HC Deb 10 February 1898 vol 53 cc245-93


Adjourned Debate on Amendment [9th February] to Motion for an Address [8th February.]

Motion for an Address, Motion made, and Question proposed:— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:— Most Gracious Sovereign, We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament:"—(Colonel Lockwood:)—

Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words— And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that in large districts of Ireland considerable bodies of the population have been for some time, and are at the present moment, reduced to live on insufficient and unwholesome food, and are on the very brink of actual famine, that this condition of things has been brought about by a failure of the potato crop, and partial failure of other crops in districts the population of which, impoverished by the general depression of agriculture, had even in better times existed under such conditions that the failure of one year's potato crop produced a famine; that the temporary relief measures proposed by Your Majesty's Government have been too long deferred, and are entirely inadequate; and that we earnestly urge on Your Majesty the necessity, first, of applying measures of temporary relief on a large and generous scale to the suffering districts, and secondly, of introducing legislation calculated to avert the constant recurrence of famines in certain districts of Ireland:"—(Mr. Davitt:)—

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


Mr. Speaker, I resume my remarks upon the amendment of my hon. Friend, the Member for South Mayo, and I think it would be appropriate that I should briefly refer to the statement made to this House yesterday evening by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman started by informing the House that there was no ground for the statement made by the Member for South Mayo, to the effect that the relief which he proposed to give to distressed districts of Ireland had been too long deferred, and that it was inadequate. He informed the House that he had started inquiries in regard to the distress in the Western districts of Ireland so early as August last, when he learned that the rains were falling like a deluge in different parts of Ireland. He said also that he had ordered inquiries to be made by his inspectors in October, and he added that the result of those inquiries led him to the conclusion that exceptional relief was not likely to be required much before Christmas. Now, Mr. Speaker, I should like to know what is the meaning of this statement of the Chief Secretary? He said that exceptional relief was not likely to be required much before Christmas. My interpretation of that statement is this, that the result of those inquiries which he ordered to be made went to show that some exceptional relief, at all events, would be required in the distressed districts before Christmas. But I ask the Chief Secretary: What was the exceptional relief that he gave in those distressed districts before Christmas? Did he give any relief at all? No. He gave no relief. Therefore, I am entitled to condemn him out of his own mouth. He next attempted to minimise, in a few most ungracious sentences, if he will permit me to say so, all the force of the evidence given by Professor Long, in the speeches which he made in Manchester and the letters he published in the Press. He said that— It must be remembered that Professor Long, according to his own account, was an absolute stranger in the Western districts of Ireland, and that he went hurriedly through them. I have carefully studied all Professor Long's letters, and I am bound to say there is not one which does not bear witness to the fact that Professor Long was a stranger in the West when he went there. The Chief Secretary for Ireland may have read, as he has stated he did read, the letters of Professor Long, but I ask him, did he read the speech that Professor Long made at the Great Distress Meeting at Manchester? If so, all I can say is, that one of the statements made in that speech must have escaped his memory, because, in that speech, Professor Long himself clearly stated that it was the first time he ever was in the Western districts of Ireland. What, then, was the object of the Chief Secretary in making that statement? Simply to point out that Professor Long was not "properly equipped" for the investigation of the distress in the West of Ireland. What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by proper equipment for the investigation of the distress? Were his inspectors properly equipped? Yes, they were properly equipped, because they went down to the West of Ireland, ironbound with red tape and officialism. They went down with pre-conceived ideas that the cry of distress was an absolute fraud—that it was a pretence, and I would point out the very appropriate observation made upon this statement in the Manchester Guardian of this morning—that paper which has done so much to assist the distressed people in the West of Ireland, and has done so much to give publicity to the state in which they at present exist—remarks dealing with Professor Long, at whose equipment the right hon. Gentleman sneers Because he did not already know the West of Ireland, Mr. Balfour suggests that he was not properly equipped for the task he undertook! It is scarcely a paradox to say that, on the contrary, it was an essential part of his equipment. For the special value of his letters consisted in this, that they recorded the absolutely direct first-hand impression made by the distressed districts, on the mind of a first-rate expert in agriculture, influenced by no political or religious sympathy with the people he visited, but simply concerned to state precisely what he heard and saav—to act as the eyes and ears of the readers for whom he wrote. What he saw was that whole families were starving. 'I affirm solemnly,' he wrote the other day, 'that although I visited many villages, entering house after house, in each unexpected, I never saw any food but the potato, except upon five occasions—once flour, twice Indian meal, and twice a herring.' Now, I think the Chief Secretary, in trying to minimise the value of the statements made by Professor Long, has proved himself as great a failure as he proved himself in that scheme, that labour-test scheme, over which he spent so many studious nights burning the midnight oil in Dublin Castle. And then he says: I will pass at once from the very difficult question of permanent relief to the question of temporary relief. Now, the Chief Secretary forgot when he made that statement that he had not at all touched upon the question of permanent relief. The right hon. Gentleman could not. You cannot pass from a question that you do not touch. His only reference to permanent relief was his reference to the statement made by Professor Long when that gentleman referred to the work of the Congested Districts Board. He then went on to indulge in destructive criticism about the methods that had been adopted in the past for the temporary relief of distress in Ireland, and he referred, in particular, in a sneering fashion, I must say, to the resolutions which had been adopted by the Castlereagh Board of Guardians and the Manorhamilton Board of Guardians, and also referred to a letter that had been written by a member of the Claremorris Board of Guardians. They simply said that they anticipated that the distress would cause a burden in the districts that the ratepayers could not bear. I say it would be better, as was stated immediately afterwards by the right hon. Member for Montrose, if he had not referred to these exaggerations. He might as well charge the Secretary of the Treasury with exaggeration, if he over-estimated for any public work in Ireland or Great Britain. And this remark as to exaggeration was made in reference to the gentleman who, he says, wrote up saying that he had seen dead men in a terrible state of deprivation. He might as well say that we are to judge of the morality of the Members of this House by the morality of that saintly convict Jabez Spencer Balfour, who once adorned the benches of this House of Commons. I must say that, as far as the statements of the right hon. Gentleman are concerned, he has failed to bring home anything discreditable to the members of the Manorhamilton Board of Guardians. He then goes on, and comes to his own proposals for temporary relief. Now, I consider, Mr. Speaker, that the underlying principle of his proposals is that principle against which we must emphatically and strenuously protest, for that principle is this—that he tries to shift from his own shoulders the responsibility of dealing with distress, and of taking the necessary steps for ameliorating the conditions of the people in the Western districts of Ireland at the present time. I protest against this proceeding. I say that the responsibility of relieving distress in the West of Ireland does not lie upon the shoulders of the Members of the Boards of Guardians. It lies upon the shoulders of the Chief Secretary for Ireland as representing the Irish Government. He says that "the Government are not undertaking to give employment to the people." I say, Mr. Speaker, that cuts at the very foundation of what I consider to be a most important principle—namely, that it is he, Mr. Speaker, and not the Members of the Boards of Guardians, who is responsible for the relief of the distress which he himself has admitted to exist. All we are doing is to say to the Guardians—'There being this amount of destitution in your district, we relax the conditions of outdoor relief. If you will impose the labour test, and the financial condition of your union is such as to necessitate Government aid, that aid will be forthcoming upon the approval by the Local Government Board of the works to be started.' The proportion to be contributed in each case by the Local Government Board will depend upon the character of the proposals of the Guardians, upon the financial conditions of each particular union, and upon the amount of the distress in the union. In the first instance the schemes are proposed and discussed by the Local Committees. They are then submitted to the Guardians, who put them before the Local Government Board. But, Mr. Speaker, it is not red tape that we want, it is immediate relief for the people that are starving in the West of Ireland; and does the right hon. Gentleman imagine that you are going to get immediate relief if you have to send down an Inspector, who has first of all to go round the country and see the prominent people—large ratepayers and others—then you must form a Committee in each parish, and those Committees, after perhaps a month, will go to the Board of Guardians, and the Board of Guardians will consider the matter after a fortnight's notice, and then the Local Government Board will be consulted, and three months will elapse. Why, Mr. Speaker, it will be time for another famine to occur before relief is given if we go on in this way. As I said before, what we want is immediate relief, not procrastination. This system, which the Chief Secretary for Ireland wishes to press upon the people of the West of Ireland, reminds me of the old saying, "Live horse, and you'll get grass." He says himself in his speech yesterday, that it is quite possible "there may be such an amount of distress as to call for exceptional relief much before Christmas." But, Mr. Speaker, this is not much before Christmas—it is much after Christmas—and his proposition has this fundamental defect, that if this scheme is adopted by Members of the Board of Guardians in the West of Ireland, the inevitable result—the immediate result—will be this, that the poor people with small patches of land will not be able to cultivate their own little farms, but they will have to go to these relief works, and leave their own lands untilled. You are sowing the seeds of future famine if you insist upon this scheme. Besides this he distinctly stated that the Government will under no circumstances pay the full cost of the relief works. Where are we going to get the balance? From the unions? Well, if so, where will they get it from? From the paupers?—from the men who are starving? I say, unless you give the full cost, unless you pay the full cost of these relief works, you might as well keep your scheme at Dublin Castle where he burned so much midnight oil. He talks about a shadowy scheme—no maximum and no minimum for the contribution of the Government. I say that the whole thing is a muddle, and it would be better, in my opinion, for the Chief Secretary, better for this House, and better for the distressed people of Ireland if he had not spent so much time worrying his brains in Dublin Castle. He stated that the addition to the ordinary rate would not be much; that the extra tax added to the old rates would amount to about 10d. in the pound. Does the right hon. Gentleman know that in many unions in Ireland the poor rate is not 10½d., or even 10d? In Oughterard it is 10½d., and in Belmullet it is 10d.; but because these are the two poorest unions in Ireland, he comes forward with this scheme, which will still further increase the taxation upon these poor unfortunate people. It reminds me of the Scriptural saying, "To him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken away even the little that he hath." The Chief Secretary for Ireland, after taking away the little that these poor people still possess, then tells us, as if it were a magnificent concession to our demand, that he is going to relax the rules of the Local Government Board in regard to outdoor relief. We do not want any of your relaxation. We have plenty of it already. And suppose you force us to accept it, what will be the inevitable consequence? The consequence will be this—that in every union where that relaxation is availed of—it is only meant for the poor unions, and in the absolutely poor unions where such relaxation would be taken advantage of—you say to the Guardians that you give them power to give more outdoor relief than they are entitled to give at present in accordance with the rules of the Local Government Board. Again, I ask you, when you give them this relaxation where will you get the money from? You are going to take the members of the Boards by the throat, and say, "You must pay extra taxes, and if you do not do so then you have two alternatives before you. You must either make yourselves bankrupt or you must let the people die." I say that is a very unfair position to place the Guardians in, and nothing less than the full cost of these relief works will be of the slightest advantage to the people who are now dying of starvation. He talked about Killala. Does he know anything about it? He did not tell this House what is the condition of Killala in regard to outdoor relief. I will give him the condition with regard to that. Let us see the number of people who received outdoor relief, though, of course, to the Chief Secretary it is a matter of too little importance to deserve his attention. Last year there were 114 persons who received outdoor relief; this year it is almost double—204. Next he comes to the Congested Districts Board, and he says, "Oh! we will give them an advance of £10,000." Where is the money coming from, Mr. Speaker? It is not coming from the British Treasury. It is not a slice of the Chief Secretary's salary, or a slice of the Lord Lieutenant's salary. It is to come out of the pockets of the people of Ireland. The Chief Secretary proceeds— This we have done. We have proposed to the Congested Districts Board that an amount of £10,000 should be advanced to them free of interest—in other words, they should be allowed to anticipate their income to that extent, repaying in three or four years, and the interest on the sum so withdrawn from their capital during these years should be recouped by the Treasury. Why did not the Chief Secretary propose that the income of the Congested Districts Board should be increased for the purpose of enabling that Board to cope with Irish distress? Now, Mr. Speaker, I ask the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the paragraph in the last report of the Congested Districts Board, which he stated yesterday in this House had been drafted by himself. I may say this, that as far as I know the drafting of this paragraph was the first step towards the policy he inaugurated when he became Chief Secretary for Ireland of killing Home Rule with kindness, but he may go a little further, by informing the Irish people whether or not he proposes to have his own suggestion realised in this House. "The income of the Board remains at £41,250." £41,250! Why, you could blow the amount away in powder at a day's review— The income of the Board remains at £41,250 a year, and we think a close examination of the work that has been done by the Board since its formation would justify the granting of an increased income. But the main question is this: Will the Chief Secretary stand up before this debate is finished and tell the Irish Members what the Irish Government propose to do during this Session in order to realise, to carry into effect, the suggestion which the Chief Secretary himself has made in the report of the Congested Districts Board? There is no indication that he would press for any such a concession made in his speech last night, and, as far as I am concerned, I will never believe in his sincerity until he comes forward in this House with a proposal for the purpose of increasing the revenue of the Congested Districts Board. Now, Mr. Speaker, when I was interrupted last night, in accordance with the rules of this House, I was referring to resolutions that had been passed at a great meeting of the people of North Leitrim, and which was held on the 29th December of last year at Manor Hamilton, I read out what I considered to be resolutions of a most practical character, calling upon the Government to give a grant for the purpose of repairing roads that are not under the control of the Grand Jury of the County of Leitrim, and also for giving grants for the purpose of levelling roads that are under the control of the Grand Jury. But besides these resolutions there were others passed, and I do not offer any excuse to this House for reading those resolutions, because I have the mandate of my constituents to bring them forward in this House. No doubt they were sent to the Chief Secretary, and no doubt the usual formal reply that they were received may have been sent; but has the Chief Secretary read them? No; they are probably in the waste-paper basket. Now these resolutions are as follows— (1). That while recognising the kind intention of the Government in offering a loan for a seed supply, we feel, from our experience of past loans, that such a mode of supply is not beneficial, as the abnormal cost in the first instance, and expense of distribution and legal expenses in their collection, serve only to cripple the limited resources of the recipients (2). That we respectfully ask the Government to place funds in the hands of the Congested Districts Board for the purpose of small loans repayable in 12 or 15 years, for the execution of reproductive works in the several farms of the district, notably for drainage, and that the execution of these works in the months of January and February would provide the small farmers with funds for the purchase of an adequate supply of proper seed. (3). That we earnestly call upon the Government in this exceptional season to use their best efforts to provide employment for our people to enable them to tide over the privations entailed by the late disastrous harvest, and that improvements effected upon their respective farms are preferable to any system of public works. (4). That the meeting feels bound to express its strong disapproval of the action of the landlords of the district in exacting the full rent from their hard-worked, sorely afflicted tenantry, and that such indifference to the losses of their tenantry is not only reprehensible in itself, but sows the seeds of distrust and ill-feeling which may, in the end, culminate in exasperation. Now, regarding the existence of distress in certain populous portions of Ireland it is not necessary to argue. We have come to the end of argument, and we have reached the domain of action. The Chief Secretary himself admitted yesterday evening the existence of great distress. Testimony was borne to the effect that the distress existed in Western Ireland by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for South Dublin. It would not be necessary to further add proof upon proof for the purpose of establishing our argument—that distress does really exist; but our contention is that while the Chief Secretary admits the existence of dire distress in many parts of Ireland, he has practically done nothing to avert it. Yesterday I heard many speakers deplore the circumstances in which they found themselves taking part in this debate. They said they were ashamed to come here and speak of the distress in the West of Ireland. I am ashamed, but it is not of myself, or of the Party to which I belong. I am ashamed of the Irish Government that they have not taken some steps to avert the distress, and have not listened to the warnings which we have sent from various parts of the country, and which even the Times gave them. Why should the Chief Secretary not listen to the warnings of the Times? He could ignore us; we are only Irish representatives. He could ignore the Boards of Guardians, and the priests and bishops; but, in the name of God, why should he not listen to the warnings of the Times? If he had done so, we should not have been here, and telling you that his proposals have been delayed too long. I am going to make a quotation, and, in my opinion, it is a most important quotation, from a letter by the Most Rev. Dr. Lyster, Bishop of Achonry, to the Bishop of Manchester, His Lordship says, writing on the 15th December— I have just returned from a sojourn in the distressed districts, where I have witnessed scenes which I am perfectly powerless to describe. The people—naturally hopeful and patient—are sad, silent, and dejected; their faces are pinched and puckered and wan, their eyes hollow, sunken in their heads, their voices weak and feeble, like the piping of a child. Often was I forced to turn my head aside, as I watched the big tears stealing down a withered cheek, whilst wistful eyes were turned towards the fast dwindling heap of potatoes, small as marbles, which now stood between many a family and starvation. An aged priest, the Nestor of our clergy, who has been labouring in the ministry for five-and-fifty years, who passed through the famine of '47, and who recalls the gruesome memories of those terrible days, assures me he has not seen such privation since that time. Now, as then, there was barely one-third of the crop of potatoes; now, as then, the few picked from the sodden soil rotted before they were used. As I write these lines, hundreds of my poor hungry flock are gathered round my door waiting for a scanty dole. Unless the kindly hearts of the charitable turn to us in our need soon, I must appear empty-handed, for nothing will be left but words of patience and encouragement to save them from despair.


Has the hon. Gentleman read the whole of the letter?


I have read all that I have seen.


Of course, I have read the letter; but the hon. Member has not read the whole of it. He must have been aware of the passage in which it is stated than an inquest was held in the case of one old woman, and it was shown that she died from some other disease, and that in the case of a man who was said to have died, he is not dead at all.


The right hon. Gentleman has said I must have been aware of the other part of the letter. I assure him that I have read no part of the letter except that which I have quoted, and I took the extract, not from an Irish paper, but from a report of the Manchester Distress Meeting, which I read in the Manchester Guardian. If I had had a full copy of the letter I should have read it all. I quoted the letter, not for the purpose of showing that there is distress in that district, because that is admitted, but for the purpose of pointing out that the Chief Secretary has been dilatory, in the face of such statements, in bringing forward some system of relief. I should like to quote from a letter written in the Irish papers by one who was an esteemed Member of this House, Mr. William O'Brien. He, in my opinion, very fittingly described the attitude of the Irish Government by saying that the Irish Government were— Waiting with a Governmental hand on the pulse of a half-starved population to calculate how long the British Treasury can go on economising without the fear of actual deaths from hunger. Does the Chief Secretary wish to wait until deaths are reported from the West of Ireland? I trust not, although it is coming very near it at the present time. The Chief Secretary is well acquainted with a friend of mine, the Very Rev. Denis O'Hara, who presided over a meeting in Swinford Union in November last, at which the following resolution was passed— We hereby declare—and we do not wish to be alarmists—that in this district a large number of families will, during the coming season, suffer great distress and destitution unless the Government gives employment of some kind immediately. Now is the time to give it, when the people can, without neglecting their own work, earn something at it, and not when they should be putting down next year's crop. If something be not done now, Government efforts to relieve distress may be what they were often before—too late. We are justified in telling the right hon. Gentleman that the efforts he is now making cannot meet the case. As I said before, if these poor people accept employment on the relief works, they will have to abandon their own farms, and be unable to cultivate them in such a way as to make provision against the distress which may possibly come in the following year. Here is a letter written by Dr. Michael J. Burke, Medical Officer of the Kiltamagh Dispensary District—

"Kiltamagh, 15th November, 1897.

"Sir—I beg to state, for the information of the Board of Guardians, that at the present time in my district a disease is rather prevalent, the principal symptoms of which are vomiting, diarrhœa, and cramps in the stomach. It seems to me to be produced chiefly by the bad supply of the prevailing esculent—the potato—the quantity and quality of which were far below the average. I fear the disease may become epidemic.

"I am, Sir, etc.,


"T. R. McNulty, Esq.,

"Clerk of the Union, Swinford."

That was also a warning to the Chief Secretary, but it seems to have fallen upon deaf ears. The right hon. Gentleman remained in Dublin Castle devising this great scheme of his, over which he burned so much midnight oil. He paid no attention to the warnings sent him from Very Rev. Denis O'Hara, from the Bishop of Achonry, or from the Swinford Board of Guardians. His scheme, in my judgment, is a perfectly worthless one. In December, 1896, the Chief Secretary's illustrious brother made a speech in Manchester upon the Report of the Financial Relations Commission. What did he say on that occasion? He said that the Report, which had been sent in by men like Lord Farrar, Lord Welby, and Sir Robert Hamilton, men famous as Treasury experts, was a farce. I tell the Chief Secretary that his scheme for the relief of Irish distress is a farce, and will bring no benefit to the people for whom it is intended. Is this the way in which he is going to kill Home Rule with kindness? Only yesterday, the Member for South Dublin gave us to understand that unless the Treasury loosened its purse-strings, and gave to Ireland some of the money it deserved to get, he would cease to be a Unionist.


I deny making such a statement.


If you did not say it in so many words, you said you would be very doubtful about telling your Unionist friends in Ireland that a Unionist Government was better than a Home Rule Government, unless some money was advanced by the Government.


I must refer the hon. Member to the official report.


I have not read the official report; it is not yet printed. I read the Times report. The First Lord of the Treasury said that the history of Irish discontent had its roots in past misfortunes, and in past injustice; but, Mr. Speaker, my statement is, that the present Irish discontent has its roots in present misfortunes and present injustice. Why should we have this huckstering about a few pounds? Why not take a step forward? The Chief Secretary complained in the beginning of his speech that all he had for his work in Dublin Castle was insult, thanklessness, and insolence.


I never used those words.


I know you did not. I put an interpretation upon what you said. In the words of the old song: "Nobody axed you to be Chief Secretary for Ireland, and nobody wants you." It would be better if we had the Unionist Member for South Dublin to act as Chief Secretary. He might not be agreeable to us all, but he excels, in one way, the present Chief Secretary—he knows something about the social condition of Ireland. It would be a benefit to us if such a gentleman as the Member for South Dublin were appointed to the position of Chief Secretary. What we ask by this Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for South Mayo is that immediate steps be taken to relieve what is admitted to be a very grave crisis. Is the Chief Secretary going to stick to that miserable scheme over which he toiled during the winter months? If he is, I fear that the words used by Very Rev. Father O'Hara, to whom I have already referred, will come true, and that now, as always, legislation for the relief of Irish distress will come too late. What has been the result of the government of Ireland by British Ministries? We have decreased in everything to be desired, and we have increased in everything to be deplored. We have decreased in population, in wealth, in prosperity, and in comfort. We have increased in emigration, in poverty, and in lunacy. The number of emigrants who left Connaught from the 1st May, 1851, to the 31st December, 1896, was 568,576, and the population of the province of Connaught, where this distress is prevailing at the present time, has decreased from 1,418,859 in 1841, to 692,079 in 1896; so that in that time the population of this congested district has decreased by more than one half. I fully agree with the statement made by the hon. and learned Member for Louth, who said that this word "congested" was ridiculous. Fifty years ago you had twice as many people there as you have to-day, and if it is congested now, it must have been twice as congested then. In Leitrim in 1841 the population was 155,197; to-day, according to the latest statistics, it is 75,713, or considerably less than one-half. I should like to ask the Chief Secretary, does he consider this is a "satisfactory" state of things? He said at Leeds that Ireland was in a peaceful and satisfactory condition. He made, I admit, a very ingenious explanation of the word "satisfactory" yesterday. He says that everything was going on as well as he should like, and Ireland was peaceful, and because it was peaceful its condition was "satisfactory." What would be the logical conclusion if you pursued it? It would be that every peasant who is now starving was rotting in a pauper's grave, the condition of the people would be "satisfactory" from the right hon. Gentleman's point of view. I find in the forty-third report of the Inspectors of Lunatics, 1893, remarks in connection with agricultural depression to the effect that one of the causes of the increase of insanity was the acute agricultural depression so widely experienced, which had occasioned great mental strain; and in illustration of this, reference is made to the report of the Medical Superintendent of Armagh Asylum, in which it is stated that as many as 349 inmates belonged to the agricultural classes, while only 38 were drawn from the professional and commercial classes. According to the report the number of lunatics in asylums in Ireland has increased from 5,074 in the year 1851 to 14,945 in the year 1891; while, according to the last report issued, there are 18,966 persons at present under care in lunatic asylums in Ireland. The great bulk of these cases are attributed by Government officials to acute agricultural depression. Does the right hon. Gentle- man believe that this increase shows a "satisfactory" state of things in Ireland? I should think not. Now, in 1841 the number of inhabited houses in these congested districts of Ireland was 243,192, and in 1891 the number was reduced to 134,009, showing that within those 50 years the fires had been put out upon 109,183 hearth-stones in the province of Connaught. I do not think that even the Chief Secretary would say that that was "satisfactory." We hear a great deal about Cromwell in Ireland. I consider the present Government is worse. He gave us the option of going to hell or to Connaught, but the present Government would drive us even out of Connaught. The Chief Secretary proposes to do nothing; for it is all a question of money; that is, if he is not able to get money—not English money, but Irish money—to expend in Ireland. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Louth that the Chief Secretary is no good. Let him go home to England. What is the use of sending him over there, where he cannot do any good for the people he is supposed to govern. I should like to make one or two very simple suggestions. I would say, in the first place, that we must have immediate relief if the people's lives are to be saved. I would propose that the Chief Secretary send down to every distressed Union that he named yesterday a Government official with the powers of an inspector—call him what you please—and let him tell the Guardians that he is empowered by the Chief Secretary to have expended under his own supervision a certain sum of money, such as may be considered necessary. Is the Chief Secretary able to do that? If he is not able to do that, let him resign his position. I should say also, let him get the Government to agree to an increase in the annual income of the Congested Districts Board from that miserable pittance of £41,000 to, say, £1,500,000 a year. The right hon. Gentleman, the Attorney General for Ireland, laughs at the idea. He does not seem to know that we are over-taxed annually to the extent of £3,000,000; that the British Treasury owes us for over-taxation in the past at least £150,000,000. Let a portion of it be put into the purse of the Congested Districts Board, as we have confidence in that Board. If that were done you would be able to make permanent improvements; you would have no huxtering and no tinkering with questions of this kind. You could have compulsory purchase passed into law to enable the Board to buy out landlords in the West; you could have migration introduced, whereby the farms would be increased in size and the peasants would have an opportunity of making a living when there was no landlord to grind them into the dust. If the Chief Secretary does this we will be grateful. If he does not, as I said, let him go back to his own people. He is no good to us if he stands by that wretched system he propounded in the House last night. If he refuses to give immediate relief, to make some effort for the permanent improvement of that country, he will simply add one more to the long list of colossal failures who have made the name of Chief Secretary for Ireland stink in the nostrils of the people of that country.

*MR. SHARPE (North Kensington)

So many sensational pictures of distressed localities have been interposed since the speech of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary that I desire very briefly to recall the attention of the House to the facts of the case as proved. I speak with deep sympathy for my native land. Although I am not an Irish Member, I am an Irishman, and it is perhaps owing to the formidable rivalry of my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General for Ireland that I am not able to address the House as an Irish Member. Now it is clear from the statements made by the Chief Secretary that, in the first place, the area of the distress is circumscribed, and confined chiefly to the counties of Mayo, Sligo, and Galway, though there is, of course, some destitution also in other counties, as Roscommon, Clare, and Donegal. Secondly, the nature of the distress has been proved to be that of destitution not famine; indeed, not a single case of death from starvation has been proved. It is a sad and piteous state of things, and deserving of our deepest sympathy, but it does not call for special measures, such, for instance, as were adopted at the time of the Irish Famine. Thirdly, the Local Government Board has been quite alive to the diffi- culty of the situation, and my right hon. Friend has watched the progress of events with the deepest sympathy since August last, and has kept the Boards of Guardians on the alert and stirred them up to do their duty. I trust he will continue to act in that spirit. I deplore the infusion of political bitterness by some of the speakers into this debate. This is a discussion of a great social difficulty, a matter calling for great patience, great care, great sympathy, great watchfulness on the part of the Government, and I venture to say that it is not by the infusion of vitriolic bitterness that this end will be attained. I, at all events, and many of us on this side especially, feel this very keenly. I venture to appeal to the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment—especially to the Seconder, who acquitted himself well, and with much moderation in the discharge of his task—I venture to appeal to their colleagues on those Benches, and to say that the Amendment might now be withdrawn, and the vote be taken on the question. I venture to press upon the House that, great as is the evil, and deeply as we sympathise with the people who are suffering, the exact state of the case, as presented by the Chief Secretary, is of the character I have described, and is not of such importance as to call for the addition of a paragraph to the reply of this House to the gracious Speech from the Throne.

MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (South Donegal)

Mr. Speaker, I need not take up very much time in this House. I have had eleven years' experience of the House of Commons, and the kindness accorded to me from every side of the House enables me to know nearly all the Members of the House of Commons, and I say that England cares nothing for Ireland or Irish interests. I know, and undertake to say, that there are not half-a-dozen gentlemen in this Chamber who are acquainted with Ireland either by work or representation. In fact, except for the Irish Benches, they might as well be non-existent. I suppose the sleepy condition of the English section is really the result of the right hon. Gentleman's (the Chief Secretary) optimistic view of the situation that Ireland is peaceful. If Ireland were not peaceful it would need Measures in the proper way to be given to it. Now, I have a great deal to say—I mean it shall be very short—of a character not altogether pleasing, and I wish to begin by simply doing the one act which I consider is only just to the right hon. Gentleman. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has done his best, as far as I am able to see, to promote the extension of the railway in Donegal, and that is most beneficent work. I deeply regret at the same time that the right hon. Gentleman did not carry the work into operation about the spring-time, when he knows very well that the peasants would not be engaged on their farms, and would be able to take more benefit from it. Now I say—and I am not sure that I should have mentioned it but for the optimistic remark of my hon. Friend and fellow-countryman, whom personally I admire—I don't think that my hon. Friend, who is a most good-natured man, would have made this pessimist remark if he had not read a letter in the Times. Now that article shows, I say, the true import of English feeling. It stated that what Ireland is suffering from is over-population. Now, it is 98 years since the Act of Union, and while your population has doubled, ours has been reduced by one half. In 93 years, while your wealth has grown up by leaps and bounds, ours has been reduced by one-third, and now we have the Times out-Pigotting its Pigott days by saying Ireland is over-populated. That is an atrocious thing to say, and it has been stated before. When the Chief Secretary spoke contemptuously of the surplus population, it only shows that any persons who can state that the country is suffering from over-population do not know the people, and do not see what can be done for them. Now, Sir, a great number of my hon. Friends have said that we have come here in a begging aspect, begging for bread for our people. But is it through the fault of the people, or through their indiscretions? But these people for whom we beg are—I say it solemnly—the victims of your own misgovernment, and their poverty and distress is the direct result of the government of this House. Let us see, and let us understand, this question, immense as it is. No one ever more graphically described the condition of the congested districts in Ireland than the First Lord of the Treasury did in a speech in December, 1890, in Manchester. I remember the speech because it concluded wish a personal attack upon myself. Describing a congested district, or a distressed district in Ireland, he said— People in England, when they hear of 'congested district,' think it is one which is overcrowded. On the contrary, it is one not overcrowded. One might go mile after mile without meeting a human being, but it is congested because there is not food enough in it to supply the wants of the people, and to fulfil their legitimate necessities, and to give them what is known as a fairly tolerable and 'comfortable life.' Now we see congested districts and enormous tracts of pasture land from which the people of the congested districts have been driven. I am only quoting now in sense, and in fact what the First Lord of the Treasury said in reference to these very forms— It is the bounden duty of England to take right good care of them, because they were forms of that distress caused through the force of legislation of past ages, and they were the victims of that distress, because England for 200 years had crippled and destroyed Irish industries and driven the people into the most barren parts of the kingdom. Now the House must not be alarmed by these figures, for I always wish to be accurate, and if there were the smallest difficulty I could give the quotation in full. Mr. Speaker, it is to me a very melancholy thing that I have seen during my 11 years in Parliament this miserable scene, and I act this part now for the eleventh time. I have heard year after year this story of Irish distress, and I have heard it as clearly as if I were actually in the Chief Secretary's room at Dublin Castle. Now, I venture to say this: It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the answers that are given to us when we call attention to the Irish distress are what the lawyers would call common forms. First of all, the distress is denied altogether. Then the Chief Secretary will answer that there is nothing more than abnormal distress; that the distress is not abnormal, or it is nothing more than a normal distress, the Irish people are like eels, accustomed to be skinned. The Government are watching, and they say there will be critical watching. That reminded him of the days he had in the Army. In cases of punishment, after each ten lashes the Army-Surgeon used to come and feel the unfortunate man's pulse, to find out whether he could stand it or not. Now, is that an exaggeration? Let me geo whether it is or not. In September last, when the papers were literally filled—and not only the Nationalist, but the Unionist papers were tilled—with accounts of Irish distress, a correspondent in London, of the New York World, got this telegram in reference to Irish distress from the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland— In reply to your telegram, the Lord Lieutenant desires me to say that the reports which you characterise as most alarming, and the prediction of famine in Ireland which you mention, are in his Excellency's opinion unjustifiable. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken very disparagingly of Professor Long, and said, practically, that he knew nothing about the country. He said that Professor Long, on whose labours he relied, was not much of a politician. I am sure the Chief Secretary knows better. At the last General Election, in 1895, Professor Long, the great agriculturist that he is, stood in the Unionist interests against the Member for South Molton, and he went to Ireland as a military Unionist politician. What does he say? Unhappily, in the districts in which this distress occurs the potato forms the staple food, and nothing else, of the people. Now, I will only read you three lines. He says— It is admitted that the potato crop is a partial failure, the sprayed crop not numbering one in hundreds. Well, that means that thousands of families are obtaining only partial rations, or that they have no potatoes, and consequently no food at all. I affirm solemnly that although I visited many villages, house after house in each, unexpected, I never saw any food but the potato, except on five occasions—once flour, twice Indian meal, and twice a herring at least three of the families at which these foods were noticed being, although very poor, able to make both ends meet. Here I might add one word. Some years ago I went to see a family I knew, and I found famine absolutely at the door, and it was only with the greatest difficulty, and by making the greatest effort, I was able to get them to tell me their true position. He goes on to say— I was permitted to explore the little cottages, and to find potatoes or any other food I could. That the want of these poor creatures was paraded by them, as Mr. Robertson's informants insinuate, is an ungenerous libel upon the most simple, single-minded, and uncomplaining people I have ever met, and I speak of them individually and collectively, visiting them in most cases. That is all I have to say upon that, and I am sure, after what I have said, the right hon. Gentleman will look with a more curious and less philosophical view on the sufferings of the country, and will say, I will do my best to relieve the Irish people. I will give the right hon. Gentleman what may be called a forecast of his speech. I think the forecast is by the Rev. Joseph Cassidy. It was written on January 3rd this year to my hon. Friend on my left, and I think Father Cassidy's comments will bear very properly on the way in which the speech will proceed. He says— There are about 550 in the parish of Ross-muck and Lettermore, and of these I am safe in saying 400 or more require immediate relief. I fear that before the dilatory and halting schemes of feeding a dog with a bit of his own tail system are in working order we shall have sad tales to tell. Now let the right hon. Gentleman see what an admirable comment this is of making the Boards themselves supply part of the money— I fear we shall have sad tales to tell. Even then, as we have been informed, only a limited number of persons will be allowed on the relief works—not more than a fourth of the number of families in each electoral division of this union. Then he says— Now I submit this tinkering policy on the part of the Government is nothing short of a scandal in the face of the financial wrong inflicted on Ireland. We claim as a right, in justice, that England will now restore to us a share of the money unjustly extracted from this country, to enable us to tide over the present distress. The plea can no longer stand that the Englishman is unjustly taxed for the relief of Irish distress. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well from his information sent down to the Castle the way in which his Inspectors did their work. I have spoken to him across the Table and in type in respect of the vagaries of these gentlemen's visits to the distressed districts. On some occasions I have asked, "Did the Inspector look here?" and the answer was, "Oh, no, sir; he looked the other way." I was told that another Inspector had had a very pleasant tandem tour, but saw no distress, and they made no inquiries of parish priests or Protestant clergymen. Their only idea was to make things smooth for the Government, and I am borne out in this by the parish priest of Portray, Rev. James Cobbett having stated that the people cannot go to Mass on Sunday because they have no clothes. You must understand what that means. It is not like attending Church. Attending Mass is an indispensable obligation for a Catholic, and yet we are told that these poor people could not attend Mass—could not attend an indispensable obligation of their religion—for the want of clothes, which they had pawned. After speaking of the Government Inspectors he says— I have seen myself from time to time heaps of these pawn-tickets, and on a former similar occasion, not half so bad as the present, I actually forwarded a batch of them to the Local Government Board. It is notorious that from the whole district of Glenmask not more than a dozen people, young or old, have been seen at Mass any Sunday for the last three months for want of clothes. If any of those pompous Inspectors who are masquerading in the Glens for months, with their hands in their empty breeches pockets, watching the distress will call upon me I will give them proof of this fact, but they will not call. These gentlemen never darken the door of a priest for any information, which illustrates, perhaps, better than anything else, the spirit and the manner in which they pursue their inquiries into the distress. I have now done, except for a moment, for I must demolish this labour test by this letter, which I commend to the right hon. Gentleman as an Irish view of the labour test. The gentleman who wrote this letter I have not the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with. He is Father Healy, parish priest of Carraroe, Galway. This gentleman wrote to my hon. Friend on the left, in December last, asking for a public meeting to call the attention of the Government to the distress in his parish, in which 600 persons were on the verge of starvation. I agreed to go down to the meeting, and then, to show how little he desired to parade the distress, he said there was no necessity now to go down, because relief works had been started, and the meeting was only to be called to force on the commencement of those works. Now, this letter is written to show the absolute failure. He says— In the first place no one need apply for employment on the Government test, except the relieving officer of the district is able to show the officials that the applicant is, if not already starved, at least that he is half-starved. Secondly, that he has neither cow, sheep, nor pig in his possession. Thirdly, it must be the head of the family that will have to work. Fancy a widow to be obliged to work for 10d. a day, and if she has a son who is able and willing to take her place he is not allowed to do so unless the mother proves herself incapacitated, through a medical certificate, and even then he is only allowed the same wages as his mother had been. I say it is as barbarous as it is inhuman to have women, bent from years, or whose condition is such that out of delicacy I refrain to mention, carry stones and sand on their backs from eight in the morning until live in the afternoon. Nearly in every case old and infirm men and women have to travel from four to five miles to and fro, notwithstanding the smallness of the wages and the heavy work which is to be done; still hundreds who have begged and prayed to be employed have been refused. It is most pitiable to see the number of men and women going day after day to the relieving officer asking for food or work. It is not a matter of surprise, because in this poor and extensive parish, comprising about 800 destitute families, there are only 200 who are at present employed. Perhaps my hon. and benevolent Friend opposite would like to do something for us, or may say the state of things is exaggerated, but the subject matter of my speech is comprised of things I have seen myself; but I can tell him a remedy, and what the late General Gordon said upon the matter. When some Chief Secretary spoke as to the distress of those which were not employed, General Gordon said— I wish I could bring you to the hovels I have seen, and put you to live in them for a week; the lesson would last you for your life. When I had been to see friends of my own I have been taken to look at their stables. I did not want to see them, but I have been taken to see them, and I have said to my friends: Tour stables are pal- aces of Paradise to the hovels I have seen people living in in Ireland. I desire to refrain, at the end of a speech to which the House has listened with kindness and courtesy, from describing the scenes I have witnessed, and I only say, as regards myself, and can instantly in my own mind fix the date of any occurrence as to whether it was before or after the scenes I have mentioned. When we go into these places and see men, women, and little children suffering through no fault of their own, it is a shame which we cannot but feel that it should be allowed. I think it is very wrong, because these people who are suffering are not of the same blood as yourselves, that you should shut out all your compassion for them. Are we to have no remedy? I implore the right hon. Gentleman to take the steps which are personally within his power to take, to relieve the excess of human suffering which is now visiting large sections and large portions of the Irish people.


I desire to say a few words to the House on the subject of the Amendment made by the hon. Member for South Mayo, with which I cordially agree. I do not intend to speak at great length, but I should like to place before this House some of the bald facts of the distress in Ireland, and more particularly of the distress which is, perhaps, more accentuated in my own constituency than in that of any other part of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for South Dublin, has told you that a large portion of my constituency in the extreme West—from Kilkee to Loop Head—are suffering great distress, and distress which has been in no way exaggerated either by the hon. Member for South Mayo or by any Member of this Party. Sir, I am pleased that the hon. Member for South Dublin has mentioned this fact, and to show you that this is not the only part of my constituency where deep distress and suffering are to be met, I have here a list, sent me by the Poor Law Guardians of Kilrush, of 86 families, consisting of 462 people, who live within a very small area around that town, who are absolutely in a state of destitution; and in that district we have 570 more people in receipt of out-door relief than last year. Sir, I have spent considerable time in driving round some of the poorest parts of my constituency, and visiting the people in their own cottages, in order to see for myself the present state of the country, and to be able to assure this House that what I say I know from personal knowledge. I have had many interviews during the last nine months with the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I may state with truth that I have written to him every week during the last five or six months—I do not think I would be far wrong if I said every second or third day. It is only within the last three weeks that I presented to the right hon. Gentleman a most influential deputation, and five out of the eight members of this deputation were Tory landlords and Deputy-Lieutenants of the county. I feel bound to testify to the unfailing courtesy and sympathy with which the Chief Secretary has, at all times, received my communications, and I can only regret that courtesy and sympathy will not feed my starving constituents, or in any way assuage the misery of famine. Sir, the fault lies in the rotten system of Government in Ireland, and is not the fault of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. It is against that system that the representatives of Ireland have protested for a hundred years. The hon. and learned Member for North Louth denounced this rotten system, and while denying it was the duty of Irish Members to make suggestions for the assuaging of the great distress which we now have to deplore in Ireland, because that distress was brought about by the system of government forced upon us by this country, he suggested that something should be done to give us power to make railroads, to deepen our harbours, and to make and improve our piers. This latter suggestion of making piers raised a laugh amongst hon. Gentlemen opposite. Either their spelling has been neglected in their youth, and the money that was spent on their education in England, that ought to have gone to Ireland, has been misused, or they would know that the hon. Member for North Louth referred to piers spelt with an "i," and not to those blind peers without an "i" that this Government are far fonder of creating than of creating or fostering industries in Ireland. We pay no attention to these kind of peers, nor do we desire to make them. We believe our only prosperous brewer has been already converted into a peer, and although we have every desire to improve him, we fear that the case is hopeless. I would point out to this House that at the deputation that I presented to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland on the 25th January last, we asked for money to enable us to dredge the Creek of Kilrush, and I pointed out that, in the distressed circumstances in which my constituency, through no fault of their own, are plunged, we would be enabled to apply this money, or a large portion of it, in wages among the distressed people. Sir, the answer of the Chief Secretary was this, and he stated the same to you in his speech yesterday— That he was obliged to make a very broad distinction between reproductive works of permanent utility and relief works. It may be true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that the work to be effective as a work of relief cannot be a work of permanent utility. Personally, I differ with the right hon. Gentleman on this subject, and I would point out this, that temporary relief works would be of no avail in preventing the recurrence of distress and famine, if reproductive works of permanent utility are denied to those parts of my country that suffer from famine and distress. Sir, while giving every prominence to the consideration and courtesy I have at all times received from the Chief Secretary, I feel that, in bringing forward a few isolated sentences of the shortcomings of some of the Board of Guardians in Ireland, and holding them up to the ridicule of this House, he has taken a leaf out of the book of the hon. Member for North Armagh, which is incompatible with his statement that the situation is a grave one, and one calling for exceptional measures. I also take some exception to the hon. Gentleman's statements as regards Professor Long. The right hon. Gentleman condemns the conclusions at which the worthy Professor has arrived because he was not aware of every particular as regards the Congested Districts Board. It was surely unnecessary for him even to know of the existence of the Congested Districts Board in order to arrive at the conclusion that Ireland was suffering from famine and from want; and I do not believe that, if he had been well-primed by the official records of Dublin Castle he would have received nearly as correct an impression of the state of Ireland as he did by going as a perfect stranger to find out facts for himself. Sir, the Congested Districts Board has always received a good word from the hon. Member for East Mayo, the Leader of the Irish Party, and from every Member of our Party. I have begged of the Chief Secretary again and again to extend the Congested Districts Act to my constituency. He has acknowledged that, practically, they ought to be brought under it. But it will require an Act of Parliament. I have myself taken steps to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to congested districts, and I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will give me every facility, although, in my opinion, this should have at once been made a Government matter of urgency, and be dealt with as such. Sir, the hon. Member for East Mayo, in his powerful speech, has informed you that if Ireland had her own Parliament she would speedily have taken steps to assuage the sufferings of her people; but I go further, and I say that history shows that while Ireland had a Parliament, famine was unknown. I was glad to see the hon. Member for East Essex get up and say that this distress in Ireland should be relieved. We, on these Benches, are, and always have been, grateful for any assistance that has been given us by Members on the opposite side of the House. There are many who think with me that the Corn Laws and Free Trade, which have proved so beneficial to England, because of its teeming population of artisans and miners, has been the ruin of the agricultural interests of Ireland, has, year by year, decreased the profits which it was possible for Ireland to make by the sale of her produce, while the never ceasing increase of taxation has always added to the debit side of her balance-sheet. Sir, I appeal to this House, on the testimony of their own Minister, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that the situation is a grave one, and one calling for exceptional measures; and if Members of this House believe that he is correct surely not one of them can vote against the Amendment of the Member for South Mayo, and tell us that we, in Ireland, have no right to humbly represent to Her Majesty that famine is rampant in part of her dominions, and that the temporary relief measures proposed by Her Government have been proved to be wholly and entirely inadequate. I appeal to hon. Members opposite, many of whom for the first time have, I believe, sympathy with us in our distress. I appeal to them to see that we have the right to insist that our case be laid before Her Majesty, and that special legislation be introduced, not only to give relief, but to avert these constant recurrences of famine and distress. I cannot believe that this request will be refused, and that the same old policy which, a hundred years ago, drove us to rebellion is still to be continued, and that our wrongs are still to be un-redressed.

*MR. JOHN ROCHE (Galway, East)

Mr. Speaker, I desire to make a few observations in reference to the Amendment proposed by my friend the hon. Member for South Mayo. I am induced to do so as Member for a division of a county in which it is admitted distress prevails—viz., the county of Galway, and as guardian of the division in which I live, and which is scheduled under the Congested Districts Board. Together with that, I have always lived amongst the people, and have had a thorough knowledge of how they are situated, their wants and requirements, and I may add that I have, to a great extent, to live by farming myself. Therefore I need not trouble the House by quotations from speeches made on the subject, or with extracts from reports of correspondents, and will confine myself to personal experience and to facts that have come under my notice. The condition of the vast majority of the people amongst whom I reside is such that famine or otherwise depends on the potato crop. If it is a good one, they live upon them and make no complaint; on the other hand, if it is a failure, as it was last year, they then have to depend on such of their neighbours who may have been more fortunate than themselves, and the shopkeepers in the towns and villages, to give them a further instalment of Indian meal, with the hope that the next harvest may be a good one, and thereby enable them to pay for it. However, it is with the harvest of last year we are dealing, and I desire to give my experience of it. I have made it a rule to sow as much land under potatoes each year as I consider will produce a sufficient supply for the use of my house, together with seed for the following season. I observed that rule last year, and what was the result? I can assure the House that before the end of last December I had not one potato except what I had to buy, and will have to continue doing so until next harvest. Well, I know scores of families who are in a similar condition, but who, unfortunately, have no other resources to fall back upon, and who at the present moment are living on private charity, together with what they may get from friends or relatives who may be in foreign countries. The outlook having become so serious, together with the numerous representations made to the Rev. Father Costelloe, P.P., who had special advantages of knowing the condition of his people, he called a public meeting, at which it was clearly shown that distress prevailed. A resolution relating thereto was adopted, and I was requested to forward copies to the Lord Lieutenant and Chief Secretary. I did so, and received in reply the usual callous acknowledgment. Having subsequently learned that the police were instructed to investigate the matter, I immediately called on the officer in charge and requested that he should see for himself, and not trust altogether to the reports of his subordinates. He consented to do so. I then informed him that I, with several others, were having our potatoes dug. He visited the district, and in a subsequent conversation he informed me that I had little reason to complain compared with what he saw elsewhere. Another officer, who was also instructed to report on the potato crop in his district, told me that in order to convey to the Chief Secretary the extent of the failure in his district he stated in his report that he had nine yards of a ridge dug, and that it only produced 28 small potatoes. Still, in the face of the reports of his own officials, nothing has been done. I need not ask why, for I know it is because we are peaceful. And after considerable experience I regret to say that I am reluctantly obliged to come to the conclusion that if our poor people died of starvation in the ditches and on the roadside, as the people did in '47, and if the country remained quiet, or its Members failed in their duty in this House, they would meet with the same fate. Therefore I would earnestly appeal to my fellow-countrymen, if they want to save themselves from starvation and extermination, to have recourse to the old methods and weapons which rendered such service in the past, and which entitled them to the respect and attention of this House.

MR. DAVID SHEEHY (Galway, South)

I followed the speech of the Chief Secretary, which he delivered last night, with the greatest attention, and to-day I have made a careful study of the newspaper reports of that speech. I confess that, after the most careful study, I am totally unable—perhaps it is my dulness that is responsible for it—to see how the movement he is taking, will at all adequately meet the requirements of the situation in Ireland. The Chief Secretary himself, in his speech last night, made no effort to deny that along the Atlantic seaboard—practically, from Donegal to Kerry—extreme destitution exists in Ireland, and that, in many portions of that seaboard, intense want prevails. He does not admit, however, that the statement in the Amendment— That the temporary relief measures proposed by your Majesty's Government have been too long deferred, and are entirely inadequate, is accurate. He does not admit that the measures have been too long deferred, because, if he did admit that, he would be practically saying that he was responsible for the delay. But that the delay has taken place, and that nothing has yet been done, is unquestionable. He mentioned, with a great flourish of trumpets, that the Local Government Board had given power to the Guardians to grant outdoor relief. That is the only step yet taken to meet this terrible crisis. The Chief Secretary has given these powers to the Guardians of Unions that are themselves in a famished condition, and whose own finances are in a bad condition. I may ask, what will be the result of giving such unions powers to extend the operations of outdoor relief? The result will be that these unions will have no money with which to carry on the good work they have set themselves. Galway is one of those unions which have determined to carry on the scheme while they can. In that scheme we have it that the unions must contribute a fourth of the moneys expended. We have it in the scheme also that the works are not to be of a permanent or enduring character, but are to be what is called relief works. I fail altogether to realise what is the meaning of relief works. What are their nature? What may they be? What is the exact nature of the relief works that the Government require shall be first prepared by the local people, then sent to the Poor Law Guardians, and then submitted to the Government, and either pooh-poohed or disapproved by the Government? What is to be the nature of the works? They are not to be reproductive works. Then what are they to be? I want to know. If they are not to be reproductive works, they should be works of utility. I further want to know—May large and sufficient water-tanks be constructed for the purpose of saving up some of the excessive rainfall? That is one of the things which the people have said is necessary year after year, but I do not know whether they could undertake such a work, or whether, of they propounded a scheme of such a character, it would meet with approval. It is well known at the present time that there is in one of the unions of Galway County a very hot controversy with reference to the dismissal, because of his incapacity to collect the rates, of a rate collector. A sealed order of dismissal was issued, for the sole reason that he was not able to collect the rates. If the rates are uncollected in this union, and if the condition of things is such that the Government are obliged to nominate a collector of their own, I want to know how the new collector will be able to knock out of the empty purses of the ratepayers the money by means of which any works that will be initiated may be carried out. There is a large mountain district around this union, and there are a great many very destitute people living there. These destitute people are the very people to whom application must be made for the rates, and then out of the rates they are to get relief. I must say, for myself, I totally fail to see how this scheme can be carried out in such a way as to save from death by starvation many of the people now living in the West of Ireland. And if the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, which he propounded to us last night, does not save from death by starvation every human being in the West of Ireland, if one death by starvation results in consequence of the extraordinary scheme which the Chief Secretary has propounded, the responsibility will lie at the door of the right hon. Gentleman, and not at that of the Guardians. The Chief Secretary for Ireland has narrowed this down into a most ingenious proposal, by which he tries to throw the responsibility from his own shoulders and from the Government on to the Poor Law Guardians, who are themselves in a famished condition, and unable to meet the situation. If the Poor Law Guardians were able, in consequence of the powers now given to them, to meet the distress in the West of Ireland, it would prove that the distress did not exist. Either they are in a famished condition, and have not the means of sustenance, or of paying rates, or they are not in a famished condition. You will find that every one of the unions, not only the three that have accepted, but the others that have refused, will find considerable difficulty in meeting the demands made upon them in consequence of the great distress. I admit that there is one thing that will be useful—one power which will be found useful and beneficial to the West of Ireland—in the scheme of the Chief Secretary, and that is the permission which is extended to Boards of Guardians to give spraying machines in the summer time. It is very much to be regretted that this permission was not extended to them last year. If the Poor Law Boards had had that power last year, some, at any rate, of the present distress would not have prevailed. But it is always the principle of the Government, so far as Ireland is concerned, to be just too late. You are always late in your measures. You had warning last August, you had warning in September, in October, in November, in December, and we are yet discussing the question. When is relief going to be sent, and in what measure? That is the question we, the Irish Members, ask; that is the question we are unable to get an answer to. An hon. Member on the other side of the House advised us Irishmen not to use any harsh language in speaking on this question. I do not wish to speak harshly or strongly, but as an Irishman, and as a representative of one of these districts in which distress prevails, I cannot, with patience, see the devices with which the Chief Secretary is trying to divest himself of his responsibilities. He cannot, however, divest himself of those responsibilities, which will remain with him. He, and he alone, will be held responsible.

MR. W. O'MALLEY (Galway, Connemara)

I will not occupy the time of the House long, but I rise to support the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for East Mayo. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland described the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo as eloquent. I think, Mr. Speaker, that I am accurate in describing that speech as a scathing condemnation of the Irish policy of the right hon. Gentleman, and I beg to submit to this House—to those who listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and to those who have read it—that the reply of the Chief Secretary for Ireland was feeble and flabby in the extreme. We have yet to hear the speeches of the hon. Members who have preceded me replied to. Mr. Speaker, the hon. Member for East Mayo very properly and appropriately read extracts from the important declarations of Professor Long, which he communicated to the Manchester Guardian, and I will direct the attention of the House for a moment to the method which the Chief Secretary has adopted in referring to those able and impartial statements of Professor Long. The Chief Secretary said, in his speech last night— At a meeting in Manchester the other night one of the speakers described Professor Long as a gentleman whose accuracy was unimpeachable, and whose heart was kind. I have no doubt whatever of the kindness of heart of Professor Long, or that he conscientiously gave to the public his impressions. But it must be remembered that Professor Long, according to his own account, was an absolute stranger in the West of Ireland, and went hurriedly through it. And then, in order to discount the statements of Professor Long, the right hon. Gentleman said— I have carefully studied all Professor Long's letters, and I am bound to say there is not one which does not bear witness to the fact that Professor Long was a stranger in the West when he went there. I will give merely two illustrations of this. He wrote a series of letters dealing with the condition of Mayo, and others dealing with Donegal and Galway. But it is a singular fact that throughout the whole series of letters Professor Long, although he had actually been staying with a member of the Congested Districts Board, appeared to be totally unaware that such a board existed or had done any work in the West of Ireland. Now, Mr. Speaker, so far from Professor Long being a stranger to Ireland, he has, I understand, had a long experience of that country. More than 15 years ago he was a lecturer to the Agricultural Society of Ireland. He has, I believe, been several times through a great part of Ireland, and I do not think that there is a greater authority on this matter than Mr. Long. And yet, Mr. Speaker, the Chief Secretary contends that because forsooth he has not been in the West of Ireland before, and although he has been in the Society of a member of the Congested Districts Board, that he is unaware of the work the Congested Districts Board has done, and therefore what he has seen with his own eyes as to the poverty and condition of the people must be discounted. A more extraordinary conclusion to come to. I think I have never heard. Professor Long went to the West of Ireland and himself visited the people looked upon their pinched faces, saw the condition of their houses, and knew exactly how they were situated. And yet what is the argument which the Chief Secretary for Ireland launches against the hon. Member for Mayo? If, Mr. Speaker, if Mr. Long was a candidate for an appointment under the Local Government Board, if he had a brother or a son who was seeking an appointment in Ireland, I have not the slightest doubt whatever that Professor Long would appear very differently through the Chief Secretary's glasses. But Professor Long is an independent English gentleman, and he has, I believe, given a most faithful and graphic and true account of what he has seen; and although the Chief Secretary refers to his letter in terms of contumely, and uses the argument I have already referred to, that because he has not known what the Congested Districts Board has done, therefore, we must receive with caution and reserve his assertions as to the condition of the people. Now, Mr. Speaker, I would like the Members of this House, and especially the hon. Members who sit on the other side of the House, to try if possible to realise the condition of the mind of the Chief Secretary in approaching the distress in the West of Ireland. I think it is quite evident from his speech last night, if we had no other evidence, that he has doubted the statements made by Irish Members and others on this subject; and the fact that he went back to the years 1891 and 1895 to try to prove that the Irish Boards of Guardians had been in the habit of exaggerating the facts shows that his main object has been to try to prove to this House that anything the Irish Boards of Guardians say, must be discounted. His sole policy in dealing with the distress in the West of Ireland has been to send down a representative of the Local Government Board with no other object than to try to find some means of avoiding relief works, and when at last he could not possibly overlook the situation, when the distress was so evident and apparent, the scheme he has propounded to these Boards of Guardians in Galway, Mayo, and elsewhere, is intended to throw responsibility upon them in such a way as to prove to this House, and the country that all our statements with regard to the failure of the potato crop, and our demand for relief works and all that sort of thing, ought to be discounted, if not denied. Now, Mr. Speaker, of course, I will readily admit that some of the statements of these Boards of Guardians—I will even go further, and say that perhaps some of our own statements, and some of the statements of interested parties in the West of Ireland, may have been exaggerated. I say it is inevitable, in cases of this sort, that there should be exaggeration. Have we not exaggeration and misrepresentation in other matters? I would point this out to hon. Members on the other side of the House, and I would ask them whether, when they were trying to get relief from the rates, there was not some exaggeration as to the distress of agriculture in this country? Had there been no exaggeration when talking of our policy in regard to Africa, Chitral, the frontier of India, and elsewhere? Do you not exaggerate on one side the advantage which this country will derive from a certain policy, and, on the other side, did you not exaggerate the difficulties and dangers of that policy? I say that in the West of Ireland the people are suffering from chronic distress, and have been dependent year after year, when seasons are bad, on this House for generosity, or whatever you like to call it. Under such circumstances, it is no wonder that there should be exaggeration. But the Chief Secretary has not dealt with this question in a broad or candid spirit. I think his policy compares very unfavourably with the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury when he went over to Ireland, where, in rather a big and grand way, he had coerced us by sending us in dozens to gaol. But when there was distress in Ireland two years ago he did not inquire whether there was real distress or whether the people were starving. He did not put his hand on the people to know whether they were dying, but he spent a considerable sum of money in trying to relieve their necessities. As to the right hon. Gentleman the present Chief Secretary, I state in this House that his whole policy has been to try to prove that there has been no distress, and when he could no longer deny the fact, then I say his mode of relief and his method of dealing with the distress is calculated to make things worse than they were. The poor people are starving. It is no exaggeration to say that the people in the West of Ireland are in a state of semi-starvation. What do we find the Chief Secretary doing? Four or five months have elapsed, and up to the present day I do not believe a single public relief organisation has been established. And yet the Chief Secretary poses before this House as the friend of Ireland. Well, Mr. Speaker, being aware of the state of mind of the Chief Secretary, and being aware of how the matter had been misrepresented in the early part of last autumn, I thought it my duty to pay a visit to my constituency. I had seen in some of the London papers, the Daily Telegraph, and the Daily Chronicle, accounts of the failure of the potato crop in Kerry and elsewhere. I put myself in communication with the Editor of the Daily Chronicle, and I told him I was going to pay a visit to my constituents in Connemara. He invited me to give my experience, and he enjoined upon me the desirability of not over-stating my case. Well, Mr. Speaker, I went down to Connemara, and I did not take the statements of the priests, nor of the people; I did not rely upon any statements made to me, but I relied upon my own judgment and my own sense. I looked into the state of things at the end of September. I had a certain field dug up, and I kept my eyes upon the potatoes that were dug up, and I had them weighed. And what were my experiences? I found that in a plot four yards long and four feet wide there were fifteen pounds of potatoes. In an ordinary year there would have been more than seventy pounds of potatoes there. I tried the experiment in several fields, and in one field I found that in five yards there were only ten pounds of potatoes. A great proportion of them were rotten, and they were nearly all small. I communicated with the Chief Secretary upon this matter. I maintain that there was an admitted failure of the crops in August; and I say that, so far as the county of Galway is concerned, the representative of the Local Government Board in that district minimised the failure of the potato crop. Over and over again, at the Boards of Guardians, he stated that there was only a partial failure, and he altogether denied that the failure was serious. Well, it is a very extraordinary thing that we have the Chief Secretary for Ireland so early as August admitting that there would be relief required by Christmas. We are now in the month of February, and nothing so far has been done, except in four or five districts. In addition to my experiences in testing the quality of potatoes, I visited the homes of the people. I inquired into their condition, and I ascertained these facts: Along the western seaboard one of the principal industries that supported the people and enabled them to pay their rent and to keep body and soul together year by year was the kelp industry. Upon the strength of the kelp industry, and of a fairly decent harvest, these poor people were enabled to live with some decency on account of the credit they received from the shopkeepers, but I found that because the potato crop had failed, and the kelp industry had slipped, the poor people were left without credit, and in a hopeless and helpless position. These facts I brought to the notice of the Chief Secretary, and I invited him to deal with this sad and terrible position. We are now in the month of February, and the Chief Secretary has not done anything to meet the necessities and wants of these people. It is an extraordinary thing that although the Chief Secretary, and no doubt his supporters around him, are perfectly satisfied with the scheme he has now proposed to meet the distress, the people who are supposed to be benefited by it look upon it as a complete failure. I will trouble the House with a short extract from a letter of the Rev. Father Healy, parish priest of Carraroe. He wrote this letter in December, when, I think, the Local Government Inspector had been approaching the Oughterard Guardians and asking them to devise some labour test with regard to the relief. And what does Father Healy say upon that. He was acknowledging in this letter to the Freeman's Journal the help received from charitably disposed people, and I would take this opportunity of pointing out and stating my belief as to the priests in certain districts of the West of Ireland. I am speaking particularly of Connemara, a district I know. I know every priest in Connemara, and I know the people there. I have gone among them. I was brought up there, and what I am stating I can prove; and I say that were it not for the appeals that these priests have made to the charitable world before now there would have been many cases of death from starvation in the West of Ireland. The Chief Secretary may thank himself that these appeals have been made, because I believe, from what I know of these districts, that deaths from starvation must inevitably have occurred if these priests had not provided funds for clothing them and keeping them alive. Now, what does Father Healy say?— Repeated appeals to the Government on behalf of 800 poor families of this parish have failed to elicit any more sympathetic response than the relaxation of the law which deals with the granting of outdoor relief and the appointment of an extra Relieving Officer in the district at a salary of £1 a week, while the Poor Rate is already as high as 5s. in the £. Now, Mr. Speaker, I will invite the House to consider what follows— The utter fatuity of this course will be appreciated from the fact that I have been obliged to relieve the families of some of the ratepayers out of the charitable donations of Mr. Laing and Mrs. Alley. I will trouble the House with a short extract from another letter which has appeared in to-day's Daily Chronicle. It is from the Rev. Father M'Hugh, parish priest of Carra, co. Galway. The Member for South Dublin has left his place, but if he were present he would bear me out when I say that the Congested Districts Boards have done some good work, and that Father M'Hugh is not a man to exaggerate. Yet he has found it necessary to make this appeal to the British public on behalf of these poor starving people:—"The Editor of the Daily Chronicle. I have waited a considerable time"—Mr. Speaker, I think it would be to the advantage of our Unionist friends on the other side if they tried to realise how far this proposal of the Chief Secretary has been received favourably in Ireland, and what is said about it, and I think Father M'Hugh's letter will throw some light upon the subject. He says— I have waited a considerable time before making a public appeal to the charitable, in hopes that through the action of the Government, or in some other way, I and my people would be spared the humiliation of appearing as beggars before the world. I hate public charity and its demoralising effects, but, much as I loathe it, I am forced to have recourse to it as it is the only means of rescuing my people from the clutches of the grim, gaunt spectre of famine, which is now wasting their strength and energies. The Government relief works, from which we expected much, have not been started, nor do we know when they will be started. The Poor-law Guardians, who have been called upon under the Government scheme to contribute a portion of the sum required to meet the distress, are slow in imposing additional burdens on the already overtaxed ratepayers. In the meantime the suffering of the famine-stricken people is becoming more intense, and their condition becoming more alarming. A wretched portion of boiled turnips and Indian meal is the only food partaken of by them for weeks—and not enough even of this. What wonder, then, is it to see men, who were but a few months ago strong, strapping fellows, now reduced to such weaklings as to be scarcely able to crawl along to the place where the Relieving Officer so grudgingly distributes the orders for the miserable pittance of a stone or two of Indian meal, which must suffice for the family, no matter how large, till next week comes round. Well, Mr. Speaker, I will not apologise for reading these extracts, but in con- clusion I would echo the sentiments that have been expressed, and the statements that have been made, by my hon. Friends with regard to the Congested Districts Board. I believe myself that if the Congested Districts Board were allowed sufficient money to carry out the scheme they have started in some parts of Mayo and Donegal, they would take up these lands which were cultivated by the tenants but are now in possession of the landlords, and if they had compulsory powers to buy these lands at a fair valuation, they would enlarge the holdings of these poor people along the coast. If they had further powers to improve the fishing industry and the reafforesting scheme, I believe that in that direction as the hon. Member for Longford said yesterday, a solution of this question would be found. But, Mr. Speaker, what is our experience as to Irish demands upon this House? We are told that you are prepared to admit that in the past the English Government has treated Ire land shamefully and scandalously. You are always maintaining, at the present time, that what you do now is the right thing, although what your predecessors did was the wrong thing. The Irish people, and the Irish representatives, have always protested against your method of governing our country. Why can you not, in the face of the fact that you have, year after year, the Irish Members coming to this House making an appeal for their poor constituencies on the Western seaboard, listen to their suggestions and adopt their advice? Why do you not, at this time, in the face of the report of the Commission, when you must recognise that uncontrovertibly you have been robbing Ireland for over 50 years of at least two and a half millions a year, even if you are not prepared to go so far as granting Home little, meet, at all events, the Irish case which is now presented be fore you? I think the eminent Members will realise what is the state of mind of the Chief Secretary, because it is the state of mind which has been brought to bear upon this question by every Chief Secretary that ever governed our unfortunate country. And I say that the English people, if not at the present time, yet perhaps before very long, will realise the danger to their country, and to the integrity of the whole Empire, of this perpetual bad treatment of our poor country. At the present time you have very few friends throughout the world. You have France, Russia, and Germany, and other powers hating and detesting you. You are very indignant when you hear us making statements showing a feeling of disloyalty; but I say that the Irish people can never have a feeling of loyalty, and can never have sympathy with you in your troubles, whether at home or abroad, so long as you continue to treat Ireland as the Chief Secretary has treated Ireland in this emergency.

MR. R. AMBROSE (Mayo, W.)

The districts in which the Chief Secretary proposes to put his relief scheme in force are in the strictly congested ones—the counties of Donegal, Sligo, Roscommon, Mayo, Leitrim, Galway, Kerry, and Cork; and taking the population of those districts, you will find it totals 549,516; and the highest valuation is £1 6s. 8d., and the lowest 17s. 10d., so that the average valuation per head is £1 0s. 3d. The Chief Secretary proposes to call together the largest ratepayers of those congested districts, and to ask them to pay out of their own pockets a certain amount of rates to be given to the Guardians, and to be handed back again in the shape of relief. It contend it is utterly impossible that this system can work. Take the county of Mayo alone. There you have a congested district population of 143,000, in a total population of 218,000; over three-fourths are, you see, in a congested district, and I should like to know from the Chief Secretary how he can expect—their valuation being but 18s. 3d. per head—to get any money from them in the shape of relief for the remainder of the population. But that is not the worst. Take the union of Killarney. In a portion of that the valuation is 6s. 9¼d. per head, yet the Chief Secretary seems to think that these people can meet together, and devise a scheme to raise money on the ratable value. I think that there is only one remedy applicable—the one alluded to by several of my colleagues—i.e., to enlarge the holdings of the people. The right hon. Gentleman suggests he can wipe out the possibility of famine by improving the breed of cattle, but I say that it is utterly impossible to improve the breed of the cattle without enlarging the holdings of the people. The Congested Districts Board should have the power of doing that. I may mention that on the 10th May, 1895, the Congested Districts Board held a meeting which the right hon. Gentleman attended.


I was not present at that meeting.


Your name is appended to the report.


My name is attached to the report because it was published after I became Chief Secretary. But I did not attend the meeting.


Then are we to take it the putting your name to the report is a forgery? At the meeting in question, the Congested Districts Board passed a resolution in favour of having compulsory purchase powers, and that resolution is signed by the Chief Secretary.


I have fully explained I was not present when the resolution was passed, nor did I accede to it.


But the right hon. Gentleman drafted the last paragraph of the report, which practically amounts to an urgent demand on the part of the Congested Districts Board for compulsory purchase powers. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will promptly give effect to those ideas.

MR. KNOX (Londonderry)

I shall not detain the House more than a few minutes. Hon. Members opposite may think that we are making an exaggerated demand, and are asking for something which has not been given to England. But what are the facts? The relief which the Chief Secretary has promised to the poorest parts of Ireland—I will not weary the House with detailed figures—does not amount in any case to half the normal rates of the district, and yet there is not a single agricultural district in Great Britain where the Government are not giving half the agricultural rates to every farmer! In these poverty-stricken districts in the West of Ireland, where the people are paying rates of 5s., 6s., and even 7s., in the £, such as you have no conception of, you are refusing to give them out of the joint taxes to which they contribute, as much as you give to every farmer in England, in regard to whom there has been no question of destitution or famine. Your English farmer spends as much on his dinner every market-day as would keep an average inhabitant of a congested district for a week, yet he has been granted a great deal more relief than is being doled out in two or three exceptional Unions in Ireland. I will give you another comparison, this time from India. Sir Anthony Macdonald, a native of an Irish congested district, and of one of the distressed counties, was in charge of the North-West Provinces during a time of famine. If he had remained in Ireland he would never have risen to anything better, perhaps, than the position of a Member of Parliament. What did he do in India when famine threatened? The first thing he did was to remit large parts of the land tax, and make grants to the landlords and zemindars on the condition of their remitting double the amount of rent. But in Ireland you are exacting from the tenant full rent and full rates, although those taxes are reported by your own Commissioners to be out of all proportion to the wealth of the people. I ask whether, under these circumstances, seeing that you have treated these poor people at your very doors so very differently from the manner in which famine was dealt with in the North-West Province, you are not ashamed of the action of your Chief Secretary?

MR. CRILLY (Mayo, N.)

I also promise not to detain the House more than five minutes. I desire to conclude this debate by drawing the attention of the Chief Secretary to a telegram which I have just received from Belmullet, which place, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, is one of the distressed districts of Ireland. The telegram is signed in the first place by the Protestant rector of Belmullet; it is also signed by the Catholic curate, and by some of the largest merchants in that part of Ireland. It asks me to bring before the House during the Debate on Irish distress, the fact that, owing to continued storms, neither sailing vessels nor steamers can approach Belmullet, and, consequently, the town and district is left without a single bag of Indian meal, and there is only two days' supply of flour to be had in the town. How the unfortunate population will exist if this weather continues much longer, it is impossible to say. The Government officials on the spot, are fully aware of the state of things. A similar state happened last year, and it will recur at intervals until Belmullet is provided with railway communication. Now, I want to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to that telegram in order to emphasise what has been said by six or seven of my colleagues as to the necessity for prompt relief. The quarrel we have with the right hon. Gentleman and his associates in Dublin Castle is that they delay dealing with these periodical occurrences until the last moment. The right hon. Gentleman cannot escape from this fact. Last year I drew his attention continually to the existing state of distress in the West of Ireland, and in February and May last he himself admitted that distress was then existent in North Mayo, and that a sad condition of affairs had prevailed for three years owing to the absolute failure of the potato and other crops. And while these unfortunate people have been starving, the right hon. Gentleman, bearing out the old bad records of the Dublin Castle, has done nothing at all. To-day he comes before us with a proposal to supply these people with spraying machines and seed potatoes; and with some Poor-law relief. Does he think thus successfully to cope with a distress which amounts to absolute poverty? I spent two months of the Recess in my own constituency, and I went over practically the same ground as Professor Long covered for the Manchester Guardian, and I can vouch for it there is not a single word of exaggeration in any one of the letters he wrote. The right hon. Gentleman stated last night that, since the famine of 1817, these poor people had been able to find sustenance other than potatoes. But I can assure him and the House that I have entered dozens of houses in which the poor families had nothing to eat except diseased potatoes, which were not larger than marbles. The hon. and gallant Member for North Down may laugh. I come from the same county as he does, and I am glad to think that in Down the people never had such miserable experiences, but if he will come down with me to North Mayo, and accompany me round the district on an outside car, I guarantee he will acknowledge that a condition of affairs exists which demands from the Government immediate and adequate relief. Surely the wealth, power, and experience of England in Ireland should be sufficient to enable you to find some remedy for these everlasting grievances in the West of Ireland. Cannot the statesmen of England take some action to put an end to this chronic and eternal distress in the West of Ireland? Had the Local Government Board of Ireland of the last 30 or 40 years been doing what the Congested Districts Board is striving to do to-day, we, the representatives for the West of Ireland, would not now be asking you to relieve those who are starving, to a large extent, because of your bad Administration of the country. I agree with my colleagues that the proposed solution indicated by the Chief Secretary will not meet the difficulty. As the telegram I have read shows, what is wanted is immediate relief, for when the potato crop fails in the West of Ireland, the people have nothing to fall back upon except cheap, unwholesome Indian meal. And one cause of that is that we have no railway communication in North Mayo. As we are told, on the authority of the Protestant rector, there is not a bag of Indian meal in Belmullet to-day. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that by supplying spraying machines for use some months hence, or by giving the Congested Districts Board £10,000, he will be able to deal adequately with the case of these poor people? I will end my remarks with an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to take immediate and adequate steps to meet the momentary distress, which is shown in the telegram I have read, to exist in North Mayo.

MR. FLAVIN (Kerry, N.)

Although this Debate may be troublesome and tiresome to hon. Members opposite, it is our duties, as the representatives of constituencies in the West of Ireland, to bring before this House the existing state of affairs there. I wish to lay before the right hon. Gentleman a statement as to the condition of North Kerry, although I have little hope of getting a remedy for our grievances. During the Sessions of 1896 and 1897, I frequently, at the instance of public boards in the division, made appeals to this House, but I did so in vain. Now, within the past fortnight or three weeks, in the Listowel Union, we have had the unfortunate spectacle of labourers appealing for work. The Guardians are empowered, on a requisition from the ratepayers, to increase the rate, and give outdoor relief; but, unfortunately, the rates in that Union are already as high as 13s. in the £, and it would be, therefore, impossible and ridiculous to ask the farmers and other rate- payers to contribute more for the relief of the starving poor in their districts. On the 28th April, 1897, at the request of the Listowel Guardians, I made an appeal to this House, and it was found necessary, owing to the rotten condition of the potatoes in that year, and the failure of the previous year's harvest. The Guardians asked for authority to expend, out of the rates, the small sum of £50 for the purchase of sprayers. The reply was that there was no legal authority by which the rates of the Union could be so expended, but the Congested Districts Board proposed that year to apply some of its funds in the supply of spraying materials. I at once suggested to the Listowel Guardians that they should apply for a portion of that money, but the reply they received was, no money for them. The result is that the potatoes are a complete failure in that Union, except on the holding of well-to-do farmers who were able to purchase spraying machines. The people in the poor parts of North Kerry are now on the verge of starvation, and unless the Government take prompt steps, the results, before the winter has passed, will be most deplorable. There are no seed potatoes or oats to be obtained. I am only sorry the Chief Secretary, in regard to these matters, prefers to believe the reports of the Local Government Board Inspectors sent from Dublin to the evidence given last year by a Kerry landlord. I do, however, appeal to him to make a more minute and detailed inquiry into the condition of these poor people.

Amendment proposed— And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that in large districts of Ireland considerable bodies of the population have been for some time, and are at the present moment, reduced to live on insufficient and unwholesome food, and are on the very brink of actual famine, that this condition of things has been brought about by a failure of the potato crop and partial failure of other crops in districts the population of which, impoverished by the general depression of agriculture, had even in better times existed under such conditions that the failure of one year's potato crop produced a famine; that the temporary relief measures proposed by Your Majesty's Government have been too long deferred and are entirely inadequate; and that we earnestly urge on Your Majesty the necessity first, of applying measures of temporary relief on a large and generous scale to the suffering districts, and secondly, of introducing legislation calculated to avert the constant recurrence of famines in certain districts of Ireland" (Mr. Davitt).

Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."

The House divided.—Ayes, 153; Noes 235. (See Division List, No. 2.)