Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding £27,932, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant in Dublin and London, and Subordinate Departments.
Whereupon Motion made, and Question put—
That Item A (Salaries) be reduced by £1,000, in respect of the Salary of the Chief Secretary."—(Mr. Dillon.)
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I rise to move a reduction of this sum by £1,000 in respect of the salary of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I do so in order that I may be able to comment upon one or two points in connection with the right honourable Member's administration in Ireland. The two chief points to which I desire to call attention are, first of all, the condition of affairs in West Mayo as regards the administration of the criminal law; and secondly, the larger issue of the right honourable Gentleman's administration in relation to the distress now prevailing in the western districts of Ireland. West Mayo is at present, and has been for a considerable time, suffering from the 1230 most acute distress, and—as I have been informed recently, in corroboration of information which I have gathered on the spot—that distress has been, and is at present being, aggravated by the action of the local landlords, who are endeavouring, in spite of the cruel condition of the people, to extract the rents of this year as if it were an ordinary year. It is quite unnecessary for me to dilate in detail upon this subject, or to go over ground so often trodden in this House, by describing the normal condition of these people. It seems to me that it is admitted upon all sides that the normal condition of the great mass of the people in this particular district is one bordering upon hunger. In the best of years they can, by living in the most parsimonious way and on the lowest possible diet, barely pay their way; but when a year of disaster like the present comes upon them it is simply barbarous to attempt to levy the full rents. The people are actually within a very short distance of starvation, and to their troubles the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary has added his edict, practically cutting off the right of public meeting. On a recent occasion, when we challenged the conduct of the right honourable Gentleman in importing an extra number of police into the western portion of Mayo, and in sending, according to the old and evil practice, emergency magistrates, amongst whom was the well-known and notorious Mr. Shannon, who is a kind of walking executioner, for the purpose of carrying out special work—when we condemned this action, the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary pointed out that there had been some outrages in the district. He mentioned two or three, and left the House under the impression, until corrected by interrogation, that these outrages were a consequence of the meetings to which he objected. But the very reverse has been the case. No doubt there has been seething and simmering in that district a great deal of not unnatural discontent with that altogether indefensible condition of a teeming population, "cribbed, cabined, and confined," in a most inhospitable portion of the country; starving, yet surrounded by great expanses of land on which, if the Government would 1231 take the trouble to help, they could lead industrious, comfortable lives. But I say it is no wonder if these people, seeing year after year pass by and nothing, or very little—I will not say nothing—done, it is no wonder that there should be discontent. What has been in truth the history of this matter? There were a few isolated cases of outrage in West Mayo previous to the meeting at Westport last winter, of which the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary complained; and as far as I know, since the date of that meeting and a subsequent meeting which was proclaimed, there has been no outrage. An attempt was made by Mr. William O'Brien to substitute for these isolated outrages a system of agitation and combination on the lines familiar in the case of great strikes in this country. The right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary has met that reasonable course of conduct by importing into these districts great bodies of extra police, and by suppressing meetings. And I now desire to assert deliberately that, if outrages occur in that district in the future, the responsibility for them will lie at the door of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The right honourable Gentleman has no right to charge any of those who speak, or endeavour to speak, at meetings in that district, with responsibility for outrage, when he refuses to give the people an opportunity of free and open meeting and of free speech. That is a course which, in the past history of Ireland, has always been followed by secret combination and outrage; and, if the right honourable Gentleman chooses to pursue the evil example set him by his predecessors, on his head the responsibility must lie, and it cannot justly be laid on the head of any other man. Turning from that subject to the wider one of the general state of distress, I think on no occasion have the Irish Party, when explaining the cause of the starving population in the west of Ireland—a position into which they have been frequently forced—been treated more harshly, and in a more unsatisfactory manner, than during the present Session. Whenever we allude to the subject we are met by a stereotyped answer. The right honour- 1232 able Gentleman the Chief Secretary says, firstly, that all our statements are exaggerated; and secondly, we are informed that, in so fax as there is any distress, the Government have dealt with it fully and adequately. I am, therefore, obliged to endeavour once more to make good our case, and to prove to the satisfaction of the Committee, first, that there is, and has been, cruel distress in these districts; and secondly, that the administration devised by the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary has entirely failed to deal adequately with that distress; and thirdly, that he has not recognised the responsibility which this condition of affairs throws upon him in the government of Ireland—a responsibility which, I may say, all previous Governments have sooner or later recognised, no doubt, in some instances, not until there had been a good many deaths. We are told that we are exaggerating in our accounts of the distress, and any account of the present condition of the West of Ireland taken from Nationalist journals, or from the mouths of men supposed to be Nationalist, is dismissed as a gross exaggeration made for political purposes. Upon that point I would refer to a remarkable and interesting letter which appeared in the Irish Times of May 12th, written by the Rev. John G. Fahy, Protestant rector of the parish of Waterville, in the county or Kerry. I attach to this letter a great deal of importance, because, in the course of it, the writer declares himself to be a strong Unionist, and condemns attacks on the Government, which, he says, are calculated to do more harm than good. In that letter Mr. Fahy says—As one of a small committee consisting of three Unionists and one Nationalist; and, therefore, not likely in any way to criticise unfavourably the action of the Government, perhaps my representations may be listened to by your readers, and from a knowledge of the condition of the people in this district, they may form a just estimate of what is likely to be the condition of the people in other districts less favoured.Then he explains that the parish of which he speaks is one to which many tourists resort, and a certain amount of money is spent in the place by the Atlantic Cable Company, and this percolates into 1233 the surrounding townlands, and benefits the people directly or indirectly—yet so keen is the distress that eighty families within the above-mentioned area have applied for relief during the past two months.Mr. Fahy goes on to say—I investigated every case as far as possible. I have been in the homes of many. I have seen their shop accounts. I have consulted their neighbours, and I can say without exaggeration that, whilst all are badly off, 50 families are in dire distress, and this is mainly due, though not altogether, to the failure of the potato crop.Then Mr. Fahy says—Now, as one who believes that the greatest injury this country could suffer would be separation from England, I may fairly claim a hearing from Englishmen, and ask them to credit statements made by one who has no personal or political end to serve, and I ask the members of the Government not to pooh-pooh this cry of distress because their attention is called to it by their opponents.This is a letter from one of the Government's warmest supporters, and he adds—I have stated things as I find them in this district, more favoured in many ways than its neighbours. What I state I do so from personal observation. Had anyone told me in February, or early in March, that such a state of things existed, I would have looked upon him as an alarmist.That shows the temper of the man, and he proceeds—I knew there was distress, as it could not be otherwise when the potato crop was almost a total failure. But only when it became my duty to find out things as they were, and as application after application came in, and as I went from one house to another to verify the statements made, it was only then I realised how great was the suffering and want within a radius of six miles from my home.That is a most instructive letter. Here is a clergyman and a Unionist, who, in the beginning, thought the cases were exaggerated, and who admits that, after he had made an examination into each case in the parish in which he lived, and had gone to the houses to inquire, he could not have believed or realised the extent of the distress surrounding him within an area of six miles of his own house, and he adds—I believe the state of things to be worse in the districts around me, not from personal 1234 knowledge, but from the statements of many whom I have known for years, and whose testimony no reasonable man can doubt.Proceeding with his letter, Mr. Fahy says—A man came to me the other day—father of six children—his wife recently confined. He told me that there was no food in his house for a sick wife, young baby, and five other children. I got him to make this statement before the clerk of petty sessions and the sergeant of police. He did so, and asked me to come and test his case. I verified the truth of that. The man only asked for a few shillings in advance until I could open up some relief work on the following Monday. This is one of many typical cases. I could give twenty such.That is the verdict of a strong supporter of the Government, a man who, although he was resident in the district and might, therefore, be supposed to have a special local knowledge, began his investigation into these cases with the idea that all our accounts were exaggerated; and yet he states that 80 families in his parish have applied for relief during the past two months, and that, while all are badly off, 50 families were in dire distress mainly, though not entirely, owing to the failure of the potato crop. If that is the state of affairs in one parish in the extreme south-west of Kerry, what must be the amount of human suffering that is going on throughout Ireland? But if we desire to make any impression on the Government we must look outside Nationalist journals and outside the British organs of the Government. Well, here is an extract from a letter written by the editor of the Mark Lane Express. It is not a humourist paper; it does not, indeed, concern itself with politics, but is a purely impartial business paper. Here is what the editor of the Mark Lane Express says in a letter to that journal—The distress which prevails when the sole crop fails is almost beyond realisation by those who do not practically depend upon one kind of food. Ruin comes like an avalanche. Ireland is always regarded as being in a chronic state of poverty, and many of its peasantry standing at the next door to starvation. This is true in a measure, for whilst some portions of the country are prosperous, others are at the best of times only just one remove from want. There are few people in England who have not heard of the pitiful condition of the Irish poor in the south and 1235 west, but not many are able to realise the dreadful state of affairs which exists. This can scarcely be a matter for surprise when even the rulers of the country fail to see it, or, if they see, decline to admit it unless absolutely compelled.That is the language of the editor of the Mark Lane Express, and he goes on to say—Some of this year's surplus, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to deal with, would have been better spent in improving the condition of the Irish poor, than in taking a trifle off the tobacco duty; and my wish is that some strong man would come to the front and prove his claim to the name of statesman and philanthropist by removing this foul blot from our national life.So much for a Unionist and a man whose impartiality is, I think, above suspicion. I have another extract, from a newspaper which, I believe, is a strong supporter of the First Lord of the Treasury. It is a paper whose authority the right honourable Gentleman cannot question; I refer to the Manchester Courier. Here is what the special agricultural correspondent of that journal says on April 30 last—I should like to say a few words on the distress in the south and south-west of Ireland from the agricultural point of view. With the party-political side I have nothing to do; having just returned from a visit to Ireland, I can say that there is no question of doubt as to distress, and I can add further that some of the potato land is not yet planted, there is still seed to be distributed by the officials, and it ought to be done without delay, or the crop will be again deficient. Times are so bad in certain parts that the people have to be put upon relief works that they may earn enough money to keep body and soul together. Manchester has done some good for these poor people, and I can assure the subscribers that where I have been the money is being well spent. On the question of the housing of the peasant I must say I am ashamed at what I have seen in this portion of our Kingdom. I never believed it to be half so bad as it is, and I have read what others have written. The hardships in which the peasants live, the difficulties under which they raise their limited crops, are always great, but what is the extent of their trouble when there is no seed to get another crop?Even that is a testimony from an entirely independent witness, a witness, in fact, who might be expected rather to take the Government view that everything had been done that was necessary, and that the distress had been grossly 1236 exaggerated. The records of the Mansion House Committee, from which the harrowing accounts that appeared in the Dublin newspapers were supplied, show beyond doubt the terrible state of distress which prevails. I think I have established a tolerably strong case, proving that, in spite of the relief given by the right honourable. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, the condition of things in the west of Ireland at the present moment is harrowing in the extreme, and a disgrace to the administration of that country. I think I have established that quite clearly. There are only two other points to which I wish to refer. I wish to allude to the condition of the school children. Some time ago I was privileged to see the private and confidential Reports of the Manchester Committee. I directed the attention of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary to these Reports, and he has since told me that he had read them. And what was the right honourable Gentleman's reply when I questioned him as to the action he had taken on these Reports? He said he had issued a circular to the relieving officers directing their attention to the power they possessed of relaxing the ordinary conditions of the poor law with a view to giving provisional relief. I think that is an extraordinary answer. In those districts where the children are suffering most the condition of the rates is such, and the indebtedness of the unions is such, that any attempts to add fresh burdens would simply swamp the small remnant of the population not already overwhelmed with debt. The right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has directed the attention of the relieving officers to their power to give relief in the case of children who are in the condition described in these Reports. I cannot read these Reports, because they are confidential, but it is notorious what is the condition of affairs. In a number of schools in the west of Ireland children fainted from hunger, and were found to be suffering from very painful diseases, owing to the fact that their food consisted largely of Indian meal, and was altogether poor and insufficiently nourishing. I think the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary ought to do something 1237 more humane and more creditable than sending a circular to bankrupt unions directing their attention to their powers. I do not know if they have these powers, but I do think the right honourable Gentleman might have done something more sympathetic and more reasonable in dealing with so painful and terrible a condition of things. I think, really, the condition of the school children is one that ought to be dealt with in a more humane way than any we have yet experienced from the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary. It is cold-blooded and hard, when one of these periodical misfortunes fall upon the people, when they are overtaken by what is described by the editor of the Mark Lane Express as an "avalanche of ruin," that there should be no other remedy than to inform the wretched ratepayers of these desolate and poverty-stricken districts that they have the right to deal with it by relaxing the law of outdoor relief. Sir, we are alarmed at the spirit the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary has displayed in dealing with this matter. We were alarmed when we heard the right honourable Gentleman proposing clause 12 of the Local Government Act the other day, because we saw in it a continuance of the policy which the right honourable Gentleman has carried out so sternly and with such iron-bound rules during the winter—of endeavouring to squeeze the last drop out of these miserable districts before he will relax the purse-strings of the plethoric Treasury to give them some assistance. The Government statistics of the failure of the potato crops in Ireland in 1897 more than confirm anything that has been said on this subject. I confess that I, myself, strongly as I have spoken on the subject, was astounded when I came to examine the Government statistics, which justify every word we Irish Members have uttered as to the extent of the distress, and go far beyond anything we have ever said in any of the statements we have ever made in the House. The total produce of the potato crop was 1,498,416 tons, or 44.5 per cent. below the yield of 1896, and equivalent to a decrease of 45.5 per cent. on the 10 years previously. I am not quite sure what would be the average price of potatoes, but 1238 I should say it is about £3 per ton. An honourable Member says £4; but taking it at £3, which, I think, is a moderate price, the shortage in the staple food of the people, according to the Government statistics, was of the value of £4,300,000. But that does not tell one half of the story, because the whole of the shortage fell on the poorer districts. It is impossible to exaggerate the gravity of these figures. What does the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary, on behalf of the British Treasury, propose as a remedy? A grant of £20,000, £5,000 of which is to go in salaries to distributing officials. That is to say: the generosity of which the right honourable Gentleman has been boasting is that in order to meet a shortage of £4,000,000 he proposes a grant of £20,000, and £5,000 of that is to be spent in salaries. I claim that these figures more than bear out—they go beyond anything we Irish Members have said in this House. In previous debates I have pointed out to the Committee that these figures give only a very faint idea of the magnitude of the evil. The reports take the whole crops of Ireland, but a careful examination shows that the yield of potatoes has not been much more than one-third of the average crop, and in some of the poorest unions five-sixths or six-sevenths of the crop on which the people depend for their food was swept away. To make matters worse, what was left of the crop was entirely unfit for human food, and it was on the diseased remnant of their crop that these unfortunate people in many districts had to strive to live for many weeks, assisted by charity. On the top of all this misfortune came the Spanish-American war, and a rapid rise in provisions, so that I suppose it now takes far more to maintain a family, even on wretched Indian meal, than in an ordinary prosperous year. This is a terrible state of affairs, and deserves a totally different class of treatment to what it has received up to the present time from this House. A few days ago an honourable Member of this House handed me £50 to distribute amongst these people. I sent it to 11 different parishes which, after careful examination, I had selected as the worst. I wish I could show honourable Members the letters of thanks I have received; they 1239 might then realise the condition of these unfortunate people. The Government system of treating this distress is a cruel and barbarous one, and I take the opportunity of moving this reduction in order to give expression to what I believe to be the all but unanimous verdict of Irish Nationalists and Unionists as to the administration of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland in the catastrophe which has overtaken the west of Ireland.
§ Question put.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
The right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary has spoken with scorn and contempt of the starving population in Ireland. [Mr. GERALD BALFOUR indicated dissent.] That is my opinion. We Irish Nationalist Members recollect his words, and we shall take good care that the people of this country do not forget them. I congratulate the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary upon his Unionist policy. From his point of view that policy must have been a great success, because the object of the Union had been attained—namely, the destruction of Ireland's prosperity. The right honourable Gentleman seems to regard himself as a sort of deus ex machinâ, put by some providential arrangement into the Government of Ireland. But Irishmen cannot but regard the right honourable Gentleman as a foreign administrator who has never shown sympathy with us; as the head of our administration, the object of which is, not to look after the poor, but to destroy them; not to protect the prosperity of Ireland, but apparently to injure it. The right honourable Gentleman's want of sympathy towards the Irish poor is shown by his speeches in reference to Irish distress. Only the other day he declared that the poor people in these congested districts were in a bad state of health on account of their dirty habits, and he went on to say that they could not be supplied with champagne and sent to the South of France. I cannot characterise that observation as I should like to characterise it; but I will say that no words are strong enough to condemn it, and if it 1240 had not been spoken in this House by a right honourable Gentleman in the responsible position of a Minister of the Crown I should say that an observation of that kind is indicative of the maximum of cruelty and the minimum of humanity. A few days ago the right honourable Gentleman made what has become known as "the champagne speech," which I am bound to say, bad as it was, was an improvement on some speeches made by former Ministers; it was rather better than the "Don't hesitate to shoot" speech of another Chief Secretary. In that speech the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary referred to the Lord Mayor of Dublin, and said his statement of the sufferings of the people was highly coloured and exaggerated. There is one honourable Member who does not agree with the right honourable Gentleman on that point, a gentleman, too, whose opinion the Chief Secretary ought to recognise—I refer to an honourable Member who was brought into this House by the First Lord of the Treasury as a gentleman who had special knowledge of Irish affairs, and who would support, through thick and thin, a Unionist administration in Ireland—I refer to Mr. Carson, one of the honourable Members for Dublin University. The honourable Member read the letter of the Lord Mayor containing the statements which the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland described as highly coloured and exaggerated, and he contributed £10 towards the relief of the distress.
§ MR. E. CARSON (Dublin University)
I may be allowed to say that I had not read the Lord Mayor's letter containing a description of the distress; I had private information on the subject.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
That is better still. The honourable and learned Member, who evidently did not accept the official account, sent £10. The policy of the present Administration seems to be to so reduce and enfeeble the condition of the Irish peasantry that they would adopt emigration as the alternative to their misery, but such a policy will have from the Irish Members a most strenuous resistance. 1241 There is a passage in this letter which I will not read, but it is interesting in this way. Here is a Protestant clergyman—a minister of the Irish Protestant Church—writing this letter, and, at the same time, stating that among his own co-religionists there were not more than two families in anything like distress. We see this gentleman with kindly feeling going into the miserable huts and hovels belonging to people of a different religion, but bound to them by the common ties of Christianity and brotherhood, and coming forward, as so many others like him have come forward, to relieve these starving and destitute people, with no political object to serve, because he himself says, although he is strongly in favour of the Unionist policy, The is bound to say that he strongly and most regretfully differs from the opinion of the Chief Secretary on this matter. We may fairly ask Englishmen to take the statements made by this reverend gentleman, and not pooh-pooh this distress because their attention is called to it by the opponents of the Government. He deeply regrets the language used by the Chief Secretary, and if the right honourable Gentleman knew how much his remarks had pained men as loyal as any in the United Kingdom he would endeavour to approach this question of distress in that kindly spirit recommended by the Lord Mayor of Dublin. It greatly intensifies and exasperates the feelings of the Irish people to know that when we—without the information which the Government had, but simply from general information—warned the Government to come to the rescue of these poor people, they did nothing. Then we had the Lord Cadogan letter at the very time when the Government had these horrible statistics at their disposal. We only knew gradually, casually, and generally the state of the country, and when the Irish Members implored the Government to convene Parliament in October, in reference to the distress, they, with the statements before them, which we have now, did nothing, and so far from doing anything they did their best, I say deliberately, to counteract all contributions for the relief of the distress, in order—although it seems almost inconceivable—that the Irish people should be 1242 reduced to a chronic position of misery and degradation. I feel grateful to the House for having listened to me with great attention and with great kindness, and I can assure honourable Members that it is no pleasure to me to have to make speeches of this character. The question is not a mere matter of policy and administration as between the Irish Members on one side and the Chief Secretary on the other. Its object is the preservation of starving men and women and children, starving through no fault of their own, but through the concentrated action of the Administration, for which the right honourable Gentleman, as its head, is responsible. I cannot conceive how any man, no matter what his religion or politics may be, who, going through these districts and seeing the unspeakable destitution, poverty, and misery, cannot wish to extend relief to these poor people. No English Administration in all its conduct in Ireland seems to me to have been so unjust, so horrible, and so cruel, as is the conduct of the present Government in this matter.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
I, of course, as an English agricultural Member, have no right to intervene with a Debate on the Irish Estimates. I have, however, some knowledge of the country alluded to by the honourable Member for East: Mayo, and I regret that when he moved the adjournment of the House the other day the Government did not see their way to acquiesce in the suggestion of the honourable Member, because exceptional distress, whether it takes place either in Essex or in Mayo, or on the south-west coast of Ireland, to my mind requires exceptional remedies. I am bound to say that when the representatives of the Eastern Counties brought forward the condition of East Anglia, and Essex in particular, we never received anything from the Treasury Bench, whether it was Liberal or Conservative, except a certain amount of platonic commiseration, but the Irish Members always gave us all the support they could. With reference, if I may say so, to the attack made on the Chief Secretary for Ireland with regard to his speech the other day—now 1243 characterised as the "champagne speech"—all I venture to say is that it is impossible to believe that the right honourable Gentleman, who is so urbane, and, as a rule, so sympathetic, could have meant what he is reported to have said. I must say that a speech like that only ranks with such an historical statement as that made by Marie Antoinette in 1797, who, when told that the people had no bread to eat, said, "Let them eat cake!"
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY TO THE LORD LIEUTENANT OF IRELAND (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
Has my honourable Friend read a report of my speech?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Then will my honourable Friend give me an explanation of what he said or intended to say?
§ MAJOR RASCH
Certainly. All I wanted to say was that I thought the right honourable Gentleman had been somewhat unfairly attacked, and that the statement could not have borne the meaning attached to it.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I must again interrupt the honourable Member. What he said was that it was impossible that I could have really meant what I said. I have already stated most distinctly that I did mean what I said, and that there was nothing in what I said calculated in any degree to have been offensive to anyone.
§ MAJOR RASCH
If the right honourable Gentleman admits that he meant what he said I can only say I am sorry for it. But I should not have intervened in this Debate at all except that I wished to express recognition of the sympathy and help which we the Members for the Eastern counties have received from the Irish Members.
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire)
I just want to say a word or two 1244 in support of the appeal of the honourable Member for East Mayo. I believe that the distress in the West of Ireland is worse than this House is aware of. I should like to read an extract from one or two reports which I have received within the last few days, and which present a deplorable picture of the condition of Mayo. One states—The increase in the price of flour consequent on the war is very great. Flour which could be bought for 6s. 6d. is now up to 16s even. I do not know what will become of the poor people here.Another letter from County Galway states—For the past four months out of eight hundred families that require relief here only very little over three hundred are relieved by the Government relief fund, set in operation in February, while five hundred families who have been left in a semi-starved condition depend on private and public charity. The people are most willing to work if only they can get employment, and they would work for sixpence a day if they could get it. If the price of provisions continues to go up as it has been during the last fortnight I do not know what is to become of them during the next three months. Not a day passes but they are up at my place to know if I can relieve them in any way, and they frequently go down on their knees and implore me to give them the price of one stone of Indian meal. In fact, the distress is so great now that it cannot be described.I have several other letters of the same kind which I need not read, but I do think it a disgrace to this country to allow such a state of things to be going on so close to our own doors. I am sure that if the Chief Secretary visited the West of Ireland himself, and saw with his own eyes the condition of things, he would come back with very different views. There is a great difference between seeing with one's own eyes and reading what other people have seen. The relief of these poor people would be a mere drop in the ocean for this country. We are all delighted to see the order prevailing in Ireland as compared with a former period, and are we not all very anxious to get on kindly and cordial feelings with the Irish people? Here is the very poorest part of the kingdom. We have an overflowing Exchequer and an enormous surplus: why should not we be a little more generous to these poor people? It is very important that the 1245 Government should put an end to the distress which now prevails in these districts, but is this the way to do it? Is it not the unionist argument that Ireland, being part of a rich country, is better off than if left to herself? And yet in a famine in the poorest parts of Ireland, affecting half a million of people, you give them just as little as you possibly can. Is that the way to reconcile the Irish people to British rule? On the grounds of Unionist policy I wonder honourable Members opposite do not see for themselves what an extremely mistaken policy this is. Would a Home Rule Parliament neglect them? These poor people in the west of Ireland have friends scattered through the United States, Canada, and Australia, and by your treatment of them you are only sowing seeds of bitterness and discontent throughout the world. I say it is most unwise, most senseless in fact. English administration lacks sympathy—I believe it intends to be just, but it lacks sympathy. The Irish people are sympathetic and quick, like all Celtic races, and you are missing a great opportunity in this country by not acting more generously towards them in the time of distress. Why is there such a mass of people living on the bogs in Ireland? What is the reason? Confiscation drove the people off the rich lands into the bogs. The present condition of the people is the result of political changes in Ireland. I have driven through those districts myself, and I know how desperately poor the people are, and I ask the right honourable Gentleman not to look upon this question from a narrow, economical, cheese-paring point of view, but to look at it as a statesman should, with a wish to preserve the good opinion of the Irish people. We have not too many friends in the world just now, and it is foolish of us to miss an opportunity of this kind of sowing the seeds of kindliness and goodwill among the Irish race scattered throughout the world. I support the appeal of the honourable Member for East Mayo. The Irish Members have a first claim, and I hope the Government will accede to it.
§ MR. HORACE PLUNKETT (Dublin Co., S.)
The honourable Member who 1246 has just sat down is known in this House and out of it as being perfectly disinterested, and I for one thank him for the sympathy he has shown with my countrymen. I regret, however, he should have appealed to the Government on the ground of policy at all, and that he should have asked them to depart from what he calls their narrow, cheeseparing policy, and adopt a more statesmanlike attitude. I do not myself join in any of the criticisms which have passed on the demeanour of the Chief Secretary or his attitude towards the question of distress in Ireland. I have had an opportunity of being in constant friendly consultation with him as a member of the Congested Districts Board and as an old personal friend, and there can be nothing more untrue than to say that the attitude which he considers it his duty to assume is due to any want of the feelings of common humanity which has been imputed to him. Even the speech which has come to be known as the "champagne speech" I do not think was understood by anybody who read it in the sense in which it has been taken up.
§ MR. HORACE PLUNKETT
I do not happen to have read the Daily Express on the subject. I take it my right honourable Friend wished to show that there were certain measures of relief which the Government could not possibly take, not because in themselves they would not immediately conduce to the happiness and comfort of the people, but because they would create a precedent which could not possibly be followed in future, and would leave the general condition of the people worse than it was before. In the weariness of Debate my right honourable Friend indulged in an extravagance of illustration more usual among my own countrymen than with his. I did not hear the speech myself—I read it in the Times—and as to the meaning which attached to it, I never mistook it for one moment.
§ MR. DILLON
I did not allude to the speech at all, as the honourable Member has argued. What we complain of was not the meaning, but the spirit which dictated the speech.
§ MR. DILLON
I only wish to correct the honourable Member in order that there may be no misunderstanding. So far as I personally have been able to gather Irish opinion, which I think is absolutely unanimous on the subject, it is not the meaning of the speech—it is the spirit with which any man responsible for these horrible sufferings could approach the subject, and use such an illustration that the Irish people felt so bitterly.
§ MR. HORACE PLUNKETT
I thoroughly understand the argument, but I was perfectly convinced when I read the speech that the spirit which the right honourable Gentleman has always shown was not departed from on that occasion, and I think the attack on him is unfair. Now, Sir, in the few words which I wish to address to the House on this subject, I will refer to the point made by the honourable Gentleman who has just sat down, namely, the need for a permanent remedy for this distress. I know that when there is a heated Debate on the subject of exceptional distress, it is hard to get honourable Members to listen patiently to an economic discussion dealing with its permanent relief, and yet so convinced am I that the real difficulty of dealing with exceptional distress is that the measures taken might hamper the ultimate solution of the problem, that I do not think it is possible to treat the two questions separately. The honourable Member for East Mayo said the other day that I spoke as an expert on this question. I do not pretend to do that at all. I am a student of the question, and I do not profess to know a tenth part of what 1248 I hope to know after I have studied it more deeply; but I have come to some conclusions as to the lines on which the ultimate remedy is to be sought. It is absolutely necessary that there should be friendly co-operation between the Government, the local authorities, and, what is far more difficult to bring about, these poor people whom we wish to benefit. It is with that factor in the question that I wish chiefly to deal. The Congested Districts Board have, for the last six years, been trying all manner of remedial measures to deal with these conditions. It is not necessary that I should deal with the question of migration, because that has been duly discussed in this House. We well understand what is desired in that direction. In addition to migration and the enlargement of holdings, we wish to develop the fisheries around the coast and to establish small rural industries. But when we try to build up an industry in these districts we meet with one great initial difficulty. Under modern conditions the main factor in the development of industries is an industrial class—a class with the traditions and habits of industry. Here we have to select the human material from a population which by reason of its poverty and destitution is the least fitted for industrial life. That is the great difficulty we have to deal with in the Congested Districts Board, and I have come to the conclusion that there is no way of getting over this difficulty except by an active scheme of education. Now, in dealing with children the principles on which we should proceed are well understood, but we cannot wait until a new generation grows up in order to help us to solve this problem. We have got to do something with the adult members of the community, and as far as my study in foreign countries, where similar conditions have existed, goes, there is absolutely no other way than by teaching them methods of organisation and co-operation. What I mean by organisation is this. We shall have to send capable men down among them, who will find in their poor little economy some improvement which, by joining together in organised association, they can carry out more efficiently and economically than they can separately, and when once we have 1249 succeeded in a scheme of this kind, I maintain we shall have given these people just that kind of education which will prepare them far better to receive outside aid. I know this is a very dry and difficult subject to interest the House of Commons in, but these views are held by men far abler than myself, men older than I am, who have lived amongst the people; and, whilst we do not entertain any extravagant hopes as to the direct benefit of this work we are doing in this district, we do believe that there is need for Government assistance on a large scale. It is for that reason that I thought it well to intervene in this Debate, and I do not wish to detain the House at any great length at present. I wish to say, before sitting down, that I think things have happened since the scheme of Government relief was put into operation that demand more drastic measures to deal with this problem. But of this I am certain, that it is no kindness to the people that we all desire to help to bring this great national question down to the level of party controversy.
§ MR. P. FFRENCH (Wexford, S.)
I rise to support this Motion for two reasons. First, because I believe Irish distress has not received sufficient attention in this House. My second reason is that I think the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland does not pay sufficient attention to institutions in Ireland such as industrial schools, which are very useful. These institutions, as the House is aware, receive those poor strays and waifs, and bring them up and educate them and teach them to be good and useful members of society. If we had not such institutions as these in Ireland, in all probability these poor strays and waifs would become pests to society. Well, Sir, I think that the Chief Secretary might help those institutions better than he does. In my constituency there is an industrial school, which is certified for 70 pupils, but it has accommodation for 120. The magistrates of the district, and, I might say, for the matter of that, all the people of South Wexford, are in 1250 favour of an extension of these industrial schools, and the Chief Secretary has been applied to several times. I believe that last year I applied to him myself for an extension for 20 pupils. Well, Sir, this does not mean very much. Each pupil only costs £13 annually—that is to say, nominally costs £13, but friends of the children contribute something towards the maintenance of those children, possibly one-fourth—so that £10 a year might be nearer what each pupil would cost; and, as I am not asking very much from the Chief Secretary, and as Wexford is not a very rich county, and as I am asking for this for a good object, I hope that the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary will kindly consider this, and see if he can grant this small concession on behalf of my constituency for an extension to accommodate 20 pupils.
§ MR. CARSON
I only just wish to intervene with a few remarks upon this important question of distress in Ireland, and I may say, Sir, that I think, considering the seriousness of the question, and in suggesting remedies for the distress which exists, we ought to rise to something above personal attacks. Then, Mr. Lowther, I do not at all join, and I wish particularly to disavow any idea of joining, in any attack whatsoever on the Chief Secretary. It is quite true that some newspapers in Ireland have made use of phrases that were used in his speech, in which they have tried to arouse some impression that the Chief Secretary was out of sympathy with the existing distress in Ireland. Sir, I do not for a moment believe it. But, Sir, apart from these personalities, which I do not think will assist us in coming to a conclusion, we have an important matter to consider, Mr. Lowther. Now, the first thing we have to consider is, is there exceptional distress in Ireland? Now, Sir, I do not think, so far as my information goes—and I suppose, like every other Irish Member, I am burdened with correspondence necessarily with reference to these matters—in my opinion, so far as I can judge, there is no general distress in Ireland at the present time. But, Sir, as 1251 regards certain distress in the south and west of Ireland, so far as my information goes, the distress there is of the most exceptional character. Mr. Lowther, what do we mean by exceptional distress in Ireland? Why, Sir, at the best of times these poor people for whom we are pleading live in a distressful condition, and when these people and those interested in them come forward to put before the House of Commons, or to put before the British nation, what they call exceptional distress, unhappy indeed must be the lot of these people. At the best of times their living is of the lowest order, and it is a class of living which can only be called an existence. And, Sir, what they are crying out for now is only that they may be allowed to have that mere existence. But, Mr. Lowther, when we admit that exceptional distress of this kind prevails at the present time it is not so easy to suggest remedies to prevent this chronic distress. But, Sir, we must deal with the immediate necessities of the case. In England, when distress of this kind arises, you are blessed with millionaires, with great wealth, with great factories, and with rich people, who can well afford to be charitable. Unfortunately, Sir, Ireland is a poor country, and we have no millionaires. We have no wealth, and we have very little in the nature of trade. We have no factories, and we have no employment which can cope with this exceptional distress. I am not going to say, Sir, what is the reason of that. It is not at all germane to this subject, and I think very little good is done in making attacks on the English Government when we want to deal for the moment with the state of things that we find exists in Ireland. Now, Sir, I ask this question: if that exceptional distress exists, even in part, is this House of Commons going to say we can do nothing? I am aware, Sir, that the Government are willing, if the local authorities will contribute something, to contribute to some scheme of relief. I believe that is the arrangement. But, Sir, that is a matter that you cannot work out satisfactorily in these poor districts, and all I can say is, that if this distress continues in these places for any length of time, I think it will create more ill-feeling towards the Eng- 1252 lish Government in those particular quarters than any amount of politics can ever do. Now, Sir, having said so much, I join in the appeal—I join in the serious appeal—to Her Majesty's Government to take this matter at once in hand. These people do not ask for much. They ask, as I said before, merely to be allowed to exist by such relief as the Government may be pleased to give them. But, Sir, this recurring distress must also be dealt with. It is a matter of vital importance that we should not have to come to this House time after time putting forward the situation of these poor people, and asking the Government to relieve their immediate needs by such grants as have been given. Sir, I think a great deal more might be done through the Congested Districts Board if they were given more means, and I believe that there is no one who understands Ireland, or who has watched affairs in Ireland, who is not of opinion that, so far as their means went, the Congested Districts Board have done their duty, and have done it well. But, Sir, they have limited means—exceedingly limited means—and when you have, year after year, these enormous surpluses in your Budgets, which enable taxation to the extent of £1,000,000 to be taken off tobacco, and matters of that kind, surely, Sir, this rich country might join us in something nobler, and in helping the Congested Districts Board to relieve the sufferings of these poor people. I speak on this question from no political side, for I hope the House will raise this question above Party or political considerations. I hope those speakers who follow on the other side will not exaggerate the case, or render it more difficult by attacks upon the British Government. What is the good of that when starvation faces these people? Upon an occasion like this I think we should consider the condition of these poor people, and rise to a more generous spirit than is frequently shown in those Debates, and demand from the Government some kind of generous treatment for these poor people.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
The speech of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Trinity College 1253 must, I think, bring conviction to the minds of honourable Members in this House that there does exist a serious state of affairs in Ireland, and an exceptional amount of distress, which calls for exceptional treatment. The right honourable Gentleman has made an appeal, which I think is a wise appeal, that this Debate should be conducted not so much upon Party lines as with a view to the very serious state of affairs existing in certain counties of Ireland; and when he deprecates personal attacks upon the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary in this matter I think he should, in fairness, remember that whatever is personal in connection with these Debates arises not so much from the attacks upon the Chief Secretary as from that unfortunate language which he allowed himself to use in this House. The right honourable Gentleman said that he meant every word which he said in that speech, which has been so widely criticised, and I think that every Member of this House will heartily echo the statement made by one of the representatives for Essex, who immediately declared that he was extremely sorry to hear the right honourable Gentleman make such a statement with regard to his speech. Mr. Lowther, the very fact that a speech of that kind could be made by a person in the position of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant is the very best proof, to my mind, that it is utterly impossible that any Englishman, no matter how well disposed he may be, can ever with success or satisfaction administer the duties which he is called upon to administer in the position of Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. However, I am going to leave the personal part of this matter on one side. I condemned the language of the right honourable Gentleman when I heard it; I condemned it ever since, and I condemn it now; and I am at perfect liberty to do so, because I am one of those Irish Members who do not enjoy the pleasure of the personal acquaintance of the right honourable Gentleman in private, and he may be perfectly certain that while I condemn him across the floor of this House, I shall take no opportunity in the Lobby outside afterwards of trying to excuse myself for what may appear to be 1254 my harsh conduct to him across the floor of the House.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
The honourable Gentleman the Member for Donegal amuses me. I am not a manufacturer of hats, but, if the cap fits anybody, they are quite at liberty to wear it. With regard to the statement made by the honourable Gentleman the Member for East Mayo, I can only say that from the very beginning of this Session of Parliament statements have been put before the Government with regard to distress in Ireland, and it is certainly a melancholy spectacle to find that, after several months have passed, we are here again obliged, in the same manner, to bring before the Government the distress which exists in certain districts of Ireland. Why, surely, Mr. Lowther, the statements made at an early period of this Session ought to have been quite sufficient to induce the Government to take adequate steps; and yet the statements of Gentlemen like the honourable Member for East Mayo and other representatives of distressed districts, made when Parliament met, were consistently ignored, and here, after several months delay, we find Conservative supporters of the Government obliged to admit that the state of affairs existing in Ireland calls for exceptional relief, and that relief has not been granted by the Government, although they have had plenty of warning of the distress.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
Well, the right honourable Gentleman says that adequate relief has been granted. Might I ask, Mr. Lowther, if—
§ MR. W. REDMOND
Perhaps the right honourable Gentleman will explain what he does mean when he replies. I gather from his interruptions that he 1255 considers that sufficient relief has been given, and adequate steps have been taken to meet the exceptional distress which undoubtedly exists. That appears to be the contention of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary. I am perfectly prepared to find that statements made by the Member for East Mayo, from myself, and from others who for years have represented Nationalist opinions in this House are discarded, and even not believed by Members in this House. But, if any doubt exists with regard to Nationalist opinion in this matter, I appeal to honourable Gentlemen to pay some regard to the opinions of supporters of the Government. The right honourable Gentleman the Member for the south division of the county of Dublin has spoken here to-day. He has admitted the distress, and I ask honourable Gentlemen supporting the Government, do they imagine that the honourable Member for South Dublin would come here and join in this Nationalist appeal if he believed that the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary had truly stated that everything that is necessary to be done has been done? I ask honourable Gentlemen opposite, do they imagine that the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, Dublin, would come here and join his voice with the honourable Member for East Mayo, and the Nationalist Members, against whom he is bitterly opposed in general politics—would he come here and join our appeal if he were not absolutely convinced of the distress which exists, and absolutely convinced also that the Government have not taken adequate means to meet that distress? Now, the honourable Member for East Mayo and others in this House—and, I may say, Mr. Lowther, that although I do not represent one of the districts which could be accurately described as most distressed in Ireland at the present time, even in my constituency there is a great deal of distress—have been implored by people whom they represent to bring this matter to the attention of the House. Now I should like to make this suggestion to the Government, and I do not think that it is an unreasonable suggestion. The position is this: on one side you have 1256 the officials of the Government—the Local Government Board inspectors, the constabulary authorities, and other sources upon which the Government relies for information—and they appear to have instructed the Chief Secretary that sufficient steps have been taken by the Government to meet the distress. They appear to be of the opinion that the Government have done all that is necessary, and that the statements to the contrary are exaggerated. Very well, then; on one side you have those opinions of the officials of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary—what have you got on the other side? You have the almost unanimous opinion of the clergymen and leading men of these districts expressed day after day at public meetings, through the columns of the Press, and in private letters to Members of this House, that there is great need of relief; that there is absolute disease coming on the people from hunger; and we are told that in some of the schools the children are so weak that they can hardly come there for want of food. These are statements made by the priests. But the right honourable Gentleman does not feel inclined to place the smallest confidence in the opinion of the clergymen of those districts, and he relies on the reports of these inspectors. He believes his inspectors, and we believe the information we receive from local sources. Many English gentlemen connected with the Manchester Relief Committee, and some unconnected with that committee, have also reported that there is very great distress in Ireland, and that, in their opinion, the Government have not taken adequate or necessary steps to deal with it. What do I suggest? I suggest that in order to set this matter at rest, and relieve the consciences of honourable Members in this House and Members of the Government as to their duty in this matter, that a small Commission should be sent over to Ireland—it need take no great time or cause any delay—of independent gentlemen representing various sections of this House. Let them start to-night or to-morrow morning, and inside of one week such a Commission could visit most of the districts to which we refer, and 1257 they could report, upon the truth of our statements, and whether our statements were with or without foundation. That is a suggestion which I believe to be thoroughly practical. It is one that would decide the matter, and, if a Commission of that kind be appointed and at once despatched, I am myself absolutely convinced that whether it be composed of Conservatives or Liberals, Radicals or Irish Nationalists, provided they go with open minds and a sincere desire to report the truth, I am convinced that whatever the composition of that Commission may be, within one week they would report to this House that the Government has not taken sufficient steps to meet the distress, and that it is absolutely necessary, in the very cause of humanity, that something more should be done to meet the very distressful conditions which now prevail. I appeal to the right honourable Gentleman if he disbelieves us, if he has so much reliance upon his officials, to send such a Commission. The honourable Gentleman the Member for South Dublin spoke of certain economic theories of his, and he spoke of what he thought should be done in matters of education for the children who are growing up. His theories are no doubt perfectly sound, and his views are quite interesting; but what we have got to consider is that at the present time there are some hundreds and thousands of people in actual want and who are suffering the pangs of hunger itself. And what I propose is that we should leave the discussion of these economic theories and views upon education upon one side for the time being, and that this House and every Member of this House, be he Liberal or Conservative, should unite, for once in a way, in believing the statements made by Irish Members, not merely of one political view, but Tory as well as Nationalist, and join in the appeal of the right honourable Gentleman to let the truth be known, and not at this period of the nineteenth century allow a single person to die of starvation so near your own door.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
As regards the personal attack made upon myself in the course of this Debate, I trust I may be allowed to pass that over. I have already explained the phrase which 1258 has been so much distorted, and I have already stated that by that phrase I meant no sort of insult or scoff against anybody in Ireland or out of Ireland. I was merely using a vivid illustration of a general principle, and the only regret that I have to express in regard to that expression is that I should have used an expression which, though I should not have thought so myself, experience has shown me has led to so much misrepresentation. Now, Sir, I have been accused, apart from that, of treating this question with callousness and heartlessness, and the honourable Member who rose from the benches below the Gangway opposite further charged me, and, through me, the Government, with having acted as we have done in this matter out of a spirit of niggardliness, out of a mere desire to save money. Sir, I can assure the Committee that the desire to save money has borne a very small share in determining our policy. Honourable Gentlemen opposite are always persuaded that the Treasury purse is shut against any demand they may make, or against any proposals they may put forward for meeting the necessities of Ireland. Sir, I can assure them that the Treasury purse has not been shut in this instance. The Treasury have acted upon the system that was followed in 1891 and 1895, and of this I am quite certain, that the Treasury will under no circumstances refuse to the responsible Members of the Irish Government any money which that Member declares to be absolutely necessary in order to meet exceptional destitution. And, Sir, let me point this out, too: honourable Members seem to think that we have taken the easy course in this matter. Sir, that is not the case, for we have taken the difficult course. It would have been infinitely easier for me to say to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that distress exists and must be met. The easiest way of meeting it, the way that creates the least discontent in Ireland, and the way that gives the least trouble to the members of the Executive would be to vote sums of money to be expended in Government relief works, and so in that way to flood the West of Ireland with money. I might have adopted that course. If I had adopted that course, I do not believe that 1259 the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have refused my request. But I have acted as I have done, and adopted the system of dealing with the distress that I have, out of a sense of public duty, and certainly quite apart from any considerations of my own ease and comfort. I knew perfectly well what I should have to face when I undertook to lay, and resolved to lay, upon the localities themselves a certain amount of responsibility in meeting the distress. I knew that I should be the object of calumny and aspersion, and events have shown that I was right in my anticipation. But, Sir, let me say at once that no calumny and aspersion will move me a single inch from the performance of what I still conceive to be my duty. Now, Sir, Unfortunately, these discussions have necessarily, to some extent, taken the form of a refutation on my part of assertions, which I believe to be exaggerated, made by honourable Members on the opposite side of the House. Unfortunately, my speeches have necessarily to take the form, to some extent, of a refutation of observations which I believe to be exaggerated on the part of honourable Members on the opposite side of the House. I have never denied that distress existed, I have never denied that it is acute in certain localities in the west of Ireland. I know that it has been to me a subject of constant anxiety and of constant solicitude for months past. The honourable Member for East Mayo contends that I have shown no sympathy. Well, Sir, it is difficult, very difficult indeed, when you are being attacked for showing half-heartedness for refusing to recognise and meet with distress, under such circumstances, to become expansive in expressions of sympathy.
§ AN HONOURABLE MEMBER: Champagne!
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I have, not once, but again and again, in defending myself, practically had to explain that the representations of honourable Members as to the extent of the distress are exaggerated. That has not been a pleasant task, but it has been a necessary task, and, to some extent, I am afraid that I must go over that old ground again. I will, however, endeavour 1260 to do so with as little detail as possible. The honourable Member for East Mayo who opened this Debate read extracts of letters from the Rev. Mr. Fahy, numerous extracts from letters from Irish priests in the West of Ireland, and he referred to the Mark Lane Express and to the Manchester Courier. It can be well understood that if any definite complaint is made it is possible to inquire into it, and, if it is ill-founded, to expose it, but it is always difficult to meet vague statements. My general answer to all of these extracts and complaints is this: I have invited all those who make these statements to give me specific instances of families who are in this state of destitution and of starvation, or semi-starvation, which has been described as existing, and the results of my inquiries into these specific instances have never been to bear out the statements which have been made with regard to them. Now, take the statements, for instance, of the Rev. Mr. Fahy; and I may remind the House that I replied to a question on this subject the other day here. The reverend gentleman said that it was impossible to exaggerate the distress. I immediately entered into communication with him, and asked him to state the names of the families which were destitute, and he communicated to me the names of 22 families who, he said, were in the condition he had described. The relieving officer has since visited each of these persons, and his report was that in nine cases relief was not required, five were already in receipt of relief from the rates, and the remaining eight cases were put under relief. Whenever specific complaints are addressed to me or to the Local Government Board they will always be inquired into, and, if circumstances justify it, relieved.
§ MR. KILBRIDE (Galway, N.)
Will the right honourable Gentleman say what amount of relief they were in receipt of?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I cannot say off-hand, but I will inquire and ascertain if the honourable Member wishes. I have here specific statements which have been made from Mayo and Galway. Two lists were sent to the Local Government Board from the Oughterard Union and 1261 the Clifden Union. The Local Government Board transmitted these lists to the relieving officers in the districts concerned, and the relieving officers were told that if they thought that any of these people ought not to receive relief they must give their reasons for their opinion. In the Oughterard Union a very small proportion of these persons were in a condition of destitution, and these were relieved from the rates The remainder were not relieved, and I have here a list of the circumstances which led the relieving officer in each case to arrive at the conclusion that they were not fit to be recipients of relief. I will not weary the Committee by reading the whole of these names, there are 40 or 50 of them, but I will take a few of them [The right honorable Gentleman read particulars from the statement, from which it appeared that one person from whom the relieving officer withheld relief had three head of cattle, another three cattle and twelve sheep, another four cattle and fifteen sheep (and had also two weeks before sold two pigs), and another three cattle and fifteen sheep.] I have taken those cases at random, and the Committee will see that in every case these instances of destitution are most carefully inquired into by the relieving officer, and relief is given in every case where the relieving officer comes to the conclusion that such relief is necessary. And let me here clear up a misconception. It has been stated a good many times that no relief is ever given if those who ask for it have any cattle whatever. That is not the case. I believe it will be found that the majority of those on the relief lists have, as a matter of fact, one or two head of cattle as their own.
§ MR. FLAVIN
Is the right honorable Gentleman aware that the man who died the other day near Cahirciveen had one head of cattle, and was compelled to keep it, and he died of starvation?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
However, an inquiry is being held into the case. Then we come to the list sent out from the Clifden Union. With regard to that list, it was found, upon inquiry that all the persons named in it were already employed in the relief works, and the same remark applies to the second list sent out from the Oughterard Union. I did as the Committee will agree, I think, make inquiries into the condition of these people, with the result that I found them to be in receipt of relief, and that they could not therefore be put on the relief works. They would not have been proper subjects for relief from the public funds; they were not destitute, and were not proper objects of charity, and they were not persons to whom it would have been right to extend Government assistance. I will supplement what I have already said with one other illustration. The Lord Mayor of Dublin, in consequence of the statements that I have made, sent letters relating to two cases of alleged starvation. One of those cases related to Patrick Toolis, whom it was alleged was starving, and his family also, and the other was with regard to John King, who informed the Mansion House Committee that he was in a state of destitution. The Local Government Board investigated these cases, and ascertained the following facts—Patrick Toolis is a road contractor—he has cattle, a cart, a horse and a car, and never applied for relief to the relieving officer. John King, of Clifden, has been to America twice; he lives with his wife and sisters, and has no family; he has two good cows and three young store cattle, and seems to make a good sowing. He told the inspector that until he saw well-off people—shopkeepers and large farmers—getting the Mansion House Fund seed he did not ask for any, but when Thomas Sweeney, shopkeeper, of Bunowenbeg; Leary Killely, of Truska, who has over 20 head of cattle, and Michael O'Donnel, bailiff and deputy cess collector, were getting seed, he thought that he was entitled to a share.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
You are insinuating that the information we have given you is not true, and that the information given by the priests is not true.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Statements are made on that side of the House, and in what way am I to meet them, excepting by showing what has happened in cases in which I am able to inquire into?
§ MR. W. REDMOND
Will the right honorable Gentleman allow me to interrupt? I do not like to do so, but I feel very strongly upon this matter. He gives us the report of the officials. We have no confidence in the report of the officials. He has no confidence in our statements, or in the statements of people in the neighborhood. Will he adopt my suggestion and send a small and impartial commission of gentlemen at once to Ireland to report whether there is exceptional distress or whether everybody is in a flourishing condition, and that all that has been done in the way of obtaining relief is a mere swindle?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I have fully admitted that there is distress, but I cannot throw doubt upon the people who supply me with information simply because the honorable Member declines to accept their testimony. They have every means of ascertaining the facts, and have no reason whatever for misrepresenting them.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
You ought not to insinuate that our information is wrong. You ought not to doubt the information of the priests. You beastly English; this is one of those Debates that make me hate England and everything connected with it!
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I can give one other illustration of the difficulties with which we have to contend in consequence of the statements that are occasionally made and believed in as regards distress. The other day the Lord Mayor of Dublin wrote a letter to the Times, and in that letter he referred to a statement of mine, in which I said that if you took 30,000 people as being, roughly speaking, about the number of distressed 1264 persons in a state of destitution in Mayo and Galway, it would be a fair approximation to the truth. In reply to that the Lord Mayor said—On April 9th I asked the clerks of the unions in the distressed districts for a return showing the number of families which would require relief until August.He then goes on to give some of the returns, which show a total of 11,037 families, which, he says, at six members to the family, gives 66,222 persons. I inquired immediately of the clerks of the unions as to how these figures were arrived at, and I will give the reply of the clerk of the Swineford Union, who put the number of families who have been in a state of distress at 5,000. I thought that was an exaggerated view of the facts, representing as it did about 25,000 people, and I asked him how he arrived at his figures. His reply was—My reply to the telegram received from the Lord Mayor of Dublin on the 9th was not based on accurate or authentic information, as I had no time to obtain such. I received the Lord Mayor's telegram about five o'clock in the evening of the 9th, in which he asked me to supply the information by return of post, so that I had only about two hours in which to obtain this information, while I was also pressed with other important business. I was also under the impression that the information was required in connection with some relief committee of the Lord Mayor's, in order to make an apportionment of some of the money for the seed, which I understood was at their disposal, and I made out the best case I could for our poor union and its claims to a large share of the funds which were being distributed by private charity.I do not wish to dwell upon considerations of this kind. The conviction is inevitably borne to me, as it would be to anybody who has gone through my experience that everybody in these western districts is in exactly the same frame of mind as this clerk. They are all anxious to get the largest possible share of these funds for their own district. It is a very natural feeling on their part. You cannot blame them for it. It is a fact, however, and this continual exaggeration is indulged in, through the desire of the persons making these exaggerated statements to get as much as they can out of the funds which are being distributed. It was exactly that condition of affairs which was one of my main motives for insisting that 1265 the localities should bear, so far as the Government system is concerned, some share of the expense in connection with the relief works, and that system has been absolutely and completely successful. Until it was known to the guardians that the Government would require that they should pay some part of the money used for starting relief works I was bombarded with representations from boards of guardians. Some of them, no doubt, were from localities where there was real distress, and others from localities where there was comparatively little distress; but since the responsibility has been laid upon them of themselves contributing these boards of guardians have been silent and the bombardment has ceased. I venture to think that a great many of the representations that have been made Lave reference no longer to the hope of obtaining some of the Government funds, but are made from a desire to get some of the Mansion House Fund, or other funds.
§ MR. HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)
Will the right honorable Gentleman say how much is given by the Government for a day's work on those relief works?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The amount given at the present time is a maximum of 6s. a week. As that has been mentioned several times in connection with this subject, I may say that in fixing that maximum sum I have merely followed the example of my predecessor the right honorable Gentleman the Member for Montrose, and the example of my right honorable Friend the First Lord of the Treasury. Honorable Members from England must not judge of that amount of wages by comparing it with the English standard of wages. They must further remember that there is no intention on the part of the Government to give employment and to pay wages in return for employment done. What is given is relief, given in the form of money, no doubt, but only intended to be relief and not wages, and the employment on the relief works is merely a test of destitution and nothing else. Reference has been made to the rise in the price of provisions. That is a subject which has been engaging the attention of the Government. As regards the unions where there are vice-guardians 1266 and where it is possible for the Government to exercise somewhat more control than is possible in other unions, instructions have been given that where the maximum allowance now given is insufficient for a large family an additional worker of the family may be employed.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Quite lately. The rise in the price of provisions has only taken place quite recently. Some time ago, I think it was a month ago, I stated to the House that if, as the year went on, the distress showed signs of increasing, as it probably might be expected to do in the summer months, the restrictions placed upon the employment on the relief works of members of the same family should be relaxed and an additional member should be allowed to be placed upon them. My right honorable Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, though I do not entirely share his views as to the extent and severity of the present distress, or as to the adequacy of the measures taken by the Government; still, I think his treatment of the subject was on a higher level, and worthier of the issue, than that which has been exhibited by a good many of the other speakers. The real question that faces everybody who occupies the position of Chief Secretary in these periods of distress is not merely how you are to provide for exceptional distress, it is how are you to so act as to prevent, as far as possible, a recurrence of that distress. No doubt that problem has been attacked with some success already by the Congested Districts Board, also by the co-operation of which my right honorable Friend the Member for South Dublin has been the pioneer, and which he is now engaged in introducing in some of the worst districts of Mayo and Galway. I think all that will do good work. I agree with my right honorable Friend the Member for Dublin University that the time has arrived when the Congested Districts Board might be usefully entrusted with the administration of more money. I have more than once reminded the House that I brought forward a proposal of that 1267 sort last year, and this year effect has been given to it to the extent of £10,000, and I hope that next year something more may be done in the same direction. But we have to consider the future, even when we are engaged in considering the present. If I were to give way to the pressure brought upon me to abandon the system which I have adopted of dealing with distress, I should be making mere difficult, and not less difficult, the system of permanently dealing with the chronic state of distress in the west of Ireland. The old system of relief demoralized people, and it demoralized them by encouraging the advertisement of destitution. The people were taught to believe that it was the duty of the British Government, wherever and whenever there was a failure in the harvest, to make that failure good to them. This very night we have had a most extraordinary statement from the honorable Member for East Mayo. He referred to the statistics of the failure of potatoes, and he said that in calculating the money value of that failure it might be put at £4,000,000, and he said to me: "Here is a loss of £4,000,000, and you make up for it by a dole of £30,000." I am more than surprised at the extraordinary view that the honorable Member takes He seems to think that where there is a failure of the crops the Government ought to make it good to the farmers.
§ MR. DILLON
The right honorable Gentleman is wrong. I drew a clear distinction. I said that this was no ordinary case of failure of crops. It is a failure of the staple food of a whole population, who would soon starve, and I added that when you have a failure of £4,000,000 in one year you propose to remedy that awful condition of things by a grant of £30,000.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Assuming the statistics of the honorable Member to be correct, the failure has been spread all over Ireland, amongst large and small farmers alike. Again, it is not true that the potato is the staple food of the people in the west of Ireland. No doubt, where there is a failure of the potato crop, there will be exceptional distress, but it is no longer true as it was in 1847 that the 1268 potato is the staple food of the people But, Sir, the system of the Government is not to measure by statistics as to failure of the crops, because what the Government undertakes to deal with is exceptional destitution, such as would justify the guardians in giving relief out of public funds, and in order to ascertain the amount of such relief, you must not go to the statistics of the farmers, you must examine into the particular cases of destitution. Honorable Gentlemen opposite, I am afraid, are apt to forget that although in Ireland distress has again and again been relieved, out of public funds, there is no instance on record in which it has been relieved in England out of public funds. We have the well-known cotton famine within our recollection, and in that case there was no relief out of public funds. It was left entirely to private charity to deal with. It is perfectly true, as my right honorable Friend the Member for the University of Dublin says that Ireland is a poor country and England is a rich country. That I am perfectly willing to admit and I am also perfectly willing to admit that circumstances are such as to justify the assistance of the State in Ireland where that assistance is certainly not given in England. All that you can say with regard to it is that it is a dire necessity. It is a great misfortune that it is necessary, and anything that can be done to render Government assistance unnecessary must operate for good. My idea is not to boast that I have saved a certain amount of public money, but by throwing the responsibility upon the local authorities I think I may say that I have ensured a condition of things which will render the temptation to exaggerate distress in future much less than it has hitherto been. My defense to the policy I have adopted is not that I have saved a certain amount of money to the Treasury, but I threw the responsibility on the local authorities in order to bring about a condition of things in which temptation to exaggerate distress in the future will be much less than it has hitherto been. And I maintain the exaggeration of the distress by those who profess to be the friends, and who are no doubt in their hearts the friends of the people who are suffering does in reality infinitely more harm 1269 in the long run to those whom they desire to benefit than if they had let the matter entirely alone.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I shall not in my remarks to the Committee to-night imitate the tone of the speech which we have just had the pleasure of listening to. The right honorable Gentleman was kind enough to say that the speech of the honorable and learned Member for the University of Dublin was upon a higher level than some of the other speeches which had been delivered in the course of this debate. Well, it certainly was a most able and convincing speech, and for my part I am very sorry that there were not more members present in the House to listen to it Now I shall, so far as I can, confine myself to the question before us. After the exhortation which the right honorable Gentleman has made to us, I will make no allusions whatever to his past tones, but will deal with the question exactly where it stands. The first question which occurs to my mind with regard to his speech is, What was the object of that speech? What reason had he in his mind for making it? He quoted to the Committee a number of cases in which unjust, preposterous, and dishonest claims were made, some of which were of such a character as to appeal at once to the mind of the Committee, and to give it the impression which the right honorable Gentleman evidently desired to convey. Now, I am not going to deny, and no man in this House can deny, that when there is a large amount of distress in a country you must have some exaggeration of that distress. There must be some unjust and preposterous claims made, and there may be some of such a character that when used by a dexterous debater like the right honorable Gentleman the Chief Secretary, they may give an air of unreality to the whole story that distress exists. Does the right honorable Gentleman the Chief Secretary mean and desire to convey to the Committee that the whole story of the extreme distress in the congested districts of Ireland Is an absurd unreality? If the story of the distress be an exaggeration and an invention—a grotesque and hyper- 1270 critical exaggeration—then I see the full force and the full utility of the speech which the right honorable Gentleman has made to us to-night, and of the instances he has given, because every instance he has given was calculated to give the impression to the Committee that the whole story of this extreme distress in Ireland was an exaggeration and a sham. But if the right honorable Gentleman is of opinion that, though there may be these isolated cases of dishonest deception, the broad fact is that there is great and widespread distress in certain parts of Ireland, then the speech which he has just made to us is a speech which is calculated to have a most prejudicial and a most injurious effect, and convey a most misleading impression to the minds of the Committee. Because, I maintain—and I am within the memory of the House—that the whole burden and effect of the speech of the right honorable Gentleman, and the conclusion you are to derive from it, is that the whole story of the distress in Ireland is a most grotesque, hypercritical, and absurd exaggeration. I do not wish to say anything offensive, and I have no desire to do so; but when the right honorable Gentleman quoted case after case of men demanding relief who had no right to do so, and of the exaggeration confessed to be exaggeration, when he puts case after case like that, and says little or nothing about the other side of the question, I maintain, whatever the object of his speech might have been, the inevitable effect of that speech is to leave a general impression upon the minds of the Committee that the story of famine in Ireland is a gross and wicked fabrication. The right honorable Gentleman spoke from official documents. I wonder if honorable Gentlemen upon the opposite side know that since we brought our case before the notice of the House our whole contention has found its strongest confirmation in official documents. Honorable Gentlemen in this House whose memory goes back so far will know that the last great case of extreme distress that we had in Ireland was in 1879. That was the year of greatest distress in Ireland since the famine of 1846. Everybody will remember that the results of the distress in 1879 were the most important political 1271 results for Ireland of almost any year since the Union, more important even than the results of the famine of 1846; because it was the distress of 1879 which produced the Land League agitation, and by producing that agitation gave birth to the various measures of land reform which this country has since given to Ireland. Everybody whose memory goes back to 1879 will recollect that there never was such a large and generous attempt made by people of all classes to alleviate the distress of Ireland as at that time. It is said there were three great relief funds at that time. I think there were more. There was the Duke of Marlborough's fund, and there were the American fund, initiated by Mr. Parnell, the Mansion House fund, the New York Herald fund, and the Quaker fund, raised in Philadelphia. I do not think I exaggerate at all when I say that in that year there were funds amounting to less than—perhaps before I give the total amount given for the relief of Ireland I should state that the Government of the day adopted several legislative measures for dealing with the distress—there were two Belief of Distress Acts, and the Compensation for Disturbances Bill, the whole purport of which was to deal with the exceptional distress; and, altogether, I think I am within the mark when I say that between legislative relief and public funds no less than two millions of money was given to Ireland for the purpose of relieving the distress in 1879. That being so it must be taken that 1879 was a year of abnormal distress in Ireland and of abnormal relief. Now, that is my starting-point. What I want to bring to the notice of the Committee is, and it is a great deal better than the cases given by the right honorable Gentleman the Chief Secretary, a comparison of the figures of 1879 and of 1897. The total yield of potatoes in Ireland in 1879 was 1,113,676 tons, and in 1897 the total yield was 1,498,416 tons, so that there was, after all, comparatively very little difference—and I am quoting from Government statistics—between the total bad yield of 1879 and the total bad yield of 1897. But, Sir, I want also to point this out, that in the Province of Connaught you will find that the yield in 1879 was 228,000 tons, and in 1897 220,036 tons, or a decrease of 8,000 tons 1272 in the yield of 1897 upon the yield of 1879. In Muntster it is worse; the yield of potatoes there was actually 69,454 tons less in 1897 than it was in 1879. Now, remembering that the point from which we started was that 1897 was the worst year that Ireland has had since the famine of 1879, and putting these figures alongside those of that year, I think they prove that we are dealing with a similar state of things to that which existed in 1879, when exceptional distress was caused by the decrease in the yield of potatoes. Furthermore as some people know, unfortunately, to their cost, there was a great deal of relief in 1879 in the form of the withholding of rent which the people could not pay, and by which means a large amount of arrears of rent were piled up, and the whole of which were swept away by the Arrears Act, which was passed by the Government two years after. Here you have, in some parts of Ireland, distress which in its intensity is far greater than was the distress in 1879, and you have practically no legislative relief at all in the form of a grant from the Treasury, because the grant from the Treasury is so infinitesimally small compared to that of 1879 that it cannot be taken into calculation, for you have exacted rent to the uttermost farthing. I am ashamed to say it, because some of these men are countrymen of my own, and ought to have been ashamed to do so; but instead of coming to the relief of the people, as in other years, by reducing the rent, they are serving them with process. Now, I do not know how the right honorable Gentleman is able to meet these statistics—he did not try to meet them in his speech—I heard some allusion to them, but I confess I was unable to understand the allusion. Are we to understand that the gentleman who produced these statistics belonged to the same class of people as lord mayors and Nationalist Members, of electors of unions and applicants for relief, who have built up this monstrous fabrication of distress? No, our case stands, not on the testimony of Nationalist Members and lord mayors, but upon the published report of the official statistics. In order to bring us to the fact of what these figures mean. I take the statistics of two or three unions with regard to which complaints have been 1273 made. Everybody is agreed that some of the unions are in a chronic state of poverty. I find in some of these onions the average valuation is 19s. 11d. per head and in the congested districts the Government give the average of 280 families in a good year at little more than 3s. That is to say, if the year is good they consider themselves well off because they are not suffering from absolute famine. In five unions in Ireland in 1897 the average yield of potatoes was one ton to the acre, or one-fifth of a crop. In other years a full crop has only just put the people above starvation, and now in 1897 they only had one-fifth of a crop, and in some oases only one-seventh of a crop. I put those figures side by side with the speech of the right honorable Gentleman to which the Committee has just listened. Was there ever a more remarkable—I think that is an un-passionate phrase—was there ever a more remarkable speech upon the part of an official, or one more calculated to give a false impression, than the speech of the right honorable Gentleman the Chief Secretary on a question of this kind? The right honorable Gentleman the Chief Secretary has complained of the personal attacks which have been made upon him with regard to his language in this matter. I have made no personal attacks upon him that are in my memory at the present moment. What I complain of in the Chief Secretary is not his language but his acts. Offensive language, cruel language, callous language, or indiscreet language may be the effect of the impulse of the moment, but what I complain of is the studied and the deliberate action of the Chief Secretary in minimizing the state of distress in Ireland. I complain also of the conduct of the Lord Lieutenant in this matter. I believe that the public charity of America and other parts of the world would have saved the Government all difficulty in this matter if it had not been for the conduct of the Chief Secretary. When the distress was beginning, and the time was opportune for preventing it, there came the cablegram to America of the Lord Lieutenant stating that the distress was grossly exaggerated. Now, the right honorable Gentleman the Chief Secretary says, and says very truly, that public charity, though it should be one is not the chief source 1274 to which we should look for the relief of such exceptional distress as this Any public charity we have had in Ireland for this distress we have had in spite of the Chief Secretary and the Lord Lieutenant. Any relief that we have had from the English people—and we have had great and generous relief—we have had in spite of the Chief Secretary and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. That is the indictment we bring against the Chief Secretary, and it is a much more grave and serious indictment than one as to any chance words used on the spur of the moment, though there have been occasions when chance words, like those of the Chief Secretary, have given rise to revolutions, and given to those revolutions a great deal of the horror and bitterness and rancour which accompanied them. There is the statement of the gentleman who, at a time when the people of France were suffering all the horrors of famine, advised them to eat grass, words which were remembered against him when the great upheaval of the masses and the revolution took place, and he was compelled to swallow the food which he had so generously advised that the people should eat. It is not the language of the Chief Secretary it is the acts of the Chief Secretary of which I complain. I have proved from the words of documents prepared by his own supporters—by his own officials—that we have not in any way exaggerated this famine; whilst the effect of his attempts to minimize the distress has been that he has succeeded in depriving the people of Ireland of the charity and assistance of others.
§ MR. SERJEANT HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
I listened with great disappointment to the speech of the right honorable Gentleman the Chief Secretary, and I am quite certain that that speech will be received in Ireland with the same feeling of intense disappointment, and, I will add, disgust. That speech contrasted very unfavorably, for itself, with the speeches two English Members of this House previously delivered in the course of this Debate, the one the speech of the honorable and gallant Member for Essex, and the other that of the honorable 1275 Member for Flintshire. They, in their remarks, gave proof of their sympathy towards the sufferings of the people of Ireland, whilst the Chief Secretary, in his, did not betray in the least degree the slightest feeling of sympathy even in so exceptional a case as the present. I am not going to refer to any former speech, or any language that has been used by the right honorable Gentleman in connection with this matter. I treat this matter altogether from a public point of view, and do not intend to look at it from any personal standpoint. We are now discussing a question of vital importance to the large mass of the population of Ireland, and a question of vital importance to the honor of this House and the honor of the English people, because it cannot be denied, and it has not been denied by the right honorable Gentleman, that there is great distress prevailing on the south and west coasts of Ireland. It would be impossible to criticize or gainsay that proposition, because of the letters read by the honorable Member for East Mayo, and the letter read by my honorable Friend behind me, which show, upon an authority beyond impeachment, a fact which is patent to all the world, and that is that there are now hundreds of families starving on the west and south coasts of Ireland. What does the right honorable Gentleman the Chief Secretary say? He admits that there is much distress in Ireland, but lest the relieving of that distress should create an inconvenient precedent, he will allow that distress to go on as it is going on, and as it has gone on for the last three months; and in the meantime, how much suffering and how many deaths will occur in those counties? The right honorable Gentleman ought not to approach the difficulty in this manner; there has been no such famine since the year 1879. The figures given by the honorable Member for Scotland Yard—the Scotland Division of Liverpool—I am extremely glad that I have been the means of giving some amusement to the Committee in an otherwise very serious and grave Debate. At all events, those figures demonstrate beyond all doubt that we have not had a period of famine like this since the year 1879. There- 1276 fore though allusions were made to what was done by the right honorable Gentleman's predecessor, no question arose when that predecessor was in office which called for such measures which are now demanded from the right honorable Gentleman the present Chief Secretary. It appears to me, and in anything I say I deprecate its being supposed that I speak with any other feeling than the utmost respect for the right honorable Gentleman, that he comes forward now, and has, to a certain extent, cleared the air, because he has intimated to the House of Commons from the Treasury Bench that the British Treasury are quite willing to advance any sum that may be necessary for the relief of this exceptional distress. In making that avowal he takes upon himself a tremendous responsibility, because he assumes the whole responsibility of allowing this misery and starvation to continue. It cannot be said that 6s. a week under the system which he has initiated will prevent these families from perishing before his eyes. Why does the right honorable Gentleman pursue this course? For the policy of carrying out and applying those rigid, cold and callous rules of political economy to a condition of things which has no parallel in the whole of Europe. Perhaps the nearest parallel is what is going on in Italy at the present time, where the people have risen against the starvation which is crushing them; but in Ireland, in the west of Ireland, these unfortunate people have not broken the law, they have not risen up against the authorities, they have tamely submitted to their fate, and if it were not for the charitable exertions of the public and the Manchester Committee, many of these families would have already perished, and it would have been a matter of indifference to them what policy was pusued, or upon what grounds the right honorable Gentleman pursued it. I may mention, as corroborative evidence of the reality of this distress, a thing which occurred in my own experience a short time ago. I happened, while in Dublin, to be introduced by a philan-thropio gentleman to three gentlemen who had been sent over by the Manchester Committee to visit the south-west and the west coasts of Ireland, and ascer- 1277 tain for themselves whether the distress which existed had been exaggerated. I asked whether they found that there had been any exaggeration—whether they found, as a result of their visit to the west, that the statements put forward by the representatives of the people were ill or well founded, and those gentlemen assured me there was no exaggeration, and that there were no words in the English language capable of exaggerating the misery which existed in that part of the country. The truth of the existence of this famine in the autumn of last year seems, if possible, to have been kept in the background; yet the petition was signed by some 60 Members of Parliament, calling the attention of the Government to the existence of the famine, and calling for an autumn sessions. It was met by the assurance that there was no ground for expecting anything like exceptional distress. That same policy can now be traced in every word of the speech of the right honorable Gentleman. Why are we to wait for the application of this slow process of starvation, when the British Treasury is willing to advance £20,000, £30,000, or £50,000 in order to meet this exceptional distress? His argument seems to be, in regard to these unfortunate people, "Live, live horse, and I will give you oats," while they are considering what policy they will pursue. My right honorable Friend the Attorney General for Ireland smiles at that I know he is a kind-hearted and humane man; but it will not be a matter for these people in the west to smile at. It will be for them to consider whether this great and wealthy Empire will or will not contribute to keep them alive. The next three months will be the worst which they will have to experience; the next three months will be incomparably worse than those which have passed. But what is the case made out by the right honorable Gentleman? What is the evidence put forward over and over again in this House and out of it? The right honorable Gentleman relies on the returns of some relieving officers, which were given to him under the auspices of the Lord Mayor of Dublin. One of these officers, on whose evidence he relies as showing that there 1278 was no famine and no exceptional distress, sat down and misrepresented to the Lord Mayor facts of so serious a character. Why not institute an inquiry by reliable men; why depend upon the returns of relieving officers in considering distress? What excuse is there for the Government to sit still and not institute such an inquiry? None has been stated satisfactory to this House—none, at all events, has been disclosed in the speech of the right honorable Gentleman. Even at this period I would implore the House to enforce on the Chief Secretary that, as the responsibility has been assumed by him, he will show himself equal to the occasion, and that he will satisfy this House that, if this state of exceptional distress does exist, if the people are starving in the manner that has been described, immediate steps will be taken, and that there shall be no further delay in getting the Treasury to effect what, according to his own statement, they are ready and willing to accomplish.
§ MR. DUCKWORTH (Lancashire, Middleton)
This is my first Session as a Member of this House, and I believe this is the third Debate we have had on this deeply interesting and important question. If I remember correctly, the first Debate took place during the second or third day of the Session. The second Debate took place the day after the presentation of the Budget proposals by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not wonder at Irish Members raising a Debate on this question again and again. To-day I am very pleased to find that the right honorable Gentleman is in a position to acknowledge that there is exceptional distress in Ireland. I have been surprised that this statement has not been made before. That distress has not hitherto been acknowledged and recognized. Those who have read the letters of Professor Long in the Manchester Guardian, and of others who have traveled in these parts of Ireland within the last few months, as well as the testimony of clergymen who live on the spot, and who can have no real interest in overdrawing the picture, know the extent of that misery. Those who are intimately acquainted with the efforts made by the 1279 Manchester Committee to alleviate the distress must feel convinced in their own minds that all those manifestations of opinion and conviction on this question are founded on truth, and that it is not merely for the sake of overdrawing the picture and making extravagant statements that this question is brought up again and again. The right honorable Gentleman has acknowledged that this statement is correct that there is exceptional distress in these parts of Ireland. What is his remedy? It is quite evident that he is prepared to rely upon the statements of poor law officials only, if we may gather from the speech of the right honorable Gentleman to-day. That is poor comfort for the people who are suffering from exceptional distress. A great amount of suffering must be gone through and endured before the poor law can reach those persons who are suffering. There is a merciful application of the poor law, but I have felt during this Debate that has not been shown in the case of this distress. Why? Because, as we have gathered from the Debate, these guardians themselves are unable to give more than a minimum of what they are expected to give out of their funds. The guardians themselves are in distress; they have no money to spare; it is simply impossible for them to be liberal or generous. We know that some boards of guardians, more generous than others, have overstepped the legal duty of guardians in many cases. I myself have known that in exceptional cases they have been prepared to overstep the legal limit. I fail, however, to find that this has been done in the case of these districts. The right honorable Gentleman mentioned the cotton famine in Lancashire. I am old enough to remember that very well I remember the help that was given; and though we in Lancashire did not appeal to the Government, it was not because we were not suffering. The reason why we did not appeal to the Government was because the distress was so striking, so widespread, and so exceptional, that it evoked sympathy from all parts of the world. We were very generously helped without the assistance of the Government. But we have traveled a very long way since then. The Government have been very ready to 1280 devote the public money for other objects—for exceptional distress in various ways I will not join in any personal attack upon the Chief Secretary. I have formed since I came to this House a very high opinion of him I do not believe he is hard-hearted; but I do believe he is governed by officialism. It is the official who is speaking, and has spoken to-day and on former occasions He is determined to keep within a certain regulated line of duty. I believe he would give way to his own feelings most, readily in regard to this distress with a large heart and a generous hand; and I hope he will listen to the appeal that has been made to-day, and relax some of these official ties by which he is bound I remember very well when I first came to this House that a very high dignitary of the English Church told me that he did not vote for me, but voted against me, and he gave me the reason—because, he said, he believed the Governments ought to be strengthened and not weakened. There never has been a Government that has been in power for a long number of years that has had such an opportunity as the present Government Here is one of the opportunities for the Government to show a large-hearted generosity for the Irish people. We hear a great deal about killing Home Rule by kindness. I am afraid we are a long Way off that at present. I have no doubt the right honorable Gentleman has read the fearful accounts that have come to us from Italy. What was the beginning of that riot in Milan the other day? A hungry man took a loaf from a shop and ran away with it; and that was the beginning of all those fearful things in Italy. There is no arguing with a hungry man. Necessity knows no law. And if only one-tenth of what has been said in regard to Ireland be true—the one-tenth which the Chief Secretary admitted on a former occasion—it is a very serious thing. If even one-tenth of the people are starving, there is a duty on the part of those in authority to come and feed the hungry man, and then try to begin to reason with him afterwards. I hope the Chief Secretary will try to do something which will actually relieve the present distress, and then let the Government try to do something which will prevent these occurrences 1281 in future. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man to devise some scheme to prevent the recurrence of this distress, and to avoid a situation in which the representatives from Ireland are bound to say things which, I am sure, must be most painful to them, in order to get the relief they require from those in authority.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
It is, I am sure, a painful thing for any Irishman to have to listen on so many occasions to Debates on Irish famines. Now, Sir, I have listened to the Debate to-night, and all I object to in the speeches made by the honorable Gentleman opposite is this—that I do not think declamatory attacks on my right honorable Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland is the right way to enlist the sympathy of the British people for the suffering population of Ireland. They have attacked my right honorable Friend over and over again; but anyone who knows him will utterly refuse to accept for a moment the idea that he feels anything but sympathy with distress wherever it may occur, especially in Ireland. I listened to the speech of the honorable Member for the Scotland Division, and, of course, it was a very eloquent speech but from the beginning of that speech to the end I did not gather one bit of accurate information as to the condition of the west of Ireland. The honorable Gentleman was, no doubt, moved by the distress; but if he had gone over to Ireland and seen it with his own eyes, and then got up in his place in the House and given specific details of what he saw, and the suffering and starving he had witnessed, then, I say, his speech would have carried great weight.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
The honorable Member did nothing of the kind. He simply went through certain figures to show that the potato crop was smaller in 1897 than it was in the year 1879, when, as everybody knows, there was exceptional distress in Ireland. That is no proof at all to my mind that there 1282 is great distress in Ireland, and for this reason. In the west of Ireland, where this distress occurs, the population depend much more largely on other sources of food than they did in the year 1879. I object to these speeches for the reason that I know there is distress in Ireland; and I should be extremely sorry to think that speeches in this House—and especially speeches of a violent character—may have the effect of presenting to the public mind the idea that this distress in Ireland is all got up and is really not in existence. From inquiries I have made I have no doubt whatever in my mind—and I believe the Chief Secretary will sympathize with the statement—that there is acute distress in the south and west of Ireland. In regard to the potato crop, which is now so much smaller, according to the Member for the Scotland Division, than it was in 1879, I do not think the honorable Member got hold of the right figures, because if the honorable Member would show the Committee that the acreage at the present moment is the same, or either larger, and the crop was smaller, then there would be some ground for his statement. That is not the fact so far as I am aware. In 1879 there were 842,621 acres under potatoes, and in 1897 there were only 677,763—there were really about 200,000 acres less under potatoes in the year 1897 than there were in the year 1879. So, very naturally, there would be a considerable falling off in the weight of the crop. I pass away from that. There is no question, however, that the failure of the potato crop has had a considerable effect in producing the exceptional distress that at present exists. A great many of the population now exist to a considerable extent on other articles of food; still, potatoes form the main food in many parts. There is no doubt about it that the failure of the crop has brought about a considerable amount of distress. I will point out to the House why this is, and I wish particularly to point it out to the Chief Secretary for Ireland. It was not that there were climatic reasons of a especially disastrous kind in 1897 that produced a failure of the crop. It is because the Irish people have gone on growing, year after year, the same kind of potato on the same ground, badly 1283 cultivated. What has been the result? We all know that the Champion potato, which was discovered by a Scotch farmer, was a wonderful blessing to Ireland, for it resisted climatic influences which no other potato did But, year after year, and especially during the last four or five years, there has been a marked deterioration in the Champion potato. Still, the same seed is grown over and over again, especially in the south and west of Ireland. No change was made, and anyone who takes the trouble to inquire will find that the result has been rot in the potatoes in the south and west. Why? Because it is a worn-out seed; the day of the Champion potato is past. I am extremely glad to know that Her Majesty's Government are giving a large amount of seed in Ireland to try to remedy the defects of the potato crop.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I agree that it ought to have been done sooner. Still they have got potatoes, which have been bought by the Government since the month of January last, and sent over to Ireland from that month. I have good reason for believing that during the last three months potatoes have been supplied to Ireland. I think the Government must go further than simply supplying this seed; they must follow the potato, and see that it is properly treated by the people to whom it is supplied. The probability is that next year the same thing will occur if you do not do it. I hope the Government will take that into consideration. If you supply them with machines, you must show them how they are to be used. That will have to be done. Why is it that we have recurring periods of dire distress in the south and west of Ireland? It is because we have conditions that lend themselves to recurring famine; we all admit that. I have listened to the speeches made on the opposite side of the House, and I have not heard any well-defined plan as to how the question is to be so dealt with that these recurring famines may pass away. As long as you have in the south and west 1284 of Ireland a population practically of laborers, who earn their livelihood mainly in England and Scotland, and then live in Ireland during the remainder of the year, doing nothing and having nothing to do, so long will these famines be an absolute certainty. You cannot, as far as I have made out, suddenly alter the condition of this population; it is a physical impossibility. Not long ago the attitude of the honorable Member for the Scotland Division was expressed in the words, "They must be rooted to the soil." To root the Irish laborer, who scratches—for that is really the word to be applied to the cultivation of the soil—an acre or two of land—to root him to that position is no mercy to these unfortunate Irishmen. The honorable Member used the word "soil." Whether or not he intends to give them more soil to root in, I do not know. To root them in another Irishman's is not always satisfactory. It may have a fine sound, but I do not think that it is a practical way of improving the population that now live in poverty in the south and west The idea of emigration will be foreign to the honorable Gentleman—the idea that these men should become educated and learn that there are other countries where Irish muscle, Irish brains, and Irish ability succeed so well They may hope it is so, for some improved change in some of the British Colonies. Sir, that is not practicable. What you have to do, so far as I understand the question, is to educate the people, and not only to educate them, but to show them how they may earn an honest and respectable living. Well, Sir, how is that to be done? Of course, the Congested Districts Board have done something, but I think they have been rather starved by the British Treasury, if I may say so. But I think that the money spent through the Congested Districts Board in the south and west of Ireland would have a thousand times better effect than in pauperizing the people in the south and west of Ireland and creating a race of beggars. I hope, therefore, my right honorable Friend will realize, as no doubt he must (have realized, from the very considerable knowledge he has gained in Ireland, the desirability of dealing generously with the Congested Districts Boards, and of 1285 extending the horizon of their operations, so as to enable them to do far more than they have done in the past in furthering the industries of, and teaching industries to, these people, and showing them how they may live. If he will do so, he will do a considerable amount towards solving this question. I must say that for one I deeply regret that the Amendment brought in by the Government for establishing in Ireland an Agricultural Board was not interfered with. Perhaps the Government may at some future time bring that proposal in again, and I do not believe a better step could be taken for dealing with questions of this kind than that of establishing an Agricultural Board in Ireland, whose special duty would be to examine into these agricultural difficulties and to suggest remedies which undoubtedly would carry great weight in the House of Commons and in the country. Sir, no one can deny that the Irish, whatever their defects may be, are an intelligent population, and a Department of the State, whose special object it would be to develop the best instincts and intelligence of the country, and to devote themselves to the furtherance of those industries which they might pursue with great success in Ireland, and who would come to this House with great authority which could not be denied, would have a material effect in furthering the prosperity of Ireland, especially in the southern and western districts. Now, Sir, I have ventured to address these few words to the Committee because I believe there is great and exceptional distress in Ireland. I believe that in some instances it has been exaggerated, but these things are always exaggerated, and what I fear is that, as has been already said, the distress in Ireland may become more acute and more severe as the year proceeds. Therefore I earnestly hope that when these Debates are read by the people they may not have their sympathies checked by the violence which has unhappily characterized some speeches, and that they will divest those speeches of those unhappy attributes, and will believe that Irishmen on both sides of the House agree that there is distress in Ireland, so that the generosity which has always characterized the British people in dealing with Ireland, whatever some may say, shall be again exercised. It 1286 would be most ungrateful to deny at the present time that the British people have been generous to Ireland, and I hope they will still allow some of their generosity to flow towards relief of the distress which undoubtedly exists in a portion of Ireland.
§ MAJOR JAMESON (Clare, W.)
The honorable and gallant Member for Armagh, as we have just heard, has attacked the honorable Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool for making inflammatory speeches and for attacking the Chief Secretary. Now, I am not given to making inflammatory speeches, and I am not in the habit of making personal attacks on the Chief Secretary for Ireland, although the speech of the honorable and gallant Member for North Armagh would give me complete justification for so doing. I, at all events, have personally seen the dire distress and famine in my own constituency. I have for the past 12 months never ceased to impress upon the Chief Secretary for Ireland the gravity of the situation, and the necessity for further measures of relief. I can only say that I have been round my own constituency, that I have seen these unfortunate people starving, and that I have, to the best of my ability, helped them myself. I have in this House asked and begged the Government to help these people in the west of Ireland. I have written letters to the Chief Secretary, and I have had many interviews with the object of inducing the Government to alleviate this distress. And what response have I obtained? I have been treated in this House to a philosophical discourse on the difference between permanent distress and exceptional distress. Now, Mr. Lowther, I say that whenever you have permanent, or, as the Chief Secretary would put it, chronic poverty, you must expect, as political economists well know, to have exceptional distress in its most aggravated form. And when this Government knows—as every Government I have ever read about has known—that there are parts of Ireland where exceptional distress may occur, is it statesmanlike never to come forward with 1287 anything like a plan for the permanent relief of this chronic poverty? That is what I complain of with regard to the right honorable Gentleman. An honorable Member on this side has told him that only within the last week he has seen evidences of chronic poverty in Ireland as distressing as can be found in Italy, and, instead of philosophy, I ask the Government for statesmanship. I believe every Member of this House will agree that, although we have had this chronic poverty, which the Chief Secretary has told us has existed for ages in Ireland the Government has not come to this House with suitable measures of relief. I myself, as I told the House at the last Debate on the subject of the distress in the West of Ireland, brought a deputation that consisted of five landlords, Deputy Lieutenants—political followers of the present Government—and four, like myself, believers in Home Rule. This deputation laid before him in no uncertain manner what steps we considered should be taken for the best interests of my constituency. Sir, there is no necessity for me to come to this House with a set speech on this subject. For three years I have never ceased to importune the Chief Secretary for Ireland to help the people in my constituency, and to do something for this part of Ireland that has been so cruelly and wrongfully neglected. I then asked leave to bring in a Bill in the interests of my unfortunate constituency under the Congested Districts Board, and I was told that it was unnecessary. I did bring in one, but I might as well have let it alone, for it was put off from time to time. Yet I am told that I have no right to come to this House and make an attack upon the Government. For three years I have sat upon these benches learning my lesson, and if I feel bitterly that all I have done for the last three years has been treated with silence and contempt by the Government in Ireland, what must those Members feel who, from 15 to 20 years, have fought a similar battle for the country they love. I have, as I said before, brought deputations, had numerous interviews, and written hundreds of letters of an amount that, I think, one able-bodied man could hardly 1288 carry into this House, and nothing of any moment has been done by the Chief Secretary for my unfortunate constituents, and they have been cruelly neglected at a period when misery and famine is rife amongst them. What I ask the Government to do is to give us at all events some hope that they will help my unfortunate constituency. We have always been ready to compromise. Have we not allowed an unholy compromise to be made in order to secure Local Self-government? Have we not allowed £350,000 a year to be given in buying off the landlords rather than lose the priceless boon of self-government? When we are ready to make such a compromise surely you should come forward with some proposal on behalf of the tenants. I ask that, at any rate, we should have an assurance from the Government that they will do something worthy of English statesmanship—something to relieve the chronic poverty of those districts in Ireland, which is a standing disgrace and a menace to the safety of your empire—on behalf of the country which we represent.
§ MR. HEDDERWICK
I rise, not for the purpose of attacking the Chief Secretary, but of entreating him to reconsider the attitude which, to judge from his speech, he seems disposed to maintain towards this appeal for help from Ireland. I have never before ventured to intervene in a discussion upon an Irish question in this House. I do not know that it is necessary that I should state my reasons for having abstained from attempting to swell the volume of Irish Debate. I daresay my reasons will not be misunderstood by honourable Members opposite to me, nor by my honourable Friends below the Gangway on this side of the House with whom I generally find myself in sympathy. But if I now depart from the rule which I have hitherto observed on Irish questions, it is for a special reason, which I will state as briefly as possible. I have absolutely no personal interest in Ireland, and yet it is the case that I have recently been in receipt of communications bearing upon the state of distress which exists in the west of Ireland. Those communications have not come from an Irishman, but from an old college acquaintance, who is 1289 a Scotchman, like myself, and who, so far as I know and believe, has absolutely no interest in the mass of the people of Ireland, other than may possibly arise from a community of religious feeling or from the possession of a compassionate heart. Mr. Lowther, the communications to which I refer can leave no doubt whatever upon any impartial mind that there does exist on the west coast of Ireland, and that there has been existing for some time past, a distress which is both bitter and deep. Now, I am not going to labor this point, because, in fact, it has been admitted by the Chief Secretary, who has announced that there is a state of distress in the west of Ireland which he has characterized as acute. How acute that distress must be needs, perhaps, no more proof than the fact which the right honorable Gentleman mentioned in answer to my question that the amount of the relief afforded by the Government works to anybody who would work under the grant was some 6s. per week; that is to say, about 1s. a day—a miserable amount on which to support—I was going to say, able-bodied Irishmen, but in point of fact the men who are willing to take that wage must be, in many cases, emaciated and attenuated specimens of humanity; and yet for this miserable pittance you have hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of men clamouring for employment! It has been stated in this House, and not contradicted by the Chief Secretary, that even in the midst of this distress there are landlords who are evicting their tenants, and we may be perfectly certain that if there is any property in the hands of the tenants they will claim it.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I may state, on the contrary, that up to the present time the evictions this year have been fewer in number than they have been for 20 years past.
§ MR. HEDDERWICK
What I said was that statements had been made, which the Chief Secretary had not contradicted, and he has not contradicted them now.
§ MR. HEDDERWICK
All I can say is that we have no information given to us in contradiction of these statements, and when an honorable Member of this House vouches for their accuracy I prefer to accept them, in the absence of contradiction, as being true, and entitled to be so received. How ever, I simply point out these facts, as illustrative of the fact, which must be apparent to anyone who has listened to this Debate to-night, that there is in Ireland a state of distress which it is impossible to minimize or to doubt for one moment. Now, what is the position of the Chief Secretary? I do not deny that he has done something towards the alleviation of this distress; but the complaint I make, after all we have heard to-night, is of a two-fold nature. In the first place I say that what the Chief Secretary has done is inadequate; and in the next place I say that what he has done has been done in such a manner that not only does it not afford suitable relief, but, in point of fact, it actually prevents the tenants in many cases doing for themselves what they might otherwise do. I believe that, under the regulations which have been made, men have to neglect the most pressing duties at home in order to get 1s. a day upon the Government Relief Works. The heads of families are prevented from sowing their potato seed, and so preparing for future crops. I understood from another statement which has not been contradicted that the Government are only now supplying the potato seed.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
No, Sir; all the statements which I do not contradict must not be assumed to be true.
§ MR. HEDDERWICK
Well, of course, I accept the statement of the Chief Secretary; but I must say that the arrangement under which the heads of families are compelled to leave their work at home in order to receive this Government money is neither necessary nor best calculated to assist the families whom it is intended to relieve. Now, Mr. Lowther, 1291 I have no wish to prolong this Debate, but I desire to make a suggestion to the Chief Secretary. What I have already said has been intended rather in the nature of an appeal. There are several reasons, I think, which might induce the right honourable Gentleman to reconsider his attitude; and they have to some extent been admitted by himself. First, he told the House that this distress has been existing on the west coast of Ireland for some time, and that it is more likely to increase than to decrease as the summer months advance. The next reason I should desire the Chief Secretary to give full weight to is the fact, over which he has no control, that the price of food stuffs has gone up, and will probably go up still further; and, therefore as I have said, whatever distress may arise in Ireland from want of means is more likely to augment than to diminish as the summer goes on. And there is a third reason to which he should have regard, and that is the perfect willingness on the part of the Treasury to open its purse, if only the right honourable Gentleman will speak the words necessary to induce the Chancellor of the Exchequer to do so. Now, what is to be gained from an academic discussion as to whether distress is permanent or exceptional, while the subjects of the discussion are starving? Could anything seem more like cruel trifling to the man who is famine-pinched? Why, is there any higher duty on the part of the State than to preserve its citizens, however poor? If you are so wealthy that you could afford to give £400,000 to the Irish landlords to buy off opposition to the Local Government Bill, surely you can afford to give a few thousand pounds to relieve this distress beyond all possibility of doubt! I venture to press these arguments upon the notice of the Chief Secretary, whom I myself believe to be one of the most humane men in the House, in the hope of inducing him to reconsider his position with regard to this appeal, which seems to me to come from Ireland with a voice that ought not to be lightly disregarded.
§ MR. M. DAVITT (Mayo, S.)
I do not wish to trespass for more than a few moments on the attention of the Committee, as, practically, there is nothing 1292 more to be said on this subject from, these Benches. But I should like to make one or two remarks with reference to the interesting speech we have had from the honourable and gallant Gentleman opposite, the Member for North Armagh. I was very glad to notice the sympathetic tone of his remarks to-night. It is not always present in his speeches with reference to his fellow-countrymen in this House, He acknowledges the existence of distress in Ireland, and pleads for a permanent remedy. Well, for that I thank him; but when he delivered his interesting lecture upon the cultivation of the potato and the virtue of emigration, I was reminded of an observation made in 1846 in the Times, with reference to a similar discourse in Ireland by a late learned gentleman about the virtue of cultivating the potato. And this is the observation—If the Irish tenants could live on the stalks of their potatoes they could then give the tubers for rent.Since I read that observation, Mr. Lowther, many years ago, I have had a very strong prejudice against the potato.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
Will the honourable Member be good enough to tell us where that statement was made, and by whom?
§ MR. DAVITT
It was made in the London Times, and I shall have the greatest pleasure in giving the honourable Member the exact quotation to-morrow, if he so desires.
§ MR. DAVITT
Now, with reference to the advice of the honourable and gallant Member to Irishmen, who want to be rooted in the soil, to go to other countries, I would like to point out what would happen if that advice was generally followed. I think that if those who till the soil of Ireland were to leave the country to the Irish landlords the Chief Secretary would be compelled to bring in a Belief Bill every Session to save the Irish landlords from starvation. I never like to hear the honourable and gallant Member, for whom we all have a certain amount of admiration, talking 1293 disparagingly of the peasantry of Ireland.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I beg to say I have not done so in my references to these unfortunate people, who are in a starring state in the west.
§ MR. DAVITT
Does the class to which the honourable and gallant Member belongs recognise the distress in the way in which it would be recognised in this or any other country?
§ MR. DAVITT
DO they forego their rents? Why, at the present time, when the British people are sending subscriptions to help the distressed people in the west of Ireland, landlords in my own native county are threatening these very people with eviction in order that they may get some of the subscriptions for themselves. I was very glad to hear from the right honourable Gentleman a condemnation of dishonest persons in certain parts of the west of Ireland who had made representations to local committees that they were in distress, when, according to his statement, they were in no such condition. I have no sympathy with dishonest men of that kind, and I trust that the local relief committees in Manchester and Dublin will take note of these men, and see to it that none of the money subscribed by the people of this country or by the people of Ireland shall go into the pockets of dishonest men of that kind. It is inevitable that when there is public distress and destitution of this sort that there will be exaggeration and perhaps dishonesty; but I plead on behalf of the peasantry of Ireland, to which I belong, that exaggeration in the face of feeble doles from Parliament is not confined to that class alone. I think I shall have the assent of many Members who are listening to me to-night, when I remind the Committee that when it was necessary to pass the Agricultural Rating Bill through this House, which was to give ten millions of money in five years to English landlords and tenants, there was a great deal of gross exaggeration as to the amount of agri- 1294 cultural distress then existing here. I do not want to pursue these controversial remarks. I only want to remind the Committee and the Chief Secretary that the relief of the people who are suffering from the present distress is really a small question, so far as expenditure is concerned, as compared with the necessity for applying some permanent remedy. The whole of the present century may be said to be studded with famines and periods of distress in Ireland. There was a famine in 1822; there was another in 1832; there was a terrible famine in 1846, which decimated a million of our population; there was a very severe infliction of distress in 1862; and there was another, as we all know, in 1879 and 1880. There was partial distress in 1890, and now we are again face to face with acute destitution. I cannot estimate the enormous amount of public money—grants from this House and subscriptions from the civilized world—which has been expended in relief of the starving population of Ireland during these periods of distress; but I am certain that a tenth, or may-be a twentieth, of the amount wisely applied to a well-considered plan would have solved the difficulty for ever. I have learned with a great deal of satisfaction that the Chief Secretary has given a promise that he will try and think out some permanent remedy for these recurring calamities in the west of Ireland. I can assure the right honourable Gentleman that he will have the hearty sympathy and support of his political opponents in such efforts. It is no pleasure to us to speak harshly of the right honourable Gentleman. I am perfectly sure that if he could give effect to his own desires and his own wishes he would prevent these calamities, which can be of no advantage to the Power which he represents as virtual Governor of Ireland, and which certainly are no satisfaction to us. I feel, as an Irishman, humiliated if ever I am compelled, either inside this House or outside it, to speak on behalf of a measure of relief for my fellow countrymen. My contention is that these recurring troubles have their source in economic causes. The honourable and gallant Member ridiculed the attempt to cultivate small plots, and to grow potatoes year after year, on those 1295 small plots. He said that by so doing the people invited distress of this kind. Of course, the attempt to grow potatoes only year after year on miserably small patches of land must inevitably lead to disaster for the poor cultivators. What is the remedy? Until you give these people enough land upon which to cultivate a variety of produce there must be these repeated famines. In Holland there is to be found a class of well-to-do sturdy cultivators, who manage to live fairly well independent of periods of distress, on mainly a vegetable diet, simply because they are not confined to these wretched little patches of land, but hold land sufficient to allow of rotation of crops. If one crop fails, another will succeed, and in that way they manage to get on. That is what we want in the west of Ireland. I believe that if the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary could come before this House and before the country with a scheme that would remedy this trouble once and forever, there would be no difficulty in getting from the Treasury sufficient money to carry the reform into effect. There are some 40 or 50 landlords owning the land in the congested districts in the west, and I do not think these men would have any very strong objection to sell their land, providing they were dealt with justly and fairly. I am not, as a rule, too generous in my remarks about Irish landlords, but I would strongly back any scheme the Chief Secretary might bring forward with the object of buying out these 40 or 50 landlords, and allowing the Congested districts Board to deal with the land in the direction of enlarging holdings for present occupiers and employing public money in the engagement of skilled agricultural instructors to teach the people how to get more food out of the land. If the right honourable Gentleman is able to provide a permanent remedy for these recurring famines he will receive the hearty support of his political opponents in carrying it out, and will leave behind him a reputation that he will not be ashamed of in years to come.
§ MR. PLUNKETT
The speech to which we have just listened is one of the most helpful we have heard, and the time has surely come when, apart from 1296 political controversy, Members might consider how many of the suggestions could be carried out.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
The right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary, in the course of his speech, said the Government desired to make the districts responsible for some of the money expended in those districts. I wish to direct the right honourable Gentleman's attention to a notice of motion which was handed in at the Westport Union on the 5th May by Colonel H. J. Buchanan. I understand that Colonel Buchanan is a Conservative in politics, and a strong supporter of the general policy of Her Majesty's Government. I should like to read the notice of motion to the Committee. It is as follows—I hereby give notice that on this day fortnight I will move that all Government relief works in the Westport Union be stopped forthwith, in consequence of the following facts—namely, that though the Government pay three-fourths of the costs of the works, the other fourth of the cost is chargeable to the electoral division in which the works are carried on; that each of the undermentioned divisions have now exceeded the average rate chargeable to such divisions, and a further expenditure under this head must fall on the union at large, and be payable by the divisions equally destitute; that the relief being distributed by the guardians now exceeds £100 a week, and would, if continued, soon leave the union in a state of bankruptcy, from which it could never recover. That it be now left in the hands of the Government to look after the condition of the poor.Then follow the names of the nine divisions in the Westport Union where the charge has exceeded the average rate. Now, Sir, does anybody who knows anything at all about the working of Irish poor law unions, especially in distressed districts, think for one moment that this motion, when it is moved by Colonel Buchanan, will not be carried unanimously? If that is so, what becomes of the safeguard of compelling the unions to pay one-fourth of the cost of relief? I hope the right honourable Gentleman will pay close attention to the action of his own political supporters in the West-port Union, which will, no doubt, be followed by other unions in other distressed portions of Ireland. The Chief Secretary should not be misled into 1297 supposing that the owner of two or three mountain cattle in Connemara might not be in need of relief. Everybody who is acquainted with the mountain districts in Ireland knows quite well that a small cotter who owns three or four head of cattle in the spring time of the year finds Himself precluded from turning them into cash. These mountain cattle remain out all the winter, living on heather and coarse grass, and their condition is such in the earlier months of the year that no grazier would buy them. Not until August, September, and October has the poor cotter any chance of turning his cattle into money. I noticed another remarkable fact in the statement of the right honourable Gentleman, and that was this: while he mentioned several people in the west of Ireland who bad applied for relief, in only one instance was he able to state that within the last three or four months these people had sold pigs. What is the test of the poverty of the small farmer in Ireland? What is the test of his absolute poverty? It is whether he has pigs or not. To such a miserable condition have the small farmers in the west of Ireland been reduced, owing to the failure of the crops last year, and owing to the large increase in the price of food stuff, that they have been obliged to get rid of their pigs to a very large extent. I think there can be no greater proof of the poor condition in which these people are, or of the exceptional distress from which they are suffering, than the fact that they possess at the present moment not half as many pigs as they usually do when they are in a state of comparative wealth. I hope the right honourable Gentleman will not be misled by the reports which he may receive to the effect that because a man is in possession of two or three mountain cattle, which he cannot turn into money at the present time, he is not a fit subject for Government relief. The Chief Secretary mentioned the maximum wages for labour on relief works as 6s. per week, but he did not give the Committee any information as to the average wages received. Six shillings a week is the maximum that anyone can earn in wages on any of these relief works, but what is the average amount earned? Am I right in saying that the average wage earned on these relief works is 3s. 6d. per week?
§ MR. KILBRIDE
Well, the Committee are to take it that it is a very small percentage of the people on these relief works who earn 6s. a week?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I am not aware that such is the case. If it is there must be only a small percentage of people working six days a week.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
Is that extraordinary when you consider that many of the workers are women, and that some of them walk six miles to and from their work?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I did not say it was extraordinary; it is very natural. But it shows that the relief works are adequate, or the people would work six days a week.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
They do not work so many days now, because it is springtime, and the people are busy with the crops. But will the right honourable Gentleman say that there will not be more demand for work in June?
§ MR. KILBRIDE
The right honourable Gentleman is apparently not in a position to tell the Committee the average amount of wages earned on these relief works in Ireland. Neither is he in a position to inform the Committee what the minimum wage is. The only information of which he is apparently in possession is that 6s. a week is the maximum wage earned. Is it not a curious fact, Mr. Lowther, that when the officials in. Ireland were supplying the Chief Secretary with the information that 6s. a week was the maximum, they never thought it worth while to give the right honourable Gentleman the miserable details as to the minimum?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I have had full details on all these subjects from my officials, but I do not happen to have them with me.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
The Chief Secretary might have known that information would be asked for, and that on a question of this kind he could not be supplied with too many details. As to the nine or ten families in the Cahirciveen Union, into the circumstances of which a Local Government Board inspector had been sent down to inquire, the right honourable Gentleman did not tell the Committee the amount of out-door relief that these families were receiving' per week. Am I right, or am I wrong, in saying that the average amount of relief which these nine or ten families received was only 1s. 6d. per week?
§ MR. KILBRIDE
Yes, but the right honourable Gentleman did not tell the Committee that the rates in the Cahirciveen Union are already 10s. in the £—a very important fact in guiding the action of those who are returned to the poor law boards to look after the interests of the ratepayers, and one which would be likely to induce them to give as little relief as possible. I know the Cahirciveen Union very well, and there is not a single division in that union that is prosperous, or in a different condition from that of chronic distress. There is not a single division in the union which, could afford to have its rates increased, no matter how great the distress and destitution. I hope the right honourable Gentleman, in future statements, will be a little more elaborate, and not leave the House under the misapprehension that, because nine or ten families are in receipt of outdoor relief, they are therefore sufficiently provided for. As to the relaxation of the rules in regard to relief in the case of large families, what instructions have been sent to the guardians? Might I ask the right honourable Gentleman how many a family must consist of before the present rules will be relaxed? I take it that a family must consist of ten or twelve persons before the right honourable Gentleman will relax the rules which are at present in force.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
replied that the instructions sent to the Belmullet Board of Guardians were that, where the maximum allowance to a large family was not enough, another member of the family might be employed, so as to bring the total earnings of the family up to the same effective point as before the recent rise of prices.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
I understand that that practically is the difference between the prices of Indian meal now and a month ago.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
Very well. Six shillings will buy six stone of Indian meal, which is less than a stone a day for a family of 12. Without flour, that could not be enough. It is a little over a pound of Indian meal per head per day. I would really ask the right honourable Gentleman to give a little more personal attention to the matter. Like the honourable Member for South Mayo, I do not believe that it is the desire of the Chief Secretary that anybody should die of starvation, or that the population should have to endure extreme hardship. I urge the right honourable Gentleman not to place too much confidence in the reports he receives from the permanent officials. I say to the right honourable Gentleman, in all seriousness and in all candour, that he will find that he will not be the first Chief Secretary who has been misled by the permanent officials in Ireland; and I say to him that the more he inquires into these things for himself, the more he will become convinced that it is a dangerous thing for any Minister, responsible for the good government of Ireland, to rely entirely, or almost entirely, on Reports of the permanent officials at Dublin Castle.
§ After the usual interval, the Chair was taken by Mr. JOHN ELLIS (Notts, Rushcliffe).
§ DR. TANNER
drew the Chairman's attention to the fact that there were not 1301 40 Members present. The House was counted, and 40 Members being present,
§ MR. W. REDMOND
I should not have troubled the Committee with any further remarks in this Debate, except for the fact that I am very much dissatisfied with the nature of the reply made by the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary. The right honourable Gentleman has been variously referred to by speakers in this Debate; some Members even from these benches have referred to him in rather a flattering way, remarking that they feel certain that he personally was most anxious to do everything he could to meet and relieve the distress in Ireland. I do not know myself what the personal views of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary may be, but I may state that after 15 years spent in this House, with an experience of a considerable number of Chief Secretaries of all kinds and descriptions, I know of none who, in my experience, appeared to give themselves less trouble to meet the views of the Irish gentlemen than, the right honourable Gentleman the present Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. Of course, it may be in accordance with precedent that the right honourable Gentleman should meet with indifference, and almost with scorn, the representations made by Irish Members; but before he is Chief Secretary for Ireland very much longer, I think he will understand that representatives of the people of Ireland who come here, as I come here, without any pay, or hope of reward, to represent the views of our constituents, and to try to safeguard and protect them, are entitled to proper and deferential treatment from officials, even though they be in the exalted position of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. The right honourable Gentleman receives a remarkably large salary, which we are disputing tonight, and he ought to remember that the least he could do for Ireland is to show some consideration and civility to the Irish Members of Parliament. I do not know what the views of some honourable Members upon these benches may be, but my views are that I will not stand what I consider to be indifference 1302 or bad treatment towards the Irish Members from any Member of Her Majesty's Government responsible for the government of Ireland, and I say here that the whole tenor and tone of the right honourable Gentleman's speech to-night, as his speeches on other occasions in the same direction, have done, goes to prove that he does not believe one word of what Irish Members tell him about the distress, and although, constrained by the rules of politeness, he does not get up and call us liars, yet the whole tone of his observations goes to show that he thinks we really come to the House of Commons to state what is not the truth in regard to Ireland; and that, for some extraordinary reason, which is unexplained, we, time after time, desire to misrepresent the state of affairs in Ireland, and to make our country and our people appear to be in a condition which they really do not occupy. I ask the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary and other Gentlemen in this House—there are very few of them, of course, as this is merely a matter of Irish grievance, and therefore beneath the consideration of the average British Member—but I ask those who are here whether for one moment they can Imagine that it is a pleasant thing for Irish Members of Parliament like myself to stand here and ask for a few hundreds of pounds to keep a section of their countrymen from starving. I do not know how Debates of this kind affect other Irish Members, but the way they affect me is this: that each time that I find the distress of my unfortunate country paraded and exposed in this House, and each time I listen to the speeches delivered, which are practically little more than begging appeals for a few thousands of pounds from the Government to relieve distress, each experience of that sort only deepens the hatred which I possess, in common with the vast majority of my countrymen—a hatred for English rule in Ireland and for the officials who rule in Ireland—and strengthens the hope which I entertain, in common with the majority of my fellow countrymen, that the day must come, and will come sooner pr later, when English rule in Ireland will be destroyed, and when it will no longer be necessary for the representatives of the Irish people to come to this House and pocket their pride and beg 1303 from Her Majesty's Government a few paltry pounds to keep people from starving. The right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary quoted certain cases where it appears that fraud was attempted upon those who are administering the relief works. I do not wish to use any unparliamentary language, but I say that it was hardly honest for the Chief Secretary, in reply to our charges that the Government have not done all they should have done in regard to distress, to come and read to the House, as though by way of specimen, a certain number of cases where this alleged fraud was attempted.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
That is not right. I do not wish to interrupt, but my object in reading these cases was this: it must be remembered that I have particularly asked for any cases in which it could be fairly urged that those who are entitled to relief have not been relieved by the steps which have been taken. I have asked that those cases should be brought to our notice. I have referred to-night to every single such case, and I included the cases to which the honourable Member refers in which it did appear that there was something approaching fraud. I did not describe it by that name. I have no desire to bring these cases before the House; I simply emphasise this fact—that having invited honourable Members to point to specific cases in which no steps have been taken to deal with distress, or in which the steps which have been taken have proved inadequate, the result has turned out to be that so far as those specific cases are concerned, there really has been no distress of the kind which had not already been sufficiently provided for. The challenge of honourable Members opposite is only attempted to be met by me by reciting such cases as have been brought to my notice.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
It is sometimes difficult for Irish Members always to follow what it is the Chief Secretary really means by the language which he uses. Some time ago when a Debate similar to this took place in this House, in answer to our miserable appeals for relief, he spoke airily of champagne and the South of France, and 1304 then we were told that he did not mean at all to offend us. And now, in answer to our appeals here for adequate means to be taken to relieve distress, he gets up and, by way of answer, reads out a number of cases where undoubtedly, if the facts set out are true, a fraud was attempted. Why did he do it? Clearly, to show the House that our appeals were exaggerated, that our statements were not to be trusted, and that everything was really so well in the country that the only cases that could be brought forward were cases which were proved to be fraudulent. If he meant anything by his language he meant that the statements made with regard to distress are bogus, and that there is no need for the Government to take further steps. He says that sufficient steps have been taken. I say that in hundreds of cases the Government have taken no steps at all, and that even the miserable steps that have been taken are a disgrace to the Government and a disgrace to civilisation. We are told that the Government cannot give wages for these relief works which would compete with the ordinary rate of wages in a district, and that is the reason why we are asked to be satisfied when we find that numbers of Irish families are asked to exist upon 3s. or 4s. a week, the miserable pittance they get from the Government relief works. Then we are told that the real reason why there is this distress in Ireland is because there are congested districts. The people are all huddled up together in limited areas where they are so miserably poor that they have neither room nor the means to live, and repeatedly we have this flung in our faces. Why is it so? If there are these congested districts it is the direct result of the deliberate policy pursued by England in Ireland, which has driven our people into these wretched corners of the country away from the better feeding lands—a policy which was described well when the people were told that they should clear out of their homeland and go either to hell or to Connaught. Anything more revolting and outrageous to the feelings of the ordinary Irish Nationalist than the superior way in which our poverty is pointed out in this House cannot be imagined. Nothing more exasperating can be conceived than the way in which 1305 we are told that the only remedy for this state of things is to emigrate our people beyond the seas. I say that that view of the distress in Ireland is a view calculated to arouse the keenest indignation amongst the Irish people and amongst their representatives as well. The right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary, supported by the honourable and gallant Member for Armagh, speaks of emigration. He told us in one of his speeches in this House that one way of settling this question is that the people should emigrate and find better—[Here Mr. GERALD BALFOUR left the House.] The right honourable Gentleman will find that before this Debate is over he will have to answer the questions which I propose to put to him. Of course, it is quite in accordance with the exquisite English courtesy that is meted out to Irish Members here that when one of them, is speaking the highly-paid official, who rules and governs our country against our will, and without our authority, should get up and leave the House as if nothing of any importance were taking place. I assure the Committee that if I have to rise two or three times further to-night, I will yet say what I have got to say in the face of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary. With regard to the challenge he has made to the effect that no cases have been pointed out to him in which the Government have not met distress, I will reply to that in this way: he has completely and very cleverly, from his own point of view, absolutely ignored another challenge which I made to him at the commencement of this Debate, and that was, if he believes honestly that there is no further room for Government effort in Ireland, and if he thinks that the representations of men like myself are exaggerated, then let the Government appoint a small Commission, composed of impartial men, representing all Parties, and despatch them to-morrow, or the next day, to visit these districts in Ireland, and immediately to report upon the situation. If he does that we are confident that any such Commission would agree with the Irish Members, Nationalists as well as Conservatives, that there yet remains a very great deal for the Government to do 1306 in order to protect the people from distress in various portions of the country. But, no! When a suggestion of that kind is made by an Irish Nationalist Member it is brushed aside—the Chief Secretary quietly ignores it. It is easy enough to get up and tell British Members, who know nothing whatever about Ireland—the majority of them have never been there; they know just as much about our country, or the circumstances of our country, as they do about the island of Cuba, and, perhaps, a great deal less—it is easy enough for the Chief Secretary to get up and tell them that these representations of the Irish Nationalist Members are not to be relied upon: that there is really no distress in Ireland. It is true that a number of English gentlemen connected with the Manchester Relief Committee have also reported with regard to the distress, but they are not to be relied upon; they are only people who belong to am uneasy school of sentimental politicians, who are always on the look-out for oppression everywhere, and who allow their feelings to run away with them in viewing Irish distress. Then we read out letter after letter in this House, as has been done in this Debate, from priests in Ireland, from Protestant as well as Catholic, from leading representative men of every walk of life in those districts—letters insisting on action by the Government—and the House is told that all these men are only Nationalist agitators, and they are not to be relied upon; and so our appeals are brushed aside with a clear conscience by honourable Gentlemen opposite. But we challenge that our appeals shall not be based upon our representations. I challenge that, instead of relying on the words of the men connected with the Manchester Committee, or on the representations of local men in the districts, let the Chief Secretary appoint a small Commission, composed of men representing all Parties, and without any political bias in the matter, and if he does that I daresay that in the inside of a week he will get a report from these districts such as may be relied upon by Members of all Parties in this House; and, as far as I am concerned myself, I say that if such a small Committee be appointed to go over and visit, and report whether 1307 there is a necessity for extra relief or not, and if such a Committee come back and report that what we have said is not true, that it is exaggerated, that there is no real need for relief, that the distress has been thoroughly met by the Government, I pledge myself no further to bother the Government in this matter. But the Government will not appoint such a Committee, because they know perfectly well that the result of the appointment of such a Committee would be to prove up to the hilt our contentions to-night, that although the Government have seen this distress and hardship coming on for months past in Ireland, they have followed the usual practice of Irish Governments—they have put off from day to day doing anything; and even the steps which they have taken at present are paltry and inadequate, simply leaving the people in dire distress in many parts of the country. The right honourable Gentleman in the last Debate asked me, in an airy manner, as if he were putting, a poser which would completely dispel all probability of truth in any Nationalist statement, to mention how many people had died of starvation in Ireland, and where, and when, and the full particulars. I say, is it a wonderful thing that Irishmen are dissatisfied with the Government of their country by a system which compels its mouthpiece to get up and ask if there has been actual death by starvation before any means are taken to grapple with distress? Undoubtedly there has been death from starvation in Ireland. But then the right honourable Gentleman will desire me to prove it. Of course, if I were asked to prove that death actually took place from starvation—that not a single morsel of food had passed the victim's lips for a week, or two weeks, or for such a time as would prove that death took place from actual want of food—I could do no such thing. But I will undertake to show dozens and dozens of cases in Ireland where people have died, broken down by disease and by misery as the result of endeavouring to keep body and soul together upon a wretched diet of miserable Indian meal, or diseased and bad potatoes, and food of inadequate and unwholesome description. It would be impossible for any impartial man to visit 1308 certain districts on the western seaboard of Ireland without coming away convinced, from the evidence which he would have placed before him, that there had been any number of deaths the result of inadequate and improper food. Then we are told that, after all, the Government cannot be responsible, for the Irish people are crowded up in these corners, and there is not sufficient work or employment for them. I say the Government are responsible. I say the Chief Secretary and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland are responsible before God and before man for whatever evil overtakes the Irish people. You have taken away from us the right to manage our own affairs in our own country. You have arrogated to yourselves in this House the privilege and the right of administering the law in Ireland and of governing the people of the country. You have taken the responsibility upon you, and, that being so, I say that, unquestionably and undoubtedly, it is the duty of the Government, which has usurped our right to rule ourselves, to look after the people and see that they do not starve. Some Members sitting on these benches think that the intentions of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary and the Lord Lieutenant and the permanent officials are benevolent intentions towards the Irish people. Personally, I know nothing whatever of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretray's intentions, and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland I have never laid my eyes upon; but all I know is that, as far as I can see, they are treading in the old path which has been followed persistently by Chief Secretaries and Lord Lieutenants and permanent officials ever since the Irish Parliament was destroyed; they are following out the system of ignoring everything that is said by the Irish Members, and placing all their reliance on the reports of their own officials throughout the country who are appointed by Dublin Castle. As far as I can see, the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary has adopted as his policy the policy of those men who long years ago thought that, the only remedy for every Irish grievance was that our fellow-countrymen should be driven across the seas and forced to emigrate. The Chief Secretary in the last Debate 1309 on Irish distress said that one way of settling it was that they should look out and see if there were not some better and happier country where they might succeed in life and could live more comfortably. It is said contemptuously that these men are mostly poor labourers, with perhaps an acre or half an acre of land, which is altogether insufficient for them to make a livelihood out of. It is easy enough for high and well-paid officials of the Government in this House and out of it to talk lightly and contemptuously about the poverty of these humble Irish labourers; easy enough it is for the Chief Secretary, with his large salary and assured position, to get up in this House and airily recommend these unfortunate Irishmen to emigrate to some better and happier land. Perhaps it may occur to the minds of some honourable Members that even the poorest and most humble labourer in Ireland may have some sentiment for his own country, some love for the land which gave him birth, and some ambition, if he can manage it, to live and die in the land where his fathers lived and died before him. But such a sentiment is altogether too noble, I expect, in the opinion of English Government officials, to find any resting-place in the breasts of poor Irishmen. When I hear the Chief Secretary and the honourable and gallant Member for North Armagh talk lightly and cheerfully about people emigrating from Ireland it makes me indignant. I have visited every one of the lands which have been trodden by the foot of the Irish emigrants; I have followed them round the world—from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from New Zealand to Australia, from Australia to South Africa, and back again—and I say here, from my experience of those lands, that if the Government officials had the same experience that I have had of these poor exiles throughout the world, and their descendants, I doubt very much whether they would recommend emigration as a remedy for any Irish grievance in this nineteenth century. I tell you here, in the interests of your own country, to say nothing of the sentiment of the Irish against emigration, that emigration is the very worst thing you can possibly do for the interests of your 1310 own country, and your own Empire, because in every place where you have planted an Irish emigrant you have planted there also an enemy of the system which has forced him to emigrate; you have planted there an enemy to the flag which floats over Ireland, and which affords neither protection nor prosperity, nor even the liberty to live, to the people of that country. I am some times divided in my mind, when I hear this policy of emigration recommended, whether, after all, one ought not to support it, in spite of the natural repugnance to the idea of separating the Irish people from their homes, because, after all, the great desire of our hearts, and I indulge in the luxury—I can afford to do so—of telling this House, and the people of this country, exactly what I think of things, because I am one of the Irish Members who, after 15 years in this House, can get up here and say, "I owe nothing to any Member," and "I owe nothing to any person in this country"—
§ MR. W. REDMOND
Do not you dare to interrupt me. I am not one of those Irish Members who, in Ireland, denounce England and the English people, and who, when they come here are very glad to mix with Englishmen, and to be friendly with English Members of Parliament, and pretend that, after all, though there is a sentiment for Home Rule, we are all one brotherhood, one flag, one Empire. I say here—and I do not claim the monopoly to myself at all—I believe that other Irish Members can say the same, but I can afford to say that the desire of our hearts, the one thing that we work for and long for, is to see the day when our country shall be governed by herself, and when it will not be necessary for 80 or 90 Irish Members of Parliament to come here and practically go down on their knees to ask an English Member of Parliament, the. Member for Leeds, to, keep our unfortunate people from suffering and from starving. The right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary may be as good a Chief Secretary as it is possible for an 1311 Englishman to be in Ireland, but I take this opportunity of saying that it is a matter of resentment to me, and of complaint every month of the year, every week of the month, and every day of the week, to think that my country is governed by two Englishmen—one a nobleman, sent over to play at Royalty, and the other an English Member of Parliament, no doubt so vastly superior to anything which poor Ireland can pro* duce that he is placed in the position of governing us from Dublin Castle against our will. I say that sometimes I am in favour of the policy of emigration, because the more that policy is carried out the stronger becomes that feeling throughout the world against England on the Irish question, which sooner or later will destroy English rule in Ireland. At the same time, I claim that it is the duty of Irish Members in this House to protest, and as indignantly and as strongly as they can, when any Englishman who is sent to Ireland to rule from Dublin Castle gets up and speaks of emigration as a possible remedy for distress in Ireland. I say that it is an insult to our people and to our country. I say that it is a continuation of that deliberate policy of expatriation which has been carried out in Ireland ever since the Union, and I say that it shows that the Irish Chief Secretary, and those who speak of emigration, know very little of the sentiment which is at the heart of the Irish people if they imagine that this unfortunate, poverty-stricken people in the crowded and congested districts of Ireland are to be induced to leave their country as long as there is the slightest chance of their being allowed to remain. I object to the speech of the honourable and gallant Member for Armagh. I object to the speech of the honourable Member for South Dublin, and the speeches of other Members of the Conservative Party who have spoken in the House. My objection is that they have spoken of permanent remedies in this Debate for the distress. No doubt there ought to be a permanent remedy for all this distress, but I say that this Debate was not initiated for the purpose of discovering or discussing any permanent plans for the removal of this distress. I say that this Debate was originated, as 1312 far as I know, and certainly as far as I am concerned, not for the purpose of advocating any particular plan of permanent remedy, but for the purpose of asking the Government, "Are you going to give the necessary money which is required in order to enable a certain number of people to obtain the absolute necessities of life in various districts of Ireland?" To come to the point, the money collected by the Mansion House Committee from charitable people in Ireland has been well-nigh exhausted. The money collected by the Manchester Committee has been exhausted as well. The Lord Mayor of Dublin, of course, has been cited, in a light way by the Chief Secretary and others in Debates on Irish distress, because he is only an Irish Nationalist—a Home Ruler—not a supporter of the Government, and therefore not to be considered; but, if the Lord Mayor of the loyal city of Belfast had issued a statement in reference to certain distress in Ireland, what a fuss there would have been! How the right honourable Gentleman on the Front Government Bench would have hurried up to pay tribute to the statement of the Lord Mayor of Belfast! But simply because this distress has been taken to heart, and the Committee has been worked up by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, very little attention has been paid to him. But, after all, the fact remains, which cannot be denied, that the money subscribed has been well-nigh exhausted, and this Committee in Dublin is inundated day after day with hundreds and hundreds of letters calling for some measures to be taken. And now I ask the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary the question which I asked him at the commencement of the Debate—the question which, if he had answered, might have relieved him of the very unpleasant necessity of listening to any more observations of mine. If he thinks we are exaggerating, if he thinks there is no need for further steps to be taken, if he thinks that his officials and their reports are correct, and that our statements are incorrect, will he appoint, as I suggest, a small Committee of impartial men, who in one week can traverse the districts referred to in this Debate; and will he 1313 ask them to report upon these simple questions, whether or no there is exceptional distress, and whether or no the Government have taken sufficient means to meet that distress, or whether or no there is any need for further steps to be taken by the Government? Any Commission of impartial men appointed to answer these three questions would, I am absolutely convinced, draw up a report which would justify our appeal in this House, and which would make it impossible for the Government to any longer deny that further steps should be taken. I was immensely struck by the speech of the honourable Member for Flint, a gentleman who is well known to take an interest in all people who are distressed, and he referred to the fact that the people of Ireland were in a very peaceful condition, and he said, "Now that the country is in a peaceful condition, why do not the Government reward them by seeing that they want for nothing, and that there is no distress?" I am a perfectly plain-spoken individual in these cases, and I have more than once put up with imprisonment for my plain-spoken-ness, and I will do so again if necessary. In my opinion, the one fatal mistake that the Irish people made was to remain in peace. I say that what is happening now is what has always happened. The Government are willing practically to let the people starve and die unless they riot. But because the people have remained tranquil, because even in spite of provocation of the moat tremendous description, because in spite even of the despair and frenzy which comes upon men who see their children suffering from actual want of food—in the face of all this tremendous provocation there has been actual peace to be boasted about. The Government have taken their time. The Government have had reports sent to them that there is no present necessity for further steps to be taken—nobody has died of starvation. The right honourable Gentleman wants the Irish Members to be able to come here and put well authenticated questions on the Paper, to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant whether it is a fact that in the Westport Union, or such and such a union, on such and such a date, six men and four women died of starvation. He is waiting until we are in 1314 a position to put questions of that kind before he will assure us that any proper steps are taken. He wants the people to die. What I am saying is this: the right honourable Gentleman will not take steps, apparently, unless we are in a position to come here and show him a number of deaths have actually taken place from starvation. And with all this the people are quiet. As far as I am concerned, Mr. Ellis, I can only say this much: In the district that I represent in this House there is some distress. I am frank in speaking of these matters, and I will not for one moment exaggerate one iota. In the constituency I represent there is no such distress as would impel me to press the Government for very much relief, though poverty and wretchedness there is undoubtedly; but if I represented one of these districts in the western part of Ireland, and if I received, day after day, from my constituents, and their representative men, letters telling me that hunger was abroad, that children going to school actually fainted from want of food, that if a bit of dry tread were thrown to school children they would scramble for it and devour it ravenously like famished animals, and if I were assured by the clergy and representative men that the Government had not taken sufficient steps, and if I received these assurances from men upon whose word and upon whose credit I felt I could rely, and if still the Government refused to take any steps, I would most undoubtedly advise these people that their only chance of getting relief, or of awakening the Government to their proper sense of duty, was that the period of peace upon which we are congratulated so much in Ireland, but which brings so little reward in return, should be broken, and that the people in danger of starvation should, as far as they could, take the law into their own hands. The right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary knows enough of the history of Ireland to know that we have learned, by bitter, experience in the past, that, be it a miserable dole for the relief of distress, such as the distress which now exists, be it an Act of Parliament for the preservation of people in their homes and in the possession of their property, not one single bit of relief, not one single line of Statute 1315 have we got in Ireland, until the peace was first broken, and until, by riot, turmoil, and disorder, the Government were aroused to a recognition of the seriousness of the situation. I do not know what the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary's, personal feelings are, and I care less. He is to me an official of a system which I despise and hate in Ireland, and against which I have protested for 15 years; and I say this, that if any disturbance does take place in Ireland, or if deaths from actual starvation should take place—and many have taken place from partial starvation and from consuming food unfit for human diet—I place the responsibility upon the head of the Member for Central Leeds, who in Ireland arrogates to himself the right of overriding the nation and the Irish Members, and also upon the head of the British nobleman who is sent over to Dublin to play at being kings and queens. The right honourable Gentleman says that there has been exaggeration, but there has been no exaggeration on my part in this matter. [Laughter.] The right honourable Gentleman laughs at that, but I defy him to point to a single statement that I have made with reference to the distress in Ireland that has been exaggerated. I go not one bit further in my statement than the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, Dublin, did this afternoon, and he is a consistent supporter of the Unionist Party and the Unionist rule in Ireland, under which some of us on these benches have suffered hard knocks. He said there had been exaggeration, and I admit there may have been. He said that there was exceptional distress in Ireland, and I go no further. He said that there was room for further effort on the part of the Government to cope with that distress, and I go no further. I say that there is room, and much room, for further action on the part of the Government to meet the distress which is exceptional and undeniable, and which Conservative Members from Ireland as well as Nationalist Members admit. That is the situation. There is distress, and it cannot be denied. The question is, have the Government taken sufficient means to meet that distress? We say—both Conservatives and Nationalists— 1316 that they have not. The right honourable Gentleman, backed up by his official reports, says they have.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
The right honourable Gentleman says, "Hear, hear!" He evidently does not agree with the honourable Member for Trinity College and the honourable Member for South Dublin. He thinks that the Government have done, at the present moment, all that they ought to do, or that it is necessary that they should do. That is the position of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary. I conclude by repeating the suggestion once more, which I have several times made. We cannot agree on the point. The right honourable Gentleman and his officials contend that quite sufficient has been done to cope with this distress. We in Ireland, and our friends, Tory as well as Nationalist, do not agree with him. We say that the Government have not done, and are not doing, what they should do to cope with this distress. Then how is the point to be settled? I say it again, and I ask for an answer, and if the answer is in the affirmative I will ask for a reason why my suggestion is not acted upon. I ask him, will he appoint from Members of this House, or from the outside public, a small body of honourable gentlemen who will go and visit these districts with perfectly open minds, and then ask them whether they agree with the Member for Trinity College and the Home Rule Members that the Government have not done sufficient? After that ask them whether they agree that there is no room for further effort on the part of the Government to relieve distress. Will the right honourable Gentleman appoint such a Commission? Will he ask them to report? And, if he does not, then I ask him by what right he or anybody else dares to say that the representatives of the majority of the Irish people are guilty of misrepresentation, amounting to lying, and asking for money when it is reported to the House that there is no necessity for it? Mr. Ellis, I must say that there are no occasions that come within my 1317 experience in this House on which I suffer personally so much humiliation as upon occasions such as these; and, after all, what are we doing? We are nine-tenths of the representatives of the people of our country, and we are here practically begging of English Members of Parliament for a few thousand pounds. Two or three days ago we all sat and listened to the Chancellor of the Exchequer unfolding his Budget, the most wonderful Budget, perhaps, that any country at any time in the world ever had. There was £63,000,000 for British ironclads, upon which Irishmen are sent to gaol if they wear a bit of shamrock, £63,000,000 for British ironclads and for the British Army, and here we are, the whole of the representatives for Ireland, practically on our knees begging for a few thousand pounds, and it is refused to us because the right honourable Gentleman's well-paid officials in Ireland do not believe what the parish priest tells them, that the people are knocking at his door and asking for food. The Member for East Mayo told us of one case, where he said that while a letter he got was being written there were 200 persons outside the door clamouring for food. Of course, according to the views of the Government officials, the man who wrote that letter was a liar; and, of course, we are guilty of misrepresentation because we choose to believe what he says. Really, of course there is no distress there, and we are refused this because the right honourable Gentleman chooses to believe the Local Government Board inspectors, the police officers, and the various officials of Dublin Castle before he will believe nine-tenths of the Irish Members, including the Tory Members for Trinity College, Dublin, and the Member for South Dublin, who say that there is need for relief. And yet Irishmen are asked to be loyal! And when in Ireland sometimes a military band strikes up "God Save the Queen," and we don't take off our hats and shout ourselves hoarse, we are called disloyal and traitors. Well, as far as I am concerned, I am perfectly prepared to own that if, you look at it in that way I am disloyal and I am a traitor, because I never will, nor will any true Irishman with any self-respect, ever be content with the 1318 system of rule which compels our unfortunate country to pay her share—and her too big share—of your £63,000,000 for your Army and Navy, and still, when the Irish Members come here and, almost to a man, ask for a few thousand pounds of what is practically their own money, to relieve distress, it is refused. Well, from one point of view, Mr. Ellis, I cannot say that I am sorry for them. We hear sometimes that the feelings of Irish nationality are dying out. We hear sometimes that the day is approaching when Britons and Irishmen will be brothers, and that the national distinctions and barriers are passing away. Well, anyone who knows Ireland knows that there is not much prospect of that; but anyone, even in England, may thoroughly understand that as long as we are treated as we are treated here to-night over this question of distress, there is not much chance of the mass of the Irish people ever forgetting the system under which they are governed; for that system is responsible for the ruin, poverty, and degradation of the Irish people. The honourable and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh, who is opposed to us in politics, is not like some of the honourable Gentlemen opposite who refuse to acknowledge their Irish colleagues, but he is a patriotic Irishman in the sense that he is proud of Ireland. He made a speech to-night, with every word of which I agree, with reference to the Congested Districts Board, and he said it had been starved. Unquestionably it has, like everything else in Ireland, almost been starved. But does he recognise that what we are here for to-night is not the question of whether the Congested Districts Board in future should get more money or less money—I hope it may get more, because it is the only board which is of any service in Ireland to the Irish people—that is not the question at all. The Chief Secretary agrees that this board should have more money. The honourable and gallant Member agrees with me that that is not a pressing question. The question is, is it a fact that there are a certain number of people in Ireland actually in want of food at the present time? If that can be proved to be the case, is there a man in this House who will say that we are not entitled and justified and right in standing here to 1319 protest as loudly and as strongly as we can against the refusal of the Government? Our point is that their reports do not agree with our information. The Government rely on their officials; we rely on ourselves. Could anything be clearer? Could anything be more straightforward or honourable than to suggest that an impartial deputation should be sent to visit these districts? And, if they hold that something should be done, let their report be acted upon in this House. That is my suggestion to the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary. Of course, it is a suggestion which will not receive from him much consideration, coming as it does from only a Home Rule Member of Parliament; but I would appeal to the honourable Gentlemen opposite who are thick and thin supporters of the Government, and I ask them to seriously consider the suggestion I have made. We have had five or six Debates already on the distress in Ireland. We have had over and over again these complaints from Ireland made, and we have had the same answers by the Government. Surely everyone of us must be getting tired of these Debates with respect to distress in Ireland. Either our statements are right or they are wrong. Surely you do not want to be under the necessity of having fresh Debates. Why not put an end to the matter once and for all by appointing a Commission? Let them search and inquire and take evidence at once; and if they do I am perfectly convinced that it will be proved that the Irish Members have not been guilty of exaggeration, but that they have been doing what is simply their duty to their country. And this appeal, be it remembered, is not for English money, for, after all, it is simply for the return of a small amount of that money which the Royal Commissioners appointed by Her Majesty the Queen declared in their report had been taken from Ireland for the last fifty years, being far over and above her proper contribution to the Imperial revenues of this country.
§ MR. FLAVIN
It is not my intention to speak at any length before the Committee to-night, but representing as I do a constituency in one of 1320 the poorest counties in Ireland, I feel it my duty to bring before the Chief Secretary the condition of several portions of that county. The right honourable Gentleman, in his reply in the earlier portion of the Debate, stated that he had received no applications from boards of guardians for relief works. I am personally aware that at least two unions in the county—Cahirciveen and Kenmare—have appealed to this House to open relief works in those unions, and the invariable answer of the Chief Secretary was: "We will open relief works on the distinct understanding that you will contribute to them." The only condition we required was—what amount of money do the Local Government Board require us to contribute? The offer originally was from 9s. to 10s. in the £, but the offer of the Local Government Board was such that it would mean an increased rate on practically a pauperised union. In my opinion, if the guardians of these unions could feel that their contribution would be merely nominal, they would guarantee it, but the Chief Secretary refused to say what amount the guardians would have to contribute. I believe it was the bounden duty of the Government, when they knew that distress existed—I think it was the duty of the Chief Secretary to say what amount he was prepared to contribute. As early as last December, as the right honourable Gentleman knows, the death of a man was investigated by a coroner's jury, and the verdict was that death was accelerated by starvation. His name was supplied to the Local Government Board inspector, and no reply was made, although the sworn evidence was that he had lived on Indian meal since last December. The people got potatoes for seed from the union, but they had to eat portions of them in order to sustain life. Take that case—you had a man ill for months, and the sworn testimony was that he had no diet except Indian meal and water. I say that is a strong case where the Local Government Board have neglected to attend to their duties. In these poor unions I say that the average rate is from 8s. to 10s. in the £.
§ MR. FLAVIN
The tenant has to pay it, so it is immaterial. I repeat, when the average rate was from 8s. to 10s. in the £, when both unions were in debt, when representations were made by landlords and tenants alike that great distress prevailed, nothing has been done to relieve it. With regard to fever in Drummond, about which the Rev. Mr. Fahy wrote a letter which has been alluded to, the honourable Gentleman said that the attention of the Local Government Board inspector had been directed to it, and the reply was to the effect that he questioned the accuracy of the statements of the Rev. Mr. Fahy. There were five cases of fever in that very district, and I state that on the authority of the Catholic curate, the Rev. John Connor, whose evidence should be relied upon. He knows who suffers from fever and who does not, and we all know that a Local Government inspector will not enter a house where there is fear of contagion. Colonel Kirkwood, who was sent to this district, actually met a man who could have given him evidence of disease existing at the time, but he merely bade him good day and walked on. The right honourable Gentleman cannot place reliance upon such evidence from a man who does not reside in Ireland.
§ MR. FLAVIN
Will the right honourable Gentleman say in what part of Ireland he resides? I have resided in Kerry for 25 years, and I never heard of him. The information is generally given by the permanent officials in Dublin Castle.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The honourable Member who has just spoken asserted that this information was received by me from gentlemen habitually in Dublin. It was received from the Local Government Board inspector who resides in the district.
§ MR. FLAVIN
I did state that this information was given by Colonel Kirkwood, and that this evidence is usually supplied by the Local Government Board 1322 officials who live in Dublin, for the simple reason that I do not know where Colonel Kirkwood resides. Most of the inspectors reside in Dublin—certainly they do not reside in Kerry. My point is, is the evidence of the Local Government Board reliable, and is the evidence of Father Fahy, who has declared that he knows of fever in the district, not to be believed? Which evidence is the most reliable? I have not the honour of knowing Father Fahy, but I certainly say that I prefer to accept the evidence of a man who lives in the district, and who has the best right to know whether or not the statements are correct. I do not know whether the Committee is aware of it, but in case they are not I will state it myself. In 19 cases out of 20 which the right honourable Gentleman has quoted with regard to this distress he has no personal knowledge whatever. He simply receives a report, and takes it for granted that it is correct, and the Irish Members of this House, as representatives of their constituencies, will be told that there is no proof of distress in the statements they have made, or in the letters written by reverend gentlemen, whether they be Protestant or Catholic Take the case of the Island of Valentia. A question was asked with regard to the distress prevailing in that island, and the answer of the Chief Secretary was that he had seen a newspaper report with regard to the distress in that island, and that Valentia had been visited by the inspector of the Local Government Board. That question was asked on the 6th May. Would the Chief Secretary be greatly surprised if I stated here that the Local Government Board inspector has not visited the island for the last month, at least? This gentleman says, "I have visited Valentia." The object of my question was to draw attention to the letter to which I have referred, and ask the right honourable Gentleman whether the Local Government Board inspector would call on the further cases, and see whether the statements in the letter of this reverend gentleman were correct, and this gentleman, of whose intimate knowledge of Kerry we have heard so much, did not even think it necessary to visit the district and verify or deny the state- 1323 ments contained in that letter. I would just like to bring before the Committee the particular district of Sneem, of which I believe the honourable and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth has a personal knowledge. I find, from a newspaper report, that a school teacher there says that 130 children are actually in want of food. What action has the Local Government Board taken, not only with regard to that district, but with regard to Caumere, whose board of guardians have made complaint as to the distress there? The Local Government Board has done nothing with regard to the distress in those districts. I have made appeal upon appeal to the Chief Secretary on behalf of these unions, and nothing has been done. No doubt he will say they ought to have relief works, and the only condition is, what contribution the people are to pay. Why, in and around Sneem you will not find an acre of decent ground, it is all solid rock; there are no fields of good land. They are merely round patches which you see upon the mountain side, up to which has been carried the soil of which they are composed. It is impossible to ask these men, whose only property is the little cow which is browsing up the mountain side, to make any contribution at all to relief works. What is the Government going to do? What is the Local Government Board going to do? So long as I represent Kerry I will raise my voice on the question of distress, not in any Party spirit, not from any religious standpoint, but where I know a man is distressed, whether he be Protestant or Catholic, I will raise my voice, not to appeal to the Government—of appeals we have had enough—but to insist that the Government shall step in and do their duty.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
I acknowledge it is of the greatest importance that in dealing with distress in Galway, Mayo, or Kerry the Committee should have accurate information. I noticed that the Chief Secretary said that Colonel Kirkwood, the Local Government Board's inspector, who was sent down to hold these investigations in Castle Dene and other places, resided in the district, and therefore, owing to that fact, had special 1324 knowledge of the people of the district. Now, Sir, I am not aware, nor anybody else, so far as I know, including the Chief Secretary himself, that Colonel Kirkwood ever had a residence in county Kerry.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Colonel Kirkwood, as inspector of the Local Government Board, has a district assigned to him, and has a residence in his district.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
Oh, yes; he resides in his district, but he resides 40 miles away from Castle Dene, and it would be far easier to get to Dublin from where he is than to get to that place. Colonel Kirkwood is about the last, judging by his antecedents, that anybody in Ireland would take to be a good judge in matters relating to the condition of the peasantry of Ireland.
§ An HONOURABLE MEMBER: Why?
§ MR. KILBRIDE
Why? I will tell you. Colonel Kirkwood was specially chosen by the Chief Secretary of the day to go down to Coleraine and administer the affairs of that union. He resided in Roscommon, and was the most notorious landlord in the west of Ireland. He was a man that nobody would ever accuse of having any popular sympathy; on the contrary, everybody knew that he was chosen because he had no sympathy with the people. I challenge anybody to get up in his place and deny the fact; and if any honourable Gentleman opposite can state the contrary I shall be happy to hear it. I am aware that this distress does not prevail everywhere, but it ill becomes an Irish Member who is not an Irishman to jeer at Irishmen when they try to do their best. The Chief Secretary has made no reply to the statement in the previous portion of this Debate, when excerpts from resolutions passed by several boards of guardians were brought under his notice. Now, these resolutions declared that until the guardians know the amount of relief they may expect in these distressed unions from the Government they will refuse to put the suggestion of the Chief Secretary into force. 1325 We have had no intimation from the right honourable Gentleman as to the amount of monetary relief the Government are prepared to give to any one of these unions, provided that the condition that they locally subscribe one-fourth is complied with. The effect of the notice of Motion handed in the other day by Colonel Buchanan to the Westport Union will be that the Westport Board will refuse to enforce relief works in the district. Why? Because the union will become bankrupt. These tenant farmers are in a state of chronic poverty and distress, and if they contribute to these relief works they will be placed in a chronic condition of poverty, and unable to meet their future engagements. I should like to know what does he intend to do for the Westport Union in the future? What does he intend to do in Cahirciveen? The electoral divisions that will be bound to come to the relief of the more poverty-stricken parts are not in a financial position to bear a more heavy burden than they already bear. It has been stated over and over again that the county cess and poor rates and railway guarantees are 10s. in the £ at Cahirciveen and Sneem. The extraordinary thing is that the predecessor of the right honourable Gentleman when he granted a large sum for the purpose of relieving distress and carrying out a very necessary railway extension in Cork gave £110,000 for a free grant. There was a baronial guarantee in one case of about £80,000 and another for about £40,000. Notwithstanding the large amount of money given, the impoverished condition of the people is largely due to the baronial guarantee. I think I am right in saying that the cess in one of these baronies amounts to 2s. 8d. in the £, because of the baronial guarantee. That is one of the results of what has been done by the right honourable Gentleman's predecessor towards the relief of the distress in Kerry. Doles either given by way of public works, or doles given, as they are now being given, through the agency of the poor law unions will not permanently relieve the distress in Kerry or in the west of Ireland. If the right honourable Gentleman is desirous to put an end to these periodical famines and distress in Ireland, the best thing he could do is to 1326 take into his serious consideration the suggestion of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for South Dublin.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
The honourable Member for South Kerry has alluded once or twice to my knowledge of that district, and I feel called upon to trouble the House with a few observations. I had no intention of intervening in this Debate, but as honourable Members have said that the whole question is one not of argument but of fact, I desire to say a few words. In the first place, I would call attention to these two unions in South Kerry that are adduced as crying instances of a gross injustice perpetrated by the Chief Secretary. The honourable Member who has brought them forward belongs to North Kerry. If the deporable state of things in the two unions in South Kerry is such as is pictured by the honourable Member for North Kerry, I want to know why the honourable Member for South Kerry is not here.
§ MR. DILLON
I think that is an extremely unfair and uncivil remark. The honourable Member for South Kerry is unwell.
§ SIR J. COLOMB
I appeal to Members of this House; if their constituencies were in such a deplorable condition—
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
I must warn the honourable Member for Mid Cork that his disorderly interruptions cannot be permitted.
§ SIR J. COLOMB
I assure the Committee I have no wish to say anything unfair or anything unreasonable, but I say that if a constituency is in the condition pictured by the honourable Member, and it was necessary to make an appeal to the House, it was the Member's business to do it, and I want to know—
§ MR. KILBRIDE
I do. I beg to say that I have been in communication with these people in South Kerry, and they have asked me, in the absence of their Member, to do what I could on their behalf.
§ SIR J. COLOMB
I really had no wish to import any heat into this Debate. To come to the facts of the case, I would remind the House that I speak for the reason that I have been referred to as knowing one of the unions of the district—Kenmare. That being so, I claim so be allowed to lay before the House the facts of the union as I see them. It has been observed by the honourable Member for North Kerry that both these unions are in debt. So they are. But why are they in debt? They have been steadily going into debt for years. It has been pointed out to the Kenmare guardians that they would get into debt 1328 if they persisted in the policy they were pursuing. The real truth is that the debt now weighing upon them is not caused by exceptional distress. It has been caused by a persistent course of folly in the administration of the union. It has been caused by the too good-natured element in the Irish character. The rate collectors neglect their duty, and the result has been that the rates have not been punctually and properly collected. The fact of the unions being in debt is not so much due to the poverty of those unions as to the circumstance that the elected guardians cannot make the collectors do their duty, and the consequence is that the rates are not properly collected. If the guardians had bad the ordinary backbone of Englishmen or Scotchmen, the collectors would have been sent about their business long ago, and these unions would not now be in debt. I may mention another fact. I had the honour to represent for six years a division in the East of London—the Division of Bow and Bromley in the Tower Hamlets; and residing as I do in Kerry, in the union of Kenmare, and spending as much time there every year as my public duties elsewhere permit me to do, I can say this, that I saw more distress, a great deal more distress, more pinch, more want, in the single constituency of Bow and Bromley than I have ever seen in the whole union of Kenmare. And again, if I take my present constituency of Great Yarmouth, I can say there are cases of congestion and distress in parts of it as great as, or even greater than, in the union of Kenmare. These are facts, and Members of this House may take them for what they are worth. I state them on my own authority, and I think they are worth considering, so that these claims and representations as to terrific distress in Kerry may be dealt with and appraised and carefully understood by this House. Now, Sir, another point I wish to notice has reference to what was said about Colonel Kirkwood. Colonel Kirkwood has a district comprising many unions, and he lives in a part of the district from which he can, by means of railway communication, most easily and most readily inspect the unions under his charge. I will say this, speaking from 1329 my own personal knowledge—[interruption.]
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
I must seriously warn the honourable Member for Mid Cork not to persist in these interruptions.
§ SIR J. COLOMB
I am speaking from my own personal knowledge of discussions at boards of guardians, when I have been present with Colonel Kirkwood, who is a fair-minded and admirable inspector, and whenever any cases of distress have been brought to his notice, he has always taken great pains to investigate them personally. He is not a personal friend of mine, but I speak from the communications I have had with him as one of the guardians of the union, and it is not true to suggest that Colonel Kirkwood is any other than a straightforward, painstaking, and honourable officer.
§ MR. FLAVIN
On a point of order, I would like to know what is the position of the honourable Member for Great Yarmouth in regard to disproving the statements that have been made.
§ SIR J. COLOMB
Sir, I do not wish to enter into a dispute, but I do say that I constantly resided, so far as my public duties would permit, in that district now for something like 28 years, and when I am in the district I hardly ever lose an opportunity of attending the meetings of the board of guardians. That being so, I claim to have a right to tell Members on both sides of the House what are, to my mind, the true facts of the case. Well, now, I come to another point. It has been stated that the Local Government Board neglect their duty. I think that is true, but I will tell you why. I think it is true because the Local Government Board have been too lenient towards the guardians in some unions whom they should long ago have discharged under sealed orders for mismanaging the finances. 1330 But if you tell me the Local Government Board neglects its duty in not paying sufficient or careful attention to any cases of want or distress, then I say I do not think it is at all true from my experience. On the contrary, owing to the circumstance that honourable Members—and I give them credit for their readiness to do so—bring any case, no matter what it is, before this House on so-called questions of distress, and so put pressure on the Local Government Board, I think the Local Government Board is almost too ready to accept the popular view. But, as I have said, I do know that within the last year Colonel Kirkwood has personally taken the greatest trouble to investigate these cases for himself. Sir, it is nothing new for boards of guardians to pass resolutions stating that extreme distress exists in the districts under their jurisdiction. Why, Sir, every year, as long as I can remember, at certain periods, the Kenmare Board of Guardians have passed resolutions calling upon the Government to step in and relieve the destitution and distress which comes every year, and also calling upon the landlords to reduce their rents. And I will tell the House this. I remember, I think it was the year before last, one of these resolutions was passed which was rather stronger in its terms than usual. It pictured a most frightful state of things as existing, but not a single member of the board could show that it was justified, and I protested, as I always do, against passing abstract resolutions of that sort. But on this occasion I thought I would try how far this desire to appeal for help would go. This resolution, picturing such a frightful state of misery and distress, finished up by calling on the landlords either to forego or to enormously reduce their rents. I said, "Gentlemen, this is a frightful picture that you are drawing of this district." They admitted that it was. "Then," I said, "it is a great thing to be unanimous, and therefore I propose that in addition to this appeal to the landlords to reduce their rents, in consequence of this state of things, you should also put in an appeal to the shopkeepers to reduce their prices, and to the publicans also to reduce the prices of whisky and porter." And with the greatest readiness and good 1331 nature, and with all that unanimity to which we attach so much importance, they accepted that proposal. Those who know Ireland know perfectly well how easily captivated Irishmen are by forms of words, and how their imagination is always ready to paint a picture of the terrible distress resulting from the horrible conduct of the British Government. It lends itself to the picturesque. With regard to the present position, the Government are willing to open relief works, provided they have certain guarantees, and what more can they do? My experience of relief works is that they have never produced the relief expected of them, but that the money intended to afford relief has only tended to demoralise the people, and given opportunities for jobbery, while the really distressed people never got any benefit at all. Therefore I am thankful to the Government—and I am speaking not as a party man, but as a man who desires to see the country prosper—for I believe the Chief Secretary and the Government are pursuing a wise and proper policy in this matter. I will not follow the honourable Member for North Kerry into his description of the union in which I reside, but anybody travelling through that district might form an opinion that would hardly be justified by the actual facts of the case. It is quite true that it is a country of mountains, and that there is not very much flat land, cultivated fields being very small; but what is also true is that behind these little plots the ground falls into hills and hollows. There are large stretches of mountain, and you will see a cabin on what appears to be a very small holding, and ordinarily you would think it was a miserable position; but behind it there may be acres and acres of excellent mountain pasture. It is certainly astonishing to me, and it says much for the industry of the people, that they are able to stock these mountain holdings, and do so well that they are able to dower their daughters in many cases. But the people who have very small holdings and large families must be in want and distress on the slightest failure of the potato crop, and I am not denying that there are cases of great distress. The point I wish 1332 to make is this: the policy of the Government in offering to undertake this work, taken in conjunction with the fact that the boards of guardians have refused to do it, is, to my mind, something that throws a doubt upon the reality of the extent of the distress, and I think it emphasises the extreme value of clause 12 in the Local Government Bill. Now the honourable Member for North Kerry appealed to me as to the rating, and I interrupted him because I thought he had made a mistake. In some districts, it is true, the poor rates and the county cess together came to about 9s. or 10s. in the £, but do not forget that next year half of that is going to be paid by the Government.
§ SIR J. COLOMB
Although these rates are so high this year, under the policy of the Government they will not be so high next year. Now, Sir, I have detained the Committee some time, but I felt it my duty thus far to intervene in the Debate. I will only refer to one more point. When the honourable Member opposite talks of there being 130 children in one school without food, I tell him that if he will go down to my old constituency of Bow and Bromley, or any other division of the East End of London, he will find in the schools of those districts many poor children who are also in want of food. In my present constituency there are many pinched by want. We need to have some perspective in regard to these questions. We want a little more cold-blooded common sense. There is no doubt that these congested districts in Ireland are a problem which it will take some time to solve, and I am thankful that this Government—not this particular Government, but this Party—eight or nine years ago, grappled with the subject of the congested districts by creating a Board which, by its general work and steady attention to the question, is more likely to permanently solve it than all the theatrical display in this House.
§ MR. O'MALLEY (Galway, Connemara)
Sir, at this late hour I shall not tax the patience of the Committee except for a very few moments. The honourable and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Colomb) who has just sat down has raised the temper and indignation of my colleagues by his allusion to the absence of the honourable Member for South Kerry (Mr. T. J. Farrell), who, he declared, should be in his place in this House to speak of the distress in his constituency, which distress the gallant Member for Great Grimsby denies; but I may be permitted to point out that the honourable Member for South Kerry is absent from this Debate because of serious illness, and it is well known to my honourable Friend that his wife is in a dying condition. Under those circumstances, Sir, it is no wonder that we, on these Benches, resent the indecent and impertinent observations of the honourable Gentleman. Now, Sir, dealing with the question before the Committee—the reduction of the Chief Secretary's salary—I gladly support that reduction. We are charged on these benches with having made gross personal attacks on the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary. I am not aware, Sir, that any such attacks have been made upon him, although I have listened to the greater part of this Debate. I am quite sure, Sir, that not a single Irish Member bears any personal ill-feeling to the right honourable Gentleman. But, Sir, we have attacked, and shall continue to attack, the policy of the Chief Secretary, and in doing so we are only fulfilling our duty to our country and to our constituencies. We condemn and we denounce the policy and the method of the right honourable Gentleman in dealing with the distress in the west of Ireland—distress which is now universally admitted. What are our charges against the right honourable Gentleman? In the first place I charge him with denying the failure of the potato crop, when declarations of that failure were made by bishops, priests, boards of guardians, and by some of the leading journals in this country.
§ MR. O'MALLEY
The right honourable Gentleman declares that he never denied the failure! Well, Sir, his Lord Lieutenant denied it, and in doing so prevented our friends in America and elsewhere from coming to the rescue, at the proper time, of our poor people. And I will go further and say that the right honourable Gentleman in some of his letters to myself showed his disbelief in the failure of the crops; and, at all events, I maintain that he denied it as long as he could, and when he could no longer deny it he did his best to minimise it as far as possible. Why, Sir, do we not all remember when this question of distress was raised in the Debate on the Address at the opening of the Session how the right honourable Gentleman tried to discount the statements made by Professor Long in the columns of the Manchester Guardian, and we also remember his ingenuity in trying to prove that all the statements made by guardians and others were gross exaggerations, or actual misrepresentations. We have seen, Sir, how the right honourable Gentleman first denied the distress, then how he endeavoured to minimise it when he could no longer with decency deny it. And now, Sir, my third charge against him is, that his method of dealing with the distress is wrong, mean, pettifogging and contemptible. The right honourable Gentleman, in his speech to-night, referred to certain persons in the Clifden Union who made application for relief when it was found that they were the owners of some cattle and sheep. My honourable Friend the Member for North Galway, Mr. Kilbride, has disposed of that argument, and it is only necessary for me to repeat what he has told the Committee, namely, that it is quite possible that a man may have a few head of cattle and some sheep, and still be a proper subject for relief. At this time of the year it is almost impossible for a man in the western districts to dispose of his little stock except at a sacrifice which might result in his utter ruin; and, Sir, I venture to think that if the actual condition of these persons, whose names the Chief Secretary read out, were known, it would be found that they were in an actual condition of 1335 misery and bankruptcy—owing rent to the landlord, money to the shopkeepers, and without food or credit. And here, again, Sir, we have the Chief Secretary using his ability and his talents in throwing discredit on these poor people, and trying to prove that the whole thing is a fraud and a sham. I am not in a position, Sir, to say that the statements made by the right honourable Gentleman are false. It may be quite true that those persons applied for relief when they really did not want it badly, and I have no sympathy with any such individuals. But, Sir, we are all aware of the demoralising effects of these methods of relief, and we deplore this necessity. Of course it is inevitable that you will meet with cases of exaggeration and deception. But what I complain of is, that the right honourable Gentleman takes hold of these cases and turns them to the best account against these poor people, who are admittedly in a condition of misery and starvation. I shall not detain the Committee much longer, but I should like to bring under its notice a statement made by the Rev. Father Brett, of Carna, Connemara, in the columns of the Freeman's Journal, on the 6th inst. If the statements in that letter are true—and I take for granted that they are, although, of course, I am not in a position to vouch for their accuracy—I venture to say that they constitute a most eloquent condemnation of the right honourable Gentleman's method of relieving the distress in Connemara. Father Brett writes—On Sunday last I was called to administer the Last Sacraments to a dying woman, Mrs. Conneally, in the village of Kylsalia. I can never forget what I saw on that occasion. The day was wet, and the rain was pouring through the almost roofless habitation. A comparatively young woman lay moaning and struggling on a bundle of straw strewn on the cold, wet, earthen floor. The dying woman was looking vacantly at her five children gathered round her. Evidently she was painfully musing over the terrible misery which would soon overtake them. The eldest was a daughter of about eleven, and the youngest a son of only two years of age. After I had performed my religious duty I put some questions, from which I learned that there was neither money, food, clothing, nor anything else of that description within that wretched home. 'Ah, Father Brett,' said she, 'my poor husband is dead but a few days, and I believe I shall now share his same fate. We haven't a bit of anything in this world to-day to feed 1336 us. We were getting a few shillings outdoor relief, but 'tis short it would stand seven of us.' I sent one of the neighbours immediately to Mrs. Cook's, Kilkerrin, for a bag of flour, one pound of tea, and one stone of sugar, and then I came away satisfied that I had brought comfort to that pitiful hovel. But I have just learned that the poor woman died that very same night. Alas! for her relief had come too late.
§ MR. O'MALLEY
Yes, Sir, I should be glad if you would; and if it is found that Father Brett's statements are not accurate, then, Sir, I for one, would have no sympathy with such methods. I met Father Brett when in Carna last autumn and I do not think he is the kind of man who would make such statements unless he felt justified by the facts. We do not come to this House to beg for our poor people. It is a most humiliating task and duty imposed upon us by your misgovernment of our country. As long as you persist in misgoverning us, as long as by your pernicious legislation you create periodic famines in our country, so long is it our duty to protest against your vile system, and we are here to-night to protest and to denounce the conduct of the Chief Secretary for Ireland upon this question of the distress, and as a protest, however feeble it may be, I shall gladly vote for the reduction of his salary.
§ MR. DILLON
The reason of the interruptions which came from these benches when the honourable and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth was addressing the Committee a short time ago was because the honourable and gallant Member was making an attack upon an absent Member of this House—the honourable Member for South Kerry—who was known to all of us here to have been suffering for a long time under agonising domestic affliction. I am quite certain that, under the circumstances, the Committee will understand the bitterness we felt at what we consider to be a cruel and wanton and wholly unjus- 1337 tifiable attack upon one of our colleagues for his absence when his wife was dying. The honourable and gallant Member made a savage attack upon the people of Kerry, among whom he said he had resided for 28 years. He declared that the Kerry Union had been getting year by year deeper into debt in consequence, not of distress, but of bad administration; in fact, the whole speech of the honourable and gallant Member was one continued sneer. He cast ridicule on the whole story of distress in the south-west of Ireland, and he gave us the impression that he believed the whole story of distress to be either a "picturesque exaggeration" or a pure invention. Small wonder is it that a speech of that description provoked expressions of disapproval from honourable Members on these benches who know the painful facts about this widespread distress. Now, Sir, I rose simply for the purpose of saying that after listening to the speech of the Chief Secretary I feel bound to carry this Motion to a Division. That speech was entirely unsatisfactory. From beginning to end it proceeded on the old lines of attempting to minimise the distress; and all the cases the right honourable Gentleman selected from the Reports were cases which went to show that the country was given over to corruption, fraud, and imposture, and that that was really the explanation to a large extent of the distress. I have never attempted to deny—no sensible man having had experience of distress in Ireland or in any other country would deny—that where you have distress spread over a very large area you will assuredly have some measure of exaggeration in the description of the suffering involved. That, of course, is always so. But I say that the picture the right honourable Gentleman drew is altogether false. I believe that for every single fraudulent application such as the right honourable Gentleman referred to there will be a hundred others which are genuine applications. One cannot deal with a question of this kind by taking one or two isolated cases and showing that there has been exaggeration. I say that this deplorable condition of things has not been adequately dealt with—indeed, it seems as yet hardly even appreciated—by the Government. The figures we have placed before the Committee have not 1338 been answered, and under these circumstances I shall press the matter to a Division.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The honourable Gentleman has altogether misconceived my position. He seems to imagine that the cases I quoted were selected by me in order to give the Committee the general impression that there is nothing but fraud, misrepresentation, and exaggeration in connection with the distress in the west of Ireland. I did not quote these cases to prove any such thing. I do not deny, I never have denied from the first, that distress does exist in certain localities. What I have maintained is that the measures taken by the Government were sufficient to cope with that distress, and to meet it adequately. In order to convince the Committee that that was the case I invited everybody residing in the district, and acquainted with what was actually going on, if they believed that adequate steps were not being taken to meet the distress, to send in to the Local Government Board the names of any persons who were alleged to be destitute and in need of relief. In the instances I cited I dealt with every one of the cases in which a response had been made to that invitation, and I showed that in every case, upon inquiry, it was found that the destitution was an alleged destitution, and practically did not exist, or, at all events, did not exist to the degree that would demand assistance from funds provided by the public. One word more as to the statistics. As I understand the honourable Member for East Mayo, he went into the figures to show that there was a deficit in the potato crop amounting in money value to about four millions sterling. I pointed out that, even if that were so, it was distributed over the whole of Ireland, among the large and small farmers alike, and that a large part of that loss would fall upon the well-to-do farmers. But, Sir, in order to trace the existence of destitution, you cannot absolutely rely on abstract arguments of that kind. To prove the existence of destitution you must investigate each case as it is presented, and that is what we have done. That is the way in which we have proceeded, and I maintain that that is far more satisfactory than merely taking 1339 statistics as to the shortage of the potato crop over a particular area, let alone taking the figures over the whole of Ireland, and inferring from that shortage that there must be famine. Sir, I say there is distress in Ireland, but there is not a condition of famine. No case of actual starvation has been reported.
§ AN IRISH MEMBER: Is that what you want?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
No, Sir. I do not want it, and I have taken adequate means to prevent it. In any case, what I can say is this: I have taken the responsibility on myself. I do not throw that responsibility on anyone else; above all, I will not throw it on the Treasury. I take it upon myself, and I believe the system I have adopted will prove successful in the end.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
I wish to ask the right honourable Gentleman whether he will consider a suggestion that I made, and which I think would satisfy all parties. As there is a dispute as to whether the measures taken by the right honourable Gentleman are really adequate to cope with the distress, why not appoint a small Commission to go over the distressed districts and report as to what is the exact position?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I have already said that that is not a proposition to which I can assent. I have every confidence in the information that is given to me, and I will not throw doubt upon the competence and good faith of the officials upon whom I depend.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
It is all very well for the right honourable Gentleman to stand up for his officials, but we believe that the real reason why he will not appoint a Commission is simply because he must know very well that the report of such a Commission of impartial Englishmen would be against the officials.
§ DR. TANNER
I do not rise for the purpose of attacking the right honourable Gentleman, but I feel sure that if he himself went down to the distressed districts and looked into these matters he would find out matters which would materially alter his present views.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 83; Noes 160.—(Division List. No. 97.)1341
|Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N.E.)||Hammond, John (Carlow)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Harwood, George||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary)|
|Beaumont, W. C. B.||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)|
|Billson, Alfred||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Brigg, John||Hazell, Walter||O'Malley, William|
|Burns, John||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)|
|Caldwell, James||Healy, T. M. (Louth, N.)||Philipps, John Wynford|
|Carew, James Laurence||Hedderwick, Thos. Chas. H.||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Carvill, Patrick G. Hamilton||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H.||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Hogan, James Francis||Redmond, J. E. (Waterford)|
|Commins, Andrew||Holburn, J. G.||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Holden, Sir Angus||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Crean, Eugene||Horniman, Frederick John||Roche, Hon. J. (Kerry, E.)|
|Crilly, Daniel||Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Roche, John (East Galway)|
|Curran, T. B. (Donegal)||Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Daly, James||Jordan, Jeremiah||Sheehy, David|
|Davitt, Michael||Kilbride, Denis||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Dillon, John||Knox, Edmund F. Vesey||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Lough; Thomas||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen)|
|Doogan, P. C.||Macaleese, Daniel||Ure, Alexander|
|Duckworth, James||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Wallace, Robt. (Edinburgh)|
|Dunn, Sir Willaim||McCartan, Michael||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Ellis, T. E. (Merionethshire)||McDermott, Patrick||Warner, Thomas C. T.|
|Evans, S. T. (Glamorgan)||M'Ghee, Richard||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Fenwick, Charles||M'Hugh, Patrick A. (Leitrim)||Woodall, William|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Maddison, Fred.|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Molloy, Bernard Charles||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Morton, E. J. C. (Devonport)||Sir Thomas Esmonde and|
|Haldane, Richard Burdon||Murnagnan, George||Dr. Tanner.|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. A. F.||Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)||Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry)|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk)||Murray, Col. W. (Bath)|
|Ascroft, Robert||Garfit, William||Newdigate, Francis Alex.|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Gedge, Sydney||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire)||Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H. (C. of Lond.)||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Bagot, Capt. J. FitzRoy||Giles, Charles Tyrell||Northcote, Hon. Sir H. S.|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Pender, James|
|Balcarres, Lord||Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St. Geo's)||Penn, John|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds)||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Plunkett, Rt. Hon. H. C.|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Priestley, Sir W. O. (Edin.)|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Green, W. D. (Wednesbury)||Pryce-Jones, Edward|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Greville, Captain||Purvis, Robert|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benj-||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.||Rankin, James|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Brist'l)||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert W.||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Hanson, Sir Reginald||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Bethell, Commander||Helder, Augustus||Richards, Henry Charles|
|Bond, Edward||Hickman, Sir Alfred||Richardson, Sir T. (Hartlep'l)|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith||Hill, Rt. Hn. Lord A. (Down)||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.|
|Brassey, Albert||Hill, Sir Ed. Stock (Bristol)||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. T.|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Hoare, E. Brodie (Hampst'd)||Robinson, Brooke|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Hornby, William Henry||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Butcher, John George||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin)||Jenkins, Sir John Jones||Rutherford, John|
|Carlile, William Walter||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Saunderson, Col. Edw. Jas.|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Edward||Joliffe, Hon. H. George||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)||King, Sir Henry Seymour||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Cawley, Frederick||Lawrence, Sir Ed. (Cornwall)||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)|
|Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc.)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland)||Smith, Hn. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Lecky, Rt. Hon. W. E. H.||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Stewart, Sir M. J. M'Taggart|
|Charrington, Spencer||Leigh-Bennett, Hy. Currie||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Chelsea, Viscount||Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Sw'ns'a)||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf d Uny)|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverp'l)||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Colomb, Sir John C. Ready||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Cook, Fred. L. (Lambeth)||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Waring, Colonel Thomas|
|Cooke, C. W. R. (Hereford)||Maclure, Sir John William||Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of W.)|
|Corbett, A. C. (Glasgow)||McCalmont, H. L. B. (Cambs.)||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|Cox, Robert||McCalmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.)||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-under-L.)|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Malcolm, Ian||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Curzon, Viscount (Bucks.)||Maple, Sir John Blundell||Williams, J. Powell (Birm.)|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Digby, J. K. D. Wingfield-||Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)||Wilson, J. W. (Worc., N.)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Milbank, Powlett Charles J.||Wodehouse, Edm. R. (Bath)|
|Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Milward, Colonel Victor||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Hart||Monckton, Edward Philip||Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart-|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw.||Monk, Charles James||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||More, Robert Jasper|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Morrell, George Herbert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|FitzGerald, Sir R. Penrose-||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Sir William Walrond and|
|Flannery, Fortescue||Murdoch, Chas. Townshend||Mr. Anstruther.|
|Fletcher, Sir Henry||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. DALY (Monaghan, S.)
There is a matter that I wish to bring before the Committee, and upon which I desire an explanation from the right honourable Gentleman. In December last a number of cadets were sent to the Dublin police 1342 barraoks for training. At the time those cadets were sent from Dublin Castle there was not a single police cadet in training in Dublin.
§ MR. DALY
Then there is another matter I should like to mention, and that is with regard to Divisional Commissioners. There were up to last year officials known as Divisional Commissioners, and the right honourable Gentleman stated in this House that those officials could not be done without. But the moment this House adjourned the right honourable Gentleman altered his mind, and these officials were turned into what are known as Crimes Commissioners.
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
The honourable Member is only entitled on this Vote to go into matters coming under the province of the Chief Secretary for Ireland.
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
Order, order! The honourable Member is not entitled to pursue that line of argument. He must confine his remarks to something within the province of the Chief Secretary.
§ MR. DALY
Very well, Sir. Then there is one other matter, and I think I shall be in order this time. I wish to ask the right honourable Gentleman for some explanation on the matter of the 1344 provision of police huts, if I am not out of order. My impression is that on the Vote for the Chief Secretary I have discussed this matter before. In my own constituency there is a police hut.
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
The honourable Member is entirely out of order. He must connect his remarks with the functions of the Chief Secretary.
§ MR. P. A. M'HUGH (Leitrim, N.)
At the close of his speech the Chief Secretary said that it was not out of regard for legal technicalities that he refused to make proper provision for the relief of distress in Ireland; he said it was under a sense of duty. I cannot understand myself how it can be the duty of the Chief Secretary to refuse to lend such a sum of money from the Treasury as to adequately cope with the distress. The people of Ireland ask him for bread, and he gives them a stone. If he had any sympathy for the people he would not speak about his "duty," but he would have got proper funds from the Treasury and not have asked merely for the miserable pittance of £23,000. It is not surprising that Irish representatives find fault with the Chief Secretary for his niggardliness.
§ It being Twelve of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.