HC Deb 29 July 1887 vol 318 cc537-41
MR. J. BARRY (Wexford, S.)

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether his attention has been called to the address of Mr. Justice Harrison to the Grand Jury, at Wexford Summer Assizes on Tuesday last, in which he used the following language:— It is now some years since I presided as Judge in this Court, and on my return I am very glad to say that, so far at all events as the number of cases to go before you for investigation is concerned of a criminal nature, they are fewer than in my experience I have known in any other county of the large extent of Wexford. There are only two cases to go before you, one a case of burglary and larceny, which is not at all of a serious nature, and another is a Post Office prosecution. They are the only bills to be laid before you, and I have no doubt you will easily dispose of them, and will return them for investigation by a Petty Jury; whether similar declarations have been made by the other Judges at the Assizes for the past two years; and, whether, in view of these circumstances, and seeing that in the Return laid upon the Table of the House there is only one agrarian offence (a threatening letter) reported for the past six months, he can state the grounds on which County Wexford has been proclaimed?

THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER SECRETARY (Colonel KING-HARMAN)(who replied) said (Kent, Isle of Thanet)

The Government could not consider the state of the County Wexford solely as exemplified by the information before the Judge of Assize. A general demoralization exists throughout this county. The proceedings connected with the Coolgreany evictions illustrate the necessity for extreme powers. In Enniscorthy, a short time ago, serious disturbances took place in carrying out the magistrates' orders when evicting some small house tenements. Serious disturbances have also occurred, from time to time, at New-Ross in connection with the appointment of Vice Guardians to the Union. The shopkeepers in New Ross dare not supply goods to the workhouse, which are got from Dublin and elsewhere, to the great loss of the local people. Two hundred and sixty-two persons are suffering more or less from the effects of Boycotting. Several persons are also under police protection to preserve their persons or property from violence. Within the last four months several National League Courts are known to have been held, at which intimidatory Resolutions have been adopted. The local journals, The People and The New Ross Herald, afford frequent illustrations of proceedings of this nature.

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

With reference to the statement that the charge of Mr. Justice Harrison to the Wexford Grand Jury referred solely to the cases to be tried before him, I would ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whether the Judge did actually in his charge go beyond the question of the cases to be tried before him, and referred to the Report of the County Inspector; and whether the learned Judge used these words— As far as the Official Returns—that is, of crimes committed—are concerned, I can say that the county is in a peaceable state? Was that observation made by the learned Judge or not in reference to the assertion that there was only one agrarian offence reported for six months? I have also to ask, whether the common juries of the county have failed to return verdicts of conviction; and if they have not, upon what grounds have the Government taken powers to empannel special juries and remove trials of offences out of the county?


I specially stated that the remarks of the Judge were those quoted in the Question; and I especially stated that the Government could not consider the state of the County of Wexford solely as exemplified by the information before the Judge of Assize. I also stated that general demoralization existed throughout the county, and that there was general intimidation, so that a petty jury could hardly be expected to perform their duties, which, no doubt, they otherwise would perform if their lives and property were secure.


Sir, I must ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whether the offences of Boycotting and intimidation to which he refers are not dealt with under sub-sections 1 and 2 of Section 2 of the Act, which empowers the Government to commit the trial of these offences to two Resident Magistrates, with a power of sentence of six months' hard labour; and how, in reference to the offences of Boycotting and intimidation dealt with in Section 2, the Government hold themselves justified in proclaiming the county under Sections 1, 3, and 4?


I think I have replied in my last answer, in which I pointed out that where intimidation extensively prevailed the juries might be specially expected to suffer from intimidation.

MR. W. O'BRIEN (Cork Co., N. E.)

I would ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, whether Mr. Justice Harrison had not precisely the same sources of information and the same means of opinion as to the state of the County Wexford as Mr. Justice O'Brien had of the state of the County Cork and County Kerry?

MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)

Might I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whether the disturbances to which he refers as having taken place in the town of New Ross were not caused by the disgraceful conduct of some of Her Majesty's troops stationed in that town; and. also, whether it is not a fact that further disturbances were caused by certain of Her Majesty's troops stationed in the town of Wexford, many of whom had to be placed under arrest for assaulting the police; whether it is not also a fact that the most serious outrage recently reported from the County Wexford was an outrage committed by an Emergency man in burning the house of an evicted tenant without any authority whatever to do so; and, whether it is not a fact that the state of Wexford has been brought about by brutal and blood thirsty attacks made by Emergency men upon defenceless people and their homes?


I am afraid I cannot carry the hon. Member's Questions in my head.


You ought to be able to carry them in your head.


I suppose I ought; but I cannot. I must ask for Notice. With regard to the riots in connection with the New Ross Workhouse, the first of them, if I remember aright, was that the paupers, in a body, assaulted the new Guardians; and in pursuance of the plan of persecuting these new Guardians the people were not allowed to supply the workhouse with food or anything else. I cannot trace any connection between this and the conduct of the troops referred to by the hon. Member.

MR. J. E. REDMOND: (Wexford, N.)

Would the right hon. and gallant Gentleman state the sources of his information, as of my own knowledge I know that some of it is inaccurate? Where did he get his authority for his statement about The New Ross Herald? There is no such paper in the County Wexford.


Might I ask the First Lord of the Treasury, whether he will use his influence with the Chief Secretary, who is present in the House, to induce him to answer in person Questions relating to capital matters of State policy, which the Under Secretary is unable to elucidate?

THE FIRST LORD (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

The hon. Gentleman must he aware that at the present moment the pressure upon the Chief Secretary in connection with the measure which is passing through the House, and in connection with the Amendments on the Paper, is so enormous that he is obliged to avail himself of the services of my right hon. and gallant Friend in order to answer these Questions. When the pressure is relieved he will be exceedingly glad to do everything in his power to meet the wishes of hon. Gentlemen.