HC Deb 17 August 1901 vol 99 cc1306-37


Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

I desire to bring under the attention of the House a question, very narrow, perhaps, but yet one of the gravest public importance, and looking back at the history of Ireland for the last ten or twenty years, in my opinion it would be impossible to think of any question of more vital importance, affecting as it does the confidence of the people of Ireland in the fair administration of the law. It will be in the recollection of every Member of the House who has taken any interest in Irish affairs that from time to time, for many years past, statements have been made and rumours have been spread that there existed in Ireland an infamous system which, if it was not openly sanctioned by the highest authorities, was at least winked at and encouraged by powerful subordinate officials—a system utterly opposed and odious to the law and practice of this country, namely, the system of allowing police agents to organise and manufacture crime in Ireland. Of course the Government always repudiate all responsibility for such proceedings, but nevertheless the fact remains, that in the minds of the public in Ireland the belief exists—a widespread belief—that this is an accepted and adopted system amongst police officers in Ireland.

Now, Sir, a case has recently occurred, the particulars of which are fresh in the minds of most Members in the House—a case surrounded by circumstances of the most mysterious character and most far-reaching influence. I refer to the case of the dismissal of Sergeant Sheridan and Constable Mahony from the Royal Irish Constabulary force. The facts of this case can be very briefly stated. On the 1st January this year, Sergeant Sheridan and Constable Mahony, stationed at Mullagh, County Clare, arrested a tramp named Ryan on the charge of having been caught red-handed in the act of posting threatening notices. Subsequently Ryan was found to have two threatening notices in one of his pockets; he was brought before the magistrates, and the case was adjourned from one petty sessions to another, until finlly Ryan was discharged and allowed to go free on the ground that the evidence against him was insufficient. Soon after, marvellous to report, Sergeant Sheridan and Constable Mahony were dismissed from the police force, apparently in disgrace, and deprived of their right of pension. No charge was preferred against them, and they were therefore left absolutely helpless as regards clearing their character. Sheridan immediately demanded a public sworn inquiry. The annals of the police force afforded a precedent for such a course, for a few years ago a Constable Maloney, stationed in the county Wicklow, who was discharged from the force under similar circumstances, demanded such an inquiry, which was at first refused, but was subsequently granted, with the result that Maloney was exonerated from the charges against him, and reinstated in the force. Therefore the demand made in the present case by Sergeant Sheridan was in accordance with the practice previously recognised. He asked for the inquiry on the ground that he was dismissed wrongly and on a false charge, and that the tramp Ryan was really guilty of having the threatening notices in his possession. In presenting his demand he put before his superior officers a totally different theory of what occurred in the case. But the demand was refused. The question was raised in the House, and it is important to examine the reason that was given for the refusal. We were told that "the evidence by which they attempted to substantiate the charges against Ryan was contradictory and unsatisfactory," and it was also said that" there was no evidence to show that the charges were concocted or that the charges were true, and that there was not enough of evidence to secure conviction." I come now to one of the points I wish to emphasise. Was it not a rather strong measure to dismiss two police officers in disgrace and reduce them to beggary without affording them an opportunity of clearing themselves if they could? In my experience it is absolutely without precedent in the history of the Irish police force to dismiss two members of it on the simple ground that their evidence was insufficient to procure conviction. I am not stating what may be in my own mind. I am repeating what the Government stated in this House. That in itself is one of the mysterious circumstances in the case.

I now come to another stage in these strange proceedings. The case remained in the position I have described until quite recently. These officers came to me and to other Members of this House and asserted most positively that they were victims of a conspiracy, that they were perfectly innocent, and that the man Ryan admitted to them while in the barrack that he was guilty of having the notices in his possession. These men actually begged me to bring the case under the notice of the Government, so that they might have at least the justice of a public inquiry, and I did so, with the result that I could get no satisfactory reply, beyond what I have already stated. The inquiry, which I think in common justice they ought to have, was refused, but why? What are the Government afraid of? If the men have misbehaved themselves, their position will be all the worse. If they have not, then they ought to be cleared of suspicion. This attempt to hide all information and to shirk all investigation is another of the mysterious circumstances of the case. The inquiry, if it served no other purpose, would set at rest the rumours in circulation about the action and conduct of the police. I have received many letters in reference to this case, not only from the locality in which this occurrence took place, but from other parts of the county Clare and from the county Leitrim, where Sheridan was at one time or another stationed, and in all of these letters I am told it is the firm conviction of the public in those places that Sheridan for many years had been engaged in organising crime and obtaining the conviction of innocent people, and I say that this affords a strong additional ground for an inquiry, for even if those impressions are utterly unfounded it would be of the utmost importance to remove them once for all from the minds of the public. Coming to the next stage in the case, I learned that, while the Government were refusing to hold an inquiry publicly as we demanded, they were prosecuting an elaborate secret inquiry behind the backs of Sheridan and all others interested into the previous history of the transactions in which Sheridan was engaged in his capacity as a police officer. I got a letter from a man in the county Leitrim informing me that this inquiry was going on. I think it is an extraordinary thing that you refuse a man a public inquiry when he demands it, and when there is a precedent for it, and at the same time go behind his back and without his knowledge bring the whole machinery of the detective force into operation, and give him no chance of defending himself. What was the result of this secret inquiry? The result was that it bore out fully, in the judgment of the Government, the sinister rumours to which I have already alluded. The Chief Secretary himself has told us that this man Sheridan had not only sinned in the case of Ryan, but that he was a cunning, unscrupulous scoundrel. That was an appalling admission. This police officer, who was dismissed in disgrace, had been engaged for a period extending over seven or eight years in a steady, systematic conspiracy for the manufacture of crime and for the conviction of innocent men, and had actually succeeded in sending several to gaol for lengthened terms of imprisonment. That is a terrible record. And to make it worse, this man Sheridan was not acting alone. Both in the county Leitrim and at Hospital, in the county Clare, he was acting in co-operation with other police officers, who are still in the service of the Crown, and still probably carrying on the same nefarious work.

I want to know what the intentions of the Government are with regard to Sheridan's confederates in the force? Admitting the Government view that Sheridan, the Chief Secretary said, has deceived the Government and sent innocent men to gaol, what will the Government do in regard to his confederates, who are still active in Ireland? I think we are entitled to a full disclosure in this matter. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the subject. In order to illustrate the gravity of the case I will take the history of one out of the many victims whom this man Sheridan, on the admission of the Government, sent to gaol on concocted charges and for long terms of imprisonment. I take first the case of Dan McGoohan, in the county Leitrim. This Sergeant Sheridan some three or four years ago charged this man McGoohan with having committed the peculiarly cowardly, disgusting, and abominable outrage of cutting off the tails of cows. McGoohan was a respectable young farmer, and when this atrocious outrage was laid to his charge the magistrates, on the evidence of Sheridan and another policeman, committed him for trial to Sligo Winter Assizes, and there a most dramatic incident occurred. The first jury empanelled to try the case was a mixed jury, and they disagreed, whereupon the judge spoke rather violently, and announced that owing to this failure of justice the jury list would be called again under fines of £20. On the second occasion sixty Catholic jurors were ordered to stand aside, and a jury picked from the Protestants and Orangemen of Sligo was sworn to re-try the case—


How do you know they were Orangemen?


No others would have convicted an innocent man on concocted evidence. The jury was shamefully packed, and McGoohan was found guilty and sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour. To add to the dramatic interest of this trial, a policeman named Sullivan was tried on the same day at the same assizes, on the charge of conspiring to create crime—a charge that was first brought against him by a Member of this House, Mr. William O'Brien, and a charge which the Crown was forced reluctantly to take up. What happened? In the case against Sullivan, who was charged with inciting one man to murder another, the Crown made no effort whatever to procure a conviction. The Crown made it plain that they did not desire a conviction. But in the case against McGoohan, all the machinery of the Crown was put in motion, and sixty Catholic jurors were ordered to stand by. Is not that a dramatic illustration of the way in which justice is administered in Ireland. All the assistance of the Crown was given to Sheridan to convict the poor man McGoohan; all the powers of the Crown were pushed to their utmost extremity in the selection and packing of the jury, and thus Sheridan was enabled to attain his object; while, on the other hand, in the case against Sullivan, who was a policeman charged with manufacturing crime, the Crown made no effort to secure a conviction, and Sullivan was acquitted. For their services in the McGoohan case Sergeant Sheridan and Constable Reed got £5 reward and promotion in the force. But the matter does not end there. A friend of mine, writing from Leitrim, mentions a significant circumstance in connection with Sheridan's stay in that county. He says:—"When Sheridan came to this district a series of outrages broke out, and lasted while he remained, and when he left the outrages absolutely ceased." Does not that reveal a very terrible condition of affairs? It is not the only evidence against Sheridan. Another man stated at the private inquiry instituted by the right hon. Gentleman that Sheridan asked him to get up a party and break into the house of a man named Curran, who, it was said, openly alleged that Sergeant Sheridan, and not McGoohan, was the man who cut off the tails of the cows in the case to which I have already referred. The man whom Sheridan tried to induce to commit this crime was on bad terms with Curran, and obviously Sheridan's object was to kill two birds with one stone—namely, to revenge himself on Curran for stating that he (Sheridan) committed the outrage for which poor McGoohan was convicted and at the same time organise a fresh crime to enable him to show his ability as a police officer to secure another £5 reward and further promotion. Is not that a nice revelation of the condition of things to which the country is reduced? At the trial in Sligo McGoohan strongly protested his innocence, and when Sheridan's comrade, Constable Reed, was called to give evidence he besought him in the name of God to tell the truth, but Reed only corroborated his sergeant's testimony. At the trial Sheridan gave his evidence most satisfactorily, and everybody saw that he was an able man; but Reed broke down, and his evidence at the second trial was inconsistent with his evidence at the preliminary investigation. McGoohan was convicted wrongly, and sent to gaol for two years, and Reed is still in the police force. McGoohan has since been released, and the Crown are so convinced of his innocence that they are now prepared to give him compensation. I hope it will be substantial compensation. The first thing McGoohan did on being released was to go before a magistrate and swear an affidavit that he was innocent.

Now, I ask, what is going to be done with these two men who, I say, are not only guilty of the abominable crime for which McGoohan was convicted, but guilty also of organising other outrages? Are they to be allowed to go scot-free? I say it is impossible for the Government to refuse us an investigation. This is not an isolated case. All the evidence, including the Government's own admission, goes to show that Sheridan's guilt did not stop at the Leitrim case, but that he was engaged during his entire stay in the county in organising a series of outrages. Another curious coincidence is that the police barrack at which Sheridan was stationed was about to be removed when this outrage was committed. I believe that the practice is not at all uncommon in Ireland when the district is a peaceful one, and the danger arises of a reduction in the police force, these outrages are organised to give opportunity to the police of obtaining promotion for themselves, and, from the political point of view, of blackening the name and fame of the country.

I now come to the cases at Hospital, cases which, although perhaps not quite so dramatic, are equally significant, and in which compensation is to be given. The first is the case of a man—I forget his name now—who was convicted for firing a rick of hay and sentenced to a long term of imprisonment. The man died a few months after his release. At the time of his trial he protested his innocence, and now it is admitted by the Crown that he was wrongfully convicted and subjected to the most cruel of all sentences—worse than penal servitude—namely, two years hard labour.


It was penal servitude.


I was not quite sure about that. At all events, it killed him. Now his mother is to be compensated. He protested all along his innocence, and he is admitted to have been the victim of a foul conspiracy. There was another case in which a police officer co-operated with Sheridan, and he is still in the force. Another man was convicted in Hospital. He pleaded guilty. This poor fellow, knowing the impossibility of obtaining justice in Ireland, was actually advised by his solicitor to plead guilty, although he knew he was innocent. He did so, and so got off with some small sentence. I commend this to the notice of the House. The innocent man who pleads guilty gets only six months; the innocent man who defends himself gets three years penal servitude! Is it not a nice state of affairs for any civilised country? I believe in the next case also the man was admitted to be innocent. I see that the Chief Secretary admits that, but of course I do not know that; I have to feel my way along, for I received my facts from Ireland. The police committed outrages for the purpose of convicting those men and getting promotion. They accuse innocent men, and these men, in view of the impossibility of being acquitted by a packed jury, are advised to plead guilty so as to get a light sentence, and they do so! In the case of poor McGoohan the same advice was given to him by the solicitor who appeared for him. He said, "What chance have you before a Sligo packed jury?" But to his credit McGoohan refused, and said, if he was going to his grave for it, he would not admit an offence of which he was not guilty. I put it to hon. Members, is not that an awful state of things in a country supposed to be civilised, that innocent men are advised to plead guilty because the police are prepared to swear against them? How the Government can have the face, in view of the state of the public mind in Ireland, to refuse a public inquiry into all the details of this case surpasses my understanding. That is not the whole of the conspiracy. It is only the leakage, the sudden revelation, as if by a flash of lightning, of the system which we believe has been going on for years. It brings my mind back to the case, famous, or rather infamous, in its day, when, on the eve of a suppressed meeting, I addressed the men of Clare, and in connection with which one of those infamous police agents was paid by the police, as he admitted in court, to organise one of those moonlight outrages It was drawn out of him in court that his character was wholly infamous, that there could not be a more hideous life history, and yet he was in the pay of the police for ten years! It was brought out in evidence by the district inspector examining him at the preliminary investigation, that two days after I addressed the meeting he spoke to the people, and said: "You have heard Mr. Dillon's speech; are you not going to follow it up by action?" And that he sought to make it out that he was a kind of informal agent of mine, evidently for the purpose of bringing me into it. And it was admitted by this man that he had been paid ten shillings by the police to organise this outrage; that he went to a publichouse and got so drunk that he fell in the street, was discovered there by the police, brought back to the barrack, put to bed, made sober, and was given another half sovereign, and sent out again to organise this outrage. It was put into his mouth that the motive was, "That it was necessary to carry out Mr. Dillon's views." These are the things which occur from time to time.

There is a belief in Ireland that this system is winked at, and I say it is the duty of the Government to clear up this whole matter in all its ramifications. Sergeant Sheridan begged me to put his case before the House of Commons. He says he is the victim of a prolonged conspiracy on the part of his officer, District-Inspector Irwin (?), who was a confederate of the infamous French—I dare say the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary remembers French—who was the head of the Irish Detective Department, and was one of the most infamous men who ever served any Government, who organised a conspiracy for the commission of unnatural crimes, and was convicted and sentenced for that offence. Irwin stood by him throughout his trial, and was one of his chief confidants throughout his defence, and he was also one of the chief agents of The Times in the infamous Pigott case. Sheridan is, it seems, a man who, as the Government admitted, was organising crimes. He says this man Ryan really had the notice in his pocket, that he was the secret agent of the Government going about the country organising crime, and was in the act of posting this notice in pursuance of a conspiracy for crime. I see the Chief Secretary laughs at that. I do not know myself whether there is a word of truth in it, but why should it not be as true as the Clare case? The Chief Secretary is new to Irish administration. Let him remember that in the Clare case the police themselves, and the Crown Prosecutor, admitted that this man had been in their pay for ten years. Ryan disappeared from the public view, being discharged as an innocent man. Sheridan says he dropped upon the wrong man and got into disfavour with the authorities. Do not imagine that I support that statement at all. I support neither statement, but I say that a more monstrous transaction it would be impossible to conceive, and that the Government cannot possibly hope to face Irish public opinion upon this matter until the whole machinery of the law is cleared of the disgrace which attaches to it. I press the Government for an inquiry. What are you going to do with this police officer still in the force who acted with Sheridan? Will the Government, in addition to a public inquiry, have a searching inquiry into the police force itself? Will the Chief Secretary give us a pledge that he will undertake to satisfy himself that this system of agent provocateur is not still going on in Ireland, and if it is, will he put a stop to it? It is an odious and horrible system, and would not be tolerated for a moment in this country. I am sorry it has been allowed for generations in Ireland. So long as it is tolerated there, so long will it be impossible for the Government to secure respect for the administration of the law.


I think the House will agree that at this late period of the session it is only right that I should at once reply to the speech to which we have just listened. The hon. Member said that there was a great deal of mystery about this case. So far as I am concerned, there is none. I will ask the House to listen while I state the action which the Government has taken and the ground on which they base that action. The hon. Member says it was necessary to clear up these mysteries. Yes; but I very much regret that in presenting his case he should have thought it necessary to rake up the crimes and scandal of French fifteen years ago, to attack the Orangemen, and to drag into the case allegations for which there is no foundation. I think it would have been far better if he had confined himself to the particular case of Sheridan, and I propose to follow that course. So far as the hon. Member did so, he balances between two views, one that Sheridan himself is the victim of a widespread conspiracy, the other, that as a detective officer he has been instrumental in procuring the conviction of four innocent men. Now, I have no hesitation in saying that he did procure the conviction of four innocent men, but I will ask the House to follow me whilst I treat this case historically, as it came to my own knowledge. It is not mysterious, but it is much the most unpleasant and distressing case with which I have been brought into contact during the period I have been Irish Secretary. I do not intend to claim, and I am not entitled to claim, that the Government has taken the best course. Opinions may be divided as to that, but I do claim that there was no course which could be wholly satisfactory. If we had proceeded by the prosecution of Sergeant Sheridan, he would have inevitably been acquitted. There was no evidence upon which we could have put him on his trial, because the evidence against him was his own depositions. Your witness was gone when he was put into the box, because your witness was identical with your criminal. Prosecution would, there tore, have been abortive. Had Sheridan been put upon his trial, his innocence would have been established, and, therefore, so far as the case of Ryan was concerned, he would have been kept in high position in the force, with a record of great ability and dexterity and success in detective operations, and no reparation could have been given to the victims, assuming that they were victims, as I think that they were. The hon. Member says that McGoohan is cleared. 1, too, say he is, but the hon. Member is labouring between two views—


I said that I had no material for judging. I laid the two views before the House.


In my opinion there were two things to be done. One was to get at the bottom of the truth, to find out the truth of what had been going on; the other was to make reparation to the victims of villainy, if villainy had been practised. I come back to the point of the case against Ryan, whom, I understand, Sheridan represents to be a cunning agent. Ryan was really a poor old tramp about sixty-five years of age, tottering, debilitated, and nearly blind. Sheridan arrested him upon a charge of affixing a threatening notice to a gate. Sheridan's evidence as given on deposition broke down, and it was clear from an inspection of the spot that he could not have seen the actions that he stated he had seen from the place that he said he had observed them from. So that it was clear to the Crown that Sheridan was fabricating evidence and improving the case, if there was a case, and it was clear that Ryan should not be convicted. It was also clear that if you reversed the process and put Sheridan upon his trial he would not be convicted. There was no legal evidence on which the charge could be brought home. But the Crown has a right to dismiss a police officer if they believe it is for the good of the service and of the public, and it has a right to do so without giving any reasons for it. Sheridan was dismissed from the force because it was clear that he was not conducting the charge in a straightforward manner. But I was not satisfied with that. I took that course because I wished to clear the force of Sheridan. There were two other courses. One was to put him on his trial. If I had done that his reputation would have been whitewashed. The other one was to say, "There is no real evidence against this man, though it was true he had made a mess of the case, and we will therefore transfer him to another district and leave him there." If that course had been followed the hon. Member could not have made his speech, because the statements he made about the other cases are only known to him in consequence of the secret departmental investigation which I ordered to take place. The other constable, Mahony should have had the courage to disown Sheridan and tell the truth, but he had not the moral courage. Then I looked up the records of all the cases in which men had been convicted upon the evidence of this sergeant, and I directed that a secret and most searching investigation should be made of all these cases. That was the policy which I adopted, not thinking it was a wholly satisfactory ending to so melancholy a business, but sincerely believing that it was the best course to pursue if I was to arrive at the truth. If I instituted a public inquiry (I do not blame the hon. Member for suggesting that course) the young policemen who were unduly under the influence of this wicked and most able man would not have given any evidence if they had been called upon to do so. One of the first maxims of the law is that a witness need not say anything which would incriminate himself, and they would have been, of course, warned to that effect, and, although this is not a wholly satisfactory way, if you wish to get at the bottom of such an evil as this, you must have a secret inquiry, and acquire some evidence by the distasteful process of telling them that if they tell the truth they shall not suffer for it, and I believe it was the only course by which public reparation could be made to Bray, or, rather, for I am sorry to say that he is dead, to his mother, to Patrick Murphy, and to Daniel McGoohan. I say that these three men were convicted upon evidence that I do not believe, and evidence which I can demonstrate to be false. But it was not evidence which was obviously false on the face of it. Sheridan was not only an immoral and a wicked man, but an extraordinarily clever man; but when suspicion was aroused, and when I looked into these three previous convictions, I was struck by the extraordinary fact that in each one of the eases Sergeant Sheridan went out to find a particular crime, and then found it.


That is not at all an uncommon thing in Ireland.


I beg the hon. Member's pardon. If this had happened once it would have been a strange coincidence; if it happened twice it would be a matter for incredulity; but as it happened three times it brought conviction to my mind that Sergeant Sheridan invented the crime and then discovered it. That is true in all these cases. In a case of burning hay he was coming down a road with a young police officer, who believed in him explicity, because he was considered so able a detective. He observed a light. It was clear, after the inquiry, that no one could have located that light; but Sheridan suggests to this young police constable that the light is at a particular place on Quinlan's farm. They then arrest a man near the spot, and afterwards find that the hay has been burned. The same concatenation of events occurs in another case involving the maiming of cattle. Someone is arrested, and they come to the place and the cattle are found maimed. There is the same sequence of events also in the case of the donkey being stabbed. I do not ask if the House will accept my word—I know they will do so—but my judgment. I have carefully stated the result of these searching inquiries. It is clear to me that there were three gross miscarriages of justice; it is clear also that, with one exception, the young policemen were not Sheridan's confederates in a criminal conspiracy. They were under his influence, and they had not the moral courage, when the time came, to stand up and say, "This man's account of what took place does not agree accurately with what is in my recollection." They believed they were serving under a brilliant detective officer, and it is not outside the history of detective work that such men at length become fascinated by crime. That is what happened in this case. Sheridan, the clever detective officer, became a villain in exercising; his profession, and influenced and dazzled some young men by the force of his character and his ability. I could not have arrived at the truth of the matter unless I had this statement by all these young fellows. We said, "Give the whole truth, and if you do you won't suffer by it." We got it. The force is rid of Sheridan; three innocent men have had reparation done to them; those dependent upon the fourth have received compensation. I believe that by the course pursued this result could alone have been achieved. It would have been easier to hold a public inquiry, but you could not have arrived at the truth and made reparation. I leave the course that has been pursued to the judgment of the House.

MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

I am sure that no one on the Nationalist benches will deny that the right hon. Gentleman has acted with very great courage in this matter. He has given a most able defence of the judgment which he formed of this case. He has acknowledged with courageous frankness three gross miscarriages of justice. But it is necessary to point out that in dealing with this matter we are dealing with a system old, hoary, and well-established in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. But the fact is that the Irish Members had been fighting this system for many years before he occupied his present office, or, indeed, before he was in Parliament at all. This is not a question affecting one particular Administration; it is a system which has obtained under different Governments—Tory and Liberal Administrations have alike had their victims. Let hon. Members recall the case of Bryan Kilmartin if they wish to recognise how literally true that statement is. From 1880–85 there was a Liberal Administration in power, Lord Spencer was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and Sir George Trevelyan was Chief Secretary. Session after session Kilmartin's case was raised. He had been sent to penal servitude for ten years for shooting at a man with intent to murder. He had always protested his innocence, and even when we were able, years after, to produce the dying deposition of a man who confessed to being the author of the crime, we were met by the suggestion that such depositions were not always to be trusted, and that they were as frequently the manifestations of fraud as the revelation of truth. What happened? There was a change of Ministry. Lord Carnarvon became Viceroy, and the facts were again gone into. The worst of the administration of the law in Ireland is that it has too often been treated as a party issue, and unjust verdicts have been defended, because a reversal might be inconvenient to the party in power. Lord Carnarvon went to Ireland, Kil-martin was released, and his innocence established, and when Lord Carnarvon went to the west of Ireland the man who drove his car was the same man Kilmartin, who had served five years penal servitude. We do not raise this as a party question, but simply to show that these gross miscarriages of justice are as possible under one Administration as another.

Let us for a moment consider what are the admitted facts. A man is sentenced to two years imprisonment upon a horrible charge of mutilating a cow. He serves his two years, but is found to be convicted unjustly, and sentenced unjustly. Another man is unjustly sentenced to three years penal servitude, and serves his sentence, and is murdered by his sentence. The third case is that of a man who, admittedly innocent, pleads guilty, because he is advised by his solicitor that there is no hope for him, and so gets off with a lighter sentence. Does not that throw a strange light on the administration of justice in Ireland? Are things like this possible in France? When the Dreyfus case was at its height in France, and the press of this country was pouring a perfect Niagara of vituperation upon, not only the military tribunals, but even other tribunals in France, I felt it my duty to privately ask Englishmen, "Do you think it impossible that this could have taken place anywhere else?" and I think I said in this House that such conspiracies were very successful in Ireland. But here is the difference. In France the whole nation was torn to pieces, the form of government was tottering, and there was an outbreak of passion almost equal to civil war—all over the question of whether an unpopular man, a member of an unpopular race, had been fairly tried. I fail to see any such moral uprising against the Dreyfus cases of Ireland. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman the terrible risks of trial by packed juries. Sheridan would have been powerless without the Attorney General, because when Sheridan brought his case against McGoohan there was a mixed jury; McGoohan was tried by a jury of his peers, and that jury was able to form what is now admitted to be a correct judgment of the case, and he was not convicted. Then came the Attorney General, or those acting in accord with him or under his instructions, and when McGoohan was tried again sixty men were ordered to stand aside. McGoohan was then tried upon the evidence of this perjured police-sergeant by a jury of his political and religious opponents. Trial by a packed jury is most dangerous in cases of a class war or a state of national struggle, the terrible danger about it being the result of these trials. It is only natural when a man is tried by men of another political creed or religious faith, even if there be no case against the man, to find a case. That system of administering justice must stand condemned. The net moral is, can a system of government be right under which these things are possible. The fact of the matter is, the right hon. Gentleman is the victim of circumstances. He is the victim of a system which has been going on for centuries, and which is a scandal to this country.


said he was extremely reluctant to intervene in any debate on the last day of the session, but he felt compelled to make a few observations, having regard to what had been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite. He had been an Orangeman for over half a century, and he desired to point out that it was part of the obligation taken by Orangemen when they first joined the Orange Society not to wrong any man on account of his religious opinions. Charges had been brought against the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland in this House which the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly able and competent to deal with. One of those charges was that he encouraged outrageous ruffianism on the part of Orangemen in the north of Ireland. A more unfounded charge had never been made within the four walls of the House of Commons. There had been rioting in Ireland, and an Orangemen or two may have been in it, but recently the Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast had passed a resolution against these outrages, and against interference with the liberty of the subject in Belfast. More than half a million of men were banded together to maintain the integrity of the Empire in the Orange Society, and he firmly believed that if hon. Members opposite could divest themselves of some of their extraordinary prejudices they would do justice to the principles of the Orange organisation, which was as noble a body as ever was formed in the Empire. An attack had been made upon the administration of justice in Ireland, and it had been stated that it was impossible to obtain justice from a Protestant jury where the person arraigned was a Roman Catholic. He would only give his own experience. He was an Orangeman in 1868, and in that year was placed in the dock charged with taking part in an Orange procession. A jury was empannelled on that occasion, many of whom were Orangemen, and all of whom he thought were Protestant. That jury did their duty, and although he was an Orangeman they convicted him. Subsequently the Act under which he had been convicted was repealed. In 1872 he, being in Canada, was thanked by a body of Irishmen for having helped to obtain this extension of freedom, and Mr. John O'Farrell, head of the Fenian organisation in Canada, proposed to serenade him. While Nationalists in this House protested against what they regarded as injustice, they would do well to protest also against the language of some people opposed to British rule. He alluded particularly to the recent recommendations by O'Donovan Rossa to set fire to English towns in order to obtain what he called justice to Ireland. That suggestion was made at a meeting of Irishmen in Chicago, with Mr. Michael Davitt as one of the speakers.


remarked that, though Mr. Davitt had spoken in Chicago, he was not at the meeting to which Mr. Johnston referred.


If the hon. Member disclaims this suggestion to set fire to English towns, I gladly accept his disclaimer.


That is very unfair. I might as well ask the hon. Member whether he repudiates a desire to murder his constituents.


had no wish to hurt the feelings of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and if he had done so he sincerely regretted it.

MR. CLANCY (Dublin County, N.)

said that he did not intend to deal with the speech just delivered further than to say that neither one of the four hon. Members representing Belfast had thought it his duty to denounce from his place in this House the outrages in Belfast.


said that Colonel Saunderson, the Grand Master of the Orangemen of Belfast and the chairman of the Irish Unionist party in this House, had repudiated them on behalf of the Irish Unionists.


said that might or might not be, but he noted that not a single hon. Member representing Belfast had repudiated these outrages in Belfast. He associated himself with the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool in saying that the Chief Secretary for Ireland had acted in a manner which commanded the approval of the Irish party, the spirit he had shown in his reply to the hon. Member for East Mayo being very different from the spirit displayed on other occasions. He thought on such an occasion as this it should be admitted that the right hon. Gentleman had gone a very great way in discharging properly the functions of his office. He also associated himself with the expression of opinion which had fallen from the hon. Member the Member for the Scotland Division that this was a matter of system, and if hon. Members had looked at the questions on the Notice Paper of to-day they would find two further illustrations of the working of that system in Ireland. The first illustration was that of a case with regard to right of way. It appeared that in his constituency a right of way had been exercised by certain persons over certain property, that an English company had recently acquired the property, and they had put up a gate with a lock to it to prevent the people from further exercising the right of way which was alleged to exist. It was an unimportant matter, and he only referred to it for the purpose of illustrating the method of the Government in Ireland. One or two persons went deliberately and smashed the gate and the lock as protest. That was a common thing to do in England under such circumstances. It was the way in which one had to assert a public right which had been invaded. Under those circumstances what would have been done in England would be that the person who said he had been injured would have been left to use his legal remedy, and he would have brought a civil suit in the county court or the High Court to establish his right, and then, if he established his right, if anybody subsequently interfered with that right that person would be sued or a criminal prosecution would he brought against him. What was the case in Ireland?—he did not insinuate for a moment that the Chief Secretary or the Attorney General directed it to be done. In this case the police arrested the two men who broke the lock of the gate, although those men avowed that their reason for doing it had been to preserve a public right, and they prosecuted them at the petty sessions. He was told that the case was under appeal, and he did not intend to take advantage of his position as a Member of Parliament to do what he would not do outside the House. He expressed no opinion on the case, and the only point to which he wished to direct attention was that the police in Ireland from long custom believed this was the right thing to do in the interests of the Government, and in this case they had set themselves up to do what Kynoch and Co., the English company in question, would not have done in England. The other case was where ten men, only two months before, were tried on a certain charge. On that occasion the informations asked for were refused by the local justices. If that had occurred in England further proceedings would have been stayed, and no more would have been heard of the case; but in Ireland, two months afterwards, the resident magistrate went to Wexford, had an interview with the Crown solicitor, as a result of which he issued warrants for the arrest of the ten men, and two or three days afterwards sat alone, without a jury, and tried the case by himself. He would not even allow an adjournment of more than a day or two to allow the accused to obtain legal assistance. Would such a thing be tolerated in England for a moment? If such a thing had been mentioned before the war as having occurred in the Transvaal, notice would have been taken of it in this House, and the case would have been referred to by the Colonial Secretary in no measured terms. What he wished to know was, who ordered the resident magistrate to to go down and have a private conversation with the Crown solicitor at Wexford? If anybody had told him to do so they were guilty of a very grave irregularity. If he was not told to do so, was it not very singular that this man should go down and do a thing of this kind? If an ordinary magistrate, the chairman of a county council elected by a popular vote, had done a thing of this kind, how long would he have held his position? Those were the illlustrations to which he alluded, and there he left them. He only mentioned them to show that in the minds of the Irish people the idea was deeply impressed that the law was administered in favour of a class in the interests of the Government, that the law was pursued to the utmost in some cases and eased in others, and such an impression as that was bound to bring discredit on the administration of the law in Ireland.

SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)

called attention to the large increase and efficiency of the Volunteers. They now numbered 277,000 men, 98 per cent. of whom were efficient. The Secretary of State for War had said in the course of his observations during the session that he would sooner have fewer men, but more efficient. The War Office should be very careful not to promulgate schemes for increasing the efficiency of the Volunteers which would have a tendency greatly to reduce the numbers of the force. Those serving in the Volunteer force were anxious to support the authorities in making the force more efficient. He recognised that he was at a considerable disadvantage owing to the heavy domestic calamity which had befallen the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, but as this was the only opportunity when this question could be raised, he hoped he would be forgiven for bringing it before the House at this time. On the 22nd of July there was laid upon the Tables of both Houses a scheme relating to this matter. By the merest accident he had been able to obtain a copy of it through the courtesy of one of the officials of the library. It had not been issued to Members of the House, and was only obtainable in the House of Lords' Vote Office. He had a copy of the scheme, and he earnestly hoped the Financial Secretary would mention to his colleague the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State the points which he now desired to submit to his consideration. The Volunteer force were anxious to do everything possible to support the authorities, and in the present Inspector-General—General Turner—they had a man of great tact, most anxious to do everything possible not only to increase the efficiency of the force, but to do so in every possible way. He did not know who was responsible for the new scheme of efficiency, but there were some matters connected with it which required the special attention of the Secretary of State. The scheme represented a considerable increase in the requirements of the Volunteer force, but they would endeavour to carry it out. He called particular attention to the tenth paragraph, which said— No corps or individual Volunteer will be exempted from attending camp for two consecutive years. He desired to see that order amended. If that order was persisted in, it would have a most detrimental effect upon the Volunteer force. Every commanding officer in the force was anxious to do everything he could to get his men to camp, but exceptional circumstances arose, not only in the case of men, but in the case of corps, which rendered it impossible for Volunteers to go into camp. In the case of individuals sickness and the disabilities arising from family affairs and civil employment ought to be taken into consideration. The country was greatly indebted to employers of labour for the encouragement they had given to the Volunteer movement, and if a condition of things arose in which employers preferred men who were not Volunteers to men who were Volunteers it would be a most unfortunate thing for the defence of the country and for the Volunteer force. The Government itself did not encourage Volunteers in their employ in attending camps. They had had great difficulty in getting men to attend at all; and if that was so in the case of the Government, how much more was it the fact in the case of private employers. He earnestly urged upon the War Office the inexpediency of pressing this matter unduly, because if they did press it the result would be lamentable. He urged that at the end of Clause 10 some words should be added to this effect— Unless with the special authority of the officer commanding the brigade upon the recommendation of the commanding officer of the Volunteers. If that were done he did not think there would be much to object to in the scheme. But in regard to the question of going into camp there was another subject to consider. The War Office also said that a Volunteer must not go into camp before he had gone through his course of musketry, but, as some regiments went into camp in Whit-week, they could only obtain a hurried course of instruction in musketry, which was valueless, and if this order was insisted upon it would do harm to the Volunteer force instead of good. He did not know who was responsible for this scheme, but he hoped the attention of the Secretary of State would be given to the matters to which he had referred. In connection with keeping up the musketry efficiency of the Volunteer force, the War Office must obtain suitable sites for rifle ranges. The Volunteers of the country were most anxious to increase their efficiency, but the War Office must not insist upon what was impossible. Let the power of exemption from attendance in camp for two consecutive years be exercised, that some of the best and most zealous men might not be turned "neck and crop" out of the Volunteer force because, owing to their individual circumstances, they were unable to comply with War Office requirements. With regard to sites for ranges, there should be a distinction between the case of urban corps, which had great difficulty in obtaining sites, and country corps, whose ranges were often close at hand.

MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)

drew the attention of the Financial Secretary to the War Office to the executions in Cape Colony, and asked whether, when the report of the executions was received, it would be circulated among Members of Parliament. He requested the noble Lord at the same time to inform Members as to the principle upon which the authorities acted in calling upon burghers to attend the executions and the promulgation of sentences. Were all the inhabitants summoned, or only a certain number? If a number were selected, what were the principles of selection that guided the authorities? These were things the House of Commons ought to know. It had been stated that only disloyalists were called upon to attend the executions. Did that mean all those who did not approve the policy of the war, or, those who were charged with treason, or simply suspects? Another point on which information was necessary was as to what had been the effect of these executions. Had the effect been deterrent or the reverse? An English minister in South Africa had written to him to say that these executions were the best means of recruiting the Boers, and anyone who knew the character and the disposition of the Dutch must be aware that such would be the effect. It was perfectly apparent that the Boers had recruited very largely in Cape Colony since the executions. He thought the House was entitled to have information on these points. That was all he desired to ask the noble Lord.

Then, he wished to draw the attention of the Home Secretary to the statements made at a recent meeting of the Carnarvonshire Joint Police Committee. The First Lord of the Treasury during the Penrhyn debate assured the House of Commons that a sub-committee of that body, consisting of magistrates and county councillors, had requested the War Office to send the military down to Bethesda. This statement from the Leader of the House made a great impression, because an impartial body, consisting of county councillors as well as magistrates, carried weight. On Thursday, however, the statement of the First Lord of the Treasury was indignantly repudiated by the joint committee, who declared that the sub-committee had nothing to do with the calling in of the military. They showed that the chief constable came to them, having made up his mind distinctly that he would have the military, and that they had neither sanctioned nor authorised it. The only member of the joint committee who defended the action of the chief constable was Lord Penryhn, while the lord lieutenant of the county criticised the calling in of the military by a magistrate from outside. The chief constable was an upright and sincere man, but he was also a nervous man. He was not a Welshman, and when he heard a crowd boohing in a language he did not understand, he seemed to think a riot would follow.


said when he and the First Lord of the Treasury referred to this matter on a previous occasion they spoke upon the information supplied by the chief constable, which justified the position they then took up. In his letter to the Home Office the chief constable said a meeting of the sub-committee had approved his action, and authorised him to inform the officer commanding the troops that military aid might shortly be required, and to ask that troops should be held in readiness. The chairman also had appointed the chairman of the standing joint committee, who was also a magistrate, to sign the requisition for troops if necessary. That was the state of things when circumstances arose which in the opinion of the chief constable justified him in again calling the subcommittee with a view for sending for troops. On July 31st the chief constable wrote to the Home Office stating that he had attended a meeting, previously called, of the sub-committee referred to in his former letter, and that, after expressing his reasons for thinking a military force necessary, he had forwarded a requisition signed by the chairman to the general officer commanding the North-Western District. That did not say that the sub-committee authorised the chief constable in calling for the military, but it justified the interpretation which he and his right hon. friend had put upon the letter. Having regard to the previous letter, they were justified in assuming that the sub-committee assented to the calling for troops. Of course, he would now ask the chief constable for an explanation. In a case of this kind the Home Secretary did not receive the requisition, and the responsibility rested, not with the subcommittee or joint committee, but first of all with the chief constable. It was his duty, if he thought that the peace could not be preserved without the aid of troops, to take the necessary steps to obtain military assistance, and that was by communicating, not with the Home Office, which was no party in the matter, but with the general officer commanding in the district, through the magistrate, having first obtained the signed order from the magistrate. The military, of course, would not come on the demand of the chief constable. The magistrate in this case was appointed by the sub-committee to take action when action became necessary. Upon the point whether there was a difference of opinion between the sub-committee and the chief constable he would communicate with the latter.

*MR. WILLIAM JONES (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)

said at the meeting of the joint police committee, held on the previous Thursday, many members criticised the action taken in this matter as being wholly irregular, and the Lord Lieutenant commented in very strong terms on the locus of the sub-committee, and said that it had acted ultra vires, the only persons qualified to sign the requisition being the mayor or the magistrate having jurisdiction in the district. The chairman of the Bangor Bench held the same view.


was understood to say that was not so.


At all events, the feeling of the joint police committee after deliberating yesterday was that the chief constable acted in an unnecessary way, that the sub-committee went beyond its jurisdiction, and that any requisition for military force should be signed by the magistrate acting in the district.


said that was quite a wrong view; any magistrate in the county had jurisdiction.


said that that was a straining of the point, for according to the law lucidly explained the other day by his right hon. friend the Member for East Fife, it could not be too clearly understood that the local magistrates were the keepers of the peace. The requisition for the attendance of the military must proceed from the local magistrates, and from them alone.

*COLONEL SANDYS (Lancashire, Bootle)

said he desired to make one or two remarks with regard to what fell from the hon. and gallant Member for Central Sheffield. The impression he received from the speech of his hon. and gallant friend was that it was proposed that the responsibility for the exemption of individual volunteers from attending camp should be thrown on the general officer commanding the district. That was a proposal to which he could not agree. If there was one thing which the War Office should do it was to keep general officers free from being overloaded by detail work of this nature, as the time at their disposal was already insufficient for their legitimate work of inspection and training of the troops in their commands, under an efficient system of decentralisation and responsibility. His view of the matter was that the administration of details with regard to both the Militia and the Volunteers should be taken out of the hands of general officers commanding districts and put into the hands of the heads of brigades, which should be formed by reducing the number of regimental districts and putting them into brigades, each brigade having at its head a brigadier with proper staff, charged with the special duty of supervising the efficiency of the Militia, the Volunteers, and Army Reserve, within the limit of his district command, and being responsible for the same to the general officer, of whose command two or three brigades would form a subordinate part.

MR. NANNETTI (Dublin, College Green)

raised the question of allotting to Irish manufacturers and traders a fair proportion of the contracts for supplies to troops in Ireland. There were 20,000 troops located in Ireland; the country had to pay a very large sum towards their up-keep, and some of the supplies necessary ought to be obtained in Ireland. He suggested that depots and stores should be established in Ireland. It was in the interests of economy and the welfare of Ireland that there should be such establishments in that country. It was disgraceful that, when such things as boots or shoes were required, orders were immediately sent to Woolwich for them, and they were not obtained in Ireland. That was not a system with which the Commander-in-Chief in Ireland was in sympathy. The Duke of Connaught adopted the view that it would be greatly to the well-being of Ireland it if had a share of the War Office contracts. It had been said that the amount of work to be done would not be sufficient to justify the establishment of a depot in Ireland, but it had been conclusively proved that such an establishment would be as greatly to the advantage of the Army as to the country, and he certainly thought that it was only right that a certain amount of the money which was spent on the maintenance of the troops in Ireland should be spent in that country. Within his own recollection the canteens for the use of the troops in Ireland were supplied by Irish brewers and distillers, but recently all that had been changed. The noble Lord had stated that he had no control over that, but he would ask the right hon. Gentleman to go a little further and make a recommendation to the commanding officers upon this question.


said he wished to supplement what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member for Central Sheffield in regard to Volunteers going into camp, and in regard to the condition of the northern Volunteers. He was sure the House was desirous that no unnecessary conditions should be placed in the way of increasing the efficiency on numbers of the Volunteers. At the beginning of the session he put a question to the Secretary of State for War on the subject of class firing before Volunteers went into camp, and asked that the special circumstances attaching to any particular corps should be considered in order that the capitation grant might be obtained. Some members of the Volunteer battalion of which he was honorary colonel went out this year, but were unable to obtain the necessary qualification to entitle them to the capitation grant. He wished to point out that there was a great difference between Volunteers who went into camp at this time of the year and those who went out at Whitsuntide. It was impossible for the Volunteers who had to go out at Whitsuntide to qualify, and to put their recruits through the necessary musketry instruction, before they went out. In Lincolnshire they had a very bad climate. In his own district, where his battalion was raised, it rained two days out of three, and in the limited period between the time when they could recruit men and the time they went into camp it was physically impossible to enable them to qualify according to the War Office order. He therefore asked that there should be some consideration given, under these special circumstances, to enable these men to qualify, so that they might receive the capitation grant.

MR. MOON (St. Pancras, N.)

said the House had listened to hon. Members who had addressed it as officers of the Volunteers; he wished to state his view as a private, and to call attention to the hardship of attending camp. He had attended a camp during the last two-years and had found the process very exhausting. He did not think that in asking for some relaxation of the regulations as to camp attendances they were proposing anything likely to be against the efficiency of the Volunteer force, and he therefore hoped the Financial Secretary would give favourable consideration to the appeal.


said he was sure hon. Members would agree that he could not possibly give them anything but a sympathetic answer; but he could not on the present occasion undertake that all the particular grievances of the Volunteers which had been referred to should be at once remedied. His right hon. friend the Secretary for War, in introducing his Army scheme, speaking of the Volunteers, said that what was wanted was quality rather than quantity. Efficiency must be insisted upon, and if that resulted in a diminution of numbers he did not think the country would suffer any loss. The regulations had been put forward with a view to securing efficiency, by getting out of the Volunteers as much work as was possible, and at the same time as little work as was consistent with national safety. There was no intention of adhering to them as hard and fast rules, and if it were found that in any place the shoe pinched something would be done to remedy it. As he said, he could not give a pledge that the requests which had been made would he complied with; but he had it from his right hon. friend the Secretary for War to say that in the autumn he would bring together all the objections which had been raised to his scheme with regard to the Volunteers, and lay them, not before a committee, but before those who were best able to advise him, and that in every case in which it was found that the objections could be met without loss of efficiency they would be met in the fullest and frankest manner. The answer to the questions of the hon. Member for Carnarvon must depend upon the reports. The hon. Member asked whether the reports when they were received would be published. That was a question for the Secretary for War to decide. He could not give a pledge on his behalf. With regard to the hon. Member's other question, whether there had been an extension of Boer recruiting in Cape Colony, he certainly had seen no information on the point, and he did not believe there was any, but if there were any information of the kind which could be legitimately made public he would supply it to the hon. Gentleman. In answer to the hon. Member for the College Green Division of Dublin he had to say that, while there must be one central depot for Army contracts, powers were given to the general officer commanding in each district to buy necessary supplies in the district. As canteens were intended for the men, and were paid for by the men, their tastes must alone be considered in the liquors supplied.


said he was quite certain that Dublin porter would satisfy the tastes of the men. What he feared was that the Government officials overruled their tastes.

MR. MURPHY (Kerry, E.)

urged that there should be a reform in the administration of the Labourers Acts in Ireland. He concurred with the hon. Member for College Green that Irish workers were not well treated, and he pointed out that unless the flow of emigration was to continue some change must be made. In working the Labourers Acts there was too great a tendency to adhere to technicalities, with the result that schemes were very hard to carry through. He appealed to the Chief Secretary to apply a remedy in this respect.

MR. BOLAND (Kerry, S.)

referring to the state of affairs in Malta, and to an answer given to a question put by him thereon earlier in the day, said that no one could be blind to the fact that the situation at this moment was very grave. It had been produced, as he considered, to a great extent by the action of the Colonial Secretary in ignoring the petition presented to the House of Commons by the elected members of the Council of Government. Had similar treatment been meted out to any English-speaking colony, he did not believe that the House would have listened in silence to the reply of the right hon. Gentleman. He hoped that the Maltese would protest against the way in which they had been treated, and that they would resist the imposition of taxation and the attempt to force the English language on them.


I do not know on whose authority or at whose instigation the hon. Gentleman has taken up this question. The hon. Member certainly does me considerable injustice when he accuses me of any want of courtesy either to the elected members or to anybody else. No petition whatever has been addressed to me. A short time ago I told the hon. Member that no petition had arrived at the Colonial Office, but I now understand from the question the hon. Member put this morning that he referred to a petition addressed to the House of Commons. I may tell the hon. Member that I am far too busy to read any petitions to the House of Commons. I was not aware that any petition had come from the elected members, but that does not prevent me from being thoroughly acquainted with their views and arguments. The Government are not forcing any language on the Maltese people against their will. On the contrary, we are securing to them the liberty to make their own choice, and it is only because that choice seems to have been against the feelings of the elected members, who are chiefly lawyers, that this agitation has arisen. The elected members, in their desire to revenge themselves on the Imperial Government for the action they had taken, have refused all taxes. Of course it is perfectly absurd to allow that kind of thing to go on, as it has a most injurious effect on the industries and prosperity of Malta. Where Imperial interests in the shape of the health of the island and the security of a great fortress are concerned, the Government have thought it necessary to intervene; and I do not believe there will be any serious or lengthened objection to what we have done.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.