§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said, he felt it his duty again to call the attention of the House to the case of Father Fahy, who was lying in prison without trial by the direct action of the Attorney General for Ireland. He believed that Father Fahy was as innocent of the charges preferred against him as any man in that House. He must say that 1303 the right hon. and learned Gentleman had on a former occasion treated him with scant courtesy when he asked what steps he had taken to ascertain the facts. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said he had taken none, but had acted on the information of Mr. Lewis. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had also stated that he had no jurisdiction, and that it was a simple case for the magistrates to adjudicate upon of their own free will. But the fact was there never was a person committed to gaol in Ireland under the Act of Edward III., except by the direct action of the authorities in Dublin without consulting the Resident Magistrates on the question of bail at all. That was a matter of notoriety. The magistrates were never left to their own discretion in such matters, and he was astonished at the Attorney General for Ireland attempting to mislead the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman admitted that Father Fahy had been sent to gaol owing to the pressure of Mr. Blake, the Sessional Crown Prosecutor for Galway, who was also Mr. Lewis's private law agent. He was the man who proceeded against the very tenants whom Father Fahy was trying to get terms for. And what security had the people there that this was not a conspiracy—as he believed it was a conspiracy—entered into between Mr. Lewis and his own private law agent, who was, at the same time, agent for the Attorney General as Sessional Crown Prosecutor? A more scandalous travesty of justice could not be imagined. Father Fahy denied that he had said a single word about dynamite. He had received the following telegram from the rev. gentleman yesterday in reply to a question as to whether any evidence was brought against him:—No evidence whatever was brought. I absolutely deny using the language imputed. It is a baseless fabrication. Blake tried to have me sent to gaol, and Blake is Lewis's private law agent.He had also a telegram from Father Fahy's solicitor saying the same thing, and he had confirmation of that fact from several other sources. The facts were very simple. The rule was taken by direction of the Castle at the solicitation of Mr. Lewis, whose law agent overruled the discretion of the magistrates, and no attempt was made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman to 1304 inquire into the truth of the charge. What he wanted to know was whether this unfortunate man was to be left in gaol for six months without trial on a charge which he asserted to be false—a trumped-up conspiracy between the landlord and his private law agent, and was no investigation to be held and no justice done?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
said, he hoped that hon. Members would acquit him of discourtesy if he declined to re-enter at length into this case. The House was aware that it had been discussed three times already, and at very considerable length on the Estimates, and on that occasion he had made four speeches on this very subject. The statement which he made then was the only statement which he could make now. That statement was the foundation of this prosecution, and he assured the House that he had acted in the case as it had been the custom for every Public Prosecutor to act in similar circumstances. Every prosecution was based upon a complaint made by the person who considered himself aggrieved. Having ascertained that there was a primâ facie case against Father Fahy, he instructed the Sessional Crown Solicitor, the only officer he could employ, to proceed in the ordinary manner.
§ MR. DILLON
said, the Crown Solicitor pressed for a rule of bail in opposition to the express wish of the presiding magistrate.
§ MR. HOLMES
replied, that the case was not one of bail in the ordinary sense of the word, and it was perfectly well known that when a case was not returned for trial the Crown Solicitor could only act in one way. In this case Father Fahy was not returned for trial. [An hon. MEMBER: Why?] Why, it might be that he was perfectly justified in not giving bail; but the Crown did not oppose an application for bail. On the contrary, the Crown invited Father Fahy to give bail, and he refused to do so. The case had been heard in the ordinary way, and, a decision having been given, the Attorney General had no more power to interfere than was possessed by any other Member of that House.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
said, he quite agreed that this was a question now rather for the Go- 1305 vernment than for the Public Prosecutor. The case really was one which the Chief Secretary for Ireland must deal with, because it involved the Prerogative of the Crown. This was a matter in which there was a very strong feeling, not only among Members below the Gangway, but also among many Members sitting above the Gangway. He had looked into the case, and he had come strongly to the conviction that gross injustice had been done. No English lawyer, no English magistrate, no English gentleman could look into this case without coming to the same conclusion. If a case of this kind were to occur in England, and if an English clergyman in such circumstances was sent to prison upon the evidence of a gentleman as to what took place in private between them, and if this clergyman was dealt with as Father Fahy had been dealt with, he ventured to say that there would be the strongest indignation felt throughout the country, and that the Government would be compelled to interfere in the matter. The facts of the case were very simple. The case all turned upon what took place at a private meeting between Father Fahy and Mr. Lewis. There was no corroborative evidence of what took place and what either of them said on the occasion. Father Fahy absolutely denied that he used any language of the kind imputed to him. In Court, Mr. Lewis was allowed to give evidence; but Father Fahy was not able to give evidence on oath, and Mr. Lewis's evidence was not corroborated in any single particular. It was said that the Crown Solicitor exercised undue pressure to induce the magistrate to order Father Fahy to give bail for his good behaviour. It was also said that this solicitor acted as agent for Mr. Lewis, and was, therefore, interested personally in the matter. He had no desire to make an imputation of that kind in a case in which he had no knowledge whatever of the parties, and it would be most improper for him to make any observations upon the charge; but it was most unfortunate that there should be that relation between Mr. Lewis and the Crown Solicitor, because it gave rise to imputations which might have no foundation. Father Fahy could be let out of prison by giving bail; but he naturally said that if he took that course it would be to admit the justice of the 1306 charge made against him, and, therefore, he declined to take that course. He was very much struck by what Father Fahy said to the representative of a Dublin newspaper, who interviewed him—"He said if he gave bail he would be tacitly admitting the truth of the charge against him; he would be admitting that his defence was a falsehood; he would be damaging his character as a minister of religion; and he would be sacrificing the truth in order to escape from prison." That was the language of an honourable gentleman, and he ventured to think that any honourable gentleman would take precisely the same position, and would decline to give bail. If he did otherwise he would be admitting that he committed a very serious offence. [Cries of "No, no!"] Some hon. Gentlemen said "No." He ventured to ask hon. Gentlemen present whether they would not take thes ame course? He could not but think that the Government, in view of this whole case, would be acting wisely in releasing Father Fahy. Unless they did so he would be in prison six months, for he could not now admit he was wrong. He was quite sure that the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, when he sat below the Gangway, interested himself in cases of this kind, would, if he had been sitting there now, have brought this question before the House, and expressed an opinion as strong as that which he had expressed. He would only add, in conclusion, that it was his conviction that an injustice had been done, and that the Government would do well, in deference to the opinion of the Irish Members, to release Father Fahy.
§ MR. C. LEWIS (Londonderry)
said, he hoped that the Government would not signalize the last day of the Session by perpetrating such an act of weakness as that to which they were invited. [Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W., and Sligo, S.)
said, the Irish Members were thankful to the right hon. Gentleman above the Gangway (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) for the public spirit which had led him to bring the weight of his authority and his powerful advocacy to bear upon the present case in the interest of justice. The right hon. and 1307 learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had complained that this was the third time that this matter had been brought before the House. If it was not going to occupy the time of the House more than three times the reason was that the House rose that day. At every Sitting when they were able to return to this question they would return to it as often as the Rules of the House allowed them. It would be discussed not only for three, but for 33 times, and father Fahy would prove to be the most inconvenient prisoner the Irish Government ever had. Not only next Session, but the next again and succeeding Sessions, he would prove the worst prisoner the Government ever had. The right hon. and learned Gentleman complained of the number of speeches he had made; but they certainly had not improved in clearness or cogency with their repetition. What they wanted the Government to consider was whether or not they should exercise the Prerogative of the Crown in the case of Father Fahy, and release him from prison; and for that purpose he appealed to the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL) (Paddington, S.)
said, he was informed that no Memorial had been sent to the Lord Lieutenant asking for Father Fahy's release.
§ MR. SEXTON,
continuing, said, he did not think any Memorial would be sent. Father Fahy interfered in this case in the interest of peace between landlord and tenant; and he appealed to the noble Lord whether the action of a priest in endeavouring to promote good feeling was not deserving of the sympathetic attention of the Government? The rev. gentleman's only object was to secure peace in his district, and on two previous occasions he had used his influence in the same cause. He believed that if Mr. Lewis had himself taken out the summons against Father Fahy an amicable settlement of the dispute would have been arrived at. He was led to entertain that belief in consequence of the remarks that had fallen from the Bench. But no; Mephistopheles stepped in in the person of the Crown Prosecutor, who took out the summons. The magistrates were not allowed to exercise their judgment upon the question of the guilt or innocence of Father Fahy. They 1308 were bound hand and foot. The responsible agent of the Crown called upon them not to commit the defendant for trial, but to force him to give bail under the almost obsolete Statute of Edward III. The language ascribed to Father Fahy was certainly of a grave nature. If he had admitted that he had used such language not a man on the Irish Benches would have risen up in his defence or against his sentence. But he did not admit it. He publicly pledged his faith as a clergyman that he did not use any such language; and any language that might have been considered offensive he publicly, by his solicitor, apologized for in Court. He did not imagine that it was possible for Father Fahy to do anything more than that. If the question was not six months' imprisonment, but if it was a question whether Father Fahy, by bending to this decision and giving bail would escape the scaffold, he stated his solemn impression that Father Fahy would mount the scaffold and die rather than do it. What position would he be in if he did? If he gave bail, he admitted that the demand for bail was a just one, and he posted himself in every man's sight as a liar. The demand of the Government practically was that Father Fahy must suffer imprisonment for six months, or that he must declare himself a liar, unfrock himself, and expel himself from Holy Orders. [Ministerial cries of "No, no!"] If the Catholic Members opposite would be satisfied with the administration of a priest who had so disgraced himself, the Irish Catholics never would. One word on the question of public policy. Priests like Father Fahy had in the past been the main force at the back of every Government in Ireland. The House was breaking up that day, and the Chief Secretary last night hinted that it might be necessary to call Parliament together early for the purpose of considering measures of coercion. Was that to be the last word of the Government this Session? One word from the noble Lord opposite would induce the Lord Lieutenant to look into this case. Would he forbear to speak that word? Did he not know that the only hope, under God, of the tenants was the intervention of men like Father Fahy to calm the people? Would he set this hideous example of the punishment of a priest before the people of Ireland? Would he 1309 set the stern, the fatal lesson that the man who ventured into a landlord's house for the purpose of procuring an arrangement in the interests of peace between landlord and tenant was liable to be sent to gaol for six months unless he admitted that he had been guilty of blameable conduct and found bail for his good behabiour? Such a situation was intolerable. He regarded the situation with the gravest fear and apprehension. The very landlords themselves had calmed down; the eviction campaign had been suspended. There seemed to be a prospect of peace if the Government would frankly and courageously take this case into consideration, and help them, in the name of Heaven, to keep the people under control, which they would do unless they were determined to pursue a policy of sinister exasperation. If that was the idea of the Government he had nothing more to say. If that was the idea of the Government they were going the most effectual way about it; but if, in the recesses of their hearts, they had any hope that the peace would be maintained in Ireland during the coming winter, he begged of them in the name of common sense to take the case of Father Fahy into consideration. He wished, in conclusion, to put a question to the noble Lord in reference to the Royal Hospital at Belfast. Supply was through; the Appropriation Bill was on the point of passing into law, and he thought he had a right to complain that, notwithstanding the frank statement of the noble Lord when he called attention to this case on a former occasion, no Supplementary Estimate had been presented. He asked that a grant of £800, the sum spent by the hospital managers in consequence of the riots, which were in the nature of a public calamity, should be given to this hospital out of Imperial funds.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
said, he thought it was perfectly plain, from the attitude of the Government, that Father Fahy was in prison in pursuance of an arranged policy. It also seemed to him that Father Fahy was invited to Mr. Lewis's house solely for the purpose of getting up a case against him. That was the only conclusion they could come to when they reflected that Father Fahy was a man to be believed, and that Mr. Lewis was not a man to be believed. They heard last night that the 1310 Government contemplated the possibility of meeting Parliament at an earlier period for the purpose of passing further coercive legislation for Ireland. The action of the Government with regard to Father Fahy was but a preliminary canter. If that was so he might warn the Government that their prisons were too small, for they were going back to the old practice of imprisoning the most honest and the most respectable men in Ireland. The Representatives of the Irish people defied the Government, and challenged them to go on and work out their policy of immuring them in prison. Moreover, they could point with the utmost confidence to the result of that policy. It had failed before, and would fail again. The Attorney General for Ireland had complained of the number of times that this matter had been discussed; but the Irish Members had a perfect right to discuss the affairs of their country as often and as fully as they liked, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself ought to apologize for occupying his present position with so little knowledge of the country. He hoped that when the right hon. and learned Gentleman recovered his senses—when he recovered self-possession from the irritation under which he had been suffering, he hoped the right hon. and learned Gentleman would, in his better nature, reflect on the matter, and that he would give an assurance to the House that it would receive more favourable consideration. At any rate, it was but right that Members should warn him of the consequences which his policy involved.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
said, it seemed to him that the Government were animated by a sort of heroic zeal to prove that they made no distinction between priest and peasant. That was a very virtuous position to take up; but it was unfortunate for Father Fahy that the proof should be made on his person if he were entirely innocent of the charge laid at his door. He supposed that, as the Radical Member for the borough of Leicester, he was as little inclined to make a distinction between priest and peasant as the Tory Member for Mid Leicestershire (Mr. De Lisle); but his principles on that point led him to desire that equal justice should be done, and he was sure, so far as the evidence had 1311 gone, that justice had not been done in this case. There was one point which had not been sufficiently insisted upon, and it was that the very nature of the sentence pronounced showed that the Bench of Magistrates did not entirely believe the testimony that was given. They were told that Father Fahy had practically threatened Mr. Lewis that his house would be blown up with dynamite, and that the rev. gentleman had added that he should feel it his duty to denouce Mr. Lewis from the altar. If the Bench of Magistrates believed fully this testimony, did they do their duty in merely calling upon Father Fahy to find bail? If true, did not Father Fahy's words amount practically to a threat to murder; and if a man made a threat to murder, was it sufficient to call upon him to find bail? Besides, was Father Fahy's evidence of no account? This was one of the cases which showed how much we stood in need of an alteration of the law in respect to criminal cases. When men entered into an altercation and got into a passion things were often alleged to have been said that really were not, and certainly Mr. Lewis's account ought not to have been accepted without any corroboration. Father Fahy indignantly rejected the charge brought against him; so it came to this—that the testimony of one man who was opposed to him was to be taken, while the word of the priest was to be rejected, and he was to be treated as a liar. It was said that no injustice had been done, because Father Fahy could obtain his liberty by giving bail. But if Father Fahy had given bail he would practically have admitted his guilt. Although he (Mr. Picton) did not profess to have very much sympathy with priests of any kind, he was heartily glad Father Fahy had had the manliness to refuse to take any such course. He hoped the Government would yet reconsider the case, and he could not help having some expectation that they would. It was said by the noble Lord the Leader of the House that no Memorial had yet been received in favour of Father Fahy. He (Mr. Picton) hoped it was not impossible that some Memorial might be presented. If Irish Members objected to any such course being taken in Ireland there could be no such objection to a Memorial from England, for it was the 1312 honour of England that was at stake. He only regretted that at present no means seemed to be offered for reconciliation; but, at any rate, he trusted there was a spirit in the Government, that would lead them to take whatever opportunity arose to let Father Fahy go free without a stain upon his character.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
said, that as a result of the Questions that were addressed to the Government by the hon. Member for West Belfast, and also of communications made to the Government by other hon. Members connected with Belfast, a deputation of the Committee of the Belfast Royal Hospital waited on the Lord Chancellor a few days ago. They placed before him the state of the hospital's finances and the number of patients treated; but, unfortunately, they did not give information on the precise points which he thought the House knew was required by the Irish Government. He recognized, as he had already said, the value of the work done by the Belfast Royal Hospital in healing the outdoor and indoor patients who had suffered during the recent riots; but he could not, as at present advised, recommend his noble Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to establish what seemed to him (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) a very dangerous precedent, by making a grant to the Belfast Hospital for the services it had rendered. He did not believe that any grant of the kind had ever been proposed before.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
There had been plenty of cases of riot in English and Irish towns in which the injured had been treated in hospital. The numbers of patients treated in this case were 148 indoor and 220 outdoor, numbers which formed a very small percentage indeed of the number of patients treated in the Belfast Hospital during the year. But, as he had said before, the Government did not wish that any of the Forces of the Crown should be treated by the hospital without being paid for by the Government. He was not sure, but he fancied that some arrangement existed under which payment had been already made; but when he was informed how many members of the Constabulary Force, or how 1313 many military, received treatment in the hospital, he would undertake to look into the matter; and, if there was sufficient ground to recommend his noble Friend to make a grant, he would not hesitate to do so. But he thought that when there had been serious riots of this kind in a town like Belfast, and civilians taking part in the riots, or who had been in the streets when they ought to have been at home, were wounded and taken to the hospital, it was not fair to ask the general taxpayers of this country to make a grant in aid of the local hospital in which the injuries sustained were treated. That was all he had to say about Belfast. In reference to the question of Father Fahy, the discussion which had been going on during that day seemed to him to be somewhat of a repetition of previous debates, and did not call for much in reply; but in regard to some of the matters which had been brought before the House, especially by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), he should like to say a few words. The right hon. Gentleman had stated in that debate that no English gentleman would for a moment sanction the treatment of any person in England in such a manner as Father Fahy had been treated. He would, however, like to call the attention of the House to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for New-castle-on-Tyne (Mr. John Morley), who had been in the House on the previous day during the discussion, and who certainly must know a great deal more about the matter than the right hon. Member for Bradford, had taken no part whatever in the debate.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS - BEACH
said, he did not desire to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman was in any way responsible for what occurred; but from his knowledge of Ireland, and his fairness in dealing with matters that came before him, they might certainly have expected that right hon. Gentleman to have interposed in those debates if he had thought the case to be one of such gross injustice as hon. Members opposite would have the House believe it. It did not seem to him that the right hon. Member for Bradford un- 1314 derstood the point to which he had directed the attention of the House, or the position of the Chief Secretary in the matter. The Chief Secretary had nothing to do with the exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy; the Home Secretary exercised that Prerogative in England, and the Lord Lieutenant exercised it in Ireland on the advice of the Lord Chancellor, or anybody else, including the Chief Secretary, whom he chose to consult.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I need scarcely say that I knew that; but what I said was that the Chief Secretary might have advised the Lord Lieutenant in the matter.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS - BEACH
said, that he had no right to advise the Lord Lieutenant unless he asked for his advice. He was sure that no one who was acquainted with the division of duty between the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary would contradict what he had stated. Such cases as that brought forward by hon. Members were not capable of being re-tried in the House of Commons. Hon. Members from Ireland assumed that Father Fahy's story was true—[Home Rule cheers]—and that Mr. Lewis's story was not true; but the magistrates who tried the case were of a different opinion—["No!"]—or else they would not have required Father Fahy to find bail. Hon. Members had referred to some report that the Resident Magistrate had expressed the opinion that it was a matter of no consequence, and one that might be made up between the two parties concerned. He had seen no such report, and he did not know where the statement was made.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, that a great many things appeared in the papers which were absolutely unfounded. Questions of this kind could not possibly be tried in the House of Commons; and he would venture to say that they ought not, under the Constitution, to be so tried. In the first place, they should be tried by the magistrates, or the Courts whom the law empowered to deal with them; and, secondly, if there was any fault to find on the part of a prisoner with the conviction or the sentence or finding of the Court, a Memorial should be addressed to the Home 1315 Secretary or the Lord Lieutenant, as the case might be, asking him to exercise the Prerogative of Mercy. He was not aware that any such Memorial had been addressed to the Lord Lieutenant in Father Fahy's case. If that course were adopted the Lord Lieutenant was bound by his position to take the Memorial into consideration. He did not intend to express any more opinion than he had already done in regard to this case—that anyone bound over to keep the peace, if he intended to keep the peace, should not hesitate to give bail; and he did not see why Father Fahy should decline to do what he should not object to do under similar circumstances. He protested against cases of this kind being made the subject of frequent debates in the House of Commons unless the Government had taken some action with regard to them, when, of course, it would be open to any hon. Members who desired to do so to challenge that action by the vote of the House.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
observed, that every hon. Member on the Benches around him must be indignant at the tone adopted by the Chief Secretary in speaking of Father Fahy as a convicted prisoner. [Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH: I was only speaking generally.] He was glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman did not apply that term to Father Fahy. Hon. Members from Ireland, in bringing forward the case of Father Fahy, did not wish it to be re-tried in that House, because he had not been tried at all in Ireland. What they desired was the expression of the feeling of English Members in regard to the case of Father Fahy. He thought he could say they had received the expression of sympathy of a large number of the English and Scotch Representatives in that House, and what they had said would go far to strengthen their case and the belief of the people in the innocence of Father Fahy. It would also encourage Father Fahy to persevere in the course of action he had taken. The right hon. Gentleman had said that all Father Fahy required to do was to give sureties that he would be upon his good behaviour. He was absolutely astonished that a man in the position of the Chief Secretary for Ireland could have made such a statement. Did he forget that Father Fahy 1316 was accused of threatening to murder a man and to destroy his property, and that to act as the Chief Secretary required would be to admit the truth of the charges?—at least, that would be the interpretation the people would put upon it. He asked what the Chief Secretary would do if he were in Father Fahy's position? Would he give sureties for his good behaviour, and lay himself open to the suspicion that he had been guilty of the charges of threatening to murder and to destroy property? He did not think that the right hon. Gentleman would do anything of the kind; but if the Chief Secretary would adopt that course, he (Mr. Redmond), at all events, did not think that it would be a course that would be adopted by any considerable number of gentlemen and men of honour. It was absolutely atrocious to ask Father Fahy, in order to get the prison gate opened, that he should give bail to be of good behaviour, which would be practically to admit the assertion of Mr. Lewis. Father Fahy was innocent, and he would do nothing that could shake the faith of the people in the belief of his innocence. He warned the Government that to keep Father Fahy a prisoner for six months would raise ill-feeling and tumult in the country. The people would believe that as Father Father was imprisoned on one man's statement, that statement was accepted because it was made by a landlord. If the right hon. Gentleman desired to do everything in his power to render it necessary to come to Parliament at an early date and ask for coercive legislation, he could not act in any way more calculated to disturb the public peace than by inviting the people to outstep the law, which they were in danger of doing as long as there was kept in prison a respected minister of the Gospel, who had declared his innocence before God of the charge brought against him, and who was now only in prison upon the word of a single man, and that man notoriously a partizan in the case. He contended that an outrage of this kind would not be tolerated, nor would it be possible, in England or Scotland; and he warned the House of the seriousness of giving approval to a system by which a man's liberty could be filched, away on the testimony of a single accuser. If they approved Father Fahy's case it would certainly go forth 1317 to the people of Great Britain as well as to the people of Ireland that any one man could take away another man's liberty simply by swearing an accusation against him. He did not believe that Englishmen or Scotchmen would submit to such a state of affairs. In conclusion, he said if the imprisonment of Father Fahy were continued there would be great indignation, which would lead to disturbance; and in the end the Government, while losing much, would gain nothing by their action.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, he would invite the Government to take a rational view of the situation. The circumstances were in Father Fahy's favour, as there was no evidence against him except that of an admittedly excited man. They were, in his view, acting a foolish part in making a martyr of this priest, by imposing upon him a punishment which was too heavy, and the most sensible thing they could do was to let him out of prison forthwith.
§ DR. KENNY (Cork, S.)
said, the first grievance of Father Fahy which the Nationalist Party had to complain of in this case was that a responsible officer of the Government should have considered that he was called upon to intervene in the prosecution, as the dispute was one arising between two individuals, and not a breach of the law in the criminal sense. The second grievance was that the proceedings were taken under the provisions of the Statute of King Edward III. which was directed against rogues and vagabonds. Under that Statute, if the Justices believed any part of the evidence, or thought there was any case whatever against the accused, if they did not dismiss the case, they had no option whatever but to put the party charged under a rule of bail, which, if he declined to comply with, they should send him to prison for six months. The meaning of that was that the Government deprived Father Fahy of the opportunity of getting his case before a jury, knowing well that if his case went before a jury of fair-minded men, where the evidence would be given in open Court, there would be no chance in the world of Father Fahy being convicted. No jury would give a verdict against a man upon such evidence as had been given in the case of Father Fahy. He did not believe that many Englishmen would do as the right hon. 1318 Baronet the Chief Secretary had said he would—that he would have no objection to give bail in similar circumstances, which would be to practically acknowledge that he was guilty. He had not read English history aright if it were not that it taught that Englishmen would not sacrifice their honour for their liberty; and there was nothing in their history of which they had more reason to be proud than the fact that, over and over again, men had been found amongst them who preferred the sacrifice of liberty, and even of life, at the altar of duty and principle. He could not, therefore, accept the right hon. Baronet's declaration as representing the real feelings of Englishmen on the question. He believed that if a similar case to that of Father Fahy had occurred in England the Attorney General for England would not have ventured to lend himself to such action as had been taken against Father Fahy; and he hesitated to believe that any English gentleman would have ventured, under similar circumstances, to invoke the aid of the Attorney General, as Mr. Lewis had done in this case. He combated the statement that Parliament was not the place in which to re-try the case; and he contended that Parliament's highest function was to consider all grievances, and cases of injustice which might have been done elsewhere. The right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary had thrown out a hint for a Memorial for the release of Father Fahy; but he (Dr. Kenny) could assure him, and he assured the House, that the hint was in vain, as no Member of the Irish Party, no respectable Irish Nationalist, would be a party to anything so mean or derogatory as a Memorial of the kind; neither they nor Father Fahy would memorialize—it was not mercy they were demanding, but justice. The case was an infamous, a deliberate attempt to produce a state of things in Ireland that would warrant the Government in the next Session of Parliament demanding coercive legislation. There was no action they could have taken more calculated to inflame the passions of the people in a great portion of a country where the dangers of discord and disorder were great enough already. He wished to add, in conclusion, that he regretted that the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieu- 1319 tenant had made a shuffling excuse for not giving a grant of money to the Royal Hospital at Belfast. That institution depended mainly for support on voluntary contributions; and, owing to the heavy strain on its resources arising out of the enormous number of persons treated in its wards for injuries received during the recent riots, there was now a deficit in its funds, which they had been able to avoid in former years. The hospital, being a voluntary one, might have refused to receive the injured police and soldiers; but what would have been said had it done so? He never knew of any hospital in Ireland shutting its doors to those sick or wounded whilst there was room for them, but the Royal Hospital in Belfast might have done so; and he thought it excessively mean on the part of the Government to avail themselves of its resources for their wounded police and soldiers, and then to refuse, on some technical plea, to come to the aid of the hospital, to make up the deficit caused in its funds through the help it had given to the wounded. Had the Government acted firmly in dealing with Orange rowdies in Belfast, no need would have arisen for the strain on the resources of the Royal Hospital. He and his Friends were convinced there was sinister influence at work preventing the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer granting the aid sought for, and which he felt that his more generous instincts would lead him to do if he were left to himself. The Irish Party were convinced that the malign influence of certain Gentlemen connected with the Orange Society, and who represented other Divisions of Belfast, was at work to prevent the noble Lord yielding to the very reasonable request of his hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) in this matter, lest any credit should accrue to his hon. Friend for the action he had taken relative to the subject. In conclusion, he trusted the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland would look into the matter, and see his way to granting the aid sought for.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
said, a sort of official announcement had been made that day that, if the Irish Members signed a Memorial praying for Father Fahy's release, the document would receive a good consideration from 1320 the Government. Such a Memorial would, however, be an appeal ad misericordiam; and consequently, he believed, no Irish Member would append his signature to such a Memorial. The whole basis of their argument in the case was that an injustice had been done. The magistrates saw that the parties were in such a heated condition that it was a case in which the law should not have been brought in. He would have condemned the rev. gentleman if it had been proved that he actually did use the threats alleged. The Attorney General for Ireland had said that all that had been done was in due course of law. But unjust decisions were sometimes given in due course of law; and in all the cases in which he was called upon to interfere it was to avert injustice being done by decisions arrived at in the ordinary course of law. He (Mr. Molloy) had not heard one generous word from any Member of the Government with regard to Ireland; and their enmity was carried on with dogged silence. If in this case they refused, to do justice unless the Irish Party acknowledged that Father Fahy was in the wrong, he, for one, would, prefer that Father Fahy should remain in gaol. He made no appeal to the Government; he simply stated the case; he showed the injustice; and on the Government must remain the consequences which might follow.
§ MR. SHIRLEY (Yorkshire, W.R., Doncaster)
said, he had voted the other night in favour of the Motion made from the Irish Benches with regard to the imprisonment of Father Fahy; but he must say that on the present occasion he could not follow a similar course. He would briefly explain to the House his reason for that statement. He admitted that, in the absence of a Court of Criminal Appeal, Parliament ought to be regarded as a Court of Appeal; and when any important case arose in which a large number of Members of that House were interested, and in which they believed injustice had been done, they were right in bringing it forward, and having it thoroughly discussed by the House. He did not mean to say that anyone would be justified in bringing up an ordinary case that had been tried at the Assizes or at Quarter Sessions. But when five-sixths of the Members from Ireland took 1321 up a case like this, believing that there had been a failure of justice, they were warranted in their action. At the same time, when the case had been brought up and discussed, as this case had been, he did not think it ought to be re-opened a second time. For that reason he felt unable to repeat the vote he had given the other night when this matter was first brought forward. At the same time, he desired to say that he agreed with a good deal which had been said by hon. Members below the Gangway about the merits of the case. He did think Father Fahy ought not to have been prosecuted in the way described. It seemed to him the prosecution was initiated more for political motives, and the proceedings throughout were unsatisfactory. There was one point on which he was not quite clear, and on which the House had had no information, and that was as to whether Father Fahy went into the witness-box or not. By the Summary Jurisdiction Act of 1879, the defendant was permitted to go into the witness-box and give his version of the transaction on oath. He did not know if the defendant had the same right to do that in Ireland as he had in England. Then the English Act provided a very short and simple method by which a person who had been imprisoned in default of finding sureties might obtain his release. All he had to do was to go again before the magistrates and ask for it. "Was the law the same in Ireland as in England? If it was not it was to be regretted. If it was, that was what Father Fahy ought to do. In any case he would make an appeal to the Government of the same nature as had already been made to them by the hon. Member for East Galway (Mr. Sheehy)—namely, that if they would not regard the question as a question of justice, they should, at all events, regard it as a question of policy and tactics, and consider what was the wisest course to take under the circumstances. He would put it to the Government whether they would not be making a mistake by keeping this priest in gaol and allowing him to become a martyr? He did not ask them to make any concession which they could not make with dignity and with due and proper regard for the supremacy of the law in Ireland. Perhaps they would not feel justified in releasing the priest immediately, as it might look 1322 as if they had yielded to clamour; but after that discussion was over and Parliament was prorogued he would suggest that they should take the case into their consideration and open the prison door.
§ MR. J. F. X. O'BRIEN (Mayo, S.)
I think the attitude of the Government throughout these debates has been one of insolent disdain. The Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland says he was not asked by the Lord Lieutenant for his advice. Why, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman is, in this House, the principal Officer of State for Irish affairs, and it is his duty to attend to our demands for redress of grievances. The whole action of the Government lately has been showing the cloven hoof of that wicked policy shadowed forth by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the beginning of this Session. This episode respecting Father Fahy looks like the first result of the encouragement he gave when he advised landlords to enforce their legal rights strictly—and that the Government would not shrink from recovering the land from the tenants for them. What does this new policy of extermination mean? The present Government objects to that dual ownership of land established by the Land Acts of 1870 and 1881. Apparently, the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is—by the wholesale extermination to which he encourages Irish landlords—to extinguish the tenants' interest in the land, and at a blow to re-establish the single ownership of the landlords. A new clearance of Ireland—to be followed by a new Plantation! This Cromwellian policy will, however, I think, fail in the hands of the new Cromwell—the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As for the Memorial to the Lord Lieutenant on behalf of Father Fahy, recommended to us by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Sir, we decline to degrade ourselves and Father Fahy by being parties to anything of the kind. A most scandalous travesty of law has taken place in this case of Father Fahy. And it is lamentable to observe how far English Tory Members have allowed themselves to be carried by prejudice and Party spirit in this matter. The conduct of Government towards the Royal Hospital of Belfast has been shabby in the extreme; and surely it is unbecoming of the wealthiest Government in the world to take such a mean 1323 advantage of the humanity of the managers of that hospital—to sponge, in fact, on the poor resources of a charitable institution supported by voluntary contributions.
§ COLONEL HUGHES (Woolwich)
said that, as an English Member who had tried to follow the case, he could not help thinking that Father Fahy wished to figure as a martyr. The magistrates, if they had believed the charge against him, might have imprisoned him, or, if they had not believed it, they might have dismissed him; but they had taken the middle course, often followed where there was a conflict of testimony, and had asked him to give security. The act of giving security was a merely formal affair; and if Father Fahy had taken out a cross-summons he might have had Mr. Lewis also bound over to keep the peace. Even if the magistrates were wrong, this was not the Court to which an appeal from their decision should be brought. It seemed to him to be a waste of time to discuss this very trifling case. He agreed with hon. Members from Ireland that this thing could not happen in England, because no man would be so foolish here as to prefer six months' imprisonment to finding bail. He suggested that the common-sense course would be for Father Fahy to find bail and return to those peacemaking avocations in which, according to hon. Members opposite, he took such great delight.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN (Dublin, College Green)
said, he was surprised that the application for a grant to the Royal Hospital, Belfast, had not been better received.
§ MR. SPEAKER,
interposing, said, that a discussion upon that subject was entirely irregular. He permitted the question to be put; it had been answered, and the subject ought not to be pursued further.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, that in reference to the case of Father Fahy, it seemed to him that the Government jumped at the chance of imprisoning a Catholic clergyman. He marvelled that there was any doubt that the Government had acted injudiciously or unwisely, and concluded that it was the duty of the Government speedily to remedy their gross error. It was a revelation to them to be told that the Chief Secretary could not act till the Lord 1324 Lieutenant asked his advice. The Lord Lieutenant was a mere figure-head, and was not likely to ask the advice of the Chief Secretary on any question save that of the points of a horse. Father Fahy would not make any appeal for mercy; he did not want mercy, but only justice. It was to be feared that this case was an indication of the intention of the Government to pursue an infamous policy, by which they would seek to demoralize the Irish people and to set them in opposition to the machinery and the system of government. The Irish Members could say no more in Parliament now; but they would say a good deal out of Parliament.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
said, they were shut out from bringing this case before the Queen's Bench through the intervention of the Crown Prosecutor. He asked the Government to consider what practical good could result from the Government maintaining their position in regard to Father Fahy? He asked English Members to consider whether, in similar circumstances, finding the law perverted for political purposes, they would give bail to avoid imprisonment? He believed they would not. The continued imprisonment of Father Fahy would do more to foster agitation and discontent in Ireland than the delivery of dozens of speeches by Nationalist Leaders. A Memorial in such a case as that of Father Fahy's would be a greater degradation than giving bail to keep the peace. Father Fahy's was only a typical case. Cases of the same kind were occurring every day where persons were kept in gaol without being admitted to bail or brought to trial. It was this kind of thing which brought the English law into disrepute in Ireland. He defied the Government to persevere in their present course; but the stupid thing was that, though they would not say one gracious word in that House, the moment the Session was closed and they learnt from the authorities in Ireland how dangerous it would be to keep Father Fahy in prison they would let him out.
§ MR. HARRIS (Galway, E.)
said, that this was a case of rank injustice; but out of evil would come good. It would have the effect of rousing the priests in that part of the country in which he lived to the wrongs of their country. 1325 He had had frequently to complain hitherto that they were too backward in taking action against the landlords. His desire was that the Government should take such a course as would drive every priest and Bishop in Ireland into the ranks of the popular Organization. He was one of those who put their names to the "No Rent" Manifesto; and if the Bishops and priests had stood by that Manifesto manfully, instead of giving it a lukewarm support, they would by this time have got rid of landlordism in Ireland. But after the treatment which Father Fahy had received any priest worthy of the name would insist that all his parishioners should join the National League. Turning to another subject, he wished to inquire whether the Irish Commission would be at liberty to inquire with respect to one of the railways?
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that this matter was in no way relevant to the Appropriation Bill, which contained no provision for the railway.
§ MR. HARRIS
said, he was very anxious to keep in Order, and he believed the Speaker was equally anxious that he should be in Order. He went on to refer to the deficiency of postal arrangements in Ballinasloe and other country towns in Ireland and other subjects, when—
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he must request the hon. Member to make his remarks more pertinent to the subject of the Bill.
§ MR. HARRIS
remarked, that as he was out of Order he would say no more; but he hoped the Government would look to all these things, and would not put the Irish Members to the trouble of bringing them before the House again. Great complaints had been made about the waste of time of the House; but when they came back there was not a single matter connected with the grievances of their country which they would not go over.
§ MR. ADDISON (Ashton-under-Lyne)
I rise to Order, and wish to ask you, Sir, whether this has any relation whatsoever to the Bill before the House?
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
said, he could not refrain from commenting on the extraordinary behaviour of Her 1326 Majesty's Government towards Father Fahy, a clergyman belonging to the Roman Catholic Church. During the course of this discussion nothing had struck him more forcibly—nothing brought home to his mind more clearly the fact—that Her Majesty's Government were possessed with their duty of upholding the landlord system, which had had such a baneful effect upon Ireland—than some remarks which fell from the noble Lord the son of the present Premier (Viscount Cranborne), whilst an hon. Friend of his (Dr. Tanner's) was speaking. He was sorry the noble Lord was not now in his place. After making the remark the noble Lord got up and left the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! If the hon. Gentleman had any complaint to make he should have made it at the time. He is not now speaking in any way relevant to the Appropriation Bill, and I must ask him to be more relevant.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order! The hon. Gentleman must confine his remarks to the Question now before the House—the Appropriation Bill.
§ DR. TANNER,
continuing, said, Father Fahy was a Roman Catholic priest, and, like many of the Roman Catholic priests in the country to which he (Dr. Tanner) had the honour to belong, he had always done his best on behalf of the poor and oppressed and down-trodden tenants. Because he took the side of the tenants, Father Fahy met with the fate which, as a rule, attended all educated people who espoused the popular cause. However the imprisonment of Father Fahy might be regarded by the Protestant population of the South of Ireland—he did not wish to transgress the Rules of the House, but he wished the House to understand the position in which it was placed by this imprisonment—by all the Protestants in Cork, in Dublin, in Belfast, in Limerick, in Galway, and in all the centres of population, the imprisonment of Father Fahy was regarded as a step taken in accordance with the attitude assumed by Her Majesty's Government—namely, that of war on the Irish people. It was regarded as a step taken on behalf of landlordism, on behalf of people who had always gone against the tenants in order to maintain rack- 1327 renting. As a Protestant coming from the South of Ireland, as a Protestant Nationalist Member, he had no hesitation in saying that the landlords of the South of Ireland would regard this step as an intimation to Her Majesty's Government to proceed with a crusade of evictions.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The question of the landlords in the South of Ireland proceeding to evict has nothing whatever to do with the imprisonment of Father Fahy.
§ DR. TANNER
I do not wish to argue the case. I was only trying to show that Father Fahy endeavoured to prevent evictions. I shall not pursue the subject any further now. I presume, however, as a medical man, I may be allowed to say a few words with regard to the grant to the Belfast Royal Hospital.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have already ruled that that subject is out of Order. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to discontinue his speech for continued irrelevance and disregard of what I have already ruled.
The hon. MEMBER accordingly sat down; but a few moments after rose and, placing his hat upon his head, left the House amid cries of "Order!"
The following is the Entry in the Votes:—Mr. SPEAKER, having called the attention of the House to the continued irrelevance on the part of Dr. Tanner, Member for Mid Cork, directed the honourable Member to discontinue his speech.
§ MR. A. BLANE (Armagh, S.)
said, he wished to call attention to the case of the Crossmaglen prisoners, who were brought from Castlebar and tried and convicted in Belfast by a jury composed of men opposed to them religiously and politically. He commented strongly on the fact that Mr. Justice Lawson was sent down to try these prisoners, being at the time a Member of the Executive. These prisoners having served five years of their sentence, and having presented a Memorial as to the hardship of their trial and sentence, should be liberated. He contended that the change of venue in that case had tended to conviction, and hoped the Government would carefully consider the grievance.