MR. PATRICK O'BRIEN
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware of a case tried before the county court judge at the recent quarter sessions at Nenagh, county Tipperary, where their engineer sued the board of guardians of the Nenagh Union for balance of an amount alleged to be due to him for certain maps prepared for the Privy Council inquiry in 947 connection with their scheme for labourers' cottages, in which case a decree for the full amount claimed was obtained against the guardians with costs; whether the guardians had at first decided to pay Mr. Gill, their engineer, his full claim, but were prohibited from so doing by order of the Local Government Board; if he is aware that subsequently the application to have an engineer sent down to give evidence in the case was refused by the Local Government Board, and that in the absence of such expert evidence the judge decided against the guardians; whether, under these circumstances, the guardians, considering they should not be at the loss of the costs, some £15, made application to the Local Government Board to have the amount refunded, but which request was also refused; and if, under the circumstances, he will have inquiry made, with a view to have the guardians recouped for this loss to the rates, for which they were in no way accountable?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The facts as stated in paragraphs one to four are substantially accurate, except the statement that the guardians were "prohibited" by the Local Government Board from paying Mr. Gill's claim in full. What occurred was this: the Board asked the guardians to have an enlarged map prepared by their engineer, showing the petitioners' holdings, etc., in eight cases for the information of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. This was done, and the engineer sent in his bill for the work at the rate of six guineas per map, or £50 8s. in all, and the guardians, after communication with other unions, in which similar work had been done at a much lower rate, decided to pay the bill. When the matter came before the Board they stated that the remuneration seemed very high, and, after consultation with their chief engineering inspector, the Board informed the guardians that, in their opinion, half the amount proposed would afford ample remuneration to Mr. Gill for the work. Thereupon the guardians decided to offer him half the amount claimed, which he declined, and sued them for the full amount. It would be contrary to the practice of the Local Government Board to send one of their inspectors, or other professional advisers, 948 to give evidence in a case in which they were not themselves concerned, and it was open to the guardians, if they really wished to defend the action, to employ expert evidence for the purpose. But this they failed to do, and the county court judge, in the absence of any such evidence on their behalf, gave a decree for the amount claimed, with costs. The Local Government Board have no funds at their disposal to defray the guardians' costs in this case, but even if they had they see no reason for such a course, as their views respecting the unreasonableness of Mr. Gill's claim are not in any way altered by the evidence given on his behalf, or by the decision of the judge on the merits of the case as presented to him.