§ 1. Motion made, and Question proposed, " That a sum, not exceeding £10,486, 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 1308 of March, 1901, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant in Dublin and London, and of the Inspectors of Lunatic Asylums."
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
I rise to move the reduction of the Vote by £100, and I do so in order to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that not only are the Irish people at the present moment living under exceptional laws different from those which govern the rest of the United Kingdom, but that the Executive Government of Ireland is conducted in an entirely different spirit from that in which the Government of England, Scotland, and Wales is conducted. The public in these times are apt to forget that there is on the Statute-book applying to Ireland a Coercion Act, under which the Viceroy is able to suppress freedom of speech and of the press, to suspend trial by jury, and, in fact, to suspend the most valuable parts of the British Constitution. The truth is, the people of this country are so occupied by considerations arising out of the war that they have no time to consider the spirit under which Ireland is being ruled at the present moment. Moreover, the public have been so gratified at the generous reception recently given to the Sovereign on her visit to Ireland that they forgot that at the very time when the people were cheering the Queen in the streets of Dublin the executive officers of the Government were dispersing peaceable and orderly meetings called to advocate the removal of grievances in the very poorest parts of the west of Ireland. My object is to point out that the spirit in which the Executive Government is carried on in Ireland would not be tolerated for twenty-four hours in this country. I assert, in the first place, that a series of perfectly peaceful and constitutional meetings have been broken up by the action of the Government by violence and brute force, and that in the course of the proceedings Members of this House have been prevented from addressing their constituents, and from exercising what certainly is their legal constitutional right; and the case which I desire to make to the Committee is this that this action on the part of the Executive is unconstitutional, unnecessary, and stupid; that it was quite ineffectual for the object the Government 1309 had in view; that it was highly provocative and dangerous to the maintenance of public peace in Ireland. I think I can easily induce this Committee to come to that conclusion by establishing one or two preliminary facts. Ireland generally, and these portions of Ireland in particular, are at this moment, and have been for a considerable time, in a state of profound peace. I think it is true to say of the country generally that ordinary crime was never so low as it is at this moment; public excitement of any kind does not exist; there is no turbulence or violence of any kind, and agrarian crime may be said to have practically disappeared. That is a most happy state of things. I am glad to record the fact, and the Chief Secretary will not deny that Ireland is in a state of peace.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
That being so, it will enormously increase his difficulties when he comes to justify action which, knowing human nature to be what it is, must have been calculated to lead to turmoil, disorder and excitement in the west of Ireland. Surely in this state of peace it was absolute madness for the Irish Executive to enter upon any course of irritation likely to arouse passion by arbitrarily suppressing freedom of meeting and of speech, especially in the west of Ireland. The history of these western districts is a sad one. It is not much of an exaggeration to say that there is almost perpetual famine there; certainly there is perpetual hunger. It may truthfully be said that if the people there had the land for nothing they could not live on it, and they have to eke out their existence by a little fishing and by migrating to this country during the harvest to earn a few shillings. It is a remarkable fact that, notwithstanding this condition of affairs, this part of Ireland may be said to be in a state of profound peace; but I am bound to express my conviction that that peaceful condition is largely due to the hope which many of these poor people entertain that they may by popular agitation obtain a remedy in the direction which has already received the approval of the Government and the Congested Districts Board—namely, by breaking up large tracts in these po6r districts and 1310 parcelling out parts so as to increase the small holdings of the people. I do not know whether there is any tendency on the part of the Chief Secretary to deny my statement as to the condition of these particular districts, but we have testimony which he will not disregard. At the last spring assizes in these parts, Sir P. O'Brien, who has recently been elevated to the peerage, said in county Mayo—I am informed by the official authorities, by those responsible for the peace of this county, that there has been a substantial improvement in the condition of county Mayo I assume that is so, because I have been informed of it from official sources; and if it be so —as I am sure it is so, having regard to the source of my information—gentlemen, I think it a matter of congratulation. I say no more.I say there is no crime or popular disturbance in Ireland generally, or in these poorer districts in particular. What there is a recrudescence of a popular movement, a movement which has sprung up in these districts, and has gone on increasing, a movement the leaders in which have been preaching to the people doctrines which have already received the sanction of the Congested Districts Board—the advocacy, in fact, of the policy of creating a peasant proprietary in the most poverty-stricken districts in the west. The action of the Executive has not been caused by any recrudescence of crime or disturbance; it must, therefore, have been directed against this movement. I suppose the defence of the Chief Secretary will be that he is opposing the movement because he thinks it is likely to be carried on by violence or illegality. But he has one substantial guarantee that that cannot take place. There is no part of Ireland where the people are so dependent in these popular movements on the encouragement and the support of the clergy as in the west, and on this very question I will read an extract from a letter addressed to the Chief Secretary, signed by the Archbishop of Tuam, and the Bishops of Galway, Clonfert, Achonry, Killala, and Elphin, in which they say, in regard to the policy of this organisation—We are convinced that this, wise and. generous policy can be carried out, with the' help of the Government, without causing wrong or injury to any man; and it is on that understanding that we advocate its adoption. We should deeply regret to see any means or methods of action employed to further the cause of the tenants which were not perfectly 1311 just and legitimate. A just cause can only be weakened, and a holy cause can only be sullied, by the commission of any crime; and, if necessary, we shall not fail to take steps to warn our clergy and our flocks to abstain from any course of action that could be rightly regarded as unjust and immoral.If the right hon. Gentleman is afraid that this new movement will degenerate into illegal and violent action, and if that is the excuse he is going to make for breaking up these meetings, he has, at any rate, to face the fact that the clergy have indicated their intention to denounce both violence and illegality. Surely under these circumstances it would be wise for the right hon. Gentleman and the Executive to give no unnecessary provocation to public opinion. There have been many meetings suppressed by the right hon. Gentleman during the past few months, and the story in each case is the same. Generally speaking, the meetings are called by placards, signed frequently by the priests and Members of Parliament for the district. Although the meetings are convened two and three weeks in advance the Executive do not notify that the gathering will be prevented until late on the night before the day of meeting, when it is impossible for the promoters of the meeting to communicate with the people in the distant parts of the country, and prevent them from attending the demonstration. Surely if the Government really desired to prevent any collision between the police and the people, if they were really anxious to prevent violence, turbulence and rioting, they would give the promoters earlier intimation of their intentions. But they will not do that, and what happens consequently is this. On the Sunday morning people troop into town, nine out of ten not knowing that there is any objection to the meeting. They find that the place is in the charge of a large body of armed policemen, and that the meeting is stopped. The priests are hustled off the platform, and sometimes assaulted in the presence of their flocks, and Members of Parliament are not allowed to speak. But though the meeting as convened is prevented, the people generally separate in half a dozen different directions, and hold six meetings instead of the one which had been suppressed, thus covering the Executive Government with contempt and ridicule, and, more than that, the next morning's papers are filled with reports of the six meetings, instead of 1312 giving an account of the one which was suppressed. I think it may be shown further that this action on the part of the Government is totally unnecessary. But before proceeding to demonstrate that, let me give an illustration of what has actually occurred. A meeting had been called for Newbridge on Sunday, 29th April, and anyone perusing the newspaper account of the proceedings of that day might well imagine he was reading a report written by a special correspondent at the seat of war. We are told that " the promoters of the meeting were confronted by a proclamation." That proclamation was served only at eight o'clock on the Saturday evening, although the meeting had been convened fully three weeks, and commenting on this the writer says—If the Castle authorities considered that their trickery would succeed, they reckoned without such past masters in the art of flank movements and counter marches as old campaigners like Messrs. Roche and Kilbride. By one of these mysterious resources of the Land League days these gentlemen disappeared from Ballinasloe some time in the small hours, turned up at Newbridge and Ballygar, and having, with the assistance of their friends, made the necessary arrangements, carried out a series of most successful meetings. Large numbers of policemen were drafted into the district under Mr. A. C. Newell, R.M., County Inspector Rodgers (Ballinasloe), and the district inspector from Mount Bellew. A cordon of police was drawn around Father O'Keeffe's residence at Newbridge all day and until a late hour last night, but the meeting was held before they arrived, and the place was turned into a very effective base of operations by the leaguers, some of whom were always in the locality keeping the authorities on the alert, while the others were holding meetings in different places. A large crowd of people who had attended the meeting early in the morning remained around the platform all day, and this tended to keep sixty policemen in the locality—a fine covering movement which worked excellently. A large number of policemen were also scouring the country on bicycles, but, though they found meetings being held often enough, they were powerless to bring the news to headquarters in time to have the proceedings interrupted. Altogether the authorities, in spite of the most elaborate arrangements, were completely foiled, and made nothing but a laughing stock of themselves for the people, who sarcastically cheered them when they came up in time to be late, or departed in hot haste after a decoy party of the league.Surely that must necessarily be the effect of such a proceeding as this. The authorities do make laughing stocks of themselves, especially when, as is the case here, it can be shown that there was no 1313 necessity for their action, as the district was in a state of peace, and there had been no crime there. The only object could have been to prevent the spread of a public movement, the objects of which the Chief Secretary does not approve, and that being so, it is impossible to make any valid defence for the action of the Government. The report goes on to give an account of the other meetings. The people having dispersed into different parts of the country around Newbridge, my hon. friend, Mr. Roche, made a series of most eloquent speeches. In one case he and Father Gearty were received with deafening cheers by an immense crowd. The report I hold in my hand continues—Mr. Roche was about addressing the people off the car when County Inspector Rodgers ordered him down, stating that he would not allow him to speak.Mr. Roche protested, and was loudly cheered by the crowd.The County Inspector pulled him off the car, and a scene of excitement ensued, the people trying to rush in, but being pushed back by the police. It was clear that a serious row was imminent, County Inspector Rodgers displaying a heat of temper that the Resident Magistrate Mr. Newell found it difficult to curb. Father Gearty asked to be allowed to say a few words to his people. County Inspector replied—No, Sir; certainly not, Sir. Father Gearty said he would address them in spite of him, and walked forward, but the Inspector pushed him back.Now, if that is an accurate representation of what took place, it is, I suggest, impossible to conceive a transaction more likely to lead to a breach of the peace. What was the object of it? The right hon. Gentleman cannot say that crime is rampant in that district, or that anyone has been making inflammatory speeches urging men to crime and outrage, for his own Judges have admitted that the districts are in a peaceful state. Owing to recent events in Ireland, these things have been overlooked, and English Members, I fear, have not the faintest idea that while the people were presenting loyal addresses to the Queen in Dublin Her Majesty's policemen were assaulting the priests and Members of Parliament and breaking up constitutional meetings in the poor and famine-stricken districts. It is well that these matters should be made public, and that Irish Members, at any rate, should protest against this policy. I say that this conduct on the part of the Government is ineffectual for the object they have in view. I do not 1314 know what that object is, unless it be to interfere with the spread of this organisation. I am speaking here in the general interests of the country. If I were speaking here solely and simply as the advocate of the United Irish League, I should say to the right hon. Gentleman, " Go on. The more meetings you suppress the more strength you will give to the organisation." It is of no use for the Chief Secretary to smile good-humouredly at that statement, because he must know that the experience of past Governments and of his distinguished relative when he was in Ireland was that the suppression of meetings led, not to the weakening of the organisation of the people, but to exactly the opposite. If his object is to weaken or destroy or prevent the spread of this particular organisation, his action is likely to have the reverse effect. Let me take one other case. Some time in January a public meeting was announced to be held in the town of Sligo, which is a very important Irish town. -This meeting was summoned by the most responsible men in Sligo, and it was summoned to discuss, amongst other questions, the practice which exists in Ireland, and which is absolutely unknown in this country, to order a man to "stand by " by the Crown in certain jury cases. There is no such thing in this country at all. The Attorney General for Ireland appears to be sceptical about that statement, but I ask him whether such a case has occurred in England.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
Of course I am not quite so ignorant as to imagine that the right does not exist in this country. I intended to say that the practice does not exist. But my point is that the right is exercised every day in Ireland, and is never exercised in this country, and when I ask for a case to be stated I am sent back half a century to one case in England.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
This is really beside the question. I am not arguing about the right, but what I want to point out is that the practice exists in Ireland, which does not exist here, and surely, Sir, this is a just subject for discussion on a public platform in Ireland. That is the only point I desire to make. This meeting in Sligo was called for the purpose of discussing that practice of " standing by " men, a practice which we have not been used to, so far as the Attorney General knows, for fifty years in England. [Mr. ATKINSON: I did not say that.] With reference to that meeting the Catholic Bishop wrote a letter to the promoters, and he said—I thank you cordially for your letter inviting me to preside at Sunday's meeting, but I regret that a long-standing engagement in a distant part of the diocese necessitates my being from home on that day. Let me a sure you, however, and through you the members of the Sligo branch of the United Irish League, under whose auspices the meeting is to be held, that I am in fullest sympathy with the object for which it has been convened—namely, to condemn the iniquitous practice of excluding Catholics from serving on juries for no other reason than because they are Catholics. The principle underlying trial by jury is as old as Magna Charta, and is now in vogue, in one form or another, in most civilised countries in the world. Only in Ireland is it found necessary in the interests of Government to depart from it by assigning to the Crown an unlimited authority of ordering respectable citizens whose names are on the jury panel to 'stand by.' The only plea for such an anomalous course is that either Catholic intellects are too ignorant or too blind to see the truth, or otherwise that Catholic consciences are too elastic to act upon the dictates of rectitude.I quote that letter in order to show the character of this meeting—that it was promoted and sanctioned by the most responsible men in Sligo. It is not likely a Catholic bishop would give his sanction and approval to a meeting called for an illegal purpose. There had been no violence or disturbance in Sligo; the peace had not been broken, and, as far as I know, Sligo was in a perfectly crimeless condition, and it would certainly compare very favourably with any other city in Great Britain in that respect. The public meeting was convened by the most responsible men in the place to discuss a mater of public interest, and the Government issued a proclamation late at 1316 night, and the night before the meeting was to be held. Then they dispersed the meeting by force, and the meeting was held at the town hall, with locked doors, in spite of the police. Is not that a contemptible and ridiculous position for the Government to be in?—and I want to know how they can justify it. Then I come to what was perhaps the worst case of all. It was the case of a meeting held at Clonfree in Roscommon, where no notice was given as regards the intention to suppress the meeting. District Inspector M'Ghee came forward with a body of thirty police, who took up a position near the National school. Then the following conversation took place—
We are here on the public road. It is public property, and we decline to go away, as we have a perfect right to be here.
At this stage of the proceedings some of the police made a rush at Mr. MacEgan, who cautioned them not to assault him, as he still maintained that he and the people had a perfect legal right to remain there. Mr. M'Ghee then approached Mr. Carr, and said—
I command you to remove away from here. I will not permit any meeting to be held here to-day.
He did not say he had any authority from Dublin to act as he did. Then Mr. Carr said—
We have assembled here for the purpose of establishing a branch of the United Irish League. There is nothing secret in our proceedings. Do you mean, Mr. Inspector, to tell us that such is illegal?
Mr. M'Ghee replied—
I decline to give any explanation, and I repeat that no such meeting will be held in my district, and I caution you and all present to remove from here.
The police then rushed on the crowd, and some of the leading Nationalists of the district retired to the house of Mr. William Igoe. Mr. MacEgan made an attempt to address a few words to the crowd, but was interrupted by an advance towards the door of the house by Mr. M'Ghee and his force who were stationed outside. Then a portion of the people went away and held a meeting in a field
while the police were watching the house. The newspaper report continues—
In the meantime it was announced that the Tulsk contingent were coming on, and the crowd moved on through the fields at a point to meet them. Mr. M'Ghee, who was stationed on the road with the greater portion of his men, on observing the course taken by the people, immediately went on to meet the Tulsk men, and drew a line of his men across the road.
I have no hesitation in saying that the conduct of the inspector in drawing a line of his men across the public road and refusing to allow any person to pass was not only illegal, but unjustifiable and unwarrantable. What happened eventually was that a number of people entered the house of a man named Shannon, and although a man's house is supposed to be his castle, a police sergeant forced in the door, and, along with four or five other constables, dispersed the people without any explanation whatever. I was going to say that I was glad no disturbance took place, but really I am inclined to doubt the wisdom of such a statement. I am not at all sure that to allow proceedings of that kind to pass over without any vigorous resistance is a good thing. Anything more unjustifiable or more certain under ordinary circumstances to lead to a breach of the peace it is impossible to imagine; and if the police had been outnumbered and thrown on one side by the people it would be impossible to blame the people, knowing what human nature is. The right hon. Gentleman is to be congratulated on the fact that these scenes passed over without any violence. I find it very difficult myself to understand how they did pass without violence. It is a state of things which would not be tolerated for five minutes in this country, and I think it speaks very badly for our people that these things should happen in Ireland, and that such little public attention should be directed to them. I hope, at any rate, this debate will open the eyes of some English Members as to the state of things in Ireland. The main facts are, I submit, indisputable. There is no crime—indeed, no condition of public excitement—in Ireland, and yet meetings called for a legal purpose are being broken up by the police. These are facts which cannot be denied. I desire to arraign the policy of the Government on the broadest possible line. I say that their policy is un-
constitutional, that the suppression of free speech in Ireland is an outrage, and that it would not be tolerated in England for twenty-four hours. It is dangerous in the highest degree to the interests of peace, and from the point of view of the Government desiring to put down a popular movement it is ineffectual. For these reasons I beg to move the reduction standing in my name.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, " That Item A (Salaries) be reduced by £100, in respect of the Salary of the Chief Secretary."—(Mr. John Redmond.)
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I wish to bring under the notice of the Committee a case which deals with the action of the Executive in Ireland, of very much the same nature as that described by the hon. Member for Waterford. In the first place, I desire to say that in the district which I have the honour to represent there is not the same amount of destitution, not the same chronic destitution, as in other parts of Ireland. There is, however, a great deal of privation and a growing feeling in regard to compulsory purchase and occupying ownership. In the case to which I wish to refer I remember a question was put by my hon. friend the chairman of the party to the Chief Secretary, who stated, in answer, that the meeting had been suppressed by the Government, because it had been called for the purpose of boycotting and intimidation. I call that absolutely untrue and unfounded, and opposed to the facts of the case. Is it right or constitutional that, because the Government hold a certain opinion in regard to a public meeting—which opinion is arrived at without consultation with the local authorities—the right of free speech and public meeting may be abrogated when the Government so desire? It will not be denied that one of the grievances which most stirred the public mind and excited public resentment in this country was the allegation that the right of free speech and public meeting in Pretoria and Johannesburg was more or less invaded. At a time when this great and mighty Empire goes to war and deluges South Africa with blood to vindicate the right of free speech and public meeting, that right is put at the mercy of 1319 the Government, subject to the suspicion, generally unfounded, of a police officer, or to the mere signature of a paid magistrate of the Crown. That is the state of the case in regard to the meeting at Newmarket, county Cork. I may point out that the meeting was announced by advertisement in the public press, with the names of the possible speakers, several weeks before the incident on which the proclamation was founded. What was that incident? There was some dispute between the landlord and the tenant of a wretchedly small holding. The tenant was evicted, someone else took the place, and there was some feeling in regard to that, no doubt, amongst several of my colleagues in the county council and district councils. As I have said, the meeting was announced before the incident on which this lying proclamation was founded—a nice example of the methods of police government which is worthy of the attention of the Committee. This proclamation is not ad rem, not in connection with a peculiar condition of things in Ireland or in a particular part of Ireland. It is a proclamation which is printed with blanks left to be filled in. When the Executive desire to proclaim a meeting all they have got to do is to fill in the blanks—the date, the alleged objects of the meeting, the effects such as boycotting, the room, or the name of the place where the meeting is to be held, and the signature of the resident magistrate. I shall decline, as far as I possibly can, to consent that my constituents shall be subject to the caprice of a policeman, or the signature of any resident magistrate whatsoever. The right of free speech and public meeting has always been the constitutional right of a free people, and yet a state of things has been reached when that right is denied. It was said in the proclamation that the object and effect of the meeting was boycotting and intimidation. There is an element of prophecy in that. Here is the placard issued, publicly calling the meeting, and in the forefront of it the objects are clearly and distinctly stated—Assemble in your thousands to uphold the principle of Irish National Reunion, and to prove that you are as determined as ever to continue unflinchingly the glorious struggle for a free and emancipated Ireland.The Government may object to a free and emancipated Ireland, but that is a political question. It is a subversion of all consti- 1320 tutional rights and all principles of liberty that, upon the subterranean information and upon the deposition of some unknown constable, signed by a magistrate sixteen or eighteen miles away, a public meeting for legitimate political discussion should be prohibited. When I was handed the proclamation I did not know who swore it, but the magistrate who signed it lives sixteen or eighteen miles from Newmarket. There was a magistrate living in Newmarket who was much better acquainted with the circumstances of the case. When I arrived on the scene the day previous to that on which it was arranged to hold the meeting, I was informed of the proclamation, and my friends and I made arrangements to outwit the police, if possible, with the result that instead of holding one legal and peaceful meeting in the town of Newmarket, half a dozen were held in the neighbourhood. I want to know from the Government, do they lay down as a postulate of administration that, on a deposition of a policeman bearing the signature of a resident magistrate—who, it must be remembered, is removable by the Administration of the day—they can take away my right to address my constituents on the subject mentioned in this placard? Not alone is a Member prevented from addressing a mooting of his constituents, but he is prevented actually from entering the town. A cordon of police was drawn across every road, and people found the greatest difficulty in getting to church to attend divine service. The rector told me that this peaceful town had been occupied by a large garrison of policemen and district inspectors, who were marching and counter-marching all clay. There is nothing in Ireland without a touch of humour about it. Where the comic element comes in this case was that a proclamation, or rather a notice, was served on the hotel keepers to close their establishments on that day, and no one was served with any necessary refreshment. It is a mountainous district, and people come from eight or ten miles away to the church on a Sunday, and some of them to transact business also. These people could not get any refreshment; but in a field behind the hotel gallons of porter and other drinkables were being sent up all day long to the policemen. I do not grudge the policemen their refreshment; but I do complain that the ordinary people 1321 were not allowed to enter the hotel to obtain refreshments of any kind. So that you had two magistrates signing an order calling on these innkeepers to close their premises, and policemen, who are supposed to uphold law and order, break the law itself. As I have said, instead of one meeting being held, we had six, each of them addressed by friends of mine, Members of Parliament, county councillors, and district councillors; and the Government were made to appear stupid and absurd in the eyes of the people of the locality. This proclamation was founded on falsehood. The town was peaceful, the district all round was peaceful, and a certificate of peace and order was given to it by' a Judge of Assize, just as he did to the whole county of Cork. The district is absolutely crimeless, but its offence is that it will give no promise to the Government that the people will not prosecute the National movement. We contend that we are entitled to carry on our legal and constitutional meetings, and that the Government are acting illegally in suppressing them. The proclamation says that the object of the meeting was boycotting and intimidation. I do not say that the policeman who made that deposition would deliberately tell a falsehood, but the effect of it was a falsehood. The object of the meeting was to advance the National cause and the United Irish League, and to give an opportunity to the Member for the district to address his constituency; and in suppressing it there was every element of illegality and unconstitutional action on the part of the Government. In the final part of the proclamation, it is said that "the meeting may lead to a breach of the peace "; but, the peace was more likely to be broken by the action of the police than by the meeting itself. It is absolutely untrue to say that the holding of such a public meeting in the open air would have led to a breach of the peace. If there was any danger of the peace being broken or of tumult or disorder it was the provocative presence of the police preventing a Member of Parliament addressing his constituents, and coming there armed with batons, bayonets, and rifles, to put down by force the exercise of the right of free speech which we claim. The Government had better take heed and think of what they are doing in this matter. If the light hon. Gentleman who repre- 1322 sents the Irish administration has such a suspicious feeling in regard to the United Irish League, if he regards it with such disfavour—I had almost said with such dislike—let him take action at that table, or elsewhere, in regard to that organisation in a manner above board; but do not let him, while afraid to take that course, attempt to crush and interfere with that organisation by methods of police violence which would be discreditable to any administration. If you want to crush it, prove that it is wrong; but do not expose the people who think they have still a right to free speech and public meeting in Ireland to the danger of being batoned and bayonetted by policemen in your pay. I think I have shown that, in this particular case, in a peaceable locality, the Government's action was high handed, illegal, and unconstitutional. I warn them, with any little authority I may have obtained from my position as a representative of a great county constituency in Ireland for fourteen years, that their action is dangerous to the public peace, and that if they persist in practices of this kind they will strike a blow at constitutional freedom.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
I do not think the Government realise the state of things in Ireland in regard to our constitutional rights. Here public meeting is recognised as one of the rights of the people, and they have rightly made great sacrifices to assert that right. We, in Ireland, recognise also a duty in that respect, and we have endeavoured, so far as we could, to assert the right of public meeting. The ordinary English Member speaks to his constituents without let or hindrance: even when our meetings are not proclaimed, we have to address them with police reporters present taking notes, and the platform surrounded by police—a difference which should be recognised from the practice in this country. I rise, however, with the object of drawing attention to executive proceedings at the meeting held at Carrick-on-Suir on the opening day of this year. That meeting-was called together and organised by a branch of the United Irish League which had been established in that locality. I was invited to attend it along with the hon. Member for West Waterford, and 1323 the hon. Member for East Tipperary. The meeting was advertised for some considerable time beforehand. I left my home on the morning of the meeting without any expectation that anything unusual would happen, no notice having been given to me directly or indirectly; but on arriving at Carrick-on-Suir I was informed that the meeting had been proclaimed, and that the walls of the town had been studded with proclamations. At Clonmel my hon. friend the Member for East Tipperary was joined in his train by 150 constables, fully armed as if they were going to war. If we look at it from no other point of view than that of expense, all this is an outrage on the taxpayers. The proclamation which my hon. friend the Member for North Cork read in regard to the meeting at Newmarket was exactly identical with that issued at Carrick-on-Suir—a skeleton printed placard, with the alleged facts and the dates filled in. Well, we walked down to the town and the people decided that they could not hold the meeting advertised then and there in the town; but it was arranged that a certain number of meetings should be held in the neighbourhood, which I and my colleagues addressed. Now, a certain amount of importance attached to these meetings which perhaps they did not merit, and certainly a greater impetus was given to the cause of the League than would have happened if the original meeting had been held. There is no justification for the action of the Government in these matters. They have plenary powers in their hands to prosecute Member's of Parliament or anyone else who utter sentiments that they may disagree with, and we all know that if anyone is sent before these removable magistrates he will get short shrift. Having addressed the meetings, it was arranged that the Members of Parliament should return and assemble in the Town Hall, but as my hon. friends arrived there in due course, I found that they were being expelled from the Town Hall, the use of which had been obtained; and my hon. friend the Member for East Tipperary was even torn from the platform. We were followed by a crowd of people who were naturally greatly excited, although I am glad to say there was not a riot. We then adjourned to the room of the Young Ireland Society, where we spoke. Now, I say from a constitutional point of view 1324 this conduct of the Executive is unprecedented and illegal, and it does no good. Our experience is that the suppressed branches of the Land League were never so vigorous as when they were supposed to be suppressed. Some time ago I had a letter from a gentleman asking me to use my influence to get his admission into a branch in my neighbourhood. I replied that I believed the branch was suppressed, whereupon he said it was only suppressed in name. That shows how imbecile is the action of the Government. A police-constable makes an affidavit that he is of opinion that, as the result of the meeting which has been called, boycotting will take place; and the meeting is suppressed. But, do as you like, you cannot compel the people to deal with this or the other man if they do not wish; and the only effect is to make certain individuals more conspicuous than they otherwise would be, although they do not benefit in the long run from it. The object of the Government is the suppression of the United Irish League, but the Government by their action have made necessary some such association. The people are on the verge of famine, and the Government have never done any thing to stop that. The United Irish League was founded for the purpose of finding employment for the people at home, or of transplanting them to places where they can get a decent living. The object of the League should have the support rather than the opposition of the Government. It is notorious that since the League was formed two years ago, seven times the quantity of land has been purchased by the Congested Districts Board as in the seven years previous existence of that Board. The Carrick-on-Suir meeting is only one of many cases we have to complain of. As my hon. friend the Member for the City of Waterford has. justly said, owing to the enthusiasm over the war, many things have gone on in Ireland that have escaped public attention; but the Government have no excuse whatever for interfering with the right of public meeting in Ireland. The Government say that these meetings provoke crime; but if the charges of the various Judges of Assize are looked at, it will be found that there is little or no crime in the country. Our contention is that these Coercion Acts are not aimed at crime and criminality, but at political organisation. Political organisation has 1325 been found, however, to be absolutely necessary, and no reforms have been got without them.
§ MR. CREAN (Queen's County, Ossory)
I believe that the right hon. the Chief Secretary is only carrying out the system of government established by his predecessors on his own particular side of the House, and that it is being followed by the same result. I was with my colleague the hon. Member for North Cork on the occasion of his visit to Newmarket. I went there not with the intention of addressing any illegal meeting, or of doing anything illegal, but to speak to my hon. friend's constituents on the subject of organising their forces to bettor their condition in life. You might as well threaten to suppress a meeting in Trafalgar Square the object of which was to strengthen the organisation of the working classes in England for self-protection, and to get some change made in the law which would better their condition in life. A more legitimate object I cannot conceive of. I know the district of Newmarket well, and therefore I had no hesitation, in response to an invitation, to address a public meeting there. I was warned by a policeman two days before I went there. I had consented to go there, and I knew more about the meeting than the police. Their information was from a contaminated and prejudiced source, probably from the landlord class in the district, who did not wish to see the progress of the League. I had attended several meetings before the meeting in Newmarket. The same object was foreshadowed, the meetings were not suppressed, and no evil effects came from them, and no person was hurt. The police were there in twos and threes, and in some cases the reporters were standing by. We are responsible men, and we speak stronger language from these benches than from the platforms in Ireland. We would not hold public meetings if we were afraid that the Public Prosecutor would follow us, and perhaps take us into the courts afterwards to answer for our actions. We wish to speak in presence of reporters. They are there on the platform, and they need no protection. This fact proves that our object in holding the meetings is legitimate. It proves that 1326 there is no danger to the police or the police reporter, where thousands of people are present. The presence of Members of Parliament and other representative men of the district at these meetings is a proof that they wish to address their constituents in the open light of day, and to advise them. They have a perfect right to address their constituents, just as any Member of Parliament in England has a right to address his constituents. Possibly the police wish to rule the people by being present in force. They want to do more than that. They want to saddle the poor impoverished districts with the cost of the police. I do not so much object to the suppressing of the meetings, for the result is exactly as stated by the hon. Member for Waterford. The success of a meeting is a hundred-fold enhanced when a document prohibiting the meeting has been published at all the cross-roads of the country, and at the police barracks. These notices bring the people to the meetings. They are better than any advertisements we could publish in the district. From our standpoint this strengthens the League with the people. It brings the enthusiasm of the people to the League. It is an established principle with the people that whenever the Government tries to suppress meetings there is something good for the people. It is a sad thing that they should come to the conclusion that when the police are opposing a movement that movement is essentially for the good of the people. The landlords of the district force the Executive to come down and suppress these meetings. The Government are compelled virtually to do what their own common sense and the past experience of the country tell them is the very worst thing to hinder an organisation. Meetings had been held elsewhere for the same object as the Newmarket meeting. Why were not all suppressed? Why not suppress the meeting at Bangor, where thousands of people were present? No harm resulted from that, but only good. We had a meeting on the following Sunday in the next division. There were a few policemen there, and six or seven bands playing. Members of Parliament spoke to the voters of the district, and the police reporter was beside the waggonette occupied by the speakers. I believe the Government are lending themselves to external pressure by the stupid landlord 1327 element in the district, in connection with the suppression of these meetings. I object to this because it brings an unnecessary tax on the people of the district. We are used to suppression in Ireland. We have seen from time to time that free speech is not allowed in that country. There is no country in the civilised world where the people have less of their own way than in Ireland. The landlords may meet in Dublin and threaten the Land Commission and the judges who have the administration of the law if they dare to reduce rents 5 or 10 per cent. Though the right hon. Gentleman believes that our speeches here may be futile and cannot affect him, I tell him from these benches that there is not a platform in Ireland from which we will not speak if we conceive we have a right to go there. No district inspector will deter us from addressing in the open air of heaven our constituents. I can use no stronger language. It is the language we will repeat if you say that the organisation is illegal. The people will combine in one form or another to right their wrongs. I don't know anything in connection with the meeting to give a policeman the right to prevent a subject of the Queen from walking the Queen's highway. I addressed three meetings in the suppressed district, and in the evening I turned into the town to meet my colleagues, who had promised to wait for me there. I was stopped at five in the evening, and told that I might walk through the cordon of police there, but I dare not drive into the town. In other words, I could walk eighteen miles home, but I could not be allowed to take the car with me. Is that constitutional? I deny it. In the end, when he saw that he was ridiculous, he said—I will let you pass if you give me a promise that you will not address a meeting.Fancy an English Member of Parliament going through a division in a county with the representative of that division, and a common policeman stopping him on the way and saying—You shall not go through—there is to be a meeting held here—unless you give me a promise not to go to the meeting.He was not in ignorance of who I was, for he mentioned my name. I was not such an idiot as to give him a promise; at any rate in the interest of the position I 1328 hold I declined absolutely to allow a policeman to be my taskmaster on a matter of this sort. I was not going to run away from anything I did. To walk the Queen's highway is no offence against the law. He said I was going to hold a meeting. I maintain that until I broke the rules of the Castle he had no right to interfere with me. That is only one instance of how they are conducting themselves all over the country. Are we living in a free country? While addresses of welcome and loyalty are being presented to the Queen on the one hand, there are on the other the poor unfortunate peasants, the blood of whose kin has been shed on the field in Africa for the protection of your Empire. Such proceedings as those of Newmarket are not fair, and I do not think this House should be a party to them. It is all very well for the Chief Secretary for Ireland to say "I am responsible for all this." He, of course, in virtue of his position is responsible, but I do not believe he knew more of that Newmarket affair than yourself, Mr. Lowther, and probably he never heard of it until we raised the question here to-day. We have nothing to say against the personality of the Chief Secretary, but we have against the office of which he is the figure-head—an office which has always worked against the interests of the country at large and in the interests of a certain class, which, while suppressing orderly meetings of a popular character and not in any way illegal, has never attempted to prevent landlords openly denouncing the Government itself and censuring the very Judges on the Bench for daring to give verdicts in the interests of the poorer people. We claim for the poor people in Ireland the right to meet in the open air to express their views. We claim for Irish Members of Parliament the right which English Members of Parliament have of addressing their constituents. Are we to be denied this right? If so, it would be well that it should be laid down before the world that unless the county surveyor, or the district inspector, or the sergeant of police so wishes, no Irish Member shall have the right to address his constituents. It is the rule in the country, and it might as well be made a rule of this House, so that the responsibility of these illegal acts should not be put upon the unfortunate policemen, who are compelled to carry out 1329 whatever the landlord element at Dublin Castle dictates. There is another question to which I wish to call attention. I had a question on the Paper to-day in connection with the outrage committed on the public at Mountmellick; and the answer I received was that a disorderly crowd of about 200 persons assaulted three policemen, and that the three policemen dispersed the crowd. If three policemen could disperse the crowd of two hundred people it must have been very disorderly! But there was no illegal gathering there. The band of the town went up and down the streets playing without injuring anybody. What displeased the authorities was that the people cheered for Kruger. I would cheer for Kruger, and I have heard him cheered for in this House, and you have as perfect a right to baton Irish Members here as to baton those people in Ireland. This meeting was not likely to create any disturbance, as there was not a man in the town who was not in unison with the sentiments of these people. If the matter rested with the batoning of the people on that particular day we probably should not take much notice, as the people are used to such things. But the bench of magistrates was packed, and men were given three or four months imprisonment for being present at this meeting. Men were convicted on the uncorroborated evidence of a policeman, notwithstanding the fact that they had respectable witnesses who denied the assault. I have seen youngsters here in England—whose parents ought to be prosecuted for not sending them to school—marching along the streets with tin boxes before them, making a hideous noise, neither music nor anything else. Children in Ireland would not dare do such things in the streets; if they did, the school boards would stop in and the parents would suffer by imprisonment or fine. In London it is a very good thing to do, and it would be allowed also in Ireland if it was a crowd of loyal students from Trinity College breaking into the Lord Mayor's House and assaulting old women. But these men at Mountmellick were imprisoned without the option of a fine or the opportunity of appealing against the decision of the magistrates. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may think this a light matter, but it is a very sore thing that these unfortunate men, because they are poor, should be im- 1330 prisoned without the option of a fine or opportunity of appeal by the hangers-on of Dublin Castle. I give these two instances as parallel eases. At Mount-mellick you have poor, inoffensive men stopped in the street, and, although they assaulted nobody, imprisoned without the option of a fine. In Dublin you have educated rowdies going out in the light of day kicking policemen, defying the authorities, beating unfortunate old women, and breaking into the Lord Mayor's house, and when they are brought before the magistrates there is a solitary fine of £1. What a contrast! It was a Nationalist Lord Mayor, and therefore there was no reason why they should not pull down his flag, break into the mansion provided for him by the citizens of Dublin, and beat men, women, and children, because these students were loyal citizens.
* THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! I think the hon. Member is now criticising the administration of justice. That question cannot be raised on this Vote. The hon. Member must wait until we reach the Vote in Class 3.
§ MR. CREAN
I was contrasting the way in which the two sets of people were dealt with. I protest against this treatment, and it would be well that the public should know that there is no freedom of speech or of constitutional action in these towns, and that policemen baton peaceable crowds in the hope of making those crowds disorderly. The Irish people have been mulcted in the Courts to the tune of hundreds of pounds for compensation in consequence of injuries to policemen. Irish Members have in their minds the aggravation that some of these people have been subjected to, and it is not surprising that they have been induced to resent this aggravation by teaching the police a lesson which they will not be likely to forget. Many districts of Ireland are now being taxed to the tune of thousands of pounds as compensation to the police for the misconduct of the force. No matter what the outrages may be, so long as they are done against the mass of the people and at the instigation of the classes, there is no censure against this conduct from the benches opposite. The 1331 Irish Members are always listened to with a deaf ear when they state their case, and Irishmen are treated as no other people on God's earth are treated.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
I do not very often find myself in agreement with hon. Members opposite in their criticisms of Irish policy, but upon this occasion I agree with a great deal that has been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I could not, however, follow the logic of their arguments. Be-ginning with the hon. Member for Water-ford, who was followed in the same strain by several of his colleagues, they contend that the Government by the course they are now pursuing are helping forward the cause of the League which they have started. I cannot see why hon. Members opposite should object to the action of the Government when it is undoubtedly helping to further the objects of the League which they support. I should rather have thought that the action of the Government now is largely conducive to furthering the objects they have in view, and that they would allow the Government to go on in this stupid course, for in trying to arrest the steps of this League they are doing everything they can to further it. The hon. Member for Waterford surprised me by his attitude on this question after taking such an active part in favour of the League, because a newspaper in Ireland with which he is connected was very much opposed to this new-fangled League, but for some reason or other, the hon. Member had to bow to its authority. It would be interesting if the hon. Member for East Mayo or some other hon. Member opposite would state to the House what are the objects of this League and what it has been started for. We have had some little experience of leagues of various kinds in Ireland. We have had the Land League—[An IRISH MEMBER: And we want another now.]—and because it had to die away and disappear you want another now. It is the duty of the Government to see that you do not get another. I agree with what the hon. Member for Waterford has said, and also with as much as I could understand of 1332 what the hon. Member said who has just sat down. My hon. friend said the Government should not make government in Ireland ridiculous. I thought that was the chief object of hon. Members opposite, and that has been their aim for many years past; and I wonder at them finding fault with the Executive for making government ridiculous when for the last twenty years that has been the great object of their eloquence in this House. They have advised the Government to take more open and definite steps in dealing with this League. I entirely share that view. We have a League called the United Irish League, and the gentlemen who advocate its doctrines have been very clear in stating what these doctrines are. They are not only an attack upon landlords directly, but also upon Irish tenants who happen to hold from year to year grass farms in Ireland. This League has for its object to intimate to these tenants that they must leave their farms and make room for other people. Now, I never knew an Irishman in my life who would voluntarily leave the farm he possessed for the sake of any other persons, whether Irish or not. Hon. Gentlemen know this as well as I do, and in order to induce an Irishman voluntarily to give up a grass farm—which pays best in Ireland —you must advise him strongly in order to show him what a blessing it is to allow his farm to be divided up amongst people he has never known. If that does not effect the purpose in view, you must hold meetings and point out to him that unless he leaves his grass farm he must look out for squalls. It does not require a very elaborate argument to teach an Irishman what it means when meetings are held and addressed by eloquent gentlemen like those hon. Members who have spoken to-day: and he knows that if he is a patriotic Irishman he must leave that land and make room for other people. I read of a case the other day— I forget the locality—but I read it in an Irish paper. It was the case of a man who had a grass farm, and he did not see his way to make room for other people and go out. Shortly after this I read that he had been brought to his senses and had left the farm. [An IRISH MEMBER: Where was that?] That is exactly what I have forgotten. I do not, however, think the hon. Member will deny its accuracy, and I will, if he likes, take the trouble to get the information 1333 for his edification. I assure the Committee that what I have stated is absolutely accurate. Whether in Ireland, England, Scotland, or Wales, or any other civilised country where there is such a thing as freedom at all, I say that no organisation should be permitted to dictate to people what they ought to do against their will. I say every man in Ireland has a perfect right within the law to do as he pleases. He has a right to stay on his farm or to quit it if he likes, and no society or any body of men has a right to intimidate him and force him against his will to leave his farm. This League has one object, and one object alone, and that is to re-establish the power and authority of hon. Gentlemen opposite over the Irish people, which power and authority they find at the present moment in rather a shaky condition. When the National League was suppressed it frittered away and vanished. What will happen when the Executive Government, guided by the experience of the past, suppress this League? This League also will vanish when the Irish people learn the lesson which they are so ready to forget, that the law of this country is administered by a determined Government, and that they must respect it. A weak-backed Government is one which nobody respects. They will allow, I think, that an Irishman has a perfect right within the law of the country— [An IRISH MEMBER: Which country?] The law of this country still prevails in Ireland. [An IRISH MEMBER: Except in Belfast.] I say that I hope the Government will deal firmly with this League, and determine that, no matter what happens, and how difficult it may be, or whatever strenuous measures they may require to enforce the law, no body of men shall be permitted to intimidate and dictate by intimidation to the Irish people what they shall do. That is the lesson which the Government ought to teach. I perfectly agree with what has been said, that proclaiming meetings an this way has no good effect, and will not have the effect which the Government have in view—that is, to prevent this League taking root in Ireland; but if they treat the question with a strong hand, then this League will vanish away just as the Land League vanished, and leave no wreck behind it except possibly the wreck of the party opposite.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
The right hon. and gallant Member must pardon me when I say that I find his attitude upon the Irish land question and this organisation a little apathetic. With that dauntless courage which characterises the stock of which he comes, he gets up here and takes part in an Irish debate, professing the same principles day after day and session after session for fifteen years. The right hon. and gallant Member is apparently satisfied with the result. He has described the National League as having vanished, and he says that if the United Irish League is treated like the National League was treated it will vanish also. I suppose the right hon. and gallant Member is aware of the fact that other things have vanished within the last twenty years as well as the National League. I suppose he will be prepared to admit that one of the chief reasons why so many evil things have disappeared in Ireland within the last twenty years is because of the very existence of such organisations. I am old enough to remember the time when the tenantry in Ireland were driven to the poll like sheep. There are Members on these benches who have seen wholesale evictions, wholesale raising of rents, and all the other evils of Irish landlordism. I think that in his quieter and more genuinely Irish moods the right hon. and gallant Gentleman himself would be ready to acknowledge that the disappearance of those evils is a great benefit to Ireland, and is mainly due to such organisations among the people of Ireland as made it impossible for any British Administration to refuse to recognise their power. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman asked what are the objects of the United Irish League. He answered his own question. He did not require information, as everybody knows what are the objects of the League.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
We might bring many charges against the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, but the association of prejudice with his name is 1335 the very last thing of which any rational man would think. The first object of the United Irish League is to make it possible for Irishmen of Nationalist opinions to join again for common objects, to forget and to bury the division of the last ten years, and the reunion of the Irish party is the best proof that that object has been attained. Other objects are to establish the people of Ireland upon the land; to undo a great deal of the mischief that successive conquests and many decades of bad government have done in Ireland, and, above all, in the west of Ireland; to repeople those districts which have been shorn of their population, and to transfer the people from those patches of land out of which at present they vainly endeavour to make a decent existence to those largo and rich regions which are at their very doors. I regret to find that the only advice the right hon. and gallant Gentleman can give to the Government is the old advice that all you have to do is to fall back on the usual weapon of force and coercion. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is the Bourbon of Irish landlordism—he forgets nothing and he learns nothing. If there be any lesson which has been taught by the history of Ireland during the last century it is that coercion has never succeeded in silencing any just and legitimate demand of the Irish people, or in permanently destroying any Irish organisation. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is so foolish and insane as to take the advice of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, he will only add to the strength of the United Irish League by producing—may be under another title—an organisation more powerful and more popular. I will now pass to another question that has a very close connection with this organisation which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has so strongly denounced—I mean the question of Irish emigration. I have occasionally asked the Chief Secretary questions on this point, and the tendency of his replies has been rather to underrate the amount of emigration which has taken place. This is a question on which all Nationalist Irishmen, at any rate, feel very bitterly and deeply. Everybody acknowledges that emigration from Ireland has proceeded at a rate unexampled in the history of any other country in the world. The very 1336 first speech I hoard the late Mr. Bright make was on Irish affairs in the city of Limerick in 1866, when he pointed to this emigration problem as one of the very worst evils of the country. That is a good many years ago, and I regret to say the evil is still going on. I think the present is an appropriate time to raise this question. We all know the fervent appeals which have been made in English speeches and newspapers to the people of Ireland to show a. spirit of loyalty and affection to this country in her hour of emergency and need. According to some of those, articles, the Irish people have really so little-reason to complain now that it is rather a matter for astonishment than anything else that they are not as loyal as other parts of the Empire. I do not take up the position that the masses of this country are ignorant of the real state of affairs in Ireland, or that many of them would not be sincerely desirous of meeting the wishes of the Irish people if they knew what those wishes were and fully appreciated the reasons behind them. Even Englishmen are beginning now —as they were bound to do at a moment, when according to their own confessions, Irish valour and Irish military genius have stood between them and serious reverses and disasters—to appreciate the fact that the diminution of the population has been not only a terrible evil to Ireland, but a loss and disaster to England and the Empire at large.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
That is not the question I am raising. The figures in regard to this matter are very serious. From 1851 to 1899 the emigration from Ireland amounted to 3,796,131, or nearly 4,000,000 people. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman was very severe on the Land League, the National League, and the United Irish League. In the face of the fact that nearly 4,000,000 people have left the shores of Ireland largely because of the existence of bad land laws, can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman be surprised that every Irishman who has the good of Ireland at heart should seek to establish some form of organisation by 1337 which this flood of emigration should be stopped, and the people of Ireland granted the right and permission to live on the shores of their own country? I know Very well the arguments which are used with regard to this emigration. It is said that emigration often leads to the benefit of the people who emigrate. Even if that be true—and to a certain extent it is true—I would not regard that as a sufficient answer to the question. The lamentable experience of every Irishman who has travelled outside Ireland is that many a man who leaves the country would be happier, more prosperous, and better in every respect on an Irish hillside with a skip of potatoes before him than in his present condition. I do not desire to dwell upon this subject: it is too painful. I have spent thirty years of my life in England, and have travelled through nearly every part of the country, and I have witnessed sad and terrible scenes of the fate of the Irish emigrant which, I think, would move even the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to feel that any organisation would be desirable which would help to keep these people at home. Undoubtedly it is quite true that the emigration is not now what it once was, but it is still very great. There was a disastrous year immediately after the famine when the number of emigrants reached 200,000. But even since then there has been a tremendous number. In 1873 there were 90,000 emigrants; in 1887, 82,000; in 1883, 108,000. The numbers have gradually diminished, and now they are something between 40,000 and 50,000 a year. In 1895 there were 48,703 emigrants, in 1898 32,000, but I am sorry to say that last year the number rose to 41,232. It is quite true that emigration has largely diminished, and I wish to make one or two observations upon that point. In the first place, even in the last five years, from 1894 to 1899, the number of emigrants has been nearly 200,000, and that from a country like Ireland is an enormous number. Further, although the number has diminished, everybody must know that 40,000 or 50,000 from a population of 4,500,000 is the same as 100,000 from a population of nearly 9,000,000, the figure at which the population stood at one time. Some of the figures with regard to the proportions of the total emigration are so startling that really I could scarcely believe them when I first read them. I am going to 1338 read from the last Return of the Registrar General the ratio of emigrants to every 100 of the average population through each of those decades. In Leinster the proportion is 48.9 per cent., in Ulster 58.9 per cent., in Connaught 68.6 per cent., and in Munster 91.3 per cent. Was there ever a more disastrous or tragic tale of depopulation in the history of the world? That is not all. The extent of the emigration is a serious evil; the character of the emigration is almost as serious. The character of the emigration was very well described in an article in The Times thirty or forty years ago, when it was stated that the young, the. strong, and the stalwart were departing from Ireland, leaving behind only the weak and the aged and the ailing. That is what strikes every Irishman who returns to Ireland after years of absence; you miss the young and the stalwart from the streets of the town in which you were born; you see only the aged, the ailing, and the weak everywhere.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
But the little children do not remain long in Ireland; they remain not one moment after reaching an ago at which they can safely be emigrated. I have heard many a pathetic story of a little country girl of fourteen or fifteen years of age who has actually run away from home lest her parents should refuse their consent in order to get away from what appears to be a plague-stricken and accursed country, so as to get food and clothes elsewhere. When the late Archbishop of Tuam, thirty years ago, uttered a lament similar to that which I am uttering here to-day, the manner in which the Saturday Review commented upon that proceeding was to say that the Archbishop was sighing "over departing demons of assassination and murder." Can you wonder that millions of Irish people who have gone to America with this language ringing in their ears are not particularly loyal to the British name? I should like to read some other remarkable figures. Up to 1870, of the flood of emigrants who left about 77 per cent. were between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five; in 1899 1339 the number was 82 per cent.; that is to say, those in the best and most stalwart period of manhood and womanhood, the bone and sinew of the Irish people. That is not all. If you look at the statistics of married and unmarried among the emigrants you find that only 11 per cent. of the men and 12 per cent. of the women were married; in other words, they were the very people who ought to be living in Ireland, marrying in Ireland, and raising families in Ireland. As to the destination of the emigrants, 85.9 per cent. were, to use the expressive words of the Registrar, absorbed by the United States. So that even yet, so bitter is the feeling in Ireland with regard to the manner in which the country is governed that 85 per cent. fly to any land and to any clime rather than to the land over which your flag flies. I do not know whether the right hon. and gallant Gentleman thinks that is a desirable or agreeable state of affairs, but if his sinister advice is taken by the Chief Secretary not 85 but 95 per cent. will fly to any land rather than the land over which is flying the flag of the country which has oppressed them. The next figure I desire to give is one which has an eloquence that only an Irishman, and an Irishman who has travelled, can appreciate; it is the figure regarding the occupation of the emigrants. Of the men 77.6 per cent. are classed as labourers, and 82.4 per cent. of the women as servants. That means that 77 per cent. of the men are emigrants who land at their destination absolutely without the equipment of a trade, handicraft, or any of those other means by which men who labour with their hands are able to struggle successfully among other nationalities. "Labourers," with regard to men, means unskilled labourers, and "servants," with regard to women, means the same. My charge against British rule in Ireland and its result is not merely that it has exiled these nearly 4,000,000 of people—I say nothing of the million and a half in connection with the artificial famine created by bad laws and bad administration—but that those people have been landed on the shores of other countries absolutely bereft and denuded of all that equipment of knowledge and learning and handicraft which would enable them to compete with the Germans, Scandinavians, and the people of other nationalities who are sent out into the 1340 world with good educations. These effects in Ireland are the results of many things. They are not all the results of bad intentions. I am perfectly sure the right. hon. and gallant Gentleman in his heart would like to do good to the people of his own country just as much as we on these benches would. It is not his heart that is at fault, but his opinions, and his opinions are largely the creation, as in the case of most of us, of the circumstances of his surroundings, his upbringing, and his class. But the statesmanship of this country has worked most disaster in Ireland very often when it has been filled with the best intentions. Those of us who are of middle age remember when the gospel was preached in Ireland, and preached with the fervour of a religious conviction, that the one great remedy for the evils of Ireland was depopulation. I myself had the honour and satisfaction of living under the Viceroyalty of Lord Carlisle, and he summed up his view of the manner in which the Irish question should be treated in these words—Nature in her wise economy seems especially to have fitted this Ireland to have been the mother of flocks and herds—to be, if I may say so, the larder and dairy of the world, to send rations of beef and bales of bacon to her army wherever they are, and to send firkins of butter to every sea and harbour in the world.He also said that even though large numbers of young Irishmen and women had left the country, that was not a fact which, viewed as a whole, ought to cause us any repining or dissatisfaction. That is one idea of Ireland; but, as the hon. and learned Member for North Louth reminds me, even that idea has not been carried out. It was not a larder, it was not rations of beef or bales of bacon that you wanted from Ireland for South Africa, but the Irish flesh and blood which this policy has been draining Ireland of for the last half-century, and of which you will continue to drain Ireland if the present policy is continued. Archbishop Whateley was also a preacher of this new philosophy, and his way of settling the Irish question was put in this light—If you frame a law for lowering rents so that the land should still remain the property of those to whom it now belongs, but that they should not be allowed to receive more than so much per acre for it, the only effect would be that the landlord would no longer let his land to a fanner, but would take 1341 it into his own hand and employ a bailiff to look after it for him.These were the doctrines of the high priests of the school of political economy of which Archbishop Whately was the prophet. This philosophy was actually preached in the school books that were read by the children of the Irish farmers, and whose exile was thereby justified; and this philosophy of Irish depopulation as the one remedy for Irish grievances was actually used under a system which, by way of a joke, was called a national system of education. There are other passages I might read in which the action of the Irish land agents is extolled. The right hon. Gentleman will remember the late Mr. Trench, the author of that remarkable book "Ireland and Irish Life." Mr. Senior, also one of the political economists of the Whately school, records in his diary a conversation he had with Mr. Trench. He said he had the greatest admiration for his friend, and he explained the reason why he had raised the rent of the estate he managed from £25,000 to £35,000 a year. He had done this largely by forcing the Irish tenants to emigrate, and inviting by advertisement a large number of Scotch farmers, who brought to Ireland that loyalty and skill which the Irish tenants did not possess. That was the gospel which was preached and, unfortunately, practised by men who were intelligent and well-intentioned, and many of whom had very high ideals in their minds. But they and their ideals have worked more tragic distress to millions of Irish lives than even Cromwell did in the days of the Civil War. The right hon. the Chief Secretary, if he should reply to these observations, may fairly ask why I should raise this question to-day. I raise it to-day because these things are still going on; 40,000 of our people left the shores of Ireland last year, which is as bad as 80,000, 100,000, or even 150,000 leaving the shores of Ireland when the population was eight and a half millions. Is there nothing in all this to give the statesmen of this country pause and reflection? Will the right. hon. the Chief Secretary or the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh, or any other hon. Member, declare that the soil of Ireland is not fruitful and fertile enough to feed the population? Will they say that Irishmen are not safer, 1342 happier, purer, more virtuous and richer in all things that make the realities of life if they remain on Irish soil, under Irish influences, than when they go beyond the tempestuous ocean to seek a, living under strange conditions in that desperate fight for existence which I have seen in the cities of America? The policy which has produced these evils still exists, I am sorry to say. In the midst of these appeals to Ireland to join the rest of the Empire in loyalty, affection, and union, we have speeches not only from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh, who may be excused because of the part he has taken in a great class war; but we have had speeches from the rulers of the realm which have repeated the very ideas of those men who worked the ruin of Ireland half a century ago. We have had the head of the Government speaking of Ireland as a country permanently hostile to England, whose population must be treated as enemies, who can only be trusted when they are disarmed, and whose disloyalty is ineradicable. We have had the First Lord of the Treasury speaking of the national aspiration of Ireland, which has inspired so much self-sacrifice, as the microbe of a plague which has ceased to exist. And we have had the right hon. gentleman the Member West Birmingham proclaiming that the lesson in South Africa is, that Ireland should be treated as a hostile country, whose population can only be trusted when kept down. So long as these ideas last it is vain to hope for reconciliation between England and Ireland. I speak as one who longs for reconciliation. Sir, that reconciliation can only come, and, in my opinion, should only come, when the aspirations of Ireland are satisfied; only then she can become really loyal.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool has introduced to this discussion a topic not touched upon by previous speakers, and it may be convenient to the Committee if I say a few words in reply to him before referring to the speeches of those who preceded him, A great deal might be said on the subject which he has raised, and I trust he will feel that I show no disrespect to him if, in the circumstances, I deal with it very shortly, seeing that I have so many speeches to reply 1343 to. The hon. Member calls attention to the fact that emigration has increased last year over that which took place a few years ago. But it is true, and the hon. Gentleman frankly admits it, that emigration from Ireland has largely diminished as time has gone on, and that ultimately the average has been not much in excess of thirty thousand a year. [Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR: Forty thousand.] Not quite so much as that, I think, but I will not dispute as to the exact figures, be-cause the hon. Member may have studied the figures more recently than I have. He said that the lowest figure had been reached in 1898, but that during 1899 the number had risen by about ten thousand. Well, with regard to that rise in the emigration figures of last year, I suspect myself that it is due not so much to anything in the condition of Ireland as to the state of trade in America. In the years 1897-98 trade in America was extremely bad. It improved rapidly in 1899, with the natural result that the numerous Irish families in America were ready to encourage their friends to emigrate in that year, whereas in all probability they discouraged them to emigrate in 1897–98. The rise in the emigration may therefore be attributed to that cause and no other. Now, while I concur to some extent with the hon. Member in deploring the necessity of this emigration, I cannot regard it as absolutely and entirely an evil. [IRISH MEMBERS: Oh, oh!] I deplore it as much as hon. Members opposite; but we must look at the actual condition of the country and of those people who emigrate from it. I cannot doubt that emigration makes the conditions of existence easier for those left behind in in Ireland, and it is also beyo d doubt that those who emigrate from the districts in the west of Ireland, where they are barely able to obtain a livelihood, and go to America, do well, and improve their position. Therefore it is not to be desired, in their own interest, that this emigration should be either checked or stopped. [An HON. MEMBER on the Irish benches: Let them all go.] I question whether, if the hon. Member examines the figures carefully, he would find that of late years the proportion of emigration from Ireland to. population was very much in excess of the emigration from the agricultural parts of England to the large manufacturing 1344 towns and districts. The main cause of this emigration from Ireland is that Ireland is an agricultural country, and the experience of Ireland in this respect is very largely shared by the agricultural districts in Great Britain also. The hon. Member who raised this question in connection with my salary does not go so far as to suggest that the administration of the present Government is responsible for the emigration that is going on. The problem is a very difficult one, and so far as it can be dealt with at all it can only be dealt with by indirect means. Last year the Government passed what I trust will be an important and valuable Act for the encouragement of agriculture and industry in Ireland, and it is only by the encouragement of agriculture and industry in Ireland that you can maintain or increase the population in Ireland without running the risk of diminishing the standard of comfort. There is no advantage in increasing numbers if at the same time you lower the standard of living. I really think that the United Irish League, whose action is said to have been so beneficent, is working in the wrong direction. Its object seems to be not so much the enlargement of existing holdings in the west of Ireland as the cutting up of the grazing farms in order to plant upon them those of the labouring classes who are now emigrating. I say it would be no benefit to the west of Ireland if you largely increased the number of small holdings which already exist there. I am entirely in favour of increasing the size of the holdings, but that is a very different thing from increasing their number. I pass now to the topic raised by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, who initiated this debate. He began by observing that Ireland was under a different law from that of England, and that the Executive in Ireland exhibited a spirit entirely different from that of the Executive in England. When the hon. and learned Member spoke of a different law he must have been referring to what is known as the Crimes Act; but the Crimes Act is not in force in any part of Ireland, although, no doubt, it is possible to call it into active operation by the act of the Executive. As a matter of fact we have not found it necessary to put it into operation, and in the proper sense of the term Ireland is therefore not under a different law to that which 1345 obtains in this country. If it were true —and I am not prepared to admit that it is true—that in any sense a different spirit is exhibited by the Irish Executive from that which obtains in Great Britain, the reason is that the Executive in Ireland has a much more difficult and a different problem to deal with. The Executive in Great Britain does not find itself face to face with the practice of calling meetings with the deliberate object of exciting the persecution of other persons in such a way as to deprive them of their liberty to exercise in peace their legitimate rights. This problem, unfortunately, the Irish Executive has to face, and if there is any difference in the spirit of administration between the two Executives that is the cause. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford appealed on this question of suppressing public meetings to hon. Members representing English constituencies. The hon. Member is an admirable speaker— none better in this House— but I thought that he looked round at the end of his speech and saw these benches near him almost absolutely empty. Of course English Members, whether on that or this side of the House, do not seem to be as keen in respect to this question as I remember them to have been some ten or fifteen years ago. Now, what is the cause of that? The hon. and learned Member says that the action of the Government in suppressing these meetings is unconstitutional, unnecessary and stupid. Well, if our action has been unconstitutional, unnecessary and stupid we do not in that respect stand altogether alone. We have held office for five years, and during that time we have suppressed seventeen meetings altogether; but the Government of which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Tyrone, whom I see opposite, was a member, and of which he is the sole representative in the House to-night, suppressed twenty-nine meetings in three years. And these meetings were suppressed by the Irish Government of that day under the right hon. Member for Montrose as Chief Secretary, on precisely the same grounds that we have found it necessary to suppress seventeen meetings during the last five years. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford called attention to the fact that Ireland is at present in a state of profound peace, and that crime was never so low. That is perfectly true. So far as regards agrarian crime, the last 1346 two years have shown less agrarian crime than any since the year 1875. Indeed, if you go back over fifty years there has not been a year in which the figures of agrarian crime were so low as in 1898–99. And to some extent the hon. and learned Member is right in saying that what is true of Ireland as a whole is also true of the west of Ireland. I say to some extent, because under the influence of the teaching of the United Irish League crime has increased appreciably in the west of Ireland, especially in the county of Mayo, during the last two years. But, broadly speaking, the condition of even Mayo compares most favourably during the last two years with the condition of the same county ten years ago. But for this happy state of things which exists in Ireland, and to some extent in the west of Ireland, I do not think we have any cause to be thankful to the United Irish League or to the leaders of that League. This United Irish League is a political organisation, but like many other political organisations it has sought to support its cause by agrarian agitation. So far as it is a political organisation I, as chief of the Irish Executive, find that it preaches a doctrine with which in many respects I find myself at wide variance; but neither this nor any other Government would dream of suppressing meetings of the United Irish League merely as a political association, or merely in view of the abstract principles which it professes. It is only when you come to examine its methods that the case begins to wear an entirely different aspect; and in order that the Committee may judge of the methods practised and preached by the United Irish League, I am afraid I must inflict upon it a few quotations from the speeches made by its members. I need not repeat at length speeches which I quoted last year; but the hon. Member for East Mayo at a meeting held at Westport early in 1898, said—I hold that if the force which lay in the organised columns that entered the town today could at any moment when the occasion required it be mobilised and directed, according to the old and well-known methods, against any enemy of the people who struck a blow at their homes or their lives, then I ask where is the man in the district, however powerful he may have been in the past, who would dare to touch you. He could not do it. I trust, therefore, that the result of this 1347 meeting will be that in every parish and every townland there will be a captain—I do not care very much what you call the organisation—who, when the necessity arises, will have under him a certain number of young men whom he will undertake personally to to produce on a certain day and at a certain hour, day or night—men for whom he is responsible; and if that is once brought about, and I trust it will be brought about as the result of this meeting, you will find that land grabbers will vanish absolutely from the district.I do not pretend to see into the mind of the hon. Member for East Mayo, but I cannot help thinking that that speech pointed to an intention of carrying out the League programme by a resort to outrage and crime. But a little later on there was a change in the opinion of the hon. Member and those acting with him. I cannot say that the League did not discourage a resort to the more active forms of violence and outrage, but they still continued to preach pointedly to a minor form of intimidation. On 14th November, speaking in county Galway, the hon. Member for East Mayo said—It is far easier for you to carry out the programme of this organisation than it was for those of us who fought in the Land League days. And why so? Because you have got the example of the successes we won in the old Land League days. You will remember the methods we adopted then, and you can practise the same methods now if you are only united.I think we all remember what the methods of the Land League were, and by what means that Land League won such a success. But Mr. William O'Brien made a speech in Galway on 14th November, 1898, in which he used these words—Now we do not propose to take up arms against England, mainly perhaps because we have not got arms, and under the present circumstances it is fudge to speak of such a thing; but we can do something that is ten thousand times more effective— we can combine and draw a fiery ring around every grazing ranch in the west, and we can say. ' From this day forth, the man who goes into the rent office to bid for such a ranch, the man who herds the grazier's cattle, the man who mows the grazier's hay, the man who shoes the grazier's horse, the man who deals in a grazier's shop, the man who hob-nobs with a grazier at fair or market has a perfect legal right to do so; but if he does it, he will have to bid goodbye to the friendship of every decent man in the community.'1348 The head of this United Irish League, Mr. William O'Brien, changed his views with the lapse of time. On 26th February of this year, speaking at Ballinrobe, of the hon. Gentleman who represents South Mayo in Parliament, Mr. O'Brien said—I have no hesitation in saying that men like John O'Donnell, who is fighting our own tyrants here at home to their teeth in the kopjes of the rent office and the coercion courts and Her Majesty's gaols, are doing better and more practical service for the cause of Irish freedom than if they were serving in any foreign army, no matter how gallant. I venture to say that men like him when he goes about the plains of Mayo smashing the grazing ranches, and drawing a ring of fire around the grabbers, and obliging Dublin Castle to send down a regular army of police to suppress a meeting here in Ballinrobe— that men like that give snore real trouble and worry to our English rulers than if they transferred themselves thousands of miles to South Africa.It is because they have employed those methods that the Government have found it necessary to suppress such of the meetings of the League as might reasonably be supposed to be directed against individuals. The meetings which have been suppressed were meetings where it might reasonably be expected language would be used which would injure individuals, and deprive them of their rights. It is all very well to talk of freedom of speech, but there is something much more valuable, and that is personal liberty and the right of individuals to pursue their avocations, of which they were sought to be deprived by the method of persecution marked out in the extracts I have just read. Of the seventeen meetings which, in the course of five years, we have found it necessary to suppress, five or six have been referred to on the present occasion. I am afraid I should weary the Committee if I went in detail into the causes which led to the suppression of these meetings; but I may, at all events, deal with the cases alluded to by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. The hon. and learned Member took as one of his examples a meeting which it was attempted to hold at Newbridge about a month ago. What are the facts with regard to it? A branch of the United Irish League had been in existence in Newbridge for upwards of a year, and deputations had been appointed by the branch to wait on persons holding grazing land in the district with the object of inducing them to surrender those lands. We know that such deputations 1349 are more in the nature of a threat than of persuasion. A public meeting was held last year at which inflammatory speeches were made against graziers in general and against one individual grazier in particular, whose name I will not mention here, but which I will be quite ready to give to any hon. Member who asks me for it privately. One of the resolutions adopted at the meeting strongly condemned the action of certain persons who had taken grass lands, and another resolution "condemned in the strongest manner the action of a person in a neighbouring parish coming into this parish and supporting the eleven months system in opposition to the interests of the surrounding tenantry by taking a farm from which a tenant had been evicted." The individual against whom this resolution was directed also received a letter signed by order of the committee of the branch of the League intimating that at a meeting of the branch it was decided to notify him to surrender the land held by him, or in default that he would be dealt with by the rules of the United Irish League. What being dealt with by the rules of the United Irish League meant I have already sufficiently indicated by the extracts I have read, and under these circumstances it was proposed to hold a meeting on 29th April, in Newbridge, under the auspices of the League, and having regard to the circumstances which I have described, the district inspector swore an information, and thereupon the Government issued a notice proclaiming the meeting.
§ MR. KILBRIDE (Galway, N.)
Was it the district inspector of the Mount-bellew district who swore the information?
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I cannot answer that question off hand. So much for the meeting at Newbridge. Then the second case cited by the hon. and learned Member as proof of the tyrannical conduct of the Government was in connection with a meeting which it was proposed to hold in Sligo on 21st January of this year. What were the circumstances under which that meeting was proposed to be held? The object of the meeting as announced on placards was to consider 1350 and discuss jury packing in Sligo, and other matters connected with the programme of the United Irish League movement. According to the information which was sworn by the district inspector for Sligo, two men were tried and convicted at the winter assizes of a conspiracy to compel a farmer to surrender a farm of which he was in possession contrary to the principles of the United Irish League. The case excited great interest, and when the jury were being empanelled the right of challenge was exercised on behalf of the Crown. In a paper published in Sligo, named the Sligo Champion, there appeared an article headed "Stand By," in which the names, addresses, and occupations of the jurors who tried the case were set forth, and their action in finding a verdict adversely criticised. In the same newspaper there subsequently appeared reports of meetings purporting to have been held by branches of the United Irish League, in which the jurors were condemned and held up to odium and contempt. There were posters throughout the town of Sligo, stating that a great demonstration would be held under the auspices of the United Irish League to consider and discuss jury packing in Sligo, and I ask the Committee whether, under the circumstances I have mentioned, it was not reasonable to conclude that the action of the jurors would be again denounced at the meeting which it was proposed to hold, and whether we should not have been guilty of a dereliction of duty if we had not taken steps to prevent it being held?
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
Will, the right hon. Gentleman deny that, in spite of the action of the Government, meetings were held and speeches made in Sligo and other places?
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I believe that in Sligo, at six o'clock in the morning, a meeting was held in the town hall with closed doors, but no person could have been injured by that.
§ MR. O'DOWD (Sligo, N.)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that eight subsequent meetings were held?
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
Yes, Sir, if I trusted the accounts in the newspapers. By a brilliant display of journalism it always appears that when the Government suppress one meeting at least half a dozen other meetings are held. As a matter of fact, if hon. Members really think that the cause of the League is forwarded by the action of the Government in suppressing these meetings, they are welcome to that opinion. I do not share it, and I do not think that hon. Members would be so pained at these meetings being suppressed if they were not perfectly well aware that we are promoting the end we have in view—namely, to protect persons whose liberty and freedom have been struck at. With reference to the meeting proposed to be held at Clonfree, the facts are as follows. Two meetings were held—one in December of last year and the other on March 11th. Both of these meetings were in connection with a farm held by a Mrs. Keating, who had become obnoxious because she had dismissed her herd. The police had good reason to believe that an attempt would be made to hold a meeting on the very farm in question, and the district inspector swore an information that if the meeting were held it would have the effect of intimidating Mrs. Keating, and therefore the meeting was proclaimed. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford stated that in this case no proclamation was issued, but the reason was that the meeting was not summoned by placard. These are the three cases cited by the hon. and learned Member for Waterfowl to prove his allegation that the Government have acted tyrannically in suppressing meetings of the United Irish League. The hon. Member for North Cork referred to the meeting at Newmarket, but if I went into the details of that and other cases I do not think I could throw any further light on the nature of the considerations which weighed with the Government in proclaiming these meetings.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
Does the hon. Member suggest that the meeting was held before the events stated in the information took place?
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
That may be so, but unless the hon. Member suggests that the event referred to in the information did not occur until after the meeting, I cannot understand the point he wishes to make.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
With reference to the sworn information of the district inspector, the hon. Member said he could not argue but only disclaim. I am in exactly the same position. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford referred to those suppressed meetings which were called for an illegal purpose. How are we to judge of that? In the first instance, you may go to some extent, sometimes, by the placard which shows that the meeting is not for a legal purpose; but there are other occasions on which you must judge by the general circumstances of the district, and we have acted quite correctly in that respect. That is shown, I think, conclusively by an opinion, in regard to public meetings which may be interfered with, given by The MacDermot, the Irish Attorney General in the late Government. [An HON. MEMBER: What is the date of it?] It must have been between 1892 and 1895. He said that a meeting may and ought to be prevented if, in the opinion formed by rational men, it is likely to lead to a breach of tranquillity in the neighbourhood; or, secondly, if the objects of the meeting are unlawful; but whether such objects actually exist must be decided from the surrounding facts and circumstances, of which the place of meeting is an important element. I hope I have now convinced the Committee that as regards the action of the Government in suppressing these meetings no 1353 such blame as that brought against us by the hon. Member for Waterford can legitimately attach to us. My right hon. and gallant friend the Member for North Armagh thinks we have not gone far enough. He suggests that instead of suppressing a meeting here and there when we thought it was calculated to intimidate and terrorise a particular individual, we ought to have gone the length of proclaiming the League, and declaring it an unlawful association. I think if my right hon. and gallant friend had been in my position, and had had some acquaintance with the actual condition of Ireland, as I have had, he would have hesitated before taking a step of that kind, with the knowledge that he would have to defend it in the House of Commons. I think, as a matter of fact, it would have been a serious error on our part if we had taken the step the right hon. Gentleman desires us to take. I think we might thus have given a fillip to the work of the League, and to the influence of those who have been the leaders of the movement. It would have been, to say the least of it, extremely unwise. Whatever the future of the United Irish League may be as a political organisation—and as a mere political organisation I entertain no hostility to it —personally, I believe that as an engine of intimidation it is almost certain to break down from its own weight. It has undertaken a task which appears to me to be impossible of realisation. As a matter of fact, if measured by its success in compelling graziers to give up their farms, or in preventing people from sending cattle to graze on grazing farms, I think it must be pronounced that the United Irish League has not at any period of its history been completely successful, and such as it is, its success is steadily diminishing. This movement differs from earlier movements in respect that it is directed largely against graziers, who are amongst the most well to do and shrewd farmers in Ireland, and are best able to take care of themselves. The effort to dispossess them of their farms has been a complete failure. I dare say here and there it may have been successful; but regarded as a whole it has broken down. I think that now the effort to coerce the smaller farmers and prevent them from sending their cattle to graze has also broken down, and is breaking down. In fact it is too great a strain. 1354 In former agitations the people believed they had a great deal to gain. It is a very different matter now. I must candidly admit that if we have not taken, in the course of this agitation, what my hon. and gallant friend calls a stronger attitude, it is because I have been convinced, and am still firmly convinced, that the illegal operations of the League must break down from their own weight.
§ MR. DILLON
It is refreshing to hear a speech in the style of the old days from the right hon. Gentleman. I do not intend to make any reference to the stale quotation from a speech of mine which he has made so often in the House that I have it almost by heart. The question raised by the hon. Member for Waterford is one of the most vital importance, and really it would be impossible to bring under the notice of the House any more important question to the people of Ireland than this question of proclaiming public meetings. It is my firm faith that all the outbreaks of agrarian crime in Ireland have been due to the fact that the Executive Government in the past have not given to the Irish people the same liberty of public agitation and free meeting as is enjoyed in this country. The whole course of the experience of the last two centuries in Europe, including this country and Ireland, goes to show that the more freedom you give to open movements and to public meetings the less crime you will have. That is the reason why I attach vast importance to this particular question. Let me for one moment, before I come to deal with the old and stale argument used by the right hon. Gentleman, ask the Committee to fairly and candidly contrast the attitude adopted by the right hon. Gentleman and the Irish Executive with the attitude adopted by the First Lord of the Treasury towards recent demonstrations in this country. If you search the whole history of the United Irish League and the Leagues that have gone before it, you will find nothing to equal the proceedings at Scarborough, Stratford-on-Avon, and many other places. I could mention the names of places where a disorderly mob were allowed to take 1355 possession of the streets of the town, to break down houses, to smash furniture, and to commit all sorts of destruction, without any substantial interference on the part of the Executive, and when the First Lord of the Treasury was challenged in the House his answer was that, after all, there were limits to human endurance. We heard from the right hon. Gentleman opposite a feeble re-echo of those elegant speeches we used to listen to in the old days from Irish Secretaries about there being something more sacred than free speech, and that was the right of freedom of action. In England to-day you allow men in your streets to deny the right of freedom of thought. If a man in England is suspected of thinking that the war in South Africa is unjust, he is liable to have his house attacked and his wife and family endangered, while not one word of condemnation goes against it. In Ireland, because a district inspector swears an information on a common form sent down from Dublin Castle before a resident magistrate, without any interference whatever from an independent magistrate in the matter, that he thinks in his wisdom that something may be said at a public meeting which may intimidate somebody else, the meeting is suppressed. I say if you admit that principle you sweep away the right of public meeting absolutely. You put it in the power of a district inspector to take proceedings, because these operations are always instituted, as I ascertained from an answer of the Chief Secretary, by a district inspector. Whenever it is considered desirable, this gentleman is ready to swear that he thinks something may be said that will intimidate somebody, and on that unsupported testimony of a servant of the Castle the meeting is forbidden. That is a gross and shocking act of illegality. It is a proceeding that would not be tolerated in this country, and if the papers on which those proclamations are founded are of such a character and so concocted, and if the system is allowed to go on, then in the country where that system prevails there is no freedom of meeting. Let me direct attention to this proclamation. There have been an immense number of these meetings held in Ireland in the last two years, and, as the Chief Secretary has been obliged to admit, the condition of Ireland while these meetings have been going on has been almost absolutely 1356 free from agrarian crime. I looked at the last Return issued the other day in the columns of agrarian crime. Of the more serious kind there are nine classifications which are absolutely blank, with one solitary exception, and even the other crimes are so few that the whole total for Ireland is smaller than in any quarter I ever remember. That is in the face of the fact that this present organisation has been spreading rapidly through the country, and that innumerable meetings have been held under its auspices. I do not suppose there have been less than 400 or 500 during the last two years, and there has never been a breach of the peace at any one of these meetings, nor has any man been proceeded against in a court of law on account of the proceedings at any of the meetings. The proclamation is a common form, and the ground on which the meeting is proclaimed is nearly the same exactly in every case. I undertake to say that the man who swore that declaration knew that he was declaring false, because he knew that if the meeting had been left alone there would have been no breach of the peace. Newmarket is one of the most peaceable towns in the whole of Ireland. There was a false declaration which was known to be false by the man who swore it. If that is the way meetings are to be suppressed, there is no such thing as freedom of speech at all. I wish to direct the attention of the Committee to a most remarkable thing, and I think it conclusive proof in favour of the attitude we take up. The proclamation by which meetings are prohibited states that all persons attempting to take part in the meeting or encouraging the same or inciting thereto will be proceeded against according to law. I wish to direct the attention of the Committee to the fact that in every case thousands of people break the law according to that proclamation. They "attempt to take part" under the eyes of the police, and no prosecution is ever attempted, because the Government know perfectly well that in suppressing the meetings they are acting outside the law. Why don't they attempt a prosecution, after putting up this document, announcing solemnly over the well-known words "God Save the Queen" that the meeting is proclaimed, if thousands do attempt to hold a meeting? It is because the common law of this 1357 country does not give the Government any power to suppress a meeting on their own discretion. They have to do it at their risk, and the question for the jury in the case, should a prosecution arise, would be whether they were justified in suppressing the meeting or not, and having in most of these Irish cases no right to suppress the meeting, they naturally do not proceed with the prosecution. That is the reason why I attach great importance to this question. I am not put in the least difficulty by the reference to what I formerly said. The hon. Member for Dublin occupied a somewhat different position at that time. I raised the question in the case of the last Government not because I approved of the action of the Government in this matter, but because as a matter of expediency and policy it was better to let them alone, as they were endeavouring to carry out Home Rule. People may differ as regards that policy, but if the right hon. Gentleman will now declare that the policy of his Government is to pass a Home Rule Bill and give it as soon as possible, I promise that I will adopt precisely the same attitude with respect to his Government, and will not raise this question again. The reason why I attach such vital importance to this question is that I believe, as I have said already, that crime and outrage in Ireland are directly traceable to this policy, once so eloquently described by a Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in another place, when he said that the mission of the Irish Executive was to drive discontent under the surface. It is a most cruel, unjust, and outrageous policy for the Government to deny the people the right of combination and free speech and open meeting, and then to lay at their doors the crimes of the secret societies which inevitably spring from that policy. If, unhappily, in the future this policy should result in producing a condition of turbulence and disorder in Ireland, we will have right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury bench reading out appalling lists of crimes, and detailing the operations of the secret societies with which the country is honeycombed, whereas, actually, it has been the action of the Executive Government in the past, and may be in the future, that is responsible for such a condition of things. The right hon. Gentleman in the beginning of his speech gave a most misleading account of the objects and the 1358 methods of the United Irish League. One of the supposed objects of the League, which is spreading rapidly throughout Ireland, is simply to drive out the grazing farmers of Ireland from their farms, and to divide up the grazing farms so taken from the graziers amongst the sons of farmers who are now emigrating to America. When they go to America they are described as labourers. The right hon. Gentleman ought to know that that is a very false account to give of this organisation, and its objects and methods. The United Irish League was started first in the county of Mayo, and spread to Roscommon and Galway. In its infancy it was directed against what I will venture to characterise as one of the most cruel systems with which the country was ever afflicted—that is, the uprooting of the population, and the sweeping of them from large tracts of the best land, which land was to a large extent taken into the hands of the landlords themselves, and let out on the eleven months system. One of the first objects of the League was to stamp out the eleven months system. We may be told that the United Irish League has won no influence. I think it would be a monstrous outrage to suppress the United Irish League, Its methods are perfectly legal, and open and aboveboard. The first object was to put an end to the eleven months system, and the system which is allied to it—that of individuals holding enormous tracts of grass land in their hands. Being unable to stock the land themselves, they invite the poor people to put on their cattle. The first part of the programme of the Irish League was that anyone who was induced or consented to give up his holding should get fair compensation for doing so. The object of the League was distinctly stated— to obtain the use of that land for the purpose of increasing the holdings of the small farmers, who are now half starved, either by migration or the enlargement of holdings, as the case might be, and so put an end to the recurring famines in the west of Ireland. It never has been its object to drive out bonâ fide graziers who are bonâ fide farmers by force and intimidation. They are men who exist in the west of Ireland, and nobody wants to interfere with them. But these grass-grabbers are men who have come into existence over the bodies of the people. The League struck at their 1359 system, which is one of the greatest curses that ever desolated a country—a system which must end in the extermination of the people; a selfish and desolating system, which is mainly responsible for the great evil of emigration. It is for that the United Irish League was founded. It gradually spread thoughout the country, and, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, its programme is a broad national programme. The first article of the programme is to obtain national self-government for the country, and the second article of the programme is an article as old as the Land League itself— and that is, to abolish the system of dual ownership of land in Ireland. That fight has been going on in Ireland twenty years, and has cost those on both sides of the struggle a great deal of loss. The right hon. Gentleman's own colleagues are rapidly coming to our view of the ease as regards the landlords of Ireland; the landlords themselves are not very satisfied with the present situation. The programme of the United Irish League is to enlarge the holdings of the small starving tenants of the west of Ireland by migration and by the provision of grass lands when they are contiguous to their holdings, and, as regards the rest of the country, to abolish dual ownership and buy out the landlords. It is a comprehensive policy, and it is the only policy which will ever bring peace to Ireland. If the right hon. Gentleman desires to check the United Irish League and to take away a great deal of its force, let him get up and announce as the policy of the Government that they are determined to bring in a Compulsory Sale Bill to enable the lands of Ireland to be bought at a fair price by the tenant farmers. I am not quite sure, though, whether it would not be better for the tenants to keep hammering away as we have been doing for the last thirty years; they have got 40 per cent. taken off the rents, and it might be better to keep on until they get 60 per cent. off, and then buy out the landlords. But the agitation against rent will never cease until you get rid of the dual ownership, and the best friend of the Irish landlords would be that Minister who, with a powerful Government at his back, would come forward and say, "Now is the time to conclude this matter. Let us make peace between landlord and tenant on the only terms 1360 possible—namely, by abolishing an institution which was forced upon the Irish people from outside, and which they have never taken kindly to, and which has been the source and root of all the turmoil, bad blood, and trouble." There is one other point to which I wish to refer, and that is the action of the right hon. Gentleman as President of the Congested Districts Board. The Congested Districts Board is a body upon which I have always looked with a most kindly sympathy. It has largely been free from the trammels of Castle control, and has done a great deal of good work in the past, and I trust it will be able to do much more in the future. In January last the right hon. Gentleman entered into a correspondence with the Lord Lieutenant of county Galway, which I look upon as one of the most disgraceful ever perpetrated by an Irish Secretary. He said just now that he had no objection to the United Irish League as a political organisation; but I confess I cannot accept that statement, bearing in mind this correspondence, because the right hon. Gentleman most distinctly intimated that he would use his position on the Congested Districts Board as a political engine to stop the spread of the United Irish League.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
was understood to say that he drew a distinction between the United Irish League as an organisation advocating certain general principles, such as that the tenant farmers should be placed in possession of their holdings, and the United Irish League as an organisation advocating the attainment of its ends by armed force.
§ MR. DILLON
My point is this, and it is really a most important point. If the members of the United Irish League transgress the law, they should be punished by the ordinary machinery of the criminal law. To bring questions of that kind into the Congested Districts Board, to seek to turn the Congested Districts Board into a kind of department of the criminal law administration, is one of the most ill-advised and monstrous departures ever made in public life. How is the Congested Districts Board to sit in judgment on certain proceedings in Ireland and decide whether or not they are 1361 illegal or objectionable? That may be a matter for the right hon. Gentleman when acting in his Department at Dublin Castle, but when he enters the Congested Districts Board he should forget his politics and his criminal law, and deal with the business that there comes before him with a single eye to the benefit of the people.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
The views I expressed are views which had been already expressed in the Report of the Board, and signed by every member of the Board.
§ MR. DILLON
That does not prove anything at all. The very essence of the existence, and the possibility of the usefulness, of the Congested Districts Board, depend on your dropping politics at the door, and yet you go and bring in the most contentious political question possible. If you are going to boycott districts in which the United Irish League flourishes, there is nothing to prevent your extending the principle and saying you will boycott districts which elect Nationalists and opponents of the Government. If you bring politics into the administration you will be doing that which will completely destroy the Congested Districts Board as one of the most useful institutions in Ireland.
§ MR. FFRENCH (Wexford, S.)
One of my reasons for supporting the Amendment is to call the attention of the Chief Secretary to some matters which are of importance not only to my own constituents, but to those in several other parts of Ireland. I have been in communication with the right hon. Gentleman with regard to steam trawlers tearing up the spawn, destroying the fisheries, and depriving many poor men of their means of living. It is really very hard to see the fishermen's boats lying idle on the beach, owing to the presence of steam trawlers off the coast. Some time ago we were fortunate enough to discover the names of several of the steam trawlers; they were sent forward to the proper authorities, but the Government refused to prosecute.
§ MR. FFRENCH
I was coming to that. They refused to prosecute because we could not identify the captains and crews of the trawlers. Do the Irish Government expect that we are going to board these steam trawlers and take a snap-shot of the captain and crew? Any seaman would inform the right hon. Gentleman that, having found the name of the vessel, it was quite easy to get the names of the captain and crew. It is, therefore, very difficult for anyone—except, perhaps, an Irish lawyer—to see why there should not have been a prosecution. As long as I can remember it has been the boast of Irish lawyers that they could drive a coach and four through any Act of Parliament.
§ MR. FFRENCH
I suppose the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General is simply keeping up the reputation of Irish lawyers by driving a coach and four through the bye-laws that were made for the protection of Irish fisheries. Over and over again I have tried to get a gunboat for the protection of the fisheries, but without success, although the late Government had no difficulty in finding a gunboat for the north of Ireland when the fisheries there were being raided in exactly the same manner. I have been recently informed that the Board of Agriculture would consider the advisability of equipping a vessel for this purpose. I hope that will come to something, but I am afraid they will go on considering the advisability, and that nothing will be done. But suppose they did equip such a vessel, would it be quite fair to Ireland? A small sum of money has been set apart for the Board of Agriculture, and it would materially cripple its utility if a large portion of its money were spent for this purpose. It is a well - known fact that the Irish fisheries are amongst the most extensive and remunerative in the world, and whilst all other maritime countries are straining every nerve to develop and protect their fisheries, we cannot have even an old gunboat, although we see it stated day after day that there 1363 are several obsolete old vessels attached to the fleet which are good for nothing else. In the United States £ 100,000 is annually spent on the fisheries, with the result that every river and lake is teeming with fish. Canada is even more lavish in her expenditure on the fisheries, and Holland, Norway, and Sweden, and in fact every maritime country is doing something in this direction. Scotland is treated very differently from Ireland. Scotland has her Fisheries Board, with two inspectors and thirty officers, all trained experts, and during the twenty-one years of its existence that Board has received something like three-quarters of a million of money, exclusive of salaries. Some time ago a pier in my constituency got out of order, and a county surveyor was sent down to inspect it and to make an estimate. An inquiry was ordered, and the pier was reported to be all right, although at the same time it was all wrong. The next big storm that came washed away the centrepiece of the pier—
§ MR. FFRENCH
All I have to say is that I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into this question of the fisheries, and I must add that really the inland fisheries require attention just as badly as the sea fisheries.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
The right hon. Gentleman has told us with regard to the meeting at Newbridge, county Galway, that it was proclaimed because it was reasonably suspected that if allowed to be held it would lead to intimidation, boycotting, and possibly a breach of the peace, and he told us it was the district inspector who swore the information. Who is this district inspector? He is a gentleman who has been only fifteen months in the police force. He is not an Irishman; he was not educated in Ireland; he knows little or nothing about Ireland. He is a B. A. of Cambridge. He was most anxious to distinguish himself as a military man, and satisfied his military ambitions by joining that arm of Her Majesty's forces known as the Royal Irish Constabulary. This intelligent English 1364 officer—whose intelligence was on a par with that of most other English officers— swore the information. Will the right hon. Gentleman let the Committee know that the object of the meeting was to strengthen the hands of the Congested Districts Board, to assist them in acquiring more grass lands in the neighbourhood of Newbridge and in the parish of Ballygar for distribution amongst the small holders in the district? The Chief Secretary did not tell the Committee that the Board of which he is president have acquired 220 Irish acres of grass lands in the immediate vicinity of Newbridge. On the 4th May the Congested Districts Board came into possession of 114 Irish acres. The Chief Secretary led the Committee to believe that the object of the United Irish League was to intimidate grass farmers in order to compel them to give up their holdings so that the grass farms might be divided amongst the smaller tenants. If that be so, I want to know if the right hon. Gentleman thinks that Mr. John MacDonald, of Galway, was intimidated into giving up those 114 Irish acres at the Cross of Newbridge, and, if so, why did he encourage the intimidation by buying the farm? On the other side of Newbridge Cross the Congested Districts Board have a farm of 106 Irish acres, which I presume they intend to distribute amongst the small holders of the neighbourhood. On the other side of the 114 acre farm there is a village of twenty or thirty houses, and no man in that village holds more than four acres of land. Those 114 acres will not give very large holdings to those twenty or thirty families on the other side of the road. Immediately in the neighbourhood of Ballygar, there is another village consisting of thirty-five houses, situated in a bog, and not one of the families holds more than three or four acres. I am told that the acquisition of these 220 acres is sufficient to deal with those two villages. But that is not the whole of the case with regard to Newbridge and Ballygar. You cannot take a drive of three miles in any direction without coming upon one of these small villages situated in or on the edge of a bog. This meeting was called for the purpose of supporting the Congested Districts Board in extending the laudable work they have already done. Everybody knows that the district inspector was moved to swear that information by a broken-down landlord living in the 1365 vicinity, who owns 500 or 600 acres of grass land. He is unable to work the land himself, and depends upon the small farmers sending him grass cattle during six or eight months of the year, and he was afraid something might be said at the meeting which would interfere with his grazing. If the meeting was illegal, why did not the right hon. Gentleman prosecute the Members of Parliament or the priests who were present? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that after twelve o'clock Mass in the town of Ballygar the parish priest and the hon. Member for Galway addressed not alone the large congregation but also the whole population of the town? The parish priest, who is a strong supporter of the Congested Districts Board, said that the action of the Government was an insult to him, and that it was an outrage for anyone to say that the object of a meeting in the calling of which he was the principal party was intimidation, boycotting, and a breach of the peace. Meetings were held in several other places, and sixty-five police were brought into Newbridge to prevent harm being done. By the action of the right hon. Gentleman not one single man who had intended hearing the speeches was prevented listening to the doctrines of the United Irish League. If there was any likelihood of a breach of the peace it was the policemen themselves who were likely to cause it. Father O'Keefe's house was surrounded by a cordon of police, as though there was some murderer or frightful law-breaker inside. He ordered the police off his private premises, and a collision nearly took place between him and the county inspector. That collision, which if it had occurred would certainly have led to a riot, was prevented by the only intelligent and common-sense officer there, who happened to be a Tipperary Irishman, the others being intelligent Englishmen. The right hon. Gentleman says the object of the League is not so much to increase the holdings as to increase the number of holdings. The United Irish League has never set before it the object of increasing the number of holdings, except where the holding is of a sufficient size to give more families an opportunity of getting a decent living. The object of the League undoubtedly is to break up those vast grazing ranches in the west of Ireland. A great many of the occupants of those 1366 lands are only too willing to get rid of them, but they are holding off for the purpose of getting a better price. Up to the present they have not been making much of a profit since the great change in the prices of agricultural produce; but the graziers see that the Congested Districts Board are likely to become buyers,, and therefore they pretend they are not anxious to sell in order to get a better-price. The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that in a remarkable letter written by the Bishop of Elphim—the diocese in which Newbridge is situated— it is stated that the grazing ranches in many instances in the hands of the present occupiers it was well known were not paying. What the United Irish League desires to do is to put an end to the constant drain, on the population which is going on day after day. The very week the meeting, was held at Newbridge eighty-two people left the one station of Roscommon for the United States, and the very same week the hon. Member for Connemara was in the constituency 112: people left for the same part. Two. days every week you will find the trains for the Queenstown boats filled from end to end with young boys and girls of from sixteen to twenty-three years, the very flower of the manhood and womanhood of the country, going to seek a livelihood in a foreign land. They are going not because they prefer to live in America, rather than in their own land, but because they will not be allowed to live in Ireland. In the district of North Galway, which I have the honour to represent, right from Ballygar to Craggs, you will find every perch of the upland—the decent land-— absolutely denuded of houses, and where formerly there were happy homesteads. there are now 60, 80, or 100-acre fields, covered with bullocks and sheep, but no. human beings. But when you come to the bogs and the miserable land, from which it was not worth anybody's while to drive, the people, you will find them huddled together with four or five or six acres,, which, even if they paid no rent at all, would not enable them to live in decency. It is to alter this terrible state of things, and to take the people out of these horrible conditions, that the United Irish League is working. We have heard a. great deal about the valour of the Con-naught Rangers. The Connaught Rangers, are recruited from the counties of Ros- 1367 common, Galway, and Mayo. Anybody going to those districts to-day will find plenty of soldiers, all of whom are carrying about with them some of Kruger's lead. These are the men of whom you were so proud in South Africa; but how do you encourage them when they come back? By bringing sixty-five police into Newbridge to break the skulls and to baton the heads of their fathers and brothers. Yet you are surprised when the Irish say they hope you will get a good licking, and that Kruger will beat you. I am told I am disloyal. Let the Chief Secretary give me something to be loyal for. What is loyalty? It is like gratitude—a lively sense of favours to come. Loyalty, I believe, is not corruption; but I am sometimes inclined to believe that disloyalty leads to corruption. I have noticed that the best way for some people to get what they want is to be disloyal. I sincerely congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Solicitor General for England on having a seat on the Treasury bench. But did he get it because of his loyalty? He is there because he was disloyal to his party. The Marquess of Londonderry is Postmaster General and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University is Solicitor General because they were disloyal to their party and kicked over the traces.
* THE CHAIEMAN
Order, order! The hon. Member must confine his remarks to the subject under discussion.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
I do not intend to prolong this debate, but I will ask the Chief Secretary not to take all that is stated upon the sworn oath of a district inspector as absolute evidence, for the local surroundings and conditions should be taken into account. I cannot conceive that the right hon. Gentleman and the authorities at Dublin Castle would be so blind to their duty and to the interests of the country and the people of Ireland as to believe that the word of a man like Father Gerty was less reliable than the word of an inspector of police.
MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)
I do not intend to occupy the time of the Committee at any length with regard to this question, but having been a member of the Relief Committee during the time 1368 the distress prevailed in the West, I went down there with Lord Mayor Tallon. The Government at that time refused to co-operate in any measure for the relief of distress. I visited the distressed districts, and having an opportunity of seeing for myself the misery of the people, I can say that the statements which have been made by several hon. Members are perfectly correct. The people have been driven off the fertile land and sent to reside in the bogs and mountains. The fact is, the people require more land in order to be able to live. I have looked up the statistics, and I find that in Mayo more than half the ratings are under £4; 16,668 ratings are under £4 in Mayo; in Galway the number is 14,189, and in Donegal 14,561. I would like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that this matter is not to be solved by proclaiming meetings or by denying the right of free speech to the people who are interested in this question. The objects of the United Irish League have my entire sympathy. Even, as far as I understand, the Congested Districts Board have 10 a certain extent adopted the objects and method of the United Irish League. What is the method of the United Irish League? It is to hold meetings in order to educate public opinion as to the programme which they wish to put before the people; and the method of the Congested Districts Board is to obtain possession of the land which the League cannot buy owing to want of resources. The is a great social problem which it is the duty of the Government to solve by making the occupiers of the land the owners. From my connection with the cattle trade I know that these grazing farms do not pay at the present time. Why? Because, owing to the peculiar condition of the trade at present, there is an unlimited supply of fat stock, and facilities are given for the importation of fat stock, alive or dead. The result is an enormous supply from all parts of the world. I am a better authority on this subject than the right hon. Gentleman, because I am in the business, and I know the whole A B C of it. What we want are more tenant farmers in Ireland, and therefore I maintain that under the present condition of things the agitation set on foot by the United Irish League, if carried out peaceably, will undoubtedly benefit the country at large. I am quite aware that it is said that this is a revolutionary move- 1369 ment, and that we are endeavouring to carry out a matter which is outside our power and against the law of the land. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider this point. The United Irish League is only endeavouring to carry out what has been accomplished by the various Governments of Europe who have made the occupiers the owners of the land. In France, Germany, Hungary, and Austria the occupiers are the owners of the land to a very great extent, and the result is peace, prosperity, and contentment. It was the French peasant proprietary that provided the enormous amount of money needed after the Franco-German war; and what would bring peace and contentment to Ireland is undoubtedly the establishment of a peasant proprietary in that country also.
Of course I submit to your ruling, Sir, but the objects of the United Irish League have been condemned by the light hon. Gentleman.
It may be necessary to adopt certain methods, if none other are allowed to be used, in order to bring about objects we wish to obtain. I submit that compulsory purchase is undoubtedly necessary to meet the present difficulty. If the Government will not do that, then it remains for the Irish people to endeavour so bring about that result themselves. I was rather astonished at the statement of the Chief Secretary to-night with reference to emigration—namely, that the people who remain behind would be better off. My experience, and the experience of every man who looks at the special condition of things in Ireland, is that if you take away the young and virile people of a generation you leave behind those who are less fitted to earn their livelihood, and the result is that lunacy and pauperism will increase. There can be no doubt whatever that if you take away the earning portion of a population the remainder will not be so prosperous. I submit to the Committee that where emi- 1370 gration is going on to the extent which is visible in Ireland things are not satisfactory. If the people could live in Ireland they would not live in a foreign country, and therefore I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that the progress of the United Irish League must have something in it which appeals to the sense of the people. Having said that about the land, I find that when we look towards the sea the same state of affairs is found. I entirely agree with what has been said by the hon. Member for South Wexford, that sea fisheries as well as inland fisheries require protection. When I myself was down at Berehaven last year there was actually a steam trawler from America around the south coast of Ireland catching fish and taking it back to America. We in Ireland, owing to the action of the Government, and partially to the want of activity among our own people, allow all these riches to go to another country instead of to our own country to which they properly belong. I submit that the policy of a Land Purchase Act, and also the policy with reference to the fisheries as suggested by the hon. Member for South Wexford, ought to command the attention of the Government. Steam trawlers come across from Scotland, England, and France, and fish within the limit and destroy all the young fish. Things are unsatisfactory on the land, and things are also unsatisfactory on the sea. No matter where you turn, the Government appear to have failed in their duty. I hope these questions will be considered by the right hon. Gentleman whose duty it is to look after the interest of the country.
§ MR. O'MALLEY (Galway, Connemara)
I think it will be admitted that the poverty and distress which characterise Ireland are due almost entirely to the unsatisfactory condition of the land laws. The Chief Secretary's reply to my hon. and learned friend the Member for Waterford was, I think, most ineffective and weak. I was surprised at the arguments he used, but I will not revert to them now. I would appeal to the Committee to consider that the main Irish question—the great Irish question— is the question of Irish discontent, and the cause of it. Why has the present Chief Secretary followed in the footsteps of his predecessors in suppressing public 1371 meeting in Ireland? It is the same old policy that England has always adopted towards Ireland. The opinions of the Irish Members are flouted, their views are discounted, and the opinions of the Irish people are treated in the same way. What are the Irish people to do? What are Irish representatives in this House to do, considering the state of Ireland, the misery which prevails there, and the terrible exodus of youths and maidens from Ireland every year? We know what the Land League did for Ireland. Is there any hon. Member who would wish to revert to the state of affairs in Ireland previous to the Land League, or to see the Irish tenants again at the mercy of the landlords? But in order to put an end to that state of affairs and to remove that terrible power from the hands of the landlords, the Irish people were forced into a state of violent agitation, and—if you like—outrages followed on that agitation, because they are a necessary complement of revolution, and the Land League was a revolution. But neither the Land League nor the Land Act of 1881 which resulted from it have settled the question. As my hon. friend the Member for North Galway has pointed out, and as the Chief Secretary knows, although the Land Acts have reduced rent some 30, 40, 50, or 60 per cent. within the last few years, owing to the fall of prices and other conditions, the Irish tenantry are not now as well off as they were before the Land Act. I think it will be admitted, even by the Chief Secretary, that the solution of the Irish difficulty—the only way to remove the discontent and poverty prevailing in Ireland—is to create a peasant proprietary in that country.
* THE CHAIRMAN
That is a matter which would obviously require legislation, and legislation cannot be discussed in Committee of Supply.
§ MR. O'MALLEY
I was only going to point out that in suppressing these meetings in Ireland the Government is following an evil course, which will result, perhaps, in more outrages and greater turmoil and discontent. What are Mr. O'Brien, my hon. friend the Member for East Mayo, and other gentlemen who are 1372 taking a prominent part in this agitation doing? They are simply educating the Irish people to the necessity of protecting themselves. How are they doing that? There are hundreds of thousands of acres of grass land which were once occupied by tenants, and in many cases reclaimed by tenants, now in possession of graziers. The right hon. Gentleman wants to continue that system. Our policy is that it is desirable that those grass lands should be divided up and occupied by the tenantry. If the right hon. Gentleman differs from us and disapproves of our method, then we will have to fight it out. We may be wrong, perhaps, in holding a meeting to condemn a land-grabber or a grazier. It may be illegal, and the right hon. Gentleman may be within the law in suppressing it; but will that settle the question? It will not. If this Government were a Government that had the interests of the Irish people at heart, if they wanted to put an end to discontent and poverty in Ireland, they would look at this question as we do. We want to see Ireland happy, contented, and prosperous, and personally I am anxious above all to see the bad blood that has existed so long between England and Ireland put an end to. I want to see the English and Irish people living friendly together, and not in perpetual enmity. But until the Irish question is settled, until the grass lands, are given up, until emigration ceases, and until we get Home Rule and all the other reforms on which we have set our hearts, I can only say that we shall try to conduct our movement constitutionally and within the law. But for my part, knowing as I do that Ireland has never got anything except by agitation and disturbance, my advice will be, whenever I have an opportunity of speaking to my countrymen in Ireland,. that if they want to remove grievances, they must continue on the old lines and fight at any cost—at the cost of imprisonment to themselves and to their representatives and even of the loss of their homes. If the Irish question is to be solved the Irish people must make sacrifices. I should think that by this time the English Government has had experience enough of the courage and pluck of the Irish people, and though they have the power to suppress these meetings and imprison Irish representatives, the Irish people are as determined as 1373 ever to continue this movement. Why in the name of common sense cannot the Chief Secretary and his friends see this? Why will they not go to the root of the question and buy out the landlords and establish on the soil of Ireland the
§ tenants of Ireland, and make them happy and contented?
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 77; Noes, 105. (Division List No. 137.)1375
|Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N. E.)||Gibney, James||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.)|
|Ambrose, Robert||Gilhooly, James||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Goddard, Daniel Ford||O'Dowd, John|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Gourley, Sir Edward Temperley||Oldroyd, Mark|
|Blake, Edward||Hammond, John (Carlow)||O'Malley, William|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Harrington, Timothy||Parnell, John Howard|
|Bramsdon, Thomas Arthur||Hayden, John Patrick||Pickard, Benjamin|
|Brigg, John||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Pinkerton, John|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Healy, Thomas J. (Wexford)||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Caldwell, James||Healy, Timothy M. (N. Louth)||Randell, David|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Colville, John||Hogan, James Francis||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Commins, Andrew||Horniman, Frederick John||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Crean, Eugene||Kilbride, Denis||Runciman, Walter|
|Crilly, Daniel||Leese, Sir Joseph F.(Accrington)||Souttar, Robinson|
|Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||Macaleese, Daniel||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||MacDonnell, Dr. M. A. (Qn's C.)||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Daly, James||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Dillon, John||M'Cartan, Michael||Weir, James Galloway|
|Doogan, P. C.||M'Dermott, Patrick||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Duckworth, James||M'Ghee, Richard||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Engledew, Charles John||Maddison, Fred.||Wilson, Jos H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Molloy, Bernard Charles||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Ffrench, Peter||Morris, Samuel|
|Field, William (Dublin)||Murnaghan, George||Tellers for the Ayes—|
|Flynn, James Christopher||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Captain Donelan and Mr.|
|Fox, Dr. Joseph Francis||O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)||Patrick O'Brien.|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Faber, George Denison||Lowe, Francis William|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw.||Macdona, John Cumming|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Finch, George H.||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)|
|Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire)||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manc'r)||Fisher, William Hayes||M'Iver, Sir L. (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Leeds)||Flower, Ernest||M'Killop, James|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)||Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)|
|Barry, Sir Francis T.(Windsor)||Galloway, William Johnson||Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H(Bristol)||Garfit, William||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)|
|Bethell, Commander||Giles, Charles Tyrrell||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire)|
|Bond, Edward||Gilliat, John Saunders||Morrell, George Herbert|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Goldsworthy, Major-General||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)|
|Butcher, John George||Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin)||Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John Eldon||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Green, W. D. (Wednesbury)||Pease, Herbert P. (Darlington)|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)||Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord George||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robert Wm.||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J.(Birm.)||Hornby, Sir William Henry||Plunkett, Rt. Hon. Horace C.|
|Charrington, Spencer||Houston, R. P.||Pollock, Harry Frederick|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Howorth, Sir Henry Hoyle||Purvis, Robert|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Pym, C. Guy|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W.|
|Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)||Lawrence, Sir E Durning-(Corn.)||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Round, James|
|Cox, Irwin Edward Bain bridge||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Sandys, Lieut.-Col. T. Myles|
|Cruddas, William Donaldson||Lea, Sir T. (Londonderry)||Saunderson, Rt. Hon. Col. E. J.|
|Curzon, Viscount||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Denny, Colonel||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Sidebottom, Wm. (Derbysh.)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverp'l)||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)|
|Doxford, Sir William T.||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Strauss, Arthur|
|Dyke, Rt. hon. Sir Wm. H.||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm||Young, Commander (Berks, E.|
|Williams, Jos. Powell- (Birm.)||Wrightson, Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Wilson, J.W.(Worcestersh, N.)||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy||Sir William Walrond and|
|Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong||Mr. Anstruther.|
Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ CLASS III.
§ 2. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £81,681 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, 1901, for the salaries and expenses of the office of the Irish Land Commission."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
In rising to offer some criticisms on the Land Commission nineteen years after the passing of the Irish Land Act, my mind goes back to the time when Mr. Gladstone accepted a suggestion from Mr. W. H. Smith to wind up the Irish Land Commission in seven years. If anything could show the futility of human anticipations, it is the fact of that proposition being made and accepted, although Mr. Gladstone subsequently abandoned it. It also shows how much knowledge there was on the other side of the House of the true conditions of the Irish land question. We were very much criticised because we refused to accept that Land Act as a final measure. English statesmen are always willing to acknowledge the errors of their predecessors. It is their predecessors who are always wrong; but the individual English administrator of the moment is always more infallible than the Pope himself; and of course we have now in office an Administration of all the talents and all the infallibles. It is said that the definite system they are called upon to administer was not instituted by them. I always think that defences of that kind by the English Administration are really beside the question. The Government of Ireland is a continuity, and when you are defending administration either by a Liberal or Tory Government you are defending the Government of England in Ireland, and the military occupation of that country, which is as much a military occupation 1376 as it was in the days of Henry II. and Cromwell; and it is just as much a military occupation as that of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State will be in a short time. It is idle to pretend that in the course of a long struggle, now lasting over a score of years, things are as bad; to-day as they were twenty years ago. I gladly acknowledge that, administratively and legislatively, matters are very much better to-day than when I first entered the House of Commons, and as regards even Englishmen in their dealings with Ireland, they have a little more gleaming of sense than they had at that period. At the same time, we have found that in the application of palliatives the English Government do not attempt vigorously and properly to go about the work. I do not think I could take for my text a better illustration of the manner in which the Irish Land Act is administered than one of the cases I recently gave the Committee. I read a resolution passed by the Board of Guardians of South Antrim, the heart of the most loyal division, represented in this House, unfortunately for the farmers of South Antrim, by the belligerent Secretary to the Admiralty, whose recent Easter visit to his constituents has brought about the results condemned in the resolution. There was in Ireland a Sub-Commissioner of long standing—appointed, I believe, originally ten or twelve years ago on the nomination of the hon. Member for South Tyrone— named Mr. Davidson. Mr. Davidson has been exercising his jurisdiction in South' Antrim, near Belfast. Let me remind the Committee that when you get into the near neighbourhood of a growing town or city many curious agricultural questions arise of much greater complexity and intricacy, and requiring more peculiar experience and knowledge, than you would have if you were dealing with cases in the country; and these are intermixed with questions arising out of the Ulster land custom. Now, Mr. Davidson has been engaged in fixing rents in South Antrim for many years, and after the visit of the Secretary to the Admiralty to his constituents, suddenly and without 1377 a moment's warning he was removed from South Antrim. He had been fixing rents on the estates of Lord Masham, Lord O'Neill, and Lord Templetown, one of the leading members of the Landlords' Association, if not the chairman; and their agents are the strongest supporters of the Secretary to the Admiralty. Mr. Davidson, as I have said, had been fixing rents, and had heard the cases of forty or fifty Protestant tenants in that district, when, hey, presto! he was removed. A young gentleman, rejoicing in the name of Sydney Smith, was suddenly brought down from the county of Tipperary, and put in Mr. Davidson's place. This was a man who, when acting as a land agent in Mayo, drew his rifle, and actually shot one tenant dead, and wounded another; and he it was, with the stain of blood of the people of Mayo and the stain of assassination on his hands, who was installed into office in South Antrim in room of Mr. Davidson. Now, that is done under the British Government. But what did this Mr. Sydney Smith do? Mr. Davidson had heard the cases in open court; but Mr. Sydney Smith fixed a fair rent or valuation of these forty or fifty tenant farmers' holdings without having heard one tittle of the evidence. If that is what the Government do in loyal Antrim, what may we not infer as to their practices in the south and west of Ireland? What is the title of Mr. Sydney Smith to be appointed a land commissioner, except that he has a blood-stained record? One case of that kind is enough to blast the confidence of the people of Ireland in the English Government. We did not appoint Mr. Davidson; we did not ask for it; his case had never come under our ken, but he was giving satisfaction to the tenant farmers of Ulster. The head and front of his offending was that it was he who, on the second time of hearing, had fixed the rents in the renowned case of Adams and Dunseath. If that is the consideration the Government give to the Protestant tenants of Ulster, what consideration may the unfortunate people, the Catholics and Nationalists, of the other throe provinces get from the Government which appointed Mr. Sydney Smith? I see from the Estimates that there are seven assistant legal commissioners, including three temporary legal commissioners, and ninety-four non-legal assistant 1378 land commissioners, including sixty-five temporary legal commissioners; that is. 101 of those gentlemen whom Lord Salisbury was kind enough to dub the " sub-confiscators of Ireland." I will read the Committee the resolution which the Board of Guardians of South Antrim passed, and I appropriately take it from a paper called the Northern Whig, of 11th May, 1900—Mr. William Vance, vice-chairman presided. Mr. Boyd proposed that the Council desire to record their protest against the removal of Mr. Davidson previous to his fixing rents on holdings on which he had heard the evidence; that the removal had been brought about by the influence of the Land Office; and the Committee had every reason to believe that the Land Court in no instance gave the tenant credit for improvements, but the Council believed that Mr. Davidson had a desire to act fairly between the landlords and tenants.Copies of that resolution were sent to the Chief Secretary, to the Land Commission, and to the County Council. Supposing; that in Yorkshire or Devonshire a mixed body of Liberals and Conservatives had agreed to pass a resolution of that kind in reference to any local appointment, would not Englishmen say that the; gentlemen probably had got the right end of the stick, and that they were entitled to the consideration of their resolution by the High Court of Parliament? I ask why a resolution of that kind has received no consideration from the right hon. the Chief Secretary?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
What is the right hon. Gentleman here for? Is not this "the grand inquest of the nation?"
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I have no power to direct the Land Commission in what way they should transfer their officers. That is absolutely within their discretion.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
If I was in the right hon. Gentleman's position I would see that I had the power, or would know the reason why. The right hon. Gentleman says he has no power; how then did the Secretary to the Admiralty manage to get rid of Mr. Davidson?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
These things are mot done in the highways and in the cross roads. That is not the way these gentlemen go to work. The great difference between the Ribbon lodges and the Land League and gentlemen like the Secretary to the Admiralty is, that the unhappy people have no power in order to effect the redress of their grievances. They have to meet on the highways with the risk of having their heads broken by the police before their grievances are listened to; but all that the wire-pullers of the Government have got to do is to go to the Kildare Street Club.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Is not Mr. Fitzgerald, who alone has the shifting of these Assistant Commissioners, a member of the Kildare Street Club? The right hon. Gentleman says he has no power over the appointment or removal of these gentlemen.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I rather think I did. The appointment or dismissal of a Commissioner is an entirely different thing from the transfer of a Commissioner from one district to another. The Lord Lieutenant has the power to appoint; the Land Commission the power to transfer.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
But if you appointed the right man it does not matter where you put him. I am now going to attack the system of appointment of these gentlemen taken out of land agents' offices and put into the office of the Land Commission. First of all, let me say that of the 101 gentlemen I believe ninety belong to the orthodox religion, the religion of Henry VIII. and Martin Luther. Of course, the Government have to put on one or two Catholics, just to save their face and give a little colour of decency to the transaction. I 1380 certainly must congratulate the genius of the gentleman who got up this system of appointment. The Land Commission have lately, by the way of showing their grand impartiality, started a system of examinations for these sub-commissioner-ships. That was found necessary since the hon. Member for South Tyrone got into the Government, for he was accused of getting a decent man into an appointment. That was an oversight, and will not occur again now that Lord London derry is in the Cabinet. In 1899 the Irish Land Commission got out an examination paper —For the situation of temporary Assistant Commissioner (non-legal) in the Irish Land Commission —all rights reserved.One would have thought that an Assistant Sub-Commissioner would be required to know something about land, about cow-dung, something of the value of different soils, and different seeds, and so forth; but I find that this is what he is to pass in—Subjects for English composition: Write an essay on ' Home Sickness.'If it had been horse sickness or swine fever I could have understood it; but it is worthy of the British Government to say to a man who never before earned thirty shillings per week, but is suddenly to get £700 a year, and is to stop at the best hotels in the county of Dublin, that he is to write an essay on " Home Sickness." Here is another pleading in the alternative—Write an essay on:'Tis not enough your counsel still be true; Blunt truths more mischief than nice falsehoods do.'That is a compliment to the legal transactions they carry on; and the same might be said in regard to the answers from the Treasury bench. So far for English composition; I now come to what I might call the practical part of the paper which these gentlemen have to pass—Describe, with the aid of sketches, the construction and method of use of the box-sextant.Heavens! what is a box-sextant? What has it got to do with the fixing of fair rent?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
You have got the Ordnance Survey maps. The Land Commissioners have always refused to decide these questions on another survey. Here is another sample—Name the permanent adjustments of the theodolite, and state how they are made.Another sample was—Multiply 17 hectolitres 2 Iitre3 3 decilitres by 16, and give the answer in hectolitres.These questions are nearly all alike. Here is another sample —Find the weight of of 7/17 of 111b. 60z. 6dwt. 18grse.Another question is as follows—You are desired to write out in your own words a, précis of the following document.This was Mr. Gladstone's speech introducing the Land Law (Ireland) Bill, 1881, and occupied sixteen pages. But why are these questions introduced? Here are a number of applicants for these posts all over the country where three-fourths of it is grass land. Take the whole of Munster, and, for anything I know, the whole of Connaught, and all you have to do is to ask a man, "How many cows have you?" and upon that alone you can fix a fair rent. Are these not ridiculous requirements to ask of the people in a country where farms are small, and where you are dealing with little people with eight or ten acres of land, a piece of bog, and, perhaps, two or three cows? What you are doing is to find out not what they can live on, but what they can starve on and give the landlord two or three pounds, instead of getting some honest man to come and make a fair, just, and reasonable valuation. Instead of appointing men who will take the circumstances of the country into consideration, you appoint these superfine gentlemen whose principal distinctions are that they were able to draw a rifle upon their tenants, and who are more fit for work upon the Modder River. Is that the way the Scotch Crofters Act was administered? Does the Scotch Commission insist upon candidates knowing all about 1382 the use of the box-sextant and hectolitres? Is it upon these things that the scale of rents is fixed in Scotland?. Having got these Commissioners appointed, what is the next step? All the rents come up on appeal; but the Commissioners do not visit the farms themselves, but they appoint valuers. Of course, the Committee would assume that the men sent down as appeal valuers would be the oldest and the most experienced men. Nothing of the kind. The rents fixed by experienced men of the Land Commission are all being revised by some of the newest recruits appointed by the right hon. Gentleman. Accordingly, you have the rents dealt with by old Commissioners like Mr. Davidson, Mr. Garland, and the late Mr. Byers now being fixed upon appeal by green hands who probably had not been a year on the Land Commission when they were appointed. And why are they appointed '? These appeal valuers are appointed not for their knowledge of land, but for their knowledge of landlords. They are gentlemen who have got the blue riband, by reason of their peculiar knowledge of the ways of office and of their special landlord tone. And who shifts those men? The right hon. Gentleman says he has no power to shift anybody or transfer anyone. We have in Ireland a system of appeal whereby the litigant has justice brought home to his door by the county court judges, to whom there is a right of appeal in every case. Unfortunately, there is a power to shift the county court judges all over the country. Supposing all our assize judges had power to shift the county court judges of Limerick, Deny, and Antrim, because they did not like the way in which these judges fixed the rents— would that be a tolerable system? I will put it in this way: Suppose that your High Court, with your system of appeal from the Queen's Bench Judges at the assizes, were able to shift the Judges about, would you tolerate such a system as that? These men live in constant apprehension and anxiety. You can trace, like a growing shadow on a winter's day, the variations and reductions that have been given. Do you think that the tenants are likely to get justice when these appeal valuers have to apply themselves to their task under this constant anxiety? The system is a deplorable one. We know very well that Mr. Bailey was a gentleman of great 1383 distinction, and he gave evidence before the Morley Committee, which led to the passing of the Act brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman in 1896. Mr. Bailey was a barrister of distinction, and was well known at the Irish Bar. Mr. Bailey was rewarded for his integrity and for giving evidence before the Committee upstairs by being taken out of the county of Dublin. Where have you sent Mr. Davidson? He has been sent to Cavan. When he has been to Leitrim he will be sent to Mayo or to Connemara, and then probably he will be dismissed, and that will be the end of him. They will be on the look out for some little flaw —perhaps that he has not added up the hectolitres right, or that he did not speak with sufficient deference to a landlord witness—and then there will be no more Davidson, and his "home sickness " will be cured, at all events. Can you expect confidence in an administration governed by conditions like these? I do not intend to refer to the Chief Commissioner further than to say this: I regard it as a very remarkable thing that Mr. Morrough O'Brien is never sent down to the Belfast country at all, and he is never sent to Ulster. If I were a constituent of the Attorney General and I had a farm in the neighbourhood I should say to the Attorney General: "Mr. Atkinson, can you please explain to me why Mr. Morrough O'Brien is never allowed to come down here?" I will tell you why. It is because you do not want to let the Protestant tenant farmers of Ulster see that there is this extraordinary divergence of views in the fixing of these appeal rents. Upon the one hand you have a man anxious to give justice to the tenant, and who is differing constantly with his colleagues. I want to ask another question. Rules have to be made under this Land Commission, but I never see Mr. Morrough O'Brien's name appended to those rules. Is he never taken into consultation? There is Mr. Justice Madden, who is a gentleman of scrupulous fairness, and a high-minded and cultured gentleman; and I notice that while all those other colleagues of his are constantly allowed to sit with him alone, you never catch him alone with Mr. Morrough O'Brien. Why is that? You never find Mr. Morrough O'Brien sitting anywhere where his voice can exercise a preponderating effect upon the decision of the Land Commission. But, 1384 after all, the Irish people are not fools, taking them in the main. I think they have as fair an idea of getting justice as any other people, and this brings me finally to this point. Part of the administration of the Land Commission is concerned with the question of the purchase of land, and in the Act of the right hon. Gentleman, passed in 1896, Section 40, when an estate comes to be sold the matter is referred to the Land Commission to fix the price. The Land Commission before fixing the purchase price always get the report of the appeal valuer. And you can find out easily the system upon which the appeal valuer fixes the rent. When an appeal valuer is sent down the tenants are never able to ascertain what price has been fixed by them. I charge this as a matter within my own knowledge—I charge upon the administration of the Land Purchase Acts that the land valuer's report is "cooked" in the office of the Land Commission, and that prices are fixed by the Chief Commissioners which are not the purchase price fixed by the valuer who was sent down to see the estate. I know this of my own knowledge, and if I am to be contradicted I call for the production of these reports. I ask why does it take six months after Judge Ross has called for the report upon the purchase price of an estate which nobody else can be got to buy, and when this man is sent down to make his report why does it take another six months for the Land Commission to cook that report and return it to Judge Ross? This 40th Section under which this is done has turned out exactly as I prophesied, for I said that it would be used as a means of increasing the price of Irish land. Here you have £10,000,000 already distributed among the landlords of Ireland for their estates out of the Imperial Exchequer. This is a matter for the British taxpayer to take into consideration. It is a monstrous thing that when a qualified and competent valuer gives his opinion that an estate is only worth eighteen years purchase, the gentlemen sitting on the Land Commission, dealing with the taxpayers' money, should direct that it is worth twenty years purchase, without having seen the estate, and knowing nothing of the circumstances. That is a matter which this Committee is entitled to take very seriously into its consideration. The right hon. Gentleman has said that he 1385 has no power over the Land Commission. I think the time is coming when we shall require another Select Committee to inquire into the working of the Land Commission.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, for he never likes Select Committees sitting. It has always been the case that when we are seeking for something to allay the hatred with which the British Government is justly regarded in Ireland, we are treated as if we were the worst enemies of the system. The right hon. Gentleman says that he has no power over the Land Commission. Is he so paralysed that in a matter under the 40th Section he has no power to call for the reports of the valuers and compare these with the purchase price fixed upon? Am I to be told here, when we are dealing with the salaries of these gentlemen, that when they will not do what we want them to do, that, forsooth, they are to turn up their judicial noses and tell us that they will not use the ordinary means of information which the House of Commons is entitled to possess? In a Select Committee we have power to send for persons, Papers, and records, and we have the clock tower behind that. Here in this Committee of Supply we have the salaries of these gentlemen to pass, and the right hon. Gentleman takes refuge in the suggestion that he has no power to deal with them. I say that he possesses ample power if he cares to exercise it. He has the power but he has not the will. The fact is he has not the inclination to use his influence, but perhaps I can hardly blame him for this, seeing that he has near him some twenty representatives—the descendants of confiscation—who naturally are averse to any letting in of light upon this system. Remember what you are dealing with. The Government tell us that they have started an Agricultural Department, in order to make the cows give more batter, and presently the Chancellor of the Exchequer will come along and tax us to the extent of £50,000. You are dealing with little people and little rents, and a little relief goes a long way. The question whether a man's rent is reduced by £1 or 30s. per annum is all the world to that 1386 man on a small farm. Consequently, upon occasions like these we feel ourselves compelled to criticise this administration. This House passes many valuable Acts for Ireland. The words of those Acts are all right, and it is only when they get across to Ireland that they are distorted and twisted. This reminds me of what Dean Swift said of the bishops sent to Ireland 150 years ago. He said that the men appointed by his Majesty to be bishops in Ireland are most holy, saintly, and reputable men, but as they leave London and pass through Hounslow all these saintly men have their throats cut, and are waylaid by highwaymen, and the highwaymen put on their lawn sleeves and go over to Ireland in their place. That is exactly the system of cut-throat administration of the Acts passed by this House. The Attorney General has been very severely criticised by the Judges in regard to the 40th Section. They say it is badly drafted, but in reply to them the Attorney General went down to his constituency and said—Really the anxiety of these judges is remarkable. They talk about bad drafting, but this reminds me of the exquisite sensitiveness of some great musician who, when a false note was struck, his ears were shocked and horrified.If that is the complaint of the Attorney General in regard to his own colleagues on the bench, whom his own administration have appointed, what is our position in the matter, when we find the Attorney General is obliged to enter a protest himself against his own administration? So long as this system continues, and until something of the native spirit of kindliness and native sympathy with the people is introduced into our affairs, so long will dissatisfaction and disaffection continue. In order to mark our sense, at all events—though it is the nineteenth time during the last nineteen years that I have spoken on this Vote—of disapproval of this state of things, I beg to move the reduction which stands in my name.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That Item A (Salaries) be reduced by £1,000."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I have listened as I always do, and as the House always does, with the greatest pleasure 1387 to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite. Every time he rises he always contrives during the course of his speech to say something instructive. The part of his speech which struck me most was that in which he gave an indication of how he would administer justice in Ireland if he had the opportunity. He first of all accused my right hon. friend of not using his influence with the Chief Commissioners in Ireland, and when my right hon. friend denied that he had any power to do so, the hon. and learned Gentleman said, " I know what I would do if I had the power." I always knew what he would do if he had the power, and that is one of the reasons I oppose him so much ever having the power in Ireland. Later on in his speech the hon. and learned Gentleman gave us an indication as to how he would exercise that power, and it was very simple and ingenious. If he had the power of dealing with the Judges who happen to disagree with him in his views and who did not carry out his opinions, he would simply say to them, " We will dock your salaries." That is a very simple way of dealing with the Judiciary, but it has never been the habit in this country, and I very much doubt whether any British Government will ever try to deal with the Judges of the Land Court or any other Judges in that way. The speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman appears to me to lend itself to the views I hold about the Land Commission in Ireland. The hon. and learned Gentleman does not believe in the justice of the Sub-Commissioners except in the case of Mr. Davidson. In dealing with the justice of the Land Commission he mentioned him, but I suppose that this gentleman largely reduced rents. The hon. and learned Gentleman equally disapproves the action of the Chief Commissioner and the Sub-Commissioners. I cannot conceive therefore a more unsatisfactory method of dealing with the land question. Both the Sub and the Chief Commissioners are equally unreliable. I cannot say personally as a landlord that I have very great affection for either the Sub or the Chief Commissioner. I cannot fall in love with either. The landlords have never looked upon the Sub-Commissioners or the Chief Commissioner as friends of theirs. [Cries of dissent.] Some hon. Gentleman opposite threw doubts on that remark, but probably he 1388 is not a landlord. The hon. and learned Gentleman imagined that most of these Sub-Commissioners are members of the landlords' club, but I know that the fact that a man is a Sub-Commissioner or Chief Commissioner would certainly exclude him from that august body. The principal reason I have for venturing to obtrude upon the Committee for a few moments is this. Nobody denies that the action of the Land Commission in Ireland has been unsatisfactory It was felt to be so by this House and the Government of the day, and as the result the Fry Commission was appointed three years ago. That Commission was composed of men of great ability and great fairness of mind, capable of dealing with the subject as well as any other set of gentlemen who could be found in the land. I suppose most Members of the House of Commons have read their Report. I think that a more instructive document than this Report could not well be conceived. I wish to concentrate the attention of the Committee for a moment or two on the main point of this Report. I think I ought to have the support of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He is dissatisfied with the action of the Land Commission, and says it is an unfair tribunal, and I say exactly the same. We are agreed on that point.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
That is exactly what I am going to point out. I accept the Report of the Commission as giving a very fair remedy for what I look upon as a very strange case. We Irish landlords do not like the Act of 1881. Hon. Gentlemen opposite will not expect us to do so. [An HON. MEMBER: Why not?] Well, if you were a landlord you would not. But we are not foolish enough to imagine that this House is going back on the legislation of that time. I think, however, that the landlords and the tenants of Ireland have a perfect right to ask that the Act of 1881 should be carried out in the best and fairest way. That is all we ask, and I think the tenants will agree with us. They do not think that it is carried out as it ought to be. Neither do we. What is the observation made by the Commission on this point? I 1389 think it is rather instructive. At page 15 the Fry Commission Report says—An almost universal dissatisfaction is expressed with regard to these appeals, a dissatisfaction felt by some at least of the Commissioners themselves.No witness, with perhaps a single exception, spoke in defence of the existing system. I say that the whole difficulty centres in the question of appeals. [An HON. MEMBER: Not at all.] Well, to my mind it does, and in this way. If a Sub-Commissioner's decision satisfies tenant and landlord there is an end of it; but if it displeases both, as it generally does— [An HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!]—quite so, at least as it very often does, an appeal is made by the tenant or the landlord to the Chief Commissioner, and very often by both. What happens then? There is a Court of Appeal which is presented to the landlords of Ireland. What is the meaning of a Court of Appeal? A Court of Appeal is where you can get a judgment considered, and if it is wrong the decision is reversed. How does this Court of Appeal act? I say it is equally unfair to the tenant and to the landlord. Let us imagine a tenant and a landlord dissatisfied with the decision of the Land Sub-Commissioner, and they both appeal to the Superior Court. What happens? I believe two valuers are sent out always. I am rather of that impression. What is the nature of the valuation? Valuation is not a science. Valuation was described in this way some years ago by Mr. Murrough O'Brien—and he was a Gentleman not unpopular among the Gentlemen opposite. "Valuation, of course, is not an exact science; it is only an opinion based on imagination and experience." It is based altogether on the imagination of the man who values the land. I say that without imagination you would not be able to say what the land is worth. The Sub-Commissioners go on the land, and they imagine its valuation. It is entirely an act of the mind. They conceive its valuation. They say, "This is worth so much." Then the valuers go down acting for the Court of Appeal. They have no imagination whatever. They get hold of the decision of the Court below and the schedules, and they see how the original valuers came to their conclusion. Then they simply say ditto—that is all. That is exactly the fault found with the 1390 Commissioners by the Fry Commission. It is equally against the landlord and the tenant, and the Land Commission is afraid to suggest that this is one of the grave defects of the system of appeal. It is unfair to both parties. Here is an instance—and I think it is rather an interesting one—given at page 17 of the Fry Commission Report—The investigation of the Court valuer, as hitherto carried on, cannot be considered an independent one. He generally considered himself bound by the decision of the Sub-Commission as to what improvements were to be allowed for; he admittedly accepted much on the strength of the pink schedule under appeal, and he was left at liberty to determine for himself what is a substantial difference from the previous findings. A striking illustration of the danger of this course of practice has recently occurred. In thirty-one cases on one estate the amounts allowed for drainage in the pink schedules were considerably in excess of the amounts proved by the tenants at the hearing before the Sub-Commission. The cases were reheard, and in every case the reports of the Court valuers agreed, as to the amount of drains, with the findings of the Sub-Commission; and yet it was shown to the Land Commission that in every one of the cases the figure was wrong; for the evidence had been given in terms of the Irish perch, and the pink schedules and the reports were drawn in terms of the English perch; and in every case the change from Irish into English measures had been made on the ratio not of lineal, but of square measure. Such slavish copying of a blunder is very cogent evidence of the want of independence in the operations of the Court valuers.They simply came down, at considerable expense, I suppose, to the unfortunate litigants; they went round the farm—I don't know that they even did that; they looked at the pink schedule, and there is no further appeal. There is no examination on the part of the valuers as to how they arrive at the valuation. I consider that if this Act is to be fairly carried out there must be some alteration in the character of the Court of Appeal. I am not going into the question now whether rents have been too much reduced or not. That is not the point. I say if you want to be fair to both tenant and landlord—and if you are not fair you will never have satisfaction—you must have a Court of Appeal established where evidence will be given in the open day, and where the valuers sent down by the Superior Court will form for themselves their own opinion without seeing what has been done by the Court below, and then you will have the fair opinion 1391 of the men, and you will be able to decide which opinion is best. Otherwise you cannot get rid of the heart-burning that is going on to-day. The House and the country in these exciting times cannot be brought to conceive the position of those who own land in Ireland at the present day. There is no instance, so far as I am aware, in the civilised world of any class having been treated as the landlord class of Ireland have been. On the supposition that you would secure peace in Ireland the Act was passed. The Act has placed a large class owning some two hundred millions worth of property in Ireland absolutely at the mercy of an irresponsible tribunal, against whom there is only the most illusory appeal. I heard a great deal in this House about the tyranny and injustice of President Kruger towards the Uitlanders, and I investigated those cases when I was in Johannesburg. I certainly thought they were very hard indeed, but they are nothing compared with the way in which the Irish landlords have been treated. This is a country opposed to hatred and oppression, and I am not surprised at the feelings aroused in the British people at the tyranny exercised in that country over the subjects of the Queen. How is it with Ireland? We do not ask—I am speaking for the Irish land-owning class in Ireland—we do not ask for charity, or even mercy; we ask for justice. What we say to you is this if you think it well to deprive us of our property for the good of the State, you can do it, but unless you are robbers you will compensate us for it. I have heard proposals made in this House to do away with a great number of the public-houses in this country. I am not often in a public-house myself, but still I would not propose, and I do not think the House would consent to the idea, to turn out even a publican without compensation, but in Ireland the landlord has no friends. Their friends in this House are not more than fourteen or fifteen Members. [An HON. MEMBER: Come over and join us.] Then I would not know whom I was following. That would not suit me. What I want to know before I sit down is this, and I hope my right hon. friend will inform me —do the Government intend to take any action at all on the recommendations of the Fry Commission? They may say that they have done something. Well, some slight alterations have been made, 1392 but no question has been really grappled with or touched that the Fry Commission has recommended. If the recommendations contained in this Report were embodied in the rules and regulations of the Land Commission Court of Ireland it would give infinitely more satisfaction. At present neither landlord nor tenant knows what will be the result. Is it fair in this justice-loving country to place any class in the position of absolute slavery? Let us have something to go upon which we can understand and count upon. Hon. Gentlemen opposite should join me in securing that tenants should have the right to come forward and make their case plain in the open day. If a fair Court of Appeal were granted to Ireland it would do much to wipe away the bitterness that exists in the memory.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin County, N.)
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said that both sides are dissatisfied with the Land Courts in Ireland. That is perfectly true, and it has been painfully manifest in every debate that has taken place in this House, but I am afraid that the inference the right hon. Gentleman has drawn from the fact is hardly the one we will draw from it on this side of the House. For my part I do not look forward with much confidence to the action of any Court of Appeal that may be substituted for the present. I fancy that there is no cure, no rendering satisfactory the present system of fixing rents in Ireland. I am sure that there is great ingenuity on both sides of the House, but I am inclined to think that both would fail. What inference do I draw from that? The inference I draw is that we ought to put an end to the system of fixing rents altogether, and go in for a system of compulsory purchase. For my own part, I have no belief in any permanent and radical improvement in the present system in Ireland. Therefore, I think this is a very proper occasion on which to urge upon gentlemen like the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken the expediency, from his own point of view, of taking up at once a different stand in this matter, to change his attitude towards the body to which he belongs, to abandon at once all hope of improvement in that direction by legisla- 1393 tion, and to help us to achieve what I think must be regarded on our side as the only final solution of the question by buying out the landlords at a fair price, and putting the tenants in possession as owners. I have read from time to time the statements issued by the Landlords' Committee in Dublin, and I cannot help whenever I read them feeling a certain sort of sympathy with the views of the gentlemen who believe in these statements which are circulated, for I see in them proof, to my mind at least, of incurable blindness, proof that they cannot recognise the facts, proof that they cannot see the proper way to go about the remedying of their own grievances and their own position. They are continually referring to the Act of 1881. They are continually finding fault with the Government for not appointing proper Commissioners, for not making proper rules for the administration of the Land Acts, and so on, and they never seem to think that it is useless talking, that it is absolutely idle and hopeless to expect that legislation will go back, that it is equally idle and hopeless to expect any rules to be made which will be satisfactory to both parties, or, perhaps, even to one party. They never seem to think of the real remedy for the whole of this position. They never seem to think that there is only one remedy for the whole thing, and that is to clear out of the land the present owners at a fair price, and put the tenants into possession as owners. That is my remedy, at all events, for the situation, and now I would like to make a few remarks on the subjects touched upon already. There are two complaints made, as I understand, on behalf of the tenantry of Ireland. The first is as to the Commissioners. I allude particularly to the lay Commissioners, occupying, as regards the greater number of them, merely temporary posts. They are only appointed for a definite time. Is that fair to these men themselves? They are engaged in a judicial duty. They are supposed to perform that duty without fear, favour, or affection. They are supposed to be absolutely indifferent to the views of the tenants, and to the views and prejudices of the landlords. I ask, is it possible to conceive that these men, placed in a temporary position of this kind, dealing with property in a way which excites the 1394 prejudices and the anger of the landlords, can discharge their duty in the way the country and the public expect them to do it? I do not care what Government is in power, whether it be Liberal, or Tory as we have at present, Dublin Castle, at all events, is ruled by the landlords of Ireland in every Administration, and the people have no concern with Dublin Castle. They are not appointed to any office in the government of the Castle—anyone who takes office in the government of the Castle no longer belongs to the people—and the result of all this is that the people see men appointed by the Liberal or Tory Government, and they are convinced, whether they are right or wrong, that these men are acting in accordance with the views of the landlords of Ireland, who direct the policy of Dublin Castle. I say it is not just to the men themselves, it is not just to the people of Ireland, and it is not just to the Government of the country. These men should be put in a permanent position, and enabled, therefore, to discharge their duties without fear, favour, or affection. The answer to that always is that it would cost a great deal of money. I am not sure of the exact amount, but the nation which is ready to spend any number of millions on ships and on wars for defending the rights of Uitlanders in the Transvaal objects to spend even a million of money—that is a gross exaggeration—for the purpose of obtaining a just administration of the law, and of inspiring confidence in the administration of the law. Another complaint we make is that these men are all selected practically from the class that sympathises with the landlords of Ireland. It is my own experience. I do not like to speak of any particular Sub-Commissioner. I do not think it would be fair. I have appeared before these Sub-Commissioners on behalf of tenants, and no client of mine ever felt that he had in the tribunal before him a friend. He always thought of him, on the contrary, as an enemy, and he could not help feeling that the Sub-Commissioner was amenable to influences by which he ought not to be guided. In 1883, shortly after the passing of the Land Act, a Committee of the House of Lords was appointed to investigate the proceedings of the Land Commission. I do not know on whose motion the Committee was appointed, but Commissioner 1395 after Commissioner was dragged before that body of the House of Lords, cross-examined and intimidated, and the result was that for two or three years after that, instead of the decisions which had been given before, marked by considerable reductions in the rents of the tenants, the decisions were of quite the opposite character, until in 1887 a Unionist Government was actually obliged to bring in a Bill by which the rents were to be reduced before the fifteen years had expired which had been fixed two or three years before. When the people of Ireland see things of this sort going on, influenced by public meetings on one occasion and influenced by the House of Lords on another, they cannot feel confidence in this Commission, and I think they are perfectly right. I fancy now that they will have less confidence than ever in the character of the men appointed. We have recently been told by the Solicitor General of England, in a remarkable speech at Dublin, that he has entered the Government for the purpose of influencing the Government in the direction of the views of the landlords of Ireland. He said that he had not been muzzled, and that he and Lord Londonderry—or at any rate he spoke for himself—had entered the Government with the full knowledge of the Government of what they had been doing for the last few years in the way of championing the rights of the landlords, and, furthermore, that it was with the view of giving effect to the views of the landlords of Ireland that he had accepted office. I do not know whether that statement was meant in all seriousness; time will show. But I will take his words as seriously meant—
* THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! I really fail to see what this has to do with the Vote under discussion.
§ MR. CLANCY
My argument was that the position of these Commissioners 1396 was already such as to inspire universal want of confidence on the part of the people of Ireland in their judgments, and after recent events, to which I will not more particularly allude, the feeling of dissatisfaction and want of confidence will before justified than ever if the right hon. Gentleman to whom I was referring spoke the truth at the Trinity College election. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has urged the Chief Secretary to make fresh rules or to bring forward fresh legislation. I do not know what answer the right hon. Gentleman intends to give. If he decides to bring forward a Landlord Bill he will be in a rather ticklish situation, because the ground upon which legislation is demanded is the Report of the Fry Commission, and the Fry Commission reported in the most distinct terms that the landlords had not been injured by the action of the Land Commission. On the other hand, if the right hon. Gentleman sits tight, as the phrase goes, and does nothing, the trouble will grow. My advice is that he should seriously consider whether he ought not to strive to put an end to the whole situation in Ireland caused by the landlords, in the only way in which it can finally be brought to an end, and that is by the introduction of a Bill for the compulsory purchase of every acre of land in Ireland.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I suppose there is hardly a statement which has been made on this subject of the Land Commission on the one side of the House to which a fiat contradiction might not be discovered in the utterances on the other side of the House. For instance, the hon. Member who has just sat down has assured us that the Assistant Commissioners are all selected from the class. which sympathises with the landlords, but he must be aware that precisely the opposite contention is put forward by my right hon. friend from Ireland who sits on this side of the House, and I noticed not very long ago that Dr. Traill, who was himself a member of the Fry Commission, asked—Can anything be more monstrous than that the bulk of the rents in Ireland should be fixed by the tenant farmers themselves without there being any control over them?1397 This contradiction is typical of the views which are held both as to the position and as to the action of the Land Commission by those who are respectively interested on the one side or the other of the question. Personally, I do not think I am especially concerned to defend the legislation of 1881. I am fully sensible of the defects of that legislation, and, though it fell to me to pass a Land Act based upon the legislation of 1881, I do not think if I had had a clean sheet I should have taken that particular line as a solution of the question. However, I had no choice in the matter; the Act of 1881 was there, and we were obliged to build on the foundation we found ready to our hands. A variety of criticisms have been passed upon the action of the Land Commission and of the Government in connection with the Land Commission. The hon. and learned Member for North Louth began by referring to a resolution passed by the South Antrim District Council. He proceeded for some little time before he quoted any portion of the resolution, and when he did quote the resolution it contained a distinctly partisan statement on the part of the Rural District Council of South Antrim. If it be true that the Rural District Council passed a resolution against the removal of Mr. Davidson, I think it would have been wise and prudent on their part to refrain from any partisan statement. If it be true that the Rural District Council of South Antrim, having this strong bias on the side of the tenants, petitioned in favour of the retention of Mr. Davidson, I am bound to say that that appears to me pro tanto an argument in favour of removing him. As to this question of the transfer of Assistant Commissioners from one district to another, I repeat that that question is one which in no way concerns the Executive Government. It is the duty of the Executive Government to appoint Commissioners, and it might become their duty to remove a commissioner; but we have absolutely nothing whatever to do with the transfer of Commissioners from one district to another. That transfer is effected by the Land Commission, and the Land Commission do not consider themselves bound to state either to the Assistant Commissioners themselves or to the Executive Government the reasons which may have actuated them in their decisions. But that an Assistant Com- 1398 missioner is transferred from one particular district to another is in no way a reflection upon the Assistant Commissioner so transferred. There may be many reasons for transferring him which are in no way to his discredit. With regard to Mr. Davidson himself, I have no reason to believe that there was any question whatever as to his competence. I cannot help thinking it is a pity that the hon. and learned Member for North Louth should be so very fond of imputing motives of a base and contemptible character. The hon. and learned Member was not ashamed to say that the transference of Mr. Davidson some time ago was carried out as a punishment for the evidence given by him before the House of Commons Committee, and exactly in the same spirit he referred to Mr. Morrough O'Brien not being sent to the North of Ireland. Why the hon. and learned Member should assume that there must be some sinister motive behind the fact, if it be a fact, I am totally unable to see. I have the greatest possible respect for the very great Parliamentary abilities of the hon. and learned Member, but I do think he would do more credit and justice to those abilities if he would abstain from imputing motives. The hon. and learned Member then says to the Executive Government, " You say you have no power. If I was in your position I should have power, because I should insist on having power." What does the hon. and learned Member mean? He must mean that, as we have the power to remove the Assistant Commissioners, therefore we have the power to interfere in the arrangements by which they are transferred from one post to another. As a matter of fact we have no such power. I should be the last man in the world to desire to interfere in any way with the arrangements of the Commissioners. I remember when this Government first came into office I received a severe censure from the hon. and learned Member himself because I ventured to make some communication to Mr. Justice Bewley on the subject of the possibility of postponing decisions in cases of appeals for fixing second term rents until the Land Act had been introduced. I was severely called to task for that by the hon. and learned Member, who declared that it was an outrageous thing that the Executive should dream of interfering to that extent with a person in a judicial 1399 position. But what is it the hon. and learned Member is to-night suggesting I should do beyond interfering with the action of a judicial body? It appears to me that the line taken by the hon. and learned Member on that occasion is altogether inconsistent with the line he has taken to-night. He next proceeded to criticise the manner in which the Assistant Commissioners are appointed, and he made some excellent fun of the examination to which they are now subject. I quite admit that it is a subject which at first sight lends itself to that kind of treatment of which the hon. and learned Member is a master. But what are the real facts of the case? Until a short time ago the Assistant Commissioners were all nominated by the Lord Lieutenant, and the Lord Lieutenant had to satisfy himself that the gentlemen so appointed were competent for the office. Exactly the same care and trouble in making nominations for examination is taken now as before, and the examination is but an additional security that these gentlemen are fit for the duties they have to perform. What are the subjects of examination? They are English composition and précis writing. Reduced to its proper proportions, all the candidates are required to do at the examination is to show their efficiency in those two subjects, and that is not very ridiculous after all. Over and above that they have to prove their competence in some way. It is desirable —and I think the hon. and learned Gentleman, despite his many excellent jokes, will recognise that it is desirable—that these gentlemen should possess some knowledge of surveying, and I cannot think that the questions which he ridiculed are really inappropriate questions in an examination paper on surveying. The other two subjects are arithmetic and agriculture. The hon. and learned Member did not refer to the fact that they were examined in agriculture at all. But, after all, all it comes to is this. In addition to other precautions, we have now superadded the condition that candidates shall satisfactorily pass examinations in these subjects. When I say "we," I think I ought to say, the Commissioners; it is not the Executive Government; it is the Land Commissioners themselves. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman discussed the question of the appeal valuers, and he said that the appeal valuers are drawn from the newest 1400 recruits. What authority the hon. and learned Gentleman had for making that statement I do not know. I have always understood, and I believe, that the appeal valuers are the most experienced and the ablest Assistant Commissioners in the service of the Land Commission. They are chosen for their special skill, and practically they form a separate body from the other Commissioners. One other matter I ought to refer to before I leave the speech of the hon. and learned Member. He stated that, in the administration of Section 40, tenants are never allowed to see the purchase price which is fixed by the valuers. The valuers do not fix the purchase price at all; all they have to do is to put it before the Commissioners.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
But it is for the Commissioners to decide what the price shall be which they are to declare to be fair.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
What the Commissioners have to fix is the price. It is exactly the same as the fixing of the fair rent. It is the Land Commissioners who fix the price just as they fix the fair rent. Now I come to the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh—
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
First of all, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman what explanation he gives of the appointment of Mr. Sydney Smith?
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I believe Mr. Sydney Smith was appointed after examination. I cannot charge my memory with the exact circumstances under which he was appointed, but I believe that is correct.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I never heard of that circumstance before; of course it 1401 is open to the hon. and learned Gentleman to put a question on the subject in the House. Now I come to the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh. My right hon. and gallant friend thinks that the whole difficulty of fixing rents rests on the question of appeal. I think he said that the appeal valuers simply said "ditto" to the Sub-Commissioners. What authority has my right hon. and gallant friend for saying that? What authority has he for saying that if the general results brought out by particular valuers correspond closely with the finding of the Assistant Commissioners, that is proof that the latter simply take the figures of the former?
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I was referring not to the present experience, but to the experience of the Fry Commission as stated in their Report.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
That is not what is stated in the Report of the Fry Commission. The Fry Commission Report states that the valuer often arrives at the same result, but that is a very different thing from saying that the one says "ditto" to the other. They act under totally different certificates. As I have already stated, the valuers are, I believe, the best and most experienced of all the Commissioners, and if they, in any individual cases, do say " ditto " to the Assistant Commissioners, I should say that that is in itself primâ facie evidence that the valuation is right. Then the right hon. and gallant Gentleman says that there is nothing to show how these appeal valuers arrive at their decisions. Well, they have to make a report, with a schedule, and they have to fill up in that schedule the facts on which they come to their decision. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman says that the appeal valuers ought to make their valuation without seeing the valuation of the Sub-Commissioners. That is a view which I believe was expressed by the Fry Commission, but it is not the view taken by the Court of Appeal in Ireland. In fact, I am bound to say that, on the whole, I think the valuers on appeal are likely to come to a more corrrect decision if they have before them the decision of the Assistant Commissioners. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman asked why the 1402 Government did not make any alterations in accordance with the recommendations of the Fry Commissioners. I think that a great many of the changes that have been already made in the procedure of the Land Commissioners have been made in consequence of the Report of the Fry Commission; but there were other recommendations made by the Fry Commissioners which have not been adopted; and I am bound to say, speaking for myself, that I think the Land Commissioners acted wisely in declining to adopt them, especially those which could not have been adopted without legislation. Does my right hon. and gallant friend seriously recommend the Government to bring in another Land Bill in order to enable or compel the Land Commissioners to adopt those recommendations of the Fry Commission which require legislative sanction? Perhaps the experience of my right hon. and gallant friend with reference to previous Land Bills was such as to induce him to desire to see another Bill introduced; but I trust he will be content with things as they are, and not ask for fresh legislation making further changes in the land laws of Ireland. But, Sir, with regard to those matters in which a change might be made by the Land Commissioners consistently with the Report of the Land Commissioners, it may be well that I should call attention to one or two of them. Some of them have, I think, been already referred to in the course of this discussion. One was with regard to a satisfactory definition of "fair rent," and I am bound to say that that is a matter that does require consideration. Then with regard to the instructions that ought to be issued by the Commissioners. It appears to me that the Assistant Commissioners are really in the position of judges of an inferior court, and that they may safely be left to shape their decisions in accordance with those of the Land Commissioners themselves. Then another recommendation, which was referred to by the hon. Gentleman who last spoke, was that all the Assistant Commissioners and Court valuers should be permanent officials, able to devote the whole of their time to the work. Really that is a question of administration, which depends on the fluctuations in the work of the Commissioners. In 1881 the number of Assistant Commissioners was 8; in 1890 it was 68; in the following year it was reduced to 20; in the next year to 16; 1403 in 1896 it went down again to 8; and in the present year it is 94. In the face of these figures, to ask that these gentlemen should have permanent appointments, seems to me little short of grotesque. I will refer to one other recommendation of the Fry Commission which has not been adopted by the Land Commissioners. In the 5th Schedule, paragraph 5, the Fry Commission recommended that an occupation interest should be taken into account. I personally believe that if that had been adopted it would have been directly contrary to and inconsistent with the provisions of the Act of 1881. It may seem, perhaps, bold on my part to oppose myself in questions involving the interpretation of the law to the opinion of a Commission presided over by a former Lord Justice of Appeal, but the opinions expressed by this Commission have been brought before the Court of Appeal in Ireland, and the opinions of that Court on points of law have been contrary to those expressed by the Fry Commission. Sir, I do not know that I need say very much more. What I have already said will show the Committee the exceptional difficulty of the position in which the Commissioners are placed and the difficult task that is put before them. If there were any satisfactory way out of the position in which we now find ourselves, it would be eminently desirable to take it. I am sorry to say that I do not see in any scheme of compulsory purchase a way out of the difficulty—I wish I did. As it is I am afraid we must just bear our evils as best we may. But in the interests of the landlords I do venture to suggest to my right hon. and gallant friend that he should not press for further legislation on this subject.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
I venture to say that, as regards the greatest portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, he has laid down a doctrine which is quite new and quite unconstitutional. He has laid down that it is no part of his function, sitting here as he does to defend the Land Commission, to enter into the important and vital question of the manner in which they are discharging their duties, and he bases that on the ground that he has no control over the Land Commission in this matter. I ask, what have we been doing in discus- 1404 sing this Land Commission Vote? Are we not here to criticise and condemn, and, if necessary, to exercise some punitive function in respect to the conduct of this body? What the right hon. Gentleman says might be a very good reply if we were raising this question on the Vote of the salary of the right hon. Gentleman himself. But we are not on this Vote criticising his action as Chief Secretary; we are attacking the Irish Land Commission in the discharge of their administrative duties, and the right hon. Gentleman, when he rises to answer our criticisms, I presume is undertaking to defend their action. Now, he has entered on the defence either with or without knowledge, and I for my part cannot understand the position of the right hon. Gentleman in this respect. He has not ventured to allege that we are not within our rights in raising this question; he does not allege that it is not within our competence to make the complaints we have made. The only answer he makes is that he is not himself personally responsible for them. I submit that he is here to answer for the Land Commission so far as that Commission is an administrative body and drawing money from the State for carrying out their administrative duties; and it is. certainly a very strange thing, and, I submit, an unconstitutional doctrine, for the right hon. Gentleman to lay down that it is none of his business to inquire as to how their duties are discharged by the body we are here to criticise. But the right hon. Gentleman, I am sorry to say, did not content himself with that novel and unconstitutional view. He laid down a doctrine, with regard to the removal of Mr. Davidson, the full effect of which I think he could not have considered, otherwise his words would bear a very sinister construction. He says that the fact that the District Council protested against the removal of Mr. Davidson was primâ facie justification of the action of the Commission.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
What I said was that this body in their resolution passed criticisms on the action of the Land Commission which showed a bias in favour of one party, namely, the tenants, and that the fact that the resolution showed that bias deprived it of any value one way or the other.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
This Irish local body was not at all going out of its way to criticise the action of the Land Commissioners or the Sub-Commissioners. It was the Land Commission which went out of its way in a high-handed and unjustifiable manner to remove Mr. Davidson from a position in which he was fulfilling his duties satisfactorily. The resolution of this local body was not in any way extreme or biassed. The truth is, the Land Commission have not given the right hon. Gentleman, who has to reply to attacks upon them, the whole of the facts, and I hope that he will reconsider his words. I do not intend to go over the ground which has been already covered from these benches; but I wish to bring before the Chief Secretary some points in connection with the Land Commission which have not yet been dealt with. The right hon. Gentleman has said that there is no view which could be brought forward as matter of charge or allegation against the Land Commissioners on one side of the House which could not be flatly contradicted from the other. I am going to mention matters in which I undertake to tell the right hon. Gentleman both sides of the House will combine against this body. Among many vices which may be urged against the members of the Land Commission there is one vice which affects all their decisions, and in an eminent degree, and that is, the appalling
§ delays which attach to every branch of their proceedings. And surely this is a matter which is part of the responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman and the Government. The unhappy litigant who embarks on an appeal to the Commission never knows how long it may be before his case is disposed of. In the bulk of the fair-rent cases remaining untried in county Cork the unfortunate tenants entered their cases two to two and a half years ago. I ask, is there any Court in the world that has such a record as that? The Court of Chancery has a bad name for the conduct of its business, but the Court of Chancery is a model of expedition compared with the Irish Land Courts. Then I pass to the question of appeals. Here, of course, there may be something to be said in excuse of the delay. There are only three Land Commissioners, and three men cannot do the work of twenty; still, some method ought to be found of compassing this part of the work. This is a matter affecting the peace of the country, and the right hon. Gentleman, as the chief governor of the country, is bound to see that justice is effective and expeditious. I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman will devote himself to this question of the appalling delays in the Irish Land Commission.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 75; Noes, 104. (Division List No. 138.)1407
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Doogan, P. C.||Joicey, Sir James|
|Ambrose, Robert||Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.)|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Engledew, Charles John|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Kilbride, Denis|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Ffrench, Peter||Macaleese, Daniel|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Field, William (Dublin)||MacDonnell, Dr. M. A. (Qn's C.)|
|Blake, Edward||Flynn, James Christopher||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Fox, Dr. Joseph Francis||M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim. E.)|
|Brigg, John||M'Cartan, Michael|
|Gibney, James||M'Ghee, Richard|
|Caldwell, James||Gilhooly, James||Molloy, Bernard Charles|
|Carew, James Laurence||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Morris, Samuel|
|Claney, John Joseph||Hammond, John (Carlow)||Murnaghan, George|
|Colvilie, John||Harrington, Timothy|
|Commins, Andrew||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)|
|Crean, Eugene||Hayne, Rt. Hn. Charles Seale-||O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)|
|Crilly, Daniel||Hazell, Walter||O'Connor, J. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||Healy, Thomas J. (Wexford)||O'Dowd, John|
|Healy, Timothy M. (N. Louth)||Oldroyd, Mark|
|Daly, James||Hemphiil, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||O'Malley, William|
|Dillon, John||Horniman, Frederick John|
|Parnell, John Howard||Saunderson, Rt. Hn. Col. E. J.||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Phillpotts, Captain Arthur||Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire)|
|Pinkerton, John||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Power, Patrick Joseph||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Tanner Charles Kearns||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Redmond, John E.(Waterford)||Captain Donelan and Mr.|
|Redmond, William (Clare)||Wilson, H. J. (York, W.R.)||Patrick O'Brien.|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Goldsworthy, Major-General||Pollock, Harry Fredk.|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Balcarres, Lord||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John E.||Purvis, Robert|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)||Green, W. D. (Wednesbury)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Leeds)||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor)||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H (Bristol)||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord George||Richards, Henry Charles|
|Bethell, Commander||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.||Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W.|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Helder, Augustus||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. Thomson|
|Bond, Edward||Houston, R. P.||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Bonsor, Henry Cosmo Orme||Round, James|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Jackson, Rt. Hon. Wm. Lawies||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H||Sandys, Lieut.-Col. T. Myles|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire)||Keswick, William||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J.(Birm.)||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Lawrence, Sir E Durning-(Corn)||Sidebottom, William(Derbys.)|
|Charrington, Spencer||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)|
|Chelsea, Viscount||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks.)|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Lea, Sir Thomas (Londonderry)||Stanley, Edw. J. (Somerset)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasg'w)||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Liverpool)||Strauss, Arthur|
|Cotton-Jodrell, Col. E. T. D.||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller|
|Cox, Irwin Edw. Bainbridge||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Curzon, Viscount||Macdona, John Cumming||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)|
|Denny, Colonel||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.||Williams, J. Powell- (Birm.)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)||Wilson, J.W.(Worcestersh, N.)|
|Monckton, Edward Philip||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)|
|Faber, George Denison||More, Robt. J. (Shropshire)||Wolff, Gustav Willhelm|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw.||Morrell, George Herbert||Wrightson, Thomas|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J (Manc'r)||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Finch, George H.||Murray, Rt. Hn. A Graham(Bute)|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Young, Commander (Berks, E.)|
|FitzGerald, Sir Rbt. Penrose-||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Sir William Walrond and|
|Galloway, William Johnson||Pease, Hbt. Pike (Darlington)||Mr. Anstruther.|
|Gedge, Sydney||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Plunkett, Rt. Hn. Horace Curzon|
Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ It being after Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.