Motion made, and Question proposed,
1. That a sum, not exceeding £781,992, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1897, for the Expenses of the Royal Irish Constabulary.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
said they had heard a great deal this Session about the employment of the military without the consent of Parliament, and he ventured to state that the maintenance of 14,000 armed men in Ireland as a pretended police, but who really formed a permanent army of occupation, was a gross fraud on the Bill of Rights and an abuse of the Mutiny Acts. The primary object of maintaining this large and costly armed force was, not to prevent crime and preserve order, like an ordinary police force, but to protect the landlords and the so-called loyal minority. He maintained, moreover, that the expenditure on the constabulary force was excessive to a profligate degree. In England the cost of the police per head of the population was 8s. 2d., while in Ireland it was upwards of 16s. The whole 725 cost of the constabulary, however, did not come entirely out of Irish funds; the British taxpayer contributed to it, and therefore Members of English constituencies were interested in this extravagant expenditure. As a proof of the extravagant and reckless way in which the expenditure on this armed force had been increased, he might state that, while in 1859 and 1860 the Estimate was £700,000, with a population of 6,000,000, it was now at a gross total of over £1,400,000, with a diminished population of nearly two millions. Was it possible, under such circumstances, to evade the charge that there had been a monstrous and unjustifiable increase of expenditure on the force? He admitted that the increase made in the Estimates by the present Government during the past two years was only £13,000—a small increase in comparison with that made in some previous years; but still there was an increase, notwithstanding a continued decreasing population. The number of county constables in England was almost the same as the number of police in Ireland, yet the expenditure on the English constabulary was over £100,000 less. The expenditure in England in 1892 on 12,690 constables was £1,272,879, while in Ireland, on 12,182 constables, the expenditure was £1,396,078. There could not be a greater difference between two individuals than there was between the Irish policeman as they knew him and the English policeman. The English policeman was a friend of the people. He was generally in sympathy with the people; he fulfilled their work; he was their public servant. The Irish policeman, on the contrary, was, by the very essence of his office, apart from the people. If an Irish constable married a girl in the neighbourhood, he was immediately transferred somewhere else. He was not permitted, as far as his superiors could manage it, to have any thing in common with, any sympathy with, or any community of interest with the population at large. He was a kind of slave-overseer, as far as that could be. It had been his privilege to travel rather more than the average, and he had been in a great many countries, in some of which the civilisation was in a rather backward state, but never, except in Ireland, had he met at every station 726 armed police. At every railway station there were armed police, in order to press upon the population that they were in a country that was not their own. The Irish Constabulary, since he became acquainted with it, had got the addition of ''Royal'' to their name. The Attorney General might not know that the term ''Royal'' was conferred upon the constabulary in October 1889, in special recognition of the Mitchelstown affair. The right hon. Gentleman would say that the police were merely ordinary constables for the preservation of law and order, for the detection of stolen property, and so on, but if he would go round by the barracks on his way to the Chief Secretary's office he would see these policemen indulging in sword and bayonet exercises, and in marching and counter-marching in the barrack square. And Lord Wolseley, before he left Ireland, reviewed these policemen and congratulated them on their soldierly appearance. Fancy Lord Wolseley going to the Metropolitan police and addressing them as of soldierly appearance and as defenders of the Empire! They ought really to take their black costume off them and put them in ordinary military uniform, but they ought not to come to that House and deceive the people by talking of them as policemen. He would like to call attention to the item for clothing. During the vacation, he invited the attention of the Chief Secretary to a circular which had been published in the Irish papers, signed Andrew Reed, giving certain directions as to the accoutrements of the men, and he so far forgot his position as to say that there would be an increase of the Estimates without a doubt. He did not think any officer of Dublin Castle ought to presume to talk about whether there would be an increase in the Estimates or not. That was the business of the Chief Secretary. He pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman that if there was to be a change in the accoutrements of the police, it would be a good time to a number them. At present, owing to the helmets they wore coming down almost to the bridge of the nose, and to their wearing moustaches and whiskers, it was not possible to identify them, and they habitually and uniformly refused to give their names. The Member for the Holmfirth Division and his wife were 727 dogged in Ireland by constables who refused to give their names, and their refusal to do so was actually justified in this House in the bad old times. During some evictions at Maamtrasna, the police, armed to the teeth—he did not know whether they were acting contrary to the law, and God knew he did not care—committed an insolent assault upon himself, and like cowards, they refused to give their names. He had often seen police constables drunk at evictions in Ireland. It was a gross outrage to let these men, armed to the teeth, loose on an unarmed population. Talk of masked burglars! They were not much worse than the constabulary in Ireland, who committed outrages and were commended for them by their superiors. This was the sober truth. Police were drafted into the country districts from the large towns, such as Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, and Belfast, and if they went where eviction work was to be done their numbers were removed, that they might perpetrate atrocities in the landlord interest. At Whitsuntide, 1890, a detachment of police from Waterford were transferred for one or two days to Tipperary. The numbers they wore at Waterford they deliberately took off their collars, and they refused to give their names. Mr. William O'Brien and the hon. Member for East Mayo, were badly assaulted by the police. So convinced was he of the outrage of removing police numbers to prevent identification, that he had denounced it through thick and thin everywhere. He knew a lady, the wife of a Liberal Member of Parliament, who wished to go to a meeting in Ireland where a disturbance was contemplated. He asked her husband not to let her go. He said, ''These policemen will smash your wife's face and get promotion for it." This was what he thought of the Irish police system. There was no excuse or justification for the police in Ireland being unnumbered. In Ireland the police were trained to be antagonistic to popular feeling and popular wishes, and not to be for the protection of the people, but to commit landlord outrages in the country.
§ MR. H. J. WILSON (Yorkshire, W.R., Holmfirth)
said that the first time he went to Ireland he was surprised at the way in which English visitors were scrutinised by the police. On his 728 return to Dublin he called at the Castle, and had an interview with Mr. Fenning, a high police official in Ireland. He told Mr. Fenning that he was surprised at the system, with which in England they had nothing to compare, and asked whether he was to understand that the state of affairs in Ireland was such that it was necessary to watch every railway station in country places. He said he would not commit himself to that, but he was sure that he (Mr. Wilson) as an English visitor travelling about in Ireland, must often have found it a great advantage and convenience that there should be an intelligent man at railway stations able to point out to visitors and tourists objects of interest, and give any information that might be required. [Laughter.]
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said he saw members of the Royal Irish Constabulary on duty at railway stations in Ireland with a feeling of mingled aversion and admiration. They were fine specimens of humanity, with their strong appearance and trim air, and remembering that they came from the peasant class, he thought how some of the latter, under more favourable conditions than those under which they lived, might have attained the same stalwart and trim appearance. No one could be 24 hours or even 24 minutes in Ireland, without seeing that the constabulary played a part entirely different from those in this country. One of his earliest impressions, when he came to London nearly thirty years ago, was the extraordinary civility of the London police as compared with the behaviour of the police in Ireland. In Covent Garden, one morning, seeing the wonderful way in which the wants of London were supplied, he was struck with the combined firmness and tact with which the few policemen there were able to arrange and control all the vast traffic going through narrow side streets to Covent Garden. The police discharged their duty largely by calmly and good humouredly reasoning with the people that they had to control. The sight of a policeman attempting to reason—in good humour or bad—with the people he had to control was unknown and impossible in Ireland. Directly you set foot in Ireland you were face to face with the fact that the police formed a garrison 729 dependent upon the approval, not of the people, but of a class largely hostile to the people. At the railway stations every single carriage of a train was peered into by a policeman, in a way Englishmen would resent as an intrusion in this country. When an Englishman visited Poland, he was struck by the numbers of the police and their activity, and he talked of it in unconsciousness of the fact that the same espionage might be seen in a part of the United Kingdom only four hours from the shores of England. Of course, the Irish police force was largely the creature of circumstances, and, where there was not sympathy between the population and the Government, there must be tyranny and disaffection leading to disorder. He did not say that the Irish police force could be in every respect like that of England so long as unhappy relations existed; but he could not understand how any one, free from Party prejudice could help reflecting that there was something very wrong in the Government if it was necessary to maintain such a large armed force. What answer could there be to the request that the police should be numbered, as in other countries, so that each man might be made responsible for his conduct? There would be no fear of a policeman being attacked because it was known that he had behind him all the strength of the Government. No thinking man could avoid reflecting on the fact that, while the population of Ireland had diminished more rapidly than that of any country in Europe, the police force had steadily increased.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
said he cordially concurred in the remarks of one of the hon. Members for Donegal with regard to the advisability of the police in Ireland being numbered. It would be interesting to hear what the Chief Secretary had to say in defence of a system in which the police were not numbered, as they were everywhere else. Some might imagine that the instances which had been given of assaults by the police were doubtful, but from his own knowledge he could aver that such assaults were frequent. He would give a narrative which showed the spirit of the police and the difficulties that arose from the impossibility of identification. About a year ago he went to address a meeting 730 of his constituents near Limerick. It had been largely advertised and was attended by thousands of people from a radius of 20 miles of the place of meeting. Not a hint of the meeting being prohibited reached him until he arrived near the spot, and found his progress checked by from 150 to 200 policemen armed with rifles. The greatest possible excitement prevailed on account of the meeting being prohibited, and a collision occurred between the people and the police. Personally he was knocked down and almost had the coat torn from his back. He and his friends did their best to prevent this collision, and he said to the inspector of police, "I am most anxious that there should be no violence, and that the people should not be batoned." Whereupon a policeman shouted, "We will baton them; it serves them right for coming here." The people who heard this became perfectly furious, and wanted to know the policeman's name; but all efforts to obtain it were fruitless, the inspector saying it was not usual to give a policeman's name. He put it to anyone whether it was tolerable that armed men should be brought together in this way, and that one of them should be allowed to speak in this way in the midst of an excited crowd, without the possibility of his being identified. The Government would find it hard to excuse the maintenance of the Irish system; and, by way of protest, he should move the reduction of the Vote. It was a monstrous thing such an enormous sum should be spent every year on the police force; it was more costly than that of any other in the wide world, having regard to the circumstances and condition of Ireland. It was calculated to produce disturbance, that the force, instead of being a police force, was really an armed military force. You could not take a walk in the country, day or night, without coming upon police with loaded rifles. There was no country in Europe more free from serious crime than Ireland was, and yet it had a police force, armed to the teeth, out of all proportion to the numbers of the population, and with nothing to do but to patrol the roads and streets with rifles in their hands, a standing menace to the people. In connection with the General Election of 1892, he was asked to address meetings 731 in rural districts in England, and nothing astonished him more than the comparative absence of police, and that in districts where, to judge from criminal records, there was far more need for them than there was in many parts of Ireland. The police of Ireland seemed to have got it into their heads that it was not merely their duty to maintain order, but that it was their privilege to ride roughshod over the people. How were Members of Parliament treated by the policemen in Ireland? Instead of showing the slightest token of respect to the elected representatives of the people, they went out of their way to show their scorn. In attending some meetings in England, he came across some rural policemen, and to his astonishment, when they heard he was an M. P. they saluted him, which caused him to remark: "Well, I have been an M.P. 12 years, and this is the first time I have been saluted by a policeman." [Laughter.] In Ireland they never showed the slightest respect for the men who ought to be their masters, but who had not the slightest control over them. They were often told that the Irish police force was a fine force. Physically they were, no doubt, a fine body of men, and he was led to ask how it was that so many of the finest young men banded themselves to that force to do work which many of them secretly hated in their hearts. Many a time, when he had been going from prison to prison during the coercion times, the policemen had told him that they hated the work, and wished they could get to America or anywhere else. It was simply by the power of money that they got those young men. In the country districts of Ireland there was simply nothing for the strong and active young men to do; their fathers could not afford to send them to America; they went into the neighbouring county town where there was not the slightest vestige of an industry or factory, and what were those young men to do? They dangled before their eyes what was an enormous bribe under the circumstances—the pay of the police. What was the pay of the police? It was the most extraordinary pay any body of men could get, if they considered the circumstances of the small amount of work they had to do. It came from £70 a year down to about £50 or £60. That 732 was an enormous amount of money for a young man in an agricultural district in Ireland, where, messing together, they could live very cheaply. It was independence for them. Except when an eviction occurred, they had absolutely nothing to do but walk about and regard themselves as monarchs of all they surveyed in the roads and lanes and villages of Ireland. That was the explanation why they got so many young Irishmen to join a force which, in their hearts and souls, they detested. They did so because they had no other employment, and because the wages which were given were out of all proportion to the work they had to do, and the circumstances of the case. What he proposed was that if the Government intended to bring about a reform in Ireland they should commence with the police force, and make it a real police force instead of an army of occupation. In England, if a breach of the peace took place, half a dozen citizens sprang to the aid of a policeman, but there was nothing like that in Ireland. Why was that? Because the people in the country districts, without work to do or any means of earning a livelihood, but with a strong sense of injustice that they should be taxed so heavily, said: "We pay a million and a half every year to support these men who are lounging about with rifles in their hands. Let them do the work." If the Government were to create a real police force in Ireland, and give the people an idea that they had not got an army of occupation there, and that the police were employed merely for the purpose of maintaining order and not to maintain landlordism or class ascendency, if the force in any case proved insufficient, the public in Ireland would be as glad to support them as were the public of England or any other country. But in Ireland it was an army they had got, and not a police force, and therefore the relations between the people and the police were altogether different. He had been mixed up in public meetings in Ireland for many years, and had seen rows—goodness knows, he had seen about as many rows as any man in the House. [Laughter.] He had been at election rows and at eviction rows, and all sorts of rows in Ireland—[renewed laughter]—and his candid and sincere 733 belief was that nine out of every ten such disturbances were caused distinctly and definitely by the presence of an abnormal and unnecessary force of armed men. [''Hear, hear!"] If an election meeting were held, there were 50 or 60 policemen with rifles in their hands, shouldering their way to the most prominent place near the platform, shoving people out of their path right and left, and what was the result? The result was a row at once, and he ventured to say that if the same thing were done in England there would be a row. He should very much like to see an average English political meeting in the open air with some thousands of people around the platform, and instead of the ordinary rural policeman, some 50 or 60, or 80 or 100, or even 20 soldiers marching in military order shoulder to shoulder, with rifles in their hands, forcing their way up to the vicinity of the platform, forcing people right and left. What would happen? Would the people in the rural districts of England and Scotland permit of that and say, ''make way for the police?'' He had a very strong opinion that if they were treated with unnecessary abruptness as they were in Ireland, they would have a serious disturbance. Of course, he would be told that there were circumstances where it was necessary to have a large force of police, but he believed, even in carrying out harsh evictions the bailiff or agent would not be touched if the large force of police which usually accompanied them were kept away. This was the old system, against which they had struggled for so long, and he did not blame the present Government any more than the late Government in regard to its retention. Let Lord Clanricarde, and men like him understand that when they were going to excesses which were condemned in England as well as in Ireland, that they could not have large armed forces to do their work, and even they would hesitate before entering upon these large eviction campaigns. He represented a constituency which had been declared by the Chief Secretary or some one else as being like a plague spot in Ireland, there were so many outrages in it. If they went to the cause of these outrages they would find ample justification and excuse for the state of Clare. The presence of an abnormal force of 734 police was an incentive to the people to commit crime, and provoked them to breaches of the peace. The presence of these armed men, instead of keeping the peace, really tended the other way, and if this Government would follow the example of the late Government, and reduce the number of the police, the result would be beneficial. He attributed the improvement in the county Clare in the last few years to the withdrawal by the late Government of a considerable number of the police. For these extra police in the county of Clare the people had to pay nearly £6,000 a year. That expenditure was unnecessary, and it was, at the same time, most irritating to the people to have to pay it. The Government treated the poor peasants in Ireland in much the same way as they did the Matabele or the people in the Soudan—they were kept under by large forces of armed men—and were shot down.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
said affairs in Ireland were of such a character that the most patient of them felt sometimes he would like to be a long way from Ireland. [Laughter.] He felt very deeply on this matter, and would count it a good day's work if he could impress it upon the Chief Secretary's mind that the more he trusted the people in this matter of the police, and treated them as the people of England were treated, the less outrages there would be. There was this enormous sum of nearly £1,500,000 spent on the Royal Irish Constabulary, and he could not help thinking what a lot could be done in developing the resources of Ireland and building up a commercial prosperity with that sum of money. [''Hear, hear!"] It was enough to make a man savage to see all this money wasted, and he looked forward to the time when it would be spent to better purpose and for the benefit of Ireland. If Clare's portion of the money was spent on light railways and developing the fisheries, the people of Clare would be delighted and grateful. He appealed to the Chief Secretary to do what he could in this matter, and, instead of spending this money in keeping a standing army in Ireland, which confronted one at every 735 railway platform and every street corner, to spend the money in developing the resources of the country. He had seen more armed men in the course of one afternoon at a meeting of his own constituents than he had ever seen on a six months' stay in America or in Australia. It was no wonder the Irish people were discontented and dissatisfied with this Government. He moved the reduction of the Vote.
§ MR. C. E. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
wished to take some small part in the discussion, because he was in Ireland during the visit of the Irish Members, and he felt very strongly on this subject. With every word of what had been said by the hon. Member he agreed. There was nothing like the conduct of the Irish police anywhere else, and it was a striking contrast to the courteous conduct of the London police. If they did anything which was illegal, and he supposed policemen could commit illegalities just as private individuals could, it was essential they should be recognisable, by having numbers stamped on their collars. He agreed with the hon. Member for East Clare, that there could be a probability of a better time if there could be a considerable reduction in the number of the police. The Irish people were not in a most flourishing condition, and the present Government and the other Governments had undertaken Measures to promote the welfare of Ireland. Under such circumstances it was ridiculous to impose upon the people the present large expenditure for the police force.
* CAPTAIN PHILLPOTTS (Devon, Torquay)
said that a few years ago it was his lot to be stationed for some time in Ireland. His duties caused him to visit towns as well as out of the way places at all hours of the day and night, and if there was one thing which struck him more than another it was the marvellous patience, tact, and ability displayed by the Royal Irish Constabulary in the exercise of their duties. It had been said that if the police were reduced in number and disarmed, great benefit would accrue to Ireland. Surely there was another way in which Ireland might be benefited, and that was by the abolition of the political agitation. [Ironical Irish cheers.] It would be a good thing for the country if a new St. Patrick were to arise, and drive out 736 all political agitators. A new era of happiness might dawn upon Ireland if the Irish people were taught that they had resources, that they had the means around them to make their country prosperous if they would be patient and industrious—[renewed ironical cheers]—and cease to listen to the mischievous and criminal statements which were so frequently made in their midst. He did not wish to detain the Committee—[cries of ''Go on!"]—but only to bear his testimony to the splendid conduct of the Royal Irish Constabulary.
§ MR. JAMES DALY (Monaghan, S.)
was confident that if the hon. and gallant Member for Torquay were an unfortunate Irish peasant, who had only Indian meal for breakfast, and wanted to get a reduction of rent, he would have a very different opinion of the police of Ireland. It was very probable the hon. Member when in Ireland dined at some landlord's table, and formed his opinion of the constabulary from what he heard when he had his legs under the landlord's mahogany. But he rose to complain of the continued keeping up of a protection hut in Castleblaney. The rent of the farm protected was £8 10s., but the cost of the protection amounted to £276 per annum. Such a state of affairs would not be tolerated anywhere but in Ireland. He understood from a speech the Chief Secretary delivered at Leeds, that the policy of the Government was to kill the Irish by kindness, but up to the present he had not heard of an inquest on any person who had been killed by the kindness of Her Majesty's Government. It was admitted that Castleblaney was in a most peaceable condition, and yet the Government insisted upon keeping up the protection hut. He had also to complain that a District Inspector in Newcastle West was granted permission to join the expedition to Coomassie. No Government ought to allow a police officer to go upon a warlike expedition, and upon his return resume the government of peaceable and orderly inhabitants. He trusted the Chief Secretary would give him an assurance that in future nothing of the kind would be allowed.
§ MR. EDWARD CARSON (Dublin University)
did not intend to take any part in the discussion about the relations of the police to the people of Ireland, 737 because his opinion was that those relations were never more friendly than they were at the present time. But he had risen to call the Chief Secretary's attention to the dissatisfaction that existed in the police force as to the mode of promotion from the rank of Sub-Inspector to that of County Inspector. Sub-Inspectors had always naturally expected that after a certain number of years' service, and when their qualifications were undoubted, they would receive promotion in the ordinary course of events. In recent years, however, the practice had sprung up of passing over men who had most excellent records and service in the force for no reason which they could possibly ascertain from those who were responsible for the granting of promotion. Within the last 12 months there had been at least a dozen cases in which men possessing all the qualifications had been informed that they could not hope to become County Inspectors. He might mention one case that had come under his notice. It was that of an officer whom he had known personally for many years, who had several good service marks, was recommended strongly by his county inspector, and who had 27 years' service. The officer was ordered up for examination at Dublin Castle, and the only question put to him was whether he was satisfied with his present station or not. Nothing was asked him calculated to militate against his hopes of promotion. He went back to his station, and the next thing he heard was that he had been passed over, not merely for the present, but for all time, and had thus been deprived of all hope of the emoluments he naturally expected to receive. It was lamentable that in such an important force, in which certainly no one could complain that the officers were not subjected to the severest discipline, that a discontent of this kind should be allowed to exist, and that the officers should have no means of ascertaining the grounds of any fault or complaint which might be alleged against them and might operate against their promotion. He had brought this matter to the attention of the Chief Secretary because he thought—and he believed the right hon. Gentleman would agree with him—it was not well that in a force of this kind young officers should be discouraged by the idea that, no 738 matter how well they behaved during the many years they could look for promotion, they might in the end be baulked of their natural ambition for some reason which they were entirely unable to ascertain.
§ MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
said he perfectly agreed with all that had been said as to the excessive cost of the force. As to the question of promotion, if that matter was raised at all, the point of promoting officers from the ranks would have to be considered. That was a much wider and important matter than the one referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University, and it was one about which the men of the force felt very strongly and much aggrieved. Year after year, when these Estimates had been brought forward the Irish Members had pointed out anomalies and grievances in connection with the constabulary, but nothing was done, or had been done, to remedy them. Yet the force continued to grow in expense and in numbers. In 1860–36 years ago—when the population was six millions, the cost of the force was £700,000, or 2s. 4d. per head of the population, while now in 1896—at a time when it must be obvious to every fair-minded man that Ireland was most unjustly treated, financially, and when the population was about four-and-a-half millions, the cost was £1,560,000, or 6s. 10d. per head of the population. To every thinking man that fact must appear as a very striking commentary on the Act of Union, and it showed that the system of English Government in Ireland was bad and rotten, and as costly as it was rotten. To a very large extent the expenditure of this million-and-a-half on an armed constabulary was a wicked and useless expenditure, and was certainly a great wrong to Ireland. It might be vain, however, to look for any radical improvement in the matter until there was a change in the nature and character of the English Governments; but no average man could look at the facts and figures of the case of the Irish Constabulary without admitting that in this particular, at least, the fruits of the system of Government in Ireland since the Union had been thoroughly bad. He contended, moreover, that the constabulary force was not properly managed, and that if it 739 were properly managed it would be less expensive. It was not properly managed because a large proportion of its officers was drawn from classes and interests that were hostile to the people of Ireland, hostile to the sympathies, the general grievances, and the wants of the people of Ireland. Another evidence of mismanagement was the notorious fact that gross cases of favouritism were to be found in Ulster in connection with the treatment of Orange mobs by the police as compared with the way in which Catholic people in other parts of the country were treated. Complaint after complaint had been made by Ulster Nationalists of the way in which Orange mobs had been permitted to act in Ulster when Orange fever was rampant. The windows of Catholics had been broken, Catholic churches attacked, and Catholic people insulted, and yet the police took no special precautions to prevent such excesses as were from time to time committed by Orange mobs. Let them compare this with the way in which the people wore treated by the police in other parts of Ireland—when they met, not in connection with matters of bigotry and intolerance, but in connection, for instance, with the land question or the question of the right of public meeting, and they would see how differently and unfairly the police were handled. Things done by Orange fanatics, under the influence of hateful religious intolerance, were passed over, and a case in point had been brought before the attention of the House, in which it was shown that an Orange mob attacked a number of Catholic excursionists who, in order to avoid a conflict, were obliged to make use of a station three miles distant from the one which they had originally agreed to make use of; and although these people were so driven out of their route, yet the police took little or no steps to arrest any of the disorderly persons. A very important point had been raised by the hon. Member for Donegal with reference to the numbering of the constabulary, and he was anxious to know what objection there could be to numbering the force in the same way as the police were numbered in London and in other large centres of population. The police were numbered in Dublin, Cork, and other large cities where it was so absolutely essential that 740 they should be numbered because they were better known to the people. There was some deep motive at the bottom of this refusal to number the police. They had a shrewd suspicion in Ireland of what it meant, and it was that if the constabulary were numbered they could not be brought to evictions in the large numbers in which they were now brought. They could not be brought out at election times and allowed to indulge in disorderly and violent conduct, because they would run the risk of identification. He had been present himself on occasions when the police had been ordered to clear a space, and he had often seen them do it with great fairness; but he had also seen members of the force acting in the most unfair and brutal manner, and beating men over the head with their batons. He had himself seen an old man, 75 years of age, who was trying to move away with a crowd, receive two or three violent blows over the head from the baton of a constable; and if the policeman had been numbered, they would have been able to take the number of this man and get justice done. At present the people had no redress whatever. He had no wish to identify himself with any sweeping charges against the Royal Irish Constabulary. As a whole they were, perhaps, as well conducted as, or even better conducted, than any body similarly composed and disciplined would be, but at the same time he contended that gross abuses were committed by individual members of the force.
§ MR. R. M. DANE (Fermanagh, N.)
said he was in a position to corroborate the facts put before the Committee by the hon. Member for Dublin University, and he hoped the Chief Secretary would be good enough to give his attention to that matter. With regard to the case of the excursionists, which had been referred to by the hon. Member who had just sat down, he wished to point out that they had announced their intention of marching through the town, and consequently created a great amount of fear amongst the loyalist inhabitants, some of whom accordingly started ringing the bells of the parish church. They were, however, remonstrated with by the police, who also remonstrated with the processionists, and the result of the action of the police on that occasion was to 741 prevent what might have been a very serious riot. The police force in Ireland was loyal to the Crown, and discharged its duties in every respect in the most satisfactory and capable manner.
§ MR. W. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)
said that the police force which existed in Ireland had no parallel in any constitutional country. There was no other country in the world governed under a constitutional franchise which would tolerate an armed soldiery under the name of a police force. He contended that the police force belonged to the civil authorities, and should be controlled by them. What was nominally a police force in Ireland was really a large regiment controlled from Dublin Castle. It was not a police force at all. What was the true test of good Government? It might be reduced to two points, namely, the smallest possible cost in subjection and expenses. In Ireland the police force was the most expensive in the world. Some years ago there were 6,000,000 inhabitants; now there were only 4,500,000, and yet the great constitutional Government of England had increased the cost of governing a population which had been decimated by two-thirds. It was absurd to say that this was a police force. It was nothing of the kind. It was not governed by the people, and, in fact, everything in connection with it was wrong. He trusted that the Government would give the Committee an assurance that a change of policy would soon be effected. The time had come and was rapidly arriving—[laughter]—when this system of government by police must cease.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
asked how many promotions to district inspectorships had been made from the ranks since the present Chief Secretary came into office. Some time ago it was resolved that half the promotions should be from the ranks, but from communications which he had received it appeared that the right hon. Gentleman had departed in some measure from that intention. Another matter to which he wished to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention was the practice of sending police to patrol the railway stations. This practice ought to be abandoned, as it gave visitors a totally wrong impression of the condition of the country. Seeing so many constables 742 about the stations they might be excused for thinking that the country was in a state bordering upon insurrection. He suggested that a Report should be published annually by the authorities commanding the force, so that the House of Commons might obtain some idea of its doings during the 12 months. They ought to be told how many evictions the constabulary had attended during the year, and the number of prosecutions which they had attended, the number of sheriffs' ''posses'' which they had guarded, the nature of the prosecutions which they had undertaken, and the results of the proceedings. It was sometimes said that in time of war the constabulary would be a useful and efficient force, but as a matter of fact their arms were obsolete, the rifles used by them being required to fire buckshot as well as bullets, and they also carried the old heavy sword-bayonet. Against a foreign foe, therefore, the constabulary would not be very useful. Members, he contended, ought to have an annual statement from the Inspector General as to the strength and distribution of the free force and the strength and distribution of the force which the Grand Juries had to pay for. There was good reason for thinking that Antrim, Belfast, and places in the north of Ireland were getting the whole benefit of the free force, and that counties like Clare were not being treated justly. Then they ought to have statistics showing the relative promotions of Catholics and Protestants. At present nearly every county inspector in Ireland was a Protestant, and the large mass of the district inspectors were Protestants also. He should like also to call the attention of the Chief Secretary to the cost of extra police at Sligo in connection with the street preachers there. Would it not be possible to provide a howling place for ranters in some places where they could be protected at a small cost to the State. [Laughter.] All over the country Protestants and Catholics had erected magnificent structures for the worship of God in their own way; but here they had a few old women in England subscribing to a missionary organisation of some kind and sending ranters over to towns in Ireland to preach the word of God—a task for which they were about as fitted as he was to teach 743 navigation. [Laughter.] They howled about the Blessed Virgin and the rosary in order to inflame the lower class of Roman Catholics with the idea that their religion was being insulted. If the lower class of Roman Catholics had any sense they would let the ranters howl until they were black in the face. For example, the ranters might be seen occupying the steps of Her Majesty's Custom house in Dublin howling at large in a desert without any one to listen to them. [Laughter.] He ventured to say that to convert a Roman Catholic was absolutely impossible. He might turn Atheist, but he would not turn Protestant. This system of preaching therefore was nothing but a mockery of God and man, and an absurdity. It was a costly blister on the people of Ireland for they had to pay for it by sending scores of police to Sligo to protect peaceful people from direct annoyance. The Protestants in Sligo did not want the ranters. They had lived on the happiest terms with their neighbours since the days of Martin Luther. [Laughter.] Supposing a procession of Roman Catholics were to march through Sandyrow in Belfast with statues of the Virgin, the rosary, with priests in their robes, and to attempt to convert the Protestants to Popery, how long would it be tolerated? The ranting system was a needless offence, and if it was to be continued in Sligo he should like to know why the taxpayers were to be called upon to pay for it. He protested against the system being continued at the expense of the Irish people.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR,), Leeds, Central
dealing first with the system of constabulary promotion initiated by the late Government, said that no change had been made in the system, and no promotions from the ranks had been made since the Government had taken office up to the present time. No appointments had been made to the position of district inspectors by means of examination. There had been a kind of congestion in the system of promotion. The number of vacancies were not sufficient to justify a batch of appointments being made, but in August next they would probably be able to appoint something like half-a-dozen men out of the 744 ranks to those positions, and a corresponding number under the new regulations from among officers' sons and the public generally. The question as to the attendance of police at railway stations had not been brought under his notice, and he was not aware whether the late Government made any regulation on the subject; nor was he aware whether, if they made any regulation, it had been departed from. He did not think it would have been departed from before the question was brought under his notice; but at any rate he promised to inquire into the subject, and whether, if such a regulation was made, it should be maintained in force. The question as to whether it would not be desirable to furnish a Blue-book annually containing certain returns in connection with the proceedings of the police would be considered by him. He did not think that there was any objection to prepare such a Blue-book in connection with matters appearing in the Return, but he would consider whether it would be advisable to annually publish them in a collection form as a Constabulary Blue-book. As to the promotion of Roman Catholics and Protestants from the ranks of the constabulary, he said that though there were a large number of Protestant officers in the constabulary, that in no way arose through the method of selection. As a general rule he thought that the object of every Chief Secretary had been to secure that as many Roman Catholics as possible should enter for the examination and it certainly was not the case that because a man was a Roman Catholic his promotion was hindered thereby. He sympathised with the remarks of the hon. Member for North Louth as to the events at Sligo. He did not think that the proceedings of the street preachers in Sligo were in any way to be commended. Their zeal was most unplaced, and he could not imagine how they thought that their objects would be gained by acting as they did. It would be difficult, however, in the existing state of the law to provide what the hon. Member had humorously described as ''howling places'' and to compel the preachers to betake themselves there, even if they were provided. There was, however, a clear remedy in the possession of the inhabitants of the towns, 745 and this was to refrain from going and listening to the preachers. If that policy were adopted by the people the efforts of the preachers would speedily become "the voices of men crying in the wilderness." This would be the cure for the evil that had been shown to exist in an aggravated form in Sligo. Similar events to those complained of had occurred in other towns, but they had not lasted very long. In the case of Sligo he had for a long time forborne to charge any cost for the extra police on the town. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: "How much is it?"] He could not give the exact figures, but he thought that the number of men drafted into the town had been about 30 on each occasion. He would very gladly see that state of things come to an end, and he believed they would come to an end if the authorities in Sligo would take their share in inducing the people to abstain from attending those meetings. With regard to the question asked by his hon. Friend the senior Member for Dublin University, he had to say that it was in no sense a disgrace for any district inspector who had reached a period of seniority when he might expect to advance to be a county inspector to be passed over. The position of county inspector was one the responsibilities of which were considerable, and the places were filled by selection. The best men were chosen, and the utmost care was taken that there should be no favouritism or jobbery, the selections being made not by a single individual but by a committee. Nor could he admit that this system of seletion for higher posts acted as a discouragement to young officers. That system was carried, as students of history know, in the great armies of the first Napoleon to a pitch beyond anything ever seen before, and he never heard that the younger men in the armies of Napoleon were in any way discouraged, quite the contrary. With the exception of Sligo, there had been no complaints, so far as he was aware, against the administration of the police during the past year; and the special instances referred to had for the most part occurred during previous years. With regard to the case of District Inspector Bain, who volunteered for service in the Ashanti war, all that that 746 officer did was to organise a police force at the base of operations, and he could not see that there was any great harm in that, or even in policemen taking part in warlike operations themselves. District Inspector Bain did this service during his vacation, and he received no pay for it. He did not know what the hon. Member's motives might be, but he thought this inspector was an excellent officer, and it was only right he should express his opinion of him in this House, seeing the persecution, for he could call it nothing else, to which he had been subjected by the hon. Member. The hon. Member for East Clare went somewhat far when he ascribed the disturbances which had taken place at election meetings and elsewhere to the presence of policemen. He remembered some places not so long ago when two excited parties at meetings would have come to open blows, and there would no doubt have been a good many black eyes going, if it had been for the interference of these same police. It must not be supposed that because a reduction of police and a reduction of crime has been more or less simultaneous that the reduction of crime had followed as a consequence of the reduction of police; on the contrary, it was often quite the other way. He could assure the Committee that it would be his endeavour to diminish the number of police, and he was doing so to the utmost of his ability. He admitted that the expenditure on the police force was enormous. One explanation of the increase of expenditure under this head as compared with 1860 was the great increase in the pension fund, which was now added to the other expenditure on the police force, the Estimate for the present year for pensions being no less than £346,981. Moreover, wages had risen in almost every Department since the date mentioned, and if they were to get the best men for the constabulary of course they must have pay and comforts corresponding to the general rise in wages. He denied that in Ireland the police were the enemies of the people; on the contrary, he believed that in the main they were, as in England, the friends of the people, and especially when Ireland was quiet. No doubt crime in Ireland was very small just now. The number of agrarian outrages did not 747 amount to more than 200 or 300 in the course of the year, whereas if they multiplied those figures by 10 it would be more like the figures of 10 or 12 years ago. Unfortunately it was this spasmodic rise and fall in crime which made it so necessary to keep a police force which appeared to be so much larger than the necessities of the country during a period of peace and tranquillity such as they were happily at present enjoying. The longer they enjoyed that period of peace and tranquillity the more possible it would be to diminish year by year the numbers of the force. He did not think it had been made perfectly clear to the Committee that the expense of the Irish Constabulary was almost entirely borne by Imperial sources. While all must deprecate the immense expense of the Irish Constabulary, and while it was the duty of the Government to do everything to diminish the expense, yet it could not be regarded as an expense on Ireland alone. As to the question of distinguishing marks, in some of the towns the constabulary already had numbers; and there was something to be said for extending the provision to the country districts. But successive Chief Secretaries had been unable to see their way to the change; and he did not think that the evils of the present system was either so serious as had been represented, or were greater than the objections to the system proposed. The orders now given to the constabulary were to the effect that, in answer to any reasonable request, they should give their names.
§ MR. MACNEILL
Is a constable who has misconducted himself to be the judge of what is a reasonable request?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that complaints against constables should be sent to headquarters. The constable's district being known, inquiries would disclose his identity. He was perfectly ready to call the attention of officers again to the order as to constables supplying their names. To put a distinguishing mark on all constables would be difficult from an administrative point of view, and would be very expensive, as the men were constantly changing their districts. [Mr. MACNEILL: ''Pay it out of Irish funds."] He was informed, moreover, that such a regulation would be very unpopular in the force—[ironical 748 Nationalist cheers]—and not on any unreasonable ground. The men in country districts believed that if these distinguishing marks were put upon them they would be the objects of vindictive persecution. He was, therefore, unable to consent to the request for these distinguishing marks, but he should be ready to inquire into any case where a constable showed incivility and refused his name after a reasonable request to do so.
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said he had gathered from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that the Government had no intention of dealing with the growing scandal of the enormous over-policing of Ireland. It was all very well to attempt to minimise the great increase in the cost of the constabulary, but nothing could get over the contrast between the proportion of police to public in Ireland and in England. He had calculated that in Ireland there was on the average one policeman to every 350 of the population; in England, exclusive of London, there was only one policeman to every 1,200 of the population. In the whole world there was no country where the proportion of police to population was one-half of that in Ireland. The population had been decreasing and the number of police increasing for the last 50 years. In one sense the constabulary was an Imperial charge, but he repudiated the statement that the money did not come out of the pockets of the Irish taxpayers. The civil government in Ireland was the most expensive and the worst for the money in the whole world, and, moreover, the Irish people did not get that fair proportion of the expenditure of the taxes which they paid. As to the item of Appropriations in Aid, amounting to over £35,000, he presumed they consisted chiefly of the levies on counties and towns for extra police. In that case they ought to know what was the amount of the levy for each county. Everyone must believe that the constabulary ought to be numbered. No doubt the men themselves would not like it, but belonging, as they did, to a well-paid and well-pensioned force, they ought to accept the disagreeables of the service. It was most dangerous to relieve the individual policeman of the responsibility of his acts. In some of the small towns in Ireland there were 749 16 or 17 constables, who were constantly changed, and it was practically impossible to identify a policeman who had acted in excess of his duty. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the constabulary had orders to give their names when the demand was reasonable, but when a man had struck one of the public over the head with his baton he had no idea of giving his name. He himself had often asked for the names of constables, and had been refused with insults and contempt, and the officers when appealed to had thrown every obstacle in the way of identification. There seemed to be an understanding amongst the officers to protect their men on all occasions from unpleasant consequences. The Chief Secretary said that in large populous centres the constabulary were numbered. But when the men were sent to country districts the numbers were removed from their collars. Could any reasonable excuse be given why constables in country districts should be protected from identification? The right hon. Gentleman said the idea of being numbered was unpopular with the force. No doubt every policeman would be glad to get rid of his number, for if he misconducted himself or forgot himself at any time it would not be easy to identify him. But if there was any force in the argument that if the men were numbered they would be subjected to a system of persecution, it would apply with greatest force in the city of Belfast, where a constable who had made himself obnoxious to the Orangemen could be made to feel their resentment. The real truth was that in the country districts the constabulary had to engage in unpleasant political and eviction duties, which they did not at all relish, and consequently they were anxious to escape identification, and to prevent people who were injured by them from bringing home to them the consequences of their ill-doing. It was a monstrous thing that such a system should be allowed to exist. He was glad to learn that there was to be no alteration in the new procedure laid down by the late Government for increasing the number of officers promoted from the ranks. He cordially agreed with the statement of the Chief Secretary that when the country was quiet the force was not unpopular. He believed that if 750 there was good government in the country the force would become in a short time an extremely popular body. It was the unfortunate duties which the men had to discharge that made them unpopular. They were brought violently into collision with the people, and it was not in human nature that both sides should not be exasperated. He believed it was the opinion of every Chief Secretary who had been responsible for the government of Ireland during periods of disturbance that the force were inefficient for ordinary police purposes. Indeed, the force was not organised for the purposes of dealing with crime. It was trained with a view to putting down rebellious movements in Ireland, and no doubt for that purpose it had been a great weapon in the hands of successive Governments. But for dealing with crime, and especially with agrarian crime, there could not be a more ineffective force, considering its numbers and its cost. He attributed that to the organisation of the force and to its so-called gentlemen officers, who, with plenty of time on their hands, were anxious to stand well with the gentry, to visit their houses, and to take part in their amusements, and in whom, consequently, the people in times of social conflict could have no confidence. He admitted that the force was often extremely useful. [Laughter.] He was glad to find himself surrounded by a body of constables at a political meeting in the North of Ireland, when 200 Orangemen with revolvers in their pockets came out to murder him.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
Did not the police protect the Parnellites from the anti-Parnellites? [Laughter.]
§ MR. DILLON
They did, and they also protected me from the Orangemen. I do not pretend that I have not, on some occasions, been glad to see policemen about me. On occasions of that kind they are a useful force. [Laughter.] But that did not in the least degree affect his argument, that for the purposes of dealing with ordinary crime the constabulary were quite inefficient. He would, therefore, strongly urge upon the Government not to rest content with the reform made by the late Government, but to proceed further on the same path, and to change the constabulary from a military garrison to a police force.
§ * MR. PATRICK O'BRIEN (Kilkenny)
said he had no feeling against the constabulary as a body. He had felt their hands on his shoulder more than any other man in the House, or any politician outside it, and had received the three, six, or nine months' imprisonment which their masters told them to swear up to. It was the system under which the men were worked that he blamed. The Chief Secretary was so sweet that it was difficult to conduct this discussion in the old way. [Laughter.] He was rather sorry the right hon. Gentleman had not shown more fight, for then they could warm to their work more effectively. [Laughter.] In Ireland they had police about them everywhere. At every railway station two or three of them lounged about, doing nothing, but smoking and peering into the railway carriages, and chatting to any railway official they could get to talk with them. Then, when they were retired from the force as police pensioners, they went into the purchase of land, and that was the explanation very largely of what they very often heard from the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh about the high price that land fetched when it came into the market. Not alone police pensioners, but actually police who were in uniform were ready to go into competition with the educated youth of the country for any and every position, and especially those the landlords or magistrates had the giving of. On one occasion, in the town of Killaloe, the head constable on duty became the candidate for the position of Clerk of the Petty Sessions, and was elected, though it was only fair to add that that arrangement was reversed. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken in what he had said as to the numbering of the police. He thought they were only numbered in the cities of Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Belfast, and Derry. He did not think they were numbered in Sligo or Galway. If the numbers were on all the police, they could be identified, but the precaution was taken that the people should not have it in their power to identify them. He was more than once roughly handled by the police, and still bore on his cranium the hallmark of their friendship. He had occasion to complain of an officer, and was asked if he could identify the man. 752 He could not possibly do so, and he got no assistance to enable him to do so; but, if the police had been numbered, be would certainly have been able to identify him. He wanted to ask the Chief Secretary if he would kindly tell them how the police were distributed in Ireland? He took from Thom's Directory the fact that the County of Antrim, with a population of 428, 128, had a police force of only 269, or 12 per 10,000 of the population; that the County of Kilkenny, with a population of 87,161, had a police of 253, or 33 per 10,000 of the population, while the County of Meath, decidedly one of the most orderly counties in Ireland, with a population of 76,687, had a police force of 37 per 10,000 of the population. He should like to know what they were doing there. Some time ago, when he suggested to the late Chief Secretary that the police, or at least some portion of them, might be usefully employed if they were trained in fire brigade duties, he was told that the constabulary were so constituted that they could not be put to that work. Surely the constitution could be altered so as to permit of it being done. At present they were absolutely useless for this purpose and much property and sometimes life was lost in consequence. As a police they were utterly useless for ordinary police work. If people lost any property in Ireland they might as well appeal to the man in the moon as go to the police barracks. They knew nothing about it. What they wanted was a politician whom they could chase and run to earth and get a stripe for locking him up.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said the free quota was re-distributed every three years by Act of Parliament. The total number of the free quota all over Ireland amounted to 10,000, and the basis of re-distribution was area and population.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
said they had had fair experience of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Whenever there was a row on the first thing they did was to put on their short capes and fasten them over their numbers in order effectually to prevent identification. [Laughter.] The constabulary in Ireland were the pets of every Government. When a constable was in a district he did not like, every facility 753 was given to him to exchange it. He wished to know from the Secretary why so few men were raised from the ranks of the Royal Irish Constabulary to district inspectorships? It was complained that so many men were imported who had served (not with distinction) in the English police, and after a time were made district inspectors; and not only that but got the best billets. Men who in England would be called commissioners and sub-commissioners, in Ireland were called "officers." They tried to dress like members of the Rifle Brigade, and swaggered about from one racecourse or landlord's house to another. Was it not ridiculous that, while only £500,000 was asked for the policing of England and Wales, £1,500,000 was asked for in respect of Ireland? Perhaps the Chief Secretary had never seen a police patrol in Ireland. Two men went out on patrol. They usually turned a corner and they found a nice little bank. If the day was wet they chose an overhanging bank; if fine, a nice, soft, mossy bank, and there they lay and smoked their pipes until their time was up. [Laughter.] He had often attended these men in their illnesses, and he found they suffered chiefly from over-smoking and drinking bad porter. [Renewed laughter.] There was no pocket-picking or petty shop-lifting in Ireland. They only found those things in civilised countries like England. [Laughter.] Mr. Hill, of the Irish Times, once attended a meeting at Ennis wearing a tall silk hat. A constable smashed it in with a blow from his baton. "Why did you do that?" said Mr. Hill, "I am a member of the Press." "Oh," replied the constable "I thought you were an Irish Member. [Loud laughter.] Last autumn he was at Mill Street, and he dined with the Inspector, who confessed to him that the district was notoriously over-policed; and he further said that insult, gratuitous or otherwise, and the infliction of injury, were the best recommendations to promotion. We talked about Russian rule in Poland and elsewhere; but the Russian way of dealing with Finland, and perhaps also with Poland, was better than the English way of dealing with Ireland through the constabulary; in the long run it came to the same thing, and the Chief Secretary was afraid to reduce the numbers of the 754 Irish constabulary, to touch the engine the English Government had erected to terrorise the Irish people.
§ MR. DENIS KILBRIDE (Galway, N.)
said the Chief Secretary had admitted that tranquillity prevailed in Ireland, and had done during the administration of his predecessor; but still he met with a direct negative the appeal made to him to reduce the numbers of the Irish constabulary. This was a Government which promised to kill Home Rule by kindness, to legislate for all Irish wants and grievances, and to convince Ireland that there was no necessity for an Irish Parliament in Dublin. It struck him that the Chief Secretary was not hopeful in the results of the policy of the Government, and that he anticipated, before the end of his regime, there would be a necessity for using the full number of the constabulary. It augured ill for the Unionist Government that the right hon. Gentleman was not able to reduce the number of the constabulary, although he admitted that, so far as ordinary crime was concerned, Ireland was the most peaceful country in Europe, while agrarian outrage was at the lowest point. The constabulary was not a police force in the strict sense of the word; it was a semi-military force, like the Cape Mounted Rifles. The fact that it was a semi-military force went against the men in their work as a police force. It seemed to be impossible to unite in the same person the military man and the policeman. In no country had it been found practicable to train men to be efficient in the two capacities. In the town of Lurgan, larcenies, robberies and burglaries went on for three years without anyone being arrested, until the inhabitants formed a Vigilance Committee. The explanation probably was that the putting down of crime did not assist a policeman's promotion. It had long been notorious that it was not the qualities a man displayed as a policeman that led to his promotion, but it was his activity in the suppression of popular feeling, of popular organisation, and of popular politicians.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said he could assure the hon. Member that, so far from it being a notorious fact, it was one for which there was no foundation. [Cries of "We believe it."]
§ MR. KILBRIDE
continued that it would take the right hon. Gentleman all his time to the end of his official career to persuade the Irish people that it was not so. He made no charge against the right hon. Gentleman personally, but he made a charge against the system. The man who made himself most objectionable to the popular voice in Ireland, who was most active against Land Leaguers, National Leaguers, and National politicians—that was the man who was promoted in Ireland. He knew exemplary, able and efficient policemen who failed to obtain promotion. He knew a most efficient policeman, stationed in the county of Galway, who did not promote rows, but who, by his attitude towards the people, preserved the peace among them. He was popular with everybody, he was popular with the Nationalists, and he was popular with those who did not approve of Home Rule. That police officer, however, remained unpromoted for years and years, and he must do the right hon. Gentleman the present Chief Secretary the justice of saying that it was only when the right hon. Gentleman came into office that this police officer obtained his well-merited promotion. There had been several cases of housebreaking in several towns in Ireland, but there had not been a single instance where the offenders had been brought to justice and convicted in connection with those outrages. What was the reason why the police had not exerted themselves in the matter? It was because they found that acting in the interests of the landowners was a safer road to promotion than that of doing their ordinary duty and protecting the property of the public irrespective of either landlords or Nationalists. The police knew that the more hostile they showed themselves to popular organisation and to Nationalism the more likely they were to be promoted. These were facts that he desired to bring under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for North East Cork had called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the enormous increase there had been during recent years in the cost to the country of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Some years ago it amounted to 4s. 6d. per head of the population, but now it amounted to 6s. l0d. per head. During that time the House had been 756 engaged in passing Measures for the prevention of crime in Ireland and for the improvement of the Land Laws in that country, but they had done so without taking the advice of the Irish representatives, and the consequence was that they had to increase the force of the Irish constabulary. The House had been told that those Measures were not satisfactory to the Irish people, and the result was that in about five or six years after the passing of those Measures the people became discontented, and Parliament was asked to pass fresh Coercion Acts. For the same reason they had to increase the pay and the emoluments of the Royal Irish Constabulary in order to induce them to carry out their instructions. The men of the Royal Irish Constabulary received very high pay, and at the end of 25 years' service they were entitled to retire upon full pensions. It was only this high rate of pay that induced Irishmen to go into the force. He was not going to say a word against the Royal Irish Constabulary because he knew that it contained many excellent men, but he was aware that in the times of trouble in Ireland, notwithstanding the high pay and prospect of pension, several men left the force and went over to the United States of America because they could not bring themselves to act against their countrymen. Those were men of intelligence, honesty and straightforwardness.
§ MR. G. MURNAGHAN (Tyrone, Mid)
said that he also desired to refer to the case of the Royal Irish Constabulary and to the burden they occasioned to the country.
* THE CHAIRMAN
said that the Vote had now been under discussion for something like four hours and of course it was impossible altogether to avoid the repetition of the same arguments, but nevertheless he must point out to the hon. Gentleman that he must not repeat observations which had just been made by other hon. Members.
§ MR. MURNAGHAN
said that as far as he could he would avoid doing so. He, however, desired to point out that, in consequence of the depression that prevailed over Ireland at the present time, it was imperative that the cost of the constabulary force should be decreased, and that at the same time instructions should be given to the members of the force that they should treat 757 the farmers and the landowners with equal courtesy.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
said he was called upon as a Member of the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland to vote with other Members of the United Parliament certain sums of money for the expenses incurred for the maintenance of the Royal Irish Constabulary; and before he gave his vote for or against these large sums of money he appealed to the Chief Secretary not to allow the allegations that had been made against the Irish Constabulary to go by unchallenged, and above all, without a promise to investigate the truth or otherwise of those allegations. ["Hear, hear!"] If there was one feature more than another which distinguished the English-speaking people, it was the desire to have the functions of the judicial system carried out against the rich and against the poor without fear and without favour; and when he heard Irish Members getting up on his side of the House and stating, without contradiction from Irish Members on the other side of the House, that the Royal Irish Constabulary was too numerous, both for its military and police duties, and was, in a word, a pretorian guard for property in Ireland, and not a protection for the people, that was too strong a statement, in the year 1896, for even a Unionist Chief Secretary to pass by; especially when he had always understood that the strongest argument against Home Rule on the opposite side of the House was that separate Government for Ireland was not wanted, but uniformity and equality of treatment of the forms of Government and administration to those which prevailed in England. If the Unionists wanted that, they would not allow it to be stated that the Royal Irish Constabulary were smoking their pipes round the corner in a country lane instead of patrolling their districts. When he was told by a responsible Member of Parliament that Irish police constables attached more importance to the size of the meshes of a net, and looked after poachers rather than burglars, the Chief Secretary ought to say, "If these statements are true I will inquire into them, and even if they are only partially true, such a system ought to be stopped as 758 soon as possible." If an English constable was guilty of a hundredth part of the cruelty an hon. Member below him attributed to one Irish constable, he could only say, having some knowledge of the relations of the community of London to the police, that constable would have his hair lifted five minutes afterwards; and if that did not happen, the Commissioner of Police would be approached and London would dismiss that man. What was wanted was that the Royal Irish Constabulary should be made less of a military force and more of a police force. He had no complaint to make against the force. He had only been in Ireland once, but that visit was sufficient to convince him, first, that the statement that the constabulary were a magnificent body of men physically was proved up to the hilt; and, secondly, that they were too numerous for their police duties, and were being more and more "militarised." The fact that the cost of the force during the last 30 years had risen from 2s. 4d. per head of the population to 6s. l0d. was a proof that it was too numerous for its duties, and that the military character of the force was too much dwelt upon. He rose to urge the Chief Secretary to be that night a Conservative in fact as well as in spirit, and to disarm the criticism of hon. Members from Ireland by proving to them that he was willing to equalise, as far as possible, the conditions of police administration in England and in Ireland. In no way could he do that more effectively than by insisting that in rural as well as in town districts in Ireland the Royal Irish Constabulary should be as easily identified as were the constables in the streets of London. There was no reason why, for the sake of saving a trifling cost, these allegations of brutality and preferential treatment against the Irish constabulary should be allowed to pass. All through the Empire the police force was disproportionately large. What the country spent on education ought to be saved in the police rate. It was no good for Unionists to boast on the platform that they were trying to pacify Ireland by bringing in Land Bills. If they wanted the country to believe that they were trying to treat Ireland justly and fairly, let them adopt the suggestion of the Irish Members and 759 make the Irish policeman as easily identified as the London policeman. Let them promise the Irish Members what they had a right to claim. As one who knew something of the police and the civic side of administration, he backed them up in their claim. The Government could not allow it to go forth to the world, first, that Ireland was over-policed, and, secondly, that the Irish police were partial and brutal.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that any specific complaint as to the conduct of the police would be carefully inquired into. As far as he knew, no such complaint had been made during his tenure of office. If it was alleged that the police were guilty of brutality, and that they showed partiality as between one class and another, let the hon. Members who made the allegations bring forward specific instances. The hon. Member for Battersea ought to know full well what was the value of vague accusations. If he, as Chief Secretary, were to spend his time in answering accusations of that kind, he would be on his feet for the whole of the evening.
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN, after the usual interval,
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
called attention to the practice amongst the constabulary force of making claims for compensation for personal injuries, which were levied on the ratepayers of the district. The state of the law on the subject was entirely different to that which prevailed in other parts of the United Kingdom.
§ MR. A. LAFONE (Southwark, Bermondsey)
said the hon. Member for Mid Cork entered the House for the express purpose of calling attention to the fact that 40 Members were not present. He considered that an abuse of the powers of the House.
§ A quorum having been formed,
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
(continuing) went on to say that the practice he complained of led sometimes to a preposterous state of things. About five 760 years ago, two militiamen, while drinking in a public-house in the neighbourhood of Kinsale, became disorderly, and one of the police who were called in got his eye put out, and forthwith the policeman came before the Cork Grand Jury and made a claim as a peace officer for personal injuries sustained in bringing an offender to justice. He was awarded £1,000, to be levied, not on the Imperial Parliament, but on the unfortunate ratepayers, who had nothing on earth to do with the offence. That, no doubt, was an extreme case, but not an uncommon one. At the last election serious riots occurred in the county of Norfolk, and the defeated candidate got some rather rough usage, and quite possibly some police officer might have sustained personal injuries. But had any police officer in England any right to come before the County Council and claim to have compensation levied on the district on account of such injuries? No. They were accepted as one of the risks of the service, and gave the constable no title to compensation at the expense of the ratepayers. In the same way, he submitted that the police authorities in Ireland should make it a condition of entry into the force that claims of this kind should not be levied on the district. Large sums were voted for the pensions of the constabulary; and the men should be compelled to choose between claims of this kind on the ratepayers and the prospect of a pension. At present they had both, except in the City of Belfast, where the most serious riots had occurred within the past 10 years, and where, by a private Act, operation of the old Statute enabling the claims to be made was suspended. The Chief Secretary could easily stop the multiplication of these claims, which had never been heard of until 10 years ago. Allusion had been made to the military character of the Irish police force; and he wished to call attention to the preposterous state of the Irish police code as far as it related to disciplinary matters. When an Irish policeman committed an offence against discipline, he was practically tried by court-martial. Counsel and solicitors were employed, and the whole machinery of a criminal trial was solemnly set up at great expense. In similar cases in England 761 the offence would be dealt with in a short interview between the offender and his superior officer. Within the last month the newspapers in Cork had been filled for 11 days, to the extent of some three columns a day, with the report of a police investigation of this kind. The policeman was solemnly indicted, and a solicitor was engaged for him, all to settle the question whether he was or was not keeping a greyhound. Of course there might be subsidiary points arising, but that was the main question at issue. Under the police code, however, a policeman who was charged with a breach of discipline could not give evidence, and could not be interrogated. It was a marvel that this barrack system had been tolerated so long. It was military from first to last. The men were paraded first thing in the morning, again when they went on duty, and when they came off duty. During the late Government he had asked a question with a view to ascertain whether an attempt could not be made to obtain the clothing of the Irish police from Irish manufacturers. He had got a favourable reply from the late Chief Secretary, and he desired to know to what extent the present Administration had found themselves able to follow up that decision. It would greatly benefit the struggling woollen manufacturers of Ireland if the large orders for constabulary clothing were given to Irish firms. He would also ask the right hon. Gentleman to see that, when the constabulary authorities were advertising for contracts for woollen goods for the force, the advertisements were inserted in the newspapers of Cork, which was the centre of the Irish woollen trade.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said that there could not be found in any civilised country a more abominable scandal than the constabulary system of Ireland. That unfortunate country was dependent upon the ruined industry of agriculture, and yet it was saddled with a police force which the Chief Secretary admitted to be the most expensive and extravagant institution that could possibly be thrust upon any country.
§ MR. LOUGH
said the right hon. Gentleman had made but a perfunctory defence of the system. He had not used 762 exactly the language he had attributed to him. He wished the right hon. Gentleman had done so, for he would then have shown himself to be a perfect Chief Secretary. [Laughter.] He did not rank the Chief Secretary amongst the tyrants of Ireland. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was the head tyrant; the second was his amiable friend the Secretary to the Treasury—[laughter]—and the third was the Attorney General for Ireland. His only reflection on the Chief Secretary was that he did not stand up boldly for the rights and liberties of the country whose interests he was supposed to represent in the House. It might be thought that the subject of the constabulary had been fully discussed. Why only the outskirts of it had been touched upon. [Laughter.] In 1836 the cost of the force per head of the population was 10d.; in 1866 it was 2s. 6d.; in 1896 it was 6s. 6d. There was no other House in the world but this that would not have rectified that monstrous state of things. The force was 7,000 strong in 1836; 11,000 in 1866; 18,000 in 1896—including in each case the pensioners. The population had gone down during those years from eight millions to four millions. But what was more important, crime had gone down. Sixty years ago there were disturbances, more or less, in Ireland, and yet 7,000 police had been found quite sufficient. But ever since Ireland had been improving. Once they extended the Ballot Act to Ireland the police became useless, and after the Franchise Act of 1884 they were not wanted at all. Yet the more crime had decreased the greater had the police force become. The reason was that the police were not engaged for repressing crime. They had other duties to do. His hon. Friends from Ireland had pointed out that the police were employed at evictions and at gathering exorbitant rents for the landlords. But he had another point. He thought the conduct of the Government in collecting its taxes was almost as infamous as the exorbitant rents collected in Ireland. He was glad to say that the highest officials who had inquired into this matter had admitted that the taxes were too high, but they said the expense of government was too high also. The expense of government was mainly police. A million might be saved 763 in this police Vote alone, and yet they would not promise the slightest economy. In a little village in Ireland of 600 inhabitants with which he was acquainted there were 10 policemen costing £100 a year each, and the villagers had to pay for that.
§ MR. LOUGH
said the village did pay for them, and the men had next to nothing to do, and engaged in fishing and other sports to pass away the time. He did not sympathise with some of the criticism upon the police; he thought they were fine fellows, who, considering the infamous system under which they lived, discharged their duties adequately. In England, Wales, or Scotland one policeman would look after two such villages. There were some places in Ireland where a village had disappeared with the exception of one house, and that was a police barrack containing five policemen.
§ MR. LOUGH
said he would not neglect that point. In these barracks the windows were barred, and he pointed out that this was now quite unnecessary. He urged the right hon. Gentleman to reduce the number of men in such a police barrack from five to three or two. These five men had nothing to do, as the country was perfectly peaceful. The 10 police in the village he had referred to cost £1,000 a year, whereas not more than £100 was spent per annum in the same village for education. In the counties of Fermanagh, Monaghan and Cavan 50 years ago the population was 600,000; to-day it was 274,000. Fifty years ago every person paid 17s. 4d. of taxation; to-day they paid £2 10s. a head. Fifty years ago the Government used to wring out of that district about £500,000; to-day it was £700,000, although the population had diminished by more than one-half. [Nationalist cheers.] The police constables in Ireland were pensioned off at 45 years of age, in England at 65; they received in Ireland pensions ranging from £48 to £90 a year, and the amount of these pensions was as much as the Scotch police cost altogether. [Nationalist cheers.] The worst year for 764 Ireland since the days of the Union was 1895, and the next worst year would be 1896, for the Government was starving out the people, while the Votes were increasing. Those men who were pensioned off at the age of 45 did not die, they entered civil employments. He had heard that some bought farms, and it was a monstrous thing that, where the population was decreasing at the rate of 40,000 a year, where the greatest economical crisis in Europe existed, the right hon. Gentleman should turn out several thousand men in the prime of life, with good salaries, to compete with the people for every bit of bread in the district. Could not the pension system be reconsidered? The right hon. Gentleman did not turn a hair when he defended all these anomalies. The whole increase of expense was in the pension system. There were some small economies, he was glad to see, but owing to the increase of the pensions there was a total increase of £8,000. This was purely a departmental matter, and he hoped that something would be done to ameliorate it. And he must caution the right hon. Gentleman, for he was in the midst of such a devil's dance in the Irish Government, that he would find it difficult to do any good whatever, or to turn aside from the path of wickedness which his predecessors pursued. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to go with him to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and get £3,000,000 struck off the taxation of Ireland, but if that was done without giving a reduction of the expenditure, the poor people would get no benefit. It was the most frightful abuse in the world, and unless this was put right, the unfortunate people would be in rather a worse state than they were now. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ Question put, "That a sum not exceeding £281,992 be granted for the said service.''
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 70; Noes, 156.—(Division List, No. 227.)
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that, in the first place, the hon. Member for Cork raised the question of claims for compensation for personal injury. He understood the hon. Gentleman did not claim that the law on the subject should be altered, but that the Government in engaging the services of men as policemen should make it a condition of their engagement that they should waive all rights they might have under the Act of Parliament. He did not think that would be a very desirable method of procedure as long as the Act was on the Statute-book. As to the clothing of the constabulary, he would be very glad, if it were possible, that all the clothing should be provided by Irish manufacturers. As an experiment, a certain portion of the orders had been reserved for Irish firms. If the tenders were found satisfactory, it was very likely the Government would be able to see their way to take further steps in the same direction. As regarded advertisements, if any injury had been done to the manufacturers of Cork by the fact that advertisements had not been put in the Cork papers, he would take care that the matter was remedied in future. The hon. Member for Islington complained of the expense of the police force—"abominable scandal" was the term he used. It was rather remarkable that, if the case was so strong as was represented, the hon. Gentleman did not raise it when his friends were in power. ["There was the Home Rule Bill."] That was no reason for not raising the question on the Estimates. The hon. Gentleman told the Committee that the Ballot Act had diminished crime, and that the Suffrage Act of 1885 had done a great deal to render the police unnecessary. The truth was that there was an immense amount of crime from the year 1879 to 1889. Crime had since been very largely reduced; indeed, it had now reached a point as low as any at which it had been during this century. But the real question was, whether they were to measure their police requirements by the condition of the country at the moment crime was at its minimum, or whether they were to consider what the crime had been in the past. It had been the effort of every Government to reduce the number and the expense of the police, both of which were, undoubtedly, 766 very high—to reduce them as far as might be consistent with the interests of the public service. He did not think it would be possible to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member and reduce the number of police in every barony throughout Ireland to the extent he had indicated. He could assure the hon. Member that the Government had no desire to keep the police at a higher number than was necessary, and in every place where it became unnecessary to retain the police, their numbers there would be reduced, or they would be altogether removed. The expenditure on the police was an Imperial expenditure, and surely the hon. Gentleman was wrong in his statements as to the police being paid for in full measure by the districts to which they were allocated. The hon. Member called attention to a case in which he said a village of 600 inhabitants had to pay for 10 policemen sent there at a great cost, but he distinctly challenged the accuracy of that statement. The hon. Member had drawn attention to many points which really belonged to a much larger question than this Vote—namely, the question of the financial relations between England and Ireland generally—and it was not desirable, therefore, that he should enter into them, even if he were in order in doing so. But, as regarded the immediate facts of the situation, he could promise the Committee that, as far as it was possible to reduce the police, the force should be reduced.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
said that in the course of his remarks he put a specific question to the right hon. Gentleman which he had overlooked. He referred to the large number of extra police in the county Clare. Taxation, equal to upwards of £6,000 a year, was imposed on the county by the presence of those extra policemen, and he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could not find it possible to reduce the number, and thus relieve the ratepayers of at least a portion of the heavy cost now resting upon them. A short time ago the county was relieved of 25 of the extra police through the representations he made, and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would make inquiries into the matter, and see whether he could not follow out that policy, and still further reduce the number?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said he could not answer the question off-hand, but he would promise that the matter should be looked into in regard to county Clare as well as elsewhere, and that if any reduction of the police was possible it should be made.
§ MR. PATRICK O'BRIEN
asked the Chief Secretary to give an assurance that no policeman in Ireland should be allowed to become a candidate for any local post while still serving as policeman. In fairness to other candidates, if a policeman wished to become a candidate, he should resign from the force and take his chance.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said that, prima facie, it appeared to him that it would be a hard measure to say that a man, while a policeman, should not be competent to apply for any other situation if he wished to do so.
§ Vote agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £42,258, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day if March, 1897, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Irish Land Commission.
§ MR. FLYNN
wished to draw attention to a matter which was of importance at the present time, and which might become of even greater importance in the future. It was a matter of common observation in Ireland that the agricultural statistics of the country were based on a wrong principle. He did not suppose that any Irish Member would object to the payment of £1,000, or even double that amount, for the salaries if the system on which these statistics were drawn up was a fair one, or based upon anything like a logical premiss. The whole of the Returns that were furnished to the Irish public were wrong, and wrong in one direction—that of placing an exaggerated value upon Irish produce. How that was arrived at was, perhaps, a matter that the Land Commission could better explain than they could. All they could do was to point out the false Returns, and the unfortunate bearing they had on the whole value of land in Ireland. Without 768 being able to put his finger on each and every particular item, this much he could claim—that, acting on information they received in the best-informed quarters in Ireland, with hardly one exception, all these Returns, relating to corn, wheat, barley and oats, butter, and other items of agricultural produce, were exaggerated and overestimated, and gave a false value to the land. It was quite conceivable that those employed in the preparation of these statistics did not bring to bear the commercial, the mercantile mind it was necessary to have. Take the price of butter. Taking the Cork market returns, which were the lowest returns obtainable, the average price of butter for 112 lbs. was overestimated by the Inland Revenue Officers by at least 20 to 25 per cent. That was a very serious matter, though it was quite conceivable that these men, not being very well versed in agricultural affairs, might fall into a blunder of the kind quite innocently by proceeding with their calculation on quite a wrong basis. But when the figures were placed before the Commissioners they would attach considerable importance to them, and the future rents, 15 years to come, would be based on those returns. There was another item which he had in his recollection. When this question was raised last year, the hon. and gallant Member for East Cork stated that the average price of oats was 4s. a cwt. The statement was received with incredulity, but a week later the price was still lower, at from 3s. 8d. to 3s. 9d.; and, yet, in the Returns made to the Land Commission the price was placed much higher than that. Then, again, the conclusion might have been arrived at in a perfectly innocent fashion, but the result was none the less, perhaps more, misleading. The same thing had happened in regard to barley as to oats, but in a more aggravated form. Last year the fine weather came at the wrong time for barley. Most of the barley was brought to market in a more or less damaged condition. The bulk of the Irish-grown barley harvested in Munster and the county of Cork, with which he was more particularly acquainted, was rejected by the brewers as unsuitable for their purpose, and had to be sent to the distillers, and in not a few cases a large 769 proportion of the barley was unsold, and given by the farmers to their horses and cattle. But the Commissioners had practically accepted the highest average, as if all the barley had been sold to the brewers at high prices, taking no account of the fact that the vast bulk of last year's barley was badly harvested, and fetched very poor prices. There was always more rain in Ireland than in the greater portion of Great Britain. He submitted that the whole system of appointment of Inland Revenue Officers required investigation. What method was pursued in regard to their investigations? Did they get instructions from the Land Commission, if so, what were they? By those who followed the fluctuations of the land question in Ireland, much value was attached to the system under which the figures were collected. There was an extraordinary difference between the ordinary average price which the farmer bringing his produce to market obtained, and the price according to the monthly returns of the Land Commission. He also asked what system was adopted by the Judicial Commissioners; when they appointed the Assistant Commissioners? The unhappy experience of tenant farmers in Ireland with regard to the working of the land legislation was that so much depended on its administration, and it was believed that had the administration of the Act of 1881 been carried out by fair-minded and impartial men, many of the difficulties that had beset English Governments since would never have arisen, and the land question would not be in the sharply acute form it was. Would it not be advisable that the right bodies should at least be invited to send recommendations to a competent and impartial man—to the Chief Commissioner or the Lord Lieutenant—so that when appointments had to be made there should be something more than backstairs influence, either of the Castle or of the Land Commission itself, that men of merit should be appointed because of their knowledge and of their desire to act fairly, and that all the influence exerted should not come from persons of one class exclusively?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said that information had been asked for as to these agricultural statistics. Perhaps he could give more than was likely to come from 770 the Treasury Bench. A footnote to the line "Superintendent Agricultural Branch" showed that he got £800 as a minimum, and after five years was to have £1,000 a year, less £45 odd which he received as a retired sub-lieutenant of the Royal Navy. [Laughter.] Then Mr. Portal-Portal was born Macartney, and he was a brother of an Under Secretary in the Government, who was a member of the minority of the Commission on the Lands Acts Committee of 1884. Here you have the whole thing in a nutshell. Did anyone want any explanation after that? All Ireland was a joke; all Ireland was an English "bull" in the way it was being managed. When we wanted to know all about the price of cattle in Ireland, we got a retired sub-lieutenant of the Royal Navy to superintend the business. What was the further explanation? Mr. Portal-Portal was engaged to Miss Wrench, a late Sub-Commissioner, and now he would soon have £1,000 a year as son-in-law of a late Commissioner, and as brother under another name of a Member of Her Majesty's Government. It was by this gentleman that Irish farmers were to have their prices fixed for the next 30 years. This was an illustration of the system of jobbery that prevailed in Ireland. He had always contended that the appointment was utterly illegal. The Agricultural Department was started by Mr. Wrench himself, it was never heard of in Judge O'Hagan's time. The hon. Member read Clause 45 of the Act, and contended that under it there was no power to appoint a superintendent of an Agricultural Branch, and that the creation of the office was a gross job, to present Mr. Portal-Portal to draw the salary. He then urged that the farmers' market in Ireland was practically a bankrupt market. The moment that an Irish farmer cut his hay, he was forced to sell it. A man in his position could not wait for a month, and choose his own market. The consequence was that he obtained the lowest price for his produce. On the other hand the gentleman could wait, and consequently obtained the top price for his hay. In these circumstances, to say that hay or other agricultural produce was fetching a high price was entirely misleading. The hon. and gallant Member for Armagh, in proof of 771 the prosperity of Ireland at the present time, had made use of a remarkable argument. The hon. and gallant Member had said that the fact that there were in Ireland this year so many more cattle, and so many more sheep, pigs and poultry, was an evidence of her prosperity. He assumed that when the hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke of the prosperity of Ireland he meant to refer to the prosperity of the landlords, because no one ever thought of referring to the prosperity of the tenants. But was the fact that there were more cattle and other agricultural animals in Ireland at the present time a proof of prosperity? What would a retail tradesman in a town think if his stock were to accumulate upon his hands? Why, he would know that it meant his ruin. It must be borne in mind that cattle took a considerable time to mature, and the reason why animals accumulated in Ireland was because the Irish farmers were driven out of the market by the importation of cattle from America and Canada. It was not because Irish farmers found it impossible to sell their produce at a fair price that they were necessarily in a prosperous condition. How were these so-called statistics which were to show the prosperity of Ireland got up? They were sent about the country in beautifully-printed circulars in the hope that they would find their way into the popular newspapers as a proof of how well the country was doing. Why did not the Government get the tenant-farmers to prepare these statistics? He wanted to know what business the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had to communicate with the members of the Land Commission upon this subject? In his view, all such communications ought to be public communications. The right hon. Gentleman did not communicate with the other Judges of the land with reference to the state of crime in Ireland or with respect to the sentences which they imposed. The fact was that the right hon. Gentleman had struck a fatal blow at the integrity of the Land Commission by entering into these communications with them.
* THE CHAIRMAN
said that the hon. Gentleman was out of order in referring to this matter on that occasion. If he desired to bring the subject forward, he should do so when the Vote for the 772 Salary of the Chief Secretary was under discussion.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said that he was defending the Land Commission. The Sub-Commissioners had honestly refused to act upon the broad hint which the right hon. Gentleman had given them. The hon. Gentleman was reported as having advised the farmers for the present not to have resort to the Sub-Commissioners.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. T. W. RUSSELL,) Tyrone, S.
said he advised the farmers in his constituency, who might have a question of improvements to raise, not to go into Court until the Bill was passed; but that when no question of improvements was involved there was no advantage in delaying to go into Court.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said he accepted the correction of the hon. Gentleman. At any rate, the Sub-Commissioners had very fairly and honourably refused to carry out the policy outlined to them by the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman. When the position in which these gentlemen were placed, at the beck and call of the Land Commission, was considered, it was a courageous act on their part. They were paid a very moderate sum, and they were liable, not to dismissal, but to be removed from one part of the country to the other, and sometimes to the most inconvenient parts; and they had with unanimity trampled on the recommendation of the right hon. Gentleman and Mr. Justice Bewley that they should postpone tenants' applications until the Land Bill was passed. In taking that course, they not only showed judicial wisdom, but a knowledge of Parliamentary affairs greater than that of Her Majesty's Government. They were now in the month of June, and there was about as much chance of the Land Bill being passed as of the Old Age Pensions Bill being passed. The only other remark he wished to make was that he would like some statement from the Government as to whether they were making any effort to make matters run more smoothly on the Land Commission in regard to their relations with the Landed Estates Court. It was really very difficult to criticise the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the fact that he had cast on his shoulders a number of 773 duties which in the case of England were borne by some 30 or 40 officials, and it was almost impossible for him to grapple with every situation. The right hon. Gentleman must have heard of the frequent complaints made by tenants who could not induce the Land Commission officers to make bids in the Landed Estates Court, because the Court would not allot the land in the way that the Land Commissioners desired. The whole red-tape action of the Land Commission seemed to be directed to prevent the smooth working of the Purchase Acts so far as the Landed Estates Court was concerned. In the Landed Estates Court itself there was every inclination to facilitate purchase by tenants, and he held that it was the rules of the Land Commission that ought to yield to the rules of the Landed Estates Court, as the action of that Court was strictly limited by statute. The clause on this subject in the Irish Land Bill was most unwisely opposed by the landlord interest, and he feared that there was no chance of its passing. He suggested, therefore, that the Chief Secretary should give the Land Commission a hint that some alterations in their rules and procedure ought to be made.
§ MR. DILLON
observed that when Irish Nationalist Members complained of the administration of the Land Acts they were always met by an assurance that the Land Court was the most impartial tribunal ever set up. But quite recently, at Belfast, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church had passed a resolution on this subject declaring that the intentions of the Land Acts of 1881 and 1887 had been defeated by maladministration, and through the hostility towards the tenants of the tribunals set up to administer the Acts. The vast majority of the members of the General Assembly were Unionists, and he wondered whether the right hon. Gentleman would give to their complaint the same stereotyped answer that was always given to Irish Members. With reference to the present constitution of the Land Courts and the administration of the Acts, he quoted the well-known and frequently-quoted letter of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who then sat as an independent Member of the House, and who expressed his opinions freely in The Times. In this letter, 774 published in The Times on December 19, 1894, in reply to a letter from the Duke of Argyll, he said, speaking of the constitution of the Land Commission, that to the Irish tenant Mr. Wrench was simply a land agent, and that Mr. Fitzgerald acted as one of the assistant legal Commissioners. His appointment to the Chief Commissionership was received in Ulster with dismay, and the fact that the Irish landlords, aided by the evil rule of high-placed lawyers who infested Dublin Castle, succeeded in capturing the tenant's seat on the Commission, was not and would not be forgotten in Ulster. The hon. Member next drew attention to the evidence given by Mr. Fitzgerald before the Land Acts Commission as to the general administration of the Land Commission. He put a question to Mr. Justice Fitzgerald as to whether, when the Court valuer found that large improvements made by the tenant were brought under his notice, it was the practice of the Court to make an allowance in respect of those improvements, and the answer was "No." The learned Judge said that some valuers took notice of such improvements and others did not, and he thought on improvements ought to be taken account of that were not admitted in the Court below. That was only one of many points which illustrated the maladministration in the Land Courts in Dublin. He asked the Chief Secretary whether, when he stated that he had consulted the Land Commission on any point, he meant that he had consulted the Commission as a body, or only Mr. Justice Bewley, or the secretary?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that when he asked a question of the Land Commission it was the secretary who answered it; how the secretary ascertained the opinion of the Commission he had no means of knowing.
§ MR. DILLON
said the answer of the Chief Secretary was more courteous than he had expected, and he was exceedingly obliged; but he would urge on the Chief Secretary to ascertain how the secretary of the Commission ascertained the opinion of that body, because the House should have knowledge whether or not every Member had been consulted. If a proper system were observed in the Land Purchase Department of the Land 775 Commission, it would be quite unnecessary for the Government to retain anything in the nature of a guarantee deposit. The valuers ought to be instructed to value the tenant's interest in the holding separately from the landlord's. The tenant's interest, which now amounted to at least 50 per cent. of the total value of the holding, would afford an ample margin of security to the State. But in innumerable cases the valuers had simply valued the holdings as they stood; and if the sum to be advanced was about the total value of the holding, they required a reduction in the price.
§ * SIR JOHN COLOMB (Yarmouth)
said that the House was constantly told that nothing had been done by Parliament for the Irish tenant; so that it was interesting to learn now that his interest in the holding had risen to 50 per cent. of the whole value by reason of the intervention of Parliament. He thought that the sooner the acts and proceedings of the Land Commission were taken out of the review of the House, and the Sub-Commissioners, who were judicial functionaries, were placed in the same position as the other Judges of the land, the better it would be.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)
said that already the salaries of the Land Commissioners were on the Consolidated Fund, so that the suggestion of the hon. Member must mean that every underling connected with the Land Commission was to be on the Consolidated Fund.
§ * SIR J. COLOMB
said that he had urged that the acts of the Sub-Commissioners should be removed from the discussion of the House.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX
said that a question of this kind depended altogether from the point of view, and from the Nationalist point of view it was very important that they should have some voice in the appointment of at least the minor officials of the Land Commission. He ventured to say that the appointment of the Sub-Commissioners was an infinitely more important thing to the tenant farmers than the whole of the Land Bill of the Chief Secretary. More important than the Land Bill was the appointment of the men who would carry the Bill into effect. He looked upon the clause of the Land Bill providing that rents should vary according to the 776 prices of agriculture as a valuable clause, though, in that opinion many of his colleagues would probably disagree with him. But it was essential that there should be such a method of collecting the statistics that the results would be reasonably accurate. The Land Commission was very unfortunate in that respect. He had compared the statistics of the English Board of Agriculture with the statistics of the Irish Land Commission, and though it was a well-known fact that the prices of agricultural produce were cheaper in Ireland than in England, according to these statistics, published by the Government, it was the other way about. The price of almost every article of produce returned for Ireland by the Land Commission was much higher than the price returned for the same commodity in England by the Agricultural Department. Could anything more successfully prove that the figures collected by the Irish Land Commission were inaccurate? The Agricultural Department had no motive but to give correct information to the public. The Land Commission, on the other hand, collected its facts with an object—the object of showing that things in Ireland were more prosperous than they actually were. The money voted by Parliament for the collection of those statistics in Ireland was really a sort of secret service fund. There was no means of ascertaining in Parliament who were the persons who received the money for the collection of the statistics. So far as he had been able to discover, they were in almost all cases gentlemen who were connected in some way with land offices, and who were appointed from year to year by the Land Commission. There could not be any confidence in statistics collected under such circumstances. If the Chief Secretary was really in earnest about having the clause of his Land Bill varying the rents according to the prices of agricultural produce work successfully, he should see that the collection of the statistics was placed on a more reasonable basis.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said there were some points raised in the discussion that needed comment. His right hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth had expressed the view that it was a pity that the action of the Assistant Land Commissioners, who had to carry out quasi-judicial 777 functions, should be made a matter of discussion in the House. He thought that even to place these salaries on the Consolidated Fund, so that the conduct of these gentlemen would be entirely withdrawn from the criticism of hon. Members, would be preferable to some of the kind of criticism which they had heard. He was convinced that the Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners were gentlemen who had endeavoured to carry out the most difficult and delicate functions to the best of their ability.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that, whatever might be said as to the language which had been used with regard to the Assistant Commissioners, he thought it was especially incumbent upon him to repudiate, as far as the Government were concerned, the strictures levelled on the gentlemen charged with the Agricultural Department of the Land Commission. Reference had been made by the hon. and learned Member for Louth to certain connections by relationship, and he did not think that was altogether worthy the hon. and learned Member. ["Hear, hear!"] The gentleman connected with this work was one of the most upright officials in the service of the Irish Government. With regard to the agricultural statistics, the hon. Member who had just sat down stated that he had made a careful comparison between the prices of the Land Commission and the prices published by the English Board of Agriculture; but, before accepting the statements made, he should like to have an opportunity of examining closely this comparison, as there was nothing so difficult to deal with as statistics of this kind. He instanced an article in the Freeman's Journal on this subject; at the time that it appeared he had gone very carefully into the matter, and came to the conclusion that the writer of the article had fallen into the most extraordinary mistakes in consequence of the great difficulty of dealing with statistics in these matters, unless one was, to some extent, a professional statistician. He did not mean to say that he himself was a professional statistician, but he had obtained information which enabled him to judge of the accuracy of the statements. 778 In regard to this subject, he cited an article which had appeared lately in the Farmers' Gazette in reference to the statistics of prices published by the Land Commission. Even if the prices ascertained by the Land Commission were inaccurate, they might expect the same inaccuracies to occur from year to year, and even if there was slight inaccuracy it would not matter for the purposes of the Bill.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported.
Motion made, and Question proposed:—
That a sum not exceeding £42,258 be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1897, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Irish Land Commission.
§ And it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Thursday; Committee also report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.