§ "That a sum, not exceeding £84,062, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1890, for the Salaries, Allowances, and Expenses and Pensions of various County Court Officers, of, Divisional Commissioners and Magistrates in Ireland, and the Expenses of Revision."
§ Resolution read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ MR. SEXTON
The latter half of the Debate on this important Vote was left, unanswered by the Government, and there are some questions of importance and of pressing urgency which it is desirable to consider and determine before the Report of the Vote is agreed to by the House. I have first to refer to the case of the Divisional Commissioners. They are not new officials; they are familiar figures under a new name. They have been hitherto paid and employed under the style of Resident Magistrates, and in that capacity have received salaries of £1,000 a year, which is far in excess of the salary legally payable to a Resident Magistrate in Ireland. These payments have been continued for a series of years. The Auditor General has protested, and the Government have endeavoured to get rid of the illegality of the position by including these illegal payments in the Appropriation Bill, and this year they have plunged into a fresh illegality. It is true the Government introduced a 1423 Bill dealing with the matter, thereby admitting the illegality of their course; but they did not press that Bill forward, and made no effort to get it passed. How, then, do they now endeavour to get out of their illegal position? Why, by a manœuvre that is almost unexampled. They have arranged that these officials shall cease to be Resident Magistrates, and shall become Justices of the Peace. The Lord Lieutenant has discharged them, at some date unknown, from their offices as Resident Magistrates, and has admitted them, also at some date unknown, as Justices of the Peace. But the men are the same, the duties are the same, and the salary, which it was illegal to pay to them as Resident Magistrates, is also the same, and is now made legal because of their change of office. We have asked for information concerning this manœuvre: we have asked at what date these men ceased to be Resident Magistrates and became Justices of the Peace; we have asked whether they paid the ordinary fees on being admitted as Justices of the Peace, and we have also asked to what counties they have been nominated; and, although we have put all these questions, to which we are entitled to have replies, the Chief Secretary has this evening attempted to move for a flimsy Return which evades the whole question, which gives us no information, and leaves us in precisely the same position as we were in before. But we shall press for this information, and I trust that, as long as the salaries of these Resident Magistrates are sought to be illegally paid, the Irish Members will resist their payment by every constitutional means, until the position of these functionaries, whatever they may be called, is regularised in due form and course of law. I imagine that the reluctance of the Government to give this information is due to an unwillingness to face a full and fair discussion such as is incidental to the progress of a Bill. What are the functions of these remarkable officials? Why, they are a kind of flexible buffer between the Executive and the public, and their function is to push the policy of violence against the public right to the extremest point, and to minimise the responsibility of the Government. Under this system what is called the responsibility of the 1424 Government to this House has gone to the vanishing point, and has practically ceased to exist. Under it there is no security for liberty, justice, or fair play to any political opponent of the Government in Ireland. These Divisional Commissioners get up cases, especially against public men, choose the Magistrates who are to try them and who also act as juries, and then present the evidence to the police whose promotion is in their hands. To put it shortly, these men make the charge, constitute the Judge and jury, produce the evidence, and reward the witnesses. There is nothing to compare with this in any part of Great Britain or of the civilised world; and the chance of justice and fair play on the part of any public man engaged in any political movement in Ireland in opposition to the Government has absolutely disappeared. I will refer to one or two of these functionaries. In the North we have Mr. Cameron. He is the man who broke into the empty homes of evicted, tenants, and arrested them for forcible possession, and he is the functionary whose impartiality may be judged by the fact that he it was who gave misleading information to the hon. Member for South Tyrone, and led him to publish a false libel on the hon. Member for North Monaghan.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
What I said in Court was that having heard the statement, first of all from Mr. Olphert, I went to the village and consulted with the Divisional Commissioner and another gentleman, and it was because Mr. Cameron and the other gentleman were not able to give me the name, although they had heard of the incident, that I refrained from mentioning the name.
§ MR. SEXTON
At any rate, it was after a conversation with this man that the hon. Gentleman took upon himself to make a statement with regard to the Member for North Monaghan, which he was afterwards obliged to admit on oath to be false. In the West we have Mr. John Byrne, the hero of the Loughrea evictions; further South we have Captain Slacke, and in the County of Cork there is Captain Plunkett, who sounded the keynote of outrage in his famous telegram, "Do not hesitate to shoot." He and Captain Slacke en- 1425 courage and promote those policemen who distinguish themselves by outrage, and repress and degrade those who are conspicuous for humanity and endeavour to perform their duties in a temperate spirit. During the greater part of the last year Captains Plunkett and Slacke devoted themselves to the service to the Times, and judging by the good account the Chief Secretary gave of the state of Ireland m their absence, I think it would be sound economy to save their salaries by transferring them to the Times altogether. To give the House an idea of the relations of these functionaries and the people, I need only refer to the case of my hon. Friend the Member for West Kerry, who has been described by Colonel Turner as a person who has been a persistent breaker of the law and a scurrilous traducer. If my hon. Friend were again to be tried for what in any other country would be called the ordinary exercise of his duty as a journalist he would be tried before Mr. Cecil Roche, who has said of him that he systematically insults the preservers of law and order, and the man to choose his Judge would be Colonel Turner; the Judge would be Mr. Cecil Roche. I ask the Chief Secretary for an explanation of Colonel Turner's conduct with reference to the Vandeleur Estate. Colonel Turner incited the landlords to promote eviction and to bring tenants from distant parts of Ireland to take the vacant farms in the place of the tenants whose title was ancestral. Colonel Vandeleur, who was a high-minded man, was about to settle a dispute with regard to one of his farms, when Colonel Turner interfered and prevented the settlement being carried out. What explanation can the Chief Secretary give of the letter written by Colonel Turner to another official, "Things will never be right in Clare until old Dynan and his villanous priests are removed"? How did Colonel Turner mean them to be removed? The only meaning which I can attach to the letter is that Colonel Turner desires that the police should know that he will be well pleased if the priests had their skulls cracked by batons, or if some of them can be hit by ricochet bullets, such as have been heard of at Mitchelstown. I challenge Colonel Turner to say that he did not 1426 mean his subordinates to understand that he would not be sorry if violence were done to the worthy Vicar General of the Diocese and his priests. I now come to the case of the Resident Magistrates, and first I will deal with that of Captain Segrave. That hero has been too much forgotten. His case acquires particular interest from the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork charged Captain Segrave in this House with having embezzled the funds of his regimental canteen as well as money confided to him by a private soldier to send to his mother. Immediately after that the hon. Member, who was never before interfered with on account of his speeches, was charged in respect of a speech which differed in no way from those of which no notice had been taken, and was sentenced to three months' imprisonment. I believe, and the Irish people believe, that it was not really for the speech that the hon. Member was prosecuted, but for having exposed the misconduct of an official of the Crown. Captain Segrave has been allowed to resign his appontment, from which he ought to have been dismissed with ignominy. I wish to know what was the date of the resignation, and whether Captain Segrave has been allowed to resign in order to enable him at a future time to re-enter the public service. What amount of salary has he been paid since the date of his exposure in this House? Another Resident Magistrate is a gentleman whose name is constantly appearing on the black list. There is Colonel Caddell, a gentleman of whose legal knowledge nobody is satisfied. Only recently he insulted a young girl who was at the time in the custody of the police. The discrepancy between his sentences is remarkable, emergency men being treated with exceptional leniency. Out of the 75 Resident Magistrates whose names appear upon the Return of last March there are only 33 of whose legal knowledge even the Lord Lieutenant is satisfied, while the legal knowledge of the remaining 42 gives no satisfaction to any one in the world. Twelve Magistrates have been selected by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for their legal capacity. Only three of them are barristers, eight are retired officers 1427 and one had no occupation at all previous to being appointed. One of the 12 is Mr. Cecil Roche. It is true that that Gentleman was appointed by Lord Spencer, but when his term of office expired it was not renewed. The career of Mr. Cecil Roche under Lord Spencer was a downward career. Under the right hon. Gentleman it has been an upward career. The case, then, stands thus. Out of 75 Magistrates, there were 21 of whose legal knowledge Lord Spencer was satisfied; 12 of whose legal knowledge the right hon. Gentleman has been satisfied; and 42 without legal knowledge at all. Seven Magistrates have been chosen by the Lord Chancellor to hold private inquiries, five of whom are simply ex-constabulary officers, whose names have been most closely connected with the conspiracy of the Times against the Irish Members. I contend that this selection of the Lord Chancellor is a deliberate misuse of the authority confided in him by the House. If these Magistrates were, as the Chief Secretary contends, judicial officers, and not mere agents of the Executive, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to turn over in his mind a few short and simple questions. Is it not the fact that, after his speech at Manchester in which he complained of the inconvenience of long sentences resulting in appeals, these Magistrates all over Ireland at once and simultaneously adopted a new system? Did they not defeat the constitutional right of appeal by inflicting short sentences? They did that because they took the right hon. Gentleman's speech as a direction, and because they felt their promotion would be imperilled if they did not do so. Then there is another curious fact, that the Resident Magistrates never disagree. They have been sitting in couples for two years or more under the Coercion Act, and they have tried thousands of cases. Why is it that two of these Resident Magistrates have never disagreed? There may have been one occasion on which they disagreed, but that one occasion serves to prove the rule. This agreement can only be explained on the theory that these Resident Magistrates do not pretend to regard themselves as judicial persons, but rather as the instruments and agents of the Government 1428 to carry out the policy of the Chief Secretary. They feel no more at liberty to disagree than two policemen on a beat. They agree because they have their orders. They know the cases in which it is desired by Dublin Castle that they should convict, and those in which a conviction is not considered essential. If there were no other fact before the House, the fact that these Magistrates always display such remarkable unanimity in agreeing upon convictions is not to be accounted for, except by the knowledge that they are not Judicial persons but are instruments, agents, servants, "Uncommercial Travellers," as perhaps Dickens might have called them, sent by the Executive to various parts of Ireland to carry out a certain line of policy and attack against the national movement. There is one other question I have to ask. Why is it that no Resident Magistrate since the Coercion Act was passed has exercised the legal power of directing that a prisoner should be treated as a first-class misdemeanant? A Crimes Act prisoner was so treated in one case by the order of a Magistrate in Dublin. He was a Magistrate who was independent of the Executive, because there was no power to remove him. But he never got another case to try. The reason is obvious. The Government would not commit another trial to the care of a Magistrate who had dared to exercise his legal power in the direction of leniency and moderation. The Resident Magistrates act on the understanding that the policy of the Chief Secretary for Ireland is a policy of cruelty. I must say a few words on the case of Mr. Conybeare. Mr. Conybeare and Mr. Harrison, of Oxford, were tried together on the same charge, and the same evidence was offered against both Mr. Harrison was not convicted. Everybody in Dublin knew in advance that he would not be—for it is a curious comment on the policy of these tribunals in Ireland, that in many cases the public have knowledge of the judgment before it is delivered. The hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Conybeare) told me in this House that a relative of his own in Dublin had heard the Irish Attorney General say at a social gathering in Dublin that Mr. Harrison, whose trial had not yet come 1429 off, would not be convicted because official steps had been taken to that end. Mr. Harrison had influential Tory relatives, and the Resident Magistrates were instructed not to convict. Mr. Harrison was acquitted; Mr. Conybeare, on the same evidence, was convicted. The case was taken into the Court of Exchequer. One member of that Court, the Lord Chief Baron, expressed the opinion that the conviction was bad, while another member of the Court had grave doubts on the point, and Mr. Baron Dowse confessed to being "bewildered." Is a Member of Parliament, under such circumstances, to be kept for the full term of his sentence in a gaol from which three persons have recently come forth to die? When I refer to the policy of cruelty I cannot help saying it is shameful that, although Mr. Conybeare is suffering from injured eyesight and failing health, the Prisons Board will not put up a few planks so that he may have the opportunity of exercise in the open air in wet weather. Now, Sir, I ask whether this sentence is to be carried out to its full extent? I think the country will form the opinion that it is not creditable that a Government, which was able only to obtain a majority of four upon a critical question involving the interests of Mr. Conybeare's constituents amongst others, should keep him confined in prison. I suppose it is useless to address an appeal to the Government at a moment when its majority has fallen so low and when five Members of the Opposition are safely stowed away in Her Majesty's prisons. The last case I have to deal with is that of Dr. Tanner. It is now quite clear, from the judgment of the Court of Exchequer, that the Magistrates had no jurisdiction to try him at all on the occasion in question. It is also clear that the Magistrates exasperated Dr. Tanner by their demeanour, and by ordering his counsel (Mr. T. Healy) out of Court. When my hon. and learned Friend was expelled from Court, two of Dr. Tanner's witnesses, the ex-Mayor of Cork, and Mr. Welsh, the Harbour Commissioner, believing the case to be at an end, also went out of Court. The ex-Mayor of Cork went into the box to give evidence but was turned out of the box. Father Humphreys, a third witness, was pre- 1430 sent, and ready to swear that Dr. Tanner had not committed the offence with which he was charged. He made the most harmless observation in Court. He was affronted by the Magistrates, and felt there was no course open to him but to leave the Court. Dr. Tanner, I say, was worked up into a state of exasperation, and addressing the Court, which had no jurisdiction, he used language which was disagreeable to it. The Magistrates never cautioned him or named him, but listened to him in silence. Why did they remain silent? Because a trap had been laid and Dr. Tanner was falling into it. They retired from Court and came back in 15 minutes with an elaborate document which the ex-Indian official and ex-artillery officer could not have drawn in 15 months, much less in 15 minutes. I say, Sir, that the whole proceedings of that day offer conclusive evidence of a plot between the Executive and the Magistrates to entrap my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner). I do not think even the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will argue that these obscure persons in Tipperary could have hit on the idea of that warrant, founded on a jurisdiction which had never before been exercised in any solitary case, and could have drawn it up in 15 minutes. The warrant for contempt was drawn up in collusion with the Executive in Dublin Castle, in the expectation that my hon. Friend, being a man of quick temper, and of no considerable restraint of language, would use language which would be considered as constituting a contempt of Court. It was impossible for my hon. Friend to give sureties, because by doing so he would have pronounced judgment on himself. I am, however, saved from arguing that question, because the Lord Chief Baron said from the Bench that nothing would induce him to give security to keep the peace. While the Chief Baron declared that the jurisdiction of the Magistrates technically existed, he expressed his regret that the Court of Exchequer was not entitled to inquire whether there had been contempt at all, or whether, if there had been jurisdiction, it was fairly or properly exercised. He spoke of the jurisdiction in terms of disapproval and disgust. He declared 1431 that it was a glaring anomaly, and appealed to the Legislature to remove a most odious and intolerable tyranny. My hon. Friend has been sent to prison as an untried prisoner, and I have a letter from him in which he says that his treatment is worst than the treatment of a first-class misdemeanant. Well, Sir, if these things are to go on, we need not say anything more about the Coercion Act; that is merely a trifle in comparison. I hear this very day of a man, who was guilty of the offence of nodding and winking at a fair where some pigs were being sold, having been sentenced to two terms of three months' imprisonment, and, in addition, to two terms more in default of bail. Under the Coercion Act there must at least be a charge made and some evidence heard; but under this new-found, but very old jurisdiction, any two agents of the right hon. Gentleman, without any charge being made, or without hearing any evidence or any defence, may take up the position that language has been used which is not sufficiently respectful, and call upon a man, perhaps for a fierce word inadvertently spoken, to find bail beyond the value of his whole worldly goods, or to go to prison for the term of his whole natural life. If the lawyers of the Crown in Dublin Castle are to be allowed to dig up these dustheaps of oppression, I do not see why they should not resort to pulling out teeth, or to the maiden's embrace, or to the boot, or the thumbscrew. Nay, I think that those forms of procedure would be more justifiable, because they have at least been exercised and were legal at the time; but in this case, assuming that the jurisdiction does exist, it is one which has never been used before. If the right hon. Gentleman allows the continuance of this new jurisdiction he will drive Ireland into a state of things in which despotism will no longer appear under the form of law. I shall feel it my duty to divide the House upon the Vote.
§ * THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR)
I am one of those who entertain considerable admiration for the oratory of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down; but if the right hon. Gentleman will accept counsel from me it will be not to spoil his great gifts of speech by 1432 the exaggeration which so often mars them. I will take three examples of this. In the first place, there was the case of Dr. Tanner. The right hon. Gentleman said that Dr. Tanner was subjected to worse treatment than if he had been imprisoned for contempt. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman has been entirely misinformed. I believe that the kind of imprisonment to which Dr. Tanner is now subjected is precisely that to which he would have been subjected for contempt of Court. Whether that be so or not, I am certain of this—that the treatment which an untried prisoner receives is more favourable than that of a first - class misdemeanant. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that the Government had unearthed a musty statute with which to attack its political opponents. It is true that the statute of Edward III. has never been used with regard to misbehaviour in Court; but it is wholly incorrect to say that the statute has been allowed to grow rusty from disuse. It has constantly been used not only in this country, but in Ireland also.
§ MR. SEXTON
The right hon. Gentleman is entirely missing the point; my point is that it has never been used to send a person to prison for words spoken in Court.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Does the right hon. Gentleman not see that if the statute has been used continuously in this country and in Ireland for dealing with various forms of misbehavour, it is at all events no extravagant exercise of authority to use it with regard to a particular form of misbehavour, which certainly cannot be described as otherwise than serious? Then there is another instance of the strange lengths to which the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to go in what he has stated with regard to County Court Judges. We are familiar with attacks on Resident Magistrates in this House on the ground that they are the servants of the Executive, and, therefore, cannot give independent judgments. But when the Government point out that the judgments of the Resident Magistrates are supported and confirmed by the County Court Judges, then calumny spreads, and the attacks formerly made upon the Resident Magistrates are extended so as to include the County 1433 Court Judges. It is absurd as well as grossly calumnious to suggest that the Irish County Court Judges are influenced in the decisions they give by some vague hope—in support of which I know of no instances that has occurred—that they might in the remote future be removed by the Executive to some more convenient county or to some more highly paid place. The right hon. Gentleman must see that in making such a suggestion with regard to the administration of justice in Ireland he is overloading his case unnecessarily. The right hon. Gentleman commenced his attack upon the Government by referring to changes in the position of the Divisional Commissioners; but those changes were made on the recommendation of the Auditor General and of the Public Accounts Committee with the object of placing the office of those gentlemen upon a regular footing, instead of the irregular though perfectly legal footing upon which it had previously rested.
§ * MR. BARRAN (York. W.R., Otley)
The Public Accounts Committee have for years denied that these were on a legal footing.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No doubt that may have been the opinion of the Public Accounts Committee, but I prefer to rely on the opinion of the Law Advisers of the Crown. Then the right hon. Gentleman referred to a charge which has been made against Colonel Turner, that he threatened a woman on the Vandeleur estates to prevent her giving up possession of her holding in order that a former tenant might be reinstated. The right hon. Gentleman has evidently been wholly misinformed with regard to the matter, because what Colonel Turner did was to inform the woman that if she did not wish to give up possession of her holding she would be protected in her legal rights—which is a very proper remark for a Magistrate to make. As to the letter attributed to Colonel Turner casting reflections upon the Irish priests, all I can say is that I have no knowledge of that letter, although I know that there are priests in Clare who do little honour to their cloth.
§ MR. COX (Clare, E.)
I challenge you to name one. [Cries of "Order!"] Name one, or repeat what you have said 1434 outside the House. [Cries of "Order!" "Withdraw !" and other interruptions.]
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have no knowledge of the particular letter referred to. The right hon. Gentleman went on to discuss the case of Captain Segrave. I did not interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, although he was irregular in discussing that case on the present Vote, because Captain Segrave's salary is not on the Votes of the year. All I can say with regard to that matter is that I should be unworthy of the position which I hold if I had dismissed an official upon telegraphic information received from the Cape.
MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
Forgive me for a moment. There are facts which the public ought to know. Parliament met on February 21, and two days after that date I produced a certified copy of the Cape Mail announcing the dismissal of Captain Segrave from the Cape. I told the Chief Secretary that he would find the facts at the Colonial Office, but it was not until March 21 that any steps were taken, and during the whole interval this cashiered officer was drawing the public funds.
MR. MAC NEILL
With all respect he was. I have given special attention to the facts. The subject is as dear to me as the battering ram.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not doubt the motives of the hon. Gentleman, but I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has grasped the details. I had indeed placed before me the statement of Captain Segrave's dismissal from the Cape, but I could not take any action until I had heard the circumstances under which that dismissal occurred. I did not receive the full details until March 21, and then Captain Segrave was permitted to resign. And while, having reviewed the case with some care, I thought that Lord Aberdeen would never have thought of appointing Captain Segrave had he known all that we now know. I also thought that Captain Segrave had been treated rather harshly by the Cape Government, and very harshly in the House of Commons.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I expressed the opinion that Lord Aberdeen would never have thought of appointing Captain Segrave; and I repeat that that appointment, though carried into effect by the President of the Board of Trade, was practically settled before my right hon. Friend came into office. To pass to the case of Mr. Cecil Roche, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast, with a considerable recklessness of statement, gave the House to believe that Mr. Cecil Roche had been dismissed by Lord Spencer from the office of Land Commissioner.
§ MR. SEXTON
I said no such thing. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the recklessness of statement is entirely on his side. I said that when his term of office had expired he was not re-taken into employment.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
As a matter of fact Mr. Roche was re-appointed certainly once if not twice under Lord Spencer, so that the particular inference which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to draw appears to be wholly unfounded. If any one studies Mr. Cecil Roche's magisterial record as indicated by the results of the appeals from his decisions, there will be found no reason to doubt the impartiality of those decisions. According to the Official Return, from October 1, 1888, to July 31, 1889, Mr. Cecil Roche tried 35 persons under the Crimes Act. Of these 26 were convicted, and appeal was taken only in nine cases. None of the nine decisions were reversed; in two cases the sentences were reduced, two cases are still pending, and in five cases the sentences were fully confirmed. That is not a record of which Mr. Cecil Roche or his friends need be ashamed. Then the right hon. Gentleman attacked the appointment made by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland of Magistrates to hold secret inquiries. I assert that the secret inquiries held under the Crimes Act have done more to bring offenders to justice than any action of a similar 1436 kind taken in Ireland within historic Times. If any hon. Member will look at the Parliamentary Return he will see that crimes of the gravest description, such as murder, firing and wounding, and moonlighting offences, have been detected and the perpetrators brought to justice through the instrumentality of the secret inquiries conducted by these Magistrates, in a manner which could not have been done under any other system. Instead of attacking the Government the right hon. Gentleman should congratulate us on the success of our efforts in punishing some of the most serious forms of crime. Then the right hon. Gentleman dealt with two other cases—those of the hon. Members for Camborne and Mid Cork. With regard to the former case, the right hon. Gentleman made the amazing statement that another gentleman, Mr. Harrison by name, who had been associated with the hon. Member for Camborne in his expedition to Donegal, was not convicted because, forsooth! he had Tory relatives. If the right hon. Gentleman can believe that he can believe anything. The right hon. Gentleman's credulity is limitless, and I must despair of ever converting him to habits of critical inquiry into the facts with which he has to deal. It is perfectly true that some cock-and-bull story was made public with regard to some statement made by an Irish official about the action that was going to be taken by the Resident Magistrates with respect to the trial of the hon. Member for Camborne and Mr. Harrison. But I believe that the hon. Member for Camborne was challenged to name the Irish official referred to, and the hon. Member was not able to do it. The right hon. Gentleman is repeating second-hand the story which the hon. Member for Camborne could not verify first-hand. With regard to the merits of the sentence passed on the hon. Member for Camborne, I would only say that there was an appeal from the sentence of the Resident Magistrate to the County Court Judge on the merits, and the County Court Judge upheld the sentence. There was a further appeal to the High Court on a point of law, and the right hon. Gentleman has read a large num- 1437 ber of extracts from the judgment of the High Court with regard to the sentence. But the right hon. Gentleman did not state that the whole of the opinions of the High Court on this matter were on a purely technical aspect of the case. On the merits there never was a question, and nothing fell from any Judge of the Superior Court which could call in question the opinion formed by the Judges of the two inferior Courts. As to the case of Dr. Tanner I cannot conceive any person who really has taken the trouble to read the proceedings before the two Resident Magistrates doubting that on the broad and substantial merits of the case the action of the Magistrates was fully justified. I am unable to believe that anyone who surveyed the evidence impartially could come to any other conclusion. I am aware that the Court of Exchequer reversed the sentence; but on what kind of plea? On the merits of the case? No; but upon the most technical of technicalities—on a point which could not influence a rational man for a moment as to whether or not Dr. Tanner Was guilty of the offence with which he was charged. We are, therefore, driven back to consider the evidence at the trial, and it is wholly in one direction. Every opportunity was given to the prisoner to produce witnesses. He produced one witness, who did not prove his case, while the witnesses for the Crown proved their case. ["They were all police," and "Order."] This is an illustration of the kind of attacks made on the Resident Magistrates. It is true that in certain other cases the decisions of the Magistrates have been reversed; but can it be maintained by anyone who has surveyed their action in regard to hon. Members of this House that in any one case they have done substantial injustice? Can it be maintained by any hon. Member of this House who has been convicted by a Magistrate that he did not commit the offence for which the Resident. Magistrates found him guilty? The speeches of hon. Members are on record in Nationalist journals. I am aware that this is not legal evidence in a Court of Law, but the uncontradicted reports in their own journals are surely evidence on which this House can come to some kind of conclusion, apart from evidence 1438 in a Court of Law. Whether hon. Gentlemen are justified in attacking the Crimes Act or not, this broad fact remains, that the alleged offences have been committed; and if hon. Members have broken the law, whether they approve the law or not, they must remember at all events that the law they have broken is the law of the land.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
I waited with curiosity and anxiety to hear what the Chief Secretary for Ireland would say on the question in reference to the case of Mr. Conybeare and Dr. Tanner. I believe I can speak of these hon. Members by name while the Chief Secretary keeps them in prison; and I am bound to say the right hon. Gentleman spoke of these cases in the harsh grating provocative tone he always adopts, adding the harshness of his language to the severity of the punishment. He does not deny that the sentences are severe; he does not deny that the judgments of the Magistrates in both cases were unfavourably commented upon by the Superior Courts.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman attributes to me words I did not use. It was not my business to express an opinion whether the sentences were severe or not, but as the right hon. Gentleman challenges my opinion, I have no reason to think they were.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
If the sentences were ten Times greater, if it were possible to inflict sentences of ten years' penal servitude, the right hon. Gentleman would not think such a sentence to severe or vindictive to be passed upon a Member of Parliament of the Nationalist Party. The right hon. Gentleman will not deny that these sentences have been severely commented upon by the Superior Courts, but he meets these comments by saying, "Oh, these are technicalities." But is not every point of law a technicality? What the Judges commented upon was that the Magistrates did not take an accurate or just view of the law, and I 1439 cannot conceive a severer condemnation in respect to persons charged with the liberties of men than that they acted recklessly or in ignorance of the principles of law which ought to guide them. But the question here is not the Resident Magistrates or the Superior Courts, but the Executive Government in deal-with this question. I say that no English Secretary of State would have allowed men to remain under a sentence of this character when the judgment upon them had been criticised in a manner in which this judgment has. In the administration of criminal justice in this country, and the conduct of the Government towards it, no man sentenced to imprisonment in England by Justices whose conduct has been commented upon, as in this case, would be allowed by the Secretary of State to remain under sentence of this character. The infliction and execution of sentences which do not carry public opinion with them produces more evil than good. These sentences against Mr. Conybeare and Dr. Tanner, so far from carrying with them any sentiment of respect for the law, shock every man of ordinary judgment or feeling. Many persons consider them extremely harsh; and, considering that the Judges of the Superior Court have commented upon the manner in which they were passed, I affirm that in England these sentences would have been relaxed and even remitted. It is deeply to be regretted that the principles of the administration of the law and the mitigation of it by the Executive Government are not the same In Ireland as in England. There is every disposition on the part of Magistrates to strain the law and to pass exorbitant sentences, and there is every disposition on the part of the Executive to enforce these sentences and to carry them out in the harshest possible manner. In England the Magistrates and the Executive lean to mercy rather than severity. There is a well-founded belief that Derry Gaol is unhealthy, and that there is typhoid fever in it.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I refrained from dwelling on that point, but the right hon. Gentleman is mistaken in his facts.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Let the Souse be told the facts and not go on 1440 asking questions from day to day. Mr. Conybeare may catch fever while we are talking about it. If there is a suspicion on that point the Irish Executive ought to have taken the first opportunity of removing Mr. Conybeare.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
This is the first time the right hon. Gentleman has made that statement, although he has been asked day after day on the subject. When a comrade in this House is exposed in a pestilential gaol and the responsible Minister is asked about that hon. Member's health, he says, "Oh, I don't know, but I will inquire." That is not the sort of answer——
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
That sort of unnecessarily irritating and provocative answer is part of what the right hon. Gentleman calls resolute Government. Look at the way in which Dr. Tanner has been treated. We all know he is a very excitable man, and Mr. Speaker, therefore, has treated him with exceptional forbearance, but the Chief Secretary's Magistrates, instead of treating him in that manner, made use of his infirmity in order to inflict a sentence of most extravagant severity, and the Chief Secretary exulted in it to-night. As long as we speak of and treat and regard Irish people in the way the Chief Secretary does in this House, we shall never have a contented people.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I did expect the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to have attempted in this House to justify the grounds on which Mr. Conybeare was sentenced. But in his speech, which occupied three-quarters of an hour, he did not give one clue to the reasons which had condemned the hon. Member for Camborne to be immured in this typhus den. I challenge any English Member who no doubt will to his constituents justify the imprisonment of Mr. Conybeare, to get up and state of what 1441 offence Mr. Conybeare has been convicted, or, knowing what that offence is, to get up and justify it in that House The hon. Member for the Camborne Division has been sentenced to three months' imprisonment for administering two or three loaves to people about to be evicted, and this though, as the newspapers daily show us, one month's imprisonment is often regarded as adequate for the punishment of wife beating. The right hon. Gentleman has up to the present imprisoned 28 Irish Members—he has in the sporting language of the season had "a good bag"—and many of these have been sentenced by Mr. Cecil Roche, whom the Chief Secretary had eulogised. But it was Mr. Cecil Roche who about two years ago sentenced Mr. T. Harrington to six weeks' imprisonment for the alleged publishing in the Kerry Sentinel of reports of suppressed branches of the National League, notwithstanding that it was proved that about 10 years before Mr. T. Harrington assigned all his interest in the paper to his brother, Mr. E. Harrington, who at the time was undergoing six weeks' imprisonment for the same offence as that subsequently alleged against his brother. By a mistake of the clerk the assignment was not duly registered. Against that conviction a case was stated on behalf of Mr. T. Harrington, and it was sent to the Crown counsel; but from that day to this no attempt has been made to enforce this most iniquitous sentence of this much eulogised removable. Either Mr. Harrington was guilty or not. If he was guilty why was not the case submitted to the Superior Courts; if he were innocent what a corrupt ruffian this man must be who sentenced him. Perhaps the secretary of the right hon. Gentleman, in reply to a correspondent, will give some little explanation of this strange case, and why that strange Magistrate has been upheld and promoted by the Executive. When the Government said that they have refrained from executing warrants against Irish Members until the Irish Estimates have been discussed, the hon. Member for West Ham told them that they had no right to do so. I would like to call attention to a case before Colonel Longbourne, re- 1442 ported in this day's paper. This gentleman has been appointed to the Ballinrobe district, but he tried a case at Fermoy. Probably hon. Members opposite do not know where either of these places are. I can tell them that it would take the great army of Ulster three days' forced march to get from Ballinrobe to Fermoy. The case was under the statute of Edward III., for using abusive language against a constable. There was not sufficient evidence for the prisoner to be bound to good behaviour; but what did Colonel Longbourne say? He said:—I consider it a very suspicious case; but there is not sufficient evidence to convict. People should be very careful how they wink in these days.I would suggest to the hon. Member for Dover as a sort of coercion copy headline, "Woe to you who wink in these days." This is the class of men of whom the Irish Members are supposed to approve. Where is the appeal under this statute of Edward III.? There is no appeal from these sentences, and we ask the Government to-night whether they propose to leave the Irish people and their Representatives at the mercy of these Magistrates without any appeal whatever? I have a great respect for the Lord Chief Baron; but when I was ordered to give bail I refused, and was sentenced to six months' imprisonment. I confess that I would not do so again. I would give bail, and do the same thing again, only perhaps more cautiously. I regard the Government simply as a gang of conspirators, and the Executive and police and Magistrates simply as so many brigands and cut-throats. For my part, I see no-advantage whatever in my friends, Dr. Tanner and others, playing the Government game and going to prison. There is a disadvantage, for when, as it did the other night, the Government majority falls to four, there is an appreciable value attaching to the votes of the five hon. Members in prison. The Government are supported by a solid phalanx of friends who are under sentence of death at the next Election; but the Irish Members will give them all the trouble they can; in the language of the statute of Edward III. they will "defame" them. We will proclaim them to be persons of evil fame, and 1443 when the General Election comes we will ask the voters to put them under the rule of "good behaviour," and prevent you for a time from exercising these functions. I can understand your taking a dozen of us, putting us against a wall, bringing up a platoon of soldiers and giving the order "fire!" That would be an intelligible policy, for "when a man's dead, there's no more to be said." But the system you pretend to carry out is that of making the Irish people love you by heaping indignities on their Representatives—on men like Dr. Tanner, who, after all, represents thousands of people. As long as Dr. Tanner was a Conservative, a friend of Lord Bandon, a member of the Cork County Club, but spending money in the interests of the Tory Party, as his brothers now do, he was all right and had a most amiable temper. He would, doubtless, have made a most admirable Resident Magistrate, Why, he has a brother who is a major, and who remains to you as a very strong Conservative; and I would suggest that be should be put before the Lord Lieutenant and Lord Chancellor as a person of whose legal knowledge and experience those individuals might be satisfied; because gentlemen of this class are exactly the sort of men you make Resident Magistrates of. They are just the men who would have the supreme characteristic of being able to bind over to good behaviour the men who recommend the Belfast kidney paving-stone throwers to go and do their duty. Your's, however, is a game that two can play at. You may find it extremely convenient at the present time to have "removables" operating from one end of the country to the other, but no doubt it would be possible to get Magistrates as base as Roche and as irrational as Fitzgerald or Longbourne, even under a Home Rule administration. You can do almost anything with money; and there are a number of broken down gentry and landlords who would be very glad to take our pay—gentlemen whose estates have not been sold under the Ashbourne Act, but who have made had bargains, and who may be had in sufficient numbers to deal with the hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite and their colleagues. In the meantime, the game is yours; we admit it. Carry it on; do your best—do your worst. 1444 What I protest against is this sickening veil of hypocrisy. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is highly indignant with the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Mayor of Dublin for the extravagance of his language, and has stated that Dr. Tanner is not a first-class misdemeanant, but is, in point of fact, treated as an untried prisoner, and so, I suppose, is entitled to one or two ounces more of "skilly" than the other prisoners. It is the rule of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to give the go-by to the main facts of the case and to fasten upon some little pin-point which nobody cares anything about, and which has only been' touched on by the way. He then magnifies the matter to enormous dimensions and draws his Excalibur in order to annihilate it. The Government pretend that their anxiety is all for the good of the Irish people—that it is all in the interest of Ireland, and the downtrodden population; only, they will not give the downtrodden population a chance of managing their own: affairs. They are proceeding with an extravagant amount of energy, and we are having the country developed by them. They appoint all these Magistrates to carry out their policy, and they cannot afford to tell the truth about what they do. They must play the hypocrite; and so long as they do that so long will we come forward and expose them. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has lately been boasting how completely he has pacified Ireland—at least if he has not said so by word of mouth he has said it by his permanent conduit pipe; because we have had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham recently giving a garden party and have heard, under the influence of tea and muffins, what extraordinary strides have been made by the Irish people in the direction of prosperity and peace. I. do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will back up the statements of the Sage of Birmingham, but these are matters which are taken note of in the "Black Country." I may here say that I observe curious signs making their appearanceinlreland—remarkable signs; and if these operations on the part of the Government continue—operations against which there is no 1445 appeal—if the pledges and promises of the Government continue to be falsified, and if Magistrates composed of ex-Sepoys, broken down barristers, Navy and Army men, and promoted policemen, are to be the persons to whom the Government are to entrust the liberties of a great portion of the Irish representatives, they will bring the people to see that the point of attack is the magisterial system, and, as always occurs when people are outlawed—for that is what is being attempted—the condition of affairs will become much more serious. The Government are showing them that there is no such thing as justice; they have produced a very unfortunate condition of the public mind, and while temporary prosperity may inspire some hope in the people's breasts, and may enable them to tide over a period which they view with great apprehension, there is at the same time being held over them the possibility of twenty years of "firm and resolute Government." While Ireland in the past was overridden by your sabreurs and dragoons, they, at any rate, were soldiers. They carried their lives in their hands against the Irish clansmen; but if these men, these wretched hirelings whom you can pick up in the purlieus of any quarter-master sergeant's rooms, if these men, whom nobody respects, are to be permitted to carry on the Government of the country, the Irish people—the Celtic race—will not permit them to carry on their operations unchecked. You are creating for yourselves an inevitable revulsion of feeling, and when the right hon. Gentleman has passed from his office and handed it down to his successor, it will be said, as is said now, that that successor is the most successful of all Irish Chief Secretaries, and while his friends are blowing his trumpet, they will say, "Balfour was an impostor; we have now got the right man." But when all this has happened, what will you have done for the consolidation of the Empire, for the establishment of peace, and for the prosperity of the people, both the English and Irish at home and abroad? Absolutely nothing. Your policy is a barren policy, foredoomed to failure, and if Englishmen opposite were wise, instead of sitting silent behind a Minister whom at heart 1446 they cannot support, they would get up boldly and give expression to their true opinions. We have heard a great many Debates on these subjects in this House, but we never hear what the Tory Party have to say. We see them go into the Division Lobbies, but they never give us the opportunity of judging of their intellectual calibre. If hon. Gentlemen can fairly support the policy of the present Government let them give expression to the faith that is in them, and do not let them be content to servilely follow a Minister who has led them into as fatal a course as ever despot pursued against the interests of the people.
§ MR. GILL (Louth, S.)
I cannot allow this Debate to close without referring to one or two remarks which have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. Every sentence delivered by him is singular enough; but I do not think we have yet witnessed anything so singular or so utterly beyond what might have been expected as the extent to which he has gone this evening. I would remind him that the charge against Captain Segrave was brought forward several times in this House and was proved against him.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Captain Segrave was referred to, but as his salary is not mentioned in this Vote the reference to him is out of order.
§ MR. GILL
I will not, then, refer to the right hon. Gentleman's justification of the conduct for which Captain Segrave was first cashiered from the Army, and is now suspended from service as a Magistrate in Ireland; but I will allude to what the right hon. Gentleman has said in regard to the charge against Colonel Turner. Colonel Turner was charged with writing what I pronounce to be one of the most infamous documents that ever passed between one Irish official and another. That was a letter in which Colonel Turner described one of the most venerable priests in all Ireland and the body of clergy by whom he is supported in language which could only come from the lips of a blackguard. He referred to the Very Rev, 1447 Dr. Dinan, than whom in the whole Irish nation no more respected clergyman exists, in these terms:—The peace of this district will not be restored until old Dinan and some of his villainous priests are removed.This, I say, is the language of a ruffian and a blackguard. But when this letter is charged against Colonel Turner what is the reply of the right hon. Gentleman? Does he reprobate that language or does he deny it? The right hon. Gentleman practically endorses the statement and justifies the ruffianly language by levelling other reckless charges against the priest of Clare. He has levelled a most provocative and reckless insult against a body of clergymen, than w horn there are no more respected men on the face of the earth, and I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to name a single one of these priests who comes justly under the description given by Colonel Turner. He has not the courage to do so, and I brand that conduct as blackguardly. Indeed, it is difficult for me to find words adequately to describe it. Now, Sir, another charge which has been made against Colonel Turner has not been answered, and that is the charge of going to a tenant on the Vandeleur estate, and urging that tenant—or rather the mother of the tenant—against the wishes of the landlord, and against the desires of the other tenants, as well as against the interests of peace and order in the district, to hold possession of a farm and to resist the complete settlement likely to be arrived at by arbitration. The right hon. Gentleman does not deny that Colonel Turner went to the tenant. He says that Colonel Turner merely told her that she would be protected by the law in holding possession of her farm. But what business had Colonel Turner to do anything of the kind? Why should he seek in this way to prevent a settlement being arrived at? I say that, in that case, he deliberately took the only step in his power to prevent a successful issue to the efforts to bring about harmony between landlord and tenant, and that he took up an utterly unworthy position. Reference has been made to the cases which have been tried under the Act of Edward III., and I should like to point out that during the last three weeks, there has been a regular 1448 recrudescence of prosecutions under that Act. I believe that there have been no fewer than thirteen cases. What is the meaning of it? Is it that the Coercion Act having failed in its purpose, the Government have felt bound to fall back on this old Act? They have not succeeded in crushing the Irish people with Coercion, and, therefore, they have had to take this step.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
I join heartily in the protest which has been made from these Benches against the appointment of men to administer the law in Ireland who command no confidence in the people, and I must say I am surprised that a Member for a Metropolitan constituency who never distinguishes himself in Debate in the House should get up and move the Closure on this question. Throughout the length and breadth of this land people are now beginning to understand1 what it is that makes the Irish people so discontented. They realise that the law is administered by men who are incapable of administering it fairly and impartially, that it is administered by a pack of bravos. I think if anything is required to give an impetus to the Debate to-night, it will be found in the conduct of the Chief Secretary, and in his references to the priests of County Clare. One of his Resident Magistrates has spoken of these priests as a "pack of villains," and when complaint is made to the right hon. Gentleman of the use of language of this character with regard to a most respected body of men, what does the right hon. Gentleman, who is responsible for the Government of Ireland, say in reply? Does he deprecate the use of language of that kind? No, we do not hear a single word of condemnation come from his lips. Instead of that, he adds to the insult by declaring that the priests of Clare have disgraced their cloth.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Perhaps I may be allowed to point out that I said there were some priests in the County of Clare who were not a credit to their cloth.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
Then I venture to assert it was the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to specify those priests to whom he alluded, and not to level an insult against the whole body of the clergy in that county. I must say I do not think that Colonel Turner, whose cause the right hon. Gentleman is championing here to-night, will have cause to be very much obliged to him for the language he has used. Of course one is bound, as far as possible, to keep within the limits of Parliamentary decorum, but I think the right hon. Gentleman would not dare, in any public place in that land of which he is the chief ruler, or before any audience of Irishmen in County Clare, to repeat the utterances which he is privileged to make on the floor of the House of Commons—he would not dare to use language of that kind, for if he did, he would probably require an extra force of police to protect him from the rotten eggs which the people would assuredly use against him. Who are these Resident Magistrates? If I were prudent I should not say a word against them which would increase the prejudice they already have against me. They have already given me three months' imprisonment for nothing at all, except saying three words on the impulse of the moment. One of the Magistrates who did that was a civil engineer and the other an ex-constable, and these are the men of whose legal knowledge the Lord Lieutenant is supposed to be satisfied. With such lawgivers can you expect the Irish people to have anything but an utter contempt for your Government and your administration. These Magistrates do not even know how to conduct a trial in an ordinary manner, but they surround themselves with police, and the general public are refused admission to their Court. Mr. Cecil Roche, to my knowledge, threatened some people 1450 who, whether rightly or wrongly, were defending their homes, that if they did not come out he would make it hot for them when they appeared before him next day. How can the Irish people expect fair and level-handed justice from such men as these, who baton the people one day and try them the next day? If the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary ever shows his nose in Clare after insulting in a most unwarrantable manner the priests of the county, I would recommend the people of Clare to give him a warm reception.
I may say that I have looked through the Prison Rules and I certainly cannot find that what my right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor of Dublin said as to the prison treatment of the hon. Member for Camborne was in any way exaggerated.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 123; Noes 81.—(Div. List, No. 311.)