§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, that last night the Chief Secretary had made a clear and explicit defence of the action he had felt it his duty to take at this juncture. He had defended jury-packing, which was the charge brought by the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin. Well, he (Mr. Russell) did not believe that in Cork, or in any other place in Ireland, within recent times, it had been the habit of the counsel of the Crown to order jurors to stand by either because they were Catholics or Protestants. He knew that had been affirmed, and loudly affirmed, by hon. Gentlemen in the past, but he did not believe it. The right hon. Gentleman had said last night that such a charge could not lie against him in regard to his action in Cork. The right hon. Gentleman said that six of the jury were Catholics and six Protestants, but that would not suffice. There were 72 jurors, and the prisoner challenged 19. The Crown challenged 41. They challenged to the extremes limit of their power, because if they had gone further there would have been no jury to try the case. The essence of jury-packing was ordering men of a specific class to stand by, and he maintained that the right hon. Gentleman had exercised that right to the fullest extent possible. He did not believe that the men were ordered to stand by because they were Catholics. He did not believe that men were excluded from juries on account of their religion. They were excluded because it was known that from their Nationalist sympathies the men would not return a verdict in accordance with the evidence. And that was the reason why jurors had been ordered to stand aside all over the country in days that were gone, which action the supporters of the Government never tired of declaiming against. One of the great charges brought against the Leader of the Opposition was that after the Mary borough trial be made what was called "Peter the Packer" an Irish Judge. Put what had the present Government done in the ease of the man who packed this jury? They had made him a County Court Judge. No doubt he would be an admirable County Court Judge. It certainly did not lie in the 275 mouth of the Chief Secretary to object to the Leader of the Opposition making a jury-packer a Judge when, on the first opportunity he got, he made his own jury-packer a Judge. So much for jury-packing. He came now to the question of evictions, and he was very sorry to find that so many English Liberal Members were absent. What had they been doing during the 18 months of the right hon. Gentleman's administration? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford, who was now President of the Local Government Board, went to Ireland when the Leader of the Opposition was contending with the forces of disorder, and, speaking at Galway and elsewhere, told those Irish tenants who had been evicted by Lord Clanricarde and others that within a month after the return to power of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian evictions would cease; and he told them to stand by their combination: in other words, he told them to stand by the Plan of Campaign, which was an illegal conspiracy, and he told them that these evictions would cease the moment he and his Party came into power. The right hon. Gentleman had been in power for 18 months. Had evictions ceased? During the 18 months the right hon. Gentleman had been in power, more than 1,000 men, tenants and sub-tenants, had been evicted from their holdings. He did not complain of the right hon. Gentleman for protecting the Sheriff in the execution of his duty. When the right hon. Gentleman went to Dublin Castle he found that these writs had to be executed, and that according to the oath he had taken he was no more at liberty to refuse the protection of the police to the Sheriffs and officers of the law than he was at liberty to break the law in any other respect. When the late Government were in power, what did the President of the Board of Trade mean by going to Cardiff and assenting to a resolution calling upon the Government of the day not to give the forces of the Crown to assist in carrying out the law? What right had men holding the position of Cabinet Ministers to go through the country and make what they knew perfectly well was a totally impossible demand? These gentlemen went all over Ireland encouraging resistance to the law. They came back to England 276 and represented scones in Ireland on magic-lantern slides. Where had they been during the last 18 months? Where were they to-day? The Irish tenants now knew that it was not sympathy with them that instigated these visits to Ireland by strolling Gladstonian politicians. It was to make electoral capital for themselves. With regard to the De Freyne estate, he had been there. The Leader of the Opposition would remember the Glenbeigh evictions in 1887. He would remember what was said about them both in the House and on the platform. Now, he had seen Glenbeigh and he had seen the De Freyne estate, and there was no comparison between them. The De Freyne tenants were far more miserable than the Glenbeigh tenants One house was burnt at Glenbeigh in 1887. Under the protection of the right hon. Gentleman's police 13 houses were thrown down and burned on the De Freyne estate, and there was not a Gladstonian Member who had whispered it throughout England or in this House. He had never seen a more ghastly sight than the De Freyne estate, unless it were the neighbouring estate of Lord Dillon. They had there an estate of pauper tenants who could not pay their rent. There they had a long stretch of land almost bogland; they had between the two estates between 6,000 and 7,000 human beings crowded together, but the two estates would not provide sustenance for 600 tenants. The hon. Member for North Dublin was perfectly accurate when he said last night that the tenants did not pay their rent on Lord De Freyne's estate. That would be an impossibility. There was no economic rent out of land of that kind. But when he had said all this it did not affect the action of the Chief Secretary, who was not in a position to prevent it, and who only had his duty to perform. He (Mr. Russell) did not know Lord De Freyne, and had never seen him in his life, but there was this to be said for him, at all events: that he had succeeded to this wretched inheritance, lived upon the estate, and, he supposed, tried to do his best. If they wore not going to abolish the right of private property altogether, what could be done in cases such as this? Let them take the case of the man Barrett, whoso house was burned down, and he would take it as a sample of the whole, In 1882 his rent was £16 277 a year, and under the Arrears Act of 1882 rent amounting to £76 10s. was wiped out by the landlord, the tenant getting a clean slate then. In May, 1883, there was a decree for a year and a-half's rent—that was to say, Barrett paid nothing after he had settled under the Arrears Act, and in October, 1883, judgment was given and the money paid. He was said to have sub-let his land to a man named Flannery, who fanned the land for him, and he went to England. The real truth was that he owed money to Flannery, and Flannery got possession of the land in order that the debt should be paid.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, that in 1883 there was a decree for three years' rent. Barrett was made a caretaker, and he re-took possession, and he was in possession until December, 1893. With the exception of a year and a-half's rent Barrett bad not paid a copper to Lord De Freyne since he settled. He could understand sympathy being expressed for these poor people, but they should not blame the law or the officers of the law who had to see to its execution. He could go through other cases, and show that they were all on fours with the case of Barrett—cases of pauper tenants who could not pay rent, and only paid it out of labour in England when it was paid. The case of Lord De Freyne was as sad a one as they could possibly have. He wanted to put a point to the Chief Secretary, and it was one upon which he ought to give an explanation. The course pursued by the Leader of the Opposition, when Chief Secretary, was this: The Sheriff went to the place, and the police stood by while the actual eviction was carried out, and after that was done the police retired, emergency men being left in the houses who were paid by the landlord, or the houses were barricaded up and left to their fate. This was done from I886 to 1892. But on the De Freyne estate he did not find emergency men in possession, but he found the Royal Constabulary inside the ruins, protecting Lord De Freyne's properly. This was out-Heroding Herod. The Conservative Government did not dare to do anything of the kind; but the present Chief Secretary converted the constabulary into emergency men.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, the hon. Member was mistaken. Mr. Olphert had put caretakers into those ruined houses, and the right hon. Gentleman gave them police protection; but that was a different thing from converting the police into emergency men.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, his hon. Friend might have believed that that was the case, but the whole thing would have been utterly illegal, in his opinion. The constabulary might have been in the houses, but they were there for the purpose of protecting the caretakers, whereas the present Chief Secretary had used the police as emergency men, who had to be paid for by the landlords under the late Government.
MR. J. MORLEY
The hon. Member has made that statement in print. I have submitted it to the persons concerned, and it is denied.
MR. T. W.RUSSELL
said, that with all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, it was a thing he had personally witnessed, and he was not going to accept the anonymous information of the right hon. Gentleman on the subject. He must stand by what he saw for himself. As regarded the poverty of the people and the wretchedness of their holdings, these evictions were more atrocious than any he had seen in Ireland. All England was made to ring with the atrocities attributed to the Leader of the Opposition, but no Gladstonian Member had said a word in the House or out of it about the action of the present Chief Secretary. This showed that the Gladstonians were not animated by sympathy with the Irish tenants, but that the object of their action was simply to plant themselves on the Ministerial side of the House. He wished to allude now to the subject of public meetings, He did not deny the right of the Government to suppress them; he held that in many cases they ought to be sup- 279 pressed; but the Chief Secretary had protested against the suppression of them, and at Tipperary lent his personal assistance to disorder. ["Oh!"] That was the result; and if the right hon. Gentleman had not gone there there would have been no disorder. A good deal of the display was got up simply to impress the right hon. Gentleman. The meetings suppressed by the late Chief Secretary were mainly meetings convened to intimidate those who had taken farms from which tenants had been evicted, and the Government were right in suppressing them. What had the present Chief Secretary done? The only difference between the two right hon. Gentlemen was that the present Chief Secretary had played with the thing. When a man took a vacant farm he was denounced as a land-grabber, and, supposing he refused to be intimidated, a public meeting was arranged to be held on the farm, or at the gate of the farm, and what did the right hon. Gentleman do? Did he state emphatically that the meeting would not be allowed? Not at all. He would not allow a meeting to be held on the farm, or within a mile of it; but what difference did that make? The right hon. Gentleman allowed meetings to be held just beyond the mile limit, so that they were effective for the intended purpose of intimidation. That was simply playing with the law, and allowing these men to carry out their object. It was all very well to talk about the state of agrarian Ireland at the present time, but there was a good deal that had not come to light. No doubt, the change of venue in the case of the Clare prisoners was a change made under the Winter Assize Act; but at the Clare Spring Assizes 117 cases of crime were reported by the police; in five cases only were persons brought to trial; in four cases the juries disagreed; and in one case a murderous assault was reduced to a common assault. This was the result of trying such cases in County Clare. But at Cork the prisoners from Clare were convicted. At Limerick Mr. Justice Gibson declared that there was absolute immunity in the County of Limerick for agrarian crime. And the right hon. Gentleman described this as a satisfactory state of matters. It was satisfactory for those who committed crime, but not for those who lived without that protection from the law to which 280 they were entitled. He did not find fault with the Chief Secretary for carrying out the law. He was bound to do it, and every man who took his office would be bound to do it, and he honoured the right hon. Gentleman for the effort he had made; but, at the same time, he did not think that Members of this House who were active in a crusade against the right hon. Gentleman opposite for doing the same thing as the present Chief Secretary had done should be silent when these things were taking place— when there had been more than 1,000 evictions in 18 months. He knew that the figures for agrarian crime were low, but there was a great deal under the surface by means of agencies. A change of circumstances might occur, the old machinery might be let loose at any moment, and to be forewarned was to be forearmed.
§ MR. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
said, that when the Chief Secretary rose the previous night to address the House in defence of his Irish administration he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman, owing to his anxiety to reply early in the Debate, had not heard the whole of the facts of this lamentable case of the De Freyne estate.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. HARRINGTON
said, he regretted the intervention of the Chief Secretary at such an early stage of the Debate all the more because of the extraordinary statements in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. One thing was perfectly clear, and that was that either the right hon. Gentleman had no opportunity of making himself conversant with the facts of the case, or he had been grossly and even criminally deceived by those on whom he trusted for his information. The right hon. Gentleman said the whole question was whether, in the De Freyne proceedings, the Government went one jot or tittle outside the limits in which they were bound to act? He would take up the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman, and he thought he would succeed in showing that not only did the Government act outside that which they were compelled to do by the law, but that almost every act of the Irish administration in connection with that estate was an act outside the scope 281 of its duties, and really an act of partisanship in the warfare between landlords and tenants in Ireland. He had had considerable experience of agitation in Ireland, and of cases of extraordinary partisanship by the Executive of the day in connection with agrarian disputes of this kind, but he had never known a case where the Executive had so completely and thoroughly let itself to the landlord class on the one side as against the tenants on the other in a more violently partisan manner than had been done on the De Freyne estate. It was rarely they found occupying the position of the right hon. Gentleman one in whom they had confidence, and in the case of the right hon. Gentleman it was painful for them to have to call attention to questions of this kind, but it was their duty to protect their people from gross maladministration of the law whomsoever might be the head of the Executive. He would not go into the character of the holdings on the De Freyne estate. They were well and ably touched upon in the speech of the hon. Member for South Tyrone; and differing from that hon. Member so widely as he did on general questions, and altogether as to the purpose to which the hon. Member intended to apply his observations, he nevertheless thanked him for the sympathetic expressions he used towards the tenantry on that estate. In all, 24 or 25 evictions took place. The protection of the police was sought for them. He was not going to say that the protection of the police could or should be denied by the Chief Secretary of the day for the purpose of evictions, but he might observe that when the present right hon. Member for Bristol (Sir M. Hicks-Beach) was Chief Secretary he exercised a very discriminating care and judgment in giving the police for the purposes of evictions. When application was made to that right hon. Gentleman for the assistance of the police—as appeared from his own statement extorted from him in the witness-box—he got all the facts before him, inquired into all the circumstances of the rent, valuation, and condition of the holding and the capacity of the tenant to pay, and without refusing the assistance of the Executive Government of the day, or putting himself in a position of being censured for absolute refusal, he brought all the pressure he could—and very successfully—upon the 282 landlord who was going in for wholesale evictions of that character. The case of the De Freyne estate was undoubtedly one which should have attracted the sympathy of the right hon. Gentleman, who when the application for police assistance was made should have exercised a more discriminating power. The right hon. Gentleman denied that he had granted the assistance of the police for the purpose of carrying out evictions. He would take up the right hon. Gentleman's challenge—a challenge to the effect that the Executive of the day had done nothing but what they were compelled to do. He maintained that not only had they done what they were not compelled to do, but they had deliberately and knowingly lent the services of the police for purposes which were absolutely illegal. And he submitted that the Minister was to be held responsible in that House for the action of the police. He had before him the facts of a case in which a police officer at the head of a force, the assistance of which had been given to carry out certain evictions, deliberately turned aside from the duty to which he had been appointed, and gave police protection to an act outside the scope of his duty. That was an officer, too, to whom the right hon. Gentleman paid high testimony on the previous night, He would cite the facts of the case. One of the tenants on the De Freyne estate —Mary Moran—was originally evicted in 1891. She re-took possession, and for a year and a half remained undisturbed. That was under the late Administration, and when the Crimes Act was in full force. The landlord might have summoned her for trespass, he might have re-executed his decree of possession, or he might have proceeded either under the provisions of the Crimes Act or of the ordinary law. But he did not care to do anything, so he allowed the woman to till and crop her land for over two years. But then came a series of evictions carried out by the agent, under the protection of the police officer, there being a perfectly friendly understanding between the two. The agent discarding the legal remedies open to him, went to the house under the protection of the police, broke in the door, removed the rafters, and allowed the roof to fall in. The Inspector of Police admitted in Court that he knew these acts to be illegal, and with that knowledge he deliberately went to see 283 them committed. The law laid down at the trial, which was an outcome of these evictions, was that an assembly, even to enforce a legal right, was unlawful, but it appeared that an agent who availed himself of the presence of the police to overawe the unfortunate tenantry was not to be proceeded against. Was that acting fairly as between the two parties in Ireland, as the Executive ought surely to do? If ever there was a case in which gross misconduct on the part of an agent ought to have been dealt with by the Government it was this ease. The law had been overridden by an agent under the protection of the police, and the Executive of the day only awoke to a sense of the violation of the law when some of the hon. Members for Ireland went on to the land and endeavoured to secure shelter for the unfortunate tenants. Did the right hon. Gentleman intend to defend conduct such as that? In all his long experience of Irish administration he had never known a single case—and they had had many to deal with—under any administration in which the law had been so violated and in which the Executive had so unfairly taken up sides. There was another Statute which had been violated in this ease—a Statute which called on the landlord or agent carrying out evictions to inform the relieving officer, so that food and shelter might be provided for the evicted. But no such notice was given, and yet the agent's conduct had been in no way resented by the Government of the day; the authorities had not put the law in force against him, and they had not punished him for his misconduct, although the breach of the law was perfectly plain and indisputable. The agent was never prosecuted, and the District Inspector, who was present, and who looked on while the roof of the house was being thrown down, received a high commendation for character from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary last evening. The right hon. Gentleman made another very remarkable statement last night. He had given as a reason for the presence of the police at these evictions in such large numbers that certain threats had been made in speeches delivered before the evictions. He (Mr. Harrington) did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was serious in that statement; because, as a matter of fact, there was no meet- 284 ing in connection with the evictions until a mouth after the housebreaking. The right hon. Gentleman, like all his predecessors, seemed to depend for his information on the very people whose conduct was the subject of complaint. The right hon. Gentleman declared, on the information supplied to him, that the police were not present when possession was taken of the houses and when the houses were demolished.
MR. J. MORLEY
I did not say that. I said that the police were not present when those houses of which the tenants had retaken forcible possession were levelled.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
said, that if that was so the right hon. Gentleman had been misreported. But even that statement of the right hon. Gentleman could not be substantiated. There had been a good deal of controversy as to whether the police were or were not present protecting the persons engaged in the work of levelling the houses. The reason he (Mr. Harrington) and his friends drew so much attention to this subject of house levelling was because it was simply a policy of exasperation. The landlord could easily have obtained possession of the houses without resort to such a proceeding, and there could be no doubt that his object had been to exasperate his poor tenants and their neighbours, and the shopkeepers to whom they might be in debt—to create a feeling of bitterness in the minds of these unfortunate men, which was only too often the forerunner of crime and disorder. Yet in this case the officer of the police, and the Chief Secretary himself, must have known that it was the intention of the agent in this campaign of eviction to demolish the houses; and surely if ever there was a case in which a Chief Secretary had a right to exercise discretion as to whether he would give or withhold police protection for a time—whether he would delay proceedings or allow them to take place instantly—this was the case. The case was one which was calculated to create bad blood, where it was the intention of the landlord, not only to evict the tenants, but to shut them out of all hope of ever living in (heir old homes, and the assistance of the police had been given, without question, in support of that policy. As to whether the police were or wore not present at the level lings, here was what the agent had himself said at the trial. He was asked— 285Did you speak to the police about this case?.His answer was—I never talked to the police about the case; in fact, I knew the police would not be allowed to go with me in these cases.Was Barretts' name on the list you gave to the police?.—No.Had you any conversation about going to Barretts'?—I may have had.Had you any conversation with Mr. Roberts (the District Inspector)?—I had. As I was going to Mr. Roberts he said, 'Is this an eviction?' and I said 'No.'That showed that this police functionary knew that he was going to assist the agent in doing what was an illegal act. In cross-examination the agent said—The police were not present when I was knocking down the houses, but they were within whistling distance.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
No; but the witness did. Surely if the distinction the right hon. Gentleman desired to draw was that the police were not "present" because they were not physically on the spot, although they were within hail, he (Mr. Harrington) failed to see any force in his contention. The cross-examination went on—Did Mr. Roberts remonstrate with you?— I think he said he would not give police protection for levelling houses.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
But he was there. Virtually the assistance of the police was given in support, of an illegal act, although they might not have been standing round the houses whilst they were demolished. The agent said "the police were not out of the district when the levelling took place." He was asked—Were they 500 yards away?—I do not know where they were.Did he (Mr. Roberts) make any remonstrance with you?—No.He never raised any doubt in your mind as to the legality of the business you were going to do?—No.The tenant Moran, it was well known, had been in possession of his house for three years, with the knowledge of the landlord, and had cropped the land for three years, and the agent threw him out without a new process of eviction. The District Inspector and the police then proceeded with the agent to the house of another tenant, where the same thing took place. Barrett had been evicted in 1892. Immediately afterwards the man took re-possession; 286 and it was stated in evidence at the Petty Sessions Court that the agent, long subsequent to the eviction, visited him or his family on the holding, and had a conversation with them as to the payment of rent, and the usual notice was served upon him to come into the office and pay his rent. Any lawyer or Judge in any other country would have held that those circumstances raised a presumption of tenancy which would have rendered it inevitable to take the case before a, jury. He (Mr. Harrington) called attention to this, because it was in the case of Barrett that another action of the Executive was founded, including the prosecution of two of his hon. Colleagues. Altogether, there were 24 or 25 illegal evictions carried out, and 16 houses thrown down; and the action of the agent in the matter, although the Chief Secretary bad not taken cognisance of it, was highly questionable, if not positively criminal. For what did the agent do? He forcibly put Barrett out of possession without the presence of the Sheriff, and he then lifted the roof tree and threw down the house. On the following day, passing the ruins, the agent observed smoke ascending from what had been the hearth of this unfortunate family. He immediately went up to the ruins and set fire to them. The agent set fire to the roof while a child was sheltered in the ruins: but the Executive took no step in the matter. He (Mr. Harrington) did not mean to suggest that the agent knew that there was someone in the ruins when he fired them, but, at any rate, he exposed himself to the severe penalties of the Statute bearing upon the firing of dwellings. Although the house was in ruins, the agent regarded it as a dwelling likely to give refuge to the evicted family, hence his final effort to destroy it. The child in the ruins was burnt, and, although the fact was published in the newspapers, the Executive did not put the agent on his trial. When, after the lapse of a month, the unfortunate man Barrett himself attempted to vindicate the law, the Crown was in no way represented at the trial. The agent was duly returned for trial by two Magistrates; but presumably because he was a land agent, and had resources at his command, a motion was made in the Court of Queen's Bench in Dublin—a motion almost unheard of in this country—to quash the decision of the Magistrates 287 committing the man for trial. To show that there was at least some shred of character still attaching to Irish legal procedure, the Court held that it had not power to interfere, but what did it do? Why, the Lord Chief Justice in delivering judgment entered into the question of the conduct of the agent in setting fire to Barrett's house, and held that it did not constitute an offence under the law. It was a monstrous doctrine to lay down that, because the house was in a state of ruin, it could not, therefore, be regarded as a dwelling under the Act. Surely the right doctrine to hold was that the State intended the provision to have a bearing on the safety of human life in places which afforded shelter to human beings, whether of a permanent or temporary kind. There was something further. The case went before the Grand Jury of Roscommon, and Mr. Justice Madden appealed to them rather than to an ordinary jury, and laid down the same principle as that laid down by the Lord Chief Justice, in that way fortifying the Grand Jury—a member of which was the brother of Lord De Freyne, the employer of this agent, in throwing out the bill. The Irish Members complained that the illegal acts to which he had drawn attention should have been allowed to pass without notice. This land agent was on the Commission of the Peace for County Roscommon when he burnt this dwelling, when he overrode the law, refusing to avail himself of its ordinary provisions for re-assuming possession of this property. He was still retained on the Commission of the Peace, notwithstanding these illegal acts. What the Irish Members complained of was that, although this gentleman violated the law, the Chief Secretary never set the law in motion against him, and that the first act of the Irish Executive—the first evidence they gave of authority in this matter—was, a mouth after the evictions, to take proceedings against two hon. Members and several other persons, who went down to the district to provide shelter for the unfortunate evicted tenants. The houses had been demolished, and the people were sheltering themselves as best they could amongst the ruins of their homes. His colleagues, by means of their own money and the funds they collected in the district, endeavoured to procure shelter for the homeless. That 288 was the criminal act the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary thought it his duty to resent. Mr. Blakeney was allowed to go by the board. The right hon. Gentleman said that in the course he took he was enforcing the law, but that was not the case. It was clear to anyone who studied the matter that the administration had been lending itself to the advancement of the interests of the landlords. One of the summonses was defended on the ground that its object was the maintenance of the public peace. The charge was that of "unlawful assembly." Going on to the farm of the man Barrett—which he bad tilled for two years after his eviction without dispute, and as to the payment of the rent for which he was in negotiation with the agent—was held, forsooth, to be "unlawful assembly." He could understand such a charge being made if it had reference to going upon a holding immediately after an eviction which had taken place according to due process of law; but the policy of proceeding against men for going upon laud two years after an eviction seemed to him merely making up the arrears of the work of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester, and vindicating that right hon. Gentleman's policy. Did anyone suppose that if the meeting for which his hon. Colleagues were prosecuted had taken place the day before Barrett's house was burnt, on the invitation of Barrett, the law would have been set in motion against them? Certainly not Then, if the act of the agent in dispossessing Barrett was not legal how could the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary contend that for two or three men to go on the laud a month after that illegal act constituted an "unlawful assembly"? But other summonses were for trespassing on the lands of Lord De Freyne for the purpose of building houses. Lord De Freyne himself had issued summonses for that; therefore, what need had there been for the Executive to take the matter up? The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary asked if they could show that he had gone one jot or tittle beyond what he was bound to do; and in reply he (Mr. Harrington) declared that the right hon. Gentleman had done more than he was justified in doing, unless his object was to show himself a partisan of the landlord. The hon. Member for South Tyrone made 289 some reference to the condition of these tenants, and asked them what they thought it would be possible for Lord De Freyne to do. Well, he did not know anyone in Ireland who held the doctrine that Lord De Freyne and other landlords was not entitled to a fair rent. He (Mr. Harrington) disclaimed any intention of going on Lord De Freyne's property with the object of depriving his Lordship of any rent he was justly entitled to, but the hon. Member for South Tyrone had himself said that not one penny of rent could be earned on the estate—that the rent was merely a charge for living in one's native country. The unfortunate man Barrett had earned £16 or £17 in England during the harvest, and he had returned home to pay the rent. The amount he tendered was refused, and he was borrowing the remainder from some friends. There was no disposition to avoid the payment of rent, but everyone knew that these charges were kept constantly hanging over the heads of Irish tenants by their landlords. He would invite the hon. Member for South Tyrone to co-operate with the Nationalist Members in the endeavour to procure a, settlement on the De Freyne estate. To give the hon. Member a proof of their earnestness and to show that they had no intention of carrying on the quarrel where fair treatment was offered to the tenants, he would say that they were prepared to rebuild the houses themselves, and to give one year's rent to the landlord if a settlement could be obtained. That offer they had made, and they were prepared to carry it out. The hon. Member for South Tyrone, from his knowledge of the state of things, must know that this offer was a fair one. He (Mr. Harrington) had brought under the notice of the Chief Secretary a condition of things on this estate which he was sure the right hon. Gentleman had no suspicion of when he spoke last evening. It was a fact, as had been pointed out by the hon. Member for South Tyrone, that the police had acted as caretakers on the De Freyne estate. He (Mr. Harrington) had been in the district for some time engaged in the defence of his colleagues, and he was able, from his own observation, to corroborate this statement. He had seen the police taking care of houses for weeks, no emergency men being employed. There had never been a case in Ireland 290 where the assistance of the police had been lent so completely and thoroughly to the landlord, to save him expense. When the people went up to their old holdings the police went up to them and warned them away, and after a time, as the people gathered courage and refused to be warned away, the police sent word to the landlord and the bailiff was despatched to put the people off the land. Police were stationed around the heaps of stones that were once the houses of these poor peasants. He had seen as many as 30 policemen so employed, and those people who declared to the Chief Secretary that these things were untrue were unworthy of the confidence of the right hon. Gentleman. Statements founded on testimony of such people were apt to shake the confidence of the Irish people in the present Irish Government.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, that by the indulgence of the House he wished to ask what the Chief Secretary was going to do after the explicit statements that had been made by the hon. Member who had just sat down and by himself as to the conduct of the police on the De Freyne estate? The statement which he (Mr. Russell) had to make was to this effect—that the present Chief Secretary had gone further in aid of the De Freyne property than the late Chief Secretary had gone in similar eases, and that he had absolutely planted members of the Royal Irish Constabulary in these ruined houses to do the work of caretakers for Lord De Freyne. He made that statement after having been there and seen the police in the dwellings and spoken to them: and he wished to ask the Chief Secretary whether, in view of the categorical statements that had been made by Members of the House, he was now prepared to make further inquiry into this matter?
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON
said, that technically, of course, the police were not in the houses, but they were on the spot where the houses had been. They were standing within the walls, and would not allow anybody inside. Inside the four walls standing there was a temporary shelter for the police from the weather, and that constituted their being on the premises.
§ MR. J. REDMOND
felt bound to state that he was on the estates and visited the houses on each occasion. He saw 291 the police inside the houses one more than one of the holdings. The roofs of all the tenants' dwellings had been removed and the walls somewhat broken; but shelters had been put up, and the police were in possession, and would not let anyone in.
MR. J. MORLEY
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down assumed his entire ignorance of the circumstances attending the evictions; but from the very first he apprehended they would give rise to trouble and much discussion, and gave orders that he should be informed day by day precisely of every particular—rent, individuals, and everything else connected with them. So thoroughly did he feel himself master of the facts that he believed he could stand a cross-examination upon every circumstance of the evictions as well as any Member who had taken part in the Debate. He was quite willing to verify what he was about to say. In answer to the particular question put to him, his clear and distinct impression was that the police were about these ruins; they were within the shelters, if the hon. Member liked to call them so, because they were obliged to be there in order to resist the declared intentions of some of the hon. Member's friends to come upon the ground and defy the law. He was determined that that should not be done if he could prevent it, but the police were not there in the least as emergency men for the purpose solely of assisting the landlords, as the hon. Member for South Tyrone had said. They were there, and were kept there, simply in order to prevent a breach of the peace taking place and a defiance of the law which gentlemen who ought to have known better had threatened to carry out.
§ DR. KENNY (Dublin, College Green)
protested against the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, who had no right to make such an attack upon his colleagues and himself. At the same time, they fully recognised that it was his most earnest desire to do justice to their country. But the right hon. Gentleman could not be entirely exonerated in this matter, and he would not, of course, allow himself to be exonerated at the expense of others. But the charge against him was this: When they looked around them and saw what had occurred under his régime, comparing it with those of his predecessors, they failed to perceive any marked difference. Chief 292 Secretaries came and went in Ireland, but the permanent officials remained: and the fault they found with him was that, like other Chief Secretaries, instead of endeavouring to get information elsewhere than from the accustomed channels, he contented himself with accepting statements from the very persons in Ireland of whom they ought to be most suspicious, and who were in most cases themselves the incriminated parties. The great majority of the permanent officials in Ireland were friends and nominees of the landlord party who had always looked upon the country as made for their special behoof and benefit, and not as a country of which they ought to be the obedient official servants. His reason for addressing the House was that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to draw a broad distinction between the jury-packing under the late Administration and the jury-packing which had recently been practised in Ireland under his own régime.The English idea had always been that this was a question of undue proportions of Protestants and Catholics; but they did not complain on that ground at all. There were many good Nationalists who were Protestants, and they did not care whether a juryman was a Protestant or a Catholic; but what they did care about, and bitterly complained of, was getting juries appointed by a process of selection altogether independent of religious convictions. The point was that juries had been so selected. A jury had been selected in Cork exactly as had been done by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor. That process of selection was what constituted the essence of jury-packing, which was one of the most damnable heresies in connection with Irish administration. He warned the Chief Secretary that if his administration was to proceed on these lines the Irish people would utterly fail to see what advantage it was to confer upon them. He offered the Irish people for this maladministration a Bill "hung up" indefinitely. "Hanging up" in Ireland had ever been the remedy of English statesmen for all Irish troubles and difficulties, and certainly the hanging up of the Home Rule Bill would not compensate the Irish people for the gross evil of jury-packing. The right hon. Gentleman was not the man to repudiate a single word of the great Leader whose 293 memory they had a right to honour, and Mr. Gladstone had said that this system of selecting juries—the jury-packing of which they complained—dared not be practised in England. The system was unknown in this country. No Minister of the Crown would hold Office for a day if he attempted to pack a jury. It was not done in the rattening cases in Sheffield. Rattening was put down by the ordinary law, not by packing juries. Mr. Gladstone in 1890 denounced as a public scandal the appointment of a Judge known in Ireland as "Peter the Packer" to the Chief Justiceship as a reward for his work at Maryborough. That was jury-packing as barefaced as over occurred.
§ MR. W. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick's)
said, when it became his duty as a Member of the Independent Party to go down to Roscommon he went to carry out the law. What was the law? As he understood it, it meant the protection of the weak against the oppression of the strong. When he and his colleagues were about to address a meeting in Castlereagh they made their object quite plain. They did not use language to conceal their thoughts. They told the people their object in the presence of various notabilities called police sergeants, who exercised their functions as kings of the villages adjacent. There were no higher authorities than those gentlemen. If the object of their meeting was unlawful, why was the meeting not proclaimed? They had banners, and the people had police protection; and if that constituted an unlawful meeting then their meeting was unlawful. They declared they would have the evictions stopped, and they were stopped, and the occupants of the Treasury Bench ought to be very much obliged to them instead of prosecuting them, for they had rendered the path of the Government in Ireland much more easy than if those meetings had not taken place. Their dead chief, Mr. Parnell, had said he would be well satisfied if the Liberal Government did not add to the number of Irish evictions; and what had occurred? Within the past year 2,500 death warrants, as the late Prime Minister called them, had been signed under the régimeof the Liberal Government. All the gentlemen who went about the country with photographic cameras, and moved and seconded resolutions, were now seized with a dumb devil, 294 and no one knew their intentions upon this particular subject. He did not pretend to a monopoly of intelligence, a commodity which was entirely absorbed by gentlemen in Government Offices, but he should say that the only portion of Her Majesty's subjects that were terrorised by the proceedings in Castlereagh were the Government. He did think that if he and his friends were to be summoned for breaking the law they ought to have been told that it was an illegal act before it was committed. They were charged with having made a riot at that place. A few boys had made their appearance; but the police, on whom the duty of maintaining order devolved, ran away, and the "riot," as it was called, subsided in a few minutes. With regard to the Grand Juries, a true bill was returned against Blake by the friends of the landlords, and anyone who was acquainted with what went on in Ireland knew that a true bill would always be returned by a, Grand Jury so constituted. He did not wish to detain the House further than to say that if hon. Gentlemen who occupied the Treasury Benches imagined that by pursuing a policy of exasperation against the Irish Democracy they were going to ensure the support of the Irish people, such an idea would be severely discountenanced. God gave the land for the children of men, and not for the protection of the landlords; but he did not believe that they could exact any improvements from a House of landlords, who bad power to bring about a state of things that would not be tolerated in any other community. Having delivered this speech in the liberty of his new-found freedom, he wanted to say to hon. Members opposite that he hoped they would never be drawn into a trap, which was Liberalism under the guise of landlord protection. He saw no reason why the Chancellor of the Exchequer should not accept this Amendment, after having made what he judged to be necessary excisions.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ MR. J. REDMOND
No, no; the Debate was finishing when you got up to move the Closure. Nobody else was going to speak at all.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
Will hon. Members be good enough to leave the Bar of the House in order to enable Members to enter.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 227; Noes 145.—(Division List, No. 4.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 12; Noes 351.—(Division List, No. 5.)
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER claimed, "That the Main Question, as amended, be now put."
§ Main Question, as amended, put accordingly, and negatived.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I have now to move that the following Address be presented in answer to the Gracious Speech from the Throne——
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to ask you whether it is not contrary to the immemorial practice of this House for the Mover of the Address not to wear the uniform befitting his rank? If you, Sir, give me an affirmative answer, as I expect will be the case, I shall ask for leave to move the Adjournment of the House for 20 minutes, so as to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of arraying himself in the garments suitable to the dignified position which he now fills.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I do not think, Sir, that either you or I need take any notice of the manner in which gentlemen opposite think fit to treat the Speech from the Throne. I shall now proceed. [Laughter] When gentlemen opposite assume sufficient gravity to deal with this matter—when gentlemen are ready to listen—I will go on. The Address that I propose in answer to the Speech from the Throne is as follows:—Most Gracious Sovereign,We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, humbly assure Your Majesty that the measures recommended to our consideration shall receive our most careful attention, and we beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ Address agreed to nemine contradicente.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors.