§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ CLASS III.—LAW AND JUSTICE.
(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £30,960, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887, for the Constabulary Force in Ireland.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
This is not the first time that I have directed the attention of a Committee of this House to the growing charge of the Irish Constabulary. I recollect that shortly after I entered the House, in the year 1881, I opposed this Vote, which has always seemed to me to be a shocking and disgraceful waste of the public money of England. The Irish Constabulary, of late years, has always been maintained on a war footing. I remember on one occasion a declaration being made by the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) that the opinion he had held for years was that the maintenance of the Irish Constabulary, as a military force, was a standing and lasting disgrace to the English Government. The right hon. Gentleman added that he looked forward confidently to the near approach of a happier time, when this expenditure would be cut down. That speech was delivered five or six years ago. But has the expense of the Irish Constabulary been cut down? Instead of having been diminished in any way, it has been augmented year by year. This year we have already passed Estimates amounting to £1,397,153 for the maintenance of the Constabulary Force of Ireland, and we are now called, upon to vote a further sum of £30,000. The Constabulary of Ireland have legitimate duties to perform which, at the present moment, they entirely neglect. They leave crime altogether undetected and unpunished, in spite of the monstrous sums which are expended on them. Now, I maintain that if the force were not 1091 required to perform other duties besides those connected with the detection of murderers and robbers, it could be maintained in a liberal manner and with efficiency at the comparatively low cost of £400,000 a-year. What does that mean? We hear of Ministers leaving the Cabinet because they desire to see economical arrangements effected in the Army and Navy; and here in Ireland—although we are accused of desiring to plunge our arms elbow deep into the pockets of the British taxpayer—we are willing to make you a present of £800,000 a-year. I feel bound to say that if the present policy is continued the cost of the Irish Constabulary will soon reach£l,500,000, or. perhaps, £2,000,000 a-year. What is the reason we are asked to vote this sum of £30,000 additional? Not because we have not already provided for the extra pay and travelling expenses of the Constabulary, because for years we have had to vote heavy sums for those purposes. Indeed, it is the best paid and best eared-for Police Force in the world; but still, when the men are sent out to assist in carrying out evictions, it is necessary to give them a large additional sum per day for extra duties—a sum far larger than any hard-working man in Ireland could hope to obtain from a day's labour. The House has already voted a sum of £62,500 for extra pay and travelling expenses this year, and we are now asked to increase that sum by over £30,000, making in all £93,467, for extra allowances and travelling expenses. A more monstrous waste of the public money was never made. I am afraid that I must trespass at considerable length on the attention of the Committee while I direct the attention of hon. Members to the way in which this money has been squandered in Ireland, not only for utterly useless purposes, but for purposes of the gravest possible mischief—with this result only, that the uselessness of the police in Ireland is made more manifest day by day. As a Police Force they are of no value whatever, and they are chiefly used in parading about the country as if they were a foreign force in the occupation of an enemy's territory; and they have been employed in assisting in evictions and in protecting Government reporters. This Estimate for travelling expenses and extra allowances deals only with 1092 three matters—first of all, suppression of public meetings; secondly, the carrying out of evictions; and, thirdly, the protection of reporters sent by the Government to report the words of any man who dares to open his mouth in Ireland. The system has been going on for the last six years without any one rising to explain what good has been done by it. The Government never get a conviction, and they might as well dispense with these police reports altogether. No doubt there is an accumulated number of them; but who, in the name of Heaven, will ever read through them? Hundreds and hundreds of speeches have been reported which would fill that Table if they were piled up together, and they have been reported for no object under the sun. As to the first item in these Estimates, in looking over the detailed list I have certainly been led to believe that the Government have not honestly prepared it. I believe they have been ashamed to come before this Committee and tell us the sum they have lavished in Ireland in carrying out evictions during the last two or three months. If the Committee could only realize the large sums of money that have been spent in these evictions, they would arrive at a conclusion that the time has come when, if the public could know how the money has been spent, they would rise up in rebellion and put a stop to it. There are items here for car-hire, railway fares, and marching money for carrying out the duties described in the sub-head—namely, evictions and suppression of public meetings, and the total amounts to £11,164. I have been told, on very good authority, that the car-hire alone in the eviction of four families on Lord Clanricarde's estate at Woodford came to £1,372. It is told of one man that he went to these evictions with an old and dilapidated car and a broken-down horse which he had borrowed from a neighbour. When he returned from Woodford he was enabled to buy himself a new car and a horse. He appears to have been paid £13 for horse and car - hire to enable him to attend the Woodford evictions. Now, be it remembered that the whole sum in dispute was exactly £50, and the entire rental of the four farms from which the tenants have been evicted came to the enormous sum of £92. For carrying 1093 out these evictions the Government have expended £1,372 in one item alone, and the object of the evictions was to turn out the tenants by a man who has since proved himself to be little short of a madman. What has been the result? We are told that it is necessary to do such things and to waste such sums of money in order to maintain law and order in Ireland. Now, let me ask the Government to consider what they have got for this £1,372. They have secured this result—that the whole of the Clanricarde Estate is in a state of revolution against the payment of rent. That which you have done at Woodford has made it impossible for Lord Clanricarde to get a shilling of rent, and he never will get a shilling until he comes down to the terms which the tenants offer so long as this system is going on. The only justification for this monstrous waste of money is that you are going to restore law and order in Ireland. Now, have you made any advance in that direction? The only result you have achieved as yet has been the turning out of four men from their houses. They have not paid the rent, and, instead of making them pay, you have induced 15,000 men to declare that they will refuse to pay their rent until these four men are put back upon their farms. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland plainly that not one shilling of rent will be paid on the Clanricarde Estate until he puts these four men back again, and undoes the work which was done in Woodford in August last. The present system, if continued, must inevitably disgrace any Government that is prepared to carry it on. Let me take another instance, and really I think it is only fair that the Committee should see they get value for their money in any case. The second case I had something to do with myself. I refer to the Glenbeigh evictions. I am not going into the details of those evictions, because I think we have heard enough of them in this House; but I wish to point out that, according to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland himself, we are now called upon to vote a sum of £450 for the extra pay and allowances of the police who were employed in carrying out those evictions, and yet there is not a man in England, whether he be Conservative or Liberal, who is 1094 not utterly disgusted with the manner in which those evictions were carried out. In order to evict these poor tenants, and burn their houses down, you have now to pay £450 of English money. What have you gained? Have you restored law and order? Have you conciliated the people? There was no combination in this locality against the payment of rent. The members of the Land League did pay their rent, and others paid all they were able to pay. You have spent £450 in evicting these persons, and now the whole of the tenants of the Glenbeigh Estate refuse to pay any more. Therefore, you have only succeeded in ruining the landlord. What has occurred at Ballyferreter? You have there taught them to realize the lesson you have been teaching them for the last 50 years—namely, that where they submit to the law they get no mercy, and that where they resist the law they get justice. An agent was sent down there before the police arrived on the scene, and, before Lord Cork's agent called in the police, he refused to give any better terms to the tenants than one year's rent and the costs. When the police were sent down the people met them armed with such rude weapons as they could collect. They met the police, resisted their progress, and put them to flight. The next day a British gunboat was employed to assist the police. Surely this was a spectacle for gods and men—a British gunboat employed to restore order in these country districts! What did the people do then? When the police came down they faced them as before; they assembled on the mountain, rolled down huge boulders, and the police had to fight their way. In the end the landlord had to accept the tenants' terms. That is the lesson you are teaching the people of Ireland. If they obey the law they get no mercy; but if they will fight the police, the better they fight the more they will get. That is a lesson which the Chief Secretary and the Government are teaching the people of Ireland all over the country, and it is a lesson which I have learned from my childhood upwards. As long as the people have remained quiet they have been exterminated; but when they rise and break the law, and make violent resistance, they get terms. Yet the Government have the audacity 1095 to come forward now and ask the people of England to pay £450 for burning down the houses of the poor tenants in Glenbeigh. They are, further, asked to pay £1,500 or £2,000 for this gallant endeavour to give effect to the insanities of Lord Clanricarde. I know that the Government themselves were disgusted with the conduct of Lord Clanricarde. His own agent was so disgusted that he left him; and now you are beginning to see the consequences of refusing to alter the law at the demand of the people of Ireland. The Government are compelled at this moment to place the forces of the Crown at the disposal of a man whom they regard with the utmost abhorrence and disgust, and whom they have endeavoured vainly to control. They feel themselves called upon to place at Lord Clanricarde's disposal as many armed men as he chooses to demand, in order that they may advance into a country where the people refuse to yield, and where nothing can follow but strife. Before I leave this subject I should like to relate a circumstance which will remain in my memory as long as I live. The police who were sent down to Glenbeigh formed into column, and they marched to a remote house, four miles away on the mountain, occupied by a Mrs. Moriarty. The baton men led the van, like a body of skirmishers; then came the police armed with their swords and rifles, with two Emergency crowbar men in the middle, and followed by the representatives of the Press and the peasantry. In that order they marched for four miles along the road-side some 200 strong, and they consumed the entire day, at a probable cost to the country of £40 or £50. And what was the result? When we got to Mrs. Moriarty's house, and the agent went in, it was discovered that this was the case of a joint holding, and that Mrs. Moriarty had offered her rent to the agent, who refused to take it. The agent refused because this woman's brother—who was a joint tenant in the holding—could not pay, and, on inquiry, they declared to me that they honestly believed he had not a shilling in the world. In this case, this body of police were marched for a considerable distance to evict a tenant who had offered payment of the rent. It was the most stupid and irritating exhibition I ever witnessed in my life. I talked to the woman, and 1096 I said—"I wonder how people remain in this place at all." She said—"I thought I should be rich here; and so I should have been if two cows had not died on me in the summer." I do not believe for a moment that she was telling an untruth. Two of her cows had died during the summer, and she had only one left. Notwithstanding this, she had offered to pay her rent, and she had brought it in twice, and laid it on the table before the agent. Nevertheless, this large body of police was marched to her holding. She informed me that the money she had tendered in payment of the rent she had obtained from some of her children who are in service. "Oh;" she said, "I cannot pay now as I used to do, because my son left me last year to go to America, and he left me in a hole. But, Sir," she added, "I cannot blame him. I have been robbing him of his wages ever since he was 15 years of age, and I have devoted every shilling to the payment of the rent." This interview with this poor woman will remain impressed on my mind as long as I live. These are the persons the police are employed to evict. Then, I would ask, are we getting the value of our money for evictions of this kind? Is there any Unionist who imagines that we are getting value, and that they will maintain the Union for another six years like those we have just passed through? You are now driving Ireland into anarchy, and there really exists no Government at all. If the Unionists in this House desire to maintain the Union, the sooner they bring in a Bill to stop evictions the better. We are now paying for the suppression of public meetings in Ireland. Meetings have been suppressed without the slightest justification even in the most disturbed times when the greatest excitement has prevailed, but which have not been stained by an act of violence or a single crime. I must confess that every Monday morning I have opened the newspapers with a feeling of dread, expecting to hear that there had been a collision between the Government and the people. I warn the Government that we shall continue to hold these meetings. I defy the Government to put them down, and if bloodshed follows, on their heads be the crime and the shame. Who is it that is breaking the law? We, who desire to give vent to our 1097 grievances, or the Government who are endeavouring to suppress liberty of speech and the right of public meeting in Ireland? The Government proclaimed the meeting at Coolgreaney. I have here a copy of the Proclamation signed by a General Officer in Her Majesty's Army—Sir Redvers Buller. We are told that the Government proclaimed that meeting not because any information had been sworn that it was likely to lead to a breach of the peace, but because in their impression, it had a tendency to promote an illegal object, and, therefore, they ought to prevent it. Talk as you may, if such a power is placed in the hands of the Executive the right of public meeting and liberty of speech will be at an end. Is it to be in the power of an Executive acting in the dark in Dublin Castle to proclaim public meetings in Ireland, ad libitum, on the representation of some land agent who goes up the back stairs and says that in his opinion a particular meeting which has been announced to be held is called to support the Plan of Campaign? If this kind of action is to be taken the right of free speech will be at an end in Ireland, and I tell the Government plainly that we will not tamely submit to such a course. We held our meeting last Sunday, although it was proclaimed by the Government, and the Government knew nothing of it until it had been held. We shall continue to do so, and if we are interfered with and blood is shed in consequence let that blood be on the head of the Government who attempt to suppress the right of public meeting. What happened at Coolgreaney? I mention this because it illustrates in a graphic manner the uselessness of employing the police in such a way. We have heard in this House complaint after complaint of the prevalence of undetected crime and outrage in Ireland. Why is that? It is because the police are useless. They can put down meetings in Ireland, and can bâton the people; but they cannot apprehend a murderer or put a stop to moonlighting. What was it that they tried to do at Coolgreaney? The General Officer to whom I have referred attempted to put down the Coolgreaney meeting. Tie declined to be humbugged, and he sent down 200 police and mounted men to scour the country. Well, what happened? We sent out 1098 bogus cars; the police rode after them, and then we held our meeting with bands and banners and with 2,000 persons present. It was held within five miles of Coolgreaney; speeches were made at enormous length, and the police did not know a word about the meeting, nor was there any police reporter present, and no report of our speeches was supplied to the Government. Perhaps the consequence was that I gave a freer play to my imagination than I am accustomed to do. After the meeting was over, in driving along the road to Coolgreaney, I passed 200 policemen marching out of Coolgreaney under the pleasing delusion that they had dispersed the meeting. We arrived at Coolgreaney at 5 o'clock, and then we held a meeting on the very spot where it was intended to take place originally. Now, why should the people of this country be asked to pay large sums of money for such tomfoolery as this? The attempt at suppressing that meeting probably cost the country £100, and this is all you got for it. You did not suppress the meeting, and you lost the valuable report which would have been placed in the archives of Dublin Castle by the police reporter, and which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) has lost the pleasure of perusing. I am sorry for that, because I have some hopes of converting him even yet. The police found it impossible to suppress this meeting, because there was not even a child of 13 years who would not deceive them, and they could get no more information as to where we were, or what we were doing, than if they had been in France or Germany. They were driving about the country, and every child or woman they questioned sent them on a wrong road. Are these the men who are to constitute a force capable of suppressing murder? How are the Irish Constabulary to put down murder and moonlighting when things have been brought to such a pass in Ireland that it is considered a crime and an act of treachery to be seen talking to a policeman? The result of all these arrangements is, of course, that crime flourishes, and the police are hated; the Estimates grow and grow, and instead of getting any value for the money voted we only find that the 1099 country is going from bad to worse. Surely one would suppose that for a sum of £1,400,000 a-year the Government ought to be able to maintain law and order in Ireland. But what is the fact? Hon. Members of this House declare that there is no Government in Ireland at all. A remarkable letter from a noble Lord has recently appeared in the newspapers. He tells us that the Conservative Government, when they came into Office, declared that they would put down agitation in Ireland with a turn of their little finger, and the Government were at once to restore the authority of law and order, and to put an end for ever to the operations of the Plan of Campaign. It is declared that there is no Government at all in Ireland, and you are getting no value whatever for the £1,400,000 a-year you are spending on the Irish police. Now what might happen if you allow the Irish people to manage their own police? The Irish people would "run" them—as they say in America—for £400,000, and for that money they would maintain law and order in a very different fashion from the present. Under the existing system the expenditure must continue to increase, with worse and worse results. Then there is a third expense to which I wish to draw attention—namely, the charge for the protection of police reporters in Ireland. I estimate that during the last six years between £20,000 and £30,000 have been spent in collecting reports of probably 6,000 speeches; and I think it is about time for some Minister to get up and say what purpose, under the sun, he expects to gain by collecting those vast masses of speeches, since during the whole of these six years there has never been an attempt to use the speeches except in two well-known trials—in both of which the Government were signally defeated. If the Government have given up trials, why do they send large bodies of police to protect Government reporters? I have done everything in my power, although it is not always possible to do so, when the Government very prudently and wisely consider it necessary to send a body of armed men to protect their reporters. The people regard them as spies, and they will not allow them to go upon the platform. In every instance, when I have been present, I have invited them 1100 upon the platform when the people have allowed me to do so, because I have felt that the situation might otherwise be of a critical and dangerous character. The Government insist that these persons shall have the best place in front of the meeting. The people, however, regard them as spies, and the consequence is that they are compelled by force to thrust themselves into the middle of the meeting. I shall never forget the scene which I witnessed at Lough-rea. The Government, unfortunately, on that occasion did not send a sufficient body of men. They sent down some 20 armed men; but the committee would not allow their reporter to go on the platform, even at my request. The police thereupon insisted upon forcing their way to the front. There were at least 10,000 men assembled, and just before I began to speak somebody struck a constable or shoved him, and the police were immediately called upon to fix bayonets. Now, if one drop of blood had been shed on that occasion, I believe that not one of those policemen would have left that meeting alive, notwithstanding everything I could have done to protect them. If the Government had a really strong reason they might say—"We will run the risk of bloodshed, because what we are doing is necessary." But I do not know what interests the Government have to serve in reporting these speeches. They get full reports of them in the public papers, and their only object can be to have sworn reports for the purpose of trials, of which, however, I should think the Irish Secretary has had enough. Is it good value for money to vote large sums for a purpose which is fraught with the greatest danger to peace and order and a cause of insult and irritation to the people of Ireland? There never was—and the police, I believe, will bear out the statement—at any agrarian meeting the slightest cause for the presence of the police. There is no case on record where the peace has been broken, and none, as far as I know, in which injury has been done to property. I attended a meeting some time ago, to reach which I had to drive over one of the most frightful mountain roads it was ever my lot to travel over for a distance of 20 miles. At least 10,000 people were present, and the authorities, in order to protect their police reporter, were obliged 1101 to transport 150 police over that long mountain road at enormous cost, and with great exposure to the men, and all this for the purpose of getting a report of speeches which is never used. I have not the slightest doubt that the expenses to which the Government were put on that day alone amounted to £40. And what have you got for it? Like everything else in connection with the police, the proceedings of the authorities only tend to promote disorder and disaffection. Let the police perform their legitimate duty of detecting and punishing crime. Let them be employed to stop evictions rather than to carry them out. It is a curious thing that when I commenced this agitation last year, in company with my friend (Mr. O'Brien), we thought that under it we could reduce Ireland to order; and it is a curious fact that never in the whole history of the country have we passed through a period of such deep and wide-spread distress with such freedom from disorder and crime. At Christmas the Government commenced to suppress our meetings, and simultaneously with their action crime appeared, and there was an ebullition of lawlessness. As sure as you go on suppressing these meetings so surely will crime increase. I have myself denounced crime, and I have pointed out to the people that their condition will be a great deal better without crime. But it is not by denouncing crime that you will wean the Irish people from crime. Your first effort should be to get into the confidence of the people, and to do so you must convince them that you sympathize with their wrongs. It is not by denouncing crime, but it is by leading the people in better and more wise and more Christian roads that you can bring about an amelioration of their condition. The English people are denouncing crime. They have been doing so for 100 years, and what have they achieved? Nothing at all. You have tried suppression and denunciation of crime, and you have accomplished nothing. A good deal has been said about Boycotting. Well, perhaps I may be permitted to retain the conviction I have long since expressed, that if it comes to be a choice between murder and Boycotting, I prefer Boycotting. That is all I will state about Boycotting. If the Government are determined to pursue their present policy, and imagine that they 1102 are going to pacify Ireland and restore law and order by piling up the Police Estimates, they will have to make up their minds for a largely increased expenditure for the purpose. I am told that they have been keeping two constables parading every railway station in Ireland from morning to night, doing nothing except peeping into the railway carriages, in order to ascertain if I was there. I suppose there are not less than 1,000 policemen in Ireland at the present moment who have no business on earth except to peep into every railway train in order to see whether Mr. O'Brien or myself is travelling by it. I warn the Government that it is not by a Crimes' Act or the Constabulary Vote that they will manage to extract rents from the estates which have struck under the Plan of Campaign until you meet the people fairly.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) has spoken, as he always does, with earnestness and ability. I have on this occasion to ask the indulgence of the House, because I am unfortunately suffering from illness; but I will do the best I can to answer the hon. Member, and I do not think my task will be a difficult one. Now, Sir, the hon. Member has commented upon the great cost of the Irish Constabulary, and he has asked us if we suppose that we will restore law and order in Ireland by merely piling up the Constabulary Estimates. The cost of the Constabulary is, I admit, very great; but that cost is a necessary element in the maintenance of law and order in Ireland. [Cries of "No!"] Yes, if law and order are to be maintained according to the modern standard of law and order, and not that standard which the hon. Member has thought fit to follow. But I quite admit that the hon. Member is right in supposing that we do not for a moment conceal our opinion that it is not merely by piling up the Constabulary Estimates that we can maintain law and order. That law and order is not maintained, at the present moment, as we wish; and the hon. Member knows—and the House knows—that as soon as we possibly can we shall apply for greater powers to enable it to be properly maintained. The hon. Member objects to this Vote for extra 1103 pay and allowances to the Constabulary by reason, as he says, that they have been incurred in respect of three heads—evictions, the suppression of public meetings, and the protection of police reporters. Sir, in the first place the hon. Member is absolutely incorrect in that statement. By far the greater part of the Vote—something like £20,000 in all—is due to the necessity for dealing by movements of the police with a matter which even the hon. Member and his Friends will admit it was necessary for the Government to deal—namely, the unfortunate riots in Belfast, and other disturbances at Parliamentary elections which occurred at the same time. There is, of course, a margin due to the causes to which the hon. Member refers, because in presenting these Estimates it was necessary to include every item of expenditure. The hon. Member charges us with the unnecessary use of the Police in maintaining the law on the occasion of evictions. Well, Sir, why was that necessary? For what reason, except for the agitation and the incitements used by the hon. Member and his Friends to the tenants not to pay their rents, who would otherwise have paid their rents, and to people to assemble in crowds to obstruct the execution of the law, who would not otherwise have thought of assembling. But for these reasons these things would not have happened. Every effort has been used by the hon. Member and his Friends to stir the people of Ireland to resistance to the law, and to obstruct the authorities in the execution of the law. The hon. Member has said—and his remark was cheered by some hon. Members opposite—that the events which occurred at the evictions are our fault, because we declined to alter the law. Then he went on to refer to a case which conclusively proves that his own argument is incorrect. What did he tell us with respect to Lord Clanriearde and the evictions at Woodford in the autumn? Did he tell us that the great cause of these evictions was the inability of the tenants to pay their rents? No, Sir; he made no such assertion. Did he tell us that when no rent was paid on that property it was due to the inability of the tenant to pay it? Not for a moment; but he did tell us that the refusal to pay rent was due to the disposition on the part of the tenants, which, I say, was fostered 1104 and encouraged, if not initiated, by the hon. Member himself and his Friends, to resist the payment of rent until certain evicted tenants were restored to their holdings. What would the passing of the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) last Session have done for such a case as that? Does the hon. Member mean to tell the House that if that Bill had been passed he would have desisted from advising the tenants who could pay their rents not to pay them? I thought we were asked to pass that Bill to relieve those who were unable to pay.
§ MR. DILLON
What I said was, that I did not advise tenants to pay who were unable to pay without ruinously depriving themselves of what they required as the means of working their farms.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I think the hon. Member is not absolutely accurate in his recollection. I very much wish it were possible for hon. Members of this House to inquire carefully into this particular case at Woodford, for it cannot have been true to say of the tenants on that property to whom the hon. Members have referred that they were in that position. Beyond that it has never been alleged that these four persons, in whose evictions so large a sum was expended, declined to settle with the landlord, or his agent, because of their inability to pay. It was solely on account of a combination to set the law at defiance in that part of Ireland. I am bound to admit that the combination has brought that part of Ireland into a condition which is a disgrace to the civilization of the United Kingdom. The hon. Member refers to the large sum of £1,200 which is included in the Estimate for police protection on that occasion in respect of the Woodford Estate. That sum appears to me to be exorbitant to the last degree. The matter happened a few days after the assumption of Office by the present Government, and one of the first things I did was to inquire into the circumstances under which this large expenditure had been incurred, and to take steps which, I feel sure, will reduce similar expenditure in the future; but whatever expenditure has been incurred in such matters must be incurred rather than that the law should be defied. The hon. Member has also referred to the case of the 1105 Glenbeigh Estate, and also to the case of the Ballyferreter tenants; and anyone who has read or studied the statements which have been published with reference to the condition of the tenants on the Glenbeigh Estate—and that, unfortunately, is the condition of many tenants in that part of Ireland—would suppose that those evictions would have been stopped, or even delayed, by the passing of the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork. This question has already been discussed pretty fully in the House this Session, and I think it has been conclusively shown that such a supposition is altogether unfounded. I have again to say that the contention of the hon. Member that all this expenditure is due to the refusal of the House to alter the law as proposed by the hon. Member for Cork is absolutely baseless. Of course, I should not be in Order in discussing that proposal now; but I may say that if it had been adopted it would have put money into the hands of many men in Ireland who were able to pay their full rents to their landlords, and many of whom have since paid them, as the tenants in England and Scotland have done. The hon. Member went on to the second head of his indictment—the suppression of public meetings. The hon. Member charged us with having broken the law in order to suppress freedom of speech. According to the argument of the hon. Member, the Committee might be led to suppose that it is an every-day thing for Her Majesty's Government to prohibit public meetings in Ireland. [An hon. MEMBER: So it is.] Now, how many meetings does the House suppose have been actually prohibited during the last four months? Just eight only, four of which were on Sunday. That is a specimen of the facts from Ireland that are adduced here. We have not proclaimed meetings ad libitum. We do not claim, and we never have claimed, to possess any right whatever, as suggested below the Gangway, to put a stop to public meetings in Ireland. But we know very well that, as the law stands, we are bound to see whether there is anything about the meeting, either in its object or in its probable effect, which will justify the Government in taking special measures with regard to it. Now, Sir, what are the facts with regard to these meetings? The first meeting prohibited was one called at Sligo directly 1106 for the purpose of intimidating jurors in a forthcoming trial. That meeting was prevented; but Mr. O'Brien visited Sligo, and pursued a course which he has followed on other occasions. It has been a favourite pastime with the hon. Gentleman and some of his Friends, when a meeting has been prohibited, to make excursions, sometimes in cars, sometimes on horseback, sometimes by train, and sometimes aquatic excursions, in order to hold meetings, not in the places where they have been prohibited, but wherever they can get a score of people on whom they may come unexpectedly, and to whom they address themselves in the absence of the police; and these meetings are, more or less, accurately reported in the Press the next day. With regard to the case of Sligo, I remember seeing a glowing account in The Freeman's Journal of the way in which the Proclamation of the Lord Lieutenant had been evaded, and it might be supposed that everything which was prohibited had been done. The fact was that Mr. O'Brien and one or two others slipped out of the back-yard in the middle of the night and drove on a car n distance of 15 miles, and then, getting a few persons together next morning, they delivered certain speeches which were more or less accurately reported on the following day. Another meeting was prohibited which was called ostensibly for the same object—the intimidation of jurors. The meeting supposed to be held was, I believe, a bogus meeting; no attempt was ever made to hold it. Two other meetings were prohibited—one at Loughrea and the other at Rosslea. Both of those meetings were called a day or two before the time which the Sheriff had fixed to carry out certain evictions. Informations were sworn that if those meetings were held the result would certainly be incitement to resistance to the execution of the law. That, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, was a sufficient reason for the prohibition of the meeting. Another of these meetings did take place, like the meeting at Sligo, by the hon. Member and his Friends holding it in some unexpected place; but none has been held in the place where it had been proclaimed. Other meetings have been summoned—like that at Coolgreaney, to which the hon. Member has referred—by a placard giving the information that it 1107 was intended to hold a meeting to promote the Irish National cause. Well, Sir, the Irish National cause may be promoted in various ways, according to the views of hon. Members who call themselves the Irish National Party. It has been promoted in past times by weapons which. I do not for a moment charge hon. Members opposite with using, but which have been very vividly pourtrayed in this House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt). It has been promoted by misguided men by means of dynamite, assassination, and things of that kind. It has also been attempted to be promoted by Constitutional agitation such as that used by the late Mr. Butt, and against which I have not a word to say. Nor would I have any word to say against hon. Members below the Gangway opposite if all their agitation had been Constitutional agitation. Again, it has been attempted to be promoted by the Plan of Campaign, or, in other words, by an organized system of robbery.
§ MR. DILLON
Mr. Courtney, inasmuch as I am one of those who conducted the Plan of Campaign, I ask you whether the right hon. Baronet is in Order in alluding to it as an organized system of robbery?
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Baronet has not imputed to the hon. Member that he has organized robbery.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I am surprised at the interruption of the hon. Member, because I understand that a jury in Dublin recently disagreed in a certain case that was before it, some of the members of that jury having declined to believe the hon. Member's own statement that he was concerned in the Plan of Campaign. Sir, that is my description of the Plan of Campaign, whoever may have been concerned in it, and I am bound to say that when the Plan of Campaign has been adopted on an estate the Government have a very difficult task before them in deciding on the course to pursue with reference to meetings called on that estate for the promotion of the Plan of Campaign. Now, what was the case in reference to the Coolgreaney meeting? There was an estate of no large extent where there was no pretence that the rents were exorbitant; where the relations of landlord and tenant had been excellent for 1108 years, and were admitted to be so on the part of those who spoke on behalf of the tenants themselves. The landlord not long ago appointed an agent who was obnoxious to the hon. Member and his Friends. The Plan of Campaign was consequently adopted on that estate; the tenants declined to pay their rents, except on a certain reduction fixed by themselves; auctions of their stock were held, and all the means of the Plan of Campaign for defeating the just rights of the landlord were adopted, and then last Sunday a meeting was held, nominally to promote the National cause in Ireland, but really to force the tenants to adhere to the Plan of Campaign. I was asked a Question to-day upon the subject, and I think some hon. Members received with doubt my statement as to forcing the tenants to adhere to the Plan of Campaign. I should be very sorry to attach too much credence to anything that may appear in the newspapers on this subject; but I did see a statement in a newspaper that in the course of certain evictions, as to which I was asked a Question this evening, on that estate the wife of one of the tenants actually had a purse in her hand, which she held out to the agent, offering him the rent; but the local priest, who took a leading part in promoting the Plan of Campaign, pulled the purse out of her hand, and prevented her from paying her rent. This meeting was called last Sunday for forcing the Plan of Campaign upon those tenants. It was called at a time when evictions were pending on that property. It was, in the opinion of the Government—an opinion based on sworn information—calculated to lead to resistance to the enforcement of the law. The Government proclaimed the meeting. Again, the hon. Member and his Friends, by the system I have described, of driving about the country to places four, five, and eight miles off, contrived to address a few small assemblies. [Cries of "Oh! "] Yes; and of course Members present at the meetings were greatly exaggerated the next day. The hon. Member stated that a meeting was held at Coolgreaney. That was not so.
§ MR. J. E. REDMOND (Wexford, N.)
The right hon. Gentleman must excuse me. I was present and spoke at that meeting.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I do not mean to question the word of the hon. Member; but what happened was this. A platform had been erected in a certain part of the town, where a meeting was announced to be held. No meeting was held there; but in the evening a few persons—among them, possibly, the hon. Member—did attempt to make speeches in another part of the town.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS - BEACH
But they were at once dispersed by the police; and that was the result of the Coolgreaney meeting. Sir, I do not mean to say, or for a moment to ask the Committee to consider, that the state of affairs which I have described is a satisfactory state of affairs; very much the contrary. All I have to say with regard to it is this—that believing, as we do, that the meetings to which I have alluded, and which, I may again remind the Committee, have only, in all, been eight in number, were held for purposes that would lead to breaches of the law, we deemed it our duty to prohibit their being held, and to do our best to enforce that prohibition. The hon. Member says that we have failed in this matter. Well, Sir, I admit that if we had powers which would enable us, not to interfere so much with those meetings, but to bring to justice the persons who use meetings of this kind to incite people to breaches of the law, then we should deal with the matter more efficiently than we are at present able to do. The hon. Member says—"Give us the police, and we will maintain law and order in Ireland at a cost of £400,000, instead of £1,350,000." How will they maintain law and order? [An hon. MEMBER: By putting a stop to jury packing.] Will they do it by abolishing property in Ireland? It is our duty, and the duty of any Government in this country, to maintain law and order in Ireland as it has always been interpreted in this House of Commons; and when the hon. Member asks me, in the third count of his indictment, why we sent police to protect the Government reporters at 1110 these meetings that were held, and why those reporters are sent, I will tell him that it is—as he has himself admitted to have some tangible evidence of the speeches made on those occasions—in order to use that evidence for the purpose of prosecution if required. The hon. Member says—" What is the good of this? You will never be able to get a conviction." But, Sir, we intend to ask this House to make such changes in the law as will make it possible to get a conviction where an offence has been committed. [Cries of "Right or Wrong!"] No; not right or wrong. I will venture to say that anybody who watches the course of the Assizes at present going on in Ireland—anybody who watches them fairly, who sees the way in which, from day to day, courses involving no political issues, courses involving nothing but ordinary crime, are dealt with by juries in more than one county in Ireland—will be bound to admit, if he considers it fairly, that a change in the law is not required to secure a conviction, whether right or wrong, but that a change is required to secure that justice shall be done. I am afraid I cannot ask the Committee to listen to me longer. I have said that I am speaking under very great difficulties. I only wish, in conclusion, to protest as strongly as I can against the doctrine of resistance to the law, which has been preached to-night by the hon. Member—"If you will not alter the law as we choose, then we will not obey it." That is the doctrine which the hon. Member has preached in this House to-night.
§ MR. DILLON
I rise to say, Sir, that I preached no such doctrine. I said that if the Government break the law in prohibiting public meetings, we will hold the meetings in spite of them.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS - BEACH
Then the hon. Member says the Government have broken the law; but he has made no attempt whatever to prove that. That was attempted to be proved in the Debate upon the Address, initiated by the hon. Member for Cork; but the House declined, by a large majority, to accept the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman sitting on the Front Opposition Bench; and those sitting behind them, although they supported the Amendment, never charged the Government with having broken the law. If the hon. Member and his 1111 Friends think that we have broken the law, let them bring this matter before the House, and specify how and where and in what manner we have done so. I maintain that we have, in fact, been careful to avoid straining it, and hare never interfered with a public meeting except where there was something illegal in its purpose or in its objects, or when there was reason to apprehend a breach of the law. Again, I say if the speech of the hon. Member is not an incitement to resist the law, if it be not altered as he may desire it, then I do not know what principle underlies it, or what its effect may be on the country. I leave it to the judgment of this House and of the country. I believe it is only an additional proof of the absolute necessity which exists that, if order is to be restored in Ireland, further powers must be conferred upon the Executive.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), in the concluding observations he addressed to the House, has given to his followers and the country at large an assurance that at all events, if it be possible, he will without delay recur to the policy with which we are already very familiar in Ireland. It is quite evident, from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, that to such an extent as he can obtain powers from this House he is determined to make it hot for the Irish Party in future. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, however, that with the granting of powers to him by this House his difficulties will by no means cease. He is going to enter upon a policy which has been tried before and has failed; and I can tell him that no Predecessor of his occupying the position of Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant ever yet engaged in the task with less cause to cry out than the right hon. Gentleman himself. I should have thought that with the knowledge he has of the country and the information he relies on as part and parcel of that knowledge, and which he has obtained from the police in regard to the suppression of public meetings in Ireland, he must have been aware that he was in no degree superior to those of his Predecessors who have tried the same policy and have failed in their endeavours to carry it out. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the Plan of 1112 Campaign as "organized robbery." I should like to know how the right hon. Gentleman would wish us to apply the same term to the policy which he himself has been carrying out in Ireland during the last three or four months? What is the difference in the Plan of Campaign as it affects the landlords and the policy of pressure—always, of course, within the law—which the right hon. Gentleman has been actively carrying out with the assistance of his subordinates in the Irish Office. Many instances might be cited of the pressure which has been brought to bear upon the landlords. Captain Plunkett, one of the subordinates of the right hon. Gentleman, frankly confesses that he has brought such pressure to bear even in cases where he was wholly unacquainted with the circumstances of the tenant and the justice of the landlord's demand. Surely that is a policy to which this expression of "organized robbery" may be applied with much more force and truth than anything that has been carried out in the Plan of Campaign. The right hon. Gentleman has wasted a good deal of the time of the House in an endeavour to show that the difficulties in Glenbeigh would not have been met by the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). But what would have been met by it if that Bill had been accepted is this—the Plan of Campaign would have been unnecessary, and all the difficulties for which the right hon. Gentleman appeals to the House to extend him their sympathy, all the troubles which have occurred, and all this useless expenditure of public money would have been obviated. I maintain that it would have been much wiser, even to the Irish landlords themselves, to have accepted the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork than to bring the unfortunate pressure of the Government to bear upon them and bring about the Plan of Campaign. I do not admit the right of the right hon. Gentleman to lecture us as to our policy. I say that we admire good laws as much as he does, much as he desires to see the law maintained and respected; but it is our interest and that of the people we represent to see that the law is just and equitable. We do not complain that Her Majesty's Government should call in the assistance of the police in carrying out evictions in Ireland if their only desire is to use them for the 1113 prevention of disturbance, where disturbances are likely to take place; but what we do complain of is that the Government maintain in Ireland at an enormous expense a police force which is practically an army of occupation, and that they maintain it for the single purpose only of protecting the landlords in their unjust exactions upon the Irish tenants. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the case of the evicted tenants on the estate of Lord Clanricarde at Woodford, and he has said that since resistance was organized the whole of that district of country has become lawless. Now, long before there was this resistance in Woodford the district was in a state of lawlessness and disorder far greater than that which has characterized it since. Long before the Plan of Compaign was thought of lawlessness was created by Lord Clanricarde, who has never seen one of his tenants, who has refused them a site for a church or a school, and who has steadily refused to extend to them a hand of sympathy. I must congratulate Her Majesty's Government that it was to enforce the rights of Lord Clanricarde that they first exercised the powers they were invested with when they took charge of the Government of Ireland. I think we have a right to complain that all this expenditure of the public money should have been had recourse to by the Government solely for the purpose of assisting the Irish landlords in carrying out their unjust exactions upon the Irish tenants. The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that in order to evict four families on the estate of Lord Clanricarde it has cost the country a sum of £1,372. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary confessed in his Bristol speech that he was doing all he could to bring pressure—of course within the law—but, nevertheless, to bring pressure to bear upon the Irish landlords; but the very moment the same kind of pressure is brought to bear upon them by those who have much greater interests in the country than he can have, he has nothing for them but prosecution and imprisonment. Recently the Government made the most shameful effort ever made by an Irish Government to pack a jury, and to place in the box those who were the sworn enemies of my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), whom it 1114 was my high privilege to defend on his trial; the Government in the most shameful manner pressed these men into the box, and endeavoured to extort from them a verdict of guilty against my hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman, so far from being ashamed of that policy or regretting it in the least degree, has the coolness to stand up in this House this evening and defend it.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The remarks of the hon. Member are altogether out of Order. He must connect his observations with the Vote for the Irish Constabulary.
§ Ms. T. C. HARRINGTON
I was merely endeavouring to reply to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman. However, I will obey your ruling, and I will not pursue that line of argument further. Now, Sir, it is not with the employment of the police for the maintenance of law and order in Ireland that we have any fault to find. It is not for the just exercise of any powers conferred on the Irish Executive that we have any quarrel whatsoever. What we complain of is this—that the whole system of police and the whole of the jury system in Ireland is administered for one class and one interest, to the detriment of every other class and interest. No doubt we have had decisions of Judges in Ireland in support of the system, and frequent imprisonments for contempt of Court; but the whole policy of the Irish Executive has been to bolster up this one class and interest, even at the risk of sacrificing the lives of the unfortunate people. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the evictions at Glenbeigh. With the history of those evictions the House is familiar. No doubt the Sheriff had a right to demand all the assistance that was necessary to enable him to discharge his duty; but what I complain of is that the Irish Constabulary should have been placed at his disposal for the purpose of enabling him to level and burn down the houses of the Irish peasantry. How can you expect the people of Ireland to respect the law so long as the officers of the law are employed and paid for such purposes as that? The right hon. Gentleman has said that during the recent agitation all the meetings that were suppressed in four months were only eight. I fail to see why the right 1115 hon. Gentleman should take a period of four months. What we complain of is that the Government, not during a period of four months, but now, are entering on a policy of the indiscriminate suppression of public meetings, and that a mere suspicion in the mind of an official of Dublin Castle, who possesses no acquaintance with the locality concerned, that a meeting may be used for an unlawful purpose is quite sufficient to deprive the people of their right of public meeting. If the police reporters are as useful a machinery as the right hon. Gentleman thinks they are, would it not be better to allow the meetings to go on, to assure himself that they were used for promoting illegal objects and purposes, and then to put the law in force. With regard to the meeting at Sligo, I observed that the right hon. Gentleman carefully passed over altogether the suppression of that meeting. There was a Proclamation by the authorities prohibiting a meeting which was proposed to be held on a Sunday. At night some of the townspeople convened a meeting within doors, and as the people were entering they were set upon by the police and knocked down with bâtons. We deny that the meeting at Sligo was convened for the purpose of intimidating the jurors; but we assert that it was called for the purpose of protesting against a packed jury panel. The Chief Secretary has threatened us with coercion. That threat has no terror for me. It is our duty to protect the rights of the people, and we shall continue, within the law if we can, but without the law if necessary, to maintain those rights.
§ MR. W. A. MACDONALD (Queen's Co., Ossory)
The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has said that he will do all he can to preserve law and order in Ireland according to his standard. That is, I suppose, according to the English standard. There is a different standard among us in Ireland, because we believe that law and order can be in the truest sense maintained in Ireland by abolishing the system of landlordism which has been so great a disgrace to the country. I believe we are satisfied that law and order can never be permanently secured in Ireland by any other means; and our conception of law and order is, I think, infinitely higher, truer, and deeper than 1116 that of the right hon. Gentleman. It is rather to be regretted that we have not all the particulars of this Vote set down in the Estimates. Why should we not have exactly, in black and white, how much money has been spent in suppressing meetings; how much in putting down riots; and how much more in election disturbances. Why have we not the items clearly given under the various sub-heads. I think it is most objectionable and most unreasonable that the Committee should be asked to vote a sum of £30,000, with no specific account of the purposes to which the money has been applied. Then, again, the right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the presence of police reporters at public meetings. In going about England I have found no argument more potent in showing the difference in the way in which we are governed in Ireland, and the way in which you are governed in England, than the mere mention of the facts connected with the Government reporters, and by drawing attention to the circumstance that the Constabulary are employed in force to guard them, with the sole object of enabling the Government to pounce down on hon. Members of this House afterwards, and prosecuting them for the words they may use. Such a fact as that is a sufficient proof of the disgraceful way in which the people of Ireland are governed. I have sometimes thought it might be the duty of the Representatives of Irish constituencies to protest solemnly, openly and publicly, at such meetings against this system, whatever the consequences might be. I am sure they would be supported by the mass of the people of this country, who would never tolerate, for a day, the system which has been adopted in Ireland. Then, again, in regard to the suppression of meetings, the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin (Mr. T. C. Harrington) has pointed out the misleading character of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman on that point. The right hon. Gentleman has said that only eight meetings have been suppressed in four months. That may be so; but our complaint is this. At the beginning of the four months the Government themselves were bringing pressure—within the law—to bear upon the landlords, and therefore they were not likely to suppress any public meetings. Our objection is that meetings are now 1117 being suppressed, and that a different policy altogether is being pursued. It is no answer to our complaint to tell us that only eight meetings have been suppressed in four months. The right hon. Gentleman threatens us with what he intends to do when an alteration of the law, which he hopes to make, shall have been brought about. I am glad that the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) has brought out the right hon. Gentleman's purpose in its true character. We now know that, if he can effect it, trial by jury in Ireland is to be abolished. We know what he has foreshadowed; but I think he has very much mistaken the character of those who have been engaged in this agitation, and who have devoted their days and nights to an effort to defend the rights of the Irish tenants from the exactions of cruel landlords. They have not been afraid to face imprisonment, and they would face it again to-morrow if they believed it to be necessary for the protection of the poor people who have been entrusted to their care. The right hon. Gentleman is very much mistaken, and curiously misreads history, if he thinks that anything he can do will terrorize my hon. Friends. They will continue to go on as they have done. There is only one thing the Government can do which would change all this, and restore order, peace, and goodwill in Ireland, and that is, not a policy of oppression, but a policy of conciliation. Adopt a policy of conciliation, and all this expenditure for extra pay and allowances to the police, so far as it is used in suppressing public meetings, employing Government reporters, and attempting to crush popular movements in Ireland, will be absolutely unnecessary and will cease. The result of all this will be certain. The Irish people are determined to be free. They are determined to associate freedom of speech and action, and should the attempts to suppress it for a time be successful, there will always arise a new set of politicians from the ashes of the present to continue the struggle as long as it may be necessary to secure the independence and self - government of Ireland.
§ MR. BLANE (Armagh, S.)
I have been much surprised to hear it said to-night that the first duty of Government was the protection of the rights of 1118 property, and I think the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland must have read his political economy backwards; because I have always understood that the first duty of Government is the protection of the rights and lives of the people. My hon. Friend the Member for one of the Divisions of Mayo (Mr. Dillon) took part in the defence of the people, because the Government are wielding the rights of the Crown against the people. We are not sent here to protect the rights of the Crown; we are sent to this House to protect the rights of the people. The Crown may pass away, but the rights of the people stand for ever; the rights of the people and the lives of the people cannot be dissociated. This Constabulary Force is only kept up for the purpose of maintaining the rights of property, as it is called; in Ireland it is maintained for the assistance of the landlords, but the burden of it is thrown upon the occupiers. You say that these latter have no stake in the country; but if a man has no stake in the country he has no property to defend, and he ought not to be called upon to support this Police Force. I understand that the people of England pay half the cost of the police in Ireland. [An hon. MEMBER: The whole.] If they pay the whole, so much the worse for them. I am glad to hear that, however, because the Police Force is not for the benefit of the people of Ireland. It is not subject to any municipal authority. As I understand, the Lord Mayor of Dublin has not the power to remove a single policeman who might refuse to obey his orders. I say that the people of Ireland should have control of the force for the preservation of order, and it is because they have not that power that in Ireland so much disorder exists. To speak of men armed with rifles and swords as a civil force is a waste of words; it is a military force, and we do not require it. In London I have never seen a policeman with a sword at his side and a bayonet in his hand; but you will, in Ireland, see two policemen armed with rifles and bayonets at the side of every man who is sent to prison; and it is the same in the case of women; the police have their 20 rounds of ammunition, rifle, swords, and bayonets. As I have said, although the people of England are good enough to pay for this Police Force, we are willing 1119 to pay for a Police Force ourselves; but it must be a civil and not a military force.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that it is not in Order to discuss the general question of police in Ireland. The hon. Member must confine himself to the specific items under discussion.
§ MR. BLANE
This Vote of £30,000 includes travelling expenses and other charges connected with matters that have recently come under our notice in Ireland. As one who has taken some part in. this movement, I am able to say that those who were associated with me have given as little cause for these extra police as possible. The sum expended in my district was altogether unnecessary; if the authorities at the Castle move their rifles and bayonets from one part of Ireland to another, I must say that I have no connection with it. We have no control over the Police Force, and therefore I contend that we ought not to be called upon to pay for this.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman is again entering on the general question, and it is my duty to tell him that he is out of Order in so doing.
§ MR. BLANE
We have here, in addition to the original Estimate, the sum of £11,160 asked for. I say that this sum would be altogether unnecessary if the police in Ireland were subject to municipal authority, and if the statements of the Representatives of the people in this House received the attention which they deserve from the Ministers of the Crown. We submit that this Vote is altogether unnecessary, inasmuch as the vast number of Constabulary men taken from one place to another in Ireland would not be required if the control of the force were in the hands of the municipalities. It is so in this country, and in all civilized countries; but it is not so in Ireland, because the Police Force there is used against the people, and they ought not to be called on to pay for it. I thank the Committee for the patience with which they have listened to the observations which I have felt it my duty to make on this Vote.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN (Kent, Isle of Thanet)
I should not have taken part in this discussion, but for an extraordinary remark of the hon. Member who has just sat down. He informed the House that the English people 1120 bear the whole cost of the Constabulary in Ireland. I would remind the Committee that the question has been, before this House of the Limerick Corporation refusing to pay the sum at which they have been assessed on this account.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is out of Order in referring to that circumstance in connection with the Vote before the Committee.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
I think it is unfair on the part of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Blane) to say that the police in Ireland are used simply and solely for the protection of the rich in Ireland and the rights of property. The Constabulary in Ireland, during the last six years, have had very serious and laborious work to do in protecting the lives, not only of landlords, but of the tenant farmers who have been subject to the direst persecution. For all that, they have not been able to protect the lives of such unfortunate men as we read were the other day shot at and left bleeding to death.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is pursuing a general argument not proper to the Question before the Committee. He must confine his remarks to the specific Question of the Vote and the subjects connected with it.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
I apologize, Mr. Courtney, for straying from the immediate Question, and will say no more than that it is unfair to allege that the police in Ireland have been employed solely for the protection of landlords in Ireland.
§ MR. HAYDEN (Leitrim, S.)
This Vote is not, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite asserts, intended to pay for the protection of the lives of the humbler class, but for the carrying out of evictions and putting down meetings, and these expenses would not be necessary if the landlords had fixed the rents at a reasonable rate. I say that it is not fair that the people of England and Ireland should have to pay an extra sum for police in order to enable landlords to impose rents which the Commissioners have declared to be 60 per cent above what they ought to be; and I do not think it is a fair representation to say that the police to any great extent are required to protect the lives of tenant farmers in Ireland.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must confine his observations to the sum asked for, and the objects for which it is required.
§ MR. HAYDEN
I was under the impression that this sum was asked for the extra expense of police attending meetings in Ireland. I regret that I have been out of Order, and shall not, of course, continue my remarks any further than to repeat my belief that if the landlords had treated their tenants fairly, this extra sum for police would not have been required.
§ MR. EDWABD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
While the hon. Member who introduced this Motion was speaking, I made a calculation with reference to the work of the police in Ireland. I find that, allowing to the Sheriff 250 working days in the year, you have, according to the Vote presented to-night, 1,150 policemen in Ireland continually engaged in the work of these evictions. These men get 3s. 6d. a day for extra work in connection with evictions and riots. What is the duty of these policemen? I was born in Ireland, and I have had reason frequently to watch with interest some of the actions and evolutions of Irish policemen. Their work has been justly described, in ordinary times, as "just getting the lime of the barrack wall on their coats and going in to brush it off again." That is the ordinary employment of a policeman in Ireland. You maintain him in idleness, and when you put upon him a duty which is to him ordinary recreative exercise you pay him 3s. 6d. extra a-day. More than that, you provide cars for them when they go to evictions. Why, Sir, it is jollity to them to go to evictions. I have been to many such scenes, and what have I seen? I have seen these policemen in long cars, and have heard them, when coming back from an eviction, singing in chorus, "Wait till the clouds roll by." It seems to me that these policemen were, in a great measure, carrying out the spirited policy of Her Majesty's Government, who are going on with a discussion in this House which will be of no value, and who apparently are waiting until the clouds pass over. It is to me absurd to have in Ireland a force which exists only for the special purpose of this work. I say it is manifestly unfair that you should give them 1122 3s. 6d. a-day and their expenses besides. The police do not perform a single civil work in Ireland, except this work of collecting rents for the landlords. Will any hon. Gentleman who has visited Ireland during the last few months, while this charge has been accumulating, say that in a single instance he has seen policemen performing the ordinary functions which a policeman in England performs? No; the proper work of the police is neglected in Ireland, and we are told that the police are there because the rights of property must be maintained. You should lay the venue properly, and say where the rights of property really lie. Let it not be the property of a dominant faction, but let it be the property of the people, and then I will say let the rights of property be maintained. It may interest this House very much, and particularly hon. Members opposite, who will, of course, vote against any reduction of this Vote which may be moved on these Benches, to know what sort of duties the police in Ireland have been performing for the last two months which have occasioned this Vote. I saw this duty myself; I saw it being performed about a month ago. I went into the Glenbeigh district when the evictions were being carried out there; I went into that lonely and barren valley, where the people were being evicted from the homes which their families had occupied for generations; I saw the smoke curling and rising from that valley. On that day there were five cabins of the evicted people of the district smouldering, and 135 policemen paid by the taxation of the nation—paid by that mysterious person called the British taxpayer, who is so generous to us—135 policemen were present to protect the man who was burning the roof-trees of the people over their heads. You quarrel with our words in this House; but with these naked walls and these figures before us, it is hard to speak calmly of the grievances of our people. I should not object when an officer of the law, who is sent on a mission of the law, is protected by police, and even, if necessary, by a military force; I should not object to the Sheriff having a force of policemen, and I should not object to their being paid extra wages, or to the extra expense of cars for their conveyance; but I do object that the work of the Sheriff, 1123 which is done at the expense of the nation—at the expense of the British people, who are not aware of what it is—should be prolonged for three weeks, in order that it may furnish a hideous spectacle to a disgusted world. [Laughter.] I do not envy the feelings of the man who can laugh at the scenes I have feebly depicted. I shall now give a further instance of the misuse of the police force in Ireland, and I shall use it to back up our appeal for the reduction of this Vote. At one of the first evictions, I wanted to test the question as to whether or not the police force were present to protect the officers of the law in their duty; I approached the Resident Magistrate, and drew attention to the facts; I said—"That old man is evicted; his widowed daughter and grandchild are out; the law has been enforced, the Sheriff has done his work, and will you take the responsibility of keeping that large force of police idle here, while merely the vindictiveness of the land agent is carried out?" In a few courteous words I was told to mind my own business. He told me that, not because it was a pleasure to him, for he was as disgusted with the work as I was; he was disgusted that a Resident Magistrate, with two officers of Constabulary and 135 men, should stand there till the cabin which had held this old man of 85, his widowed daughter and grandchild, and which had sheltered three generations of his family, was in ruins, in order to satisfy this craving for the respect of law and order in Ireland. The Sheriff was disgusted with this work, and, when he had concluded it, he insisted on going home; but the work of the land agent had not been completed. There were 135 policemen there; yet, when the Sheriff asked for a force to protect him on his way home, he could not get it. Ostensibly, you bring out the police force to protect the Sheriff; but here is the test of that profession, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary can examine it, and ascertain the truth in the matter. The Sheriff asked for a police force to protect him on his way home; he could not get that force. He put the question to the test, and walked off on his way home. What happened? Only four policemen were sent to protect him, but 135 men were retained to protect the vindictive agent; and when the Sheriff was a few fields 1124 off, the danger of letting him go away thus was seen, and one of the Constabulary officers, who probably got 10s. 6d. a-day extra, whistles to his men, orders them to stand, and, to my own knowledge, the Sheriff was kept practically under arrest until the agent had completed his work. Is not that a misuse of the money which this House is voting away for extra police in Ireland? It was recently laid down by high authority that that officer carries Her Majesty's commands, and, therefore, he should be protected. In this case the Sheriff, who carried the decrees of Her Majesty's Court, and who was in that glen Her Majesty's representative, was allowed to go away with an insufficient force for his protection; and then practically detained under arrest, and made to act the subaltern part to a man who was only carrying out private vengeance. This is a misuse of the money we are ked to vote to-night; nay, more, I really believe that if, as I think we might reasonably claim and expect that English Members would, at least, sit in this House and hear what we have to say, and weigh our words thoroughly in their minds, as they weigh the words uttered on every other subject but this one of the government of Ireland—if the people of England could hear what we say, I believe that not one penny of this Vote would ever be passed by this Parliament. Now, Sir, there is more to complain of; the police in Ireland are taught that their jolliest and gayest time is the time of the misery and the trouble and the travail of our people. For what is called eviction duty an Irish policeman, as I have said, gets 3s. 66. a-day extra. As there is no danger to his life or limb, will anyone tell me that the 135 men of stalwart build were in any danger in that glen? I doubt that there were as many men, women, and children there as policemen. Naturally enough, the constable that is called to eviction duty looks forward to it with joyful anticipation. I was at an eviction in the county of Limerick, within the last few months, and saw one constable getting 3s. 6d. for the amusement of evicting his own father. Such is the way in which you misuse the force, demoralize what would be a noble force and a credit to the country, if you utilized them properly. Such is the way in which you misuse the force, that the men look with 1125 joyous anticipations to evictions, and to any other disturbances. They incur no danger; but they get a day's outing, all expenses paid, and 3s. 6d. a-day for pocket money. Now, Sir, this sort of training for the police begets only a feeling that might naturally be supposed to be begat in human beings; because even the Irish police are human. I was a witness of a disgraceful exhibition of bravery on the part of these Irish policemen to whom we are expected to pay 3s. 6d. a-day for their work in Glen-beigh. For three weeks these policemen were maintained there; for three weeks they were engaged upon work which I maintain, could have been carried out by the Sheriff in two days, at a commensurately less expense, if you would not associate with it the work of the vindictive policy for which you—Her Majesty's Government—are mainly responsible. These policemen were coming home from some evictions; there was a river to cross; naturally enough, the people of the country did not look with any affectionate regard upon the force that was carrying out evictions in their midst, and several young boys ran into the stream and tumbled off the stepping stones, so as to have a little jolly revenge, and make the constables walk through the river. I do not think that any Englishman has the self-conscious dignity of an Irish policeman. I do not think that if as great disrespect had been shown to any Member of Her Majesty's Government, or even to a Royal person, any more indignant feelings could have been excited than were excited in these constables by the fact that they had to wet their ankles in the stream. What happened? Why, the few of us who were favoured spectators got a safe passage across; and the policemen were so chagrined at this, and at their having to walk through the stream, that they, without any other provocation, pushed into the crowd of little girls and boys who were standing on the brink of the river, and, shouting and laughing, punched and pummelled them unmercifully, leaving one young girl almost dead. It is for such services that you ask the Committee for this Vote. But it is not by pounds we measure the importance of this Vote; but by the bitter feelings you have engrafted in our nature by these acts, which you have asked us here to-night to pay for. You allow 1126 your police in Ireland to do this shameful work for months together, and then you ask us to pay for it. Was there ever such a satire of civilized government? We have been told that this expenditure was not all incurred within the last few months, and not all incurred in connection with evictions. We are told that it was incurred in expenses consequent upon the Irish Elections. Why, what were the expenses connected with the Irish Elections? In the county, one division of which I have the honour to represent, we went in a four-in-hand, and no one opposed us; and why, because we thoroughly represent the feelings of the people in that demand the denial of which occasions this Vote. There practically was, at the last Election, no opposition. There were a comparatively few contests in any part of Ireland, and therefore there could have been but a very insignificant portion of this money expended on the Elections. But then, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland puts in another plea, and that is that some money was expended in connection with the Belfast riots. I really think that the right hon. Gentleman would do well not to open his lips on that subject. Members of Her Majesty's present Administration ought to speak with a conscious blush of the Belfast riots, knowing well that prominent Members of their Party had, in the first instance, fomented those riots. We, in Ireland, do not want sectarian quarrels. We who have lived in the South of Ireland, where we Catholics are in the vast majority, have no differences with our political opponents. If they were asked whether they suffered any inconvenience by the conduct we pursued, I am quite confident they would answer, No. The disturbances in Belfast were undoubtedly fomented by Englishmen in order that you might have an excuse for reverting to the old policy of coercion. The object of interested parties was to keep the Catholics and the Protestants at daggers drawn, and, naturally, there were fights and quarrels and disturbances. But how did you act towards them? Large bodies of these police, whose pay we are asked here to-night to vote, were drafted into the district; but they were not allowed to quell the riots. The magistrates of the district, who were all notorious partizans, practically bound the hands of 1127 the policemen, just as practically, in fact, as if they took the handcuffs out of their pockets and put them upon the wrists of the men. The magistrates kept the policemen there as idle spectators of the disorder which continued for weeks disgracing that thriving and beautiful city, which would be a credit to our country if disorder were not continually fomented by interested parties inside and out. These are some of the duties in which the police have been engaged for the last few months, and it is for these duties we are asked to pay. When the Royal Commission, appointed to inquire into the origin of the Belfast riots, made certain recommendations affecting the police force in Ireland, and affecting their re-constitution, did Her Majesty's Government proceed to act? What have we foreshadowed in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland? Does he act on the recommendation of the Commission, which shows how disorder and disturbances can be averted in that city in the future? Did they act on the recommendation of Her Majesty's Commission, which has shown what are the causes of the employment of these police in Ireland in the last few months? Oh, no, they do not; but to a full House tonight, and to interested spectators in a distinguished quarter of the House, Her Majesty's Minister makes a brave boast that there must be more coercion of unarmed and defenceless people, more bayonetting, more drastic law in order to force law and order down the throats of the Irish people. In the presence of Her Majesty's Minister, and in the presence of this country, and in the presence of a hostile Parliament we, in the name of our people, defy you. We do not defy law and order; we want law; but we want law based on the will of the people as it should be in every civilized land. We want that order that arises naturally from the loyal obedience to that law. That is the law and order we want, and believe me, if you proceed in the line I have indicated, you will not want 14,000 armed policemen in Ireland to maintain law and order. If you will permit me, Sir, I will illustrate, by the comparison of the small number of policemen required to maintain the peace in a large district in England, what will be the normal condition of Ireland in what I hope will be the 1128 near future, if you will only meet the views half-way which we put forward. Let not hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite always believe that in every word we utter we are actuated by one political impulse. Of course, I should never have them forget that there is one sentiment always pervading our minds and actions; but let them not believe that we pervert our minds on account of our opinion. What did the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary say here to-night? He made certain observations with regard to meetings which were instantly contradicted by an hon. Friend of mine. Now, I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman that, to my own knowledge, many statements that he has to make on this question, and this extra police question, are as remote from the truth as the darker regions are from heaven. I make no personal reflection upon the right hon. Gentleman, or with the person with whom he is in immediate communication, but his information has to come through such a succession of filters that every particle of truth is taken out of the honest statement which should be made in this House. The right hon. Gentleman answered a Question put to him the other evening by an Irish Member about which I knew nothing, but which affected my constituency. It is pertinent to this matter, and that is the reason why I mention it. It concerns a man named Patrick Ferriter, who was sentenced to two months' imprisonment for having at a meeting I addressed, and which was presided over by the Ven. Canon O'Sullivan, called out to the Government reporter—"Take that down, Stringer." This matter was referred to here tonight. I was very much interested by the reference which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) to the position which these policemen on extra duty occupy in the crowd at Irish meetings. I presume the right hon. Gentleman has great experience of public meetings; and therefore I would appeal to him that in future when he has to send a Government reporter to a public meeting in Ireland he should not provide him with the very best spot in the crowd. He might order that the policemen should take a stand near the platform on the right or the left. I tell the right hon. Gentleman that if his intention is to maintain law and order in Ireland, and if the inten- 1129 tion of the Government in sending Government reporters to our meetings be to cause us to mollify and tone down our speeches in a manner which will conduce to the fulfilment of his idea of law and order, he goes the very wrong way about it. What is it to any man who believes that even if he be not wholly free he is at least born to the inheritance of freedom—what are the feelings of such a man when he goes to a platform to address thousands of enthusiastic people, and the first spectacle presented to him is a crowd of 50 or 60 policemen, armed with bayonets, surrounding a man with a notebook, who has instructions to take down the words addressed to the people and send them to the archives of Dublin Castle? Do you hope to make our speeches any milder? Do you think we put a tooth in what we are going to say on account of such proceedings on your part? We Irishmen, whom you have never had the courage to taunt with cowardice, are we likely to do anything of the kind? I say deliberately that many a man addressing a public meeting—and I appeal to my hon. Friends who sit around me to say whether it is not their experience—that many a man addressing a public meeting is carried away by excitement to use stronger, far stronger, words than he would have used if the large police force had not been sent to the meeting. I do not pretend to have suffered much in that way myself. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews) quoted the other night some words which he attributed to me; but I felt it my duty to deny having used them. I wish, however, to say that what I have said at public meetings in the presence of policemen and Government reporters, I say here in this House. I say that your whole system of employing a policeman, not merely on extra duty is the result of a mistaken and vitiated policy; a policy that is wrecking and corrupting your administration in Ireland, and that that is the reason you find such difficulty in governing the country and in grappling with the Plan of Campaign or any other policy we pursue. I ask any hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench who may address the Committee in the course the evening to say where in Kerry was the Plan of Campaign adopted. I have no knowledge of its being adopted at 1130 all in Kerry, though it may have been adopted during the last few months. I have heard something of its possible adoption in the quieter parts of Kerry; but I ask the Government, Is the Plan of Campaign the cause of the disturbances and the cause of the disorder which take place in Ireland? Is the Plan of Campaign the cause of disturbance in Kerry? No; it is not. But I will tell you what is the cause, and it is that, from the year 1880 to the present time, you have evicted in Kerry 14,000 human beings, a greater record than that of any province in Ireland. You commenced your eviction work before there were any agitators there. For a long time the agitators have feebly tried to cope with you in inciting the people to engage in lawful and organized resistance to your atrocities. The agitators have been powerless there, because you got a long start of them. Now you have to maintain in Kerry an abnormal force of policemen whom we are asked to pay. Generally speaking, you maintain them in idleness—they only muster in force when any one of the local landlords want to evict the people, or any London mortgagee wants to burn down the dwellings. Now, what is the soothing prospect the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland holds out to us? It is that, in the near future, there is to be more coercion for Ireland; that the police force is to be augmented; that each jolly policeman, besides his 3s. 6d. a-day, is to have 2s. 6d. a day. I suppose that the ordinary jaunting-cars will be considered beneath the dignity of the Irish policemen in future, and that they will desire that they should be sent on eviction duty in barouches and the like. It is a disgrace to us, it is a scandal to the Parliament of England, that you should be spending vast sums of money upon the police force in Ireland, while millions of people are crying out for food. I think Her Majesty's Government would do well to in some way or other qualify the speech which was addressed to us to-night. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) would do much for his Government if he were to stand up in his place and promise that something should be done towards ascertaining what are the grievances of the people, what are their wants and wishes, and what are the 1131 means by which the use of this extraordinary expenditure can be prevented. I am glad to see that many hon. Gentlemen have visited Ireland during the last few months; indeed, Her Majesty's Government would do well if, instead of holding a Cabinet Council during the Easter Recess in Downing Street, they were to hold one in Glenbeigh or in Woodford. They would then have a chance of ascertaining the requirements of the people in respect of whose eviction this Vote is mainly asked. In conclusion, I will only ask that it shall not be said in taunt of us—"Shall we throw the government of Ireland into the hands of the Nationalist Members?" We do not want the government of Ireland; we do not want the sweets of Office; but we want you to understand what are the real desires of the people; we want you to have the courage to endeavour to construct some scheme of government which shall satisfy the people of our country. The people, when their grievances are removed, and their wants are satisfied, and their wishes are met in a fair and legitimate spirit, will seek out from every class, and creed, and position in the country men capable and willing, and with leisure, to perform the functions of representative government in that country.
§ DR. COMMINS (Roscommon, S.)
I object to every item in this Vote, and I think that if the people of this country understood what we are voting the money for, my objection would be one that would be endorsed by every right-thinking man in Great Britain. This Vote shows an increase of £30,000 upon the original Estimate which the Government, no doubt, thought sufficient when they prepared it. I dare say when reckoning up the original Estimate, they were not at all niggardly, but allowed themselves a pretty freehand. I should have expected a little more information as to the reason why this extra expense was incurred than what is published in the details I find on the face of the Estimates. The only additional information we have received, however, was the information we got from the right hon. gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that these expenses, according to these details, were incurred, for the maintenance of law and order in Ireland. Sir, I am sick of hearing those remarks "law and order." They are pronounced 1132 with a judicial air on the Treasury Bench, and given to us in such a manner as though the whole question is, I will not say included, but not even opened. To tell us that "law and order" is enough to justify anything, is to assume that our intelligence is very slight indeed, or that our moral perceptions are remarkably blunt. "Law and order" forsooth! There is no place where there has been more law or order, and more absolute maintenance of it, than on board slave ships. You have absolute order on the deck, you have law and order in the hold where the human chattels are ranged in order and ticketed off. Proper law and order should be worthy of respect. Your law should be founded on justice, and your order should be the outcome of just law. But will anyone for a moment assert that the law in Ireland is just? Will anyone assert that the law—particularly the law as between the landlords and tenants in Ireland—is just? The whole means of living, so far as the tenants are concerned, are in the hands of people subject to caprice—a small class who have used their caprices for the purpose of the destruction of the people, and for the purpose of filling their own pockets, without the slightest regard to honesty. We are to maintain "law and order" by putting down the Plan of Campaign. This Plan of Campaign is declared to be an organized robbery, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary went as far as a gentleman of his courteous disposition could go, in insinuating that some of the Gentlemen below the Gangway on this side of the House were more guilty than anyone else in being participators in "organized robbery." People who use figurative language do not always mean what they say by it. On their part, it is rather an expression of feeling than any attempt to give utterance to a fact. But we do not hear anything like "organized robbery" applied to the landlords who for years have been drawing 50, 60 and 70 per cent over and above what the Courts of the country have now decreed to be a fair and proper rent. That was "organized robbery" if you like, and it was the worst sort of organized robbery. A man who comes and forcibly robs me in the street, or who, by sleight of hand, robs me of my watch, is a robber, no doubt; but he 1133 is not so bad a robber as the man who robs me under the colour of the law, and through the agency of the administrators of the law. That is a man who outrages my feelings, who outrages justice much more. Such robbery is almost the common course of things; and it is very clear that he is a robber who in Ireland is the greatest enemy to society. He is a greater enemy to law and order than any "moonlighter" or anyone else, even the common footpad. When they talk of "organized robbery" they should look back. Why, a Judge on the Bench in Ireland described the rents in that country as felonious rents, putting it in the strongest manner possible. He said the rents were levied under a law made by the landlords, exercised by the landlords, enforced by the landlords for their own benefit. Oh! but it is said the tenants came to an agreement amongst themselves to say what is a fair rent. We never hear that argument allowed; but when the landlords took it upon themselves to say what is a fair rent, no one said them nay. If an argument is good it should be good both ways. It is an unfortunate thing when the tenants have to take upon themselves to say what is a fair rent, no doubt, and then venture to enforce their views. No doubt, that is a very unfortunate thing; but why did they do it? They did it because the landlords, in years past, ever since the system of raising rents commenced in Ireland, said what should be their rent. There was nothing at all said about fairness then. The rent was as much an imposition as that levied from the Israelites by the Egyptians; and I maintain that the Irish have as much right to refuse this imposition of the landlords as the Israelites had to refuse payment of the imposition to the Egyptians. Well, these are the arguments in support of this expenditure that we are asked to allow. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland says the Courts of the land have decided that this Plan of Campaign is illegal—I am not going to argue the question of the Plan of Campaign further than to say that it was introduced by the Chief Secretary—but he forgot what the highest Judge but one in Ireland—the Chief Baron of the Exchequer—said about himself in Sligo. This Judge said that, if he had the right hon. Gentleman before him, he would 1134 give him precisely the same treatment as he was meting out to the Woodford rioters. He said the right hon. Gentleman's own conduct was altogether illegal. It may have been extra-judicial of him to do that; but he certainly gave that opinion with regard to the right hon. Gentleman's interference with the discretion of the landlords in enforcing their rents in the way they wanted to do. There is another remark I would commend to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman says enforcing the law is the only thing that policemen are employed for, and they are the special conservators of law and order in Ireland. Well, as the law stands in Ireland, every man who is evicted has six months to redeem his holding; and during those six months he has a legal right in the house he has built, and the landlord has no right, even under a warrant, to turn him out. I should like to know if it was in the enforcement of the law that 150 policemen were sent to Glenbeigh, to stand there and see the houses burnt down? It could not be, becanse, as I say, the tenants have six months' right of redemption. There was no law in it. Riots is one of the things which the police are paid for attending. I should like to know if the police deserve this extra pay, in consequence of the way they enforced the law in connection with the recent Belfast riots? For three months riot was allowed to run loose in Belfast and other parts of Ulster, but principally in Belfast. Some of the police got killed, and, though they are an armed military force, they were content to stand by while they were ill-treated in this way while the riots were proceeding, and without using their arms even to defend themselves. Of course, to stand by as lookers-on while bloodshed was rife on the streets by day and night was upholding law and order! The people of England have heard a great deal about these riots during the sitting of the Royal Commissioners, who had shown very clearly that this police force in Ireland that is paid in this way, so far as Belfast is concerned, is inefficient, and that a few parish constables would be able to do more than was done by the hundreds of police in Belfast that stood idle while the riots were going on. Then, as to Elections, I should like to know why the police were employed 1135 about Elections in Ireland. There were neither riots nor disturbances at the Irish Elections, and yet the police are imposed upon the towns where elections are going on, and kept there for two or three days perfectly useless. No doubt, in times before the Ballot was the law of the land, it was pretty necessary to have a body of police in the streets during the elections—not only police, but troops also were employed. In England the law of the land prohibited such a thing as that; but, in Ireland, it was the general custom. Magna Charta and all the customs of this country notwithstanding, troops were present at all the elections. And there was not the slightest need for their assistance. Elections all over Ireland are perfectly peaceable and quiet; and I should like to ask how many of these items in this Vote have been spent in other towns except the two where riot existed for months together—namely, Belfast and Londonderry. Then the police were sent to meetings. Why were they sent to meetings? They were sent to meetings in their real character. We have 14,000 police in Ireland, and though they are called a police force, they are a police force no more than were the Royal Marines, who were sent over there some four months ago. The body is as much armed like a police force as were the Royal Marines. The fact of the matter is, it is a drilled, organized and disciplined army. It is all very well to call it police, and to say that it is intended to capture criminals, but we are told every day that it is absolutely inefficient for the capture of criminals, and it must be so, seeing that it is prohibited by its rules from holding intercourse with civilians. They are kept off from all communication with the people, and its object is simply to make away all public opinion and to intimidate the people of Ireland. Intimidation is the whole object of its being. It is sent to public meetings for the purpose of intimidation. After what the hon. Gentleman who has preceded me has said, I need not, however, say much about that; but I have attended myself plenty of public meetings in Ireland, and have never seen a disturbance or anything that called for the interference of the police. At every meeting in Ireland according to its extent you find a body of policemen varying from 20 to 1136 100 strong standing with their rifles in the town. Why? People in England do not understand that kind of thing; for neither police nor military attend public meetings in this country. The English people would be most astonished if a meeting were called to discuss say, Municipal Reform or Manhood Suffrage, or even to propagate Socialism, and they were to see 100 or 150 soldiers marching upon them with ball cartridge in their pouches and sword-bayonets by their sides. The people of England had too much regard for liberty of public meeting and liberty of speech to stand such a system of intimidation for one moment; and, yet, this is the kind of use we are told these police have been put to, in order to rack the taxpayers of England and Great Britain generally, of the sum of £19,800 over and above the estimate for the financial year. Put an end to that. Meetings are peaceable in Ireland. They do not need the interference of the police, nor do they want the presence of police reporters. It is said that it is only to protect those reporters who are sent to make reports to Dublin Castle, that the police are allowed to attend; but it will not be necessary to send protection for the reporters, if those gentlemen go to the meetings and give no offence. But it seems that they are accustomed to go as the police do, for the purpose of insulting the people and defying public opinion. They go as the representatives of the dominant class, which is determined to keep the people down, which holds the rod over every assembly in Ireland, and only permits freedom of speech as a boon and not as a right; so that both the reporters who are supposed to be protected and the police who are supposed to protect them are both an outrage upon that free speech which is granted to the English people by the law of the land. Then I come to head F—Travelling expenses. We know that if policemen are employed in England for extra duty, they do not get extra pay. If a policeman has to go and attend a meeting during an election or anything else, he gets his extra expenses but not this 3s. 6d. they get in Ireland. Irish policemen must have cars and marching money. It is just like the expense of marching a military force through a hostile country, which it really is. It is a hostile country—hostile to the existence of such a force as that, 1137 knowing perfectly well that the object of that force is either to outrage public sentiment, or suppress it. That is the reason the police are accommodated with cars when having to go a few miles in Ireland, and that they are allowed marching money to the extent of £11,060. It is quite as well that the people of England should know what they are paying this money for. It is just as well that they should know that it is not for police duty that they are paying, or for the suppression of crime; for, as I say, these men are absolutely useless for the suppression of crime. It is not for the detection of criminals, for as far as I know, or as far as it is explained to us, I am not aware that there is a single penny charged here for catching a criminal. The charge is made simply for the sake of creating a small reign of terror, for suppressing the opinions of the people, and for telling them—"You are under a rule which you must submit to, whether you like it or not, and which will follow you into all the relations of life, and watch every word spoken by you, or on your behalf; and if you make yourselves too restive under this restraint, we are prepared with another Coercion Act for you." That was the effect of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland; and I dare say he will be as good as his word. I dare say if this extra Vote is granted, as no doubt it will be, it will be an additional incentive to stimulate the police when they are wanted for the execution of this new Coercion Act. But I tell the right hon. Gentleman this new Coercion Act will be quite as useless as any of the 86 which have preceded it, and that it will do as little to change Irish public opinion, or reconcile it to the existing state of things; and it will do as little to remedy the real grievance we feel, which lies in our being supposed to enjoy Constitutional Government, when in reality we are under a despotism the worst in Europe. I am sorry to have trespassed so long on the attention of the House; but I think it necessary that these Votes should be ventilated fairly, and that the people of England should be made thoroughly acquainted with what they are spending this money for. I believe that when they are acquainted with that, they will do what we want them very much to do—namely, put a stop to 1138 the spending of money that does not carry out the purpose it is supposed to be spent for, but is used for an entirely different object.
§ MR. JORDAN (Clare, W.)
I was astonished to hear the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael nicks-Beach) this evening. He was put up to initiate and advocate the policy of the Government; but he said, in the course of his observations, that the Constabulary Vote was necessary to the maintenance of law and order in Ireland. Now what we complain of is, that the additional cost on this Constabulary Vote has been largely incurred through sending police where they were not necessary, and where there was not any possibility, nor any probability, of any breach of law and order. I attended, Sir, very many National League meetings in Ireland lately, and I must say I never found any necessity for policemen, more than a constable or two, it might be, to prevent an excess of drunkenness. I attended one in the Southern Division of Fermanagh about two months ago, one of the most loyal portions of the country; but, in spite of the loyalty of the district, at the meeting to which I refer, we had a large cohort of police. They did not come for the purpose of protecting the police reporter, because he was our mutual friend, Jeremiah Stringer, and we invited him to the platform and treated him as a gentleman. So that it could not be to protect him that they came. A short time after I went to another meeting, in County Cavan, in the constituency of one of my hon. Friends here—a meeting held in the town of Glengiolen, which the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. John Dillon) referred to to-day. We drove through the country—a very barren country indeed—and when we arrived at Glengiolen, we had an exceedingly large meeting. There was a large force of Constabulary there to receive us, although, as far as anyone could see, there was no necessity at all for it. But when we arrived there, the whole of one side of the road, for probably a quarter of a-mile, was covered with cars. I asked, "Why did all these come here; what are they for?"—and the reply given to me was, that they were cars used for conveying the Constabulary to the Glengiolen meeting. 1139 Well, I never attended a larger meeting, and I never in my life saw a more peaceable crowd. The Constabulary, so far from being at all necessary, did not absolutely put in an appearance in force; for, as I say, we invited the Government reporter to the platform, by me, and instead of the Constabulary putting in an appearance, they assembled behind the next hill to that upon which the meeting was held. So that at those meetings that I have attended there were large bodies of Constabulary, and, as a matter of course, very large expense was incurred, and a large addition must have been made to this Vote for taking the police to these meetings. There was, as I have said, no necessity for them whatever. They did not, on the last occasion, even put in an appearance at the meeting, for the reporter was treated in a very proper manner, and allowed to go on to the platform and take all the notes that were necessary; and, so far as I have attended meetings in the North of Ireland—either Land League or National League meetings—I have never seen any necessity for a single constable whatever—that is to say, I have never seen the necessity for Constabulary except at those meetings where the men who talk about law and order either came to them or said they would come to them and break them up. I have been to several meetings, and I have heard clergymen and others on the platforms instructing the people in this fashion—I have heard it a score of times—"Neither take offence nor give offence, and do not do anything that will cause the Constabulary to resist you or to interfere with you in any way whatever." So that I maintain that this additional Constabulary Vote has been incurred where there has been no necessity whatever in sending policemen to meetings of the most peaceable and quiet and orderly character that you could have any conception of. In point of fact, I attended the Socialistic meeting at St. Paul's the other Sunday, and I assure the House that it was a much more rowdy place than any Land League or National League meeting that I ever attended. And yet there were no bayonets nor rifles there. There were constables present; but they were in their ordinary dress, and they certainly did not interfere with and rush the people about as 1140 they would have been inclined to do if it had been a National League meeting in Ireland. In England, the relations between the people and the police and the people and the Government, are altogether different from the relations between the people and the police and the Government in Ireland. But, assuming that the police are necessary at evictions, we maintain that the police were sent to these evictions in undue numbers, therefore unduly increasing the cost of this Constabulary Vote. I recollect seeing a party in the town of Enniskillen—a party of Military and Constabulary collected for the purpose of carrying out an eviction in the neighbourhood. The force seemed more like an army than a Civil Force sent to do police duty. We had the Military there with their officers, and the Constabulary with their officers. We saw them all get upon cars. I do not think they ever get about without cars in that part of the country. Then the men were there with their superior officers, and the Resident Magistrate; and we all know that the conveying of police upon cars increases the cost of their operations very materially. We know that the sending of Resident Magistrates, not one but two and sometimes three with these armies, increases the cost of car hire, and that large extra pay has to be given to the men and officers. These eviction cases have increased the charge under this Vote to an undue extent, and admitting, for the sake of argument, that it is necessary to send a number of police to eviction cases, I say that the Government send too many, and that in proportion as they send undue numbers, so have they increased the cost, and this Police Vote has been swelled to the enormous extent that we now find it. But the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland said the police has to be used. He said the police had to be increased and used in various fashions to prevent the tenants being forced to join the Plan of Campaign. To that I entirely demur. The tenants were never forced to join the Plan of Campaign. It was a voluntary act on their part. I told them myself that the question rested with themselves and not with us. I told them I did not desire to press them to adopt the Plan of Campaign. I told them by no means let them adopt the Plan of Campaign if their landlords had treated them fairly, 1141 and had made any fair overtures to them whatever, so I consider the statement of the right hon. Gentleman in declaring that the police had to be used for that purpose, and as a matter of course paid for the purpose of preventing tenants from being forced to join the Plan of Campaign is, to say the least of it, incorrect. I should not have time now to debate the question which the Chief Secretary for Ireland has raised in—to use his own phrase, speaking of "organized robbery." I assure him when I hear an official of his ability and what I consider his kindliness and geniality of disposition, making such a statement as that, I am induced to think that he does it more to irritate the Members of this Party, and to irritate the people of Ireland than anything else. It is that fact of hearing an official of his standing, who, on the whole, receives a fair amount of money himself and does not do anything for nothing—he is open to the accusation at any rate that was brought of old, that he does not serve the Lord for naught—it is hearing him talking about "organized robbery" which makes one almost boil with rage, only that it is contrary as a matter of course to the usages and traditions of this House for anyone to get enraged and angry on any question whatever. But if to appropriate the improvements and earnings of the Irish tenantry from time to time as I have known the landlords do in Ireland, be not robbery, I do not know what robbery is. Organized robbery of the grossest form, and legalized robbery into the bargain, has been committed by these landlords. The Plan of Campaign is not for the purpose of robbery. It is only for the purpose of endeavouring to get justice and fair play, and on the very same lines on which the right hon. Gentleman himself goes in Ireland. But the right hon. Gentleman took the kindly cases, and the cases that submitted to treatment; and we do but take the cases that would not so submit to treatment. Some of them, however, ultimately did submit to treatment, and we expect more of them to do so. The right hon. Gentleman said he did not wish to stop meetings in Ireland promiscuously; that he only used his Constabulary Force to suppress eight meetings, Well, he could not have suppressed these eight meetings without these Constabulary, and the Constabulary that he sent there 1142 were sent at a great cost and expense; and I say that that item, whatever it amounts to for the Constabulary who suppressed these meetings, was unduly and improperly incurred and ought not to be paid. As a pure matter of business, there was no necessity for suppressing any meeting; and if he suppressed a meeting at an expense of £100, the eight meetings would bring the cost up to £800 or nearly £1,000, and that of itself was unduly expended and should not be put in this Vote. But I do not know what right he had to suppress eight meetings. He seemed to make very little of suppressing eight meetings; but I make a great deal of it. I think it is an un-Constitutional and illegal exercise of his power eight times told, and I do not think that the Government were authorized, under any circumstances, in suppressing not eight, but even one of these meetings. He said also that he should not have a word to say against Irish Members, nor, I suppose, against Irish meetings either, if they had acted in what he considered a Constitutional manner. Well, Sir, I thank the right hon. Gentleman for nothing. It is no compliment for him to say say to us that he would not have a word to say to the Irish Members nor to the Irish people; and that he would not have had to draft police into the localities if they had acted just as he had expected them to act, or thought they would have acted. But I cannot say, after all, that either the Chief Secretary for Ireland, or the Attorney General for Ireland, or the Solicitor General for Ireland, would have been so pleased if the people had acted as they say now they would have liked them to act. We hear lawyers from time to time, denouncing Acts of Parliament and other things; while all the time they are making handfuls of money out of the very things they are denouncing. I cannot therefore say that the Chief Secretary for Ireland or those other officials would be so very well pleased if the Irish people just went on the very lines they choose to say they would like them to go on. There would not be so much for them to do, and there would not be such high fees for them to reap. If the Irish tenants and the Irish Party are to go on the lines that the right hon. Gentleman says he wishes them to go on, what would the Irish tenants have got from him or from the 1143 Government? We have again and again come to this House in what the right hon. Gentleman calls a Constitutional manner, and it has been almost impossible to obtain from Members of this House what we consider the rights of Irishmen. The rights of the Irish tenant, no matter how clearly or fully you prove the necessity of the case—and the rights of the Irish tenant have been pressed over and over again upon the attention of Parliament—have never been listened to until quite recently. We have had lately during the Premiership of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) the impossibility of obtaining justice for Ireland, especially the tenant farmers. We have had another illustration in the rejection of the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell)—another illustration of the impossibility of obtaining justice or fair play for the Irish tenants through certain states of feeling in this House. So that we could not have obtained as much as we have obtained, had we maintained that docile position that the Chief Secretary for Ireland indicated that we ought to have done. But the Chief Secretary for Ireland also stated that the Government did not strain the law in Ireland. Well, if there is one impression that has taken hold of the Irish people more than another, it is that the law of Ireland has not only been strained, but is being strained now, and always has been strained against the tenant farmer and the democracy of that country. We consider that the Government has strained the law in every possible fashion. It has strained the law irrespective of what the Chief Secretary for Ireland said to-night. We believe he has strained it in proclaiming our meetings, when the Government has taken what is called the sworn affidavits of some person or other who apprehended danger. I remember a meeting at Brookborough in Fermanagh as to which it was sworn on affidavit by a clergyman in the midst of his parishioners, who chiefly attended the meeting, that there was no more fear or danger of a riot than there is at present on the empty Benches of this House; and yet that meeting was suppressed. It was not a meeting in the West of Ireland composed of people that the North of Ireland look upon as all barbarians; but it was in the midst of a loyal Pro- 1144 testant population who believe in law and order as denned by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and in the Queen, and in other things of that sort as necessary not only to right living in this world but also to secure them a safe passage to the other. But we also believe that the Government has strained the law in striking jury panels. They have strained the law in that respect, not only in striking the panels, but in endeavouring to pack them.
§ MR. JORDAN
Of course I bow to your decision, Sir. I have the greatest possible respect for your authority in the Chair, but I thought that following the Chief Secretary for Ireland I had a right to reply to the observations he has made in relation to the straining of the law. I am only explaining, but as you, Sir, have decided that I cannot refer to this question of the striking of jury panels, I will turn aside from that course. The right hon. Gentleman said he wanted additional powers to bring persons to justice. As a matter of course, in getting additional powers we all assume he is likely to increase and consolidate and conserve the Constabulary Force of the country. He said he wanted these additional powers, and very likely he would get them, to bring to justice those who had broken the law. Well, our ideas are different from the right hon. Gentleman's. We think that his idea of law is not justice. We think that in the administration of the law, and by introducing the Constabulary as he has done in many cases, that the administration of the law in Ireland has not been just: and if he seeks for further powers in that direction, I think that the Government might as well abolish juries altogether in Ireland and the ordinary administration of what they call law, and try our people by drum-head court martial, or something else of that sort, and let the Executive declare the guilt of people without any trial whatever. Having thus endeavoured to show that there was no necessity for the employment of the great number of police who have been employed owing to the National movement, in suppressing National meetings for the maintenance of the Plan of Campaign; and having en- 1145 deavoured to criticize the statement of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, I have much pleasure in resisting the additional Vote that is now sought to be imposed upon us.
§ MR. H. CAMPBELL (Fermanagh, S.)
I should consider myself a very poor type of Irishman if I did not carry out the wishes of my constituents, who have sent me here to protest as strongly as I can against these Supplementary Votes. It appears that this Vote of £19,800 is for the subsistence of policemen while attending riots, elections, and meetings. I think it cannot be said that the Government are at all bashful when they come to the House and ask us to Vote a Supplementary sum for the purposes of policemen attending at riofs. Within the last 12 months there have been very few riots in Ireland. The only riots which occurred in Ireland that were worthy of the name, were those at Belfast; and I point out that they were largely, I may say almost entirely, instigated by a speech made in Belfast by the late mouthpiece of the Government, the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). It was that speech which led to those monstrous riots, and necessitated the sending of an enormous body of policemen to Belfast and their maintenance there for a period of many weeks; and we cannot regard the Government as wanting in assurance in asking for a Supplementary Estimate under this head. It is only a few weeks ago that I attended a meeting of my constituents in South Armagh; it was called for the distinct purpose of considering their position with regard to the payment of rent, and it was not a meeting at which any disturbance occurred or was likely to occur. Nevertheless, a large detachment of police were sent there, and they came with rifles, batons, and cutlasses, so that anyone would have supposed, on looking at them, that he was in some other country than Great Britain—a country, for instance, recently annexed from the Hottentots. I protest, and that strongly, against the expenses which are incurred in sending policemen to quiet meetings throughout Ireland. It is a monstrous state of things to have a Government reporter placed upon your platform, his car hire and hotel expenses being paid by the people of Great Britain—a man sent there for no 1146 other purpose than, so far as I can see, to pick a quarrel with those who represent the majority of the people of Ireland, for I hold that we, the Nationalist Party, represent the majority of the people there. I say there is no reason for the police being sent to such meetings, and there is no call for the enormous force of police now in Ireland. Not that I object to the policeman; I believe that an Irish policeman will make as good a Constitutional policeman, under self-government, as an ex-Constitutional policeman under the existing Government. I repeat that there is no reason for the unnecessary expenditure incurred in the course of the year for the hire of cars, railway fares, and for the marching money of these policemen; and I am glad to be here to lodge my protest in behalf of my constituents against this monstrous state of affairs. There was a meeting in another division of the county which I have the honour to represent. I refer to the meeting at Rosslea. What happened with regard to that? The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland—acting, I have no doubt, on the misrepresentations of some of his followers in the county—telegraphed that it was necessary to proclaim this meeting, and, if necessary, disperse it by force. The right hon. Gentleman thereby deprived the people of the Constitutional right of expressing their views as to their inability to pay the rents which were then falling due. The people, outraged at this, betook themselves to different quarters of the district, and organized and held not only one but several meetings. Thus the right hon. Gentleman was completely baulked in his effort to prevent the people assembling; while he put the people of Great Britain and Ireland to considerable expense which he might have saved them, and which a little forethought, under a Constitutional form of Government, undoubtedly would have saved them. I protest strongly against this Vote for a police force which is regarded with justice in Ireland as a force that is not there as guardian of the peace—not as a force which should look after the interests and welfare of the people—but as the persecutors of the peasantry and the rent extractors of the landlords. I am glad to tell the Chief Secretary for Ireland that if he persists 1147 in sending his policemen down to that portion of Fermanagh which I have the honour to represent, he will find that the Nationalists of Fermanagh will be there as ready to do battle against his acts as they would be in Tipperary.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I rise to enter the strongest protest I can against the expenditure of money on what I consider tyrannical and unconstitutional purposes connected with the Irish Constabulary. I do not use those words lightly and without having considered their full meaning and import. The Government come before us with a great flourish of trumpets and a good deal of thumping of the war drum, to announce their intention of bringing in a measure of coercion for Ireland, and although they do not tell us what that measure is to be, it will be a very drastic one if it is to prove more effective than the Coercion Acts we are familiar with. But there is one factor which has not been taken into consideration, and that is that the British taxpayers are alive to what is going on in Ireland; they understand by the action which many of us are taking in the country that they are being taxed to an enormous and unnecessary extent in order to bolster up this wretched Government of Coercion, and in order to give landlords the satisfaction of exterminating the unfortunate tenantry of Ireland. Now, as sure as another Coercion Act is rushed through this House under the new process of fettering free speech which the Government are engaged in forcing on us, you will find—and I am speaking with some knowledge of the feeling of the country—that the country will not tolerate the suppression of free speech at public meetings and every other element of freedom in Ireland, for the mere pleasure of putting exaggerated sums upon the Votes for the purpose of maintaining a system of tyranny which they repudiate and loathe, and which would not be tolerated in this country. I have seen something of the action of the police in Ireland. I will not trench upon the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), in which he referred to the espionage system for which the Constabulary system is, to a great extent, maintained; but I must say that I know something of that, because no sooner did I set foot in Ireland and was seen in 1148 company with the hon. Member for East Mayo, or Mr. O'Brien, than I found that the police were on my track. What perplexed me was that they did not try to arrest me, because I certainly went farther than some of those hon. Members who have been put on their trial. I rose, however, to place before the Committee some instances of what appear to me cases of wanton ruffianism on the part of the police. I will take the case of Glenbeigh. I am not going into the details connected with the evictions there beyond saying this. I will repeat what I have once before said, that during those terrible scenes of suffering I have seen the police behave with remarkable humanity; but I have also seen the police there and elsewhere behave with exaggerated activity against helpless women and children. I say that, when you find the police deliberately and without provocation hustling women and children and beating them down with their batons and the butts of their rifles, their action deserves and requires the strongest condemnation on the part of the Government. Then there was the case of 23 unfortunate persons who were illegally taken to Tralee Gaol, and who were met by a brass band and a general rejoicing, when the police rushed in upon the unfortunate people, broke one man's head, and otherwise behaved in what I call a most lawless and tyrannical way. I comment upon this, because these things on the part of the police do not happen in this country. It is not long since a similar incident occurred at Torquay, where some Salvationists were sent to gaol. When they came out they were met with a brass band, and there was a general rejoicing; but I have not heard that the police rushed in and broke the heads of the unfortunate people. Why do we tolerate things which take place daily in Ireland, and which would not be tolerated for one moment in this country? The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has given us a long yarn about the woman who held out her purse with sovereigns in it, who would have paid her rent were it not for an execrable priest who prevented her doing it; but, when challenged, he refused to give us his authority. I think it would have only been candid on his part to have given us that other story of a priest, which everyone knows to be perfectly true— 1149 namely, where a bloody encounter between the police and the tenants of Lord Cork and Orrery was prevented by the loyal, judicious, and patriotic action of a priest who effected a settlement between the agent and the tenants. I want this Committee and the country to understand that those unfortunate people, against whom Her Majesty's troops, gunboats, and armed police were sent, have been living practically upon seaweed and otherwise in the greatest state of destitution; while, for a number of years, Lord Cork and Orrery has been enjoying huge sums which have come out of the pockets of the taxpayers of this country—in the first place, on account of the sinecure of the Mastership of Her Majesty's Buckhounds; and, secondly, on account of his position as Master of Her Majesty's Horse, to which he was appointed last year at a salary of £2,500 a-year by the late Liberal Government. I say that this noble Lord is in receipt of public money, and that he ought to have more sense of humanity than to try to force to the ground and exterminate his unfortunate tenantry, whom he knows to be starving.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is entirely out of Order. He must direct his observations to the charge for the Constabulary Force provided for by the Vote before the Committee.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I submit to your ruling, Mr. Courtney, and shall not pursue that subject any further. I shall, I hope, be quite in Order in illustrating my general argument as to the conduct of the police force, upon which I base my great objection to this money being voted, by a case which has recently come under my notice from the same part of the country. It is, I think, only right that public attention should be aroused to the enormity of the facts which I propose to bring before the Committee. Here is the case of a gentleman whom I know personally. Mr. Ferriter was present at a meeting which I addressed—he is not an unknown man. He occupies the position of relieving officer, or collector of rates; and I find that within the last week or two he has been summoned before the Resident Magistrate, on the ground that, at a public meeting at Dingle, he cried out "Hervey Duff" before the police, thereby exciting the people, and called upon to show cause 1150 why he should not find securities for his good behaviour in future.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I refer to it to show what was the action of the police in this matter—how they trumped up a charge against Mr. Ferriter which I venture to describe as one of the most infamous I have ever heard of.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
It is not sufficient to point to improper conduct on the part of the police, it must be connected with the sum asked for in this Supplementary Estimate.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I understand that the police were present, engaged on special duty, for which we are now asked to vote this extra pay. The police were standing, in my presence, around the Government note-taker, and it was by those police who were engaged on this special service—namely, protecting the Government note-taker, that this gentleman was brought before the Resident Magistrate and thrown into prison because he could not find bail.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
Then, I will not pursue the subject further. I will just mention briefly another case which occurred in the neigh bourhood where I was. I believe I shall not be out of Order in doing so, because on that occasion the police were engaged in the service for which we are voting this money. Half a-dozen men were talking together in the house of a man named McNulty, and the police, who were under the impression that he had been illegally receiving money under the Plan of Campaign, rushed in and seized him. I refer to this in order to bring home to the mind of the Committee the extraordinary proceedings which are constantly taking place in Ireland by the action of the men for whom we are asked to vote special allowances. I will endeavour to keep myself within the limits of Order, by turning to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach). In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman explained that the cost of the Constabulary was necessary in order to secure law and order. Now, I venture to say that that is begging the question. We say it is not neces- 1151 sary. The question is, whether the Government are not pursuing an entirely wrong method for securing law and order in Ireland. It was made most clear by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) that the action and policy pursued by the Government in relation to the police has a greater tendency to irritate and provoke conflict between the people and the constituted Authorities—a more direct tendency to bring law and order into contempt than anything that can possibly be devised. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to look back to the dark history of the Tory times in our own country—to the times of Lord Castlereagh; to the time when these same methods of coercion were practised by Tories in our country. The experience of those times proves the uselessness of the policy they are now pursuing in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman pursued, in some detail, the argument in respect to the estate of Lord Clanricarde, and asked us to believe that the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) would not have assisted the tenants on that estate. He asked us to believe that the tenants on that estate were perfectly able to pay, but were prevented, by a combination, from making any payment whatever. If I am not out of Order in criticizing the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman about the difficulty on the Clanricarde estate, I should like to remind him of what is the real fact about the nonpayment of rent by the tenants there. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the whole difficulty arose from the compulsory rack-renting of the tenants in past times, because they defeated the land agent of Lord Clanricarde at a political election in 1872? Is he aware of the amount of the fines they have been subjected to because they ventured to show a spirit of independence? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the case of 10 or 12 tenants an annual fine, amounting in all to about £119, has been placed upon thorn because they voted against Lord Claniicarde's nominee? It may be the case, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that there were some of the tenants who could pay the rent, but refused to do so; but he should recollect that if there were some who, in combination with others, refused to pay, it was because there was a far greater number of poorer tenants 1152 who could not pay under any circumstances; and who knew that it was only by standing shoulder to shoulder, as everyone in the country has a right to do, that they could get any protection.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
I appeal to you, Mr. Courtney, to say whether the hon. Member is in Order?
§ MR. CONYBEARE
The hon. and gallant Admiral is really a little too hasty. I had just finished the point I was upon, and I only wish to add that it appears to me—no matter what the decision may be of the Irish Judges who pronounce their obiter dicta with all the appearance of infallible judgment—that the Plan of Campaign is justifiable. The right hon. Gentleman said also, at the conclusion of his speech, that hon. Members from Ire-land who say they can maintain law and order under a system of Home Government, and with a Constabulary which would cost only £400,000, could only do so by abolishing property. I join issue with the right hon. Gentleman on that ground. It is not the hon. Members from Ireland who wish to abolish property. It is perfectly inaccurate to say that they or the tenants on any estate in Ireland desire to rob the landlords of their property. I have seen something of the condition of these estates and the condition of the tenants; and from inquiries I have made I can say, by the feelings evinced by the tenants in the most poverty-stricken districts, that there is not the slightest shadow of dishonesty on their part, or the slightest desire to say that the land belongs to them, and that they will not pay rent. They are willing to pay rent; but they are not willing to go on starving by inches in order to put in the pockets of the landlords rent which it is perfectly well known to political economists the land can never produce. There is another point which I wish to bring before the notice of the Committee with reference to the action of the Constabulary as affecting this Vote. It is the lawless policy of the right hon. Gentleman and his allies in permitting and sanctioning, in spite of all protests and representations, the employment of the police at evictions for purposes which I hold to be perfectly illegal. The legal remedy of the landlord is to regain possession of his holding. I challenge the Government to prove that the landlord has 1153 any further right in the case of eviction than to have the holding which he desires to recover handed over to him by the Sheriff. But what has been done is more than that. At those evictions which my hon. Friend the Member for North Meath (Mr. Mahony) and I attended in Glenbeigh, we challenged the Sheriff to withdraw, and he did withdraw. But the Sheriff was actually impeded and obstructed, and prevented from going to other holdings to perform his duty there, because the whole body of police were wanted to stay and protect the incendiary agent. I challenge hon. Members to show a single Act under which landlords can require that the forces of the Crown can be kept from their proper duty of protecting the Sheriff in order to protect a landlord's agent in his work of incendiarism and demolition. I have not, at any rate, been able to find such a law. I admit that if the legal remedy of the landlord were to burn and demolish the houses on his estate, that he might then require the assistance of the police; but it is not within the functions of the police to stand by to protect the agent, and their action in this case has been altogether illegal and lawless. Well, Sir, I want to know how you can expect poor people in Ireland to have any respect for law and order when you have such an example of lawlessness set them by Her Majesty's Government. I ask the right hon. Gentleman under what Act it is that he has proclaimed meetings in Ireland? Has he proclaimed them on the information of persons who know nothing about the matter; or, if they do know anything, indulge in prognostications of mischief which, as far as my experience goes, are never fulfilled? As it appears to me, Her Majesty's Government, when last in Office, deliberately refused to continue the Crimes Act, and as I have been unable to find any other Act enabling them to put down meetings, except that Act which has expired, I am forced to the conclusion that their conduct is illegal and un-Constitutional. And yet we are told by those Gentlemen on this side of the House, who pretend to be Liberals, though they are supporting the Tory Government all the time—these so-called Unionists—that there is but one law for England and Ireland, and that Ireland enjoys equal laws with England. It was their constant cry during the last Election that Ireland was to be treated 1154 on the same lines as England. I ask again would it be possible to proclaim meetings in this country as you are doing every day in Ireland? Would it be possible to do anyone of these things that I have been placing before the Committee? If not, how idle it is to talk about the laws of England and Ireland being equal, or about there being any similarity between the administration of law and justice in the two countries. We are promised a new Coercion Bill, and I can only say that, so far as I am concerned, and so far as I know anything at all about the feeling of the country, the English people will not tolerate any longer the voting of these enormous sums of money, for they understand what it means to-day. They will not vote these sums of money for the perpetuation of this miserable, effete, coercive policy of the Government of Ireland. It is because that is my conviction—a conviction I have arrived at not by hearsay, but by mixing amongst the people of England—that, on behalf of the taxpayers of this country, as one of their Representatives, I protest against this extra police Vote.
§ MR. KENNEDY (Sligo, S.)
I rise to protest against this extraordinary increase in the Vote for the Irish Constabulary, for the simple reason that, in my opinion, the expenditure on police in Ireland has been extravagant and unnecessary. I would trouble the Committee to examine how this Vote has been calculated. It is entered here as extra pay; but I do not see why the amount has been placed on the record as we find it. We are to vote the Estimate without knowing the exact figures which are to be put down under each head; for instance, the amount which is to be put down under the head of "evictions." I say it is voting in the dark—although to say the truth, however we vote this evening we shall be voting in a fog. There is one item here I think ought to be paid, that is the item for police in connection with the riots in Belfast. But though I consider that the expenses incurred in consequence of those riots should be paid, I would not impose the whole of the charge upon the National Exchequer. I think a part of it should be borne by the Members of the Government. I think that, as a peace offering and to meet the equity of the case, they should ton-tribute one-half the expense of restor- 1155 ing and maintaining order in that city. We hear a great deal indeed about restoring law and order in Ireland; but nothing has been said by any Member of the Government, with regard to the usual orderly condition of Irish towns. We have not heard it stated, for instance, that the metropolis of Ireland was without police for a period of nearly a-week, and that during that time there was neither murder nor robbery there. And yet Ireland is the country that is said to be in such a dreadful state that it requires this large amount of extra money to be spent upon the maintenance of law and order. I would ask the Committee to consider the tremendous extravagance of the different departments of the Constabulary in Ireland. There is one point which has not been touched upon during the whole of this discussion this evening, and it is an expenditure which I am sure, if properly estimated, would be found to amount to £200,000 or £300,000; and that is the appointment of men, nominees of the landlords of Ireland, to cadetships in the Royal Irish Constabulary.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
I am reluctant to interfere with a new Member; but I would point out to him that he must direct his criticism to the special sum asked for in this Vote and the services supplied by that sum.
§ MR. KENNEDY
Then, Sir, I would say that this money is expended unnecessarily, and I will give an instance in proof of my assertion. The duties of the police generally—at least in country towns, where no rents have to be exacted—are these:—To get up at 8 o'clock in the morning, to breakfast at 9, dine at 2, take tea at 7, and retire to bed at 10; except one or two, who may be allowed to go through the town at 12 when their very delicate constitutions call them to rest. I may say that in the Division that I have the honour to represent—namely, South Sligo—I appointed as my election agent a gentleman who had received most brutal treatment at the hands of the police. In that part of the country, the Representatives of the people are not allowed to address the people. I wonder would such a thing be permitted in England for a moment? What has happened in Sligo would not be allowed to happen in any other country which has any form of what is called a Constitution. But 1156 in Ireland we have a Government which, though Constitutional in name, is no more—to use an American expression—than a one-horse Government. With these few words, and thanking the Committee for having listened to me, I wish to urge upon hon. Members the desirability of rejecting this Vote.
§ MR. O'HANLON (Cavan, E.)
I should like to ask some of the Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite how they propose to distribute this large sum added to the original charge for last year's expenses? I believe that if we put the tax upon the proper parties we should put it upon the landlords. It is the landlords who have been the cause of the Government and the Committee to-night spending so much time talking over this large sum of money. They it is who have been the means of bringing this charge upon the British taxpayers. Why is it that the British taxpayers stand these payments to policemen in Ireland? We do not want these men; we are prepared ourselves to pay for a regular Police Force to do police duty. We are prepared to maintain a Police Force in Ireland similar to that which we meet with in England. When I first came to London I thought I had never been in a place in the whole course of my life where there was so much liberty. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes, I think Englishmen have a right to be proud of that; but when I go to Ireland I find a very different state of things prevailing. Last Sunday I was passing up by St. Paul's, where I saw a large demonstration of people. It was composed of that class of people called Socialists. Now, I believe in London you have something like 9,000 Socialists, who are now hungering for bread, while you are giving the money of the British taxpayer to maintain a Force of Constabulary to collect the rents of the Irish landlords. I think it high time that the people of England, Scotland, and Wales struck against voting money for the purposes for which the Government ask us to give them this Vote to-night. With regard to a portion of these charges, I should like the Committee to say that it should be placed on the shoulders of the landlords on account of the number of emergency men they have employed through the country. We are asked to pay for a force to do the dirty work of the landlords after they have pulled down the 1157 miserable houses of their tenants. Now, Sir, I think that we should be given information with regard to the Belfast riots by the hon. Gentlemen opposite who have been returned by constituencies in the North of Ireland. They have displayed considerable courage on former occasions; and surely they are now in a position to state how much of the money we are now asked to vote was spent in consequence of the riots in the town of Belfast, that great centre of loyalty, where every man is free, and loyalty reigns supreme. I am very glad to see that a large number of English gentlemen and Representatives of English constituencies have visited Ireland within the last 12 months; because I am satisfied that by so doing they have gained more information with regard to the policy of the present Government, and the general misrule observed in Ireland, than they ever could gain by listening to Irish Members here, although they speak nothing but the simple truth. [Laughter.] I wish many more of the English people, and those English Representatives who laugh at what I say, would come over to Ireland, and witness for themselves the tyrannical manner in which people are treated; I wish they would visit the district of Gweedore, a district I visited not long ago. I was there, I am sorry to say, at the time of some evictions, and saw 40 or 50 poor tenants driven out of their houses, and their doors closed against them—closed, not with locks, because there are no locks on the doors in that poor district—but closed against them by means of barricades. A large portion of the money they were now asked to grant was expended upon the force engaged in the eviction of these tenants. I saw many tenants who were forced out of their houses by the police lying in the ditches with nothing but straws and sticks to cover them. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laugh, but if they will go over to Ireland they will learn what straws and sticks mean. It is said that the people evicted are farmers, but I know what farmers are. These are people who occupy little farms, but who never earn in Ireland the landlord's rent; some of them have to go to Scotland, some to them to America, and some to England in harvest time to earn the rent, and when harvest time is over the landlord's 1158 representative comes round the estate with a thousand or two policemen to collect the hard earnings of these people. The present state of things is very lamentable, and I am surprised that the British taxpayers, seeing that their manufacturing industries at home are declining, and that there is a general depression, do not strike against being called upon to pay these large and exorbitant sums for Irish police. But, Mr. Courtney, there is another aspect to this case—although this money is spent upon policemen, the policemen are in some cases very badly treated. They are very often put into inferior lodgings, and called upon to incur immense expense; wherever there is an eviction it is certain that all the cars and carts that can be obtained will be obtained for the conveyance of the policemen and their ammunition and baggage. I cannot help thinking that by this Vote the Government are really trying to manufacture evictions. It is a most grievous thing that the Government should lend a large force of police for the protection of landlords and the plundering of tenants. If we had the control of the police force in Ireland, we should certainly put them to their proper business—namely, the protection of the general public, their arms being the ordinary batons, and not have them perambulating the country armed with swords and bayonets. I claim that under a Home Rule Government, not under the Government of the present Chief Secretary (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) and the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) and Dublin Castle—we could manage the affairs of Ireland, with one fifth part of the present police force we could govern Ireland in a very nice manner, something like the way in which things are managed here; but London seems to be under the control of the people; whereas we are in Ireland under the control of the blood-suckers of the people. [Laughter.] Some Gentlemen on the front Government Bench know very well what I mean. To take the police from their real duties is not calculated to make us loyal, even if we were inclined to be disloyal. Well, Mr. Courtney, with regard to the Irish police force, I am sorry to say that it is not the rank and file, the farmers' sons in the police, who get those largo sums of money. I do 1159 not know whether any portion of the Secret Service money goes to the officers of the police.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman's remarks are very discursive; he must confine himself to the special sums asked for in this Vote, and the service covered by these sums.
§ MR. O'HANLON
I abide by your ruling, Mr. Courtney, but I believe that this large sum of £30,965 goes principally to the officers who are mostly the sons of worn out landlords. [Laughter.] I do not mean worn-out by old age, but by debauchery. Now, I should like to know how long will the British taxpayers stand the present form of Government in Ireland. At present there are a great many Socialists in Ireland. The present system makes Socialists.
§ MR. O'HANLON
What I mean is this, that this £30,965 should be given, not to the policemen in Ireland, but to a party that requires it a great deal more. I venture to say that the magistrates of Ireland are very much to be blamed for this large expenditure. The Government appoint magistrates because they are thoroughly Party men, and these men are, in great measure, responsible for the extravagance of this expenditure. I do not think that the wisdom of English thinking men, and the shrewd judgment of Scotchmen, and, indeed, of Welshmen—and the latter are nearly as badly off as ourselves—will stand this much longer. The time is fast approaching when there will be an alteration. I cannot help thinking that if a true and fair issue had been put before the country at the last Election, this expenditure would not have been asked for to-night, because a Government is in power that, by rights, should not be in power. It is simply on this account that I wish to make my voice heard here to-night; and to let the British taxpayers know the cause and reason why so large a sum as £30,965 is dragged from their resources. I want to show, as an Irish Representative, that it really is unfair for the Government to come down to this House and to ask them to sanction the squandering of the money of the British taxpayers in this manner.
§ MR. J. E. REDMOND (Wexford, N.)
Mr. Courtney, the fact that there has already been voted for Police Services in Ireland no less a sum than nearly £1,500,000, and that we are now asked to vote a further sum of £30,965, invests the debate of this evening with considerable interest; and I think that interest has been very largely enhanced by the speech which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach). For my part, I should not have delayed the Committee by interposing in this discussion for one instant, were it not for the speech which the right hon. Gentleman has thought fit to make; and in the few remarks which I propose to offer to the Committee I will endeavour to deal with some of the statements which the right hon. Gentleman has made. Sir, he started out with a statement which, of course, nobody will be disposed to deny—namely, that the maintenance of a Police Force in Ireland is absolutely essential. No one disputes that for a moment. No one disputes that it is essential that law and order should be maintained in Ireland. [Ministerial cheers.] I am glad to gain an approving cheer from that quarter of the House. But the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the kind of law and order which he desired to maintain in Ireland was law and order according to his standard. [Cheers.] The cheer is not so loud. I would like to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman's own Supporters are of opinion that he has maintained law and order according to his own standard in Ireland? Why, Sir, the whole speech of the right hon. Gentleman's to-night was a confession of absolute failure and incompetency to govern the country. The law and order which the right hon. Gentleman desires he has failed to maintain, and yet we are asked for this large increase in the Police Vote. The right hon. Gentleman's own Supporters are my witnesses. Only to-day I was reading in the columns of a paper, which I think: the right hon. Gentleman has quoted from time to time, although he is remarkably shy in acknowledging his authority—The Dublin Daily Express—only this morning I was reading an article in that journal denouncing the 1161 present Government because they have not maintained law and order in Ireland; and the right hon. Gentleman acknowledges as much when he winds up his speech by saying that it will be necessary to ask for further powers. My point is this, that this large and exorbitant amount of money for police services is money practically thrown away, because it has not effected any good purposes towards maintaining law and order; but, on the contrary, has led to the disturbance of law and order very frequently in Ireland. It is true there has been during the winter months of this year a remarkable absence of serious crime in Ireland; but does the right hon. Gentleman contend, for a moment, that that is the result of the action of his police, or of his government? Allusion has already been made to this point by my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), who initiated this discussion. My hon. Friend alluded to a point which I would beg permission to emphasize, and which is most significant—namely, that you cannot for the past 50 years put your finger upon any period of similar agricultural distress in Ireland which was less stained by agrarian crime than the winter months up to last Christmas. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) thought proper to speak of the Plan of Campaign, which was admittedly organized by the hon. Member for East Mayo and others, as a system of organized robbery. Well, the right hon. Gentleman used to be distinguished in this House by the courtesy with which he conducted discussions. I am sorry to observe that his experience at the Irish Office has so severely tried his temper, that he has forgotten those courtesies which have always regulated his action and speech in this House up to the present time. Sir, it is the Plan of Campaign, and not the police, which has preserved Ireland from months of bloodshed and crime. ["Oh, oh!"] I assert that where the police have failed, the Plan of Campaign has proved itself a bulwark of the public peace. I do not want, if I can possibly avoid it, to stray from the subject. I recognize the fairness of your rulings, Mr. Courtney, and I desire to speak within those rulings; but I would like to point out, as this matter has been raised by the right hon. Gentleman, that in those parts of Ireland where the Plan 1162 of Campaign has been at work, notably on estates like that of Lord Dillon, there has been an utter absence of agrarian crime; and that crime has appeared where public meetings have been suppressed, where the Plan of Campaign has not been put into operation, and where the right hon. Gentleman has had a free hand for his firm and resolute government. An allusion was made by the right hon. Gentleman to the evictions which have been taking place. The chief part of this Vote is asked for the expenses of policemen at these evictions; and the right hon. Gentleman went, to some extent, into the merits of these evictions, and in regard to these particular instances I claim a right of answering him. He alluded to the evictions on Lord Clanricarde's estate, and he asked us, did we venture to deny that some of the tenants on this estate could pay the rents but had refused? The right hon. Gentleman ought, in the first place, to have answered the challenge which my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo gave him. He ought to have answered specifically the question—Was Lord Clanricarde's estate one of those estates to which the Government applied that "pressure within the law" of which we have heard so much, and was that one of the estates on which they failed? Because, if it was one of the estates, if Lord Clanricarde was one of the landlords whom the Government attempted, by their pressure, to induce to make reductions, and they failed in their object; with what a face does he come to this House and charge us, as if it were a crime, with, forsooth, simply carrying on a course of action which he himself initiated! On this point of the tenant, in case of eviction, being able to pay the rent and refusing to do so, a very significant piece of evidence has been given within the last few days. What does your own Commission say? It was remarked that the very first thing that this Unionist Government did was to show the very greatest ignorance of the state of facts in Ireland. They disputed the deductions of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) when he introduced his Tenants' Relief Bill. They disputed that there had been such a fall in prices of agricultural produce in Ireland as to make the full payment of judicial rents impossible. They appointed a tribunal 1163 of their own. Their own tribunal has given us a verdict against them. Their own tribunal has laid down that prices have fallen at least 18½ per cent, and that in consequence the payment of judicial rents has become impossible; and it is relying upon that fact, to which the Commission bears testimony, that the tenants upon the Clanricarde estate, and those who have been supporting them, have entered into this movement. I pass, now, to another point—namely, that of the action of the Government in the suppression, or the attempted suppression, of public meeting. Now, Mr. Courtney, my first contention is that the action of the Government in the attempted suppression of meetings in Ireland—for which attempted suppression a portion of this Vote is asked—is illegal. I maintain that the Government have no legal warrant for the action that they have taken. Sir, it is laid down by great authorities—by Coke, for instance—that a Proclamation is a very respectable thing when it is founded upon Statute. I should like to know upon what Statute the right hon. Gentleman's Government has proceeded in the cases where they have attempted to suppress public meetings in Ireland. No doubt, meetings may be illegal, and persons taking part in them may be guilty of illegal acts, for which they can be punished. Any persons so taking part can be brought to justice, and meetings, if they are illegal, can be dispersed; but I maintain that there is no power vested in a Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, or in the Home Secretary in this country, either by Statute or Common Law, which, empowers either of them to prevent a meeting assembling, simply because they have reason to believe, from one source or another, that the meeting, if it assembles, will be an illegal meeting. Sir, I hold in my hand a Constitutional authority that was quoted often in the debate upon the Home Rule Bill—I mean Mr. Dicey's "Law of the Constitution." Mr. Dicey says that just because men may come where they like and say what they please, and have a right to hold meetings for the discussion of political and other topics, it is not, of course, meant that persons may so exercise that right of meeting as to break the law; and he adds that if a meeting is illegal, the persons taking part in it will be exposed to all the con- 1164 sequences. [An bon. MEMBER: Certainly.] The hon. Member does not comprehend my point. Perhaps, Mr. Courtney, the fog is thicker upon the Ministerial Benches than upon those upon which we sit. Mr. Dicey argues that if a meeting is illegal, a person taking part in it will be exposed to all the consequences in the way of having the meeting broken up and being arrested and prosecuted. My point is that if these meetings had been illegal, your proper course would have been to disperse them and to prosecute the men taking part in them; and that you have legally no power to send a force into a town and say—We will not allow such and such a meeting to assemble at all. What was the course of action taken by the Government? They issued Proclamations, in which they said that informations having been sworn and submitted by certain individuals that these individuals believed that a meeting about to take place will be an illegal one, therefore we prohibit the assembling of that meeting. Now, I will invite attention to this point. My first criticism of that portion of the Vote which is asked for police services in the preventing of these meetings assembling is, that that action on the part of the Government is absolutely illegal. Mr. Dicey says, further on, supposing, in England, that the Home Secretary thinks it is undesirable, for one reason or another, that a meeting should take place, and serves formal notice on every member that the meeting must not take place, this notice is so much waste paper; and he goes on to say that the whole principle upon which the Law of Public Meeting is based is that the function of the Government is not the prevention but the punishment of illegal acts. I find that, in Paterson's book on the Liberty of the Press and Free Speech, it is stated that there is—No prohibition on account of the subject-matter of the meeting except for blasphemy or sedition, to which may be added"—
§ MR. J. E. REDMOND
I have heard that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is an authority on military matters, and his authority on those subjects may be very great, although I have also heard that he is only a feather-bed soldier; but I think he can scarcely be taken as an 1165 authority upon questions of law. I am simply quoting authorities on the question of public meeting, which enjoy the respect of everybody except the hon. and gallant Gentleman—To which may be added that any assembly becoming riotous or unlawful in the sense of pursuing unlawful conduct, there is a mode of summary treatment.My point is, even if these meetings had been unlawful, which I deny—but even granting that—the Government acted illegally in attempting to prevent those meetings; their only legal course would have been, supposing the meetings to have assembled, to have dispersed them and to have prosecuted those persons who had taken part in them. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland made two or three selections, by way of proving that the meetings were unlawful. The first example that he gave was the case of the Sligo meeting. I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman was not ashamed to mention the name of Sligo. What was the Sligo meeting called for? It was to consider the question of a certain jury panel—a perfectly legal purpose—and that jury panel, when it was submitted to the test of examination by the Court, was quashed. I maintain that that meeting was not illegal, that it was a meeting called for a laudable and for a lawful purpose; and I say it is monstrous to state that a panel which the Judge quashed on the grounds of its illegality, could not be a fair question to be debated at a public meeting of the county where the illegal panel was struck. Then there was the meeting which was held at Coolgreaney, about which the right hon. Gentleman is certainly under some misapprehension. I wish to speak upon a point which, no doubt, will interest him. I hope he will not think I am using an offensive phrase—["No, no!"]—I try never to usesuch, though, perhaps, Members who interrupt have less consideration for me—when I say that I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman is fooled to the top of his bent by his sub-officials in Ireland. Mr. Courtney, I took part in the proceedings at Coolgreaney, and the account which the right hon. Gentleman has given, I can assure him, is ludicrously inaccurate. He spoke about Mr. Dillon and myself driving about the country, and calling and holding 1166 hole and-corner meetings at long distances from the places where the proclaimed meeting was expected to be held. Now, I am perfectly acquainted with all the proceedings in this locality—as a matter of fact, I come from that part of the country myself, and I think it may be presumed that I am intimately acquainted with the geography of the district. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that five public meetings were held within a radius of three miles from the place, although mounted police patrolled the roads with instructions to gallop after any people whom they saw going in any direction. I can say—and I say so after a very large experience of public meetings—that there were at least 2,000 or 3,000 people present; there were to my own knowledge four brass bands, and there were a number of large banners carried by the people, some of whom came so far as from the town of Wex-ford—about 30 miles distant—in a special train, accompanied with a band playing and banners waving. How the police were completely ignorant of that meeting I can not make out; and how the right hon. Gentleman is able to assert that these meetings were composed of only a score or so of people, I am unable to understand. From whence came his information? There were no members of the Royal Irish Constabulary present. How, then, did the statements come to his knowledge? I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will believe me when I say that, as a matter of fact, the meeting at Coolgreaney was one of the largest meetings I ever addressed in the county of Wexford for many a day. When the right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, said that the Coolgreaney meeting being proclaimed was not held, I told him that it was held, and that I myself made a speech at it. The right hon. Gentleman replied to me—"That is not the case." I retort now by saying "That it is the case." At Coolgreaney, about 5 o'clock in the evening, several cars full of persons, headed by a mounted escort, drove into the town. As we entered two large bodies of police were coming out, thinking we had no intention of holding the meetings. On this occasion, as has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), some of the constables in the ranks turned round and laughed at us; but their laugh was more 1167 at the Government than at us. We went into the town, and there we found a small body of policemen unarmed. We drove past them, and there—in the very public street—we held a meeting, with the hon. Member for the County Dublin in the chair, at which he, a clergyman, myself, and other persons spoke. After the meeting was finished, we walked along the street, and met half-a-dozen policemen coming up, who were exerting themselves in hustling the people; and, had it not been for the exertions of my hon. Friend the Member for Dublin County, these five or six policemen might have probably met with very rough handling from the crowd. Having stated these facts at, perhaps, unwarrantable length, I trust the right hon. Gentleman will do himself the justice to inquire into this matter. He has been misinformed; he has been inaccurately misled by an absurd story. Somebody is responsible for that, and I ask him to trace the responsibility. Another point with reference to this Coolgreaney meeting which was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman was, that the object of that meeting was illegal; and he went on to enforce his statement by evidence which was to the effect that the Plan of Campaign was wrongfully adopted on the estate there; and that the landlord had always lived on good terms with his tenants until the hon. Member for East Mayo stirred up the people, and put the Plan of Campaign in operation against him. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the hon. Member for East Mayo had been induced to take that action in consequence of the appointment of an obnoxious agent. Does not the right hon. Gentleman know that Captain Hamilton, the agent of this property, was appointed to his position three years ago? Does he know any of the facts about the rents on this property, or the simple fact that the average of the rents on the property is 30 per cent above the valuation? Now, the average rent of every neighbouring estate is in or about the valuation; and the people of this property only asked for a reduction down to the valuation. I have in my hand some startling figures about two or three neighbouring estates. I find in the Return of the Land Commission for September and October in the county of Wicklow—Coolgreanoy being on the borders of Wicklow and Wexford—that 1168 on the property of Mrs. Bookey the old rent in one case was £40, the valualion£32, and the new judicial rent £21. Again, I find old rent £60, valuation £52, and new rent £43. On the property adjoining—the property of the Earl of Meath—I see the old rent is £7 10s., the valuation £8 5s., and the new rent £5 10s. On the property of Fitzwilliam Dick, adjoining, I read—old rent £400, valuation £248, and new rent £200. In the face of facts like these, I ask this Committee not to believe that the rents on the Coolgreaney estate are fair rents. They are exorbitant and impossible rents. I hope, accordingly, that nobody will pay the smallest attention to the anonymous story which the right hon. Gentleman told us about the tenant's wife with the purse. If he wants to make a point of that story, he needs to give his authority. He said that it was taken from the newspapers; and if it was taken from any fair-minded newspaper in Ireland, he would be only too delighted to give his authority. But it was evidently taken from The Daily Express, or some paper of that character, or, perhaps, some similar publication to that which the other day the right hon. and learned Home Secretary quoted, and afterwards repudiated—a publication of the so-called Irish Loyal and Patriotic League. I think it is an unworthy thing that the right hon. Gentleman refused to quote his inspiration. It was unworthy of him to bolster up his case with statements of an anonymous character, and that more especially because it is quite untrue that the hon. Member for East Mayo had anything to do with the starting the Plan of Campaign on the Coolgreaney estate. My hon. Friend never heard that the Plan was to be adopted until a deputation of the tenants came to him, and begged that somebody might be sent there to assist them. It was altogether the spontaneous action of the tenants on the estate; and I say that the conduct of the police in interfering with the meeting which was held for the purpose of exposing the rack-rents on the estate, was illegal and unconstitutional, and should not be sanctioned by a Vote of money in this House. I need not express the gratification with which I learn of the difficulties under which the right hon. Gentleman acknowledges that he is suffering in defending his 1169 action in this matter. An hon. Friend tells me that the right hon. Gentleman alludes to a physical difficulty. I had not that in my mind just now: I merely referred to the political difficulties that he must experience in endeavouring to support the policy of the Government, which is un-Constitutional and utterly ineffective. I am glad the country is beginning to realize what is the result of the attempt to rule Ireland by a firm and resolute Unionist government. We have had six months of it, and now, in addition to the ordinary sum of £1,500,000, we are asked to vote £30,000 more for the Irish Constabulary to enable them to carry out this government. The Government is proving, day by day, their utter incapacity to understand the Irish Question. It is running the most enormous risks, and the further it goes on in the course it has laid down the greater will be the difficulties to be faced. To anyone who has read the history of Ireland, it is quite evident that the course of action on which the Government are entering can have only one ending—namely, the suppression of free speech, and the imprisonment of Members of this House and other popular leaders, and the meeting, face to face, of the people deprived of the weapon of open discussion, and without Members of this House being able to restrain them. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen who have never read a line of Irish history may laugh; but so sure as the sun will rise to-morrow, they will laugh very differently this day six months if the policy of the Government is carried out. The right hon. Gentleman sees that because his police and his government are ineffective, notwithstanding the enormous amount of money spent, he will have to come to this House and ask for further powers—further powers for what? To suppress crime? Why, the right hon. Gentleman knows that there has been within the past 50 years no single period of similar agrarian distress in Ireland when there has been less crime. He surely will not attempt to deny that statement; for it is a statement made publicly by the noble Lord the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Randolph Churchill), when it suited his Party to say that Ireland was peaceful and tranquil. Why, then, are these new powers asked to suppress crime? They 1170 are not needed, and the Government knows that. Ah! they ask for these powers—and the right hon. Gentleman admitted the fact—in order to obtain convictions. But what convictions have the Government failed to obtain? The only notable case where convictions were not obtained was the case in Omagh, in the County Tyrone, where certain Orangemen were put on their trial for murder before a "Daniel come to judgment," in the shape of Judge Lawson, who actually told the jury that it was their duty to convict, and if they did not convict that they would violate their oaths. This was the solitary case where the Government failed to convict, unless their failure to convict my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo the other day in Dublin is meant. And as regards this case, there is not a man on the Benches of the House who does not know that the imprisonment of my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo is not the way to pacify Ireland or to maintain the public peace and order in that country. I am not sorry for the difficulties which beset the Government, and I know quite well that the road on which they have entered will land them in fresh difficulties. I think that the sooner they bring in their Coercion Bill, the sooner will come the crisis, which, when it does come, will open the eyes of the English people to the failure of the Government to rule our country; and to the impossibility of this or any other Government attempting to rule Ireland without paying regard to the sentiments and aspirations of the people. Then room will be made for a Government which prefers to base its rule upon conciliation, and upon the golden link of affection, instead of depending upon bayonets and bullets. ["Oh, oh!"] I repeat, upon the golden link of affection. You Gentlemen Opposite are having your innings. Try your bayonets and bullets, and we will see what the result shall be.
§ MR. JAMES ELLIS (Leicestershire, Bosworth)
As the Members of the Committee have heard the opinion of the Irish Members, I should like, if they would allow me, to make a few remarks from the point of view of an English County Member. In this matter, I must confess it seems to me that the amount which was voted in the ordinary Estimates was a quite sufficient sum to keep down the people of Ireland. I under 1171 stand that this Vote is divided into throe portions. One portion was employed in suppressing the riots at Belfast; another was employed in sending police forces to attend meetings of the tenants; and the remaining portion was expended in efforts to collect the rents of the landlords of Ireland. I say that if this money—this enormous sum—must be expended in Ireland—that if, besides, it is just and right to expend it in Ireland, the Irish people themselves ought to pay for the expenditure. The people of Belfast ought to pay for the rioting expenses in Belfast; and if the landlords of Ireland have so managed their affairs that they are obliged to employ English bayonets in the collecting of their rents, the landlords themselves ought to pay for the employment of these bayonets. I also say that if it appears to the people of England, Scotland and Wales, that the people of Ireland are so rebellious against their Rulers that they must be kept down, and that bayonets and policemen must be sent, then the Irish people ought to pay for all this; for if they are guilty, the whole sum ought to be borne by them, and not thrown on the people of the United Kingdom. But I believe that, if we took the right way to govern Ireland, about £400,000 would be a sufficient amount for the police in Ireland. I believe the statements which have been made by the Representatives of the Irish people in this House, and that, if the country was ruled properly and fairly, very few soldiers or policemen would be required to enforce the law.
§ MR. B. COLERIDGE (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I think it is time that more than one Member in the House representing English constituencies should desire to say a few words in sympathy with the Irish Party. We are asked tonight to vote what I may call an extra-additional sum for the force of extra police in Ireland. Now, we on this side of the House find some difficulty in speaking upon this subject, because we are met with a plentiful lack of argument from hon. Gentlemen sitting on the opposite Benches. We have heard to-night from the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) a series of facts which have not been disputed, and which cannot be disputed, because they are true; and these facts, not being contradicted, tell a sad tale of the manner in which this money has been disposed of. There are two 1172 arguments usually brought forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite in this Committee upon the question of Supply when Irish matters are being dealt with. The one is, that the money has already been spent, and that therefore it is not right to embarrass the Government. That, however, is the old and stale argument which all persons who desire this great Empire to be economically administered will at once dismiss from their minds. The other argument is, that this money has been disposed of in the maintenance of law and of order. Sir, we have heard in what manner law and order has been maintained. I would ask any candid Member in this House whether we in England should stand for one moment the application of money to such purposes as these. Should we, I ask, spend any money on the suppression of public meetings? Should we stand and allow the maintenance of law by the means of soldiers, of bayonets, and of an armed police force. We should do no such thing. I venture to think that on the very last occasion in English history, at Manchester, in 1819, when English swords were used to break up public meetings, the feeling in this country was so unanimous, strong, and overwhelming that, from that day to this, no deliberate and organized attempt has been made to suppress the freedom of speech. I say that the measure we mete out for ourselves we should mete out for our fellow-citizens in Ireland. And yet it was said that the maintenance of law and order was involved in the suppression of freedom of speech and in the extortion, by the bayonet, of rents which the Government itself had declared to be unfair? When the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) brought in his Bill to deal with the question of Irish rents in the last Session, the argument was used in rejecting that Bill by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that the facts which the hon. Member for Cork had adduced in supporting his Bill, though not denied, had not been fully or satisfactorily proved. These facts have now been proved by a Commission of the Government's own choice. It can no longer be said that these facts, which were known to the hon. Member for Cork, are not definitely known to the Government. What is the result of the Report of that Commission selected to order by the Government? It is this— 1173 that the money has been spent in the exaction of rents which the Report of the Commission showed were unfair, and should not be exacted. I ask, were law and order synonymous with the exaction of rents which a Commission had reported to be unfair? I say, that in order that law should be respected in any country, it should be consonant with justice. I ask whether, under the prostituted name of law, any greater or more substantial injustice has ever been inflicted? It is for these reasons, on behalf of an English constituency, that with voice and with vote I shall oppose this Vote for extra Constabulary in Ireland.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
We have passed a few hours in discussing this Vote from a very general point of view; but the bearings of the question of the Police Vote apply generally to the state of law and order in Ireland. I will detain the attention of the Committee for a few moments—I shall not be long—while I bring before it a specific case in which these extra police were engaged in a disturbance, and in dispersing a meeting that was perfectly legal in its objects and quite peaceable in its demeanour. Sir, at Cork, on December 1st of last year, a meeting took place in the streets of that city, which had for its object the expression of the opinion of the citizens of Cork of the scandalous state of things that existed in connection with the holding of the Munster Assizes in that city. Now, Sir, the object of this meeting was stated by myself a few days before at a meeting which I then addressed. For some time the citizens of Cork had to complain that at the Munster Winter Assizes which were held year after year in their city, they were called from their daily avocations in order to perform the duty of jurors at those Assizes. The Government know very well the reason why they held the Assizes annually at Cork. It was because, by a judicious packing of the juries, year after year, they were enabled to get convictions which seemed to be so desired by the Government in the present day. Well, Sir, the obsequiousness of the selected jurors of Cork was gaining for that city a most unenviable notoriety. The merchants of the city protested—and protested in vain—against their city being made the means by which the Government were able to 1174 carry out what I must style their iniquitous intention. The character of the city was spoken of all over the country. The trade of the city was being damaged, and the commercial men of Cork, who visited other towns throughout the country, began to be insulted and sent out of the houses of the shopkeepers because of the unenviable character that the city of Cork had obtained, owing to the manner in which these obsequious jurors obeyed the dictates of the Crown Prosecutor. Well, as I say, I addressed a meeting of the city, and I said that if we had held the meeting which was to have taken place on the Sunday previous it would have been suppressed, just as the Sligo meeting was suppressed. Why did they hold the Sligo meeting, and why had we intended holding a meeting in Cork? It was to insist that trial by jury in Ireland—that precious gem of the British Constitution—should get fair play. That was the object of the meeting about which I wish to inform the Committee. I believe, Sir, that for a meeting to be suppressed, it must be an unlawful one, or some people must have something to fear from the outcome of it. I believe, also, that it is necessary for a meeting to be unlawful, that it should threaten a breach of the peace. It will be my duty to show that the object of the meeting to which I am going to refer was perfectly lawful; that the mode in which it was carried, out did not threaten a breach of the peace, and that no one had anything to fear. The meeting was suppressed in the most flagrant and most outrageous manner. It was held on the occasion of the trial in the city of a man who is now famous in Ireland—namely, Tim Hurley. This trial was held on December 1st, and I wish to call the attention of the Committee to a meeting which was held the day before, a meeting of the most prominent citizens of Cork. The meeting was held in compliance with an influentially signed requisition, and was presided over by Mr. Alderman O'Brien, the Mayor-elect of the city. It was attended by many Members of this House and by many influential people amongst the merchants and traders of the city. At that meeting the following resolution was passed:—That we, the Catholic jurors of Cork, in public meeting assembled, emphatically protest against the custom of the Crown officials at the 1175 Cork Assizes in ordering Catholic jurors to stand by after answering to their names in obedience to their summonses, and in view of the approaching Assizes we hereby determine to protest openly against this indignity inflicted on Catholic men in the event of the Law Officers attempting to repeat or perpetuate this insulting treatment.It was not alone in Cork that the Catholics had reason to complain of this system of packing juries. [Cries of "Question!"] I am endeavouring to show the necessity there was for this meeting and the lawful character of the assembly which was scattered by these extra police for whom we are asked to vote pay and rewards. I think it is absolutely necessary that I should prove the lawful character of this meeting to justify me in proposing, as I intend to propose, the reduction of this Vote by the sum of £1,000. A short time before that certain Catholic jurors in the county of Sligo in like manner met and protested against their Catholic fellow-countrymen being told to "stand by" by the Crown Officials. Therefore, it is that I and my hon. Colleagues the Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner), with other Members of this House who dwell in that city, took the opportunity of the assizes in Cork to protest, in the strongest manner, against this system of jury packing. And now I will proceed to relate what took place on the famous occasion to which I am drawing the attention of the Committee. The meeting assembled outside the Court House. The assizes had not then been opened. The Grand Jury had not been sworn. There was no reason why we should not hold the meeting. There was every reason why we should consider it our duty, bearing all the facts in mind, to protest against the system of jury packing. The meeting took place, and I proceeded to address it in the following manner—We assembled the other day to demand justice, and we are assembled to-night to demand justice—to demand what the British Constitution itself concedes, to demand that justice will not be denied or delayed through anyone. Justice has been polluted at its source. It has been polluted within the four walls of that building (pointing to the Court House).While I was proceeding in that fashion, a slight disturbance appeared to take place in the crowd, and having inquired into the nature of the disturbance, I found that some persons were objecting to the presence of the Government re- 1176 porter. I appealed to the people, and asked them not to interfere with Mr. Agnew, which was the reporter's name. I told the people to allow him to come on the car from which I was addressing the meeting, and they reluctantly did so. I said—I want the Government reporter to listen to me; I want the Government to hear what Dr. Tanner and myself have to say to you.I was allowed to proceed no further, because, at this stage of the proceedings, the police came into this peaceable meeting, which was convened for a lawful purpose, and which was being conducted in a lawful and law-abiding manner—they came in, and I will relate what followed—Almost at the same moment, District-Inspector Milling arrived, with as large a detachment of his braves as could be drawn off their beats at short notice. Upwards of 100 police were present.That was found not to be the fact, for there were only 30 or 40 police there. I remained standing on the steps of the car, when I was approached by Inspector Milling. He having spoken to me, I asked for his authority. He said he had no authority, and he immediately gave orders to the police who were with him to break up and disperse the meeting. Now, Sir, I will trouble the Committee by reading a few lines from The Cork Herald of that date, in order to enlighten the Committee as to the brutal manner in which the crowd was broken up—The crowd was taken completely by surprise, and it is not to be wondered at that, unarmed as they were, the bayonets and batons of the police ruffians were effectual in scattering them on all sides. The conduct of these men, to whom it has been the custom to attribute at least a small measure of sympathy for their fellow-countrymen, though continuing under their dark tunic, was cruel in the extreme. They slashed and cut on all sides in a most indiscriminate fashion, as if they took delight in inflicting injury on unoffending people.This description goes on to point out that the gleam of steel was observable—For the police did not disperse the meeting with batons only. Some of them used their batons, but others drew their swords and inflicted wounds of a most desperate character on the heads and the other parts of the bodies of the people. Their bayonets, too, were not idle, one unfortunate young man having got a thrust in the head, for which he was treated at the Infirmary. Their savagery passed all bounds, and the less the people seemed inclined 1177 for resistance, the more inclined the police seemed to he to attack them.I came in for a good deal of the battering myself. I went up to Mr. Milling, and asked him if he had authority to disperse the meeting, and he made me no reply. I pressed him for his authority, and the only answer I received was to be set upon by his brutal policemen, and only that I put my hands over my head, I would not be here to-night to tell the story. I was thrown to the ground, and kicked by these policemen. But, Sir, I will not depend alone on the statement of this newspaper I have quoted, for the description of this terrible onslaught on the part of the police. I will give you the description of a bystander. He says—If there had been any notice given of the proceedings it would have been perhaps a modification of the offence, but there was no intimation given. Even when the crowd had entirely dispersed, any stray on-looker who presented himself within view was pounced on by several constables and beaten. I saw one man come to the Court-house on the eastern side, when four constables uttering loud curses set on him. 'Damn you, go on the wind,' said one, and the man was felled by a blow from a baton. He rose to his feet and rushed down St. George's Street, followed by three other policemen with drawn sabres. The reporters who were engaged in the peaceful performance of their duty were beaten. I was beaten myself with batons across the shoulders.I will not depend even on this witness who signs himself "Spectator;" but I will give an account of the occurrence from the mouth of an Englishman—a commercial traveller who witnessed the affair from the beginning almost to the end. This gentleman voluntarily came into Court, so outraged was he in every generous English feeling. He voluntarily, as I say, came into Court, and delivered his evidence in the following fashion:—Frank Edward Martin, a commercial traveller, deposed in answer to Mr. Adams—I am an Englishman, and I arrived in Cork on the 1st December for commercial purposes. I followed the crowd to the Court-house, where some one commenced to address the people. I saw nothing at the time more than ordinary in a crowd in the street.He was asked whether the crowd was such a one as would be expected to create terror and alarm, and he answered in the negative, although he said that there certainly was a slight jostling, but he said that in a minute he saw drawn bayonets and truncheons coming 1178 on the heads of the people. The people, he went on to say, then ran away, and he himself executed a strategic movement to the rear. He declared that he saw no act to cause the police to charge, and that before they charged they gave no warning, that he heard, of their intention to do so. When asked if he should have heard the warning if one had been given, he replied that he must have heard it if it had been given, as he had heard the word of command given in England. This witness was a gentleman who had no connection with the city, beyond calling at houses of business there. He went out in the evening, probably to get a little fresh air, he was attracted to the Court-house by the crowd, and saw this wanton and brutal attack on the people by the police. He came to the Court to give evidence without being asked, and tendered his evidence in the fashion I have just described. I am sure that will go far towards convincing hon. Gentlemen opposite of the truth of the statement that I make that this meeting was most wantonly and brutally disturbed. I was about to trouble the House with other statements that would also go far with the House—the statements of hon. Members of this House—but I will not do so. I will trouble the House only with one statement, that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Cork. In an interview with a newspaper reporter, he said—While I was interviewing Milling, I saw the police make another rush at Mr. O'Connor and his friends. I saw Mr. O'Connor struck again by a policeman. Dr. Tanner caught the policeman who struck Mr. O'Connor, and said he would get his number. The man tried to get away from Dr. Tanner, and without a single word of warning or the smallest justification, a policeman gave Dr. Tanner two blows on the head, the second of which felled him to the ground.He goes on to say—I went and raised Dr. Tanner from the ground, and found him bleeding from the head. The blood poured down his face. I never saw such ruffianism displayed by a policeman.[Laughter.] I dare say this is very amusing to hon. tender-hearted Gentlemen—gallant Gentlemen—on the other side of the House, to find that two Members of this House, Representatives of the people—[Laughter]—yes, Representatives of the people, who have a better right to claim that title than those who got into their present posi- 1179 tions by very narrow majorities, and by the circulation very often of statements that were not strictly in accordance with the truth. Well, such was the meeting, such were its objects, and such was the manner in which it was disturbed. And what was the sequel to this disturbance of that meeting? Why, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner) brought a charge against District Inspector Milling for assault—an unprovoked and unwarrantable assault, and a flagrant attack on the rights of the people. The case was brought into Court, it was laid bare in all its phases; it was investigated for a day or two, and what was the result? Why, that this man, this officer of police, who, according to his own statement in the Court, was in plain clothes and not on duty, and had no authority to disperse the meeting, was committed by the Cork bench of magistrates for trial. The Grand Jury, however, failed to send up a true Bill, and he is still unprosecuted. He has not yet been made amenable to the law that he has broken, though a prima facie case has been made out against him, and he has been returned for trial by the magistrates. What transpired on that investigation? Why that all the statements that I have made were proved to be true, not only on the sworn evidence of our witnesses, but also on the sworn evidence of the police themselves, who went into Court, and were obliged to admit the truth of every allegation that was made against them. Well, another case was brought on for investigation soon afterwards. A similar case was tried before a bench of magistrates. District Inspector Milling brought a charge against the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner) and myself. What was the result of that case? Why, a bench of magistrates—a different one to that which adjudicated on the other case—actually refused to have information sworn against the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Cork and myself. Here you have two benches of magistrates. The one bench send District Inspector Milling forward for trial, and the other actually refuse to have information sworn against us. This proves the truth of our contention that a lawful meeting, carried out in a law-abiding manner, was broken up most illegally and brutally by the 1180 very policemen for whom we are now asked to Vote extra pay and rewards. I need not, I think, trouble the Committee by reading the evidence of District Inspector Milling himself, where he swore that he was in plain clothes, that he was not on duty that night, and that he had merely gathered up the beats that he could find, and proceeded to the meeting and dispersed it in an illegal manner. I may add for the information of the Committee, that he admitted, in cross-examination, that the Government reporter did not seem to be in danger. He admitted that I had taken him out of any apparent danger, that he was in the car with me, side by side with me, and that the crowd was not crushing him. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to-night spoke about the intimidation of jurors. The object of our meeting was to protest against the intimidation of jurors. The jurors of Cork, those of them who were of a sufficiently independent mind to be kept out of the jury box, were told to "stand by," and those who were put into the box were bull-dozed by Mr. O'Brien, and intimidated by every Judge who came to Cork. It was to protest against this state of things that we held our meeting. We wished to save the character of our city, that was being run down in consequence of proceedings like this. What has been the result of our agitation? Why that there was scarcely any fault to be found with the jury arrangements at the last Assizes. It was this, that even the Solicitor General for Ireland himself, except in two cases that occurred before my eyes, did not dare to have a jury in the box. It was this, that those who were brought to Cork from all parts of Munster, and even from Con-naught, to be tried at the Winter Assizes got something like fair play. I will give an instance in which a young gentleman got something like fair play.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
Well, I will leave that subject, Sir. I merely wished to point out the result of the agitation. The agitation has been amply justified, and I was about to prove it to the Committee, and to point out how erroneous it was for the police to interfere in the matter. However, I will merely say, as I have already pointed out, that our 1181 meeting was perfectly lawful. The mode in which we conducted it could not be found fault with by any reasonable person. My hon. Friend the Member for Wexford (Mr. Redmond) pointed out by quoting the most reliable authority that can be referred to, that we had the right of public meeting. We were unquestionably within our right. We hold, Sir, and I believe that the English people are very strong on that point, that public meeting is the bulwark of the British Constitution, and that fair trial by jury is one of its gems. We hold that in exercising our right of public meeting and that in protesting that trial by jury should get fair play in Ireland, we were perfectly within our right. In doing this—in so protesting—we were interfered with by the police and their officers, or rather, by what is known as police, but which I would prefer to stigmatize simply as "organized ruffianism." We were interfered with by that organized system in the exercise of our undoubted right. In consequence of this interference with our right I intend to move the reduction of this Vote by £1,000. This is a specific charge that I bring against the police authorities in Ireland and against the Government; and, in order to emphasize my protest against the manner in which the right of public meeting in Ireland is interfered with; in order to enter my protest against the manner in which hon. Members in this House have been outraged in the performance of what they conceive to be their duty, I beg to move that this Vote be reduced by the sum of £1,000—the expenses of the police force in Cork.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the reduced sum, not exceeding £29,960, be granted to Her Majesty for the said Service."—(Mr. John O' Connor.)
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
I should like, Sir, to say a few words on the Amendment, now that the hon. Gentleman has attacked, not the Government, but the police authorities of Cork. The hon. Gentleman has stated the case very plainly to the Committee. He has stated that he and his Friends took the opportunity of an approaching trial of a well-known character in the South of Ireland (Tim Hurley), at the assizes to be held on the 1182 following day, to summon a public meeting, the evening before, at the Courthouse, as the hon. Member said, to "influence" the Cork jurors. Now, what he calls "influence" I should call "intimidate." That, and nothing else, was the object of the meeting, and that being so, the divisional magistrates and the police authorities in Cork were absolutely right in the step that they took in discharge of their duty. Naturally, meetings cannot be dispersed without the use of some force; and I dare say some persons got a few knocks with batons, and it served them perfectly right.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR
I rise to Order, Mr. Courtney. I did not summon the meeting at all; nor did I try to influence the jurors. We merely went to meet Tim Hurley.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
The hon. Gentleman has told the Committee so already; and, as to not influencing jurors, why, in every word he uttered he admitted that that was his object. He spoke of what he was pleased to call the unpopularity which he thought jurors had obtained in every case in Ireland. He spoke of how Cork merchants found themselves interfered with in their dealings on account of that unpopularity. I should say they have been Boycotted simply because the jurors in Cork gave verdicts according to their oaths. It was the object of the hon. Member (Mr. J. O'Connor), as he has told the Committee, to interfere with the action of the jurors in County Cork. Now, Sir, I consider that the meeting was properly dispersed by the police. I do not believe a word of the stories of the excessive violence of the police. I believe the police did their duty and nothing more; and I warn the hon. Member, and others who act in the same way in Ireland, that if something worse than raps of batons result from such proceedings on their part they are the people who will have to take the responsibility. [Cries of "Go and lead the police, then!" and "That is your policy!"]
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I do not know what observation. The only observation I made was that "That is a threat."
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
On a point of Order, Mr. Courtney, I wish to ask you, Sir, whether you derived your information with regard to the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) from your own hearing and knowledge, or from the information, of hon. Members below the Gangway on the Conservative side of the House?
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member knows very well that is not a point of Order. I heard the voice of the hon. Member (Mr. T. M. Healy); but I had forgotten at the time for what constituency he sat. I must ask the hon. Member for North Longford to withdraw that observation.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Mr. Courtney, my respect for the fairness with which you always conduct these proceedings at once induces me to withdraw the observation.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I rise to Order. The right hon. Gentleman in the observations he made before you called myself and my hon. Friend the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) to Order, used what I regard as a threat against Members of this House. To be more precise, Mr. Courtney, I will give you my recollection of the threat he employed. He said that in certain eventualities, certain members of this 1184 House would not be struck with batons, but with something worse.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! I heard the right hon. Baronet say that if, under certain circumstances certain persons were struck with something more serious than batons, the responsibility would be on themselves.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
I must ask the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool to exercise some self-control.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I have warned hon. Members what will be the result of their proceedings if they are carried on in the same spirit. I have said that they might result is something more serious than blows from batons. I may remind hon. Members of what happened the other day. I had to answer a question as to the conduct of police at evictions at Leitrim, where, owing to the action of the people there, excited as I believe by speeches made by hon. Members of this House, the police had actually to fire upon the crowds, causing wounds, but fortunately nothing worse. The result of that was that the crowds dispersed, and that the law was carried out. As a further result, the Sheriff asked for the services of a great force of police to assist him in evictions in the same neighbourhood. The first evictions having been successfully carried out, in spite of the incitement to resistance made by certain persons—I do not know who—["Where?"] In Leitrim. [Mr. DILLON: Nine of us were in County Leitrim at the time.] In spite of the incitement made, and these evictions having been successfully carried out, word was sent to the police to-day by the Sheriff that he did not require any force to carry out further 1185 evictions, because the tenants had come in and paid their rents. Now, Sir, all I have to say is this—that whether it be with batons, or in whatever way it be, the law must be enforced. With reference to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. J. O'Connor), I just wish to remind the Committee that not one single word of his speech, nor of his Amendment, has the slightest relation to the Vote which is before the Committee. This is a Vote for extra pay and conveyance of the police on the occasions, amongst others, of those evictions where the police have been summoned together from great distances to form a protecting force for the Sheriff. The matter to which the hon. Member alluded was the dispersal by the police of a meeting in the City of Cork itself, and in respect of which there was not a single penny expended in extra pay. It was not my business to interrupt the hon. Member in his speech; but I may say, now, it is to be regretted that the hon. Gentleman should have wasted the time of the Committee by referring to a subject in regard to which I believe not one single penny is included in the Vote.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) could have been here when I began my statement, or else he would have known that, to put myself in Order, I stated that the dispersal of the meeting was carried out by extra police who were brought into the City of Cork for the purpose of doing the work. They were there in every respect connected with the agrarian movement. The force employed was not the City force; indeed, in their interviews and conversations with the citizens of Cork for weeks afterwards, the City Police were continually impressing upon the citizens the fact that they were not at the meeting at all. Again, Sir, I have to protest against the perversion of my statement. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) says that I called the meeting to influence the jurors. In the first place, I called no meeting, and I said so; but I took the opportunity, on the arrival of Tim Hurley, to protest against the jury packing. That is an entirely different thing to influencing the jurors. I did not call the meeting, and my language was carefully guarded; and, in order to 1186 set myself right with the House, I have read the language I used. I merely asked for fair play, for trial by jury—I asked for the benefit of the British Constitution. Surely, in doing what I did I ought to have the praise, and not the blame, of the Government of England.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
rose to address the House, but was received with cries of "Divide, divide!" and much interruption.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
I am not sure, Mr. Courtney, whether I shall be doing a kindness to hon. Members opposite if I remind them that, at the present moment, the New Rules of Procedure have not been passed, and that it does not follow, because there has been a universal silence on that side of the House so far as this debate is concerned—[Cries of "Divide!"]—it does not follow, because there has been almost universal silence on that side of the House—[Renewed interruption.]
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
It does not follow that, because there has been almost universal silence on that side of the House, and that the arguments from this side have been as yet unanswered, there is no occasion for debate on the subject. It is true that the amount of this Vote is not a large one, and, looked at from one point of view, the time of the Committee has been spent, perhaps, to very small advantage in pursuing the discussion so far. But, Mr. Courtney, when we look at the purposes for which this money is to be voted, then even the small sum of £30,000 assumes rather an infinitely more serious aspect. There are many new Members in this House on both sides, and to many of them it may appear that a small Supplementary Vote of £30,000 might be passed in silence; but older Members may remember that upon the main Vote for the Irish Constabulary, amounting to £1,500,000, there was a general protest from all parts of the House against so enormous an expenditure. We are now, to-night, voting an increase upon that original sum of £1,500,000. Mr. Courtney, there are many Members of this House—[Cries of "Divide!"] Mr. Courtney, if I am not allowed to proceed, I shall be under the necessity of moving that you do report Progress.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
If I am allowed to proceed, I want to draw the attention of the Committee to the different heads of the Vote. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), in the explanation which he made in the earlier part of the evening, made a reference to the Belfast riots. That reference was a very short one. The right hon. Gentleman did not go beyond the first step to explain that a large portion of the Vote was for the Belfast riots. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman might have given us some additional information as to the way in which the money was spent, and the necessity for the expenditure, and as to his own opinion of the proceedings in Belfast. He might have indicated, too, the wealth of the inhabitants of that city who have given so much countenance to the spirit of riot in the North of Ireland, and that they ought to have been made responsible for this expenditure rather than that it should have been levied upon the general taxpayers of the country. I am sorry the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. J. O'Connor) has moved to reduce this Vote by the sum of £1,000. I think the whole sum might have been objected to, so far as it is an additional charge placed upon the general taxation of the country; and I, for my part, shall not hesitate to give not only my vote, but my voice emphatically against this extra taxation. Where is this expenditure to stop? It was observed that when we had got a force in Ireland costing the country £1,000,000 sterling, we had a force, supplemented by the military, ample for all purposes of maintaining what is called law and order. To-night, the Government have through the month of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) confessed that all this machinery is insufficient for the purpose of maintaining law and order; and they have announced that it is their intention very shortly, or after they have obtained the passage of the rigid Rule of Closure, to ask for additional powers for the government of Ireland. If that be so, it is useless to grant this additional sum, and the sooner a protest is made the better. The right hon. Gentleman, in commenting upon the action of the hon. Member for Tipperary and others who took part in 1188 the Cork and other meetings, said that the intention of those Gentlemen and the object of the meeting was to intimidate the jurors. If similar steps had been taken to pack juries in England, in the same way that Irish juries are packed, all your police—[Cries of "Divide, divide!"] Mr. Courtney, as I am not allowed to proceed, I beg to more that you do now report Progress.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Illingworth.)
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I beg to say, Mr. Courtney, that I intend to vote for this Motion, and my reason i3 the repeated interruptions by which the speeches of the hon. Member (Mr. Illingworth) and other hon. Gentlemen have been met by a number of Members who have recently come into the House. I may add that any further Motion of the same kind which is elicited by the same course of conduct will have my support.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I am sure the Committee will feel it is quite impossible that we can consent to report Progress at this time of the night (12.10). Great interest has been shown in this debate, and the Committee will, no doubt, listen to the few observations the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Illingworth) has to make; but we must ask the Committee to give a Vote with as little delay as possible.
§ MR. PARNELL
I am very glad, Sir, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Smith) has thought it necessary to rebuke his disorderly Followers. It is not the habit of the hon. Member for West Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) to speak at length upon the Irish, or any other question, and I certainly think that the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite might have waited until the hon. Member had finished his speech before they selected him as a mark for their disorderly interruptions. However, as hon. Gentlemen opposite have now received a rebuke from their Leader, I hope the future conduct of those Gentlemen will not render it necessary for the hon. Member for Bradford to persevere with his Motion for Progress.
MR. ILLING WORTH
I beg to withdraw the Motion, on the understanding that lion. Gentleman above the Gang- 1189 way opposite will accede to the appeal made to them by their Leader.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question proposed, "That the reduced sum of £29,960 be granted to Her Majesty for the said Service."
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
Mr. Courtney, when I was interrupted by hon. Gentlemen opposite, I was observing, in reply to what the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had said, that it was a deliberate attempt to influence juries. Now, Sir, I venture to submit to the Committee that if the same system of packing juries existed in England as has prevailed sadly too long in Ireland, not only all the police in England, but all the military as well, would be insufficient to prevent the people of this country from attending public meetings, and upsetting not only the juries thus set up, but also the Government which defended them. Now, Mr. Courtney, it is not denied by the Government that there has been less disorder in Ireland during the last few months than has been the case for years. Under these circumstances we are entitled to ask how it is that all this money has been spent. The secret of the whole matter is, that the Government has countenanced a system of jury-packing against which any people who desire any form of Constitutional freedom are called upon to protest. Sir, for my part, I protest against the language of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, and I venture, humble Member of this House as I am, to give the right hon. Gentleman a warning. Pointing to the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. John O'Connor), who had told the Committee that he had himself felt the blows of the batons of these ruthless police, the right hon. Gentleman said the hon. Member must look for not only blows from batons, but for something mere serious. It is true that the right hon. Gentleman afterwards put the threat in a milder form; but I would say that no Member of this House, no Minister of the Crown who has such responsible duties to discharge as the right hon. Gentleman has, ought to take up such an attitude as he has adopted, and to make use of such covert threats to Members of the House, or to anybody else. It is evident that a spirit is developing which bodes no good for freedom of debate in this House; but, as long as we are entitled to speak, I wish 1190 to say—and I believe that I am speaking for many Members both above and below the Gangway—that we have abandoned all faith in this system of coercion, whether it be carried out by the police or by the military, and that, therefore, we are called upon consistently to oppose the Vote, and all Votes of a like character, intended to maintain, not Constitutionalism in Ireland, but the spirit of tyranny which the Irish Members, assisted by a large number of Members of this House, as I believe they will soon be by the great body of the British people, are desirous to overthrow. We have only to ask whether Ireland is receiving the same treatment as that which is accorded to the rest of the Empire. Gentlemen opposite tell us it is. Well, I wish to see some evidence of it. Unfortunately, we see accumulating proof in every direction that the very opposite spirit is prevalent in the counsels of the Government. There was a melancholy exhibition of this spirit a short time ago. When the hon. Member for Tipperary was referring to his own experience at the hands of the police, and to the experience of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), there was upon the faces of the Law Officers of the Government evidence of the most ill - timed hilarity. Surely, under such circumstances, a certain amount of gravity would have better become the most responsible positions of those Gentlemen. I think that the unseemly manner in which they exhibited their feelings to the House was an unfortunate indication of the spirit in which they would approach their duties as Law Officers of the Crown. I confess myself grieved at the display of such a spirit from such a quarter.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Mr. Courtney, I do not think any time should be lost, on the part of the Irish Members, in taking notice of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. You, Sir, for the first time since you have been in the Chair, thought it right to call me to Order, and I submitted to your ruling with that deference which is always due to the unfaltering courtesy and constant fairness which you always exhibit. But when the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland rises in this House, shakes his hand in the face of the Irish Members, and with a face and a voice distorted by passion, and, in such close connection 1191 with, words addressed to an hon. Member, uses threats as to proceedings in Ireland, I think I have some excuse for losing my self-control. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman had the grace to withdraw the first part of his remarks, in which he was answered by the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary. That statement was, that my hon. Friend, taking part in a meeting in Cork, was attacked by the police with batons; and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary immediately proceeded to say that my hon. Friend fully deserved what he got; and immediately added that if hon. Members were to take part in like proceedings they would have something worse than batons to deal with. ["No, no!"] Now, Mr. Courtney, that was the statement as I understood it; that was the statement as it was understood by hon. Members around me; that was the statement as it was understood by hon. Members above the Gangway opposite. It may not be the statement as it was understood on the opposite side below the Gangway, because hon. Gentlemen there have been so busy in attempting to interrupt the proceedings of the Committee that they may be forgiven for a somewhat misleading recollection of the proceedings. But supposing that the right hon. Gentleman did not mean to use the threat against us. He may have meant it or not, that is his affair. We are quite able to meet any threats he may make. But if we adopt the gloze which the right hon. Gentleman put upon it when, by resuming his seat upon a point of Order raised by one of my hon. Friends, he was able to collect his scattered senses—if it be not a threat against the Irish Members, it is a threat of bayonets and bullets against the Irish people. What does that mean? It means that the right hon. Gentleman—one of the Leaders of the Unionist Party—tells the people of Ireland that it is his intention to mow them down with bullets and bayonets. And for doing what? For defending their hearths and their homes, and their farms against rents the injustice of which has been denounced by his own Royal Commission. And that is the message of peace which the present Government has to substitute for that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). I tell the right hon. 1192 Gentleman that he may exasperate the Irish people; but that better men than he have failed to terrorize them. We have had to deal with a real Cromwell. Mantalinis, masquerading as Cromwells, will not frighten us.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I should like, Mr. Courtney, to make a remark with reference to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman has proceeded entirely on the assumption that the police will act in a certain manner, altogether apart from the question whether they have the least ground for their proceedings or not. I would like to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews) whether he accepts the doctrine which his right hon. Colleague the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant has laid down with regard to the action of police at meetings in Ireland? The interpretation I place upon the right hon. Gentleman's language is that if the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, or any military gentleman of that description, issued a Proclamation declaring that, in his opinion, an illegal assembly was taking place, it would be the duty of the police to disperse it at all hazards. Now, is that the law?—because the principle which the Government are proceeding on has been repudiated over and over again by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt). The last occasion on which he repudiated it was in reference to the Orange riots at Cleator Moor. The Orangemen went into Cleator Moor with banners and guns and pikes, and an information was sworn that there was going to be an illegal assembly which might lead to a breach of the peace. In the pages of Hansard, of the 15th of July, 1884, the extraordinary proceedings which took place there are described. Questions were asked of the then Home Secretary as to whether it was his intention to proclaim the meeting. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir William Harcourt) stated, in reply, that on the 13th of December, 1867, the following message was sent from the Home Office to the Clerk of the County Justices, Liverpool:—Issue proclamations similar to that by the borough; collect county police; ask assistance of borough police; swear in special constables; give notice to military authorities; apply to 1193 Orange leaders to stop their meeting and procession; apply to Roman Catholic clergy to dissuade the people; do everything in your power to prevent a collision and breach of the peace; to do this you are justified in preventing meetings and stopping processions: let the people know that they are stopped on these grounds. Magistrates are not to be bound by this, but must exercise their own discretion, depending on locality where a meeting is held and numbers attending, force they have at their disposal, and other elements that cannot be known to the Secretary of State. Note—This telegram was sent after a personal consultation with Sir John Karslake, who attended at the Home Office and settled it.Now, Sir, that was what was said in 1867. What was the law as interpretated by the late Home Secretary the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby in 1884? He was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton), as to why, that being the state of the law, the Government did not interfere with the Orangemen at Cleator Moor? What did the right hon. Gentleman say? He said—The series of Questions put by the hon. Member is founded entirely on a misapprehension of the province of the Executive Government in such matters. In England, the Executive Government is not the conservator of the peace. The conservation of the peace is entrusted to the magistrates in the different localities for which they have jurisdiction. They are the conservators of the peace, and the Executive Government and the Secretary of State have no authority to give any orders whatever to the magistrates in this matter. The Government and the Home Secretary have no authority over the local police either in the counties or in the boroughs. That is a fundamental proposition which seems sometimes not to be understood.The right hon. Gentleman added—The ground upon which we acted seemed to me to be a reasonable ground. It was this—that it is easier to prevent processions from forming than to deal with an excited mob after a collision has occurred. That was the principle on which we advised the magistrates, and on which they acted, and with the best effect. It was adopted with the advice of the English and of the Scotch Law Officers of the Crown, and it prevented collisions in a number of cases in Liverpool and Glasgow in connection with Orange processions; and it was also useful in preventing disturbances arising out of the proceedings of the Salvation Army. But, unfortunately, the doctrine on which it was based was challenged. In a particular case, the magistrates ordered that a meeting should not be held, on the ground that information had been sworn that there was danger of a breach of the peace; and the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court declared that the magistrates had no authority to stop a meeting in these circumstances. Consequently it was not possible to 1194 tender the same advice to the magistrates in these matters.The right hon. Gentleman also said—Therefore, I say, since that decision the power to stop processions on these grounds seemed to be put an end to, and they could not be prohibited; and then the question arose, what are the magistrates to do?Now, Sir, that is reported in Hansard of July 15, 1884; vol. ccxc, pp. 1119–20–21–22. I should like to know if, in face of that opinion, the Government propose to stop meetings in Ireland, under what power they intend to act? When the Liberal Government stopped meetings, they first obtained statutory power, under the Crimes Act, to do so. If statutory power was needed by the Liberal Government, why do not the Conservative Government want it? If, in 1884, it was necessary to have a special clause in the Crimes Act to enable the Government of that day to put a stop to meetings in Ireland, I would like to ask from whence do the present Government obtain authority to stop meetings? Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary plainly what will happen. I tell him this—and I say it advisedly—that if policemen come to disturb a meeting and fire on it, the people, if they have weapons, will be fully entitled to use them against the disturbers of the meeting. And when these threats are used by the Government, let them beware of the effect of them upon the Irish people. At present, the people are going unarmed to their meetings. Now, there are a number of domestic utensils and agricultural implements which it is quite likely, if the people believe that illegal action is being perpetrated against them, they will think they have a right to apply against the police. And when the people know that the Orange Party in Ireland were advised to go to public meetings with what were called their "sweethearts," when they know that noble Lords, brothers of Cabinet Ministers, sons of Lords Lieutenant, signed Proclamations advising the Orangemen to go armed to their meetings, because they were being illegally proclaimed; it is quite likely that the Irish people may take it into their heads that that which is lawful and proper for the Orange Body to do may be lawful and proper for them to do. I hope the Irish people will take no such course, unless 1195 the proceedings threatened by the Government are carried out. But if in the dispersal of any meeting you shoot down one single man, I tell you, take the consequences. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary no doubt finds it very easy, in the calmness of the Irish Office, to give his orders. He is thinking not of the Irish people, but of the effect of his language on the English constituencies, and of what will benefit his miserable Party. He is thinking, "Will a little bloodshed in Ireland cement the Liberal alliance?" [Cries of "Shame" and "Order!"]
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I rise, Sir, to a point of Order. The Speaker has ruled that the expression "Shame" is out of Order. I ask you whether you caught that expression?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I should regret it, Sir, if any interpretation I have put on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary should incur the censure of the Chair. [Cries of "Withdraw!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite, who say "Withdraw" had better remove the Chairman and get into the Chair themselves.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman opposite interrupts me. The right hon. Gentleman left a certain Government, I believe. The right hon. Gentleman was not included in the next Government. I do not think that if there were a vacancy in the Chair the right hon. Gentleman would get the appointment. The question I rose to ask the Government was this—
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Mr. Courtney, I wish to ask you, as a point of Order, whether you did not call the attention of the hon. and learned Member to the fact that the expressions he made use of went beyond Parliamentary license, and whether, under these circumstances, the hon. and learned Gentleman is not bound to withdraw them.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
I said as much to the hon. and learned Member, and he expressed regret for having used them.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman is making a bad beginning in Chairmanship. Well, Mr. Courtney, I ask the Government whether they are prepared to say that there is a law in Ireland different from the law existing in England as to the right of putting down public meetings. The Irish people know that these meetings cannot be put down, and that the Liberal Government had to obtain statutory powers in order to put them down. Why, Sir, if the Government are right in putting down these meetings, how is it that they do not arrest and prosecute every person taking a part in them. If the Government have power to issue proclamations of meetings, it follows that every person acting in breach of those proclamations is acting illegally. Why do they not prosecute my hon. Friends who take part in such meetings? If they are illegal everybody who attends them ought to be prosecuted. What are called "the poor dupes" ought to be prosecuted. It appears that there are 5,000,000 of dupes in Ireland. Everyone in Ireland is a dupe, I believe, unless he is an Orange Lord. Why, I ask, do not the Government give effect to their belief in the legality of their action? I think that the indisposition from which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said he was unhappily suffering must have rather got into his head to-night. I make that suggestion as an explanation of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, because nobody boasted more than he did of his desire to carry out—
§ MR. GEDGE (Stockport)
I rise to Order. The hon. and learned Member—[Ironical cheers from the Home Rule Benches.]
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
It is somewhat difficult, Mr. Courtney, I will not say to follow the thread of one's remarks, but to have any thread in them at all, in 1197 face of the persistent interruptions of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who, when they get up and address you, do not seem to know what they are interrupting about. What I have to ask the Government is this—and I would put my question rather to the calm and logical mind of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews), than to the excited mind of the Chief Secretary for Ireland—what I have to ask the Home Secretary is, whether he adheres to the declaration of the law made by his Predecessor in Office; and, if so, whether he will say that the law in England with respect to public meeting is different from the law in Ireland, the common law of both countries being presumably alike? If the right hon. and learned Gentleman says there is any difference, I would ask him, where it is to be found, and of what it consists? This is a question which, I think, admits of an easy and satisfactory answer. The Government declare that they are entitled by law to put down meetings in Ireland. We say they are not, and we ask them to point to a single judicial decision which, in the least, supports their contention that they have the right to proclaim meetings, or to prosecute anybody attending them. Why, if they had a right to put down these meetings, would they not proceed against those who attended them? It makes it all the more horrible to have threats used by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary against the Irish people, when the illegality is altogether on his side. The right hon. Gentleman, in my opinion, has entirely lost control over his feelings on this occasion. I have attributed the fact to physical causes. [Cries of "Question!"] That explanation does not seem to be satisfactory to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite. Of course, if it is not due to physical conditions, I never could attribute it to mental conditions. But whether it be due to physical or mental causes, the Government have made to-night a statement of the most serious gravity, which cannot fail to have a far-reaching effect upon what they describe as law and order in Ireland. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite—some of whom are neophytes—seem to suppose that we have not been subjected to this kind of thing before. I remember very well exactly similar speeches being made 1198 by an Irish Secretary under similar conditions, whether mental or bodily I will not specify. Our constant experience is that the excitement which we now see below the Gangway opposite is never kept up for any lengthened period, and, after a few years, hon. Members who have been so enthusiastic in cheering their Chief Secretary for Ireland are quite willing to leave him in the lurch and in the mud. Now, Sir, the present Chief Secretary cannot be expected to make the experience of any previous Chief Secretary his own experience; but, at all events, he must be aware that in any course he may feel called upon to take in regard to putting down rightful meetings in Ireland, he is certain to meet with a speedy retribution. The right hon. Gentleman is not supported now as other Chief Secretaries, who have preceded him, were supported by a homogenous Party. On the contrary, he is supported by a Party many of whom do not agree on the policy that should be adopted towards Ireland, and others of whom would only be too anxious to fly at his throat, the moment they found out his mistakes were such as would enable the Liberal Party to be restored on the ruins of its Predecessor. I submit, Sir, that when we find the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary using, as he has done in the course of this debate, language of the extraordinary nature which we, on those Benches, attribute to him—we may be wrong—in initiating a policy of the kind he has indicated, he has opened up a line of debate in which we sitting here have a right to enter. We say that, seeing the right hon. Gentleman has said to Members of this House—"You have already been attacked by the baton; but there are other weapons, which are much more far reaching, and which may be fatal to you next time," he has introduced considerations which we think fully warrant us in prolonging this debate until we can obtain from him or some other Member of the Government language of greater clearness indicative of what is the exact policy the right hon. Gentleman intends to carry out. The policy announced by the right hon. Gentleman to-night is a policy which I presume is not entirely his own. I should like to ask the very pacific First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) whether he approves of the policy of his Colleague, which we 1199 Irish Representatives regard as a policy of bloodshed. It may not have been so intended by the Government; but I would ask, in reference to the mere shred of legality which is assumed on the basis of the Viceregal Proclamation—the legality of which we impugn—would hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway allow men in England, under a similar state of the law, to be shot down, or threatened to be bayoneted, without admitting the responsibility attaching to such a course? Admitting that the late Liberal Government did proclaim a number of public meetings, they did so under statutory authority; while in England it has been judicially declared that the Government have not the power to put down an Orange meeting with bands of music and people firing shots from firearms. If that is the state of the law in regard to England, I ask is it not unfair to us to say that you will use the law, as you threatened to do in Ireland, until it has been clearly defined judicially or statutorily? What we say is, that if any portion of the Irish population is shot down in consequence of the view announced by the Chief Secretary, any blood that may thus be spilt would be entirely upon the heads of Her Majesty's Government. I should very greatly deplore any consequences of this kind, because no matter how right the Irish people may be, and no matter how wrong the Government may be, the Irish people are always placed in the wrong by the English newspapers. "Whatever happens, the English newspapers invariably misrepresent them; and I think it would be almost better for the people to put up with wrong or illegality than that the Government should have the chance of misrepresenting the course they may take in Ireland. At the same time, my mind cannot but be moved by considerations which I believe influence the Irish people. It may be that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was a merely harmless threat; and, if that were so, it certainly was a most unfortunate and unhappy course for the right hon. Gentleman to have taken. But if what he said was seriously intended, then I say it may be followed by the most serious consequences. People in Ireland will believe the statement made by the Chief Secretary, and in the state of the law laid 1200 down in regard to England; and they will think they have a perfect right to meet in public assembly, and, in so doing, to resist the police, whether they are in uniform or not, should they attempt to disperse them. That, at any rate, will be their belief. That belief has not yet been tested in a Court of Law, and I, for one, hope it will not be tested in a Coroner's Court, which, undoubtedly, is the Court to which the Chief Secretary would seem to appeal. I would say that no more cold-blooded incitement to a course which, at the best, is in all probability one of the greatest illegality, was ever addressed by an Irish official to an armed body like the Irish Constabulary. The Irish police go to these public meetings with arms in their hands, and often arrive there after long marches through the country, some of them probably being very tired and fatigued, having stopped for refreshment at the only place where they can get it—the nearest public-house. To-morrow morning you will have these men all over the country reading in the newspapers that an Irish Member was told in this House by the Chief Secretary for Ireland—"The next time you do such-and-such a thing, it is not batons you will get, but buckshot." That, in the opinion of the generality of Irish police constables, will be a mandate from his superior officer to commit bloodshed—I might say murder; but you, Sir, have ruled that it is out of Order to say in this House that an hon. or right hon. Gentleman's statement is an incitement to murder, although it has not been ruled out of Order to offer an incitement to murder. In fact, it seems to come to this—that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is entitled to use language which we say is calculated to foment disorder in Ireland, or lead to illegal procedure on the part of the police; and we, on these Benches, are not entitled to characterize such a course by the only language that can fitly be applied to it. This is a matter we cannot but deplore; and I would advise the right hon. Gentleman in future, when he has a policy to lay down in this House, to endeavour to lay it down in language that will not be open to the terrible misinterpretation which, on the present occasion, has been attached to his words. Certainly, the language the Chief Secretary has employed is not the 1201 sort of language which ought to be used in this House. If the First Lord of the Treasury were to say to the humblest Member of the House, speaking of something that may have occurred in Yorkshire—"You have had batons already, but you will have guns next," the whole House would rise up against such a statement. Why, then, is a different tone to that which would be adopted towards English Members to be resorted to in the case of the Irish Representatives? The very fact that the right hon. Gentleman himself is not an Irishman, that he is not of our blood, and race, and religion, ought to make him more scrupulous in dealing with the Irish Members, He dare not, in fact, address to English Members language he has not scrupled to address to the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. J. O'Connor). I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to tell any English Member "that if he has been batoned already, something worse will happen next time." The Committee ought to remember what it was that happened in this case. The hon. Member for Mid-Cork (Dr. Tanner) received a blow on the head, and was also kicked, and the policeman who kicked and beat him was returned for trial for the assault; but the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland refused to send up an indictment to the Grand Jury. That having been done, and my hon. Friend (Mr. J. O'Connor) having complained of an illegality of this character, the Chief Secretary for Ireland not only justifies it, but says that no matter how illegally the policeman acted, "the next time anything of the sort happens, instead of using a baton, he may use a gun." That is the only interpretation to be placed on the language used by the right hon. Gentleman. If the right hon. Gentleman denies it, let him get up at the Table and repudiate it.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Well, then, what did you mean? The right hon. Gentleman has stated what he did not mean; will he tell us what it is he did mean? The words which fell from him seem to me to be very extraordinary, especially in view of all the circumstances existing in Ireland at the present time. In that country you have 12,000 policemen, and every policeman 1202 in Ireland is a politician; he takes his orders not merely from his superior officers, but also from the tone taken by the political Leaders of the Government. Those men will all read the remarks made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland to-morrow morning; and they will put upon his language the interpretation we have placed upon it—namely, that in future not only are they to use the baton, in circumstances that may be legal or illegal, but, in addition to that, they are to do something that is worse. The right hon. Gentleman is the head of the police; will he now tell us, if that is not his meaning, what his meaning really is? Will he say that, pending the elucidation of the law on that subject by the Irish Courts, he will suspend these Proclamations; because, if he will do this, we can, by taking action against a police officer or superintendent for nominal assault, test the question as to whether the Government Proclamation was legal or illegal. But, in the meantime, we are governed by English law, and while that is so, it is a monstrous thing for any official in the position of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant to issue what I can only call a blood mandate to his police.
§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
Sir, I should not have intervened in this debate at all, and should not have attempted to detain the Committee from the Division about to be taken, but for the fact that, in the course of this debate, one of the Leaders of the Party opposite, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, made a statement of considerable gravity, and I have felt that, in consequence of that statement, it is perfectly right that I, as an English Member, should offer a few remarks. At the present time, it is surely remarkably necessary that the Government of this country should be very careful of the language they use in speaking about Ireland; and particularly careful to confine themselves in their promises of action with reference to that country within the strict bounds of legality. The illegality of their interference in the manner of proceeding with regard to public meetings in Ireland rests, not on the assertion of my right hon. Friend the late Home Secretary, but on the decision of the Court of Queen's Bench. I have risen simply on this account, that I think it my 1203 duty, on behalf of that constituency which I represent, as well as that of hon. Members who sit beside me, not to allow the only Members who protest against the language used by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to be the Irish Representatives, because we stand solidly beside the Irish Members; we suffer where they suffer; the course of law in this country suffers by the violation of the law in Ireland; and I do not think that that portion of the people whom we on these Benches represent will endure that Ireland shall be made a Poland of.
§ MR. M'LAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)
I rise to express, as an English Member who is in no way indebted to the Irish Members, my concurrence with what has just fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hoxton (Mr. Stuart), who has just sat down—namely, that, after such a speech as has been delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, it is not right that all the comments on that declaration should come from the Irish Members. The English Members are as much interested in justice as any other body of Representatives can possibly be; and when we hear a speech made from the Government Bench that can only bear the interpretation which has been put on it by hon. Members below the Gangway, I think we are entitled to protest against it. [Cries of "Divide!"] I desire to make an appeal to hon. Members opposite, who interrupt me, before they compel me to move that the Chairman report Progress. I would ask them this—Why is it that, while they will listen to Irish Members on this subject, when myself or any other English Member gets up, they endeavour to shout us down? When the hon. Member for West Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) rose to address the Committee, they tried to shout him down; they applied the same treatment to the hon. Member for Hoxton (Mr. Stuart); and now they are applying it to me. If English Members who rise to speak in this debate are to be treated like this, we may expect to go on sitting to any hour in the morning. I may say that, personally, I care nothing for these interruptions; but I hope that, if they are continued from those Benches, one Liberal Member after another will rise, until, before the Division is taken on 1204 this Vote, every hon. Member on this side of the House will have spoken. It rests entirely with hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House whether I shall move to report Progress or not. Proceeding with the remarks I was about to make, I will only say that when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Tipperary (Mr. J. O'Connor) described the wounds that were inflicted on the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner), I was very grieved to hear the cheers that came from the Tory Benches. I think, Sir, it is a very sad state of things that one side of the House should rejoice when it is stated that an hon. Member on the other side has been knocked down by the police at the time he is acting in the exercise of his rights as a citizen. That for which the hon. Gentleman was assaulted in Ireland was not an endeavour to intimidate jurors; what he desired to do was to protest against jury packing, which is an illegal act; and I say that if hon. Members of this House, who attend a public meeting to protest against an illegal act, are to be assaulted by the police, are to be knocked down and wounded by them, and hon. Gentlemen opposite are to jeer at such proceedings, it is a very sad state of things. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has said that those hon. Members deserved what they got. He said they had deserved the blows they received, and that in future they would get more than blows from policemen's batons, and they themselves would be responsible for it. I do not wonder at the interpretation put on those words by hon. Members below the Gangway. I am glad, however, that the right hon. Gentleman has repudiated the extreme interpretation put on his language; but, at the same time, a man is to be held responsible for the natural consequences of his acts, and also for the natural consequences of his words, and the natural interpretation, and most explicit interpretation, is that which hon. Members have put on the words used by the right hon. Gentleman. Those words will appear in all the Irish newspapers to-morrow, and it will be generally understood, both by the Irish and the English people, that Her Majesty's Government are prepared to resort to measures indicated by hon. Members below the Gangway. The Government may say that the responsibility will rest on the 1205 Irish people; but the fact remains that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was an indication that the Government are not going to stop at the baton, but will resort to extreme measures where they deem it necessary. I do not know what those measures can mean, unless they mean firearms, after the batons are given up. Therefore, it is clear that when the Government has in contemplation the use of more extreme measures than batons, I think we are entitled to say they are contemplating a resort to blood shed. It is, Sir, because of the disastrous use which may be made of that speech of the Chief Secretary, that I, as an English Member, protest against the language he has employed, and have risen to give an express refusal to be in any way implicated in it. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will see fit to modify his language, and let it be known that his Government does not intend to carry out a policy that will only exasperate the Irish people, and still further intensify the feeling with which they regard this country.
§ MR. DILLON
I think it would be impossible to exaggerate or aggravate the dangerous tendency of the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. I must confess that the temper exhibited by hon. Members opposite in regard to this matter has completely taken me by surprise. Let us remember what took place to-night at the opening of this discussion. Having gone frequently over from London to Ireland, and been an eye-witness to scenes in which I myself have taken a part from Sunday to Sunday in that country, on occasions when a single blow struck must have resulted in the loss of 50 or 60, or perhaps 100 lives, I am astonished to find hon. Gentlemen opposite treating this subject as if it were a mere laughing matter. I have stated, and I repeat the statement, that I have come from places in which I have been in the thick of the fray myself, and where I have had a policeman's baton playing about my head. ["Hear, hear!"] An hon. Member says Hear, hear; but I tell him that the day in which a bayonet is drawn upon one of us in Ireland, many a drop of blood will be spilt. Let me tell hon. Members that although they may laugh as they come down here in order to close this debate, nevertheless 1206 when the Chief Secretary for Ireland gives us the bayonet, he will not have reason to laugh. The right hon. Gentleman knows, while sitting in his place and listening to what I say, that if the statement lie has made—and his repudiation of which I deny—namely, that if we continue the proceedings we have described, something worse than batons will be used against us, the right hon. Gentleman knows full well that if he moans to carry out that policy, and did not use his language to-night in an unguarded moment of excitement or anger, the prospect before him is such that it would be far better for him that he had never accepted his present office, and he will not only regret the day in which he did accept it, but will doubly repent the night on which he made that speech. I wish to ask hon Members to think over what has occurred. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has said that the meetings suppressed in Ireland only numbered eight during the last four months. Up to last Christmas, with the exception of the meeting at Sligo, we had no great complaint to make. It is within the last three or four weeks that the worst phase of the Government policy has been entered on, a policy which has brought Government rule in Ireland to the verge of a dangerous and critical position. What have we heard from the right hon. Gentleman to-day? I asked him to explain to us on what law the Government relied on carrying out their policy. The people I represent believe and are fully convinced that it is the Government who are breaking the law, and not we; and, if tomorrow the police should attempt to break up a meeting, and the people should resist them, is it not the duty of the right hon. Gentleman, as the Governor of the country, to refer us to the law under which he is acting, in order that we may be able to instruct our people? I say, on his head be the blood and the guilt. [A VOICE: "On yours!"] Hon. Members who are ignorant, and who interrupt me, and who, in all probability, never took the trouble to read a line of Irish history or law, and who come down to this House to obey the orders of their Leaders, are unfit to take any part in the debates of this House, but confine their share in the discussion of great subjects like this to incoherent interruptions, which only serve to exhibit their 1207 ignorance. But I ask a question, and I say I am entitled to an answer to it. I ask, has the Government in Ireland law under which they can put down public meetings: and, if so, where are we to find it? I have told the Chief Secretary of Ireland that we are convinced the law is on our side; I also said we meant to hold these meetings in spite of the right hon. Gentleman's Proclamations. What is the answer we get? We get no reference to the law; we get no information as to where we are to look for the law; but we do get an intimation that, if we go on exercising our legal right in Ireland until the law is altered, we shall get something worse than batons. Well, what is worse than batons? A man who uses words like these when he does not lay down what the law is, but only convinces certain Members of the House that in using the force he speaks of, he only does so to vindicate the law and not to break it, is pursuing a course the most deadly and most dangerous to the public peace of Ireland. I have seen the police wantonly attack the people and without provocation. An instance of that occurred at Rosscrea, when I was present. A body of people, some 200 in number, perhaps, walked with me to my hotel. We were not intending to hold a meeting; our meeting had been held peaceably, and a number of men accompanied me to my hotel. The police, infuriated by the fact of a meeting having been held, hardly allowed me to enter the door of my hotel, when they charged among the crowd, and I heard the crack, crack, of the batons upon the skulls of the people, and some men felled to the ground. I declare to Heaven if I had had a revolver in my hand then, I would have used it.
§ MR. P. STANHOPE (Wednesbury)
Mr. Courtney, I rise to Order, and draw your attention to the very unseemly interruptions of two noble Lords who shed lustre upon their Order—I mean the noble Lord the Member for North Tyrone (Lord Ernest Hamilton) and the noble Lord who sits for the Chippenham Division of Wiltshire (Lord Henry Bruce).
§ MR. DILLON
I do not for a moment seek to justify, nor have I any intention to justify, such action on the part of any 1208 Nationalist Leader in Ireland; but do you suppose we have no sense of wrong, do you suppose we have hearts of stone in our breasts, when we see our people smashed by policemen's batons, when we see old men, as I saw them at Rosscrea, felled to the ground by policemen without a shadow of excuse, without a shadow of law. Yet, when we come to raise this question in the House, right hon. Gentlemen opposite do not think it worth while to answer my simple question, under what law do they act? These right hon. Gentlemen think they have reached that stage in the administration of affairs in Ireland when they can throw law aside; that they have reached that stage when policemen's batons, or something else, will do without law. I am sorry they should think so, and it will be a sad day when it has come to this. I can tell them they are not serving the cause of the Union by carrying on this course. Nothing is more calculated to disgust the people of Ireland with this House, nothing is more likely to lead them to despair of justice proceeding from it, and from those who administer the affairs of the country, than, on a question which may involve the lives of numbers of our people, to find that through the whole night occupants of the Front Bench sit silent. I say it is a policy that is disgraceful to the Administration of our country. All we can do is to protest against it, until the law is clearly laid down. Until we are convinced that the Government are not, as we believe them to be, breaking the law, in an important, a vital particular, when they proclaim these meetings, we shall continue to hold them responsible, deeply, terribly, as we feel the risk of doing so.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
At this hour I will not trouble the Committee beyond a few remarks. I think if the hon. Member who has just sat down had attended to the observations of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, early in the evening, he would not have asked under what law these meetings have been proclaimed. That was stated in his observations after the opening of this debate, and I can do little more than repeat the statement then made. Again I wish to call the attention of the Committee to the circumstances, and to say that there 1209 has been no new departure in Ireland during the last few months in the policy of proclaiming meetings. The Government have not in any way altered the opinions they have expressed and the views they have always entertained; and, as a matter of fact, during the last five weeks only three meetings have been proclaimed, and during the last three months only eight. The law, if we could discuss it at full length, can be shown in the clearest way. The law is this—and I believe, if it were necessary or possible to argue it here as a legal question, it could easily be proved by authorities to which we could refer and on which we rely—that if a meeting is held for an unlawful object, or for an unlawful purpose, then that meeting is an unlawful assembly, and it is in the power of conservators of the peace—it is their right, it is their duty—to prevent that meeting taking place. Whether the Proclamation is issued by the local magistrates, or issued by the Lord Lieutenant, or by the Lords Justices, in that Proclamation the grounds for its issue are stated, and anyone can refer to them and see if those grounds are not sufficient.
§ MR. HOLMES
I may mention to the Committee that there is an easy way to test the legality of these things, because the Lord Lieutenant's Proclamation does not in itself constitute law. The Proclamation is addressed to those believed to be about to engage in an unlawful act; but if the Proclamation is not justified by law, if it interferes with any man where interference is not justified, that is a question that can be tested before the ordinary tribunal. What is the meaning, then, of speech after speech, of discussion after discussion, when not one single attempt has been made during the last few months for the purpose of ascertaining, before a competent tribunal, whether the Government were right or wrong in proclaiming a meeting? I have stated my view of the law, and we have Courts for the purpose of settling such questions, and if anyone objects to the action of the Government on the ground of illegality, 1210 that question can be decided by the Court. If it were decided, we should not then have these references after references to Proclamations with which this House is wholly unable to deal, and general appeals to Members of the Committee that the Government have acted illegally. On each of the eight occasions when meetings have been proclaimed the subject was investigated as carefully as possible; and there is not the shadow of a doubt that these meetings had an unlawful object—they were unlawful assemblies, and it was the duty of the conservators of the police to prevent their being held.
§ MR. PARNELL
The right hon. Gentleman the Law Officer of the Crown, who has just spoken, and his Colleague who sits beside him on the Front Bench, have been repeatedly asked what is the law on this question—the Proclamation of meetings in Ireland—whether by magistrates or by the Lord Lieutenant, and where is this law to be found? Now, the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland has given us his version of the law. He says it is in the power of any conservators of the peace to suppress and disperse meetings called for an illegal purpose; and he leaves us to suppose that the conservators of the peace—that any conservator of the peace—is to be the judge as to whether this meeting has been called for an illegal purpose or not. This must follow from the statement of the Attorney General for Ireland. He says that these meetings have been suppressed under the law which enables, according to his opinion, any conservator of the peace to suppress a meeting; therefore, these meetings have been suppressed by conservators of the peace, who constitute themselves judges whether these meetings are called for an illegal purpose or not. Consequently, it follows that any police constable in Ireland can constitute himself a judge as to the legality or illegality of a meeting, and use his weapons to suppress that meeting. The brother Law Officer of the Attorney General shakes his head. We want elucidation; we want to know not only what is his opinion of the law, but where he finds that law? The Attorney General spoke of authorities; but he did not give us any authority; he did not cite a single case, or quote a single authority on which he relies, 1211 Why not? Has he any authority to give us? Does he know that after the suppression of a meeting in the North of Ireland, in 1881, by the magistrates there, an action was brought against the Crown in Ireland, and the Judges decided the point of law adversely to those who brought the action, and who suffered at the suppression of the meeting, being assaulted by the police? They decided on a point which was decided almost immediately afterwards by a Superior Court in England in a precisely different direction. Here is a conflict of opinion between English and Irish Judges. The English Judges decided, and that decision has been acted upon by the authorities ever since, both by magistrates and by the Home Secretary, in the sense that there is no right to suppress public meetings in England. You cannot do it. An example was given in a disorderly meeting of Orangemen, which the then Home Secretary avowed his inability to suppress in view of that decision of the Court. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland says if you are aggrieved by a suppression of a meeting, you can appeal to the Courts. Well, this is a Vote for £30,000 for the Irish Constabulary, and this body is armed with weapons of precision which they carry to these meetings, and which they use in suppression of meetings—not only batons, but sharpened bayonets and rifles of precision. The Chief Secretary for Ireland told the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner) that the next time we took part in these illegal meetings and refused to disperse, we would get something harder than batons—the right hon. Gentleman does not deny that is a correct representation of what he said. [Mr. HOLMES dissented.] It is useless for the Attorney General for Ireland to shake his head; he did not make the statement, and the Chief Secretary does not deny it.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I did not say anything about the next time. The amount of what I said was this—that the law must be enforced at any cost.
§ MR. PARNELL
At half-past 1 the right hon. Gentleman gives a second edition of what he said at half-past 12, differing in every particular, differing in every word—bearing no resemblance whatever to it. Recollect, what we are 1212 discussing, what we are trying to find out, is what is the law. The right hon. Gentleman was speaking of a meeting which was proclaimed at Cork, which was dispersed at Cork without a proclamation by a local Inspector of Police, assisted by armed constables, on which occasion many people were struck, knocked down, and kicked by the police. The right hon. Gentleman, in speaking of that incident in his campaign, said distinctly—his language is within the recollection of the Committee—he does not deny it now, although he talks of the amount of what he said—he said distinctly that, in future, we must expect something harder than batons. What does something harder than batons mean? The police carry something harder, they carry cold steel. That is what the Chief Secretary for Ireland has threatened, and the litigants, the people who feel themselves aggrieved, we are told by the right hon. Gentleman's Colleague, the Attorney General for Ireland, when they have been run through the body with a bayonet, they are at liberty to appeal to the Courts of the country. There are two Irish Law Officers present. I do not know whether it is that their salaries are so small, that they think themselves badly paid, that they have been so chary of their words, their opinions, and their advice, that we have to wait until half-past 1 before we get a few words on this legal point from the right hon. and learned Attorney General. I do not know how long we must wait for an answer to the question repeatedly asked, what is your authority for your law? Are we entitled to have this much information or not? I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, is the Committee entitled to have this information? The right hon. and learned Gentleman has excused himself on the ground of its being a technical point. We do not ask him to go into a legal argument as if he were in Court; we ask for the authority for the exercise of these grave destructive powers by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. What is the authority upon which he disperses meetings by force of arms, giving those who refuse to disperse cold steel or "something harder than batons?" What is the authority? Are we to wait for an answer? Are we to wait in vain for an answer? You have this force of 1213 Constabulary, an essentially un-Constitutional force, to which you would not submit for a moment in this country—a force which is an evasion of the Mutiny Act, for it is a military, not a police force. You ask for money for this force; and, in view of the statement of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, breathing threatenings of slaughter—the Chief Secretary, who has absolute control over this force, who can promote and dismiss its members as he pleases, can increase their pay, can do everything or nothing for them—we have a statement of the way in which he intends to use this force for the suppression of meetings in Ireland, and we are entitled, before the money is voted, to a plain answer—what is the law on which you rely? Where is jour authority for this exercise of, as we believe, this illegal force? It is well for you to say these meetings were summoned for an unlawful purpose; that is not our opinion. Are you the only judges in the case? Do you rely on the fact that you are in possession of your superior force for the maintenance of your rule, and the power of dispersing our meetings? You found a difficulty in getting a verdict against the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and his Colleagues lately. Do you not suppose an aggrieved person in Ireland would not find an equal difficulty against you? Ah! but you have an advantage against the hon. Member for East Mayo, for you threaten murder against the people, and he has not retaliated on you in kind. You rely, then, on this superior force; you admit it, you say, because you can commit slaughter with impunity; that you will commit it, and that you will trample on the law. Is that your answer?
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must be aware that he is exceeding the limits of debate in the line he is taking.
§ MR. PARNELL
I have asked, Sir, for a plain answer to a plain question. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland has taken very good care not to exceed the limits of debate. In view of the cold-blooded statement which has been made to the Committee to-night by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant; in view of the evident fact, which was self-evident from his bearing, manner, attitude, and language, that the right hon. Gentleman is not 1214 fit to be trusted with this grave power over the lives and persons of Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland, I ask again, even at the risk of exceeding the limit of debate, I ask again for an answer to the question, What is the law upon which you rely, and where is your authority?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
I have not the least intention of following the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down in his remarks, and which I believe many other Members have heard with great regret. I simply rise in consequence of his appeal, and an appeal which has been made by certain other hon. Members below the Gangway, that there should be some statement as to the law of England in this matter. I have been asked for an authoritative statement, whether the law in England is the same as it is in Ireland, and I have not a word to add to the statement made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland. [Laughter.] I am not disturbed by laughter. I will put my words on record, and they may be dealt with in debate. In my judgment, in my opinion, an opinion I am willing to substantiate, the law of England and Ireland, so far as I know it, was correctly stated by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland. My reason for saying I have nothing to add is not that I differ from him, or wish to avoid stating anything, but because I believe his statement is strictly correct, and applicable both to England and Ireland. It depends on no specific authority, although authorities can be found in all the books on Constitutional Law—it depends upon the Common Law. The Common Law of England is, that if persons meet together for an illegal purpose, if they combine to commit an illegal act, if the combination or meeting is in itself illegal, it is the duty of the authorities to put a stop to that illegal act, and also they are entitled to warn persons likely to engage in that act that they will be called to account for it. As has been stated, the Proclamation does not make law; the Proclamation only—if it is a proper Proclamation—has force and effect when it is directed against the commission of an illegal act. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) has, 1215 strangely enough for one of his acumen, misunderstood the statement of the Attorney General for Ireland. It is not the presence of the police that can determine whether a meeting is illegal or not. The police officer is only the visible exponent of the law. What he does is this—If the Lord Lieutenant, the Chief Secretary, or whoever is responsible for administration, deems an act illegal, he acts in support of that belief; and if he acts wrongly, his acts can be challenged in a Court of Law. It is idle to suggest—and I know the hon. Member for Cork will not misunderstand me—that the Lord Lieutenant, the Chief Secretary, or the policeman, who endeavours to stop an act he believes to be illegal, is making a law for himself. Nothing of the kind; he is simply acting in what he believes to be his duty; and if any person believes, on the other band, that he is acting unlawfully and unjustly, the Courts will decide any question as to the legality of those acts. The hon. Member for Cork said that this view of the law had been upheld in Ireland in 1884, but that within a few days of this decision the law was decided differently in England. So far as I can understand, that is an entire mistake. There is no declaration or judicial exposition of the law with which I am acquainted which in any way laid down a different principle. The case the hon. Member for Cork alluded to is the Salvation Army case. In that case the conviction of the magistrate was simply on the ground that persons formed a procession, not because it was an illegal act itself, not because they were going to fulfil an illegal purpose—but because, being a procession, it was said it would most probably bring about a breach of the peace. But the learned Judges—Mr. Justice Field, and another whose name I do not remember at the moment—held that people had a perfect right to follow in a procession, and that a procession was not an illegal act; therefore, though they might be responsible for their conduct if it led to a breach of the peace, the action of the magistrate was not legal. As I understand the law, it is not that people meet together, not that they assemble in numbers, but that they meet together for an unlawful purpose which constitutes an unlawful meeting. I will only say, before I sit down, that I have listened to the 1216 debate, and that I think hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have placed a strained interpretation on the language of my right, hon. Friend. But be that as it may, I desire to add but one word to this debate, and that is this—that hon. Members who take part in these illegal meetings, or men in Ireland who take part in them ought to understand that the conservators of the peace have a right to disperse them, and for any consequences that follow such dispersal, great or small, they, and not the authorities, are responsible.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I intend to say but a few words, and these only in consequence of what has fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General. I do not profess to understand the law of Ireland in relation to public meetings; but I do profess to understand the law of England on the subject. For many years past I have received considerable instruction therein at the hands of various Attorneys General in this country. I think the hon. and learned Attorney General will agree with me in saying that the law as to unlawful meetings is fully laid down in the case King v. Hunt and others, which forms a sort of leading case. On the basis of that, and subsequent dicta, I take the liberty of challenging the opinion laid down by the hon. and learned Attorney General. First, before I deal with the legal part, permit me, as an English Member, to express my great regret for the words which I believe fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland under, perhaps, conditions of physical pain at the time; and which I trusted he would have thought fit to modify when they were brought to his attention. I hope I shall not be guilty of using any language that ought not to be used against one in his high position of responsibility; but if his words meant anything, they were a menace that all who engaged in similar meetings were to be prepared to meet with something more than batons; and I cannot help thinking that against meetings not yet declared illegal, meetings the object of which is not yet announced, such menaces, such threats, are in the highest degree unwise. And now I take the liberty of submitting to the Attorney General, that no Proclamation can change the character of a meeting from 1217 legal to illegal. I remember a meeting held 17 years ago, convened for Trafalgar Square, and forbidden by the Home Secretary. The same day as that on which the Proclamation was issued I served notices on the Home Secretary and the Commissioner of Police that I intended to hold the meeting, that it would be legal, and that any attempt to disperse it would be illegal. I did hold the meeting, it was peacefully held, and no steps were taken in consequence. Suppose those who had convened the meeting had accepted, which I did not, the Proclamation forbidding it, against whom would there a remedy have been of which the Attorney General talks? Against whom could any citizen intending to take part in that meeting have taken action?
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I never said that a Proclamation could make a legal meeting illegal; it is not the Proclamation—it is the purpose of the meeting.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I regret that I have not made clear to the hon. and learned Attorney General the point to which I take exception. I thought we had both agreed that a Proclamation does not vary the character of the meeting—that it was only a warning to citizens to exercise more attention with reference to the character of the meeting, a warning of possible consequences that might ensue. But I understood the Attorney General to say that if a Proclamation were unjust it could be tried in a Court of Law, and I say there is no foundation for that. There is no remedy against any public functionary who may use a Proclamation to prevent a citizen attending a meeting in which he might legally take part. It is a monstrous doctrine for any Representative of the Government charged with the duty and responsibility of using military forceto threaten, with relation to a future meeting, the illegality of such meeting not being established. I will not take up the time of the Committee further; but it would be absurd to allow such a doctrine utterly misinterpreting the law to pass without challenge.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
The hon. and learned Attorney General based the legality of these Proclamations on the illegality of the object for which the meetings were held. But where is the illegality proved? If we held a 1218 meeting that is illegal, are we not open to prosecution? If you proceed violently against the people who attend the meetings, you are responsible for all the injury that follows. But we cannot hope to make you responsible with the juries you have in Ireland. It is not possible for any subject to obtain redress against you; it would be useless for us to waste our time in the effort. I will venture to quote, as against the hon. and learned Attorney General, the opinion of a gentleman often received as an authority in debate. Professor Dicey says—The best proof of the narrowness of the limits in which the law gives power to the Executive to interfere with the right of meeting is to he found in the Coercion Act for Ireland, 1882, Section 10.The right hon. Gentleman knows what Section 10 was; it was authority given to the Lord Lieutenant to proclaim any meeting he chose. But Professor Dicey says—Such special enactments would make it lawful for the Lord Lieutenant to forbid a meeting he knew to be dangerous to the public peace, but the necessity for a Coercion Act shows the limited power of the Government under the law of the land.That is a more correct statement than that of the Attorney General. Also, with regard to the Salvation Army case, I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman is altogether correct, for I venture to say that if the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General were in a judicial position and called upon to decide, he would not decide in a different direction, or, indeed, that any Judge would not uphold the decision of the Queen's Bench in the case. That decision altogether puts an ond to the theory of the rights of the Crown to suppress public meetings. If the Crown has any fault to find, it should proceed by legal process, not in a violent and illegal manner, as they have proceeded during the last few months, Never was there a more unconstitutional doctrine than to imagine that the Proclamation of the Lord Lieutenant could have the slightest effect on meetings held for a lawful purpose. Meetings have been held in Ireland for the purpose of furthering the interests of the people, and on some obiter dicta of the Queen's Bench they have been declared illegal; but we have had no such decision on the Plan of 1219 Campaign. If it was not an illegal document, the meetings to further it were legal meetings. We have not had a decision—the packed jury in Dublin would not convict, notwithstanding all the eloquence of the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland. That packed jury would not convict, although they were chosen so as to lead any reasonable outsider to suppose the greater part were prejudiced politically against the accused. Yet these men had the courage and honesty to refuse to convict, and the Government will in future proceed to pack juries on an improved method. I must express my astonishment and regret that the hon. and learned Attorney General should have made that extraordinary statement in regard to the law, in which every Judge on the Bench would disagree with him.
§ Question put, and negatived.
Original Question put,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £30,960, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887, for the Constabulary Force in Ireland.
The Committee divided:—Ayes 246; Noes 121: Majority 125.—(Div. List, No 39.)