HC Deb 29 April 1892 vol 3 cc1746-8

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."

MR. CRILLY (Mayo, N.)

May I ask the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston) who has charge of the Assistant County Surveyors (Ireland) Bill, and has set the Bill down for Monday, not to move the Second Reading then. I have inquired at the Bill Office and I am informed that it has not yet been printed.

MR. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)

The Bill will be further postponed from Monday.

(12.4.) DR. TANNER

I had occasion to-day to put a distinct question to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in reference to the treatment in prison of the convict, Mrs. Montagu, whether she is wearing her own dress or the prison dress; and strange to say, owing to the extraordinary answers, the embarrassing answers I received to-day, and on a former occasion, from the right hon. Gentleman a misunderstanding on the point remains, and many journals in the country have been led astray, and have led their readers to suppose that Mrs. Montagu is wearing prison clothes. I asked the right hon. Gentleman to-day to answer me in plain and simple language whether Mrs. Montagu is wearing prison clothes or her own attire. I have also called attention to the fact that when the prisoner was removed to Derry Prison she were a silk dress and mantilla, was conveyed first-class, and had every possible attention paid to her; and I also endeavoured, in my questions, to indicate the contrast to the treatment we received when we were political prisoners, every indignity being heaped upon us. But this woman, this murderess of her own child, and for whom none of her Antrim supporters will stand up to say a single word, has been treated with the highest consideration, taken first class from one prison to another, accompanied by her maid and allowed to dress in her own attire. Yesterday I asked the right hon. Gentleman a question couched in the plainest possible terms, and again this afternoon I repeated my question, seeing that in different sections of the Press the answers given were not understood. Once more I ask the right hon. Gentleman by his answer to clear away these doubts, and say, is this woman to receive better treatment than my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), or any of our friends received? Is this rich woman, who murdered her own child, to receive the lenient treatment awarded to the Belfast forgers, to suit the exigencies of their station, while we, imprisoned for political offences on behalf of our land and people, suffered all the indignities our political adversaries thought proper to inflict? Will the Chief Secretary settle the matter once for all, and say whether Mrs. Montagu is required while in prison to wear a prisoner's dress?

(12.8.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)

I must say a word. I know nothing of Mrs. Montagu, but I do protest against my hon. Friend using the expression "murder." She committed an act of folly—of gross folly—but she had not the faintest intention of causing the death of her child. Another thing I may mention. Mrs. Montagu is a Catholic, and she did not have a fair trial, because Catholics were struck off the jury. I believe this lady, who has been foolish, criminally foolish, has not been fairly treated. She was a Catholic living in the North of Ireland, and a great deal of Protestant prejudice was excited against her. I believe she has been too severely punished. She incurred, and no doubt deserved, public censure, and this alone was sufficient punishment, a year's imprisonment is altogether too much. I wish to dissociate myself altogether from what the hon. Member for Mid Cork has said, and I really think he ought to get up and withdraw the expression "murderess." There is nothing in the evidence, the finding of the jury, or the speech of the Judge to justify the horrible imputation. It is a terrible responsibility to level this accusation of murder without a shadow of foundation, and certainly when this unfortunate woman has suffered heavy punishment this should not be added.

(12.10.) DR. TANNER

If I may be allowed a word of explanation, let me say in this matter I do not stand alone, and that the hon. and gallant Gentleman's friend and colleague, the hon. Member for North Monaghan (Mr. Patrick O'Brien), joined with me in raising this question. I have nothing to withdraw, and this lady—this woman, I must still call a murderess.


I do not propose to do more than simply answer the question of the hon. Member for Mid Cork. I thought I had made the matter clear. I endeavoured to explain that there had been no exceptional treatment in this case. A rule was laid down after very careful consideration, and amended in 1889, giving power to the Prison Commissioners to permit prisoners to wear their own clothes upon application made. I said application had been made, and that the Commissioners acted within their discretion, as they had a right to do; and I think, if the rule is carefully studied, we must even go so far as to say that in the circumstances under which the rule was framed it was contemplated that, unless there were sufficient reasons to the contrary, such permission need not be refused. No exception was made in this case, and I should regret if there had been. I think it must be clear from my answer, and I hoped I had made it clear yesterday, that permission to this prisoner to wear her own clothes was given by the Prisons Board. I do not see how there can be any doubt after the answer I gave yesterday and to-day. To the other questions it is quite unnecessary to go into them, and I feel sure that it will not be consonant to the feeling of the House to refer to matters which may make this painful case still more painful.

Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at a quarter after Twelve o'clock till Monday next.