HC Deb 19 August 1895 vol 36 cc270-2

I beg to ask Mr. Attorney General for Ireland—(1) whether he was correctly reported in the Belfast News Letter to have said on the 18th of July, in speaking of his opponent in North Derry, Mr. Houston, Q.C., that Dr. Houston had one great advantage in coming to the constituency. The time was short, therefore they would see little of him, hear little of him, and learn little of him, and that was his chance. If they saw as much of him, and knew as much of him as his profession did, they would hunt him from their quarters; (2) whether he is aware that, on the 22nd of July, Dr. Houston attempted to address a meeting at Limavady, but was prevented from, speaking by a mob of several thousands of Mr. Attorney's supporters, who repeatedly pelted Dr. and Mrs. Houston with stones, eggs, and other missiles; and, (3) whether any steps have been taken, or will be taken, to bring to justice the instigators of and ringleaders in this riot?


asked whether this question, concerning an election dispute was a proper one to put upon the Paper?

MR. J. G. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)

Was not the right hon. and learned Gentleman at the time in question a Minister of the Crown?


I remember that the question was brought under my notice before it was put down, and I expressed my opinion to the hon. and learned Member that it was very undesirable to put such a question on the Paper, but that I could not say that it was out of order.


You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that I said that I only put it down under a strong sense of public duty. [Ministerial laughter.]


I have not seen the newspaper report referred to in the first paragraph of the question. If it be to the effect indicated, it is entirely inaccurate and conveys a false impression as to what I said on the occasion, and in this connection I may observe that when the matter was first brought under my notice, before the meeting of Parliament, I at once informed the learned Gentleman named in the question that the report was entirely inaccurate, and assured him that I had not made, nor intended to make, any reflection on his private character or professional honour. With regard to the second paragraph, a report has been made by the police, stating that Dr. Houston attempted to address a meeting on the date mentioned, but was prevented from doing so by the shouting and hooting of about 150 persons composing part of a crowd of five or six hundred surrounding him. The police also report that there was no rioting, as alleged, but that two or three eggs, which did not come from this crowd, were thrown at Dr. Houston and his party. Two stones are also alleged to have been thrown on the occasion into the carriage conveying Dr. Houston's party, one of which is said to have lightly struck his conducting agent, without, however, inflicting any injury whatever. The police have been diligently investigating the matter, but have been unable to obtain any satisfactory evidence upon which to institute proceedings. A statement was made to the police that a stone was seen to have been thrown by a particular individual on the occasion, but no legal evidence could be obtained to establish this. The district inspector applied to the magistrates at Petty Sessions, on the 13th instant, for instructions as to bringing up this case, and stated the nature of the evidence forthcoming, but the magistrates came to the conclusion that the evidence available was insufficient and that it would not be advisable to have any prosecution, and further expressed the opinion that the police had done their duty in endeavouring to bring the offenders to justice.


I beg to give notice that I shall call attention to the subject on the question of the right hon. Gentleman's salary.


Is it the law in Ireland, that in the case of stone-throwing, the evidence of a second witness is necessary?


In this instance the report was made to the police by a person who did not allege that he himself had seen the stone thrown. In such a case, the evidence of another witness could not be dispensed with.