HC Deb 15 August 1901 vol 99 cc1051-73
MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

I am about to ask the House to turn to another subject of a less exciting character than that which we have been discussing. I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland in his place, because it is upon the Irish question that I wish to make a few observations. I was glad also to observe that he was in his place during a portion of the debate on the South African War, for there is a certain analogy between some of the points in that debate and the question to which I am about to call attention. It seemed to be common ground between the two sides of the House that a certain amount of money would have to be granted in these new colonies for the purpose of enabling Boer farmers to resume the occupation of their holdings and their houses. There was some difference of opinion as to the amount of money that would be required, but the lowest estimate according to the spokesman of the Government was £500,000. The question to which I allude also refers to the loss which has fallen on the victims of a war. It was not a war in the open field, but one of those unhappy disturbances which precede land reform in Ireland. It would be unpardonable on my part to enter into a history of the plan of campaign with the tenants. Everyone in the House has heard of that history, and I dismiss it with this observation, that up to a certain period of the land legislation a large body of tenants were as lease-holders excluded from the benefits of the legislation, and the Government of that day showed no inclination whatever to include that large body. It was under such circumstances that a number of these leaseholders determined to bring pressure on the Government to get their grievances considered and remedied. After a time the Government did give the leaseholders the benefit of the land legislation, but in the meantime a certain number of the tenants who had joined this movement had been evicted and a certain number of them are still out of their holdings. It is to the case of these leaseholders that I wish to call attention. The Chief Secretary knows that the number of these tenants has gradually diminished, and I would be glad if he could inform the House if that reduction was due entirely to friendly settlements between the landlords and these tenants.

I press on the Chief Secretary to try by every means in his power to induce, I might almost say force, a settlement on the landlords and tenants so that the number of these homeless and poverty-stricken tenants should entirely disappear. I do not think any man in tffe House would disagree with me in saying that there could not be a more wretched position than that of the tenants on the Campaign estates. They live for the most part in wooden huts of two rooms, and in these rooms families of considerable dimensions have to be accommodated. They have no means of subsistence except such as is given to them by voluntary subscriptions, and these are shifting sands on which the life of anyone should found itself. I have heard from some friends who live in these districts as to how these poor people exist, and I would implore the Chief Secretary to visit these Campaign estates, and with his own eyes and ears acquaint himself with the condition of these people. They are to be seen sometimes haunting the graveyards and the chapels, praying for some relief from the hopeless and terrible position into which they have fallen. I will not argue whether these people have fallen into that position from their own fault or not. I am in this situation, that these people must be regarded either as heroes or victims; but I would say that every effort should be made to extract them from the miserable state in which they are. This question cannot now be settled by force either on the one side or the other; it must be by amicable agreement, and the pressure which the Chief Secretary can bring to bear. I verily believe that if the Chief Secretary were to use all the influence at his disposal—political, social, and personal—by the time Parliament met next year he would be able to announce that this question was at an end, and that every Campaign tenant would be with the full consent of the landlords restored to his holding. I refer especially at this moment to the tenants on the Luggarcurran estate, the property of Lord Lansdowne, who is a member of the Ministry and a man of large means, and a settlement could not affect him from a pecuniary point of view. I have sufficient confidence that his Lordship would be willing to make some pecuniary sacrifice to relieve these poor tenants from their misery and restore them to their holdings. And if he did so it would be a good example to other landlords to come to terms with their tenants. I would appeal to the hon. Member for Armagh whether he seriously thinks the planter is a first-class tenant. As a rule the planter, who was called an emergency man, was neither by training nor temperament inclined to settle down on the land as a hard-working farmer. He is a soldier to a certain extent in retreat, and who would not regard it as a hardship to be relieved of his position as a temporary settler on the land. These planters have not in any part of Ireland succeeded, and day after day they are entering into the bankruptcy court. I pass from that estate with this final observation, that I believe if the tenants there got their opportunity from the Marquess of Lans- downe to buy out their holdings, the question might be settled with hardship to nobody, even to the planters.

I must say I am a little less hopeful as to the next estate—that of the Marquess of Clanricarde. As a matter of fact the Marquess of Clanricarde drew £20,000 a year from that district, which he never visited except for a few hours to honour the remains of his mother. I do not want to make allusion to this gentleman more rancorously than I can possibly do; but I appeal to every Irishman in the House, whatever his political principles may be, whether, so far as his duties as a landlord are concerned, that gentleman has not played an ignoble part compared with most of the landlords of England and Scotland. He has never given a subscription to any worthy object or charitable institution in the district, and he is of that type of landlord which, to a large extent, is responsible for the disrepute into which the landlords in Ireland have fallen. I am in hope, however, that the Chief Secretary, by the exercise of his well-known moderation, may be able to bring pressure to bear on the Marquess to come to a settlement with his tenants. I believe the tenants are only too willing to give reasonable terms for restoration to their homes; and what possible good can it do to the Marquess of Clanricarde to keep these farms so long empty, except for the gratification of an ignoble spirit of revenge. I am afraid I must say that a spirit of vindictive, unchristian, and almost vituperous revenge regulates the whole proceedings of that landlord. I am told that a tenant in another part of the country who had been absolutely unable to make a living, on account of his want of skill and industry, had come to the Marquess of Clanricarde and had been welcomed to the possession of two large farms from which two Campaign tenants had been evicted. I ask the House whether it is fair to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, not to speak of the tenants and landlords, to keep this foul cancer alive, when a little good feeling and good sense could settle the whole question in a week or a fortnight. I think the right hon. Gentleman might approach this question in the same spirit as his colleague the Colonial Secretary proposed to treat with the men who have been fighting against us in South Africa for the last two years, and who have cost this country so much blood and treasure. These men are at the close of the war to be met in the spirit of an irenicon, and to be given a sum of money with which to start the world again. I ask that the same spirit should regulate the proceedings in regard to the victims of the land war in Ireland.

I would have liked to have said a few words in regard to a subject which is becoming alarming. I mean the steady and large drain of the population of Ireland by emigration. This is a question which is at last rousing the people of all classes, who are asking themselves whether the Irish nation is going to perish off from the face of the earth. At this hour I cannot do more than express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do his duty in his responsible position, and will take such measures as will make Ireland a country in which the people can live and prosper.


I rise to take part in the discussion on this Bill, because an opportunity is being given to refer to some matters of grave importance to Ireland which was refused to us earlier in the session. The time given to the discussion of the many matters relating to Ireland has been so limited, and the privileges of its representatives so curtailed during this fruitless session, now drawing to a close, that I heed offer no excuse to the House for trespassing on its time on this occasion. It is well known to the thoughtful in this assembly that the people of our country have experienced many wrongs and persecutions, and have been given few chances of ventilating their grievances, particularly in this House. I intervene in the discussion with feelings of pain and disappointment—pain because it is necessary for the representatives from Ireland to have to fall back on this course in order to ventilate the wrongs from which their people suffer at the hands of a Government which tries to rule them against their wishes; and disappointment, because at one time I foolishly entertained the hope that the present Chief Secretary, who, above all others, is responsible for the government of Ireland, would try to right the many wrongs inflicted on our race by his pre- decessors, who were Englishmen by blood and connection, and who ruled us from the standpoint of conquerors who had given their adversaries a fall, but who were afraid, if for a moment they were to relax the knee-on-the-chest policy, those adversaries would become once more strong and powerful enough to demand the full restoration of the rights and privileges which they enjoyed before the advent of force and corruption which have been practised in the government of our unhappy country. I therefore desire to join with the other Members of the Irish party who have entered their protest against the administration of the law in Ireland as carried on by the present Chief Secretary, because I have been on various occasions an eyewitness to acts of violence and illegality committed by those who are entirely responsible for the impartial administration of the law, and who dare not do anything without the authority of the right hon. Gentleman. Some time ago I went to Gara Hill, near Athenry, in the county of Galway, for the purpose of addressing a public meeting and advocating the principles of the United Irish League, which is a perfectly legal organisation, and the constitution of which is based on the principles of liberty, justice, and equality. Without even the slightest notice, the people were set upon and batoned and brutally treated. I myself was batoned in the most wanton manner, and so roughly treated that my clothes were torn and my limbs bruised. Some time afterwards another meeting was called there, which I attended, and although no proclamation of any sort or kind was served either on the promoters of that meeting or myself, the same tactics were pursued, and in my presence a young man named Finnerty was set upon and throttled by the district inspector, surrounded by a large number of constables, and his head almost smashed with baton blows, without having given any provocation whatever. So eager were the police to follow the example of their officer that they actually batoned one another in the mad rush to distinguish themselves! Several others were also attacked, with the result that the meeting was prevented from being held there; but we succeeded in holding it a mile further on. Only a few months ago I was going from Mayo to Ballinrobe, in my own constituency, and when passing through Robeen a number of my constituents met me, but the police, anticipating that I might speak there, were in full force, and by violence attacked the people, jostled and dragged myself about, and followed us about from place to place, armed to the teeth, just as if we were expected to attack life and property, or do something of such a violent character that the ordinary law would not be able to cope with us afterwards. On two subsequent occasions I visited my constituency with similar results. I was prevented from speaking to those who sent me here to represent their views and carry out their wishes—prevented by force, which if attempted to be used in this country against the representatives of the people, or the people themselves, would arouse such a storm of indignation as to sweep from power the Government that would tolerate for twenty-four hours the disgraceful state of affairs that exists in Ireland. Some time ago I attended a meeting in the Queen's Hall in London, and outside that hall I saw such provocation given to the police who were on duty in the vicinity that led me to the conclusion that if one-twentieth part was given in Ireland the people would have been shot down like dogs. In different parts of Ireland, wherever the people try to come together and agitate peaceably for an improvement in what everybody must admit is their wretched condition, they are continually set upon by the servants of the Crown, who are put in motion by the orders of the right hon. Gentleman, who has taken the responsibility of governing Ireland, and whose action we were prevented from discussing at the proper time, but to which something may be said on the present occasion.

I am not the only victim to the brutal enforcement of English rule in Ireland. It is an historical fact that on the very day the right hon. Gentleman took office, his coming was celebrated by streams of blood spilled at Wicklow, where some of the most prominent and respected members of the Irish party were present, and, I believe, attacked. Everywhere the forces of the Crown are used against the Nationalists; but nowhere are they used against Orangemen and landlord bullies, who commit the most violent crimes. Take, for instance, the case of Mr. Phibbs, of Sligo, about whose condition there seems so much anxiety on the part of the Government, and such shrieking for coercion on the part of some intolerant and bigoted newspapers in England, which are written by men who are as ignorant of the real state of affairs in Ireland as they are of what is passing in the minds of Botha and De Wet at the present moment. There has been a wonderful outcry against those who refuse to assist this Mr. Phibbs to continue robbing the people of that locality, and whose action is calculated to assist in driving away the remnant of our population that are able to go to any other country. He is one of the loyal minority, and as such will of course be supported against the people by the present Chief Secretary. Let us look for a moment at the other side of the picture, and ask whether the same howl has gone up from the intolerant, ignorant press, and whether the same anxiety has been displayed by the Government to protect Catholics against the Orangemen in Belfast, who, without any provocation, murder their Catholic fellow-workmen, smash their heads, throw them into the river, wreck their houses, threaten their lives, and through the instrumentality of persecution and outrage deprive hundreds of human beings of the means of livelihood, and of the right of those who profess the religion of the majority of the people of Ireland to pursue their ordinary occupations. All this has been done under the eyes of the Chief Secretary, and with his knowledge, if not with his consent. I say that unless he takes the proper steps to protect the Catholic citizens of Belfast, he is as guilty as the Orangeman who fires the rivet at his fellow-workman. In one case if an Orangeman is even boohed at because he outrages the feelings of the people, the forces of the Crown, horse, foot, and artillery, are brought to his relief, while in the other case innocent Catholics may be murdered and persecuted, and yet not even a policeman will be sent to patrol the place where this unbridled devilry is carried on with impunity. Is that impartial administration of the law by the gentleman who is responsible for carrying it on in Ireland? Is that condition of affairs likely to give our people any confidence either in English law or English Ministers? In different parts of the country prosecutions are instituted on trumped-up charges, many of which are so shifty in their character as to be scouted out of court. Women have been prosecuted and imprisoned time after time for doing nothing more than making a stand for the home from which their orphans have been evicted, while thousands of pounds have been wasted in giving police protection to grabbers who have the land from which these women have been evicted. It is a crime in the eyes of Englishmen to put a common land-grabber to any inconvenience, but it is no crime to turn adrift widows and orphans with no protection or means of support whatever save the hated workhouse. I have no hesitation in saying that the law in Ireland is not administered for the welfare of its people, but is turned into an engine of persecution against them for the purposes of the Government. It is a well-known fact that the Irish police are supposed to be used for the maintenance of the law, but when I relate one or two cases showing the way the law is administered over there and the uses to which the police are put, I think reasonable Members of this House will not wonder at Irishmen looking upon it with the contempt it deserves.

In the county of Leitrim a young man named McGoohan was going to his home one night, and on his way was arrested by a police sergeant named Sheridan, and charged with the terrible crime of cutting the tails of cattle. The usual farce of trying a man charged with an agrarian offence in Ireland was gone through, and he was convicted, and sentenced to two years imprisonment. Time went by, and his sentence, savage though it was, expired, and his first act, after being released, was to make an affidavit declaring his perfect innocence of anything in connection with the charge. The police sergeant was transferred to county Clare, but he did not stop his villainous work, for there he made what turned out to be a clumsy attempt at planting threatening notices, which cost him his position, and which were no doubt intended to pave the way for outrage and murder by the paid agents of the Government. I have reason to believe that the Government made some inquiries into the Leitrim case, with the result that they are now considering what might be suitable compensation for the time spent in prison by this innocent man.

There is another case of the police being used for the encouragement of crime in the infamous attempt of Sergeant Sullivan to induce young men in the neighbourhood of Mulranny to fire into the house of a man named Kelly. Happily this attempt failed, with the result that the complicity of the Government in the case was proved. This same Sergeant Sullivan and two constables about the same time planted poteen on a poor man named Mulgrew, prosecuted him, and succeeded in getting him imprisoned for three months in Castlebar gaol. One of the police engaged in the business afterwards boasted that he got the poteen at a place called Glenhest, and put it where the others found it. For this dirty work Sullivan was rewarded by being removed from the wild West to a choice station near Dublin, and not only was he rewarded in that way, but it would appear that he is specially free from the punishment due to crime. Since his transfer a charge has been made against him which forced the county inspector of Meath to suspend him from duty, but instead of proceedings being taken against him the matter was hushed up, and to-day he is wearing the uniform of a police officer instead of the uniform of a convict in one of His Majesty's prisons. I will return to the poteen question by referring the House to the action of the Turlough, Balguary, and Pontoon police in the county of Mayo. Here the police saw there was an absence of crime, and an obnoxious man in the locality, inspired no doubt by the police, stated that he would tax the district by bringing in an extra police force. How did they set about the work? A conference of police sergeants from these three barracks was held, with the result that one of them, who has since been promoted, actually gave money to a poor man in the district (who is prepared to prove it) to enable him to buy the material for illicit distillation. According to a Return made at the instance of the Chief Secre- tary, as the result of a question put by me, a large number of seizures took place during that year, but no one was prosecuted, as the utensils were actually procured first by the police, and then seized by them, and duly reported. I can produce the men who saw them making the preparations, and who immediately went and broke into pieces the utensils for making illicit whisky. It may surprise the right hon. Gentleman to learn that the custodians of the law on these occasions were members of the United Irish League, and the criminals were the men who were paid to enforce the law.

I will give you another proof of the way the law is administered in Ireland. Within the past few weeks, two youths were prosecuted in Ballyhaunis for alleged boohing at the son of a notorious land-grabber named Frank O'Boyle. The police served a summons on a witness named Delaney who swore that they coached him in what he should say for the prosecution, and that he was actually swearing to their orders. I will quote a report of the proceedings taken from the Connaught TelegraphWillie Delaney, a sharp looking youngster, son of the herd on the island farm, who accompanied young O'Boyle on the evening of the 5th July, was then sworn, and he corroborated the evidence of the latter. The crowd called them the names already mentioned, and also cried out, 'Hi, for the dog, boys!' He identified the defendants as being in the crowd, and he saw Pat Carney carrying the old coat as a flag. Cross-examined by Mr. Barry: 'You are a cool young fellow, and you can swear fairly well?' 'I can, sir.' 'You would swear what you were told. Anyone having an interest in you would tell you what to swear here, and you would swear as directed. Is not that so?' 'Yes, sir.' 'You would swear what your father or O'Boyle or any of the police would tell you?' 'Yes, sir.' 'Who was speaking to you about this case?' 'I don't know.' 'You don't know? Was there anybody speaking to you about it?' 'There was.' 'Who was it?' 'Constable Searson; he was speaking to me down on the farm.' 'He came to have a talk with you, and I suppose he shook hands with you?' 'He did, sir.' 'He mentioned the names of Carney and Boyle?' 'He did, sir.' 'So I thought. You are an excellent Crown witness. I suppose he told you what to swear here against them?' 'He did, sir.' 'He told you it was your duty as the herd of the boycotted grabber to come in here and swear everything against Carney and Boyle?' 'He did, sir.' 'I am really delighted that the Crown handed you over to me. What did he say to you?' 'He said I should have to go to the court and swear what I was wanted against those two boys.' 'You have sworn what he told you to swear for the purpose of the prose- cution?' 'Yes.' 'Because O'Boyle is un popular in the district, because he is not liked by the people?' 'Yes, sir.' 'Did Constable Searson know the reason why O'Boyle was not liked?' 'Yes.' On this evidence they were bound over to keep the peace, or in default to spend a month in Castlebar Gaol. What a travesty of law! What a mockery of justice! Did they content themselves with that? No. After the two youths were convicted, the district inspector and the police surrounded them in the barracks, and tried to terrify them into giving bail to be of good behaviour, although they were determined to go to prison for the month, as they believed they were innocent of the charge against them. At first the boy Carney refused, and seeing no chance in that quarter, the district inspector went to the boy's father, and traded on his paternal feelings by pointing out the terrors of imprisonment. Mr. Carney told him in reply that the police had the same means at their disposal for getting up a fresh prosecution, and declined to give his consent. But this ingenious inspector, not to be baffled in his designs, gave his solemn promise that they would not be interfered with in future, unless the police could catch them by the hand in the act of committing what he alleged was a breach of the law. Now, I want to know from the Chief Secretary for Ireland what object this district inspector had in view, or whether he was acting in accordance with instructions received? Did this official and his subordinates then cease their evil work? No. A sergeant named Lyons, and a constable named Searson, accompanied the land-grabber into the licensed premises of Mr. Delaney, who is prominently connected with the United Irish League, although they had over forty other licensed houses between the barrack and Mr. Delaney's, clearly for the purpose of trumping up a case against him, and depriving him of his licence, because of his unwavering Nationalist principles. The land-grabber demanded a glass of whiskey in the presence of this sergeant, with note-book in hand, and when the whiskey was supplied, so disappointed was this busy-body sergeant, that he ran round the town pointing out to everybody that Mr. Delaney supplied a grabber, and asked some of the people what they thought of Mr. Delaney now. I want to kno can the law be respected when its officers act like blackguards and ruffians, thirsting for vengeance against Nationalists? When this creature, failed in his attempt to get Mr. Delaney in his meshes to make a case against him at the next licensing sessions, he went round to the members of the League, trying to arouse their ire against Mr. Delaney, but I am glad to learn that the people have treated these creatures as they deserve, with the greatest contempt.

I ask, Is that the way the law is administered in England and Scotland? No. Such scoundrelism is reserved for use in Ireland only, where the police know what pleases their superior officers and masters in Dublin Castle. Of course I cannot say whether work of that kind is the policy of the Chief Secretary. But there can be no doubt whatever that it is the policy of responsible police officers in the West of Ireland to encourage the commission of agrarian crime by their subordinates to blacken the United Irish League and get up an outcry against it. Within the past few weeks there is a sort of reign of terror in the Killmaclassar district, near West-port. There is a sort of martial law there. Some of the leading inhabitants cannot move night or day without being "shadowed" by police. Even the local district inspector spends whole nights at the doors of those people. And why? Simply to cover the ruffianism of some policeman who made an effort at spiking meadows in the locality. Like other blunderers, this uniformed "Captain Moonlight" wasn't smart enough, as he used a peculiar kind of iron peg that was in use in the Brockagh Barracks. It is time really that the Government should at once grapple with this grave question by granting the public inquiry into the acts of official blackguardism so often called for by the Mayo County Council, several district councils, and the different divisional executives and branches of the United Irish League in the country. I could give the House a large number of such cases in different parts of Ireland, but I think I have given quite enough to prove the policy of those who rule Ireland from Dublin Castle and Westminster. Apart altogether from the doings of the police, who, after all, are mere instruments in the hands of our rulers, and who do this terrible work to qualify themselves for promotion, we have the judges of the land forgetting the solemnity and dignity of their positions, assuming the role of Crown prosecutor once more and shrieking, as it were, with the vehemence of a Judge Keogh, for the blood of those charged before them for political offences.


Order, order! The hon. Member is not in order in referring in that manner to the judges.


We have leading Crown Prosecutors engaged in the unholy work of jury-packing, wherever a man is charged with being engaged in the furtherance of the national cause. The policy pursued by England in its government of Ireland has been a most ruinous one. During the past fifty years about 4,000,000 of our people have gone to other lands—going at the rate of well over 70,000 every year—and I am glad to say they have enough spirit to carry with them undying hatred to the Government that is the cause of their exile. The great war that is being waged in South Africa is not so destructive, so far as the numerical loss may be counted, as the drain of emigration from Ireland which is caused by the continued misgovernment of that country who do not know, nor care to understand, our people. Although light may be thrown on the way that things have been done in Ireland by English Ministers, who think it a duty to govern Ireland against the wishes of its people and their representatives, I fear it will have no beneficial result, as prejudice and social hatred are too deeply rooted in the ministerial mind to listen to anything coming from an Irish quarter. Many previous debates and Ministerial admissions have shown that not only the glorious constitution of England, but the rights of personal safety and private property, recognised by the ancestors of the Australian blacks who danced before the Duke of Cornwall the other day, are completely abrogated whenever the strange constituents of the few Tory members for Belfast take into their heads to indulge in an orgie of unbridled ruffianism.


Order, order: That is not language which can be used in regard to hon. Members of this House.


I was not referring to hon. Members, but to constituents of the hon. Members for Belfast. A glance into the real origin of those recurring disturbances will explain the responsibility of the authorities controlled by the Chief Secretary. It may be stated as a fact that was notoriously of common knowledge long before the recent riots or the prosecutions, that language of the most ruffianly and most inflammatory character—language so vile, so filthy, so utterly abominable that the newspapers declined even to indicate its character when it was repeated in public was used from the steps of a Government building for years. Why were those ruffianly Orangemen allowed to use the steps of a public building when the Nationalists would not he allowed to use the courthouses built by their own money for the United Irish League meetings, or even by a district council in the discharge of its business if a cad of a local magistrate objected? Are not these further reasons for protesting against the Chief Secretary's policy of Irish administration? Why are not precautions taken against the repetition of this disgusting and inflammatory language? Why are the police in Munster and Connaught instructed and hired to listen at windows and keyholes and to insult and obstruct peaceable meetings of United Irish Leaguers, while this tornado of unmentionable filth was being poured into the public ear every Sabbath afternoon in a city garrisoned by 1,000 policemen? Why was not a Government reporter sent to these meetings, which were undoubtedly of a dangerous character, and addressed by this terrible ruffian Widdowes, who got ten years and five months imprisonment here and in America for committing an unnatural crime, while official reporters have been sent all over the country to United Irish League meetings which were without exception of the most peaceable character? Perhaps I may answer and say more of English impartiality as we know it. In Munster and Connaught a man's liberty is endangered and his county proclaimed if he refuses to speak to some person whom he rightly regards as an enemy to his class and his race. But in happy Belfast and on the streets of Portadown any foul-mouthed scoundrel can come forth into a public arena and level the grossest insults and the most outrageous calumnies at holy women whose devoted lives have been given to the care of the helpless and the sorely stricken and the little children, and against saintly men whose time and talents are spent in the service of their people, their church, and their God. But that is not all.

There are other and even more significant facts in connection with these ever-recurring scenes of shame and violence in the city of Belfast. The right hon. Gentleman, whose administration in Ireland we impeach, knows of the existence of a scurrilous sheet called the Belfast Protestant, which I understand is produced under the direction of the vendors of the oratory I have described. This loathsome sheet is devoted from cover to cover almost to the circulation of libels and infamies more horrible and revolting than even those which these foul-mouthed authors are allowed to level against Catholic nuns and Catholic priests in the public streets and squares. The right hon. Gentleman has, I believe, seen this precious organ of the peculiar Protestantism professed by this leprous coterie of firebrands. He knows who prints it. He knows how it is circulated, or if he does not he could have made himself acquainted with the facts just as speedily as they could be transmitted over the telegraph wires. What has he done to stop the circulation—or rather distribution—of this pernicious source of bigotry amongst ignorant Orangemen in Belfast, and of hatred and ill-will between all classes of the community? Have thousands of police raised it all over Ulster? Or is it still untouched because the names of two of the Unionist representatives of Belfast figure prominently as generous subscribers to its funds, and the infamous propaganda it is carrying amongst the most violent sections of the people in cities and towns in Ulster? Or is it because his own policy has not been attacked as it has been attacked in the columns of the Irish People? Here in my place, and in the presence of the members of the Government, I say there is no law in Ireland, as law is understood in countries claiming to be civilised. The landlords and their henchmen, the jury-packing lawyers, the bailiffs, the sheriffs, and the police rule the south and west. Law and order in the north are absolutely subservient to the goodwill of the maddest gangs of bigots that ever disgraced human nature. And it is because these things are so, and that the Irish people and their representatives are face to face with such facts and circumstances every day of our lives, that I intervene in this discussion and protest against the continuance of a system of misgovernment which aims at nothing if it does not aim at the extermination of our Irish race.

In my own native county, close on 10,000 men are compelled to leave home every year to live a life of constant drudgery and hardship, only to leave their wives and children at home in such wretched circumstances as to prevent them from getting the necessary food, clothing, or education to fit them for the life before them. And all this while tens of thousands of acres of the best land in the world are left unfilled for the benefit of a few greedy individuals. This is more of English law as we know it in Ireland, and the present Chief Secretary is undoubtedly responsible for the continuance of that wretched state of affairs. The other night, in reply to some questions, I heard the Chief Secretary say that in Belfast the police never carry arms except for purposes of ceremonial display. Well, as far as I have observed, they do nothing more than have ceremonial displays in the south and west of Ireland. Whenever I go to my constituency, there appears to be a great ceremonial display, for no less than from fifty to one hundred policemen and officers follow me, armed with rifles, bayonets, batons, and all the paraphernalia of war, without any necessity whatever, as I believe. I am one of the most moderate of men in my demands. I will take this opportunity of asking hon. Members of this House how would they like to be treated when they visit their constituencies as I have been when time allows me to visit mine-On the last occasion I was at Ballyhaunis two policemen were stationed above my hotel door, two others below the door on the opposite side of the street, while a etective-sergeant and a constable kept walking up and down before the door during the time I was there. What kind of a policy was that? The Chief Secretary also said that policemen could not go into Harland and Wolff's place in Belfast, because it is private property; but I say they had as much right to go in there as to go into the back yard of my hotel and keep guard on it after I succeeded in leaving the hotel unknown to the six who were set to watch me. Is that more of English law as we know it in Ireland? I may take the liberty of telling the Chief Secretary that the sweetness of tongue and emptiness of promise mixed, as it has been, with a great deal of the callousness and brutality of the worst of his predecessors which has so far characterised him, will no longer be tolerated. He must not try to ride two horses at the same time, or he will come down as great a failure as any of those who fail to accomplish that most impossible task of governing a nation against its people's will.


It can hardly be expected that at this late hour of the night I shall be able to do full justice to the many points raised by hon. Members from Ireland. The hon. Member adduced a number of cases to prove that the police in Ireland were actuated by an unreasoning spirit of brutality towards the inhabitants of that country, and that, with the connivance of the Irish Secretary, they endeavoured to find fault with the United Irish League. The House will not be surprised to hear that I am not prepared to deal with all the cases to which the hon. Member referred, but among them I did recognise a number of old friends. There was the cross-examination of a boy. Is any reply needed to such a case? The boy dutifully replies, "Yes, Sir," to every question put to him by the cross-examining counsel, and I think any gentleman who has had experience of the law will agree that those questions were leading questions. If the hon. Member had read out the examination in-chief, no doubt we should have found that the answer was "Yes, Sir," to every question put by the other side, and that on re-examination the same simple method was followed. The reason more importance was attributed to the affirmative examination than the affirmative cross-examination is that the former was confirmed by the evidence of other witnesses, while the latter was absolutely uncorroborated. Then came the case of Sergeant Sullivan. The hon. Member said the sergeant was charged with an offence, and that the matter was hushed up. The charge was brought by a most disreputable character; it was closely examined into, and found to have not the slightest foundation. The sergeant was absolutely cleared, and yet upon that case the hon. Member not only attacked the constabulary, but attempted to involve the Government in a charge of supporting men who were unworthy of support, and of conniving at their offence, to the neglect of the proper maintenance of order in Ireland. I now come to the case of a man named McGoohan, who was convicted on a charge, and sentenced to two years imprisonment. I regret to say that that man was convicted on a false charge.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

Is it not the fact that sixty Catholics were ordered to stand by when the jury was being packed to convict him?


I have no knowledge of that fact, nor is it relevant to my argument. The charge made is that the Government habitually connive at the infamous administration of the law. I think I have fairly disposed of two cases, and cleared the police and the Government of any such imputation I am now dealing with the third case, in regard to which I openly state my opinion that the sergeant of police was guilty of infamous conduct, that he was a cunning and unscrupulous scoundrel, and that on evidence given by him an innocent man was sent to prison for two years. I instituted a most searching inquiry into that case; I left no steps untaken which would enable me to arrive at the truth. When I obtained proof, I directed that the innocent victim of this infamous action should be substantially compensated, and public reparation made to him.


What compensation?


I prefer not to state the amount, but it is substantial. That illustrates the attitude of the Government towards so lamentable and rare an occurrence.


Not rare.


I may say that a searching inquiry has been instituted into the records of any similar occurrences in this country, and compensation on the highest scale that can be discovered will be given. That is a very frank statement, and it is typical of the attitude of the British Government. ["Oh, oh."] There were three courses open to me with regard to this officer. There was no evidence on which this sergeant could have been prosecuted in a court of law. I might have said, "I am am dissatisfied with this sergeant's evidence. I will therefore remove him to another district. No charge can be brought against him on which a conviction could be secured; therefore I can take no further steps." Or I might have instituted a prosecution, knowing that no conviction could be secured. I think the best course was that of making a departmental inquiry, and dismissing the sergeant from the force, thereby inflicting upon him a very great punishment, as he loses his pay, his position, and his prospect of pension.

I have dealt with the three cases I recognise in the long tissue of vehement denunciations, and if I had had warning of the others, doubtless I could have disposed of them in a similar manner. I do not charge the hon. Member with bringing forward these accusations without in some sense believing them to be true. I think he is deeply concerned over some of these agrarian disputes which unfortunately have raged in Ireland for many years, and which to a limited degree rage still. But I ask the House whether any solution to the Irish land difficulty is to be found in such an attitude as the hon. Member has adopted to-night? The case of Mr. Phibbs was mentioned. Let me tell the House the origin of that case. There is in Ireland a farm into which the surrounding tenants were permitted by the landlord to place certain capital. The tenants desired to buy that farm. There is no machinery in the Statute-book enabling them to do so. In order to secure their object, by what process of reasoning I cannot imagine, they withdrew their capital from the farm. I do not think that was a wise proceeding, and I doubt whether it was legal. The farm being left derelict of their own will and motion, another man offers to take it. It is let to him. That man is entitled to all the protection the law can give him. Apart from the illegality of subjecting that man to petty annoyance, and people in humbler circumstances who serve him to great oppression, it is stupidity. How can such action advance by one year or one day any satisfactory solution of the land question in Ireland? Is it not clear that if this illegal, wicked, and stupid war is waged, any such appeal as is made to me cannot be entertained by any Government which may happen to be in power? But fortunately these melancholy events, which at one time were spread over a large area of Ireland, are now confined to small districts, which can and will be dealt with. Therefore I have not altogether set on one side the hope that the Government may be able in the future to take up once more the difficult task of passing land legislation for Ireland which may hasten the solution of the difficulty which all desire. It is quite clear that you cannot deal with the Irish land question unless you banish from the social atmosphere of Ireland disorder and oppression. Only when that has been done can anybody hope to carry out this difficult task of reconstruction.

The hon. Member for the Scotland Division opened his speech by trying to draw an analogy between some features in the Irish agrarian question and some features in the situation in South Africa. He pointed out that it is the policy of the Government when the war is over to give assistance to the citizens of the two republics to take up the pursuit of agriculture. Yes, Sir, when the war is over, and to those who have ceased to wage war. Everything turns upon that. The hon. Member instanced the case of the evicted tenants, who had taken part in the Plan of Campaign. That was a land war—I accept the description—a war the wisdom of which was doubted by many of the hon. Members who then sat on those benches. These derelict farms are the monuments of that war. Can those monuments be abolished unless every intention to renew that war has been abandoned? It is in no spirit of vindictiveness that I say it would be wrong to Ireland and wrong to Irishmen, who may be tempted to imitate those courses, to use exceptional State action to put back those evicted tenants until all parties in Ireland have abandoned any intention of renewing that war. In saying that I am but repeating what was said by the First Lord of the Treasury on a somewhat similar occasion. I will quote his words, because they give very accurately my own view of this matter. He said— I for one should certainly not contemplate it—(that is, using the money and the legislative power of Parliament for this purpose)—with equanimity unless every sect or party would hold out to us the hope that we have seen the end of these things. If there is no prospect of the renewal of this warfare certainly it is to the interests of the Government to wipe out all traces of the warfare, of the past. But so long as there is a prospect of the renewal of this warfare—and I say this in no spirit of vindictiveness—the Government cannot come to the assistance of those who may be tempted to adopt this course in the future.

I quite readily accept one sentence which fell from the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool. He said that this question could not be settled by force, and that the only way to settle it permanently was by amicable agreement. I accept that statement, and I say that I think no lasting good can be done in regard to the land question except by the co-operation of all those interested in it. I am profoundly convinced of the truth of that statement. If you can accomplish this object by means which are desirable and legitimate this may prove beneficial to Ireland. The hon. Member at the beginning of his speech claimed that the leaseholders had only entered into a legitimate combination for the benefit of the land. Does that statement not make us pause and reflect? The object of this agitation is simply to hunt out these leaseholders and take from them their land. [Nationalist cries of "No, no!"] But I know of cases of this kind. The difficulty in Ireland springs largely from the fact that a great part of Ireland is occupied by what I may call agricultural slums. The present First Lord of the Treasury is the first statesman who attempted to deal with these agricultural slums. In my opinion the only hope of a successful solution of the problem is by pursuing the line which my right hon. friend laid down, but how can we increase holdings that are too small if land which they might buy in the open market is being made the subject of illegal oppression and open disorder? Owing to economic disasters in the past, and owing to hasty legislation—I refer to the work of the Encumbered Estates Court—there are in Ireland many properties upon which it is no man's interest and in no man's power to take any steps to benefit such properties. We can only deal with that question by legislation, and yet I have in my mind a case which was referred to at question time. One of these estates is at present in the courts, and it is stated in this case that those who have the administration of this estate would be ready to sell one farm upon the estate to the occupiers in the neighbourhood. But what was done in this case? A meeting was summoned in order to intimidate the person who owns this farm. Can any court of law or any Government worthy of the name countenance a proceeding so disorderly and fraught with the most evil consequences? Why cannot this farm be bought by entering into negotiations for purchase by offering a fair price? I believe this can be done, and will be done in those parts of Ireland where we are not confronted with lawlessness and disorder. I recognise that at this time of the night I cannot discuss fully the Irish land question. In my opinion this is the first and the last question connected with the welfare of Ireland, and it deserves the earnest and the serious attention of all those who may cherish the hope that something may be done for the agricultural community in Ireland. But the Irish land question can never be solved so long as recourse is had to violence and disorder in preference to the more certain method of legislation by agreement.