HC Deb 16 August 1894 vol 28 cc1228-30
MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that, on Monday, 13th August, the clerk of Strabane Union, North Tyrone, refused to allow John Torish, the Nationalist registration agent, who is a ratepayer, access to the Rate Collector's Returns, to ascertain if the Franchise Laws had been complied with by certain voters; whether he is aware that the majority in this division in 1892 was only 51; will he inquire why the following Conservatives, whose rates were not paid in time in 1893, were not officially objected to, and appear on the 1894 Register: Nos. 1,323, William Mackey; 1,678, J. Thompson; 217, J. Bill (in succession, rates unpaid on house in Castle Street); 232, John Jack (in succession, rates unpaid on Castle Street house); why two Nationalists, D. Gallagher and George Knox, Nos. 156 and 265 on the supplemental and inhabitant occupiers' lists, living in houses under £4, received no notice that the landlord had not paid the rates; whether the landlord also got no notice; and whether these men were, in consequence, officially objected to, and struck off the lists; and whether, as the Local Government Board declare it is not the duty of the Strabane Poor Law officials to know or act on the decision of the Court of Appeal on the Registration Law, they will ascertain on what ground the following Nationalists have been officially objected to by the clerk in the preparation of the Register for 1895: Nos. 146, Samuel Brown; 155, Thomas Brown; 280, Hugh Coyle; 991, J. M'Bride?


I am informed that permission to inspect, the documents mentioned was refused to Mr. Torish on the 15th instant, and to Mr. Miller, the Unionist registration agent, on the 14th instant. The clerk of the Union reports that he so refused because the period of 14 days prescribed for inspection by Section 18 of the Registration Act of 1885 had expired before the first of those dates; that he did not think he had any right to allow the inspection asked for; and that the Guardians approved of his conduct in refusing. The majority in this division in 1892 was 49. I am informed that all rates, for which the first three persons mentioned in the second paragraph were liable, were duly paid, and that there was no person named John Jack, of Castle Street, on the lists. I am informed that Daniel Gallagher was not officially objected to for unpaid rates, but that he was so objected to and struck off the list for having received outdoor relief, and that there was no official objection to George Knox. The Local Government Board state that they are not aware that they made such a statement as that referred to in the last paragraph. The statement to which my hon. and learned Friend personally refers is that made in reply to a question addressed to me on the 3rd instant, that I had been informed it does not devolve upon the Local Government Board to make clerks of Unions acquainted with the Registration Law, or to see that it is carried out, and that the Board had no jurisdiction over Boards of Guardians and clerks of Unions in their capacity of "Overseers" under the Franchise Acts. I am informed that Samuel Brown was objected to for subletting, and the other persons for not being sole occupiers under the decision of the Court of Appeal in Simpson's case.


Do I understand the clerk is justified in refusing access when Nationalists are concerned, and with allowing it to Tories?


Is it not an objectionable course for the Government to inquire into the political opinions of voters?


The Local Government Board did not enter into the question as to whether these voters were Conservatives or Nationalists. The question was as to certain numbers on the Registers.

MR. ROSS (Londonderry)

Is there any foundation for the charge against the clerk of this Union?


I cannot say I see any foundation for a charge of improper conduct.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the clerk's action was approved by the Guardians, the majority of whom are Nationalists?


The majority of them are Tories.


I have no information as to that.