HC Deb 20 June 1892 vol 5 cc1567-9
MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)

My hon. Friend behind me remarked on the absence of Members of the Government from their places. I regret the absence of the Secretary of State for War and of the Under Secretary, as it is my intention to lay before the House a statement made at the Ulster Convention a few days ago, which involves the character and the credit of a great General at present in the service of the Government. The statement I refer to was made by the Rev. Dr. Kane, who, alluding to Lord Wolseley, said— He is one of us—an Irish Loyalist to the core. Our fathers followed his gallant ancestor at Newtownbutler, and followed him to victory; and we cannot do better than to fix our eyes on the oriflamme of Wolseley, and follow him in his war upon domestic treason. I want to know whether the War Department will ask from Lord Wolseley an explanation, and request him to state whether he has given any person or persons in Ireland authority to say that he was prepared to lead them in civil war against this country? It is a very serious matter if we have in our employment at the present time receiving pay, great rewards, and sometimes entrusted with the execution of great military expeditions, a man who professes sentiments that amount to treason. We are told by the newspapers, and it was even stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Gladstone) yesterday or the day before, that the language used at Belfast was moderate language. I deny, Sir, that the language was moderate. The Duke of Abercorn, who presided, said that they wished to tell the English people what might occur under certain eventualities. What are those eventualities? Perhaps it is to kick the Queen's Crown into the Boyne, as some gentlemen said they would before the Disestablishment of the Irish Church. That was a statement made by hon. Gentlemen, and endorsed by a right hon. Gentleman who now occupies a position in Her Majesty's Government. It was endorsed, too, by the very gentlemen who were present at the Belfast Convention the other day, and it is the sentiment that permeates the organisation they were representing the other day. I want to know, is Lord Wolseley to aid and assist those people in kicking the Queen's Crown into the Boyne? There was even worse language used at the Convention. Mr. Thomas St. Clair, a Justice of the Peace, said— If it be ever set up (that is the power) in Dublin, we will simply ignore its existence; its Acts will be to us as waste paper; its police will find their barracks pre-occupied by our constabulary; its judges will sit in empty court houses; the early efforts of its existence will be spent in devising means to deal with a passive resistance co-extensive with Ulster. What is this passive resistance? If it means anything, it means resistance to the payment of taxes; and I wish to know whether Lord Wolseley will be on the side of the people who resist payment and opposed to those who enforce the law? Mr. Thomas Andrews, a man of great influence on their side, said— If England and Scotland are determined to force us into civil war, on them let the responsibility rest. As a last resort we shall be prepared to defend ourselves, and we shall not be without allies. Who are the "allies"? Is Lord Wolseley to be one of them? Is he to be engaged in civil war? If he is, this House ought to know. I think the Government ought to demand from him some explanation as to what his conduct is likely to be under those eventualities. There were days when military commanders floated revolutions in this country; there were days when Puritan armies passed resolutions having for their object the coercion of Parliament; and it may be possible that unless the intentions of this military tyrant be checked in time he may be found to be a second Cromwell, and enter this House, and tell you, Mr. Speaker, to "take away that bauble." We have seen elsewhere the deplorable results of military combinations and revolution, from which this country has long been free. While I wish it to remain free from these treasonable compacts, I hold that Lord Wolseley should be asked what encouragement he gave the utterers of these statements affecting his credit in this country. This is not the first time these statements have been made. They were made in 1886, and they have remained uncontradicted since. They are made now in greater force, and I want to know what assurance we are to get that there is no foundation for them in fact? I do not wish to be severe on Lord Wolseley. He is a gallant Irishman, and I have frequently pointed to him as a splendid specimen of the Irish military commander. It does not matter to me whether a military commander comes from Tyrone or Tipperary, so long as his talents are engaged in the service of this country and used in the protection of this Empire. I do not care from what part of Ireland he comes; providing he is an Irishman I am always proud of him. Hence it is that I shall be glad if Lord Wolseley is afforded an opportunity of clearing himself from the charge that must inevitably be made against him by all reasonable men. That is why I am anxious that some Representative of the War Office should have been in his place to-day to give an assurance in this House that Lord Wolseley repudiates all connection with the statements made concerning his character as a soldier and a citizen of this country. If those Members of the Government I am now addressing are not capable of giving me some satisfaction in this matter, I hope that before the close of the Debate the Secretary for War will be in his place, will be informed of what has taken place, and will make some statement that will relieve Lord Wolseloy's character from the stigma of rebellion which has been placed upon it.