§ MR. SEXTON
, Member for West Belfast, rose in his place, and asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House, for the purpose of discussing a definite 1170 matter of urgent public importance—namely, the course pursued by the Irish Government in regard to the Proclamation of the Cork meeting, and the arrest and prosecution of Mr. William O'Brien; but the pleasure of the House not having been signified, Mr. Speaker called on those Members who supported the Motion to rise in their places, and not less than 40 Members having accordingly risen.
§ MR. SEXTON
Sir, at the earliest moment I wish to challenge the Government to offer the House some explanation, some justification, if they have any, of their memorable and disgraceful proceedings in Ireland yesterday. The record of the day is notable even in the regime of this Administration of brute force. The Government, yesterday, proclaimed and prevented a public meeting duly called in Ireland for a legal and constitutional purpose, and they arrested, at a moment of dangerous excitement, a beloved and distinguished public man, a Representative of the people; they wantonly, by the hands of their agents, inflicted upon another Member of this House such serious physical injuries, that he now lies at the point of death; they wantonly batoned a peaceable crowd of men, women, and children; and at Charleville they fired upon a railway train and seriously wounded two men, one of them an official of the railway company. It will be agreed that this is the record of one day's proceedings on the part of a Government of conciliation which challenges the examination of the House. The first question I have to ask is, Why was the Cork meeting proclaimed? I have a copy of the proclamation here, and in that proclamation it is alleged that the meeting was called in furtherance of the criminal conspiracy known as the Plan of Campaign. I treat that statement in the simplest terms, and I declare it to be a lie. I challenge the information of the Government as to the facts on which the proclamation was issued. The meeting no doubt had reference to the Ponsonby estate, but the Plan of Campaign has been in operation on that estate for three years. A meeting in Cork was at a considerable distance from the estate, and whether the meeting was held or not, the holding of it, or abstaining from holding it, would not affect in one way or the other a 1171 Plan of Campaign which has been in operation for three years, and is likely to continue in operation until the matters with which it deals are satisfactorily settled. A meeting was held in London yesterday; thousands of people assembled in Hyde Park to support the Plan of Campaign in Ireland; but no one proclaimed that meeting, and no one batoned the people who attended it. It did not occur to the Home Secretary that it was a meeting which called for attention on his part. It was a meeting to sympathize with a Member of this House who has been condemned by one of your servile salaried officials in a Court in Ireland, and declared to be an offender against the law. The meeting in Hyde Park was allowed because Englishmen are free. The Cork meeting was convened by the Mayor and by the Public Boards of the City, and it had three objects—namely, to express sympathy with the tenants on the Ponsonby estate—400 families threatened with eviction and ruin; to protest against the treatment those tenants are receiving; and, thirdly, to evoke an expression of public opinion in favour of the Ponsonby tenants. I have said that one of the objects of the meeting was to protest against the treatment of the tenants of the Ponsonby estate. What treatment have they received? They have spent the past three years in a state of anxiety and suspense amounting to positive torture, expecting every moment to find themselves turned out of their homes. Those poor people have strained every nerve to effect a settlement with their landlord. Their landlord himself was desirous of a settlement, and asked his agent to promote one. The agent carried a settlement to the very point of completion, and at that moment when the difference between them was a mere bagatelle, the hon Gentleman opposite, the Member for South Hunts (Mr. Smith Barry) steps in to prevent that settlement and to secure the ruin of these people. [Mr. SMITH BARRY made a gesture o dissent.] The hon. Gentleman in this affair has reached a pass in which gesticulation will not excuse him. We have it on the word and on the faith of the agent of the estate that the difference was trivial, and that he hoped and expected to arrive at a settlement. Yet that was the moment when the hon. Gentleman, 1172 who owns estates of his own, stepped down from his high position to promote a syndicate in London, and to hand over hard-working tenants, and women and little children as well, to destruction and ruin. I say that the people of Cork had a right to protest against the treatment which the Ponsonby tenants have received. The third object of the meeting was to appeal to public opinion in favour of the tenants. Has it come to this that even in Ireland no appeal to public opinion must be made, but that men are to be struck down, and turned out of their homes without even being allowed the consolation of making a complaint. Does the right hon. gentleman with his soldiers think he can prevent us from appealing to public opinion? He is himself the creature of public opinion as this House is, and public opinion will in the long run have its way. The Cork meeting yesterday was intended to influence public opinion in Great Britain, and to fix the attention of Great Britain upon what is going on in Ireland, and the proclamation of it was as cowardly and dastardly an act as has distinguished the Chief Secretary's policy since the first day he came into office. Let me ask upon what charge has Mr. O'Brien been arrested? Mr. O'Brien made no attempt to attend the meeting in defiance of the proclamation. He accepted the proclamation; the proclaimed meeting was not held. We are given to understand he was arrested because of a speech he delivered on Sunday week to the tenantry of the hon. member for South Hunts in the county of Tipperary. As a simple matter of tactics, it was a fair thing to occupy the attention of that hon. member with the affairs of his own tenantry in Tipperary. Will any deny that the tenants of Tipperary have not a right to sympathise with their fellow tenants in the County of Cork? The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Smith Barry) has supplied the best justification of that meeting, because he has agreed to receive a deputation from the meeting who wish him to desist from the unfortunate part of interloper and Paul Pry which he has taken up in Irish affairs. I hope the issue of that deputation will be that the hon. Gentleman may be induced to see, if fact the impropriety, at least the unreasonableness 1173 of the course he has pursued. If such is the result, nobody will say that that was a useless meeting, still less will they say it was an illegal meeting. A few nights ago, when we were protesting against the action of the Member for South Hunts, the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Col. Saunderson) said every landlord in Ireland has a personal concern in the estate of every other landlord, and is entitled to interfere in the affairs of the estate of others. The hon. and gallant Member added, "We will stand or fall together." Why may not the tenants be allowed to stand or fall together? If the landlords of Ireland have the right to combine together for the purpose of producing evictions, the tenants upon any estate have a better right to combine to save the tenants from eviction. The only reason why the hon. M ember for North-East Cork attended the recent meeting of the tenants of the hon. Member for South Hunts was to induce them to take combined action in consequence of the proceedings of their landlord in regard to the Ponsonby estate. Was my hon. Friend not entitled to advise the tenants first to bring their opinion to bear upon the hon. Member (Mr. Smith Barry) himself—and he has accepted the reference made to him—and secondly, to make his conduct in the Ponsonby estate a matter for public adjudication in the country? That is the action of my hon. Friend (Mr. O'Brien), that is the action for which he is being prosecuted. If the Government put every Irish Member into gaol to-morrow I tell them that the action of every landlord who endeavours to imitate the example of the hon. Member for South Hunts, who constitutes himself the exterminator and persecutor of the poor, will be seriously dealt with by public action in Ireland. Now, the Chief Secretary has only two modes of arresting his political opponents. He either breaks into their houses at night and alarms women and children, or else arrests them at the moment when people are crowding round them, when there is excitement, and when there is the maximum of danger in the execution of the warrants. The latter was the method pursued on this occasion. The speech for which Mr. W. O'Brien was arrested was delivered on the previous Sunday. Why was the warrant not executed 1174 during the week? Did the authorities hope for similar results to those which attended the arrest of Father M'Fadden? Did the Government wish to create a pretext for murder? I emphatically affirm that there was no disorder at the railway station except what was created by the police. The moment Mr. O'Brien stepped from the train an inspector came forward and executed the arrest, the police at the same time laying on with their batons and the stocks of their rifles upon men, women, and, I regret to say, children. I have received from two of my hon. Friends who were present testimony on the subject of the order maintained by the crowd. Mr. Lane telegraphs that there was neither shouting nor crushing when the police suddenly batoned the crowd. Mr. Flynn telegraphs,—Great brutality of police last night at William O'Brien's arrest. No disorder whatever when the police charged meeting of people with their rifle stocks.[Mr. W. REDMOND: Cowards !]O'Brien (North Monaghan) dangerously wounded, if not dead. No excuse possible. No provocation given to warrant these brutal attacks. Over 20 people in the infirmary.My hon. Friend the Member for North Monaghan (Mr. Patrick O'Brien) stepped forward to shake hands with the hon. Member for North-East Cork just after his arrest, and was beaten with batons and stocks of rifles. He received two dangerous wounds—one upon the head and another upon the forehead. The accounts received this morning describe him as lying in a condition of danger, but the doctors now think he will not be in danger unless erysipelas sets in. I want to hear some justification of that assault. Was not my hon. Friend entitled to be present and to shake hands with the hon. Member for North-East Cork? Mr. O'Brien was taken to the police station, and then two hon. Members of the House—Mr. Maurice Healy and Mr. Lane—the former being Mr. O'Brien's legal adviser, applied for admission to the station and were refused. Will the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary contend that he has a right to prevent a conference between Mr. O'Brien and his legal adviser? Bail was refused, though two bails for £1,000 were offered. If bail had been accepted the subsequent disorder of that night would have been avoided. But it is no part of the Government's policy to avoid dis- 1175 order. It is their policy to provoke it. On the occasion under discussion not only was the intention to provoke disorder, but by every means possible to create such a state of things in Cork as to enable the Government to pretend that they have some excuse for batoning the people, and to provide some plea for presentation to the jury at Manchester which will soon try the libel action of Mr. O'Brien against Lord Salisbury. And the nephew of Lord Salisbury is the Constitutional Minister who, by means of armed agents, tries to juggle with the law and to prejudice the trial of a case about to come before an English jury. Bail having been refused, Mr. O'Brien was taken at once to the Cork terminus, and on the journey to Dublin—at Charleville—the police fired out of the train, and inflicted dangerous wounds on two men on the platform who were not engaged in violence—one a well-known man and respectable officer of the railway company. On these facts, which speak for themselves and which are grievous and lamentable enough, the House must pass judgment; and, in any case, the country will exact reparation from the Government for their conduct in seeking to create a pretext for violence and an excuse for murder. At the earliest opportunity the country will express its condemnation of a policy more cowardly and dastardly than any I ever have read of in the history of Ireland.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ * THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN,) Dublin University
I rise on behalf of the Government—["Oh, oh"]—to make a short statement with reference to some of the matters to which the right hon. Gentleman has called the attention of the House. It is obvious that the House is at a great disadvantage in discussing the alleged incidents which have been alluded to; because in the short time which has elapsed since their occurrence it is impossible for hon. Members opposite, or for Her Majesty's Government, to be in possession of the full facts. But, at the same time, certain matters are particularly clear. The right hon. Gentleman who has moved the adjourn- 1176 ment of the House has complained that Her Majesty's Government have on former occasions caused houses to be broken into at the dead of night for the purposes of making arrests. Now, the right hon. Gentleman complains that an arrest has been openly made in a railway station in the middle of the day. How can the two complaints be reconciled?
§ MR. SEXTON
I still think that arrests should not be carried out in the dead of night, nor at a moment of popular excitement in the day, but at some time when people are not in bed and not under circumstances of excitement.
§ * MR. MADDEN
I am not aware that a railway station is a chronic scene of public excitement. I have some experience of Irish railway stations, and I assert that they are not such scenes of turmoil and excitement as render them unfit places in ordinary circumstances, and where no excitement is created with the object of effecting a rescue, for making an arrest. Let the House bear that consideration in mind. It has been said that certain incidents had occurred on the occasion of the arrest, and what I hope and believe are exaggerated accounts of injuries received by an hon. Member of the House have been given. Now, whatever occurred is not to be attributed to the action of the Government and the authorities in selecting the railway station for arrest, but purely attributable to the action of the crowd in their endeavour to produce a disturbance. There are other facts to be borne in mind to one of which the right hon. Gentleman has called attention. We have information that both at Mallow and at Charleville during the progress of the train serious disturbances took place, and it is a fact that revolver shots were fired out of the windows by the police. But the Lord Mayor of Dublin has not mentioned the fact that those shots were not fired until shots had first been fired at the police.
§ MR. SEXTON
Can the hon. and learned Gentleman account for the fact that no mention is made of this circumstance in any of the newspaper reports?
§ * MR. MADDEN
No, I cannot; but, I do not think that, as a rule, the accounts 1177 are so full and so accurate as to render it necessary, on one side or the other, to account for the absence of any material fact. The right hon. Gentleman has challenged the Government on the cause of the arrest of the hon. Member for North-East Cork. I cannot do more than state the charge, as it would not be proper to discuss, pending the trial, the circumstances under which the charge is brought forward. If the hon. Member is not guilty of the charge, he can show his innocence. It will be for the Crown to prove this at the trial—that the hon. Member has committed the offence with which he is charged. The charge is that of taking part in, and inciting to, the Plan of Campaign. If the charge is true, no more serious charge in the present position of Irish affairs could be brought against any one. Now, with reference to the meeting at Cork. The right hon. Gentleman said that yesterday a large meeting was held in Hyde Park for the avowed purposes for which the Cork meeting was alleged to be held, and the right hon. Gentleman asked why the Irish meeting had been proclaimed while the English meeting had not. The right hon. Gentleman's explanation was that Englishmen were free, while Irishmen were not free. In making such a remark the right hon. Gentleman must have had in his mind some of the provisions of the Crimes Act of 1882, which are entirely absent from the Act of 1887, but which enabled the Executive of 1882 to largely interfere with the freedom of public meeting—a power of which they availed themselves to a very considerable extent. But at the present moment the law as regards the suppressing of public meetings is the same on one side of St. George's Channel as on the other. The Government have no more power in Ireland than in England to make a meeting illegal by proclamation. The legality or illegality of the meeting depends on the answer to one question—namely, was the meeting such as the Government, with the information before them, believed to be a meeting in support of the conspiracy known as the Plan of Campaign? If the meeting were held in support of that conspiracy, no lawyer would deny that it was an unlawful assembly properly proclaimed by the Executive. It is one of the elemen- 1178 tary propositions of the law with respect ot public meetings that a meeting held for an unlawful purpose, or for advancing the cause of an unlawful conspiracy or association, is ipso facto itself unlawful. The information before the Government, and which we are ready to bring to the test in a legal manner, goes to show that this meeting was intended to support the Plan of Campaign, and it was the right and the duty of the Government to suppress it. On these grounds the Executive have acted. The information before them proved the meeting to be an unlawful assembly. The charge against the Member for North-East Cork will be proceeded with in regular course; and as to the rest of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and the incidents which followed the action of the Executive, I have stated all the information in our possession, but this information will, of course, be supplemented when we have all the facts before us.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
It is almost incredible that the right hon Gentleman the Chief Secretary should sit there and refrain from answering the speech of my right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor of Dublin (Mr. Sexton). The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just resumed his seat must know very well that it is his right hon. Colleague we regard as concerned with these events in Ireland. It is the business of the Chief Secretary to answer such questions as these which have been raised; and I can only assume he must be thoroughly impressed with the badness of his case that he does not exhibit that courage he has sometimes shown in defending a bad case, and answer my right hon. Friend. Though the right hon. Gentleman slinks away and shows no inclination to meet these charges, none the less we hold him responsible for what has occurred in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman opposite too (Mr. Smith Barry), who has been charged with being the cause of these disturbances in Cork, has not the courage to rise and, in a manly way, give us his side of the case; he sits quietly under charges that would make any English gentleman and landlord spring to his feet to defend his name and honour. If the charges brought against the hon. Gentleman opposite are true, he is convicted of conduct of a very discreditable character, and I am bound to say it looks 1179 very much as if the hon. Gentleman had no defence to make to the charges and allegations made against him. The Solicitor General has attempted to defend the arrest of Mr. W. O'Brien at a railway station, and he has remarked upon our objections to arrest in the middle of the night. Of course, we object to these arrests being made in the middle of the night, because the breaking into a house by an armed force of the Crown in the dead of night is likely to lead to a breach of the peace and serious disturbance, and, in any case, we complain of arrests being made under circumstances likely to lead to violence and disturbance. Why will you not make these arrests quietly? Why will you choose an occasion when people are congregated together in large numbers? Time after time you have deliserately arrested representatives of the brish people, and especially those repreIentatives of the Irish people occupying seading positions like Mr. O'Brien, at lhe very moment when a crowd is astembled, and when it is almost miraculous if a disturbance does not occur. The hon. Gentleman says a railway station is a quiet and convenient place to conduct the arrest of an Irish Member of Parliament—a most extraordinary statement to make. My impression is that at a railway station there is always more or less of a crowd, and the hon. Gentleman did not tell the House that yesterday every railway station near Cork was crowded by people returning from meetings held in the county. The meeting in the city was proclaimed, but that only made a larger attendance at meetings held outside the city. The railway stations were thronged by excited people, excited by the proclamation of what they had intended should be a perfectly legal, Constitutional, and peaceful meeting; and it was at one of these stations where a large number of people had gathered that Mr. O'Brien was arrested by a force of 50 policemen, who charged through the people, without notice or warning, b atoning the people right, left, and centre. Now, what can be the motive that induces the right hon. Gentleman to make his arrests under circumstances of this kind? What motive can he possibly have except the desire for turmoil, bloodshed, and, possibly, murder in Ireland? He and 1180 his colleagues surely might have been expected to learn a lesson from what happened when Father M'Fadden was arrested at what, even the Chief Secretary admitted, was a signally unfortunate moment, when a crowd was just dispersing after attending church, and the unhappy result was that one of the police officers lost his life. That ought to have been a warning to the Chief Secretary for the rest of his days; but, instead of profiting by that fatal morning, we find him arresting Mr. O'Brien under circumstances well calculated to excite provocation, and the only surprise I feel is that, considering the aggravating circumstances, there was not more violence and disturbances than has been reported. The Solicitor General says it is necessary to use violence to prevent rescue, but I do not know that there was any attempt at rescue before violence was used. If the Government would do as we have advised them they would select a time when, without any risk of disturbance. the arrest could be quietly effected and without any fear of rescue. It was simply because the Government deliberately sent 50 policemen to arrest Mr. O'Brien before hundreds, perhaps thousands of his countrymen, excited as they were by the proclamation of their meeting, that there was any fear of rescue, though I do not know that there was any such attempt in this instance. I am glad the Solicitor General did not make any defence of the police for firing on an unarmed crowd. He said the police were first fired upon by the people. Well, the reports of yesterday's proceedings in to-day's newspapers are meagre; but if the people have taken to the use of firearms against the police, that is a piece of news that would certainly find its way into any English newspaper, however meagre the report, but no newspaper has a word of it. The Solicitor General now tells us a cock-and-bull story, which he probably has received from some District Inspector of Police, perhaps, to screen himself. I, for one, refuse to believe it. The police were not fired upon at Mitchelstown or at other places where we know the police, acting deliberately and wantonly, or under the orders of the Government, shot the people down. For all the violence that took place the Government are responsible, for they might have arrested Mr. O'Brien quietly 1181 in Dublin, and scarcely half a dozen people would have known of the occurrence at the time. But they deliberately tried to create a riot and disturbance in Cork. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Smith Barry) is responsible also for these occurrences. He knows something of Cork, and he could have told his friends in the Executive that the attempt to make the arrest on this particular day, when so many people were gathered together, was a dangerous thing to do; but I suppose the hon. Member is so anxious that Mr. O'Brien should be imprisoned, that he gave no hint of the kind to the Chief Secretary. Why has my hon. Friend been arrested? For promoting the Plan of Campaign? Why, we hear from the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) over and over again that the Plan of Campaign has been completlely broken and smashed in Ireland. Whenever that hon. Member speaks at English election meetings, he tells his audiences that the Plan of Campaign is completely crippled and practically powerless, and other supporters of the Government go around England and Scotland proclaiming the triumph of law and order, and declaring that the Plan of Campaign, an illegal combination and all the rest of it, have been put down by the strong Government of the Chief Secretary. Which are we to believe, the Solicitor General who tells us here that the Plan of Campaign is so successful that it is necessary without hesitation to baton the people, proclaim their meetings and throw Mr. O'Brien into prison again; are we to believe his version of the vigorous life of the Plan of Campaign, or are we to give credence to the stories told by the hon. Member for South Tyrone and others who go about England lauding the Chief Secretary, and trying to befool the people into the belief that the Government have succeeded in pulling down popular combination in Ireland? Is Mr. O'Brien put in prison for promulgating the Plan of Campaign? I deny it. We will test the vigour and strength of the Chief Secretary's Government. Mr. O'Brien in this matter has not done a single thing beyond what the Archbishop of Cashel has done. His Grace has recommended the tenants of the hon. Member (Mr. Smith Barry) opposite to send a deputation to remonstrate with him against his interference 1182 in the Ponsonby estate, and he has expressed sympathy with the Ponsonby tenants, and made strong representations against their eviction. Let the Chief Secretary hold up his head and listen to what I am saying. His Grace the Archbishop of Cashel has written a letter on which he practically endorsed everything Mr. O'Brien has done in the matter, in which he indicated the sympathetic action of the Tipperary tenants of the hon. Member opposite, in which he said the hon. Member had gone out of his way to combine with other landlords to carry out evictions, and that the tenants had an equal right to combine to defend themselves against the conbination of the landlords. I ask the Chief Secretary why does he not order the arrest of Archbishop Croke? Why does he not send 50 policemen to Cashel to arrest the Archbishop in his Palace? So, though he boasts of firmness and impartiality in carrying out the law, his courage evaporates before the prospect of a conflict with one of the most beloved and respected men in Ireland. There are hon. Gentlemen opposite who think it a becoming thing to laugh when unfortunate people are being evicted in Ireland; but I notice the hon. Gentleman who owns many broad acres in Tipperary does not join in the hilarity; probably he begins to find that undue interference with other people's concerns is not a laughing matter at all; and unless I am very much mistaken, the deputation who will wait upon him the day after to-morrow will not meet him in better humour because Mr. O'Brien may be then in prison, because he sent the deputation over to meet him. If Irish tenants are not allowed to combine, then neither should Irish landlords be allowed to combine against their tenants. If we had anything like justice and fair play in Ireland then the meetings of the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues would be dispersed by the police, and his head would be broken by the policeman's baton in Cork, just as my hon. Friend the Member for North Monaghan suffered for sympathizing with the tenants. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that, whether Mr. O'Brien is sent to prison or not, whether meetings of tenants are attacked or not, so long as landlords combine and carry out evictions in Ireland, so long as 1183 illegal combinations of landlords are allowed for the purpose of keeping up impossible rents, so long will the Irish people, acting under the advice of their leaders and their Archbishops, continue to combine, and in the end we shall have the satisfaction of teaching the hon. Member opposite that the tenantry of Ireland have at length learned the lesson of combination, and that the day has gone by when any landlord can, in an off-hand manner, help his brother landlord to evict his tenantry. I believe in my heart that the aim and object of the Government is to drive the people into acts of violence and acts of outrage not only in Cork, but in the county of Wexford, where prosecutions have been ordered against men who have spent the whole of their lives in promoting the settlement of difficulties on fair terms between landlords and tenants—the priests who have brought about a settlement on the estates of Lord Templemore and others. These priests are to be tried next Thursday. I say this system of batoning the people, breaking up their meetings, treating the representatives of the people as convicted criminals in this country are not treated, all this is part of a deliberate policy to arouse the Irish people to desperation; and though I should be sorry to see anything like such a response to these repeated acts of provocation, I say that if the Irish people at any time do retaliate in a spirit of exasperation, the Chief Secretary will be responsible for any fatal consequences that may ensue; and I hope the Government will remember then that we warned them, and I believe the English people will see that if the Irish people have not retaliated long ago, it is because they have faith in the idea that the English people do not sympathize with proceedings such as those that were carried out yesterday at Cork, under the authority of Her Majesty's present Government.
§ MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
It cannot be said that any serious answer has been made by the Solicitor General to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Sexton). I should have imagined that the Government must have known that yesterday would be a day of excitement in Cork. Wherever Mr. O'Brien goes in any part of Ireland, he is received with crowds and acclamations. He has made himself popular with all our race, 1184 wherever they may be scattered, by his courage in standing between the evictor and the evicted, whenever the law has refused its protection. Even here in England, wherever Mr. O'Brien goes, he is received with acclamations, and crowds assemble to greet him. It is idle, then, for the Solicitor General to endeavour to persuade the House that there was no reason to apprehend a disturbance, when the Government chose a time for the execution of the warrant when the people were likely to be aroused to the highest pitch of excitement by seeing their beloved leader arrested. Surely it should be a guiding principle to execute arrests of this kind in a manner to cause the least friction, and with a general regard to the safety and peace of the community. What happened at Manchester? My hon. Friend, by the bungling of the Magistrates at Carrick-on-Suir, was allowed to leave, and managed to keep his appointment to speak at Manchester. The Manchester Police had in their hands for two or three days previously a warrant for his arrest. The Manchester Police had power to arrest my hon. Friend before he addressed the meeting, but the head of the Executive there, a strong Tory, I believe—at any rate, no sympathizer with us—considered there was a discretion vested in him, and he refused to execute the warrant until it could be done with as little excitement as possible. Mr. O'Brien was allowed to deliver his speech, and, I am happy to say, it created a great effect in Manchester. Perhaps we have evidence of that in the uncle of the right hon. Gentleman being anxious to remove a pending trial from Manchester, and I hope the Manchester people will try and prevent that. However, the head of the Executive there declined to execute the warrant until he thought the time fitting, and his explanation was that he considered a certain amount of discretion was vested in him, and that it was his duty to carry out his order with due regard to the peace of the community. What is the conduct of the Government towards them when popular excitement is running highly? The Government just take advantage of that time to execute a warrant on a beloved Irishman. I must say the people bore it with a marvellous amount of self-control, and I am surprised that greater mischief did not 1185 ensue as the result of the Government action. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has succeeded in proving that the meeting proposed to be held on Sunday in the neighbourhood of Cork was criminal. It is notorious that it was not held to promote the Plan of Campaign. It was held in order to authorize a deputation to wait on the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hunts, and explain to him the opinion of the tenantry with regard to his action in connection with the Ponsonby estate. We are told that we have an equal law in Ireland; that it is meted out alike to poor and to rich, but our experience has proved to us that there is one law for the poor and another for the rich. Rich men may combine to desolate the whole of the country. It is not criminal on their part to do that; but immediately the poor men contrive to protect their homes, then it becomes a crime. These are things which, in Ireland, cause us to mistrust the law. I admit that if our country is to be prosperous, it is absolutely necessary that respect for law and order should exist in the community. But how can you expect law to be respected if you do not mete out equal justice to rich and to poor? It is not just that the Government should allow the combinations of the landlords and yet put down with a stern hand the combinations of the tenants, who seek only the protection of their own homes, which are even more dear to them than are the mansions to the rich. It really seems to me that the Government, in pursuing this policy, are anxious to bring about a conflict between the people of Ireland and the armed Forces of the Crown. We hope and believe that the people of our country will stand superior to these temptations. We hope and believe that the democracy, of this country—of your own country—hate and abhor what is being done in unhappy Ireland in the name of law and order. Whatever our belief may be, the Government may be assured of this—that in spite of their Coercion Acts, so long as they fail to protect our people, so long as efforts like those of the Archbishop of Dublin to promote peace are repudiated, so long as the motives of Irish Members are distorted, and so long as overtures which are made to the landlord—and which are genuinely made in the in- 1186 terests of peace—are spoken of as the results of fear and failing on our part, whatever may be the action of the Government, it will be the duty of the Irish Representatives to stand between the people and the oppressors of the people. We claim arbitration; we ask for it, and we are refused it, and therefore we are bound now by organization and combination to protect our people.
§ * SIR J. COLOMB (Tower Hamlets, Bow, &c.)
I do not want to detain the House more than one or two minutes, but there are a few points with which I should like to deal. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion for the Adjournment, made a distinct statement that the meeting which was suppressed in Cork was not in support of the Plan of Campaign; and immediately afterwards he proceeded to show the House that it was, for he said that the meeting had three objects, one of which was to sympathize with the tenants on the Ponsonby estate. He will not deny, surely, that the Plan of Campaign is at work on that estate. He will not deny that the tenants there are really the "pawns" that are being played by the party of agitation in this game in Ireland, and therefore it is in support of the game of agitation, through the Plan of Campaign, that the meeting was intended to be held in Cork. And then he proceeded to say that the meeting was to protest against the treatment of the tenantry, while, finally, he spoke about the democracy supporting this view. I venture to think that the democracy are far too intelligent to be led aside by such statements, which fatally contradict one another. We hear a great deal of the homes and the roofs of the tenants on the Ponsonby estate. We are told that the tenants are to be thrown as outcasts on the charity of the world. Well, Sir, if they are, they have only the Plan of Campaign to thank for it. Undoubtedly, the meeting in Cork was to have been held in support of that Plan of Campaign, and any one who knows Ireland, knows perfectly well that that was really the whole and sole object of the meeting for one, congratulate the Government upon at once suppressing a gathering which was intended to intimidate the tenants on this estate, because it was feared that they were 1187 beginning to find out that they had been the dupes of agitators. It was in the interests of peace, order, and commonsense that a meeting calculated to produce great excitement and terror should not be permitted to take place. We are told a great deal about the Ponsonby estate and the serious excitement which it is causing throughout Ireland. But allow me to point out that, on the showing of hon. Members opposite, it is merely a matter of a sum of 6s. 1½d. a year which is causing all this difficulty, and that proves that if only people would abandon oratory for arithmetic, Ireland would soon be-come more prosperous. We want in Ireland to look at these matters from a businesslike and rational point of view. I will take the statements of hon. Members who support the Plan of Campaign. The number of tenants on the Ponsonby estate.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The circumstances of the tenants are not before us. The right hon. Gentleman asked leave to move the adjournment on a matter of definite and urgent public importance, and the details of the relations between tenants and landlord on the Ponsonby estate cannot now be discussed.
§ * Sir J. COLOMB
I am sorry, Sir, I infringed the order of debate. What I wished to say, and what I am certainly not going to say, but may be in order in indicating, is that according to the speeches we have heard, the beginning of all this trouble was the Plan of Campaign on the Ponsonby estate. Mr. O'Brien and those who work with him produce unnecessary public excitement. It is notorious to every man who reads the newspapers that these matters are arranged from day to day by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is to their interest to secure as much theatrical effect as possible. They therefore avoid the police until such time as the arrests may be made in a manner most calculated to produce a great dramatic effect. I know this is not in the true interests of Ireland, and I, for one, protest against these great Sunday meetings got up to promote the Plan of Campaign, and which afford an excuse to numbers of men calling themselves bonâ fide travellers to get drink. I most heartily congratulate the Government on their 1188 firmness. The hon. Member who represents South Hunts is respected and loved by his tenantry in the South of Ireland, and I know more than that, for I say he is at the head of the only sort of movement—the Cork Defence Union—that can settle Ireland—a movement to meet combination with combination. It is only by such means that the equilibrium can be established. We must adopt in Ireland, on agrarian questions, the programme which was adopted in England on industrial questions. Trades unions were formed, and they were met by combinations of capitalists and employers. Both combinations worked lawfully, and if we are to have peace in Ireland, those who are responsible for advising the tenants ought to refrain from dragging politics into the matter. They should act within the law, and treat the question as a business one, and if both tenants and landlords respectively combine within the law, then we shall get an equilibrium which will save the time of the House, and make Ireland what she ought to be—a peaceful and prosperous country.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
I rather commisserate the Chief Secretary on being compelled to listen to the defence of his policy which has just been offered by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who could not have put our case against the Government in a more pregnant and apt form. The hon. and gallant Gentleman lays down the principle that combination must be met by combination. Sir, that is exactly the principle which we seek to establish. Our allegation is, and the hon. Member opposite has admitted the truth of it, that there is a combination of landlords to meet the combination of the tenants, and the difference between the two combinations is, that the one in which the landlords are concerned has the sanction, approval, and encouragement of the Government.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I will deal with that point presently. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is one of those orators who always spoils his case, the more frequently he speaks. The combination of the landlords against the tenants is sanctioned and stimulated by the Government, whereas the combina- 1189 tion of the tenants has to fight, not against the law, which is an abuse of terms, but against a prostitution of the law in the shape of a law especially made in the interests of landlords and administered by resident Magistrates who are the creatures and servants of a landlord government. The right hon. Gentleman, the Chief Secretary, has confined his participation in this debate to smiles of contempt and derision, and that is the style in which he is accustomed to discharge some of the most painful and serious duties ever administered in this country. What is all this talk about lawful combination? There is only one law with regard to combination in Ireland, and that is the law laid down by the Chief Secretary and his creatures, and which comes to this, that a combination by landlords in any shape or form is lawful, while a combination by the tenants is unlawful. I must express my surprise that the hon. and gallant Member should not have modestly refrained from taking part in this debate. If I had placarded the streets of London with "Colomb and no Coercion," as the hon. and gallant Member did, and had been returned to this House by means of pledges against coercion, I would at least have had the decency to remain silent instead of supporting coercion by speech. The hon. and gallant Member may think it was his lofty intellect and fascinating rhetoric that secured his election. I venture to inform him it was the promises and pledges to resist coercion which returned more than one-half of the Members on his side of the House. But I pass from the hon. and gallant Member, who is a somewhat insignificant figure in this matter, to the hon. Member for South Hunts, who wants to defeat the combination of tenants on the Ponsonby estate, not because he thinks their demands are unjust, but because he desires to wreak vengeance on them. The hon. and gallant Member opposite just now implored us not to introduce politics into this matter; yet the hon. Member for South Hunts gives political vengeance as the sole reason for his interference. The hon. Member for South Hunts is perfectly free to wreak his vengeance on the tenants upon the Ponsonby estate if he can; he is free in London to raise subscriptions for the purpose, although I do not envy him the task of collecting 1190 funds with which to drive Irish tenants into the workhouse; he is perfectly free to do all that, but the man who, on the other hand, tells the tenants to stand by each other, does so at the peril of his liberty and his life. Mr. O'Brien will no doubt get four or six months' imprisonment for doing on the side of the tenants what the hon. Member opposite for doing on the side of the landlords will probably get a seat in the House of Lords for. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh the other night favoured us with an oration in which he justified this interference on the ground that the landlords' interests in Ireland are identical; but surely if the landlords in different parts of Ireland are justified in combining for such a reason, the tenants have equal rights, for their interests are also identical. What is going on in London at the present moment? I am going this evening to a meeting of the tramway men on strike, and the hon. Member for Peckham is going there also. We are going to encourage the combination of workers against what we consider to be the extortion and exaction of their employers. In doing that we shall be within our legitimate right. How can it be said, then, that Mr. O'Brien has not a right to go down to the Ponsonby estate and defend what he regards as the just rights of the tenants? By the sixth section of the Coercion Act the Lord Lieutenant is empowered to put down an association if he is convinced that it interferes with the adminisstration of the law or disturbes the maintenance of law and order. Well, Sir, the disturber of law and order who interferes at the auspicious moment when the landlord and his tenants are about to settle their difference, and who destroys the hopes of an amicable settlement is the hon. gentleman opposite, the Member for South Hunts. It is all nonsense to talk about Mr. O'Brien interfering. He only interferes now because the negotiations have broken down, because the gentleman who represented the landlord was not permitted to consummate the peace already practically concluded. The man who interfered and introduced disorder and disturbance is, I repeat, the hon. Member for South Hunts; he is the representative of the landlord combination, and I await the action of the Lord Lieutenant in putting 1191 down the combination which is preventing the maintenance of law and order. We now have combination against combination, and the Government ought to stand impartial between the two parties, instead of which they take sides against the tenants and in favour of the landlords. The proceedings on the Ponsonby estate are an object-lesson to the people of England, who are thus enabled to test the assertion that the law is the same in England and Ireland and that combination is equally free in both countries. On account of the value of that object-lesson, on account of the opportunity it gives the English people of judging what the Government policy in Ireland is, I offer my sincere thanks to the Government for the brutality of their excesses in Ireland.
§ * MR. PIERCE MAHONY (Meath, North)
I wish to draw the attention of the House first to the silence of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hunts, who has had several opportunities of rising to address the House, and then to the silence of the Chief Secretary. The charge brought against the Government on this occasion is that they deliberately provoked a riot on a platform at a railway station, and that in that riot a Member of this House was seriously injured, and the only answer to that charge comes from the Solicitor General for Ireland, who says that the Irish Members are very difficult to please because if you arrest them in the middle of the night they complain, and if you take them in broad daylight on the platform at a railway station they also complain, and that is I suppose to be considered a sufficient answer in this House to a charge of producing a riot in a public place in Ireland, and of inflicting severe injury upon a Member of this House. A grave charge has been brought against the Government, and they have dealt with it in a most flippant manner. Our objection to arrests in the middle of the night is that they disturb the other inmates of the House where the arrest takes place. We have raised no objection to arrests in the middle of the day if made in a proper manner, but our allegation is that on this occasion the arrest was purposely made in a railway station to which a large crowd had gone for the purpose of welcoming the hon. Member for North-East Cork, 1192 who was taken into custody in their presence most unexpectedly. Simultaneously with the arrest the police proceeded to baton the crowd, and while they were so acting an hon. Member of this House was severely injured. The Solicitor General for Ireland has pleaded the impossibility of getting any information in so short a time. That is an excuse which we have heard over and over again. When a question is asked on an important matter, the usual course of procedure is for a Member of the Government to say he has had no time to get the information, and after a short interval we see the familiar figure of the First Lord of the Treasury coming in to move the closure. It is an extraordinary fact that Members on this side of the House can get information, while Members of the Government are utterly unable o get it. I should have thought that the telegraphic system of the country would have been sufficient to have transmitted the necessary information in the course of twenty-four hours. The only information they produce about the proceedings of yesterday—is, I venture to say, discredited by internal evidence—is that the police fired shots from the railway carriage because shots were first fired at them. I have no doubt that, in due course, the bullets will be produced, and it will be proved beyond contradiction, according to the Chief Secretary, that they must have been fired into the carriage. After the experience at Mitchelstown no intelligent constable will go without a stock of bullets in his waistcoat pocket ready for any emergency. What an unlikely story this is. A number of men are drawn to the station at Charleville for the purpose of showing their sympathy with Mr. William O'Brien; and we are asked to believe that they fired into the carriage, and ran the risk of killing the hon. Member. There is no mention whatever that the people fired on the police in any of the newspaper reports. We have a right to demand from the Chief Secretary some answer to the accusation that a riot at Cork was deliberately produced, and that an hon. Member of this House suffered injury during the riot. Suppose an Irishman believes a meeting to be illegally proclaimed, what remedy has he? His only remedy is to go to the meeting, have his head broken, and then take an action for 1193 damages. There is where the difference between England and Ireland comes in. If we test the legality of the action of the Government, we have to go before a prejudiced Court. It is impossible to oppose the Government through the ordinary constitutional channels in Ireland. We have been bound to adopt other methods—combinations like the Plan of Campaign. We are told that Mr. O'Brien is charged with promoting the Plan of Campaign in his speech of yesterday week. I maintain that he was not, but that he was denouncing the conduct, and rightly denouncing, of the hon. Member for South Hunts—the cruel conduct of the Member for South Hunts—who prevented a settlement on the Ponsonby estate through stepping in at the moment a settlement was about to be made. The hon. Member (Mr. Smith Barry) has shaken his head several times during the course of this discussion. He has had the opportunity of rising, but he has not taken it.
§ * MR. MAHONY
The hon. Gentleman has shaken his head several times. I watched him very carefully, and he made no effort to rise to speak. He will have another opportunity, which I hope he will take. Mr. O'Brien's speech yesterday week was for the purpose of protesting against the action of the hon. Member for South Hunts. The doctrine laid down now is that because the tenants on any estate adopt the Plan of Campaign, that is to be a reason why no one should sympathize with them. No matter how they are treated on any subsequent occasion. Supposing the right hon. Gentleman sends down a large force of police and military, and these people resist during the evictions, carried out in a perfectly unnecessary and harsh manner, and are shot down. Are these people to have no sympathy because they have joined in an illegal combination? Are the landlords in Ireland to be allowed to combine to lay waste every estate in the country which has come under the Plan of Campaign? Is that sort of combination to be perfectly legal, while no one is to be allowed even to sympathize with those who have joined the Plan of Campaign? This House, for all the people of Ireland care, may sanction what it 1194 pleases. We look forward to a better House at no distant date. The hon. and learned Member who spoke from that Bench seemed to look for ward to some settlement of the Irish Agrarian Question. I could not make out how it was to be brought about, but I gathered it was to be by some sort of combination on both sides. Might I remind the House, however, that on every single Plan of Campaign estate in Ireland the tenants are perfectly willing at this moment to submit their case to arbitration. That has been brought home to me in a practical manner within the last few weeks. Only within the last two or three days I have returned from taking part in an arbitration on a large estate in the West of Ireland. That estate, in past years, had a very evil name. Now, I hope it is going to change that name, as it has changed its proprietor. What was the method of procedure in that case? Arbitration was suggested, and the tenants immediately accepted it. I refer to the Pollok estate. They chose me as their representative. The son of a Galway landlord—Mr. Gregory Eyre—was chosen as the representative of the landlord. We have both made our examination of the laud, after having appointed as umpire one of the chief landlords in Galway, Mr. Christopher Redington. We shall shortly meet for the purpose of considering our award. I hope that saner, wiser, and more humane counsels may yet guide landlords; for if it were so, I believe the remaining disputes could be settled within six weeks in Ireland.
§ MR. SMITH BARRY (South Hunts)
Sir, charges have been made against me with regard to my action on the Ponsonby estate. They are the same charges as were brought against me the other night by the Member for the Rushcliffe Division, against whom I have not one word to say in respect of the manner in which he brought forward his charges. He made his statement in a straightforward and manly fashion. Everyone of the charges I answered at the time categorically and unequivocally, and I maintain I absolutely disposed of them. I am not going again to reply to those charges; but if any hon. Member wishes to have answers to them, and to ascertain the real facts, let him refer to Hansard or the columns of the public papers.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I wish to ask the Solicitor General for Ireland whether a police officer who is armed with a warrant for the arrest of any person is at liberty, after the warrant has come into his possession, to choose his own time for the arrest of the person, or whether he is not bound to execute that warrant with all despatch?
§ * MR. MADDEN
There is no doubt that it is the duty of a person charged with the execution of a warrant to execute that warrant with due diligence.
§ MR. GILL (South Louth)
Since the question of the execution of the warrant has been referred to, I would point out that the Government have over and over again, in the course of the proceedings for the arrest of persons under the Crimes Act, delayed the execution of the warrants for indefinite periods of time. In the County of Wicklow recently, for weeks the police did not execute the warrants on two priests, who were daily passing under the eyes of the officers. The other night it was announced by the right hon. Gentleman that there was a warrant out for myself and one of my Colleagues, and that the warrant had been issued several days before. I have been walking about in rather an uncomfortable position, I must confess, with this warrant hanging over my head, and every moment expecting to have my liberty suspended. I suppose the opportunity will be embraced to arrest me at some railway station or public meeting at which I may be present. The Government are to be congratulated that at length the hon. Member for whom this dirty and villainous work has been carried on in Ireland has got up to say something in his own defence. I think the tenantry, against whom all this machinery of destruction is being applied, have a right to congratulate themselves on the character of the reply which the hon. Gentleman has given. In the whole course of this Parliament I do not think there has been a defence more ludicrous or grotesque than that which the hon. Gentleman had the impertinence to make. ["Order!" and "Withdraw!"] I am in order. I call it an impertinent manner of putting arguments forward in this debate to refer hon. Members to what took place another evening, and to pass over two hours' discussion to-night as unworthy of further notice. The result of the 1196 debate the other night was of a very different character to that which the hon. Gentleman has described. He did not dispose of any of the series of tremendous allegations made against him. On the contrary, everything said against him was proved up to the hilt. A deputation of his tenants is to wait upon the hon. Gentleman to-morrow, when I trust he will give a more satisfactory reply than he has now given, or I promise him that the reply of the tenants to him will be far more effective than that which he has given. The whole question is whether the people of Ireland have a right to live in Ireland, or a right to defend themselves against the extraordinary oppression of the landlords. We saw yesterday an enormous meeting in Hyde Park, held in perfect safety, without interference of police or troops. That meeting applauded the Plan of Campaign, and the resistance to the right hon. Gentleman's tyranny in Ireland. The strike of tramway men, which is now going on, is not merely without interference, but has the protection of the authorities. That very strike affords an exact parallel to what has been done by the tenants of the hon. Gentleman opposite, and what the Government have endeavoured to prevent in Ireland. The employés of the Tramway Company are joined in a combination. They are very well treated by the company. They were written to by one of the directors——
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The relations of the tramway directors and their servants has nothing whatever to do with the question.
§ MR. GILL
I am endeavouring to point out that the meeting at Cork had an object exactly similar to that of the tramway employés here, yet the latter are protected in their action by the Government. But in Ireland, when the people combine in self-defence, the whole forces of the Government are put in operation against their combination, and everybody who defends their cause does so at the risk of losing his liberty, or his life, or his limbs. The simple object of the meeting addressed by the hon. Member for Cork was simply to bring public opinion to bear on the iniquitous proceedings of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, and of the Government in collusion with him, that being the only means of keeping the people of 1197 Ireland from rushing into the methods of desperation and crime. The Government, in putting down that meeting and in their subsequent action, have taken a course, the direct consequence of which must be the counsels of desperation, unless the people are enabled to combat the action of the Government by devices of their own. My hon. Friend has endeavoured to hold meetings in Ireland for the purpose of keeping alive public opinion, and if meetings are not allowed they must be held by strategy, even if in the middle of the night. An hon. Member, who represented the landlords, said they were going in for combination, and that it would be a question of combination against combination. Let it be so. The tenants of Ireland are well content to pit their combination against the landlords' combination. We do not question the right of the landlords to combine. Let the tenants combine. Let the Government stand aside, and let them not throw their power and force on the side of the oppressor and against the unfortunate people who are simply struggling for the right of existence in their native land.
§ MR. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
Mr. Speaker, I do not propose to detain the House for more than two or three minutes, nor is it my intention to say anything which, so far as I myself can judge, will cause a prolongation of this discussion. It would appear to me, after having listened attentively to the whole case, that very serious allegations indeed have been made, and those allegations have not met with a reply. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General has observed, and not without truth and justice, that we are now discussing the occurrences of yesterday evening, and that the Government are not in a position to lay full information which, as he considers, and as I think, would be necessary for a discussion. Provided that observation be not intended, and I do not think it can be intended, as a reason against the discussion of these matters, I, for my part, am disposed to give way to him. I do not feel at the present moment in a position to enter fully or satisfactorily into the points which have been raised. But Her Majesty's Government must not be surprised if, upon another occasion, they should hear of this matter again. I need only 1198 enumerate a few of them. There is the question of the arrest of Mr. O'Brien at the railway station, a subject which, in my opinion, deserves and requires explanation. There is then the batoning of the people, as it is alleged, wholly without provocation. There are the injuries alleged by the Lord Mayor of Dublin to be dangerous, at any rate to be serious, and alleged by him and by others to have been inflicted apparently without any just or sufficient cause upon a Member of this House. Lastly, there is the allegation, by no means the least serious, perhaps the most serious, of all, that the police fired shots out of the windows of the railway carriages; in respect of which the Solicitor General states that he is informed that shots had been previously fired at the train by some of the persons in its neighbourhood. The Solicitor General, no doubt, attaches weight to that information. It is quite evident that there is something very strange in the fact that the firing of these shots did not attract the notice of the reporters. These are all matters which deserve the attention of the House and the Government, and upon which—as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland has admitted by implication—further information is necessary, and is rightly asked for.
§ * THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester
I need hardly say I have no objection to the tone of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks, and I have not much objection to the substance of them; but I do not wish the House to come to a Division at this point with the impression left on their minds, which I gather the right hon. Gentleman desires to convey—that there is a primâ facie case against the Government, which it requires further information to dispel. That is not a fact. Of course, the more time we have to obtain information the more information we shall get, and the more information we get the more fitted the House will be to discuss the matter. Bu'; let no hon. Member suppose that there is, in my opinion, at all events, the slightest primâ facie case against the police or the executive. The right hon. Gentleman, following in that the example set him below the Gangway, made his first remark in relation to the circumstances under which the arrest of Mr. 1199 O'Brien took place. The right hon. Gentleman appears to forget that Members sitting in that part of the House have not shown any willingness in the past to present themselves when required before Courts of Justice; neither have they rendered it easy for the police to carry out a painful though a necessary duty. But, on the contrary, in many cases—I am far from saying in all—they appear to have been actuated principally by the desire to make the work of the police as difficult as possible, and the danger attending the incidents of arrest as great as it can be made. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite have very freely launched this accusation at the Government, that their one desire was to provoke a breach of the peace which might possibly result in the murder of a policeman or destruction of life among the assailing crowd. Sir, I can assure the House that no one has experienced greater trouble and anxiety from such scenes than myself; and if I may judge of the use hon. Members make of them I should say there are no people who are more sensible of the political and party advantages which they can extract from these scenes than hon. Members opposite. The right hon. Gentleman, in dealing with the incidents which happened at other railway stations than Cork subsequent to the arrest of Mr. O'Brien, did not appear to see the significance of those incidents. The Government are told that they ought not to have arrested Mr. O'Brien because he was at a railway station, where it might have been expected there would be a hostile crowd. Had the Government any reason to believe that there would be a hostile crowd at the other two railway stations, or that there would be a rescue attempted there? Are not the incidents which occurred at Mellor and Charlerith a sufficient indication of the difficulty of dealing with cases of this kind without running some risk of an encounter between the mob and the police? Let me further point out to the right hon. Gentleman that when he says there is no justification in the facts as we know them for the baton charge made by the police, that does not accord with the information which I have derived from official sources in Ireland. It appears 1200 that the crowd at Cork was very large and very excited; that the force of police was not a very considerable one; and that it was only when the crowd began to surge forwardin a dangerous manner, and when it was apprehended that a rescue might be effected, or that it would be impossible for the police to effect the arrest—it was not till then that the police officer in charge gave the order to the police to clear away the crowd. It was when this crowd was being cleared away, as it had to be cleared away, that these incidents occurred—incidents which are, no doubt, regrettable, but for which, not the police and not the Government, but the crowd, and those who led the crowd, were primarily responsible.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Then I will say the important leaders of public opinion on the spot. I did not desire to speak in this debate; but as I am on my legs I cannot allow to pass absolutely without a word of comment what, after all, has been the chief topic urged by speakers on the other side of the House. Nominally, and in the terms of the Motion, this is an attack on the Government; really and substantially it is an attack on my hon. Friend below the gangway (Mr. Smith Barry). His alleged misdoings have afforded the chief theme for the oratory we have heard to-night. And what is the substance of the accusation? It is that my hon. Friend has interfered between Mr. Ponsonby and his tenants, and this accusation is hurled against him by gentlemen whose chief occupation in life it is to interfere between other landlords and their tenants. I have been told that I interfere with combination of the tenants, and that I ought to interfere with combination of the landlords. I do not care how much tenants combine or how much landlords combine. If I were a tenant in Ireland, and I found landlords in Ireland combining against me, I would combine against the landlords. If I were a landlord in Ireland, and found the tenants combining against me, I would combine against the tenants. With all these combinations the Government have no more concern in Ireland than they have in England. It is only when the combination is illegal in its 1201 essence and illegal in its methods that the Government steps in and says, "You shall neither have your illegal combination, nor shall you enforce it upon the unhappy tenants by illegal methods." Then alone the Government interferes, and we should be utterly wanting in our duty if we did not do so. But let me remind the House, on the subject of this Ponsonby estate, that the terms which have been offered by the new owners of the property are terms to which it is impossible to object, and to which even the severest critics of my hon. Friend have not objected.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman has objected to a great deal that has been done by my hon. Friend; but he has not objected to these terms. I turn to the letter of the Archbishop of Cashel—not a creditable letter in my opinion—on the subject. The Archbishop does not allude to the fact that the new owners of the estate have offered the tenants to go into Court to have the rents fixed by a tribunal, established by the law of the land, that they have offered, by capitalizing the arrears and charging 3 per cent on the amount so capitalized, to deal with the arrears in a manner which will make it most convenient to the tenants to meet their obligations; and that they had further offered to make any diminution which may be made by the Land Courts in the existing rents retrospective over the whole period for which the rent is in arrear. These are terms in their essence obviously just and liberal, and my hon. Friend, who is attacked in this matter, represents in the eyes of the public, it must be recollected, the new owners of the estate. He has behaved to the tenants upon this estate with a judgment and liberality which I should like to see followed by every landlord in Ireland.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 128; Noes 212.—(Div. List, No. 163.)