§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ *(12.50.) MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
In moving the Second Reading of this Bill I have to express my regret at the loss of one of our Colleagues, who most earnestly desired to see this measure passed into law. I refer to the late Mr. Biggar. The importance of this Bill was recognised last year by the Chief Secretary for Ireland when a very influential deputation waited upon him in Dublin Castle. The right hon. Gentleman told them that the time for argument had passed; that the case was before the country; and that what we had to do was to get the measure disposed of without further delay. That is the feeling of the great majority of the people of Ireland. They desire and demand this legislation. No doubt some of our friends in England think that the time is not ripe for legislation so far as England is concerned. After the Report of the Royal Commission there can be little doubt as to the feeling of Wales. Not can there be any doubt in regard to the view taken of the question in Scotland, and still less in regard to Ireland. I do not believe in legislation in advance of public opinion upon this subject; but with regard to Ireland I maintain that legislation lags behind public opinion. So much has that been the case that there have been doubts among some of our friends as to the competency of this Parliament to deal with the question, and I believe that after the long struggle we have had it behoves this House to pass the measure on this occasion, seeing that it will prove to the Irish people that we are able to legislate for their wants and wishes. I do not pretend that it can be passed unanimously, but the minority who are opposed to it consist chiefly of those who are engaged in the traffic in Ireland. In 1878 a Bill dealing with this subject was passed, but it was a Bill limited to four years only, and since then it has formed the subject of an Annual Continuance Bill. That is a most unsatisfactory state of things. If the measure is a good one it ought to be made per- 1187 manent out, and not left to an Annual Continuance Bill. Nearly every year since the passing of the original Bill an attempt has been make to deal with the question. In 1884 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir G. Treveleyan) brought in a Bill when Chief Secretary for Ireland. In 1887 the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. J. O'Connor) thought the question ought to be considered, and asked the House; to appoint a Select Committee, and in 1888 a Committee was appointed to inquire into the working of the Act of 1878. That Committee made a most careful inquiry; they heard a large number of witnesses; and they had two Reports laid before them—one prepared by the Chairman, which, with slight amendments, was agreed to; and the other by the hon. Member for Tipperary. It is upon the Amended Report of the Chairman that the present Bill is founded. The Report of the hon. Member for Tipperary was directed against the Sunday Closing Act, but the only persons who voted in favour of it were the hon. Member himself and the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. P. M'Donald). The rest of the Committee voted against it.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
Two out of how many? How many Members of the Committee were present?
§ *MR. LEA
Then my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) brought in a Bill for the earlier closing of public-houses on Saturday, which was passed by a large majority in this House, and was referred to the same Committee. Evidence was taken upon it, which was even stronger than the evidence in favour of the original Bill. The Committee reported the united Bill to the House, and it has been waiting ever since for an opportunity to have it dealt with. There were 35 witnesses called before the Committee. Of these, 15 may be described as official witnesses. These official witnesses included the Recorder of Dublin, the Coroner of Dublin, District Inspectors for various counties, the Chief Commissioner of Police in Dublin, one or two Resident Magistrates, and Mr. Reid, the 1188 Chief Commissioner of the Royal Irish Constabulary. It is a remarkable fact that not one of these witnesses disapproved of the Bill. Both as to the working of the Sunday Closing Act in the past and also as to the extreme desirability of shortening the hours on Sunday and on Saturday night, all these independent witnesses reported favourably. The opinions were so strong that it seems to me unnecessary to quote them, but I desire to quote one or two words from the evidence of the Recorder of Dublin. That gentleman said—Shorten the hours and the opportunity if you want to help the people.These words do not seem very strong in the House of Commons, yet when I say that Mr. Faulkner came from a bed of sickness, after suffering a severe domestic loss, in order to earnestly entreat the Committee to pass the Bill, I think the words will carry great weight. Asked as to his experience of the Sunday Closing Act in the past, he said—and this applies only to Dublin, where a shortening of hours only has taken place—I attribute it to the Sunday Closing Act and the vigilance of the police that crime has certainly decreased in Dublin, and that the misery is also less than it was 11 years ago.The Recorder of Dublin added that eight-tenths of the crime in Dublin arises through drink. The hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. J. O'Connor), in a discussion in the House some time ago, referred to Mr. O'Donel, the Police Magistrate in Dublin; but Mr. O'Donel gave evidence in favour of shortening the hours, and Mr. O'Donel also spoke of the drunkenness in Dublin. With regard to Saturday night, he said—Saturday is a terrible night for drunkenness and waste of wages.That is a very strong expression of opinion. But Mr. O'Donel also said that 80 per cent. of the drunkenness in Dublin arises from Saturday night drinking. The evidence of the Rev. Canon Sheehan, the earnest parish priest of Cork, greatly impressed the Committee. He said—My own opinion is that Saturday early closing is a matter of vital consequence for our people.And then, when asked with regard to Sunday closing, he said—Total Sunday Closing is a matter of great, importance to the people.1189 Asked by the Chairman a question with regard to home drinking, which is one of the bugbears of all these Bills, the rev. gentleman said—I do not believe it will have that effect in CorkThere was one other witness I wish to specially mention. The city of Londonderry is the largest city which has adopted the Sunday Closing Act. In 1878 it was suggested that the city of Derry should be left out of the Act, but, in consequence of the strong feeling expressed against the adoption of that course, that city was included. It is very interesting to hear that in that city, which has a population of about 30,000, the Sunday Closing Act has worked very well. Sir William Miller, the Mayor of the City of Derry, who, as a medical man, is well able to understand the benefit of an Act like this, appeared before the Committee, and gave us statistics in regard to drinking before and after the passing of the Act of 1878. Those statistics clearly proved what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir G. Trevelyan) when, as Chief Secretary, he introduced a similar Bill to the House. Sir William Miller said the arrests for drunkenness have diminished one-half since the Act was in force. One would imagine that it would just be in the largest city under the Act where, if anywhere, drunkenness would prevail, and yet during the eight years succeeding the commencement of the operation of the Act the arrests for drunkenness in the City of Derry were 500 less than they had been in the eight years previous to the passing of the Act. Now, what is the opinion of witnesses who did not give evidence before the Committee? I do not propose to make many quotations from outside the evidence, but the Lord Primate of Ireland, who has signed a Petition presented to the House to-day in favour of this Bill, wrote a letter to the First Lord of the Treasury, begging, on behalf of himself and his rev. colleagues, the House to pass the Bill; and I have letters from other very eminent individuals in Ireland—Archbishop Croke and Mr. Michael Davitt. Some hon. Members may differ upon political questions from the two latter gentlemen, but there is no man in the House who will say that Archbishop Croke and Mr. Michael 1190 Davitt are not patriots of the highest type. Archbishop Croke presided at a Convention at which a resolution to the following effect was passed:—That this Convention approves of the Irish Sunday Closing Bill now before the House, and urges Parliament to pass it speedily in a permanent form, which will give the full benefit of the Act to the whole of Ireland; and that this Convention also approves of the early closing on Saturday night of houses licensed for the sale of intoxicating drink.That well expresses the opinions of Archbishop Croke. Mr. Michael Davitt was unable to attend the meeting, but he sent a letter in which this paragraph occurred—The fact that, poor as our country is, we waste over £11,000,000 a year on intoxicating drinks is a most deplorable one to dwell upon. Half that sum, needlessly wasted as it is now, would set every woollen mill in Ireland running to-morrow, and thereby be the means of keeping our young people at home instead of turning out of the country for want of employment.Time prevents me quoting, as I had hoped to do, the opinions of many of the Bishops of Ireland, but I may say I believe that every Bishop of the Protestant Church is strongly in favour of this legislation, and that most of the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church are also strongly in favour of it. There are only two of the latter who are in any way opposed to it, and I do not think they wish that the present Act, as it exists now, should be lost or repealed. Turning to the opposition to the Bill, allow me to say that, judging from the evidence given before the Committee, it is only the opposition of the trade that we have to fear or to deal with. The Recorder of Dublin said—Outside the trade, I think all independent opinion is in favour of it.And the Rev. Dr. Brown, Roman Catholic Bishop of Ferns, in a letter he wrote in 1888, said—I am of opinion there are none opposed to the Sunday Closing of public houses except those who have a pecuniary interest in the sale of drink.That is rather confirmed by the Amendments to the Bill, which appear on the Paper. The first Amendment is that in the name of the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. P. M'Donald), and is to the effect—That it is inexpedient to proceed further with the consideration of a measure which proposes to place fresh restrictions upon an important Irish trade.It is notorious that misery existed in 1191 Ireland in consequence of drunkenness, and am I to understand that, in the opinion of the hon. Member, this measure is to be rejected because it is likely to stop the sale of drink? Archbishop Croke, in a letter addressed to the Freeman's Journal, on the 19th of March, said—The excessive use of strong drink is everywhere hurtful and unhappily on the increase, and has been simply ruinous to Ireland. What need IS there for me to recount to you its hideous and horrifying results? It has made countless homes desolate; it has given victims without number to the grave, the gaol, the prison, the workhouse, the ocean.And then he went on, in equally strong language, to regret the existence of drunkenness in Ireland. Am I to understand that that evil is still to exist in order that the trade may continue to prosper? The next Amendment I propose to notice is that of the hon Member for Tipperary. The hon Gentleman intends to move—That, in view of the strong expression of opinion by the most influential representatives of large urban populations in Ireland hostile to any proposal for the extension of the Irish Sunday Closing Act, this House deems it unsafe to further curtail the hours at present sanctioned for the opening of public houses on Sunday.I ask the hon. Member where is this strong expression of opinion? It does not appear in the evidence before the Committee. What meetings have been held to show it? If there had been a large number of meetings held throughout Ireland expressing great antagonism to the Bill, the hon. Member might say there is a strong expression of opinion in opposition to the measure. But no such evidence came before the Committee. [Cries of" Oh! oh!"] Mr. Reid, the Inspector General of the Royal Irish Constabulary, said he had never heard of a single meeting outside Dublin against the Act of 1878. There was one meeting held in Dublin, but the evidence with regard to that meeting was that the room was not full. With that exception, I do not know of any public meeting in opposition to the Sunday Closing Act. There have been plenty of meetings held on the other side. There have been large meetings in Belfast and in Cork, and, last December, I attended a meeting in Dublin. If I may judge from copies of resolutions sent to me, there have been many meetings in favour of the Bill all over Ireland. The Mayors of Sligo and Waterford were called in 1192 the Committee against the Bill, but both of them said that public opinion in their cities was quite apathetic. It may, therefore, be taken that even in those places there is no opposition against the Act except that of the trade. The great opposition to the measure always has been that it will lead to secret drinking. If that could be proved it would certainly be a very sound reason for opposing the measure. But that was alleged against the original Bill passed in 1878. What was the evidence given before the Committee? That it has not led to secret drinking. The Chief Commissioner of the Dublin police, the District Inspectors of Belfast, Waterford, Sligo, Clonmel, and Limerick, Sir William Miller, the Recorder of Dublin, and the Rev. Canon Sheehan, all agree that there are no bogus clubs and no increase of she beening. It is, therefore, clear that there is no fear of secret drinking if this Bill is passed. Another hon. Member (Mr. O'Hanlon) has an Amendment on the Paper to the effect that it is especially convenient to the poorer classes of the people to make their purchases up to 11 o'clock on Saturday night, and that—As in the greater number of cases in these cities and towns, the grocery and liquor rades are combined, it would be a great deprivation and a serious inconvenience to the people if they were prevented from making their necessary purchase as hitherto.The evidence given before the Committee goes to show that it will be no great inconvenience to the people, but just the contrary. Most of the wages in Ireland are paid between 1 and 3 o'clock on Saturday afternoon, and often men spend a large part of their wages in the public-houses, going home late in the evening, and handing over the balance to their wives, to provide for the necessities of the families. A change in the law that will compel the heads of households to provide the necessaries for the families at an earlier hour than 11 o'clock on Saturday night will, undoubtedly, be a most beneficial one; it will tend very much to the sobriety of the people and to the comfort of their homes. Another Amendment refers to the dwellings of the poor. I greatly sympathise with that Amendment. The House will agree that improved dwellings for the people will tend to the sobriety of the people, but the Recorder of Dublin stated in his evidence that it is not only improved 1193 dwellings that will improve the labouring classes. That gentleman said also, that at the present time there are 32,000 families in Dublin living in 7,000 houses; and he added, that the cause of this, in great measure, is drink Again, it is said that the Bill, if passed, will be an infringement of the liberties of the people. All restrictive legislation of this kind must lead to an infringement of liberty; but I believe that the great bulk of the population believe that restrictions are necessary. The labouring classes, who know the evil and the misery caused by an excessive use of drink, will not be unwilling to make the sacrifices demanded of them. I am thankful that this measure is supported by men of all Parties in the House. In Ireland this is not looked upon as a Party question, but as a social question, commanding the approval of the best men of all classes. I commend the Bill to the House because the working of the Act of 1878 has been so satisfactory. I beg to move the Second Reading.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Lea.)
§ *(1.26.) MR. PIERCE MAHONY (Meath, N.)
I rise to support the Second Reading of this Bill. The original Sunday Closing Bill was brought forward with the almost unanimous approval of the Irish Members of all Parties, but for a considerable period the House refused to legislate on the subject. When the House did legislate, my hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary will admit the legislation had the consent and approval of the vast majority of the Irish people. So strong was the feeling in Ireland on the subject of Sunday Closing that before the House of Commons made Sunday Closing the law of the land, there were certain districts in Ireland where public opinion was actually able to put in operation Sunday Closing without an Act of Parliament at all. This Act expired, and it has been combined in the annual Bill for the continuance of expiring laws. So far as I and my Colleagues are concerned, matters might have rested there, but the opponents of the measure insisted upon it being referred to a Select Committee. The Select Committee reported in favour of 1194 the measure. Surely, therefore, it is not the supporters of the measure who ought to be called upon to prove that the measure has the support of the great mass of the people of Ireland, but it is the opponents of the Act who ought to prove, if they can, that it has not the support of the Irish people. We are told that Sunday Closing in Ireland has not been successful in some of the country districts. Now, that is a matter on which I can speak with some personal experience, or, at least, of one district. I do not forget the state of the country roads in that district on Sundays before Sunday Closing was the law of the land, and I cannot be blind to the improvement since the Act was passed. I am quite aware that the Act is not worked as it should be by the Irish police, but the Irish police have what they consider a more important duty to perform, in looking after dangerous characters like myself. In their view this is far more important than detecting infringements of the Sunday Closing Act. I think the state of the police in Ireland is admirably illustrated by a little anecdote I have from a lady friend resident in a village in the South of Ireland. Two men were fighting in the centre of a small crowd when a sergeant of police and a few of his men came on the scene. "What is the meaning," said the sergeant, "of this mis-conductious behaviour?" "Sure, sergeant," answered one in the crowd," It's only a little matter between ourselves; its nothing against the Government or Coercion." So the sergeant with his men retired to the barracks, and the fight was continued. Now, of course, I cannot help being aware of the feeling among many of my Colleagues in opposition to this Bill, and, although I am but a young Member, I hope they will bear with me while I say a few words on this point. It is a matter of notoriety that the leader of our Party does not vote on this occasion. We know perfectly well that his position is one of absolute neutrality.
§ *MR. PIERCE MAHONY
I still maintain that I am right in saying that our leader has taken up a position of neutrality. It is not a Party question with which the Irish Party are concerned, and I admit 1195 the wisdom our leader has shown in not taking a position on either side, for he knows perfectly well that if he did take either side that would influence a large number of his followers, but this has not been, and never will be, a Party question, and he is wise in not acting as the leader of the Party.
ME. DEPUTY SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member will have the opportunity of making a speech presently, and of explaining any difference of opinion he may hold.
§ *MR. PIERCE MAHONY
A number of my Colleagues have adopted the decision that they are best following our leader by taking no part in the debate. Now, I would ask them to consider the difference in their position and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell.) Our Party are not united on this subject, and I must say that my view of the matter is this that it does not matter a straw to the Party which position, in regard to this Bill, I, or any individual Member of the Party may take, and Members who think they ought not to take any position in regard to it, attach, if I may say so without offence, a little too much importance to their individual position as members of the Party. Another point that is urged by some members of the Party, is that, as a matter of principle, we ought not to vote for Sunday Closing until we have an opportunity of making the alteration of the law in a Home Rule Parliament. They complain that it might throw further power into the hands of the Government. One of my hon. Friends says "So it would." Now, the only power the passing of this Bill could possibly put into the hands of the Government would be in certain cases where the police might bring prosecutions against publicans for a breach of the Sunday Closing Law. But they cannot bring such a prosecution unless a breach of the Act has actually taken place, and it would be a prosecution, not under the Coercion Act, but before an ordinary Bench of Magistrates, and my experience of Irish Magistrates is that they certainly are not given to taking an adverse view of the conduct of publicans; if there is any complaint it is that they do not convict readily enough. There is no contention, 1196 so far as I can see, that any injustice would be done; it is merely an assertion that certain offences may be committed for which men may be punished, and they would be rightly punished. Then as regards the matter of principle that we are not to take any legislation until we get it from a Home Rule Parliament. I could understand there would be something in that argument if it were applied all round. But it is not applied all round. What about the Drainage Bills of last Session? What about the Light Railways Bill? It is right to join with the Government to pass a Bill for making Light Railways in Ireland; it is right to co-operate with the Government to provide the means for draining a few wretched acres of land in some district in Ireland; but when, instead of a few acres of land, you have human beings, tens of thousands of degraded men and helpless women ruined, their homes destroyed and made perfect hells upon earth, tens of thousands of little children neglectedor fitted only for lives of infamy and crime, then we are to be told that, as a matter of principle, we ought not to join with the Government to provide a remedy for some of these evils! I do appeal to my Colleagues most earnestly to consider what this means. If they can support a Bill for the drainage of a few acres of land, if there is no breach of principle in that, surely to goodness they can support, in every possible way, a Bill which will give some help, some protection, to tens of thousands of their fellow countrymen who are suffering from this accursed trade in drink. Now, what do we hope to do by this Bill? No sane man hopes to make a people sober by legislation; but we know that a cry is going up from thousands of poor, weak, miserable creatures who want to be protected, who ask to be protected from their own weakness, their own folly. We want to try to remove, in some degree, temptation from the paths of men of this kind; and we propose to do it chiefly on the day dedicated to the service of Him who has never refused to listen to the prayer of the helpless. No question of Party arises; every Member will vote according to his individual feeling and conscience. It is no Party question in this country, nor is it in Ireland. Though my hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary and I are not united in our views on this subject, that does not 1197 interfere one whit with the cordial fellowship with which we work on every other subject. I have been led beyond the length of time I intended to occupy in seconding the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ *(1.40.) MR. P. M'DONALD
I rise to move the Amendment standing in my name, and I do so with mixed feelings of indignation and gratification, of indignation at the conduct of the Government on this occasion, and of gratification at what I believe will be the consequence of their action, in the alienation of their best supporters in this country. We know how the Government have acted upon this very question, although not this very Bill, when they went in a solid body into the Lobby against the Bill then before the House, and yet, only last night, they went in a solid body to the other side in support of this Bill. But, strangely enough, they sent one of their Members, the Patronage Secretary, into the other Lobby to represent them, and to make believe to the traders of England that, they are not in favour of passing a Bill of this kind. It is true this hon. Gentleman was not alone from the Conservative side, but he was alone as representing the Government. We had several independent Members from the other side supporting us, and I am hopeful of their support in the future, and, although I condemn the Government for their action, it is my duty, and I do it heartily, to tender to those hon. Members the gratitude of the trade whose rights they have endeavoured to maintain. I need hardly remind the House that, in sending the Patronage Secretary to represent the Government last night in our Lobby, it was in view of a very near General Election, but I doubt very much whether this will carry great weight. I may say the trade in England will not be hoodwinked by such flimsy pretences. I tell the trade they will be betrayed by the Government when the Government think it expedient. The Chief Secretary, last night, as the mouthpiece of the Government, in a very-amusing manner told us it was a game of chance, as between promoters and opponents of the Bill, and he said, as in all games of chance, if you do not get a good hand why you may change it. But I never knew that this was the rule in a 1198 game of chance, and I think the right hon. Gentleman shows he has more knowledge of "golf" than of "nap," when he makes such a statement. Unquestionably the Government may "look out for squalls" among their friends the licensed traders of England. They can no longer go before the electors with the cry of "Beer and Bible." Perhaps they may try the cry of" Rum and Righteousness, "but the rum will be predominant. The hon. Member for North Derby, who has introduced this Bill said no meetings have been held to protest against the Bill. Well, the only meetings I have heard of in connection with this subject have been those organised by professional and non - professional agitators, the same speakers turning up again and again in different parts of the country. [Cries of "No."] Yes, and if my hon. Friend who interrupts had read the papers as carefully as I have he would know I am correct. My hon. Friend and Colleague the Member for Meath, went, I think, a little out of his way in dragging the leader of our Party into this question, and, in this, did not display his usual judgment. But as he has done so, I deem it my duty to say that our leader has spoken on the question, and he spoke to this purpose he expressed his desire that the question should be left over until such time as we could settle it with our other local affairs. If he did not speak against the Bill, he certainly did not speak in favour of it.
§ An hon. MEMBER: He did not vote.
§ *MR. P. M'DONALD
No prosecutions, it has been said, have taken place under the Act, and I think I can give a plain reason for that. It is simply this, for the last seven years the police have been otherwise engaged, and have had too much to do in another direction. They look upon ordinary police duties as entirely beneath them. They do not think of making arrests for drunkenness, and the police themselves have been the most flagrant breakers of the Licence Laws in Ireland. It has been said that the voice of Ireland has not been raised against the measure, but I ask, has there been any demand in Ireland for it? Certainly not. Bishops and priests in Ireland, who in a matter of this kind represent the great body of the people, have not collectively made any such demand. It 1199 is true that some 10 or 12 letters were elicited furtively, simply because one of the paid Secretaries of the Association wrote to the Bishops, and naturally published their Lordships' replies; but that, I think, cannot be construed into a demand from the Bishops of Ireland; and I may say that, although all were written to, only half the number did reply. No; the demand for this is made by one class only, and that demand is due to fanatical pertinacity on the part of professional agitators. To their action the introduction of the Bill the year before last was due, and, resulting from that, the reference to a Select Committee. I need hardly remind the House how such Committees are formed. Mainly at the direction, and entirely within the discretion, of the Whips of the Party. If the Whip is in support of the measure, he will nominate his friends upon it. Certainly we had on that Committee one Gentleman to whose perfect impartiality in every respect I am glad to bear testimony—I mean the Attorney General for Ireland. He was ready to act fairly to both sides, but in the face of the constitution of the Committee in the proportion of nine to six, it was not to be supposed that the joint Report to be drawn up would be other than one sided. It was in consequence of this that the hon. Member for Tipperary and I drew up another Report. We received evidence, I may say, from almost every representative man in Ireland. This evidence I will not now go into, but I will refer to the evidence of the Mayor of Sligo, because the hon. Member for South Derry has alluded to him; and I may say, in addition, that the hon. Gentleman who spoke so fully on the evidence given before the Committee applied himself solely and entirely to the evidence in favour of his own view-, and did not, as he might have done, say a word or two in justice to the other side. The Mayor of Sligo has been referred to as if his evidence was in favour of the Bill. He, in answer to the question put to him, said—There is as much drink sold in Sligo on Sunday as if all the public houses were open; but the sale is confined to the low public houses and shebeens, and the drink supplied in these places is extremely bad.Well, I am sure that is not in favour of the Bill. Further, the same witness said— 1200In my opinion, the earlier closing on Saturday, if followed by the total closing on Sunday would lead to an increase in the amount of drink taken home by the people, and would also increase the illicit traffic both on Saturday night and Sunday.Well, that is not in favour of the Bill. The witness goes on, in answer to other questions, to express his opinion that total closing on Sunday would be injurious in Sligo to a large number of people, and that the bad habits of some of the people would not be cured thereby. This only corroborates what my hon. Friend the Member for Meath has said, and in which all men of influence, religious and social, agree, that Acts of Parliament do not compel sobriety. There is no Bishop in Ireland who is not engaged at the per-sent moment in promoting a scheme which will be, as it were, a renewal of the Temperance League associated with the name of Father Mathew. The movement has met with the acquiescence of the priests and people, and I, for one, am a hearty supporter of it. I can tell the House that one, Father Mathew, could do more good in the direction of temperance than a million of Tyrone spouters and hundreds of Acts of Parliament. A Welsh Sunday Closing Commission was appointed recently, and the Commissioners have reported that, in those districts in which the principle of the Act was undoubtedly in harmony with the wishes and feelings of the majority of the people, it is least needed as a means of securing sobriety, whereas in those parts of Wales in which the principle is not generally accepted, its provisions have been constantly evaded. "We cannot, on the face of the evidence before us, say that the effect has been salutary." Now, Sir, that, summarised, means that where Sunday Closing is necessary its adoption in Wales has done evil instead of good, and that where it was not necessary it produced no effect either for good or for evil. The Commissioners further say that in Cardiff and the mining districts the Act cannot be said to have diminished intemperance, and, finally, they say they "must dismiss, as impracticable, the proposal to close public-houses on Sundays." Could any Report more strongly condemn the principle which i is now sought to be permanently enforced in Ireland? Even worse effects have been produced by Sunday Closing in Scotland. I find, on reference to Scotch 1201 papers, that on several recent Sundays the police of Glasgow have been making raids on shebeen houses; that they have arrested many men and women, when they have been taken to the station midst yelling and shouting crowds—a pretty spectacle for a Sabbath—that they have seized large quantities of beer and spirits, and that, in some cases, they have come across illicit stills. In one case—it was, I think, on the 16th March—they made a descent on a house, arrested 12 persons, and seized 280 pint bottles of beer, nine bottles of whisky, 22 bottles of lemonade, and 63 empty beer bottles. At a second visit to the same house 13 persons were taken into custody. At another house eight men and three women were arrested, and as the prisoners and the liquor were being conveyed to the police office a large crowd assembled, stones were thrown at the police, and a gallon jar of whisky broken. Similar seizures to these were made on succeeding Sundays, and even last Sunday a second descent was made on the house of a man named Pack, who evidently had not been deterred from carrying on this improper trade by previous police raids. On this occasion 329 bottles of beer were seized. I hope the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of this Bill will take to heart the lessons taught by Scotch and Welsh experience. We do not in Ireland want to see such scenes as have recently disgraced Glasgow on Sundays, and I appeal to the Government to save us from such deplorable degradation. At least, do not force this Bill on us now. Wait, rather, until we have the management of our own affairs. This question has never yet been submitted to the Irish constituencies; the opinion of the Irish people has never yet been taken on it, and that being so, and with the experience of Scotland and Wales before us, I ask the House to reject the Bill and to accept the Amendment which stands in my name. (2.28.)
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is inexpedient to proceed further with the consideration of a measure which proposes to place fresh restrictions upon an important Irish trade, and' which in its present shape has never been submitted to the judgment of the Irish constituencies, and also with regard to which no adequate steps have at any time been taken to ascertain
the sense of the people of Ireland,"—(Mr. Peter M'Donald,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
*(2.43.) MR. PLYNN (Cork, N.)
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise to support the Amendment which stands in the name of my hon. Friend. I cannot say that I like altogether the wording of the Amendment, nor that portion of it which refers to the expediency of proceeding with this Bill on the ground of its placing restrictions on an important Irish trade. I do not altogether hold with that. But I support the Amendment on account of the embodiment of these words:—That this Bill, in its present shape, has never been submitted to the judgment of the Irish constituencies, and also with regard to which no adequate steps have at any time been taken to ascertain the sense of the people of Ireland.I entirely dissent from the proposition laid down by the Mover of the Bill, when he says that there was no opposition to Sunday Closing except those pecuniarily interested in the sale of drink. That statement was most uncalled for, and was not justified, and certainly it is repudiated by me and many of my Colleagues. We discuss this question on the broad ground of principle, and we allege that Bills of this kind do not tend to promote temperance; on the contrary, they have rather a mischievous effect the other way. Whether we discuss early Saturday Closing or Sunday Closing, we discuss it on broad grounds, and with no interest, direct or indirect, in the perpetuation of the drink traffic. We are as strongly and conscientiously opposed to drunkenness of any sort as any hon. Members in this House. The gravamen of proof in support of this Bill lies on its proposers. What proof have they given that the people of Ireland desire this legislation. I meet the assertion with an absolute denial. I can quote, in support of my contention, speeches of the Mover of the Bill, in which he said that the people of Ireland were quite apathetic on this matter. But I contend that so far as feeling in favour of the Bill has been ascertained, that it is an artificially fostered and created opinion—created by agitators who, I do not say otherwise, proceed on conscientious motives and 1203 high principles. But this agitation has been confined to a few Associations of professed teetotallers, who have never consulted the feeling of the vast majority of the people of Ireland. We oppose this Bill because it contains all the elements of coercive legislation. You cannot make people sober by Act of Parliament, and, undoubtedly, the experience of other places outside Ireland has not been such as to justify other coercive legislation in this direction. The Mover of the Bill says it is desired by the people of Ireland, but when I turn to the evidence of the Committee I find that, as far as that goes, the evidence is the other way. The trades of Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Water-ford have held public meetings, where this very important question has been submitted to open meeting—to the deliberation of those for whom it is primarily intended. At all these meetings the audiences carried resolutions by sweeping majorities against the hon. Member's Bill. At Cork, 12 months ago, a meeting was held in the Mechanics' Hall. [An hon. MEMBER: A ticket meeting.] Yes, but the tickets were procurable by any tradesman who chose to apply. The meeting was representative of all tradesmen, skilled and unskilled, and the vast majority of the meeting were against legislation of this kind. The President of the Cork Trades gave evidence against the Bill.
§ *ME. FLYNN
I will deal with Mr. Monro's evidence in a moment or two. This Bill is not asked for by the people of Ireland; certainly not; no large section of the working classes, who are supposed to be most interested in the measure, demand it; and, therefore, it is a class of legislation of a most unfair and anomalous character. I find that Mr. Monro, President of the Trades Council of Belfast, in reply to a question put to him, said he believed Sunday Closing would lead to more illicit drinking than at present; that was to say, that after the legal hours of closing publicans would sell after hours; it would lead to shebeening, or selling without a licence.
§ *MR. FLYNN
I have not got the Report in my hand. I cannot travel about with the Blue Books, and have 1204 got my extracts in a handy form. If we turn to page 13 of the Report we find that Mr. Crean, a teetotaller, who is a Town Councillor, or at any rate a person occupying a representative position in the city of Cork, and who spoke on behalf of the trade of Cork, that gentleman said he had made it his business to mix himself up with the people before the Bill was introduced, and had made it his business to look round the city, going both to the lowest dens and the highest hotels. He had found that there was very little shebeening in Cork, but he believed there would be more if the houses were closed on Sunday. That was rather strong evidence for a man interested in temperance. But, as I have said, I think the burden of proof lies on the promoters of this Bill, and it is for them to show there is a strong public demand for it. When the hon. Member for South Derry said there was an apathetic feeling in Ireland in regard to this matter he was giving away his case This Bill goes further than that of 1878, which exempted five of the great towns, for it is now proposed to include those places; therefore, I urge that the burden of proof assuredly lies with its supporters as to the demand for Sunday Closing in those places. The demand really proceeds from honest - minded and conscientious fanatics, who think, however mistakenly, that the Bill will lead to temperance. We can prove that it leads to nothing of the kind. We have evidence that Cork, where Sunday Closing is not now in operation, is a temperate city, and has been so for generations, and we on these Benches contend that our efforts tend in the direction of temperance, in the progress of which we are as much interested as the supporters of this Bill. The hon. Member for South Derry, commenting on the evidence given before the Committee, said, that all through the official Report was in favour of Sunday Closing, and referred to District Inspectors and Resident Magistrates, and of many others who go towards making up the official hierarchy of Ireland. But we deny that the men he quoted are representative men, and we say that the Mayors of towns and cities, and the priests and others who come forward to give independent evidence, are more to be relied on for unbiased testimony than the official witnesses. I find, however, that Mr. O'Donnell, the Police Magistrate of 1205 Dublin, who is one of the Magistrates who do not take their instructions from the Chief Secretary and who possess an amount of independence not found among the magistracy elsewhere, gave evidence that was strongly against Sunday Closing, believing it would lead to an increase of drinking and shebeen houses and bogus clubs, and other modes of secret indulgence in liquor, such as would be deplored by the promoters of the Bill. I do not go into the question whether Sunday closing has been a success in the country districts; but I know that in large numbers of country towns, where the front doors of the public house are shut, the back doors are open, and that a kind of amity prevails between the police and their natural enemies, the people who are to be found drinking together on the Sunday. I know that this has been frequently reported to me in my constituency, and I offer the fact for the consideration of the House; as to the great cities, in Dublin there are a certain number of bogus clubs, like those spoken of at Cardiff, and we say that if you close on Sundays the respectable houses, you will open the doors of shebeens and bogus clubs. If the people cannot get reasonable refreshments in the usual places they will go to worse drinking houses, as is shown by the evidence given before the Committee on the operation of the Welsh Act. The Report of that Committee shows that, in Cardiff, the general ten our of the evidence is to the effect that there is an improvement in the state of the main streets, but this doss not extend to places outside the town, nor to the poorer and less conspicuous parts of that borough. The Rev. David Young says there is great improvement in the streets, but he is far from positive that it has not been gained at the expanse of an increase of drink in private houses. The Rev. A. Gore gives evidence of a similar character, and so does the Rev. S. B. Wade. Inspector Evans, of Llanelly, says the streets are more ord rly, but there has been more drunkenness amongst people returning from excursions. There is a large volume of evidence of this character with regard to the operation of the Acts in some of the principal towns of Wales. Summing up the Reports of the Committee, we have a set of figures of the most alarming character, which ought to make the advocates of this quasi-tem- 1206 perance legislation pause before pressing such measures on the country. Under the head of "Convictions for Drunkenness," the Committee compare the years between 1877 and 1881 with those between 1884 and 1888. They say there are nine county divisions, in six of which the Returns show a slight improvement, whilst in the remainder the result is unfavourable to the Act; and the same is the case in the boroughs of Cardiff, Neath, and Carmarthen. There is in the Report an immense volume of evidence dealing with the establishment of bogus clubs, and the means by which men obtain drink when it is denied to them in a legitimate way. On the old principle that forbidden fruit is the sweetest, there ought to be much to make the House hesitate to pass legislation of this kind. Houses that are enabled to supply refreshments on the Sunday are under the control of the Authorities. They are subject to Excise regulations, and to the control of the local police, and there is, consequently, a large amount of wholesome restraint exercised over them. When, however, such houses are closed, and you have substituted for them these hideous dens of drink and drunkenness, no check can possibly be enforced, and there is no guarantee that drink will not go on to an alarming extent. Mr. David James, a strong supporter of the Act, gave evidence before the Commission, and said that clubs sprang up immediately after the measure was put in force. Before 1883 these places never came under the notice of the police; but between 1883 and 1885 as many as 141 sprang into existence, and of these many were devoted entirely to the purposes of Saturday night and Sunday drinking. The Mayor of the populous borough of Swansea stated that no convictions with regard to clubs occurred until October, 1888; but in that year there wore 33 convictions, while the Chief Constable declared that a large number of bogus clubs sprang into existence in Swansea, owing to the fact that the ordinary houses were closed. Well, Sir, we object to a measure which is likely to be attended with serious consequences of this kind being extended to Ireland. But, at any rate, if you do apply such a measure to Ireland, you must first obtain the opinions of the people most concerned. The manufactured opinion which is produced by my 1207 hon. Friends in favour of the Bill ought not to prevail against the views of the people who are directly interested in the question. If you close public houses during the present hours of opening', you must follow that to its logical conclusion, and deal with the wealthier classes. The working man is as fully entitled to reasonable refreshment as a member of the Carlton Club or the Reform Club. Unless you deal with the clubs as well as with the public-houses, this is class legislation of a most improper and unfair character. I do not believe for a moment that if the public houses were closed in the large towns of Ireland the cause of temperance would be thereby promoted. You may diminish temptations to drink in one respect; but beware that you do not place other temptations in the way of the people. The burden of proof lies on the supporters of this Bill, and they are bound to show that there is a large body of public opinion in its favour. How would an opinion in favour of the Bill be shown? By a demand for it. I should be prepared to re-consider this matter if it were submitted to the Irish Party as a whole, and if we had Local Bodies established capable of deciding the wants of the localities. The hon. Member for Meath, it seemed to me, rather went beyond the limits of ordinary debate in referring, as he did, to the opinions of the leaders of this Party; but in the point to which he referred I have had an opportunity of refreshing my mind, and I find that the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) followed a different course to that alleged. He was originally in favour of Sunday Closing, having voted for it here; but his experience in Ireland and elsewhere has led him to change his mind. But however that may be, the hon. Member for Cork, on the broad issue, holds that this is entirely a question to be settled by the Irish Representatives themselves, and not by many hon. Members in this House, who will vote for Sunday Closing in Ireland, but will not dare to vote for it in England, for fear of affronting a certain portion of their constituents. I say that the hon. Member who votes for Sunday Closing in Ireland, and takes an opposite view of the matter as affecting England, acts inconsistently and dishonestly. And yet there were some 1208 who took up that position on the last occasion, and I have no doubt there are some who will do so to-day. I would say to such Members "If the thing is good, let us have it all round." Let us be guided by local opinions, and put the administration of the law in the hands of the Local Authorities. As to the meetings in favour of the Bill to which reference has been made, they have always been composed of professed friends of temperance—["Hear, hear!"]—let me finish the sentence—who belong to certain Associations, whose ultimate aim and object is to bring about the total suppression of the drink traffic, and who are altogether opposed to every kind of dealing with intoxicating liquor. I deny the right of these people to arrogate to themselves the title of exponents of public opinion on this Sunday Closing Question. The public in Ireland does not listen to them, and never means to. No doubt they can get up a large meeting in Cork, but only of their own party; and I would challenge them to point to a case where a meeting in reference to Sunday Closing has been held, and the public have been freely admitted, and resolutions in favour of this Bill have been carried. I take issue with the promoters of this measure at the very outset—on the question of broad principle. I would use against them the old argument—If A and B take too much drink on the Sunday is that any reason why the men represented by the rest of the alphabet should be deprived of the opportunity of obtaining legitimate refreshment on that day, which is their natural right?I say that so far as popular opinion in Ireland is concerned, as expressed before Parliamentary Committees, it is not with the promoters of the Bill, but all the other way, the only supporters of this measure having been a few cranks and half-a-dozen teetotallers—and I submit that temperance does not necessarily imply teetotalism. The hon. Member for Meath drew a terrible picture of the evils arising from drunkenness, and I have no doubt that the majority of men in this House will join with him in denouncing those evils; but surely his picture would apply to other days of the week as well as Sunday. Is not drunkenness as bad on Wednesday or Thursday as on Sunday? Does it not produce as much demoralisation and as 1209 much suffering to wives and families? No doubt it does; therefore, I say it is unreasonable, for the sake of a Sabbatarian sentimentality, to punish the many for the shortcomings of a few. The question is, "Are you likely to promote temperance by this Bill?" I do not think you are, judging from experience of Sunday closing in Scotland and in Wales, and I, therefore, ask the House to hesitate before sending this legislation to Ireland. Above all, I would ask the House to remember that there has been no demand of a popular character from Ireland for this measure.
§ *(3.22.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN,) Dublin University
I rise to take part in this Debate and to support the Second Reading of the Bill, not as a Member of the Government, but as an Irish Member representing a constituency the overwhelming majority of which is in favour of the measure. That constituency, composed largely of members of the learned professions scattered throughout Ireland, has exceptional opportunities of forming an opinion on the subject of the traffic in intoxicating liquors. Members of my own profession become acquainted with one aspect of this question in Courts of Justice. Clergymen and medical men study it from other points of view. There is another reason why I desire to take part in this Debate. I had the honour of presiding over the Select Committee to which this Bill was referred, and I have thus been afforded an exceptional opportunity of acquiring a great deal of information on the subject. I must say I entered upon the inquiry with an open mind, but at its conclusion I had very definite views. I think the Committee over which I presided, and the House and the country, are to be congratulated on the fact that there were Members of that Committee who held strong views in opposition to those which I myself, at all events ultimately, adopted on the question of Sunday and Saturday Closing. There were two Members of the Committee—the hon. Membsr for Tipperary (Mr. J. O'Connor) and the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. P. M'Donald) who has addressed the House -who took a very active part in the labours of that Committee in opposition to Sunday Closing—and the 1210 consequence was that every possible information on their side of the question which could be obtained was secured; and what was the result? I do not desire to refer in detail to the evidence that was given before the Committee; but hon. Gentlemen who have examined that evidence will, I think, agree that there was an almost unanimous expression of opinion in favour of this Bill on the part of witnesses from every class of society to which you would naturally appeal on this question. You would naturally appeal to the clerical profession. Well, the Church to which I belong, and the leading Bishops of the Roman Catholics and, the vast majority of the clergy of all denominations, are in favour of it. We also had strong evidence in he same direction from the medical profession, and from persons entitled to speak on behalf of the working classes, of employers, and of representatives of every class; and we had another kind of evidence which appeared to me to be of great value, and that was the evidence of what were called the official witnesses. In some of the questions put and observations made by Members of the Committee there was an attempt made to discount the evidence of these official witnesses—I mean of the representatives of the police and Resident Magistrates. Now, with regard to the police, I will, as I am not now speaking as a Member of the Government, make an admission, which I hope hon. Members opposite will not be so ungenerous as to use against me on another occasion. I will admit that the police are merely human. If, acting on this admission, we are to impute to them selfish motives, you may attribute the police evidence in favour of the Bill to the selfish consideration on their part that if the Bill is passed there will be less drunkenness and, consequently, less work for them to do. Well, the system that gives the police the least trouble in regard to drunkenness is exactly that which will commend itself to the House. At any rate, the police, whose inclination I will assume to lead them to support what will diminish their work and trouble, gave strong evidence in favour of Sunday Closing and of early Saturday Closing. As regards the position I took up in reference to the Report of the Committee, I wish, shortly, to state what my attitude was. It was my duty, as Chairman of the Select Committee, to submit 1211 a draft Report. I did submit a draft Report, and in essential particulars the draft I submitted is the Report which was adopted, with one exception, and that an important one, no doubt. I came to the conclusion, upon the whole of the evidence, that there was not that overwhelming mass of public opinion in favour of total Sunday Closing in the five cities and towns which had been exempted from the operation of the original Act which was proved to exist in respect of the rest of Ireland. I came to that conclusion mainly upon the evidence which was given in respect to Dublin and Cork. I think, myself, that if it were possible to deal separately with Belfast, the evidence pointed to the existence in Belfast of a feeling in favour of total Sunday Closing in that city, "which might justify an extension of the Act to Belfast in its entirety; but obviously it would not have been a very tenable position to legislate separately for one of the great cities; I will not now give in detail the reasons which appeared to justify the separate treatment of the larger towns on the principle accepted in 1878. These I reserve for the Committee stage of this Bill. I thought, on the whole, that the best recommendation I could submit to the Select Committee was to make the Act of 1878 perpetual as regarded the entire of Ireland, with the exception of the five cities which were already exempted from that Act, and in respect of those cities to adopt the suggestion laid before the Committee by many eminent authorities connected with those places, namely, to shorten the hours during which public houses might legally remain open, that is to say, to allow them to remain open from 2 to 5 o'clock instead of from 2 o'clock to 7 o'clock, as the law stands at present. It was on that point alone that my Report differed from the Report adopted by the majority of the Committee, and I am bound to say that subsequent consideration has not altered the opinion I then formed. In this opinion, as regards Dublin, I am supported by the Recorder of Dublin, who, as all hon. Members who know him will admit, has at heart the interest of the people of the great city in respect to which he exercises important functions, and whom it is fair to class as an advocate of temperance views, although he takes no active part in public movements of 1212 the kind. The evidence given to the Committee by the Recorder of Dublin, and the opinion expressed by him, was against the wisdom of attempting, at all events for the present, this total change in the habits of a great city; but he was strongly in favour of early closing on Saturday night, and of reducing the number of hours during which public houses might remain open on Sunday. Mr. O'Donel, the chief police magistrate in Dublin, whose opinion on this subject is entitled to respect, gave similar evidence. On the whole, that was the opinion which I adopted, and to which I still adhere. I hope that the Bill will be read a second time; and, in that event, I shall in Committee endeavour to give practical effect to the views which I have expressed. I believe that such an amendment of the Bill may be generally accepted as a settlement of this question. It is time that the question should be settled. It must be borne in mind that you are not asked to try an experiment as regards Sunday Closing. Sunday Closing has been in general operation in Ireland since 1878, and the evidence in its favour is overwhelming, indeed it nearly approaches unanimity. I do not approach the question from any fanatical or extreme point of view. I look upon the traffic in alcoholic liquors as a perfectly lawful and legitimate trade. I should be extremely hypocritical and insincere if I took up any other position, because I am a consumer—I hope a moderate consumer—of alcoholic liquor. I could not for a moment take up the position that the trade in an article which I consume is to be regarded as something accursed or unclean; but the House has, by a long course of legislation, properly treated this trade as one which requires very careful guarding in the interests of the community, because it is a trade in an article that is the source of very great danger to many; because the excessive use or the misuse of this article leads to consequences more terrific than the use or misuse of any article of general use supplied by any other trade. To that extent I go with those who are called temperance reformers. But then, if you adopt my view, the question is not an abstract question of right or wrong; it is a question of what is best under the circumstances of the case, and it is from this point of view 1213 that I approach it. The position of the question in Ireland is essentially different from the position in England. I should have said before the passing of the Sunday Closing Act of 1878, from my knowledge of the habits of the Irish people, that they were not at all likely, under a system of Sunday Closing, to bring home intoxicating liquors and to consume them to excess in their own houses. That is a danger which was gravely apprehended by many who were conscientiously opposed to the passing of the original Sunday Closing Act; but the result of the Committee's examination proves that the fear entertained on this score was without, foundation. The Irish people are sociable and convivial in their habits. They are fond of indulging in a custom of treating one another all round, a custom that is only possible while public houses are open; and I believe it is largely due to that custom, more than to the deliberate bringing home of intoxicating liquors, that excessive drinking prevails to any considerable extent in Ireland. Now, if there is in Ireland practical unanimity on the subject of Sunday Closing, there is a nearer approach to absolute unanimity on the subject of Saturday Closing. What you want to do is to protect the masses of the people against danger in connection with a, traffic which I, at all events, accept as legitimate if properly safeguarded and properly used. The danger to the working classes is greatest on Saturday night to those who have received their wages on that day, and who, having their pockets full of money, are tempted to indulge to excess in convivial habits by the open public house. I think experience shows that the evil is done on Saturday night, and, in my opinion, you commence too late when you close the public houses on Sunday. These are the views which commend themselves to the overwhelming majority of all classes in Ireland, as testified by the evidence brought before the Select Committee. It has been remarked that some persons who hold representative positions in Ireland gave evidence, as far as they were individually concerned, in opposition to Sunday Closing and early closing on Saturday. I refer to some Mayors of cities and towns who were examined before the Committee. These gentlemen may represent their 1214 municipalities on some questions; but it cannot be pretended that they represent them on the question of Sunday Closing. As to their testimony, there is an important kind of evidence which they might have given if it had been forthcoming—I mean as to any public expression of opinion on the part of the inhabitants of their towns. It is remarkable, however, that those gentlemen gave no evidence of any public meetings in the towns they represented, or of any public demonstrations, in opposition to Sunday closing. On the contrary, when asked the opinion of the people in the towns, they were extremely guarded. The junior Member for Cork City (Mr. Maurice Healy) was examined before the Committee, and gave some remarkable evidence. He called the franchise that exists in most of the Irish municipal towns a publican's franchise, and pointed out that there was a most active Association operating in each of those towns for the protection of the interests of the trade. He said also that when a candidate, whose views were generally in accord with those of the electors, was put forward by that active body there was no particular reason why be should not be accepted. These facts at once destroy the force of any argument based upon the representative character of those Mayors who gave evidence in opposition to the Act. Hon. Members who oppose this Bill have, of course, been returned to this House; but I should like to know whether there is a single hon. Member from Ireland on either side of the House who has been returned on what, in the political slang of the day, I may call the anti-Sunday Closing- ticket? If there be such a Member I think that he would be entitled to say, "I hold a representative position upon this question." Of course, the opinion of hon. Members is entitled to respect; but the fact that they have been returned by certain constituencies cannot be taken as an indication that they represent the views of the majority of their constituents on this point, unless this question was brought before the electors in some shape or form. The hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. P. M'Donald), with the candour I expected from him, tendered his thanks on behalf of the trade to certain Members on both sides of the House for having done 1215 their utmost to prevent this Bill coming on for discussion. I must congratulate the hon. Gentlemen upon representing a body so disinterested as he has shown the traders to be by his speech on this occasion. They oppose this measure, which, according to the view of their admitted representative, will lead to the most enormous increase in the consumption of intoxicating liquors in Ireland. The hon. Member quoted statistics as to shebeening in Glasgow, and asked, "Do you wish to reduce Ireland to the terrible condition of Glasgow?" That condition ought, from the pecuniary point of view, to be exceedingly gratifying to the trade on behalf of which the hon. Member tendered his thanks to the opponents of this Bill, although I have no doubt it would not be gratifying to himself personally.
§ *MR. P. M'DONALD
I spoke quite as much in a moral direction as in the interests of the trade. I may also add that I should be a gainer by an increase in the illicit traffic, inasmuch as I have no connection with the retail trade.
§ *MR. MADDEN
I say, in all sincerity, that I have no doubt the hon. Member would greatly deprecate the consequences to which he referred. But I was pointing out to the House that the attitude of the trade in this matter is singularly disinterested, inasmuch as they oppose a Bill which they say would lead to a large increase in the consumption of intoxicating liquors. There is, moreover, a slight inconsistency between the hon. Gentleman's argument and the statement made in his Amendment, because the latter declares that the Bill, if passed, would injure the' trade, while the former goes to prove that it would largely increase its profits. I shall give my cordial support to the Second Reading of the Bill. I intend, in due course, to place upon the Paper the Amendmentto which I have referred, and I sincerely hope that hon. Members from all parts of the United Kingdom, recognising the peculiar position occupied by this question in Ireland, will enable us to arrive at a, final and satisfactory settlement—a settlement which, as Chairman of the Committee, I have means of knowing will be cordially accepted, and endorsed by the overwhelming majority of Irish- 1216 men, absolutely irrespective of class, creed, or politics.
§ (4.52.) MR. J. O'CONNOR
I think the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in part justifies the position we have taken up on this matter, and it seems to me that the supporters of the Bill have reason to feel some dissatisfaction with his attitude. He has cut from under their feet the main ground on which they stand. He states, as the result of the Committee's investigation, that he would not feel justified in extending the Sunday Closing Act to the five excluded cities, and he is going to give effect to that statement by moving an Amendment in Committee. He asks us to accept this as a compromise, and to assent to the Second Reading of the Bill. I cannot accept any compromise with a Party which does not recognise the first condition of a compromise, namely, finality. Will the promoters of the Bill say they will accept the right hon. Gentleman's offer as a settlement? No, Sir. On the contrary, they will insist that the ground gained to-day shall be made the basis of further attack on the position to-morrow. The right hon. Gentleman attacks the representative character of the Mayors who gave evidence before the Committee. I demand for those gentlemen the same representative character as Members of this House demand for themselves. They, undoubtedly, had no mandate to represent their townsmen before the Committee. What mandate have the supporters of this Bill? None whatever. On the contrary, the people of Ireland have, at the present moment, put under foot every contention but that of the attainment of the legislative independence of the country, and they have returned to this House Gentlemen to give effect to that contention. I regret to see that many of my hon. Friends are using the position they have been placed in for that purpose in order to further a purpose that was never in the minds of their constituents. Such conduct is a piece of political irregularity which none but a teetotaller would be guilty of. The right hon. Gentleman made fun of my hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. P. M'Donald) because he objects to the increase of drink. My hon. Friend objects to the character of drinking that will result 1217 from the passage of this Bill. I deny the right of the supporters of legislation of this character to monopolise the desire to advance the cause of temperance. My contention has always been that they are going the wrong way to promote the object they have in view. The Welsh Commission said in the course of their Report—Had it been our duty to advise on the form of the original legislation, we might have suggested that some facilities should have been given for obtaining drink in small quantities for domestic consumptionThe Commissioners are, therefore, of opinion that the lines on which you are now moving are wrong, and lead to a result directly the reverse of that which you have in view. My hon. Friend the Member for Meath (Mr. Mahony), in the course of his very able and oratorical speech, appealed to the House in the most pathetic manner on behalf of those who are made widows and orphans, and those who are impoverished owing to the indulgence in drink of those on whom they are dependent. I, too, might appeal to the House on the very same grounds. I might appeal for the wife of the man who gets drunk in a club or shebeen, where there is no restriction of time or amount, and where no care is taken respecting the quality of the drink. I might appeal for the poor orphans who are made so by the fact that men are poisoned by the liquor supplied in low clubs and shebeens, and I might turn round and say to the Member for Meath, "I can rant as well as thou." It was a high rhetorical flrish on my hon. Friend's part, but there was no argument whatever in it. My hon. Friend said the Select Committee was appointed at our request. I admit that we asked for a Committee. We asked for a Select Committee, and we got a very select Committee. We got a Committee on which there were nine Members who were either absolutely declared teetotallers, or supporters of the teetotal cause. There were six Members who did not so declare, and I should like to know how it was possible for the Committee to come to any other conclusion. We were sneered at because when the Report was submitted only two opposed it, and the hon. Member asserted that the rest of the Committee supported it. But, on looking 1218 into the matter, I find that there were only six other Members there. Four were absent. And why? Because throughout the proceedings of the Committee the: minority had been so "overborne by the tyrant majority that it became absolutely useless for them to take any part at all. The Attorney General for Ireland went into the Select Committee with a predilection in favour of Sunday Closing, yet, notwithstanding that, he was obliged by the force of evidence to recommend to the Committee that Sunday Closing should not be extended to the exempted cities. What did the tyrant majority do? Did they accept the draft of the hon. and learned Gentleman's Report? Nothing of the kind. They swept it ruthlessly aside, and sent another Report to the House. And yet this is said to be the Report of an "impartial Committee" as it has been called by the Chief Secretary. I impeach the Committee—it was a packed jury. So much for the Select Committee, whose Report was referred to by the hon. Member for Meath. But that was not the only mistake made by my hon. Friend. I think he was very injudicious in referring to the attitude of the leader of the Party to which we belong. He said the hon. Member for Cork would not come here to oppose this Bill. He said that without knowledge, and I hope he was under a misapprehension. He also said that the hon. Member for Cork held a perfectly neutral position in regard to this matter. Surely he cannot be aware of what the hon. Member for Cork said on this matter two years ago. At the end of the Session of 1888 the hon. Member for Cork, in the course of one of his speeches, said that he originally entered Parliament as a supporter of Sunday Closing, but having watched the different phases of the question, both in England and in Ireland, he had come to the conclusion that the true interests of temperance were not likely to be advanced by the way in which the Sunday Closing measure was put forward; that it was attended with greater evils than those which it sought to cure, and that the effect of the Sunday Closing Act of 1874 was not such as was likely to increase the desire of the people of Ireland for temperance, or to induce them to adopt temperance habits. Again, the hon. Member said— 1219I am firmly convinced that measures proceeding from the House for the promotion of temperance will not have any chance of fair play in Ireland, and the hacks of the people are put up against them in advance. That there will be defects in the administration which will largely nullify the intentions of the Legislature in passing such measures, and that the result, so far as the spreading of temperance is concerned, will be disappointing to those advocates of temperance who have proved their good faith and earnestness by their constant advocacy of it, both in this country and in Ireland.Finally the hon. Member for Cork said—If you pass the Bill you will grievously hamper the efforts of social reformers in Ireland; you will prejudice them with a section of the Irish people, many of whom desire legislation going beyond the limits of this Bill, and you will increase the strength of that section which represents the spirit trade in Ireland. I believe from the bottom of my heart that no greater blow could be dealt against temperance in Ireland than the passing of such a measure.This, Sir, was the language of the hon. Member for Cork, who later on in the same speech said—I am a temperance man, and I believe as strongly as the hon. Member who introduced the Bill that one of our great works in the future must be to make the Irish people more sober than they are. That is a matter of vital importance, and I am convinced that only can you secure the spread of temperance among the people by voluntary action among themselves and by their own representatives. For these reasons I decline to take the responsibility on the present occasion of voting for this measure.I trust, Sir, that the extracts I have read show that my hon. Friend had no right to say he spoke on behalf of his leader.
§ *MR. PIERCE MAHONY
I beg my hon. Friend's pardon. I never professed to speak on behalf of my leader. I gave what I believed to be the opinion of the hon. Member for Cork; and I maintain, even after what my hon. Friend has read, that the hon. Member for Cork is in a position of neutrality.
§ (4.12) MR. J. O'CONNOR
Can the speaker of the words I have read be said to occupy a neutral position? I am sure my hon. Friend was not entitled to assume what he did on this point, and I object to the position of the leader of our own Party being thus misrepresented. I will now pass away from that point. The Attorney General for Ireland said that the bulk of the evidence offered before the Committee was in favour of Sunday Closing, and the hon. Member for South Derry made a similar assertion. I 1220 traverse those statements, and I shall be obliged to read to the House the evidence of clergymen, of medical men, and of working men; of Mayors of cities and towns, of Town Councillors, and of those who had presided at meetings, which now are denied to have been held. Did not the Mayor and Corporation of Dublin oppose the Bill? Was not a similar attitude taken up by the Civic Authorities of Cork, Limerick, and Waterford? Have not petitions against the Bill been presented to this House? Sir, I submit the evidence was so strong in our favour that it compelled the Attorney General to bring in a Report against his own predilections. We summoned the Mayors of eight cities and towns, in four of which the Sunday Closing Act was in operation. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill referred to the evidence of the Mayor of Derry. Why did he not refer to the evidence of the Mayors of three other excepted cities? Because those gentlemen agreed that it would be to the interest of the cause of temperance if the Act were not extended to those cities. The gentlemen were elected to their posts by people who knew the wants and wishes of the public.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
A short time ago a Bill was introduced for the purpose of lowering the franchise in Belfast, but hon. Members for Ireland declined to accept the principle so far as the cities in the south were concerned.
§ ME. J. O'CONNOR
That Amendment of the hon. Member for Longford was rejected. The franchise is low enough, the majority of the Town Councils, in nearly every instance, are Nationalist and democratic throughout the South of Ireland. What is the use of talking of a £10 franchise? It is simply drawing a red herring across the trail of my argument. We do not want a lowered franchise. It is not absolutely necessary; nearly every householder has a vote. I shall support such a proposal when it comes forward, but I mean it does not affect the representative charac- 1221 ter of Mayors and Corporations in the South of Ireland. My hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. M. Healy) my inexperienced savant Friend lives up on the top of a mountain, like Teufels-drÖckh, alone with the stars. He passes down through the city to his office; his keen powers of observation I do not doubt, but I doubt whether he exercises them by intercourse with the people he represents; I doubt it very much. Therefore, I take the opinion of the Mayor of Cork for the time being as that of a better guide to the wants and wishes of the democracy of Cork than my learned but inexperienced savant Friend. What is the opinion, the representative opinion, in those cities to which the Act extends? Mr. McHugh, in reference to Sligo, expresses an opinion opposed to the closing at 9 o'clock on Saturday, and he says that after the market for the surrounding district is over there is still much left to be done in this town of 11,000 inhabitants. He recommends the partial opening of public-houses on Sunday. The Mayor of Kilkenny recommends that there should be opening for a few hours on Sunday. The Mayor of Clonmel desires a change in the practice of total closing on Sunday, because, as he says, it is better that the people should go to the respectable houses instead of resorting to the low-class houses, when the stuff procured makes the people mad. These are the opinions of Mayors in those cities already under the operation of the Sunday Closing Act, and now I come to a few quotations from the representative Authorities in those cities where the Act is not in operation, and to which it is suggested the Act should be extended. Mr. Alderman John O'Brien, being asked his opinion as to the desirability of extending the Act to Cork, replies, "In my opinion it is not desirable."
§ ME. J. O'CONNOR
Certainly. Asked as to the modification of existing hours, he says—"I am in favour of opening for a few hours on Sunday; "and then, in answer to a question as to Saturdays, he says—"I am very strongly in favour of a modification of the hours." Now, it is in the hands of hon. Members to refer to this evidence when it comes to their turn to speak, and I shall 1222 not stand in their way for long. I am dealing now with the branch of the subject which refers to Sunday Closing. When I come to the Saturday Closing part I shall have strong evidence to put before the House. Now I come to the evidence of Mr. Thomas O'Toole, the Mayor of Waterford. He told the Committee of a Resolution passed against the extension of the Act, and expressed his opinion that the effect of the extension would be to encourage drinking in the low public houses. Again, in reference to Limerick, we have evidence supporting a strong opinion against the extension of the Act to that city. The Mayor said that, although for two months the knowledge that he had been summoned to give evidence was before the public, he had received no intimation of opinion expressed in favour of curtailing the hours, but, on the contrary, all expressions of opinion had been the other way. Some of the representative men in these exempted cities stand aghast at the proposed alteration. These are men responsible for the good order and government of the town, and anxious for the development of trade and social progress in the community they govern. Will the House puss a measure like this in the face of such opinions as are expressed throughout this evidence? The proposal of this measure does not come from the representatives of local feeling; it comes principally from the Association having the promotion of such measures for its object, and which is supported by faddists and fanatics, more anxious for the establishment of an idea than the true welfare of the people in whom they affect to have such interest. Now, references have been made to the action of the police, and regrets have been expressed that prosecutions under the Act have not been more frequent. The Attorney General, in his fascinating speech, said the feeling of the police was in favour of an alteration in the law, which would make their position more easy. Now, what we object to is not prosecution but persecution. We contend that every time you strengthen this law you put into the hands of the willing police additional power for persecuting the people of Ireland. We had police and magisterial evidence before the Committee. I will not read so much as I had intended, for 1223 I will endeavour to keep my word not to delay the House, but the odium heaped upon our side of this question requires some exposition. Here is the evidence of a Resident Magistrate, which is very indicative of the rest. Let the House look at the evidence of Mr. Hamilton, on page 200. This witness said he was in favour of the total abolition of the bonâ fide Traveller Clause, substituting for it a clause providing that only those should obtain drink who had slept in the house the night before, or who intended to sleep in the house that night. Further, Mr. Hamilton goes on to recommend that, to guard against evasions of the law, publicans should be prevented from receiving; guests on Sunday. So this gentleman would not only deprive persons of the means of obtaining necessary refreshment while travelling, but would actually deny to one class of traders the means of friendly intercourse on Sunday! In all other positions in society you may receive visits from your friends, but the unfortunate publican is to be the only person who is to be denied the gratification of indulging in the ordinary amenities of social life. This is the police opinion in Ireland, that on Sundays the inhabitants are to be shut up like the police in barracks. Taking into account the spirit we know influences the police too often, have we not too much reason to expect that, simply out of a spirit of petty persecution, they would make continual domiciliary visits on the excuse of suspicion of drinking going on? Many publicans in Ireland carry on other businesses, and, for the convenience of customers living at a distance, supply goods on Sundays after Mass, and an opportunity for persecution by the police is opened simply because a man may have called on the way to or from Mass to pay a bill. More power is the desire of the police. When they have failed to carry out the intention of the Legislature by judicious application of existing law, they ask for more authority. What are we here for? What is Parliament assembled for but to interpose its strong- hand between the people and the undue operation of a stringent law? I ask this House, and I ask my Colleagues especially, are they going to place the Irish people still more in the hands of an unmerciful and prostituted 1224 Irish police? I must trouble the House by reference to evidence, without which my case would be incomplete. The right hon, and learned Gentleman (Mr. Madden) said evidence from the working-classes was received before the Committee, but why did he not quote the evidence of Mr. Manetti, the president of the Dublin Trades Association, or the evidence of Mr. Crean? Mr. Manetti described how the Association gives expression to the views of the working classes upon all trade and social questions, and he showed how, in a meeting in which delegates from all trades were present, a resolution condemning these proposals for Saturday and Sunday Closing was carried with unanimity. Then, again, Mr. Crean told us how the trades' representatives of Cork passed a resolution against Sunday Closing, and forwarded copies of the resolution to the Members for Cork, the Prime Minister, the Chief Secretary, and Mr. Gladstone. I pass over much that I have marked for quotation on this point, the extension of the Act to the exempted cities. Much stress has been laid on the opinion of the Bishops, and I must make a reference to this. Seven Bishops only recommended the extension of the Act, or were in favour of the present Act, and two were totally opposed to the principle of the Bill. Priests and Bishops, who are responsible for the direction of the morals of the people, are divided in opinion. I had intended to quote largely from official evidence with regard to shebeens and drinking clubs in large cities. It has been pointed out by the Welsh Commission how these clubs, so called, have become a great scandal in some towns, particularly in Cardiff, and this Bill will have the effect of fostering the evilin towns similar to Cardiff, and among populations where the danger is much greater. We can prove, on the evidence, these dangers have arisen. There were put into my hands to-day, by the Mayor of Cork, who happens to be in London, Returns showing the number of arrests in Cork for drunkenness in the interval between January 1st and April 20th. For drunkenness on Sundays, 28 persons were arrested, or an average of seven per month, in a population of 80,000. The average is greater on Saturday, being 29, but these were largely 1225 composed of prostitutes. Now, I ask, are we called upon to re-cast the law, subjecting- the rest of the population to great inconvenience, for the sake of keeping' these seven people per month sober on Sundays? It is a monstrous proposition. In a populous city like Cork, where the working classes make proper use of the public houses, are they to be deprived of the privilege of taking a glass of beer, in order that seven people per month may be kept out of the Bride well? Putting aside the rest of my extracts, for I fear I have occupied too much time, let me say, in conclusion, that I oppose this Hill because I fear that it will create evils far greater than those it is intended to cure. I have no fear of respectable public houses. I would control public houses, as I have said before, from cellar to chimney top, and if I were asked to devise a system which would encourage sobriety it would be on lines very different to those in this Bill. It may be that in this House, or elsewhere, such a measure may be introduced. I am anxious for the sobriety of the people, and I am satisfied that the people will be in safe hands when the trade is conducted by responsible persons, whose business it is to sell refreshments, and not poisonous drink, and who will carry on their business within legal lines, laid down with knowledge of the just requirements of the people. I appeal to English and Scotch Members who profess the principle of Home Rule not to act in opposition to that principle by forcing this legislation upon Ireland, and I appeal to my fellow countrymen and colleagues to leave this matter to the opinion of our people whose social well-being is concerned.
§ (4.58.) MR. M. HEALY
I must at once repudiate the claim put forward by one of my hon. Friends, the Member for North Cork (Mr. Flynn), to speak on behalf of the bulk of the Irish representatives. I grant there is some difference of opinion among Irish Members as to this Bill, and I regret that fact. I admit that the opponents of the Bill have derived considerable advantage from the declaration of my hon. Colleague and Leader that he desires to preserve an attitude of neutrality upon this question. But, while making these concessions, I claim that if this measure could be submitted to Irish Represen- 1226 tatives alone, and their opinion were taken, uninfluenced by any outward considerations, there would be a large majority in favour of the Bill. I regret there should be this difference of opinion, and that I should find myself differing in what is unquestionably a very important matter from some of my colleagues, for whose opinions on this and other subjects I have very great respect. For my part I would have been content, as the hon. Member for Meath declared earlier, that this matter should lie in abeyance until happier circumstances should enable us to have a decision from Irish opinion alone, but my hon. Friend, rashly taking upon himself to question our political competency to express an opinion on this subject, says this is not an issue upon which we were elected. Now, I ask my hon. Friend that question often asked when controversies arise, "who began it?" My hon. Friend is the Member who deliberately and advisedly urged this bold proceeding upon us. I think he would have been well advised to let sleeping dog's lie, and that he will find in the result that the interests he represents have not been served by his representations. For my part I return my hon. Friend and the Irish vintners my hearty thanks for having set my hands free in this matter; but I will not join in any indiscriminate attack upon the publicans of Ireland, the majority of whom are sincere and honest supporters of the political Party to which I belong, while many of them have suffered cruel and grievous wrong and persecution at the hands of the Government for the opinions they have held. But the opponents of the Bill are more zealous for the interests of the publicans than the publicans themselves. I shall never forget that before the Sunday Closing Act was in force in Ireland the publicans in two or three parts of the country voluntarily closed their houses on Sunday at the request of their spiritual advisers, and I would remind my hon. Friend, who thinks he has a higher claim than I have to represent the people on this question, that he is Member for one of the very districts in which Sunday Closing prevailed even before the passing of the Sunday Closing Act for Ireland. The same thing happened in the County of 1227 Tipperary. I will now say a few words with regard to the Bill itself. It makes three distinct proposals. In the first place, it proposes to make perpetual the existing Sunday Closing Act in the rural districts; in the second place, it proposes to extend that Act to the urban communities at present excluded from its operation; and, in the third place, it proposes to close the public-houses in Ireland at 9 o'clock on Saturday night instead of 11 o'clock, the hour at which they are now closed in the large cities, or 10 o'clock, which is the hour of closing in other places. Now, with reference to these three objects, there is only one which is seriously in dispute. There is no one who seriously proposes to abrogate or repeal the Sunday Closing Act. To do that would be nothing less than to lapse into barbarism, and no proposal of the kind has ever emanated from any person except those who are more or less directly connected with the trade. Moreover, I venture to tell my hon. Friend that if there were for a moment any serious danger of the House being called upon to repeal the existing Sunday Closing Act in Ireland, he would quickly find that those who now advise him would not long be content to remain silent under such a state of things. The real objection is to the extension of the existing system to the five exempted towns. My hon. Friend says that the burden of proof in favour of the extension of the Act to these places lies with the promoters of this Bill; but we say, on the other hand, that the burden of proof lies on the other side. It was they who deliberately selected the tribunal before which the question was to be tried, the Select Committee by whom it was considered having been appointed, not at our suggestion, but at that of the hon. Gentlemen who oppose this Bill. Well, that Committee has decided against them, and that very fact has shifted the burden of proof to the shoulders of our opponents, on whom it now lies to show that the Committee, in recommending the extension of the Act to the live exempted cities, has acted unwisely. My hon. Friend has stated that that Committee was packed, and the only proof he has given of the truth of that serious charge is that the Report is not in his favour. Reference was also made to the 1228 Whips who manipulated the alleged packing-, and my hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. P. M'Donald) has told us that everybody knows how this sort of thing is done—"the Whips arrange it." Does the hon. Member mean to say that my deceased Friend, Mr. Biggar, acted otherwise than with the strictest impartiality in the selection of that Committee? I am perfectly sure that, zealous opponent of the Bill as the hon. Gentleman is, he would think twice before advancing such a charge. Although my late Friend Mr. Biggar, whose assistance on this occasion we sorely miss, was a strong supporter of the measure, he nevertheless, in the part he took in the appointment of the Committee, acted with the most scrupulous impartiality. When called upon to select the Irish Members he chose the hon. Members for Tipperary and Sligo, who were known to take strong views against the Bill, and, in addition to them, he selected two hon. Members who were supposed to be supporters of the Sunday closing movement. When my hon. Friend says the Committee was packed, I ask him whether it was packing to put upon the Committee an equal number of gentlemen representing both sides of the question? This is what the charge of packing really comes, to, and it is an instance of the lengths to which my hon. Friend will go in the endeavour to enforce his arguments The hon. Gentleman did not adduce any facts in support of the charge, and I would recommend him to be more careful in making such charges. My hon. Friend has cited the evidence of a considerable number of witnesses who gave evidence in support of his Bill. This interesting process was adopted, at an earlier stage, as regards the Welsh Sunday Closing, by my hon. Friend the Member for North-Fast Cork. Why does this House appoint Select Committees? To save the trouble of itself taking evidence. The Committee hear different statements on each side, and, like a jury, they come to a conclusion as to which is right and which is wrong. I, for my part, decline to wade through the evidence; I accept the Report of the Committee; and I do not think that any one will say that the result of the labours of these two Committees may rot be taken. I decline to go so far a field as Scotland 1229 and Wales; and I think my hon. Friend the Member for Sligo will waste his eloquence for a very long time in this House before he succeeds in convincing the majority of Scotch and Welsh Members that Sunday Closing should be abrogated in their respective countries. I have been condemned for not representing the feelings of my constituents on this subject. Two years ago, when this subject was introduced, the very first thing I did was to ascertain the feelings and wishes of my constituents. My hon. Friend himself has said that he would be disposed to pay great deference to the wishes and feelings of the Irish clergy. I perfectly agree with him in that. The very first thing I did in Cork was to find what were the wishes and feelings of the clergy. It may surprise my hon. Friend to learn that 95 per cent. of the clergy of Cork signed a Memorial in favour of Sunday Closing in Cork and early closing on Saturdays. My hon. Friend may say if he likes that I do not represent the wishes and feelings of my constituents, but I think he will admit that, on a question of this kind, which is largely moral and religious, the wishes and feelings of the Irish people may very well be represented by their spiritual guides. I was not content with getting this information and a Memorial signed, but I did what the Victuallers' Association of Cork did not dare to do, or, at any rate, what they did not attempt to do, I held a public meeting in the City of Cork of the supporters of this Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cork has sneered at the men in broadcloth who were on the platform, but he knows that the meeting was held in the Assembly Room, the largest building which can be obtained in which to hold a meeting, and he will understand the import of what I say when I tell him that the body of the hall was filled by working men, who unanimously declared in favour of Sunday Closing. I now come to what I consider is vastly the most important proposal of this Bill, namely, the proposal to close public-houses early on Saturday night. On that subject there is no serious difference of opinion in Ireland. Witness after witness before the Select Committee declared in favour of cutting down the hours of sale on the Saturday night. My hon. Friend has referred to the Mayor of 1230 Cork, Mr. John O'Brien, a gentleman for whom we on these Benches have the very greatest respect, who declared in favour of closing public-houses earlier on Saturday nights; and he also referred to Mr. Crean, President of the Trades' Council, who, for some reason which I do not understand, came over and gave evidence against Sunday and Saturday closing, but who on his return gave notice of a Motion in favour of Saturday closing. I believe that if the whole of Ireland were polled to-morrow on the question of Saturday night closing, the people of Ireland would declare in favour of it by 50 to 1. I think the publicans of Ireland are stopped from opposing Saturday night closing, because they were the first inventors of it. When this whole question was agitated 10 or 15 years ago, the publicans said—You are going the wrong way about to procure temperance in Ireland. You are a wretched set of Sabbatarians. All you need do is to close public-houses on Saturday nights. That is the proper way to attain your object.But now, when that is proposed, they are just as hostile to it as they were to Sunday Closing. We have been told of the enormous mischief which will arise from shebeens. We had some very lugubrious prophecies when the Sunday Closing Act was originally proposed, but we have not found that they have come to anything. I, for my part, can see no difference whatever between getting drunk in public-houses and in shebeens. My hon. Friend seems to think that if it is done in a public-house it is in some way sanctified; that so long as the licensed trader measures out the drink no harm is done, but that it is a dreadful crime when it is committed in shebeens. That is one of the many contradictions which my hon. Friend has fallen into. Without taking up more of the time of the House I wish to express my satisfaction that hon. Members are now permitted to come to a decision on this question. This year is to be signalised by a great temperance movement in Ireland. It is the centenary of the movement originated by Father Matthews, and the Bishops and clergy of Ireland seem resolved to make one great and final effort to complete the work begun by that great man in Ire and. They intend to lay deep and wide the foundations of a great temperance 1231 movement in that country. In my opinion, this House can perform no more worthy and noble act than to co-operate in every way in their power in that great temperance movement.
§ Debate resumed.
§ *(5.27.) MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
Sir, there was what is called a unanimous feeling in Ireland in favour of Sunday Closing, and the Attorney General recommend English and Scotch Members to acquiesce and abstain from opposing the Bill. As a Member of the Committee, I venture to express a doubt as to the unanimity of Irishmen in favour of this measure. Some portions of the evidence, to my mind, indicated that there was a widespread though latent opinion against it, and I claim for English and Scotch Members the right to exercise an independent judgment upon the Bill. I wish also to know from the right hon. and learned Gentleman for Ireland what are his grounds for thinking that this Bill will be accepted as a final settlement of the question?
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Debate resumed.
§ *(5.28.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I wish to say if this had been a proposal to maintain the status quo by a continuance of the Sunday Closing Act I should not have opposed the Bill. But as this is a proposal to initiate a fresh course of restrictive legislation upon social questions, I feel bound to take up the attitude of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork, the leader of the Irish Party, who when he last spoke on this subject said Irish social questions of this kind ought to be reserved to be dealt with by an Irish authority. I shall, therefore, vote against the Bill.
§ (5.30.) Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.1232
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 242; Noes 78.—(Div. List, No. 56.)
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.