HC Deb 06 March 1888 vol 323 cc368-70

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether his attention has been drawn to the proceedings in the Court of Queen's Bench (Ireland) on Saturday last, relative to an inquest held last August on the body of an infant child of a woman named Ellen Gaffney, who together with her husband were Boycotted through being "land-grabbers," the death of the child being brought about by the inability of the poor woman to nurse it through being unable herself to procure nourishment; whether the Coroner at the inquest in question was advised and supported by leading members of the local branch of the National League; whether he is aware that the Coroner having handed over the depositions, taken on the first day of the inquest, to the Rev. Mr. Bergin, P.P., who lost them, the Coroner proceeded at the adjourned inquest to read to the jury depositions of his own manufacture purporting to be the originals, and that his conduct was characterized by the Lord Chief Justice as "a misprision of his office and gross misconduct;" whether, although it might have been open to the Coroner and jury to return this poor woman for trial on the charge of manslaughter, she was committed for trial on the charge of wilful murder, and remained in gaol under that charge for four months, the verdict to this effect having been drafted by a Mr. White, who had no right whatever to interfere; whether the Lord Chief Justice stated in connection with the whole case that "it was impossible to conceive such misconduct "as that of the Coroner; whether all the members of the Court were clear that the inquisition should be quashed; and, whether any steps can, or will, be taken with the view of relieving the Coroner from the duties of his office?

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

I wish to ask, whether it is a fact that the woman Ellen Gaffney was not a married woman; that the child was an illegitimate child; and, whether there is information in the hands of the police affording grounds for believing that the child was deliberately starved to death in order to get rid of the evidence of the illegitimacy?


(who replied) said: I cannot say whether the woman is married or not. Gaffney is spoken of as her husband, and I presume that he is so. The evidence, so far as I have seen it, goes to prove that the child died in consequence of the mother being unable to procure the necessaries of life. With regard to the remainder of the Question on the Paper, the facts appear, in the judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench, to be substantially as stated in the Question. The Attorney General for Ireland has the whole case under consideration as to the course he will direct.


Do I understand the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to say that Gaffney is the woman's husband?


I did not say so. What I understand is that the woman was married to a soldier who has been absent for many years, and whether there is any proof as to his death I cannot say.

MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman, having stated that he read the evidence, will be able to affirm or deny that the woman admitted that she was not married to this man?

MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

May I ask whether the fact that she was married or not would be any justification for the treatment of the child?

[No reply.]