HC Deb 26 July 1887 vol 318 cc36-7
MR. W. A. MACDONALD (Queen's Co., Ossory)

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether it is correct, as stated in The Freeman's Journal, that the Queen's County has been proclaimed under Sections 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the Criminal Law Amendment (Ireland) Act, and is thereby made subject to the provisions for secret inquiry, summary jurisdiction, special juries, and a change of venue; and, whether, according to Constabulary Returns, the agrarian outrages in the Queen's County for the three months ending 30th June amounted to only three, all of which were threatening letters?


This is the first of a series of Questions relating to the grounds on which the Government have thought it necessary to proclaim certain districts in Ireland under the main provisions of the Crimes Act. Therefore, the answer I give to this Question may, I hope, be taken as explaining the general policy of the Government, and as giving an answer in part to the other Questions which follow on the Paper. We have resolved to proclaim no area of smaller extent than a county; not because there are not many instances in which a considerable part of a county is comparatively quiet, but because a county appears to be the most convenient unit for administrative purposes. It may, therefore, happen, and it has happened, that while the statistics of crime for a county generally seem satis- factory, or fairly satisfactory, they are not so for the purposes of this argument, since they really indicate a very serious state of things in a relatively small area which specially calls for increased stringency in the machinery of the law. [Home Rule Laughter.] I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman who laughs understands that point. [VOICES: Thoroughly.] In the second place, the; Government have not been guided; merely by statistics of agrarian outrage, or even by the number of persons Boycotted, or under police protection. We have been also guided by the reports and opinions as to the social condition of the counties which we have received from responsible officers. With regard to the particular Question asked by the hon. Gentleman with regard to the Queen's County, the number of persons reported to be Boycotted is 113, and 36 persons are receiving police protection. The incidents attending the Luggacurren evictions are a further indication of the condition of the district.

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman, whether, as he alleges that nothing more grave than intimidation exists in Queen's County, and as in the contemplation of the Crimes Act intimidation is to be dealt with by Sub-Section 2 of Section 2, why the Government have applied to the Queen's County, which would be sufficiently dealt with by that section, the provision for private inquiry, change of venue, and special juries?


The hon. Gentleman is no doubt aware that intimidation affects the whole provisions of the Bill. Intimidation is one of the chief reasons why change of venue is necessary.


Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that if a particular, or small area of a county, is disturbed, that affords a sufficient ground for depriving the inhabitants of the whole county of their Constitutional rights?


Of course, Sir, these questions are always questions of more or less. But, undoubtedly, when a very serious state of things occurs in one district of a county, we have thought that sufficient justification for proclaiming the whole county.