HC Deb 30 March 1893 vol 10 cc1503-5
COLONEL SANDYS (Lancashire, S. W., Bootle)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to a statement in the newspapers of Monday, 27th instant, to the effect that a young lady, crossing from Ireland to Now Milford in charge of two Roman Catholic nuns, leaped overboard from the steamboat when in mid-channel, apparently intending suicide, but having been rescued by the crew was, after being resuscitated, returned to the custody of the nuns, and was taken by them, upon landing at New Milford, to London, travelling for the South of France, where she was to be immured in a convent; whether the proper course in the case of attempted suicide would have been to have placed the person attempting it in the care of the police on arriving in port, so that the magistrate there might have made inquiry into the circumstances of the case; whether this course was followed in this case; and, if not, who is to be held to blame for its being omitted; whether it can be ascertained what was the real name and the actual destination of this young female, and from what place she was brought before being taken on board the steamboat at Waterford; and whether he will cause full inquiry to be made from the steamboat authorities at Waterford and New Milford, as well as from the captain of the vessel, and inform this House of the result thereof?

MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)

Before the question is answered, I wish to submit to you, Mr. Speaker, an inquiry on the subject. The question suggests that a young lady was travelling from Ireland, in charge of two Roman Catholic nuns, to the South of France, where, according: to the terms at the end of the first paragraph of the question, "she was to be immured in a convent," and in a further paragraph inquiry is made as to her real name. It will be observed that the suggestion is that these nuns were conveying the young lady under a false name from Ireland to France to be there immured—that is imprisoned—against her will in a convent. I wish to ask whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman is entitled, under the cover of a question as to matters of fact, to give currency to an assumption which, in the first place, is untrue in fact, which, in the second place, is libellous upon the Religious Orders of the Roman Catholic Church, and which, in the third place, is deeply offensive to a great body of Members of the House?


The words which may be justly held to give offence are these—"immured in a convent," and I think they had better have been omitted certainly. If my attention had been drawn to them, I think I should have ordered them to be omitted.


I may say that I only used the words in the sense in which they appeared in the public prints.


My attention has been drawn to the case referred to by the hon. Member. I have received a Report from the Chief Constable of Pembrokeshire, from which it appears that the young lady was a person of unsound mind who was being sent in charge of two sisters of mercy to an institution in France for the cure of the mentally afflicted. During the voyage from Ireland she escaped from her attendants and threw herself overboard, but was rescued. The matter was reported to the police by the captain as soon as the vessel arrived at Milford, and the constable on the spot seems to have satisfied himself that the lady was insane and properly cared for, and that no action on his part was necessary. I am in communication with the Irish Government with the object of obtaining further particulars, and especially of discovering whether the removal of the lady was in accordance with the Lunacy Laws.


I wish to ask you, Sir, whether you would think it proper to suggest to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that he should now express his regret for the imputation.


The expression of opinion I have indicated I consider sufficiently disposes of the matter.