with two of the medical attendants of a certain asylum; and I would put it to the Government whether it could not be arranged that this asylum might be visited by the other of the two Inspectors?
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
If it be the fact that one of the Inspectors is the father of the Medical Superintendent at a particular asylum, it is obvious that the other Inspector ought to visit that Institution.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
With regard to the discussion raised by the hon. Member for East Clare (Mr. Cox), which has been interrupted, I should like to say a word with regard to the Vote for the Veterinary Surgeons. For some time 483 there has existed in Dublin and its vicinity a disease known as pleuro-pneumonia, and the Inspectors have failed to stamp it out. [Laughter.] I would observe that this is no laughing matter. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland may laugh—
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
I repeat, this is no laughing matter. It is a very serious question, and one materially affecting the Irish cattle trade. I saw the other day that an outbreak of pleuro-pneu-monia, which had taken place in Scotland, was attributed to cattle imported from Ireland. We know that nearly all outbreaks of cattle disease which occur in Great Britain are at once attributed to the importation of infected animals from Ireland; and the result of that has been that, in many instances, the cattle trade of Ireland has been very seriously injured. It would be a very serious matter for Ireland if the importation of cattle into Great Britain were put a stop to. The contagious diseases of cattle are not stamped out in Ireland, because the slaughtering of the animals is left to the Boards of Guardians. There is an arrangement by which half the compensation is paid by the Guardians. ["Order!"] This comes under the Veterinary Department.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
The expense of slaughtering in Ireland is paid out of the rates. Slaughtering is carried out, as the hon. Gentleman has himself stated, on the authority of Boards of Guardians, and that point cannot now be discussed, for the salaries of the officials of whose conduct the hon. Member complains are not included in the present Vote.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
I am afraid I have not made myself clear. I would submit that half the expense of slaughtering is contributed out of the rates, and the other half by the Government.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
That is not so; but, as a matter of fact, half the cost is borne by the local rate, and half by the general rate.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
My point is, that the duties in connection with the slaughtering of animals are in the hands of the Local Authority; and what I want to do is to transfer those duties 484 from the Local Authority to the Central Authority.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway.N.)
There is a professional adviser to the Veterinary Department included under this Vote. He gives advice from the Veterinary Department to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Local Government Board. I think, therefore, that any question connected with the Veterinary Department of Ireland would be perfectly in Order.
The matter the hon. Member (Mr. M. J. Kenny) wishes to discuss is not connected with the Veterinary Department, but has reference to the Local Authorities, from whom the hon. Gentleman wishes to have certain duties transferred to the Central Authorities.
§ MR. M J. KENNY
Should I not be in Order in suggesting that the Chief Secretary for Ireland should take these matters under his direct authority?
§ COLONEL NOLAN
Would the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary tell us what are the duties of the adviser of the Veterinary Department who advises the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
He advises the Government in regard to legal matters connected with the Department; not in regard to any action imposed upon the Boards of Guardians. I cannot speak very fully on this subject now; but I am informed that, except on one or two minor points, the positions of these Inspectors in England and Ireland are on very similar lines indeed. I find that with the exception of the Veterinary Officers at London, Liverpool, and Newcastle, the salaries of those at Irish ports are in favour of the Irish Inspectors rather than the English Inspectors. The salaries in Ireland range from £182 10s. Od. to £264; whereas in England they range from £100 to £250. With regard to another point which has been raised, I may point out that Army officers are not employed on the duties of the Veterinary Department.
§ DR. TANNER
In the course of this debate I was much struck by the extremely nice manner in which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland dealt with the question of the Irish fisheries. Everybody who has 485 ever been connected in any possible way with this matter of fisheries must have been struck with the fact that both the inland and sea fisheries of Ireland are deserving of the greatest care and attention. I do not intend, as the hour is so late, to deal with the matter in detail, as had been my original intention; but I cannot help being struck on going through the Report furnished to us by the Inspector of Fisheries—not merely the last Report, but the last three Reports—to see that we have the same complaints arising again and again. Do these Inspectors of Fisheries perform the duties to carry out which they are presumably nominated? It is complained that certain technical points in connection with their duties are not carried out, in consequence of the bad state of the law, or in consequence of difficulties which arise in different parts of the country, and to which the Government of the day do not pay any especial attention. It appears to me that it would be advisable to bring this matter under the direct cognizance and attention of Her Majesty's Government. We find in the last Report of Major Hayes that he calls attention to the fact that in the Report of 1884 he drew attention, to the same state of affairs which exists at the present moment. In the concluding portion, he says, he begs to refer to the Report of 1884 with reference to the amendment of the Fishery Laws, and he reiterates what he said on the previous year, calling attention very strongly to the unfortunate prevalence of poisoning in some of the Irish rivers. Everyone knows that the spots which are poisoned in the rivers are the spawning grounds of the fish which run up in the spawning season. Unfortunately, the period at which the fish collect on these grounds in the largest numbers is the period chosen by the men who commit this offence for poisoning the streams. How does it come about that this poisoning is pursued on such a large scale in the Irish waters? Happening to belong to the Board of Conservators of the River Lee, my attention was drawn to the subject. We found out that in the old days the poorer people were allowed to fish one day in the week in the upper waters if they took out a licence. That was the case on the River Lee; but the same thing may be said of such rivers 486 as the Bann and the Blackwater. It seems to have come about, however, in recent years, that the landlords owning the property on the banks of these different rivers have taken over all the fishing rights, including those which, in times gone by, had been occasionally shared by their poorer neighbours. The consequence was that the poor people retaliated. Of course, this system of retaliation is a system which should be deprecated, and very strongly deprecated; and, for my own part, I have condemned it again and again, and have tried by every means in my power to get people to speak to the inhabitants of those districts where the poisoning occurs, in order to let them understand that by poisoning the streams they are doing not only an injury to themselves and the district, but to the people fishing down below in the tidal waters at the mouths of the rivers. Very strong representations were made to the Boards of Conservators, and those representations had at first a certain amount of effect. The Conservators of Fisheries—["Question!"]—I am dealing with what comes in the Report, and if anyone calls "Question" I can easily give him any amount of information on the matter. I am trying to cut my remarks short; but hon. Gentlemen opposite seem anxious that I should not do so, but should give them further information. This question of poisoning the rivers is of the greatest possible importance. The Inspectors of Fisheries have been giving attention to this unfortunate state of affairs, in order, if they possibly could, to try and remedy it. What was done upon these Boards of Conservators? Gentlemen were requested to try and deal generously with the poor people on the upper waters, and they were told that if they did deal generously with them, giving those who took out licences permission to fish one day in the week or one day in a fortnight, that a great deal of this trouble would be set at rest, and that a peaceful and sound solution of the existing difficulty would be found. This recommendation was tried, a great number of gentlemen allowing the poor people certain days for fishing. Some went so far as to allow two days a-week provided they took out the ordinary salmon licences. Others gave one day, whilst others, again, only gave one day in a fortnight, and the consequence was 487 that where this was done the poisoning ceased. Unfortunately, in my district, it happens that a great number of landlords have been very harsh and cruel. They have tried to keep all their rights to themselves, and have refused to part with a single jot, iota, or tittle of them. As a result, we have these poisoning reports again and again. We must have attention brought to the matter, and I trust that the Inspectors and other officials will seriously move in the matter, and endeavour to ascertain whether any other solution can be found of a problem which leads to great loss to the people at large. Not only does it lead to great loss and hardship to the rod fishermen, but it affects still more severely the men who fish in the estuaries of the rivers, who pay twice as much in the shape of duties as the rod fishermen. By far the greater part of the licence money is paid by professional fishermen who use drift nets in the tidal waters. These fishermen live entirely by fishing; whereas the rod fishers are either amateurs, or men who follow the business of fishing during a portion of the year and are farmers during the rest of the year. I do not like to speak longer upon this subject at this late hour; but, seeing the great importance of the subject, and the attention which has been drawn to it by both Sir Thomas Brady and Mr. Hayes, I think I am fully warranted in bringing it before the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. There are a great number of other points in connection with the seine fisheries that I should like to touch upon; but seeing the lateness of the hour I will refrain from doing so. I think it would, perhaps, be better for me to defer any further remarks I have to make to the stage of Report. I will defer also to that stage the observations I desire to make with regard to the Inspectors of Lunatic Asylums and of the Veterinary Department.
§ MR. BIGGAR
Before the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary replies, I wish to say that I think I heard some hon. Gentleman make representations in favour of the Veterinary Department of Ireland. I hope the hon. Member's observations will not be considered at all, for the veterinary surgeons are very well paid at present, and I think it would be a great mistake for the Go- 488 vernment to make any fresh arrangement and give them a larger claim on the public funds.
§ MR. CLANCY
I desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, with regard to the question of a close time for herrings, whether the suspension of trawling in Scotland has, or has not, taken place by way of scientific experiment? If it has, I should like to ask him whether he would not endeavour to have scientific experiments of this nature carried out in Ireland, not only in connection with trawling, but in connection with those other matters which have been referred to? The subject is an important one, and probably the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to making a small concession upon it.
§ MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
I am in the same position as some of my hon. Friends, although I have not trespassed on the attention of the Committee for any time at all this evening. I would express a hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland will take care that the interests of the cot and net fishermen are not sacrificed to those of the rod fishermen. The tendency in the South of Ireland, particularly on such rivers as the Black-water, is to safeguard the interests of the rod fishermen to the detriment of the cot or net fishermen. The cot fishermen give a large sum of money for their licences, and the rod fishermen do not. Moreover, the cot fishermen are extremely poor, and have to live by their fishing; whereas the rod fishermen, as a rule, merely fish for amusement. I would therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to be on his guard against the influences which I know will be brought to bear upon him in Ireland, during the next few months, in order to induce him to sacrifice the interests of the net fishermen to the rod fishermen. As having some knowledge of this question, I would earnestly press it upon the attention of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. PYNE (Waterford, W.)
There is great complaint made—[Cries of "Divide!"] I can wait until those Gentlemen have done; my time is at their service. The question I want to come at is as to the close time. It seems that Almighty God ordained for man one day's rest in the week—that is to 489 say, on the Sunday; but it is ordained by the law that the salmon fishermen shall have two Sundays in the week. While everybody else in Ireland has only one day in the week upon which he cannot labour for his livelihood, the salmon fisherman has two, and I must say that that appears to me to be extremely hard lines upon these poor men, who have, for reasons I would explain, to stand idle on the Saturday as well as on the Sunday. The law says that the fishermen shall abstain from fishing in order to allow the salmon to run up the rivers for the convenience and profit of certain landlords, who let their salmon fishings to noble Dukes in Ireland. I believe the father of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer rented a fishery, and that he encroached upon the poor fishermen's water. [Cries of "Divide!"] Well, the grievance to which I would draw attention is that of these poor men, who are prevented from working six days in the week simply because certain noble gentlemen wish to preserve the rivers for the purpose of catching fish with the fly. I can understand it to be in the interests of the people to procure cheap fish, and I quite agree that certain laws are necessary to protect the breeding of salmon; but I cannot understand why, when the fishing is not likely to interfere with the breeding, salmon should not be caught whenever it is possible to catch them. Therefore, I must protest against this Saturday close season. I believe there is a Committee of this House which was to have sat to consider this subject, but which, owing to the peculiar circumstances of the time, did not sit last Session. The reason, I understand, was some disagreement between the Liberal and Conservative Leaders as to the number of persons to be appointed to take part in the inquiry, and as to—
The hon. Gentleman is, I think, travelling very wide of the Vote. It is only competent to discuss the question of fishing as connected with the functions of the Inspectors.
§ The hon. MEMBER thereupon resumed his seat.490
§ MR. BIGGAR
I trust the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will reply to some of the questions raised.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported.
(2.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £68,688, 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 Local Government Board in Ireland, including various Grants in Aid of Local Taxation.
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
I think it is now time (2 o'clock) we should report Progress. The discussion of this Vote will occupy a considerable time, and it must be borne in mind that we are required tore-assemble at 12 o'clock. In the interest of himself and of all parties, the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to agree to report Progress.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
If the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not prepared to report Progress now—[Cries of "Progress!"]—I should prefer to report Progress—perhaps he will say how much longer he proposes to continue Supply.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL) (Paddington, S.)
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is ready to go on with the rest of the Class. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Biggar) will recollect that we have spent a great many hours over one Vote. I think hon. Members might be disposed to let us take the rest of the Irish Votes in this Class, and begin with the Votes of the Criminal Law Class tomorrow. ["No, no!"] It certainly appears that the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not wanted.
§ MR. BIGGAR
I appeal to the Government to report Progress, and not to force us into an unseemly wrangle. The discussion to-night has ranged over many questions, any one of which, when raised in an ordinary Session, say on the Motion to go into Committee on a Friday, would have occupied a whole Sitting. I think very fair progress has 491 been made this evening, and that the Government have not very much to complain of. I may say that though I have spoken three or four times, I have not occupied more than 10 minutes of the time of the Committee. There has been no time wasted, expect possibly by the hon. Gentleman opposite, who during his speech was called to Order three times. By reporting Progress now we shall avoid an unpleasant controversy, and be able to get on smoothly with our work to-morrow.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I think the desire of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Randolph Churchill) to complete the Votes in this Class is, after all, a very reasonable one, because we must admit that there has been a considerable amount of discussion over the single one that has been passed this evening. But with regard to his suggestion that we should take the remainder of the Votes in this Class, I may remind him that one of the Votes, that for the Irish Board of Works, will lead, as it always has done, to considerable contention. With reference to another Vote in this Class, I may say that during the last Session I placed upon the Paper a Notice concerning it, and the Vote was purposely kept open in order that the House might have an opportunity of fully discussing the re-organization of the office concerned—namely, the Registrar General's Office in Dublin. Under these circumstances, I am afraid I shall have to detain the Committee longer than they will care to be detained at this hour (2.10). I am personally prepared to go on with the Local Government Board Vote now; but it would not be fair to take any other Votes now, considering that we have to come here at 12 o'clock to-morrow.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it would be unreasonable to enter upon a long discussion; but I suppose I may assume from what fell from the hon. Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar) that as the discussion on the Chief Secretary's Vote has been a very full one, the speeches on all the other Votes of a similar value will not be long—the Government may understand something of that kind? The Local Government Board Vote, I understand, is not of a very contentious character; but per- 492 haps hon. Members would rather it was not taken to-night. I am entirely in the hands of the Committee. Of course, the Vote for Public Works will be postponed until to-morrow.
§ MR. BIGGAR
My hon. Friend the Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) has probably very little to say upon the Local Government Board Vote; but I can assure the noble Lord that a great many of the Members of the Irish Party have something to say upon it. My present estimate is that the discussion on the Vote will occupy at least a couple of hours. To commence at 2 o'clock in the morning a discussion which is likely to occupy two hours is a little unreasonable, especially as we have to meet again at 12 o'clock. Of course, I shall be here at 12 o'clock, no matter what time we separate; still I think we ought to report Progress now.
§ MR. DEASY (Mayo, W.)
I take a great interest in the Vote which the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes we should take now; but if the noble Lord will consent to postpone the Vote until to-morrow, I promise him I will curtail my remarks as much as possible. I really believe that to postpone the Vote will have the effect of accelerating Business.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee also report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.