HC Deb 09 April 1895 vol 32 cc1255-7

MR. J. J. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.) moved that a new writ be ordered to issue for Wicklow, East Division, for the election of a Member to serve in the room of Mr. John Sweetman, who has accepted the office of Steward of Her Majesty's Manor of Northstead. He said that he only brought forward this Motion after discovering that the hon. Baronet the Member for West Kerry, who, by the custom of the House, was entitled to make the Motion, had determined not to make it this day, which was the last on which it could be made before the Adjournment of the House.

SIR T. ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)

said, that the hon. Member was perfectly accurate in his account of what had taken place between them concerning this writ. He had no intention of opposing the Motion; but he would point out that, in moving this writ, the hon. Member had acted in contravention of the ordinary practice, though it was not a Rule of the House. The reason he had not moved the writ was, that it was seen by the Party with whom he acted that it would be much more convenient if the writ were not moved till after Easter, if the election took place later on. As the writ had been moved, however, he should not oppose it.

MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)

said, that this question of the moving of writs had many times been discussed by the House of Commons and between the Whips of the various Parties. He had always understood that the practice of the House had been this: if those who were charged with the moving of the writs did not move them within a reasonable time, other Members moved them. In this case, no doubt, the appointment to the office which vacated the seat was only made the other day; and if the House were not on the eve of the Easter Adjournment, it might be unreasonable for any Member, other than the Whip of the Party to which the retiring Member belonged, to move the writ. But if this writ were not moved now, the effect would not be to consult the general convenience, but the very opposite. This contested election would then last for six weeks. It would begin at once, and would last all over the Recess and a fortnight afterwards. These were the reasons why his hon. Friend had moved the writ, and he respectfully submitted that no practice of the House whatever had been thereby contravened.

MR. T. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)

pointed out that the last election kept this seat in the possession of the Irish Party with which the hon. and learned Gentleman did not act. According to the usages of the House, and the unbroken practice of a number of years, the Party in whose possession the seat had been left by the last election were entitled, within certain reasonable limits of time, to a discretion in the moving of the writ. The vacancy for East Wicklow was only made known yesterday; he was informed that the application of Mr. Sweetman for office under the Crown only reached the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday; that it was in the course of yesterday that the application was granted and the appointment issued; and that the appointment might have reached Mr. Sweetman this morning, but that possibly it had not. In former discussions it had been stated that a period of two days elapsed between the receipt of the appointment and the issue of the writ. In these circumstances, by intimating to the hon. Baronet the Member for West Kerry that, unless he moved the writ to-day, he would take it upon himself to move it, the hon. Member for North Dublin had acted in contravention of the practice of the House, and had denied to the Party to which Mr. Sweetman had belonged the discretion to which they were entitled. The hon. Member had put that Party, if they were inclined to rely upon the argument of usage, in a position to oppose the issue of the writ. But that was not their intention. They were sensible that inconvenience would be inflicted on the constituency by the course which had been taken. If the writ were issued to-day the nomination must take place before the end of next week, when, according to the usage of all political parties in Ireland, it was customary to summon conventions for the purpose of choosing candidates. The immediate issue of the writ was taking the constituency at a disadvantage and by surprise, and would render it extremely difficult for the electors to take the usual steps for the selection of candidates. He thought, therefore, that his hon. Friend was right in making this protest; but the writ having been moved, and the Party with which he acted being as ready as any other to face the inconvenience, he should not oppose the issue of the writ.

Motion agreed to.