§ Motion made, and Question proposed,. "That a sum, not exceeding £10,108, be granted to His Majesty to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1903, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the Chief Secretary in Dublin and London, and of the Inspectors of Lunatic Asylums."
§ (2.30.) MR. JOHN REDMOND
I desire, Sir, to move the reduction of the salary of the Chief Secretary, which stands in my name on the Notice Paper, and to found upon this Motion a condemnation of the entire system of Irish administration carried on by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman has now been about two years in Dublin Castle, and I think no Englishman ever 1023 came over to govern Ireland on behalf of this Parliament under more favourable circumstances and with larger opportunities. First of all, he found Ireland in a state of profound peace. By his statements made in this House, agrarian crime was lower than at any period in the past history of Ireland of which we have a record, and so far as ordinary crime is concerned— also on his own admission—it had almost disappeared from the country. By comparison with any part of the so-called United Kingdom, or any other country in Europe, Ireland was in a state of absolute crimelessness; the seasons had been fairly good, and he himself had certain affiliations which disposed certain people to look on his administration with some degree of sympathy, and to expect from him some measure of sympathy with Irish aspirations. He represented a Government of enormous and unparalleled power—as many of us wore aware he was possessed of considerable knowledge of Ireland, and, as everybody knew, he was a man of great ability. Now, he has had a fair trial; he has had two years experience in his effort to govern Ireland; therefore ample time has elapsed to enable any man to form a fair estimate of his success. Adequate time has been allowed for any man to answer this question impartially: What has the right hon. Gentleman done? What has he tried to do for the benefit of the Irish people, to govern whom he was sent to our country? What has he done? What has he tried to do to conciliate Ireland to the Empire, in whose interest he was sent to govern the Irish people? If such a man, under conditions such as these, has absolutely failed in his efforts to govern Ireland, has done absolutely nothing for Ireland, absolutely nothing for the Empire, and if the Irish problem today is more pressing and more perplexing to English statesmanship, and more dangerous to the Empire, than it has been in the immediate past, surely thoughtful men must be inclined to admit our plea when we say that the government of Ireland by England, even when carried on through the medium of the ablest Englishman, and under the most favourable conditions, is an absolute impossibility. Now, Sir, I say that of all Irish administrations of which I, at any rate, have had any knowledge for the last quarter of a century in Ireland, that of the right hon. Gentleman has been the 1024 most colossal failure. So far from benefiting Ireland, it has injured Ireland; so far from conciliating Ireland to the Empire, it has exasperated and embittered the relations between the two countries. When the right hon. Gentleman went to Dublin Castle he found Ireland in a state of profound peace. Although—thank God!—he has not succeeded in bringing about a recrudescence of crime in the country, still he has to face a country profoundly stirred and seething with disappointment, discontent, and the spirit of revolt. Sir, when he went to Dublin. Castle he found the ordinary law in operation. That ordinary law had been in operation in Ireland for eight years, and under its operation peace had spread through the country and crime had disappeared. After two years of the rule of the right hon. Gentleman, the ordinary law, which exists in every part of the United Kingdom, is suspended in Ireland; over a large area of the country the constitution is abrogated, trial by jury is abolished, and tribunals—corrupt, servile, and degraded — consisting of the paid I servants of the right hon. Gentleman himself, and removable from office at the right hon. Gentleman's pleasure, are sent up and down through the country to convict all the local leaders of the people on vague and meaningless charges of conspiracy and unlawful assembly. And, at the time when this kind of thing is going on on the one hand, the right hon. Gentleman's paid and trusted police officials, who have been detected in the horrible crime of sending innocent men to penal servitude for brutal offences committed by themselves, have been some of them allowed to escape from justice altogether, and others of them have been actually rewarded by what the right hon. Gentleman the other day in this place called compassionate allowances, and others of them still at this moment are retained in the police force and in the pay of the Crown.
When the right hon. Gentleman came to Ireland two years ago, the people were full of a vague hope of some remedial legislation especially dealing with the land question. The right hon. Gentleman himself is directly responsible for that feeling, because he has over and over again declared in this House, and outside of this House, that land legislation for 1025 Ireland was an immediate necessity. Today he tells the Irish people that such legislation is impossible unless, forsooth, tin Irish members of this House abrogate their functions and are willing to accept as uncontroversial, and allowed to pass practically without discussion, the halting and inconclusive Land Bill which he, has placed on the Table of the House. One word as to this last point before I go to the others. What has been the record of the right hon. Gentleman with reference to this land question? No Nationalist, no land reformer in Ireland, ever made a stronger case for immediate and sweeping legislation on this land question than the right hon. Gentleman did in his speech recently in this House. He repeatedly stated that a Land Bill, which would effectually remedy the evils of the present defective system, was an immediate necessity, and in introducing the Land Bill before Parliament he made an overwhelming case, a case which he did not present to us but to some of his impatient followers, who apparently were reluctant that even an hour should be given to this question for the complete and immediate remedy of the evils of the land system. He spoke of the complete breakdown of the rent-fixing portion of the present system; he pointed out how, in order to keep the country in a perpetual lawsuit, that they were paying £140,000 a year to the Land Commission, and £1,350,000 a year for a police force which, he admitted, was necessitated by the existence of the present land system, and he said—
In spite of these precautions, and notwithstanding the passage of forty Land Acts, no one can reasonably be expected to be satisfied with the present state and the future prospects of agriculture in Ireland. We cannot leave it alone.He spoke of the delay of justice in this case as being a denial of justice, and he said further—If we look to the rent fixing, we find the number of appeals becomimg yearly greater than the number disposed of in any one year and if we look to the state-aided purchases we see them shrinking before our eyes.Therefore, he made out a complete case for a radical remedy being applied to the present system of land tenure. But what steps of a genuine nature has he taken at all to endeavour to obtain adequate time, even for the consideration 1026 of this question? None whatever. He has dangled before the eyes of the Irish people a phantom Land Bill, which he knew perfectly well he could not obtain adequate time for the discussion of. The introduction of that Land Bill was a sham. I stated repeatedly before he introduced it that he knew it would be impossible to obtain time in this overburdened Imperial Parliament, which insists not only on governing the portions of the United Kingdom, but on governing the Empire, that he would find it impossible to obtain adequate time for its discussion, and he then came forward and made the extraordinary and unparalleled suggestion that this Bill— having dropped out a couple of Clauses when he found feeling in Ulster was very strong against him, a couple of Clauses which, I may remind the House, he declared when he introduced the Bill were a vital portion of the Bill, and which we-would have to swallow or get none—he then said that, forsooth, this Bill, should be sent upstairs to a Committee as a non-controversial measure. Now, I stated outside the House, and I repeat it here, that in my opinion a more impudent and cynical suggestion was never made. Non-controversial! Everybody who has looked at this Land Bill knows that it is in the main a landlord's Bill, that at the best it will be a miserable makeshift, and what I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman in reference to his Bill is this—he may keep his Bill. In the contest which is going on, and is rapidly coming to a head between the tenants and the landlords in Ireland, the tenants can afford to wait better than the landlord, and we have evidence of that in the frantic appeals which are being made by the landlords for the passage of this Bill. It is quite clear the right hon. Gentleman has yet to learn a lesson from the tenantry of Ireland. Up to the present, during his two years tenure of office, he has treated the Irish National movement with ill-disguised contempt, and he has treated the scheme of compulsory practice with derision. I venture respectfully to make a prophecy here, that before this day next year his contempt for the National movement, for its strength and overwhelming power, will not be quite so great, and that his respect for the principle of compulsory 1027 purchase will be very much more than it is today. Meanwhile, we can afford to allow the proceedings of the Government and the right hon. Gentleman on this Land Bill to stand as the latest and the strongest argument for Home Rule—an example of a vital grievance affecting the lives and fortunes of a whole nation— and of a Government with a majority of 150 yet unable to deal with it.
Let me for a moment turn to the administration of the Coercion Act by the right hon. Gentleman. I will not here repeat the arguments which I used the last time we discussed this matter, and when, I think, I was certainly able to make a strong case against the right hon. Gentleman, that without any provocation he had revived the provisions of this odious Act. I will not go into the question of whether he was justified in proclaiming these counties or not. I ask the House to consider how he has administered the Act. How many has he prosecuted? Mr. Lowther, I am quite sure that the House is in absolute ignorance of the fact that since January —I have not the full figures before me— the right hon. Gentleman has imprisoned, has succeeded in convicting and imprisoning, between fifty and sixty men. If anybody who knows Ireland will take the list of these men, he will see that they are the local and trusted leaders of the people in every part of the country. Sir, these men have been imprisoned on charges of conspiracy and charges of unlawful assembly, charges which, of course, could not be proved against any man in this country, unless the prosecution was prepared to abide by the arbitrament of a freely chosen jury. These men have been convicted by magistrates whom I rightly described a moment ago as paid servants of the prosecutor, the paid servants of the right hon. Gentleman, and removable at a moment's notice, without any reason given, from their office. If nothing else has come out of the proceedings of the Committee over which the Prime Minister presides, which is dealing with the case of my hon. friend the Member for North Leitrim, at any rate, this good has come from it, that it has shown in the most glaring colours how this system has worked. Sir, the system of the tribunals 1028 is ludicrous. What happens? The right hon. Gentleman makes up his mind to prosecute some man for a speech which does not fit in with his views of how public controversy should be carried on, and he tells his Under Secretary, Sir David Harrell, to institute a prosecution, and Sir David Harrell sends a note to his son who is one of these removable magistrates, and he tells his son to go down and give an impartial trial to the prisoner. With that amazing stupidity which characterises so many acts at Dublin Castle, there was produced before the Committee—why in Heaven, no one knows—a paper containing the letter written by Sir David Harrell to his son, telling him to go. Could anything be more ridiculous My hon. friend the Member for North Leitrim did the proper thing when he appeared before that tribunal. I speak not of the precise words he used, but he was perfectly right in pouring contempt and ridicule on it; and I say that no man with any self-respect ought to plead before these tribunals. These tribunals are not Courts of Justice. Here we have a Government official on a Treasury Bench ordering a prosecution; his Under Secretary sends his own son down to try the prisoner, and that son is removable at the pleasure of the Chief Secretary without any reason given. These are not Courts of Justice, and I hope the Irish people will pour upon them absolute contempt with regard to any sentences that may be inflicted upon such prisoners, and regard them as an honour and not as a stigma; and if they do the right hon. Gentleman will find this last weapon in the Unionist armoury break in his hands.
These are the proceedings of the right hon. Gentleman towards the tenants' combination. But the tenants' is not the only combination in Ireland. Within the last two or three days there have been published some very remarkable documents in the Irish papers. The Unionist landlords cannot even trust their own officials, because the more private and confidential a document, and the more it is marked private and confidential, the more certainly it finds its way into our hands. Two private and 1029 confidential documents were published the other day from the landlords, and I do not intend to dwell at any length upon these documents, but I want to make one or two points. The first document is dated 7th April this year. I ask the House to note the date for a moment. It is a document to form a combination of landlords to be called the Land Trust, 1902, which calls for subscriptions of £100,000, in order to crush United Irish League and to provide a fund for such actions as those instituted by Lord De Freyne against myself and others. This document bears the signatures of Mr. Smith Barry and Lord Clonbrock. Mr. Smith Barry, according to the document, has subscribed £1,000, and Lord Clonbrock a largo sum also. These gentlemen, on the 7th April, issued a declaration of war against the tenants, combination, and on the 14th of April, one week afterwards, the same two men— Mr. Smith Barry and Lord Clonbrock—as Privy Councillors, signed the proclamation from Dublin Castle proclaiming Ireland under the Coercion Act. That is to say, the tenants have got a combination to endeavour to get their rights; they meet with persecution at the hands of these degraded and servile tribunals of the right hon. Gentleman in Ireland; they are harried and persecuted; their meetings are broken up; their leaders put in prison. The landlords form a combination, and within a week the two leaders of this landlords' combination are allowed in the name of the Government to issue a proclamation for suspending the ordinary law in Ireland and putting the Coercion Act into force. A greater scandal was never known. What is to be said for the unfortunate and well-disposed Unionist in this House, or out of it, who desires to conciliate the Irish people to government by this country? What can he do except hang his head for shame and close his mouth? How can any man justify such a system of Government? For my part, I am not afraid of the landlords' combination; one of these precious documents published the other day asked the shareholders of the Land Corporation, the latest of these combinations, to allow their interests to be merged in the new concern, and went on to point out that their interest in the shares in the old company amounted to a few pence. These combinations are not paying or successful 1030 concerns. We have nothing to fear from them. I don't make any appeal or claim, because I know it will be useless, but I do make a protest that where there is a great trade contest going on between the tillers of the soil and the owners of the soil that it is a monstrous thing that the Government should throw in its weight on the landlords' side, and allow the leaders of the landlords' combination to wag the Government as they like, and allow Mr. Smith Barry and Lord Clonbrock to go into the Irish Office and force the Government to issue a proclamation suspending the ordinary law.
While these methods are being pursued against the people's combinations, against the people in their legal and lawful and constitutional rights of public meeting and of open combination, what, I ask, is the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman with reference to his own trusted police officials when these men are detected in brutal, inhuman, and disgusting crime? The exposure in the Sheridan case is like a ray of light thrown upon a dark mass of corruption and villainy. If the right hon. Gentleman, when he made that brief and jaunty reply to the hon. Member for East Mayo, imagined that that was the end of the Sheridan case, he was greatly mistaken. This Sheridan case has got to be represented in and outside this House until some inkling of the facts penetrates into the minds of the people of this country. This man Sheridan was a policeman in Ireland, and for services rendered he was again and again rewarded, until finally he was promoted to be sergeant. He was transferred from time to time from one part of Ireland to another, and everywhere he went he was noted for his clever detection of brutal offences:, especially the offence of the most brutal character, consisting of the mutilation of dumb animals. Wherever he went he was able to exercise his extraordinary talent. In districts where there were no such offences known before, shortly after he appeared on the scene they began to spring up, and he was always able to put his hand on the criminal. For this he was rewarded again and again, until he came to be regarded as a pillar of law and order and of the Unionist Government. He came also to be regarded so highly in the force 1031 that the younger members of the Royal Irish Constabulary were, as the Chief Secretary has told the House, "dazzled" by his abilities. Suddenly, a trumped-up charge of a more or less trivial character—that of having posted up a threatening notice — which was brought against a poor tramp of the name of Ryan, was so unskilfully done —apparently a long course of impunity had induced him to act with less than his usual caution—that the prosecution had to dismiss the charge against Ryan, and were obliged to institute some sort of inquiry against Sheridan: and as the result of that inquiry Sheridan was dismissed. Now, the last time this subject was under discussion, the Attorney General, who muddled up the whole case in his reply, seemed to imagine that our case against the Government was that they did not prosecute Sheridan for the trumped-up charge against Ryan. Nothing of the kind. I think myself that they ought to have done that; but that was a comparatively trivial matter, and possibly the right hon. Gentleman exercised the best discretion he could. But that is not our real charge against the Government. I ask the Committee, to understand that I am basing every statement I now make on the declarations of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in this House, and standing at that box. After Sheridan had been dismissed, and after, I believe, in fact, I know, Sheridan was still in the country, a gentleman called Irwin, who, I think, was a district or county inspector—at any rate, an official of the poice—sent to the Chief Secretary a report which the right hon. Gentleman told us was to the effect that suspicion was thrown upon the conviction of certain men for certain brutal offences in Ireland, in the trial of which the chief evidence was that of Sergeant Sheridan. These offences were arson and the mutilation of cattle. I want to know more precisely than has yet been given to us what was in that report of Irwin. It may be said that such reports are confidential, but in a case like Sheridan's, where infamous criminals were protected and rewarded, no such plea as official secrecy should prevail, and I call, therefore, 1032 for the production of Irwin's report,. I want to see the date of that report and what is in it. I contend that the-moment that that report was received, by the Chief Secretary, Sheridan ought to have been arrested. What happened in this country only the day before yesterday? There was the case of a police sergeant who made a charge against a man of loitering with intent to commit a felony. The case was dismissed and the policeman was at once arrested and put on his trial. As a matter of fact, the evidence against the policeman broke down. I say that if this had been a. case of an ordinary policeman in England in which the authorities received such a report as had been sent to the Chief Secretary about Sheridan, that policeman would have been instantly arrested and the Government would have done their best to get a conviction.
Sheridan was not arrested, but a private-inquiry was instituted about his conduct. At that inquiry three accomplices— three accessories before or after the fact—three other policemen, accomplices in some degree of Sheridan, were examined. The Chief Secretary told us that the-Government were unable to get the truth from these three accomplices except on the condition of giving them an indemnity, of giving them a promise that they would be protected. And the Chief Secretary exclaimed, "Am I to break my word that no injury would be done to them?" At the private inquiry, and by the help of these three accomplices, it was established that Sheridan, in his capacity as a police officer, had been concerned in crimes of mutilation of cattle and setting fire to property, in order to win prestige and reward, by-hounding innocent men to gaol on perjured evidence. No one knows, or can know, how many cases of that kind have occurred. For years this man was engaged in detecting the perpetrators of these crimes, and no man living can tell how many innocent men may have been sent to the grave, to madness, and to ruin by the action; of this policeman. But we do know that the inquiry established the fact that that was what happened in the case of four men. Beyond that we know nothing. What occurred in the case of these 1033 four men? One of them died immediately after he left prison; and it is out of the power of any human being to give any compensation to him, or to give any real compensation to any of his poor family. He died with the stigma of crime still upon him. Another of these wretched, poor men actually pleaded guilty to the charge laid against him. The Chief Secretary told us the other night that the man who pleaded guilty was innocent. Can Englishmen realise the state of the administration of the law in a country where such a thing can happen? Here is a poor innocent peasant boy, suddenly accused of the most heinous crime any human being can conceive of. He protests his innocence to his legal advisers, who say to him, "Whether innocent or not, in God's name, plead guilty." And why? Because the tribunal that was to try him had been packed by the Attorney General, and because he knew, and his legal advisers— his solicitor and counsel—knew that he had no chance: that the policeman Sheridan's word would outweigh any evidence of innocence. And, in order to get a lighter sentence, he took the not very heroic course of telling a, he and saying he was guilty. The other two men refused to tell a lie. They said that no consideration of a lighter sentence would induce them to plead guilty of an offence of which they were innocent. Observe, ninety per cent, of the whole population of the district in which the trial took place are Catholics, and yet sixty Catholic jurors were challenged for entering the jury box. This peasant boy was tried by a jury entirely composed, not merely of Protestants, but of men notoriously known to belong to the political party bitterly opposed to Catholics, and the people of Sligo. Of course he was convicted, and equally of course the learned judge commended the verdict and said there was no doubt whatever in the case. That peasant boy served out his sentence, and when; he came out of prison his first act was; to go before a magistrate and swear an affidavit that he had been wrongly I convicted. The right hon. Gentleman admitted, so far as manner was concerned, most handsomely that Dan Mc Goohan was innocent, and he gave 1034 him,.£100 as compensation. I ask the Committee to bear that,£100 in mind. Sheridan was never tried. He was allowed to escape from the country. I want a clear and specific answer to this question. "Why was he allowed to escape? "; and I will go on repeating it inside this House, and outside it, until I get an answer. After the result of the private inquiry was known, and after it had been proved by the evidence of his accomplices that he had got poor innocent men sent to prison for offences they had never committed, but which Sheridan and his accomplices had committed, is it true that Sheridan was walking about free in Ireland and England for two months? During that period Sheridan had the impudence to come to the House and send up his card to me; and when I went out to see him he told me a story so plausible and so cleverly put together that it made me very suspicious, and I gave him a wide berth. After that the Chief Secretary knew that Sheridan was going about laughing at your law and daring you to prosecute him. if the Government had prosecuted him he knew that such a flood of light would have been thrown upon the whole system of administration of the law in Ireland as would have destroyed the blood-stained and disgraceful methods of governing Ireland. Sheridan has left the country; he was in America a few months ago, and I believe he is there yet. You can still try him if you like. The question was asked the other day of the Attorney General whether men accused of perjury and arson could not be extradited, and he said, "Yes, they could." Why is not Sheridan prosecuted?
Now I come to the answer which seemed to slip from the Attorney General somewhat inadvertently, and which, if true, raises a still more serious matter. I have not the exact words, but what he said was to the effect that the indemnity given to the three accomplices was of such a character that their evidence could not be used against Sheridan in a court of law. I should be delighted if the Chief Secretary was in a position to contradict that statement. Who has the right to give any such indemnity to accomplices? Informers and accomplices constantly appear in the witness-box in 1035 criminal trials, and they necessarily, and in most cases very properly, get an indemnity— what for? In order to punish and convict the worst criminal of the lot. What practice can be quoted in the whole experience of this country in which the accomplices are given an indemnity to the effect that if they give evidence nothing will be done to them, nor will the evidence be used against that criminal. It is monstrous and absurd, and I want to know if any such indemnity was given— if so, who gave it; also its exact character, whether it will he produced, and what right any man, especially the man charged with the duty of maintaining law and order and of administering criminal justice in Ireland, has to condone felonies, and to protect and screen the ' perpetrators of inhuman and brutal offences of this kind.
Then what happened to the three accomplices? Two have left the force, but they were given compassionate allowances of £200, It is a crying shame! Here is this brave young peasant, Dan; McGoohan, suffering all the torture and misery of a conviction for an offence of which he was innocent, and to compensate him and his family, and to give him if possible a new lease of life after his years of imprisonment, he is given £100. Yet the accomplice in the actual crime gets double the amount.
§ *MR. JOHN REDMOND
Then if the particular accomplice in McGoohan's case did not get £200, apparently the other did.
§ *MR. JOHN REDMOND
There were three accomplices, and I myself heard the right hon. Gentleman state the other day that one of them got a compassionate allowance of £200. Is that true or false? It is true. What are we to think of such an interruption as that of the right hon. Gentleman, the effect of which, if it had any effect at all, must be in the direction of inducing the Committee to believe I had 1036 made a false statement. The right hon. Gentleman says it was not an accomplice in the McGoohan case; then it was in the case of the other poor wretches, perhaps that of the man who died. But the third accomplice is still wearing His Majesty's uniform, is still in the police force, is still engaged, no doubt, on all appropriate occasions in harrying disorderly and rebellious Nationalists, and presiding at celebrations of loyalty and good-will in Ireland. This is a serious matter, and I will not mince words in dealing with it. In my opinion—No, I will not say in my opinion at all—I charge the Government with having hushed up the affair, with being responsible for letting Sheridan escape from justice, with paying hush money to two accomplices, and with keeping the third man in the pay of the Crown, because they dare not face an inquiry into the system of corruption, perjury, and infamy which is carried on in the interests of Dublin Castle by paid officials of the right hon. Gentleman. A more shameful and infamous transaction; was never heard of in the whole political history of this country.
I go a step further. Apparently the Chief Secretary himself is directly responsible for all this. The Attorney General the other night, when pressed, as to why he did not order a prosecution of Sheridan with reference to the McGoohan and other cases, said the case had never come before him. What is the meaning of that? The Attorney General is the public prosecutor in Ireland, and is at the head of the administration of the law. Does he say that the Chief Secretary, when he received the report of the private inquiry, establishing beyond yea or nay the guilt of Sheridan, withheld that information from him? I accept the righthon. and I learned Gentlemen's statement and am i convinced the case was not put before him. But why was it withheld? Knowing what he did about the Ryan case, is it possible or credible that he never even asked an innocent question further about Sheridan, that without his knowledge this secret inquiry was held, and that he never heard of Sheridan's guilt until the-matter was dragged into publicity by the hon. Member for East Mayo last session? At any rate, as far as we can judge from 1037 his statement, and that of the Attorney General, the Chief Secretary is directiy responsible for this. If so, how does he stand before the world? He prosecutes a poor, wretched peasant who may be guilty of some act of violence in defence of his little home; he imprisons his political opponent if he makes a speech displeasing to him; he suspends, trial by jury in order to convict men as respectable and as honourable as himself; but he does not prosecute—on the contrary he allows to escape and gives compassionate allowances to men, police officers, his own officials, when they have been convicted of these crimes; that is to say, he screens and protects the police cattle-mutilators, the perjured police officers, the Dublin Castle incendiaries, the unmitigated scoundrels who do these almost unheard-of offences in order to get pay and promotion for themselves by the conviction for those offences of innocent men before packed juries. I say deliberately that if the right hon. Gentleman cannot clear himself, and he certainly has not done so yet, of direct responsibility for the screening and protecting of these criminals, he ought, for that one act alone, to be driven out of public life. I am sure of this, that no English statesman convicted of similar transactions in England, could continue sitting on that Bench. But this is only in Ireland, and as it is in Ireland, the only surprising thing is that we had managed to obtain any light on this transaction at all. Redress, I am sure, there will be none; full and open inquiry there will be none; punishment of the criminals there will be none. The one result, so far as we are concerned, will be to convince the Irish people more and more that "Sergeant Sheridans" are plentiful in Ireland, and that in moral guilt, at any rate, they are very little removed from their Dublin Castle paymasters.
Sir, one defence which Unionist Members, and, I suppose, the Chief Secretary will make, is that this is admittedly a very bad case, but that it is an isolated case, and that a similar case might happen in the best-governed country. Before I sit down let me deal with that plea. It is the only plea which can be put forward in mitigation 1038 of this offence. I assert that it does not hold good for one moment. I assert that it has been the constant practice of various English Governments in Ireland to avail themselves of the services of men, in the police and out of the police, who were paid to promote crime, and to convict innocent men. I might, if I were so unreasonable as to detain the House much longer, give a number of instances of this kind in the last twenty years. Probably some of my hon. friends will do so. Let me give one shortly to the House, a most dramatic case, which is engraven upon my memory by the fact that it was the first case in which I addressed a jury in Ireland after I was called to the bar. In September 1887 a gang of Moonlighters in the county of Clare made a raid on the house of a farmer called Sexton. Up to that time the neighbourhood had been singularly free from crime, and certainly free from crimes of this character. The police mysteriously got word that this raid was going to take place, at this lonely house at a particular time, and Head-constable Whelehan and a large force of police went early in the evening and ambushed themselves round the house. The Moonlighters arrived with masks on their faces, carrying guns, and broke in the door of the cabin. The moment they got into Sexton's cabin the police closed round and sought to arrest them. Unfortunately they did not succeed in arresting them all. Some of them got through the door, and in the scuffle the Head-constable Whelelan received a blow from which he died. The men caught in the house were put on their trial for murder, and I was counsel, defending two of the men. The first witness produced by the Crown was a man named Cullinane who was the captain of the Moonlight gang on that occasion. He was arrested in the house with his gun in his hand, and his mask on his face. They knew practically nothing about that man. and it was the direct result of the cross-examination of that man in the witness box that the truth came out. And what came out? This man, under pressure and terror—because he was a coward—swore that he had been for six years in the pay of the police. He swore that he had 1039 concocted this Moonlight not with the unfortunate Head-constable who was killed. He swore that a meeting had been held just before at which the hon. Member for East Mayo spoke, and that Whelelan gave him money for this particular job, and told him it was necessary to get up some outrage in the neighbourhood to show the evil result of the speech of his hon. friend. In pursuance of these orders Cullinan got a few wild boys in the neighbourhood together, and told them it was necessary to do something of this kind to carry out the object of the Land League. The result of it all was that Cullinane, disguised as a Moonlighter, on that occasion regarded by his unfortunate youths as a pattern of men, was in reality a policeman, or, at any rate, in the pay of the police having his own transaction with the Head-constable. It turned out in cross-examination that he was a man of most infamous character. He admitted that he had been convicted eleven times of all sorts of offences—robbery, assault, drunkenness, desertion from the army, etc., culminating in one horrible charge of having committed a criminal assault on a little girl five years old. I shall never to my dying day forget the dramatic incident which occurred in Court. He was asked whether he was convicted of an assault of this character, and he said "No." He was pressed, and wavered. A record of his convictions was produced, and with a dramatic force and effect which could not be described Judge William O'Brien, who was trying the case said, "You had better admit it, because, as it happens, I was the judge who tried you and sentenced you to three years imprisonment." This was the man who for six years was the paid agent of the police and concocted these outrages. Of course nothing could be done. I may say in passing that the men were all acquitted of murder, but wore convicted of a Whiteboy offence and got terms of imprisonment. No human agency could inflict any punishment upon Head-constable Whelehan, who met his death upon that occasion— but where is Cullinane? Cullinane has escaped. I suppose he has got a £200 compassionate allowance. I assert that this Sheridan case is not an isolated case. I could mention a score of cases in my own experience similar to the one I have 1040 referred to. But if it is an isolated case, why need the Government be afraid of a full disclosure of the facts? It is because it is not an isolated case that you are afraid to probe this matter to the bottom. It has ever been the same, not only in Ireland, but in every country and every clime and time where a despotic rule has been maintained in a country, in opposition to the will of the people who are governed, and where the Government has always been forced in the long-run to rely upon the spy, the informer, the agent provocateur, and the perjurer. So it has been in the past history of the world, and so it is in Ireland today, and that is one of the reasons why the Irish people hate, and detest, and loathe your rule. That is why they will never be satisfied until they have razed Dublin, Castle to the ground, and driven the horde of spies, informers, perjurers and agent-provocateurs, who are sheltered within its walls, away from the shores of their country. For these reasons I arraign the administration of the Chief Secretary, and I tell him that that administration rests under a stigma of dishonour and crime. I say that his administration, from every point of view, has been a failure, and I beg to move the reduction of his salary, which stands in my name.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed. "That Item A (Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £1,000."— (Mr. John Redmond.)
§ (3.42.) MR. DEVLIN (Kilkenny, N.),
in seconding the Motion, said that after the powerful indictment of the Chief Secretary's administration delivered by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, his function in addressing the Committee was a mere formality. During his hon. and learned friend's speech it struck him that it might be possible for him to give the Chief Secretary some information as to Sheridan's whereabouts. He had himself recently been in America, and he could tell the hon. Gentleman that if he wanted Sergeant Sheridan back in Ireland, he would find him in Lowell, Massachusetts. Two or three years ago the great heart of England was profoundly moved by the famous Dreyfus case. They all heard how England, in a spirit of justice, was 1041 roused in holy indignation at the manner in which Captain Dreyfus was treated. Here was a case where the argument and the evidence was so powerful against Sheridan that they would make this a Dreyfus case throughout England, Scotland, Australia and Canada, unless the Chief Secretary met the indictment which his hon. and learned friend the Member for Waterford had presented to the House. One thing which the supporters of the Chief Secretary prided themselves upon was the impartiality of his administration. Where was the impartiality displayed in the recent suppression of public meetings at Rostrevor and Dublin. The Chief Secretary himself gave orders for the breaking up of a public meeting in the capital of Ireland. He sent policemen to bludgeon the citizens of Dublin and an Irish Member of Parliament, and before doing that he never consulted a single civil authority in Dublin as to whether his action would Vie wise or not. What did the Chief Secretary do in the case of Rostrevor? Why, he consulted the Grand Master of the Orangemen as to whether this meeting should take place or not. This was the impartial spirit which inspired the administration of the Chief Secretary. He seconded the Motion, because the whole policy of the Chief Secretary was to harass the peasantry, to suspend constitutional law, to break up meetings properly called, to imprison Members of Parliament, to pack juries, and to spread outrage in peaceful communities. It was known to every man in Ireland that the whole Government of Ireland was an organised machine, not for the suppression, but the creation, of crime, that there were Sheridans in every county and village in the land, for the purpose of destroying the fair fame of the country. He was one of the youngest Members of the Party, and an indictment such as that delivered by his hon. and learned friend, the Member for Waterford, only made him hate more bitterly and tight more determinedly the system under which such things were rendered possible in Ireland. There were two great combinations in Ireland—that of the harassed peasantry and that of the landlords. why was Smith Barry sitting in the Privy Council instead of an Irish dock? Here they had a tangible instance of the system under which English rule was 1042 carried on in Ireland, and it would be their duty, whether this House liked it or not, to carry on an agitation which would compel the Government, by a sense of the overmastering power of their I movement, to give way to the repeated I claims for justice which had been so often desired. The coercion policy of the present Chief Secretary would no more succeed than had the policies of his predecessors. In 1882 the Liberal party attempted to support the Land League, just as the Gentlemen on the Government Benches were endeavouring to suppress the United Irish League today. The Liberal party, then, had behind them the whole strength and power of the democratic forces in England. They had the great genius, and the matchless eloquence, of Mr. Gladstone to inspire them and to lead them on. They tried the policy of coercion from 1882 to 1886, but with all that power at their back they were unable to suppress the Land League, or to destroy the spirit that gave it inspiration. The men now on the Government Benches, who had degraded and lowered the name of England before all civilised humanity, and who had disgraced the military prestige of the Empire, with only a tithe of English support at their back, would not succeed where Mr. Gladstone and the powerful forces of the Liberal party failed. The power that conquered then would conquer now— that was the union of the Irish race, which was more powerful today than ever it was before. Let the landlords come on with their combination. There were twelve millions of the lrish race living in America who were burning with hate of the bad laws and rapacious landlordism which compelled their ancestors to leave their own land. These men were the descendants of those who were sent away in the famine ships of 1847, and they were a co-operative force which the Irish tenant farmers could rely upon, in every emergency, to act against the whole combination of Dublin Castle and the Irish landlords. He earnestly trusted that even yet the Chief Secretary for Ireland would cut himself adrift from the cursed influences of Irish landlordism—influences which had ruined the reputation of too many Chief Secretaries. If he did the people of Ireland were 1043 generous, and they would forget the past, but if he refused to listen to their appeal, then the Irish race would go on with this battle, satisfied that in the end God would some day bestow upon them the priceless blessing of liberty.
§ (3.55.) MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
said four-fifths of the long speech of the hon. and learned Member for Water-ford were occupied in discussing a thrice-told tale. He should have expected, after the sweeping denunciation the hon. Member had given of the Chief Secretary's policy, that he would have had some fresh facts to put before the Committee. The hon. and learned Member charged the right hon. Gentleman in a direct manner with having shielded the scoundrel Sheridan. Whatever might be the opinion of Members of the Committee as to the action the Chief Secretary took about Sheridan, no one who heard his speech last year in the debate on the Appropriation Bill, and the speech he delivered a short time ago in regard to this case, could say that there was the slightest desire on his part to screen that constable. He desired to take this opportunity of asking his right hon. friend to explain the action of the Irish Government in relation to some recent occurrences in the north of Ireland. A very large demonstration had been arranged to take place on the occasion of an anniversary in County Down. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: What was the anniversary?] The battle of the Boyne. The demonstration was arranged to take place in a village, where he was told the majority of the inhabitants were of the same religion as the great majority of the demonstrators. It had been announced for a considerable period, and until attention was drawn to it by a violent speech or letter, he thought by a Roman Catholic curate, there was no reason to suppose that it would lead to any breach of the peace, or that it would not have gone off with complete tranquillity. When public attention was aroused by that speech or letter, a counter - demonstration was threatened, and what in his judgment would have been a very orderly meeting, was suddenly transferred by those who were desirous of stopping the demonstration, into one threatening the public 1044 peace. The resolutions proposed were neither seditious nor disloyal. They were principally resolutions congratulating His Majesty on restoration to health, and pledging those who were there to support him and his successors. It seemed to him that it was desirable the action which the Government took should be stated in this House, for there was a feeling in Ulster that there was a disparity in the treatment dealt out by the Irish Administration, which, while favourable to those who had on several occasions in the immediate past held meetings at which sedition and disloyalty had been preached, came down with a heavy hand on those meetings where loyal resolutions were to be proposed. He, therefore, should like to hear from the Chief Secretary what were the special circumstances which on this occasion induced him to proclaim a meeting whose objects were legal and at which in ordinary circumstances there need not have been apprehended any breach of the peace. The local magistrate had decided that a comparatively small body of police would be required to preserve the peace, and that all that was necessary was to take the ordinary precaution which on many previous occasions had been taken by the Irish Government, namely, that a counter-demonstration would not be allowed. He was informed that not long ago in Armagh a meeting was held which was of a character most provocative to the vast majority of the people of that county, and at which most seditious and violent language was used. That meeting was held with the permission of the Government and under the protection of the police. It seemed to him that the action which the Government had now taken was a direct invitation to those who object to loyal demonstration to organise on every occasion a counter-demonstration, and then to appeal to the Castle on the ground that a breach of the peace might occur and get the loyal meeting proclaimed and stopped. Of course he was quite prepared to admit that there might have been circumstances which justified the Government in taking the action they did. He was perfectly willing to admit that the object for which the meeting was called was innocuous, and that for other reasons the Government might be inclined to take steps to prevent the meeting being held. He thought it right, 1045 not only on behalf of those whom he represented, but in consequence of the feeling which existed in the province of Ulster, and which had been aggravated during the last few weeks, that the hon. Gentleman should have an opportunity of stating publicly what were the reasons which led the Government to take the step which he regretted they did. He should be glad if the decision and promptitude which characterised the Government on that occasion were signalised in the administration of the Irish Government not only in Ulster but in the rest of Ireland. He had on several previous occasions felt it his duty to complain that in the West of Ireland—in Connaught and some sections of Minister— the action of the Executive Government had not been of that character which inspired the law-abiding inhabitants with confidence, and they had allowed organisations to spring up which were calculated to intimidate the population, and which had for their object the procuring of the breaking of contracts.
The hon and learned Member who opened the debate had spoken of a great trade contest which was going on in Ireland. To some extent he had given it a proper name. It was a great contest in which the agitator, made money by trading on the credulity of his dupes, and by means of organisations, public meetings, and speeches, induced them to go behind their legal contracts. The great case at issue now was that of the Associated Estates, and in reference to these the United Irish League had exerted all its power, and all its influence, to induce the tenants who were on good terms with their landlords, and behind whom there was pressure of inability to pay their rents, to join a movement which could only be profitable to those engaged in the agitation. The case of the Associated Estates had been represented to Parliament and to the people of the country as one in which the tenants on the De Freyne property had been so struck by the enormous disparity between their position and the position on the Dillon estate that they had been obliged to band themselves into an organisation and to claim a reduction of their rents. The right hon. Gentleman and the Government of Ireland had been blamed for not having continued the policy of purchase, begun on the Dillon estate, in the case of the De Freyne estate. It had been said that it was on 1046 account of the sale of the Dillon estate, and the remarkable advantages which the Dillon tenants possessed, and which for the first time the De Freyne tenants were made aware of, that induced the De Freyne tenants to join the agitation. That view was absolutely absurd. It was not the case that it was the first time the tenants had become aware of the benefits of purchase, because that had been going on in the county of Roscommon for many years. No less than forty-seven estates had been dealt with by the Land Commission, by way of purchase, in the county of Roscommon, and in that particular portion where the De Freyne estate was situated, the congested portion of Roscommon, eleven estates had been dealt with be the Purchase Commissioners. So that the De Freyne tenants, like other tenants in the county of Roscommon, had for many years had before them the advantages of purchase. Yet all this time they had been free from agitation and ready to pay their rent. Right in the heart of the De Freyne estate on which it was said that an economic rent could not be paid, a town land was sold fourteen years ago and on it a reduced rate was paid by the occupiers. The De Freyne estate had been characterised by some hon. Members as one which entirely differed from any other estate in Ireland. It had been described as the poorest and the most miserable land. Well, he had never known any land in Ireland subject to agitation which was not so described. But this estate was by no means of that description. It was by no means poor. The hon. Member for South Tyrone had said there was no such thing as economic rent. There were some portions of the West where there was a constant struggle between the industry of man and the elements but that condition did not exist on the De Freyne estate.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone. S.)
said if he was to be quoted he would like to be accurately quoted. He had admitted that on the better class laud there was economic rent; but on the small patches of bog land, for which a rent of 12s. and 15s. an acre was demanded, there was no economic rent.
§ *MR. MACARTNEY
said he was not alluding to the Roscommon portion of the property. The estate was divided into four parts. There were Roscommon grass farms, and three other portions on which the rent was small. He absolutely challenged the hon. Gentleman's statement as to the rent on those three divisions. He had had an opportunity of going through the rental of the estate and he would give the particulars to the Committee.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said that hon. friends who accompanied him were refused all information by the agents.
§ *MR. MACARTNEY
said that might be so but it did not warrant the hon. Member coming to that House and telling them, as he did, that the average rent was 17s. per acre, when he could show the House that it was not one-third of that.
§ *MR. MACARTNEY
From the rental book. Lord de Freyne had nothing to conceal in connection with his property at all. He might refer to another statement which was as inaccurate as any statement could be, viz. that the tenants on this property were weighed down by hundreds and thousands of pounds of arrears which made it impossible for them to meet their engagements. That was not the case. On the Frenchpark No. 1 there were 506 tenants. The rental was £2,587 and there were only twenty-eight cases of heavy arrears. The average rental per tenant was £5 2s. and per acre 6s. 5d. On the French part No. 2 there were 439 tenants. The rental was over £3,000 a year, and there were thirty-three cases of heavy arrears only. The average rental was £7 6s., and per acre 9s. 11d. Then there was the Loughglynn portion —the poorest. There were 524 tenants, twenty-nine of whom were in heavy arrears. The rental was £2,450. The average rental per tenant was: £4 13s. 6d. and per acre 5s. 6d. In the Roscommon division, with only forty-nine tenants, there were no heavy arrears; The rent was £1,700, the 1048 average rent per tenant £34, and the rate per acre 17s., making the average rate for the whole of the property 7s. 1d. It was said that no economic rent was possible on the Loughglynn division. He would test that statement by taking the two standard crops of Ireland—potatoes and oats. The potato crop last year was one of the finest for the last fifty years. The average produce all over Ireland was 5.3 tons per acre, which was 30 per cent, over the average of the last ten years. The first four counties for yield last year were Down, Louth, Dublin, and Armagh. Then came Roscommon, with an average yield of 5¾tons per acre, well over the average for the whole of Ireland, while the yield in the Castlereagh Union was actually larger than that of the county. As to the oat crop, the average yield was 16 cwt. per acre over the whole of Ireland; the average for Roscommon was 15 cwt., and for the Castlereagh Union 14 cwt.; whereas in the Clogher Union, which was considered to be such good land, the yield was only 15½ cwt.
Then it was said the people could not pay the rent. In ninety cases Civil Bill Decrees had been executed on this property in consequence of the combination. These extended over thirty-five different town-lands, and in eighty-six cases, when the County Court bailiff demanded the rent and costs the money was paid with the greatest ease, and in the remaining cases in which effective seizures were made the full amount I was paid at once. The assertion that the costs had been piled upon these people was true, but by whom was it done? Who was if that was making it impossible for some of the De Freyne tenants ever to hope to remain in their homes? The solicitor of the United Irish League, Mr. Kilbride. When Lord De Freyne commenced his case, Mr. Kilbride forced him to serve statements of claim and to go through every legal formula; he heaped costs upon Lord De Freyne, but also upon the tenants, I without any authority from or consultation with them; he then deserted the tenants and made no appearance in Court. He charged Mr. Kilbride with having deliberately piled up legal costs on the wretched dupes when there was no possible defence to the action of 1049 Lord De Freyne, and in forcing Lord De Freyne to take these steps he was only making it impossible for the wretched dupes of the League, and the victims of this organisation, to pay the rent and the costs as well. Many of the men were perfectly able and willing to pay the rent, but they were absolutely unable to pay costs four times the amount they need have been. It would be an entire mistake for the Committee to suppose that because land was termed ''bog land" nothing could be grown upon it. In the Frenchpark and Loughglynn districts he had seen as good crops of oats and potatoes this year as any in the Union of Clogher, or any part of his division. This bog land was extremely productive. He mentioned the case of a tenant who paid 4s. as the rent of his holding, and who had on the property crops of potatoes and oats, with two cows, a calf, a donkey, and two pigs, with turf free. That was not an exceptional case, and in every instance in which there was any evidence of labour or trouble having been taken on the holding, the difference could be seen between that and the neighbouring holding. What had made the mischief?. It was the fact that for months in the year the men did nothing. They put in the crop and went to England in May; they returned in November, and from November to May they did nothing but wander about the country after the agitators, wasting their money and making the fortune of the whisky-shop keepers in certain districts, he would not ask the Committee to accept his judgment as to the value of the land. One could not properly value land by just walking over it, but by looking at the condition of the stock a very fair conclusion as to the inherent qualities of the soil could be arrived at. The whole of the stock on this De Freyne property was well bred and large, and in good condition. Nobody who was a judge in agricultural matters could go over the property, look at the class of stock, and notice the condition it was in, without being convinced as to the productive properties of the soil. He contended that in some parts of this property the people were in much easier circumstances, and better able to bear the stress and conflict of life, than many of the 1050 tenants in the higher and colder mountain farms of Ulster, Fermanagh, and Tyrone. After all, the opinion of the De Freyne tenants themselves was worth something in considering the value of the land, and a large number of them were now farming holdings in regard to which they had paid considerable sums for the tenant-right. He instanced a case of a holding of fifty acres, with a rent of £27, in which £297 was paid to the out-going tenant; and another of twelve acres, with a rent of £ 5s., in which £65 was paid for tenant right. Nine-tenths of the tenants were perfectly able to pay the rent. The hon. Member for North-West Lanark was one of the hon. Members who went over to make investigations for themselves. He did not know whether the hon. Gentleman was an expert in agriculture or not, but he should be very sorry to take his opinion on the condition of the De Freyne estate, he not knowing the people or the country. The hon. Member had been to Ballaghadereen, and said although there were in that place seventy-three public houses, it would be difficult to believe they were actually public houses.
§ MR. CHARLES DOUGLAS (Lanarkshire. N.W.)
What I said was that a large number of the so-called public houses were not by any means what English Members of this House would understand by public houses, and that the persons who kept them were largely concerned in selling other things, such as groceries and provisions, and the like.
admitted that the Ballaghadereen public houses were not such as hon. Members themselves would patronise, nevertheless he was confident that if the hon. Member was in the place on fair days he would see that they were very well patronised by the people. The people of Balaghadereen had been represented as the poorest of the poor. But in 1894 there were 465 savings bank depositors With a total sum to their credit of £19,115, whereas in Antrim the savings bank depositors, through 505 in number, had only,£l3,112 to their credit. The conclusion he had come to was that the hon. Members from England who recently paid a visit to this part of Ireland were 1051 not likely to carry away very accurate impressions. They did not know the conditions in which the Irish farmer and labourer chose to live—conditions which were not accepted in England or Scotland; and the actual position of a man could not be guessed from his appearance. The tenants on the De Freyne estate, who were able to pay their rents, had been forced into this combination by intimidation, by public meetings, and midnight bands. They had been intimidated all through last winter with such effect that a responsible person had told him that his parishioners would have been guilty of any folly. The condition of terror and fear in which the tenants of the De Freyne estate lived last year was greater than that in 1887 when intimidation was at its height. But these men were not only the dupes of the agitators, but also the victims of the Government; for, if the Government had taken steps earlier, the agitating organisation would have got no hold. It was thought that Lord De Freyne, as a poor man, would easily be brought to his knees; but fortunately that had not been the case. More than a dozen of Lord De Freyrie's tenants were now on the roadside, and the Government bore a great weight of responsibility in respect of those tenants. He hoped that in the stronger position which the right hon. Gentleman was to occupy, he would grip the organisation with a firmer hand, or its victims would multiply. He must make law and order respected, and establish the conviction that peaceful and law-abiding persons would be protected and not handed over to the agitators.
§ (4. 40) MR. MACVEAGH (Down Co., S.)
said that the right hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the Committee indulged it with figures which he had obtained from the De Freyne Estate Office, it was a great pity that that information was denied to English hon. Members who had recently visited the estate.
§ *MR. MACARTNEY
said that Lord De Freyne's complaint was that those hon. Gentlemen never went near him, though he would have been glad to give them every information.
§ *MR. EMMOTT (Oldham)
said that it was only fair to say that they were invited to see Lord De Freyne by Mr. Flanagan, who was anxious to give them particulars but forbidden by Lord De Freyne to do so.
§ *MR. MACVEAGH
said the estate books were, as a matter of fact, kept not by Lord De Freyne, but by the agent, and Lord De Freyne, as another matter of fact, was abroad at the time. The right hon. Member had dealt with the figures in so involved a manner that it had been impossible to understand them. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the tenants of the De Freyne estate, after their return from England, spent a large part of their time in running after the agitators, but they ran after the agitators in quite a different way to certain gentleman who ran after hon. Members opposite on the 12th of July. He was surprised at the mildness of the right hon. Gentleman's protest in reference to the proclamation of the demonstration at Rostrevor, and there would be disappointment among the Orangemen in the morning. From what he had read in the Ulster papers he had feared that the Chief Secretary and the right hon. Gentleman might have almost come to fisticuffs, but the right hon. Gentleman's protest had been almost as mild as mother's milk. It was very different to what appeared in the newspapers of Armagh. He had in his hands some extracts from the Armagh Standard and he was very glad to see the representatives of North Armagh and Mid Armagh were in their places, because, having been elected with the aid of that paper, they would not dare to repudiate these sentiments—This is a time for plain speaking. The Balfour brothers and the present Chief Secretary have again and again betrayed Unionist interests, and Ulster Unionists have suffered in silence. But there comes a time when submission to wrong becomes a crime, and when every man imbued with the spirit of personal liberty will resist even to force the deprivation of the legitimate right.and again it said—Treason is to be encouraged with the sunshine of official favour; loyally is to be ground down. It is a matter of notoriety that already there exists amongst the respectable part of Irish society the most intense dissatisfaction with Mr. Wyndham and his management of Irish affairs.1053 Then came a passage which he apologised for reading, and which, for downright vulgarity surpassed anything he had ever seen—Mr. Wyndham is a dilettante, who owes his political position to the influence of Ins wife, the Countess of Grosvenor, and to the fact that he was Mr. Arthur Balfour's devil. He has been a lamentable failure at the Irish Office, and has shown himself to be utterly out of tone with Irish sentiment, and incompetent to deal with the existing state of Irish affairs.No better argument in favour of the reduction of the right hon. Gentleman's salary could be advanced than these quotations of the views of the Armagh Standard, which would not be repudiated by either Member for Armagh, and which thus showed that Irish opinion was unanimous upon that point. This loyalist organ went on to say—Arthur Balfour tried the same policy, and his natural ability prevented him from carrying it too far, though it was, perhaps, a fortunate thing for his reputation that his change from the Irish Office took place when it did. Gerald Halfour carried on the policy of killing with kindness, and lost the little reputation that he ever had. He was taken from the Irish Office as a hopeless failure. And 'hopeless failure is the legend writ broad over the administration of Mr. Wyndham. Many will be inclined to add treachery and sheer cowardice as distinguishing characteristics of Mr. Wyndham's conduct. It has been left, for a Unionist government, or, rather, for the contemptible coward who represents it at the Irish Office, to muzzle the loyalists. We call upon our Parliamentary representatives to take immediate and rigorous action in this matter. Mr. Wyndham must be withdrawn from the Irish Office. He has had his chance—a chance which he ought never to have had—and has proved himself a failure. The opinion of loyal Ireland has long been hostile to him, as every tyro in politics knows. We are much mistaken if this last action will not go far to bring to a head the feelings of hostility and distrust with which he has long been regarded.Those wore the views of an Orange newspaper, and he commended them to the right hon. and gallant Member and to the hon. Member opposite, the representatives of Armagh. The right hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh was reported to have said at Lurgan the other day that the Nationalist Members were, "to use a gentle phrase, unbridled ruffians."
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said he never said anything of the kind, whatever he might have thought. He was alluding to the Nationalist party at Rostrevor, who opposed the meeting of the Orangemen.
§ *MR. MACVEAGH
said it was not the first time the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had had to complain of being misreported. He now appeared, however, to have said that it was his (Mr. Mac-veagh's) constituents who were unbridled ruffians.
§ *MR. MACVEAGH
said that unbridled ruffians were not confined to his constituency. Mr. Arthur Trew, one of the leaders of Belfast Protestantism, and who might be here in a short time as Member for Belfast, said—The Chief Secretary was a recreant coward, a villainous knave, la shandy-gaff politician. He was neither a loyalist nor a rebel.With regard to the Rostrevor demonstration, English hon. Members might like to know what anniversary was being celebrated. It was the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, fought centuries ago, and in which a Dutch usurper succeeded in defeating the lawful King of this realm, and the so-called loyalists of Ireland had gone on celebrating that event ever since. Nationalists had no objection to these men making fools of themselves in the localities in which they were the pre-dominant partners, but no Government had ever allowed them to indulge in their drunken orgies in districts in which they were an insignificant minority. The population of the Rostrevor district was about 700, of whom 600 were Catholics. In the town itself the enrolled members of the Orange body scarcely numbered more than a baker's dozen, and no respectable Protestant had anything to do with them. The demonstration, therefore, was not local but imported, and the decision to demonstrate in Rostrevor was arrived at by the Orangemen of Armagh, some thirty miles distant. If it were local, Nationalists would not think of seeking to prevent it, for no one held more strongly than they did that minorities had their rights as well as majorities; and that however unpalatable their views may be, the minority were entitled to express them. But it was a different matter when it was proposed to import some thousands of strangers, many of them armed, and more of them drunk, for the purpose of overawing and terrifying the residents of a district. Rostrevor was a resort for invalids—the best health 1055 resort in the kingdom. It contained numerous sanatoriums and almost innumerable invalids, and just imagine the feelings of these invalids at experiencing the drum whacking, revolver firing, and drunken jamboree of this imported rabble. Before proclaiming the Rostrevor meeting the Chief Secretary consulted the Earl of Erne, Lord High Chief Imperial Grand Master or something, and Lord Arthur Hill, Master of the Orange Light Horse. He had never heard of Nationalists being consulted about suppressing their meetings, but these potentates urged him to suppress the Orange meeting.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said they never sanctioned the proclamation, all they said was that it was injudicious to hold a meeting.
§ *MR. MACVEAGH
said that before proclaiming the Rostrevor meeting the Chief Secretary consulted two Orange magnates, the Earl of Erne and Lord Arthur Hill, He never yet heard of the Chief Secretary consulting any Nationalist Members about the proclamation of a Nationalist meeting, but this impartial Chief Secretary, before he suppressed a meeting which was bound to lead to disorder and not, considered it proper to consult the leaders of the Orange Party before proclaiming the meeting. The prime mover in all this was a peripatetic tub thumper who called himself ''reverend," but he was no more "rev." than the Chief-Secretary. This Gentleman made a speech in which he said that he and the Orangemen had endeavoured to hold a meeting, but that a "crowd of savages" gathered to prevent them, and he declared that on the 12th July he would march, if not at the head of 12,000 Orangemen, at least he would be second in command. He wished to call the attention of the Committee to the provocative character of the circular which convened this meeting at Dromore. It concluded by calling upon the brethren to assemble in their thousands to uphold the principles of the Orange institutions. The local press freely spoke of the probability of a pitched battle taking place between the two parties at this meeting. The Committee had no idea as to bow those Orange gatherings were got up- They gathered in the tag-rag and bob-tail of the countryside and very often paid them. He did 1056 not often get hold of the private circulars of the Orange organisations, but he had one in his possession from which the following was an extract:—It has been proposed by the rebels to hold a meeting in Dromore on Tuesday, 1st January, 1884, to promote, as we believe, sedition and disloyalty in our county, and we have been directed to apply to you for a subscription to defray the expenses and transport of loyal Protestants. Orangemen, and others, who will attend to demonstrate our antagonism. It is proposed that any subscriptions sent by various contributors be applied in proportion to the amounts offered as the then exigencies of the case may require, and as the matter is most pressing, may we request an answer by return of post.If they attempted anything of that kind in the South or West of Ireland every man who took part would be locked up, and probably sent to penal servitude. After these men met they set out, most of them armed with revolvers, and many of them drunk. Every one knew that this was a common thing in the North of Ireland. When he put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman on the subject of armed Orangemen, the answer was that he was considering it. They had been "considering" it for a quarter of a century, and no doubt they would go on considering it for another quarter of a century. Not long ago the Dublin Daily Express described one of these gatherings in the following terms:—Some pistol shots were fired into the air in the outskirts of the crowd, and immediately the fire was taken up by several hundred persons throughout the vast assemblage. Pistols and revolvers were produced on all sides, and a continuous fusillade was maintained for nearly fifteen minutes. The leaders endeavoured to stay the deafening discharge, but for some time without effect, and one found it hard to imagine that he was not a spectator at a sham fight in the Phoenix Park. The police and military alike appeared amazed at this extraordinary display, which the Orangemen appeared to regard as a splendid joke.But the most glaring case which had recently occurred was at Newry, when the Orange party were on the way to Warrenpoint. They began firing, as usual, out of the train, and two persons were injured. It happened that an English lawyer was looking on and was nearly hit. He immediately took train, vowing he should never visit Newry again. This was not in South Africa, but in Ireland. Three policemen and 1057 two civilians had very narrow escapes. One arrest was made and what happened? This man was brought up before a packed bench of magistrates, and their decision was, that as no evidence had been given that the accused fired with the intent to maim, they would discharge him. When he called attention to the case of this man, with his revolver in his hand and his pocket stuffed with cartridges, the Chief Secretary upheld the decision of the magistrates and said it was perfectly correct, but he wished to know if the case was going to be allowed to rest where it was? Were men passing through a crowd to be allowed to fire revolvers? If so the sooner it was proclaimed for the next gathering of Irish landlords the better. The Chief Secretary was probably not aware that there was on record on the journals of the House a Motion moved by Lord John Russell praying that the King should take such measures as he thought necessary for the effectual discouragement of Orange lodges in Ireland, and this Resolution was unanimously agreed to, and the King promised to take such measures. He recommended these facts to the attention of the Committee.
§ (5. 15.) MR. WILLIAM MOORE (Antrim, N.)
said he was glad, as an Ulster Member, to have the opportunity of referring to the policy of the Government in Ireland. He had recently been in County Antrim, in Belfast, and at the funeral of one whom both sides of the House revered, his late friend William Johnston. There was the greatest dissatisfaction in Ulster at the present policy of the Government. From the Chief Secretary's point of view there were three parties in Ireland—first the party who considered that the concessions which from time to time he had made to the Nationalist Party in Ireland disqualified him for office; second, the wider class that offered sympathy to the Chief Secretary in the many and onerous difficulties and responsibilities of his position, and who were anxious to help him in the interest of the country, and not of party merely, in carrying them to a, successful conclusion; and third, the class represented by hon. Members opposite who, no matter what might be done in the way of agricultural grants, grants 1058 for piers and harbours, the extension of Local Government, ignoring breaches of the law here and winking at it there, would accept no benefit from the hand of what they called a foreign Minister, and nothing that he could do could be reasonably expected to satisfy them. This policy of concession had been tried again and again in Ireland. He did not think the Chief Secretary should be controlled from the party point of view, but from the party point of view they saw at the last election how it led to the loss of two seats in Dublin. In the interest of the good government of the country itself it was a misfortune that those who formed the larger second class to whom he had alluded—those who sympathised with the difficulties of the Chief Secretary should be driven into the first class. He did not say this lightly. There was an idea abroad in the North of Ireland, and there was no use burking it, that the Government would go to any extreme in making concessions to the Nationalists at the expense of their own supporters. There was the question of the claim of the moderator of the Presbyterian Church. That might seem a small matter, but it was one which was deeply felt by the ministers of that church. It was believed that if the moderator had been a bishop of the church to which hon. Members opposite belonged his claim would have been settled at once. He would give another instance—these straws showed how the wind blew. A small disturbance took place in County Down. It was not a political matter at all but unfortunately the newly elected Member for South Down discovered that two or three of the persons charged belonged to i an Orange institution, and he began to | ask Questions in the House as to when i proceedings would be taken, in which he was assisted by the hon. Member for South Tyrone. The result was that, instead of these men being prosecuted at petty sessions for disorderly conduct, they were tried for riotous conduct at the Assizes, where the case was laughed out of court.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
said the question of jurors being ordered to stand aside did not arise here. That prosecution was largely due to the political interest taken in it by the hon. Member for South Down, and the feeling was general in the North of Ireland that if these prisoners had been Nationalists instead of Orangemen proceedings at petty sessions would have been resorted to. With regard to the Rostrevor case the hon. Member said the Orange celebration at that place had been jeered at, but there was nothing peculiar in choosing that place for a holiday. Rostrevor was on the coast, and it was the place to which Sunday Schools, Foresters, Gardeners, and religious and philanthropic societies took their outing. He had received an account of the disturbance which took place from an educated man, a civil servant, who stated that he was in Rostrevor on a bicycle tour. He found in the market place a band of men armed with pitchforks, staves, and clubs, and there was a kind of expectancy on their faces. On inquiring what this meant he was informed that they were waiting for the Orangemen who were coming through Rostrevor. There were only about half a dozen policemen in the town, and being unable to prevent a disturbance a free fight took place. It had been stated that the men who were brought into the town broke the chapel windows, but on inquiry it was discovered that there was no foundation for the allegation. With regard to the occurrence at Rostrevor, he said that there was a breach of the peace last year, and it was the duty of the Government, when this year they found that the Orangemen had made arrangements for their meeting weeks in advance, to see that there should be no breach of the peace. A branch of the United Irish League in the locality declared they would not permit an Orange procession at Rostrevor. The peace might have been preserved by preventing the crowds from meeting. It was not the case that they had not a force to prevent a breach of the peace. They brought down not only a large number of police, but a regiment of soldier: but the result was that because a bogus Nationalist opposition meeting was announced, the Government, to get 1060 out of the difficulty, proclaimed both meetings. That had given rise to much dissatisfaction in the North of Ireland, and he hoped his right hon. friend would give some explanation of the action he took, if explanation there could be. He maintained that the police and the soldiers ought to have been moved to the approaches to the town so as to prevent a breach of the peace. No doubt they would be told that the Government were impartial because they had proclaimed both meetings. But suppose a sentry found two men approaching his post, a friend and a foe, and he shot each of them, that might be called impartiality, but it would be neither patriotic or politic. Here was a loyal body about to meet to proclaim its devotion and fealty to the Crown, and it was put on the same level as a disloyal United Irish League Meeting, and proclaimed! He contended that impartiality, when it was relied upon, must have some regard to precedent. Now what were the precedents? He supposed there was no city in which party feeling ran so high as in Belfast; yet in 1898 a procession of Nationalists was held and it passed through the city of Belfast, the hon. Member for East Mayo, who-was in that procession, being protected by a great force of police.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said that, as the hon. Gentleman had stated, he had been present at that meeting, but, as in alt other like cases, the Government had laid down the route to be taken, and they were prohibited from going into any other part of the city.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
said he did not discuss the question of route; what he-said was that the police were there to give the hon. Member protection. In Donegal there was a question of an Orange celebration on the 12th July, and the route was laid down by the police authorities exactly in the same way as in Belfast. In the case of Rostrevor the aggressors ought to have been limited to their own district. He wished to ask what the policy of the Government was going to be in the future about these meetings? If there was a threat of a counter demonstration by the Nationalists, were the Unionist and Loyalist meetings 1061 going to be proclaimed? That was the impression in the North of Ireland, and it was giving rise to great discontent at the present moment. He would take another case which had occurred since the Rostrevor event. He referred to a Nationalist meeting in Cork which the Government objected to and directed the High Sheriff of the county, who had charge of the safe-guarding of the peace in the county, to disperse it; but that decision of the Government was flouted and ignored by the Nationalist party. On Friday last there was a pretended meeting of the County Council of Cork in the Cork County Court. [Nationalist cries of "No."] He said pretended for this reason, that nine members of the County Council could not constitute a quorum, and there were only nine members of the County Council at that meeting on Friday morning. It was, however, sufficient to give this rump of nine members the opportunity to take possession of the court house; and then they proceeded to take the control of the room in which they sat for a so-called convention of the United Irish League. Now, the control of the court house, as the judges of the High Court have decided, was vested in the High Sheriff. But, as he understood it, when the High Sheriff went into the court house his presence was at once challenged by the hon. Member for Cork as an interrupter and an interloper. It was the duty of the High Sheriff to carry out the ordinary law and to exclude this gathering from the court house under express directions from the Castle. From the answer which his right hon. friend had given to a Question of his that day, he understood that the High Sheriff called upon the local police to assist him in clearing the court house, and it appeared from the reports in the newspapers that the police refused to assist the High Sheriff in the discharge of his duty. Now, he had heard it said over and over again in Belfast, and in Ulster generally, during the last three or tour days, that it would be interesting to see how, in the case of this open defiance and flouting of the law by the Nationalists in Cork, the Government would proceed to enforce respect for their order. [Laughter.] He did not know why hon. Members opposite should laugh. Would it be left to the Orangemen, who 1062 had dutifully obeyed the orders given to them, to discard these orders in the future because there never was any intention to enforce them? In the North of Ireland they were determined to have a test case to see how far the Government would proceed with them on the same lines. The Committee had heard that at the meeting at Rostrevor the usual loyal resolutions were to be carried, but what was done at Cork? At that meeting in Cork the hon. and learned Member for Waterford made a speech in which he said that the people of Ireland were determined to come to close quarters with the Government, and to make the Government of Ireland by England, according to present methods, difficult and dangerous, and in the end impossible. The hon. and learned Member went as near as possible to incitement to insurrection. Ireland, said the hon. and learned Member, would today be amply justified in rebelling by force of arms if she had the means. But by oppression and the ruin of the country she had not the means, and it was not in the power of Irishmen to rebel against the present system. It was, however, in their power, if they had the courage to do it, to make the present system, which was a mixture of coercion and oppression, absolutely impossible. These sentiments were spoken in the court house of Cork in defiance of the High Sheriff with Dublin Castle at his back. What action was the Government going to take in that matter? He acknowledged the courtesy with which hon. Members opposite had heard him, but he was only expressing what the feeling was of those with whom he was coming in daily contact in his own home, and he trusted that the opportunity would be given to his right hon. friend to clear up the apprehensions which were so prevalent in the North of Ireland.
§ (5.38.) MR. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)
said that although he was not an Irish Member the conditions of Irish administration had a profound interest for him, as indeed it ought to have for all of them. In every other part of the British Empire they saw progress, or at least hope. In South Africa, after the prolonged and bitter war had come to an cud, there were elements of hope for the 1063 future. But in Ireland there seemed to be no grounds for such hope. Chief Secretary after Chief Secretary had appeared on the scene with the ambition to do his best for Ireland, with the hope—the vain hope—that things would improve in the course of his administration, only to find that at the end of his period things remained as they were when he entered into office. The debate to which they had listened was an illustration of the extreme difficulty in which every Chief Secretary was placed. The present Chief Secretary was blamed from both sides. They had heard the right hon. Gentleman blamed severely on one side for what was called the weakness and vacillation of his policy, and then there was a most powerful attack made upon him for his severity by the other side. The fault could not be in the individual. He had listened that night to the severe attack upon the motives which had inspired the right hon. Gentleman's actions in the case of Sheridan. He acquitted the right hon. Gentleman of any such motives. He knew he was a man of the highest character, of the greatest idealism, inspired by the keenest desire to do his best for the country with which he was so closely associated by ties of blood; and yet the right hon. Gentleman was in a position in which he could give no satisfaction to either side of the House. There must be some deep-rooted cause for that failure—a cause that was not in the individual Chief Secretary but in the extraordinary difficult situation in Ireland, where there were two people separated from each other by religion, almost by race, and divided in a fashion to which there was no parallel in any other part of the United Kingdom. In that state of things it was the duty of the Government to enforce the law, and see that it was obeyed; but it was no less their duty to bring the administration of the law into harmony with the aspirations of the majority of the people. They never would succeed in the task, such as they had got before them, if they made themselves the allies of one section of the people, and that section the minority. He did not wish it to be understood that he was without sympathy with the minority. He thought the unfortunate landlords had often 1064 been made scapegoats. He felt deep sympathy with men like Lord DeFreyne, and he believed that it would be the best investment the British Exchequer ever made to get rid of such landlords, not on mere terms of a commercial bargain, but to give them; a bonus to clear out. The spectacle of one estate where the landlord was able to afford improvements and reduce rents, contrasted with another estate where the landlord was too poor to part with what stood between him and poverty, was a state of things that must involve discontent. The cheapest thing for the people in this country would be, if necessary, to put their hands in their pockets, so as to relieve the situation which had created such acute tension in some parts of Ireland.
The first case mentioned in this debate was that of Sheridan. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford made a speech of great eloquence, in which he told a story, which, unfortunately, had been told a hundred times before in this House, of the breakdown of the machinery of government—of a man of ruffianly character getting into a position in which he ought not to have been, and abusing that position in the most cruel and abominable fashion. The hon. and learned Member made an attack on the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary which he thought was not wholly deserved; because the right hon. Gentleman manfully rose at the earliest moment to repudiate altogether the conduct of Sheridan, and any desire to shield him. But he did think that there was some foundation for the criticisms, not of the motive of the right hon. Gentleman, but of the course which the right hon. Gentleman had felt himself forced to pursue. The case of Sheridan was a very great scandal, but Sheridan was dismissed only on the undertaking that the witnesses would not be called upon to testify against him in a court of justice. But though he thought there was no ground for criticism of the right hon. Gentleman's motives, he did feel that he ought to have made an attempt by a criminal trial to bring Sheridan to justice, and. to show to all the world that he dissociated himself wholly and utterly from the man's crimes. He did not 1065 blame the Irish administration as a whole. They had a difficult task to perform: the Constabulary had shown on the whole a desire to do its work with energy and ability. But when a black sheep appeared, the obligation was all the greater to sift the matter to the bottom and bring the criminal to justice. He was keenly aware of the extraordinary difficulty in which the Chief Secretary was placed. No Irish legislation could please both parties in Ireland. It was impossible to govern Ireland in these days with a wide franchise according to the view of the minority. But, on the other hand, the Chief Secretary would not let himself go in the only direction in which it was possible to get the Government of Ireland on to a proper footing, which was to enlist more and more the sympathies of the people to his side. He did not believe in the policy of coercing British opinion. Hon. Members from Ireland put themselves in antagonism to their own interests by alienating, as they constantly did, British opinion. They did not imagine that the people of this country listened to stories like that of Sheridan without a feeling of shame, and yet the reason such stories were received with indifference was not far to seek. There was a rooted fear on the part of the people of England that, if large powers were given to those who represented the majority in Ireland, they would use them to the prejudice of the minority. He, for his part, believed there was a policy which, if it were pursued with continuity and was not made the shuttlecock of partisanship, could be carried out with a large measure of success—the policy which would result in the people of Ireland getting the largest measure of control over their own affairs, and in drawing to them the confidence of the people of this country, who, when they saw things going step by step, and successfully, would be more and more ready to assent to a large extension of the power of control being given to the Irish people. The policy of the right hon. Gentleman was a policy of making large attempts, which were doomed to hopeless failure. He regarded the question as a particularly burning one, and considered that the time had come to put in a better position the only part of the British Empire which 1066 was in this black condition. That was only to be done by winning the confidence of the people It might be said that that was a difficult matter for the right hon. Gentleman to do, but it was the policy to follow out, and he was not without hope that the right hon. Gentleman might before long be able to mould his policy with regard to Ireland with greater authority than at present. It was a constructive policy that Ireland needed. The Irish people were reasonably disappointed with its slowness. They wanted something larger, and he wanted them to have something larger. He believed that if the right hon. Gentleman would pursue the policy of extending the sphere of administration by the people themselves, and would not be afraid of bringing forward such measures in a bolder fashion than anything that had yet been seen, there would be a great mitigation of the bitterness that now existed. It was a hard burden to put upon the right hon. Gentleman. But he was a man of originality and imagination; a great career was before him; he had a great opportunity; and it was to be wished that he would take the opportunity of making a clean sweep of some of these miserable things of which they had heard that day, and in relation to which he was made, not to do what was wrong, but to soften the position of those who found themselves dismissed from the police force for a great crime, and to take up an attitude towards them which could not but alienate the great mass of impartial onlookers. He wished the right hon. Gentleman could indicate a bolder course of administration, a course marked by some clear outlook. He had recognised in his policy and that of his predecessors a tendency towards something better. He hoped this tendency would be magnified and increased, and the elements of Irish policy complained of on the other side greatly diminished. They would all, in that hope, listen with interest to what the right hon. Gentleman had got to say in this debate.
§ (6.5.) Mr. WYNDHAM
I am afraid that I shall have to disappoint the right hon. and learned Member who has just addressed you. This is not, in my opinion, an occasion for laying down a constructive policy for Ireland, and 1067 certainly it is not an occasion on which I could, without being charged almost with insanity, state that I have found a solution of the Irish question which is to operate in the course of the next three months. Far he it from me—it would be impossible for any one—to reply in a controversial spirit to the speech which the right hon. and learned Member has just made. It was a balanced, an impartial, a kind-hearted, and a philosophic speech. But I must tell him that philosophic impartiality is the quality which he will find least appreciated in Ireland; and he must himself have noticed that those good counsels which he gave with philosophic impartiality, now to myself and now to hon. Members opposite, were received with chilling silence. When he was giving advice to them I agreed with every word; when he was giving advice to me, I believe they were honestly with him; but I believe we all felt that this attitude of balanced calm was so foreign to anything to which we are accustomed in Ireland, that even if we did agree we should be betraying our ignorance of the whole subject if we allowed our enthusiasm to carry us away into cheers. The right hon. Gentleman's speech was a summary, not so much of the debate, as of the impressions which the debate had made upon him. They were the familiar impressions, he told us, that we all remembered in debates of this kind. But how did this debate begin? The hon. and learned Member for Waterford, who moved the reduction of the Vote, said he found in that Motion an occasion for condemning the entire system of Government for which I, as Chief Secretary for the time being, happen to be responsible to this House. He followed that up with a series of short but sweeping charges against the police, the magistrates, and the Government upon this matter, and upon other matters. I shall pray for the indulgence of the Committee if I trespass on their time to make an explanation of the position of the Government, which is the position of the Government which preceded it, and a comprehensive reply to this weighty attack. But before I do that, it will be felt that I ought to deal with some extraneous and separate matters which have been imported into the general trend of this debate. I will get them out of the 1068 way, and return to the main charge of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford.
I have been asked categorically to state the reason on which the Government founded its action at Rostrevor. On August 12th last year an Orange excursion party passed through Rostrevor on the way to Warrenpoint. The party numbered about 300; they were on brakes and cars. On arriving at Rostrevor they sent their vehicles along the shore road, which was the usual road followed by such parties, and they themselves marched in procession through Rostrevor, playing party tunes and shouting party cries. A collision, of course, resulted. The police did their best to preserve order, but in consequence of this unprecedented action on the part of the Orange procession—for no procession had before marched through their town—reprisals were on their return undoubtedly made by some of the Catholics, who were there in a large majority, and had gathered together—incensed, it may be, by some exaggerated accounts, as that the windows of the chapel had been broken, or incensed, in any case, because an Orange party demonstration, using party cries and playing party tunes, had gone through a Catholic district which had never been traversed by such a party before. There were a number of assaults, and a number of cross-summonses at the next petty sessions at Warrenpoint. The Bench, as I hold very wisely, counselled the mutual withdrawal of these summonses and advised the parties to use their best endeavours to live at peace in the future. Now, that is the reason for the action which the Government has taken. You have an Orange procession proceeding by a route which has never before been followed. You have that procession indulging in party tunes and cries. You have a Catholic party or Nationalist party making reprisals. You have a Court of petty sessions making the peace and advising them to keep it. There had been an unprecedented provocation, an illegal reprisal, and then a counsel of reconciliation. That being what took place last year, it came to the knowledge of the Government that a circular was being sent round urging that a new Orange demonstration should be made at this very place, obviously for the purpose of retaliation—of not leaving the whole matter where it stood. I, as an 1069 individual, might not altogether condemn that, recognising it as being a kind of temptation to which we all may be liable; but as a Minister responsible for the government of that country, I held, in common with Lord Cadogan, that we ought not to allow the setting up of new places where each party thought it was bound in honour to hold demonstration and counter-demonstration year by year. A certain number of such places now exist. These places it might be imprudent and a counsel of perfection to decrease; but we hold as a general rule that new incursions into the enemy's country either way should not be allowed when their introduction was for the purpose of provocation or for the purpose of retaliation. And I would point out that that rule is not a new departure. It is a reasonable and logical extension of the rule which has hitherto been followed. In Belfast, where both parties reside, the Executive has never allowed the Orange party to march through Catholic quarters, or the Catholic party to march through Orange quarters. But, surely, if that be a sound rule, it is a sound extension of it to say that an Orange excursion is not to go forty miles through intensely Catholic districts, or, vice versa, that a Catholic excursion is not to go through Orange districts. I do not know whether that will be accepted by everybody as satisfactory action on the part of the Government, but it will be taken as not being assistance to one side or the other, but as intended to be a sound rule of administration which, in the opinion of the Irish Government, it is wise on such occasions to follow.
Then I think the hon. Member for North Antrim also raised the question of the Cork County Court-house. I am prepared to explain what happened there, as there seems to be a good deal of doubt upon the subject. There is no doubt that the Court-house is in the custody of the high sheriff. Baron Hughes laid it down in 1867 that the custody of the Court-house was entirely vested in the high sheriff of the county; and Chief Baron Palles, in January, 1900, said—It is an established maxim in our administration of justice that the Court-house is vested, by virtue of his office, in the high sheriff.1070 It is clear from the provisions of the Local Government Act of 1898 that it is not the duty of the sheriff to allow the Court-house to be employed for a political gathering. There is no shadow of doubt that the Court-house cannot be employed as a place to hold demonstrations of a kind that are a great scandal to all people who wish to see the law duly obeyed and reverenced in the country. Nobody knows that better than the hon. Members who ask what right had the sheriff to intervene. [A Voice: ''Who built the Court?" "Who paid for it?"] Nobody knows it better than the hon. Members who this session have introduced a Bill, which I think is not likely to pass, two clauses of which are for the purpose of making that lawful which is now unlawful. That Bill would not have been introduced if they had not been well aware that a Courthouse under the existing law cannot be used for a political meeting. For reasons I find it hard to follow, the High Sheriff seems to have been in doubt as to his responsibilities and his duties, clear as they are; and it was only late on the evening before the meeting that he telegraphed to the Government for instructions. The High Sheriff had no need of instructions. He has many duties, of which this is one, but there was no more occasion for him to ask for instructions in this matter than in the execution of a writ. The duty of the Government is to give to the sheriff all the force needed for his protection, but the office upon which he is engaged is matter for himself, and not for instruction or direction from the Government. But I am prepared to allow that in this case there was some difficulty and perplexity, for the County Council were allowed to hold their meeting, and it was the duty of the sheriff to allow it. The County Council having held a meeting at noon, at half past one that meeting was resolved into a meeting of the United Irish League. It was not until two o'clock that the local police received any communication from the high sheriff. It was not until three o'clock that they were able to collect first some twenty and then sixty men. The district inspector then came to the conclusion that he ought not, with so small a force, to endeavour to disperse a meeting of 800 persons inside a room with locked doors. 1071 [Cries of "Not locked."] The inspector general, after considering the use he had made of his discretion, agreed that the district inspector was right under the circumstances. But a grave scandal has occurred. If hon. Members listened to some of the extracts given by the Member for North Antrim from the speech made at this meeting by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, they can come to only one conclusion—that the whole of the manaeuvre and the speeches made were calculated to affront, were designed to affront, and did affront the sentiment of a number of sober, law-abiding, peaceful citizens. [Interruption.] What a commentary are these jeers on the eirenicon of the hon. and learned Member for Haddington! If it is held permissible for a public body elected on a liberal and popular franchise, entrusted with grave matters of local concern, dispensing large sums of money collected in the district, and administering large sums from the common exchequer—if it be permissible, is it tolerable that such a body should take part in this tricky form of sky-larking, and then make it an occasion for delivering speeches which are intended to affront the sentiments of the great majority of the inhabitants of these two islands? That is a matter which deserves, and will receive, the attention of the Government.
I pass hastily to some incidental attacks which were made in the course of the debate upon Mr. Harrel, the resident magistrate who had charge of a Crimes Act case at Sligo. I do not intend to delay the Committee long over this matter, but I feel bound to resent and reject the attacks which have been made upon a magistrate who has been faithfully discharging his duty, and upon the Under Secretary for Ireland—that is to say, a permanent Civil servant. We generally spare Civil servants in our debates in this House, and are content to attack the political Minister responsible for their actions. I think it is deplorable that in the course of this debate one allusion after another should have been made to the fact that Sir D. Harrel is the father of this resident magistrate, Mr. Harrel; because those who made the allusion, and those who now greet my reply with derision, know perfectly well that Sir David Harrel acted as any Civil 1072 servant in that position must act, as the I instrument merely of the Executive Government to carry out the orders and discharge all that is needed to effect the policy of the Government of the day. [Cries of "And so did his son."] It is suggested that a peculiar selection was made of Mr. Harrel instead of employing a magistrate resident in the district. I will not elaborate that. I should say that Mr. Harrel and Mr. Brown were the two obvious selections; but I should like to give the Committee the reasons which actuated the Government in not appointing Mr. Henn to adjudicate in this case. It will then be seen by the Committee that the Government, far from seeking a bench likely to be hostile to the hon. Member for North Leitrim, avoided purposely including on that Bench a man who had been outrageously attacked in the hon. Member's newspaper. The reason why Mr. Henn was not appointed was because the newspaper with which the hon. Member for North Leitrim is closely associated attacked him again and again in language I scarcely like to repeat in this House. The Committee will, I hope, feel the propriety of the course followed by the Government in not setting up as judge an honourable man and an able lawyer who had been subjected to vilification by the man who was to be tried. [Cries of "Why select Harrel?"]
I think, although I have twice made a speech about Sheridan, I ought, perhaps, to add a few words this afternoon. But they shall be very brief, because I have fully stated the action taken and the reasons for it, and two divisions have been taken in the House on the subject. I know I have not convinced hon. Members opposite that the course I followed was the right one, but I have had the support of the majority of Members in the House, and I do not believe that I should have had a majority if the House believed that I was fairly accused, as I was this afternoon by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, of being guilty of conduct which would justify my being driven out of public life.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I stated that if the right hon. Gentleman did 1073 not vindicate himself from responsibility for what occurred, then he ought to be driven from public life. He has not yet done so.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I have twice vindicated myself. The hon. Member does not accept my vindication, but if I had not succeeded in the sense in which he now uses the word, I should not have had a majority of hon. Members in the House. "They did not know the facts."] Let me pick up the gravamen of his attack. It was in his concluding words: "I charge the Government with having hushed up this affair." He began his sentence by saying, "I am of opinion," and then he changed and said, "No, it is not a matter of opinion. I charge the Government." Well, my reply, which is sufficient to meet that charge, is that, but for the Government, no one in this House would ever have heard of Sergeant Sheridan ["Oh, oh!"] I will run briefly over this much-travelled ground. A tramp called Ryan was arrested on January 4th for posting a threatening notice, a somewhat trivial offence. The depositions were unsatisfactory, and bore upon them marks of having been "cooked" by Sheridan and another officer named Mahony. The prosecution was abandoned on January 25th, and Ryan was released on the 26th. I recommended the discharge from the force, without claim to pension, of Sheridan and Mahony on February 4th, and on the 9th they were discharged. Many appeals came to the Government from Sheridan, many Questions were asked in the House during the month of March, but not one Question was asked referring, even in the remotest degree, to the earlier cases which have now been discussed.; The only reference, as far as I recollect, was in a Question from the hon. Member for South Leitrim in the early summer as to the case to McGoohan. I, acting for the Government, on looking into these earlier cases, advised that there should be a secret inquiry in order to make reparation, if that were possible, to these men in the event of its being shown that they had been improperly convicted. Two officers were charged with that secret investigation on May 18th, and the 1074 report of those officers was sent to the Irish Government on July 15th. I cannot name the day, or even the week, in which I investigated the report myself, but it was towards the end of the session, when there was a good deal of business in the House. I do not know whether it was at the end of July or the beginning of August that I investigated the report; but my case is, not that I investigated the report with a view to the prosecution of Sheridan for forgery—I have never advanced, and do not now advance, the statement that I took the report and considered it with a view to the prosecution of Sheridan, who had been discharged more than five months previously—I took it to see if I should be justified administratively in making reparation to the persons convicted on the evidence of Sheridan, to get at the truth, and to measure the extent of what seemed to me to be a most monstrous evil. If now, therefore, I give reasons that might have actuated me in not prosecuting Sheridan, it is, I admit, something in the nature of an ex post facto statement. The report contained no evidence: it was not based on evidence; it enforced the moral conviction by its cumulative effect. As I stated when this matter was discussed in August last, in each case the officers showed that the arrest was made prior to the verification of the offender charged. I said then, as I say now, that this, happening once, would be a wonderful coincidence; that if it occurred twice it would be matter for incredulity; and that, happening thrice, it became an insult to one's intelligence. I therefore felt justified in concluding that the men condemned were entitled to reparation.
§ MR. DILLON
The right hon. Gentleman says the report contained no evidence. Does he mean to tell us that no evidence was taken during the secret inquiry?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The hon. Member knows perfectly well that statements made not on oath are not evidence. I now come back to the point raised. What is urged is that, having a report written by the two officers stating their conclusions, I ought at the end of July or beginning of August to have set about taking depositions from the persons 1075 whom they had interviewed. I did investigate closely the possibilities of such a course. Having discharged Sheridan in February, having in May appointed two officers to hold an inquiry, with full power to arrive at the truth, and they having assured the policemen conneeted with Sheridan that if they told the truth they would not suffer, I felt that it was out of the question to put the police officers in the witness box. ["Why not?"] I know hon. Members do not agree with me; but they have stated their case three times, and I may be allowed to state what passed and what was present to my mind. I cannot give the terms or the words used to these men. They were verbal, and they were given to these men by those who conducted the inquiry. But they were of this character—that, when I had the result of the investigation, and the account of the means employed, before me, I felt, rightly or wrongly, that I was bound to keep these men in the constabulary if they wished to remain. A fortiori, I could not, in my opinion, put them into the witness box, and even if I had, I could not have compelled them to give any evidence which they were not prepared to give of their own free will.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
One of them, in my opinion, was a party to a crime. The other two, in my opinion, knew that Sheridan was not speaking the truth, and if they had had sufficient moral courage they might have exposed him, but they did not do so.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
But the right hon. Gentleman still thought it desirable that they should remain in the constabulary force.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I did not think it was desirable. I thought it was a grave calamity, and I have so stated. But I had to choose between two calamities—keeping people in the police force who ought not to be kept there, and breaking an undertaking which had been given by the Government. It was explained to these men that if they were kept in 1076 the force they could never be used in any position of trust. An hon. Member said that one of these in en was still free to interfere with the people of Ireland. I stated most explicitly the other day that it was explained to them that they could never leave the depôt; that they could, if they liked, go on serving for such pay as they were entitled to, but that, if they left the force and sought to find a place again as honest men, they would be allowed to do so, and would be given the means for starting afresh. That has been derided as giving a compassionate allowance.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Would the undertaking given to these men, in order to arrive at the truth, have been carried out if they had been turned out of the force in which they were earning high wages, cut off from the pension to which they were entitled, and turned into the streets in the clothes in which they stood? No; it was necessary that they should be given a certain sum of money. But I supposing another course had been adopted—the course which, I gathered the other night, the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries would himself have recommended. I had it present to my mind that, in Ryan's case, but a few months before, it had been impracticable to take proceedings against Sheridan for perjury. It did not occur to me I that that which was impracticable in respect of an offence of five months standing would prove more feasible in cases all of which were three years old, and in which the principal witness could not be compelled to go into the box and incriminate himself. This impression—I ought not to call it a conclusion—was heightened by the fact that in the first case—in Bray's case—the poor man, unfortunately, had died long before I ever heard the name of Sergeant Sheridan. In the second case—the case of Murphy—he had pleaded guilty, and any one acquainted with the difficulties of proving a charge of perjury will conceive what slight grounds there were for expecting a conviction when you endeavour to prove perjury in a case that I had been determined previously by due 1077 process of law. In the third case—McGoohan's case—there was no evidence, and no chance of obtaining evidence, outside the admissions of Sheridan's accomplices. McGoohan himself had made an affidavit, saying, "I was alone that night, and it was impossible for me to make a defence or to explain my action." What evidence could a man in those circumstances give in the box?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The cumulative effect of these three cases was convincing to me. But, in a prosecution for perjury, each one of these cases would have been tried singly on its own merits; and I am of opinion—I may be wrong—that if each one had been tried singly on its own merits, Sheridan would have been acquitted—the jury would almost certainly have been divided. Had that been so, the results achieved—namely, the making; of reparation to innocent men, and the ridding the force of those who had in any degree connived at Sheridan's malpractices—would most certainly have been imperilled. Now, it must seem all I plain sailing when every hon. Member I who speaks in this House accepts from me that I was the first person who had proof that Sheridan was a scoundrel, and that he did commit these villainies. But, at the time of which we are speaking, that was not the view. The hon. Member for East Mayo himself, speaking on August 17 last year, made a balanced speech, saying that Sheridan was either guilty or the victim of some vile conspiracy on the part of his brother officers. That went on. The Press—what I may call the Nationalist, Press—either suggested that Sheridan was himself an innocent victim, or balanced between the two alternatives, and more than that, Canon Scully, the priest of the parish in Limerick where Sheridan had served, wrote a letter, to the Daily Independent, I think it was, in which he professed his entire belief in the innocence of Sheridan, and regarded him as being the victim of a conspiracy. So that, if Sheridan had been put on his trial, you would not have had the general view that he was a villain who might be condemned with or without 1078 legal evidence. You would have had the view that he was an innocent man, who himself had been the victim of oppression. As far as I can recollect, it was not until a letter appeared, written by the hon. Member for South Leitrim, who all along seems to have held that Sheridan was a villain, in the Daily Independent, that Sheridan left the country, and that everybody seemed to come round to the view, which I have held since July, that Sheridan was a villain.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Then this melancholy, deplorable case has been used as the starting-point for accusations for which there is no foundation at all. We have had great indignation of these false charges of Sheridan. That indignation comes from hon. Members who, without a shred of evidence, think they are entitled to say that Sheridan is but a type and a sample; and, again, it is represented that if these men were convicted, as they were although innocent, it was due to the machinations of the Government. Take the case of McGoohan. When he was first brought up he was remanded by a Justice of the Peace, Dr. Mulcahy. He is not a supporter of the Government. I understand he is himself a leading Nationalist, a member of the United Irish League and of the Directory. That person, who you cannot say was a prejudiced party, accepted Sheridan's story, pressed somewhat hardly, as I now think, against McGoohan, and sent him by his own action to be tried at Sligo. [An IRISH MEMBER: What else was he to do as a Magistrate?]. I hope hon. Members will allow me to proceed. I do not think my point is an imperceptible one. It is that that person, who cannot be considered to have been an agent of the Government, was himself at the time of opinion that McGoohan was a person who ought to be returned for trial, and was himself the person who returned him for trial at Sligo. We are told that Sligo juries are packed, and it has been suggested that the Government sent McGoohan to be tried at Sligo on that account. But on the first jury there was a majority of Catholics, and on the 1079 second jury, which unanimously came to the conclusion that McGoohan was guilty, there was again a Catholic and a Nationalist, Mr. J. T. O'Brien, of Ballymole. He must have been convinced that McGoohan was not an innocent man. The fact is, Sheridan deceived the magistrate—he deceived the jury at Sligo—he deceived the papers which appeared to champion his cause—he deceived many hon. Members opposite; and it is only when in the long run he failed to deceive the Government that all these hon. Members band themselves together and make out that the Government is alone to blame for not having detected this infamy before.
But the charge that Sheridan is but a fair type and sample of the police is one which must be repudiated with some warmth. Who are the Royal Irish Constabularly? The pick and flower of the small farmers of the Irish race, related by marriage and friendship to all those who are most prominent supporters of hon. Members opposite. And it is this attack that is made on some 11,000 odd of the very flower of the nation. It is repudiated by some of the most advanced organs of opinion in the Press. I have a copy of the United Irishman in my hand, and I think it goes rather further than hon. Members are prepared to go at the present moment. It is somewhat of a Fenian organ, and not at all friendly to the Government. The United Irishman regrets the fact that these denunciations had been made, and it declares—The Royal Irish Constabulary is a body of Irishmen recruited from the Irish people; bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. The typical young constabulary man is Irish of the Irish; Catholic, and (as the word goes) Nationalist; the son of decent parents; his father a Home Rule farmer; his mother a Home Rule farmer's daughter; his uncle a patriotic priest; his cousin a nun; his sweetheart the daughter of a local Nationalist District Councillor and patriotic publican; her uncle again being Chairman of the local "League" branch, and the friend of the eloquent and patriotic member for the Division, who asks questions "on the floor" about the young constabularyman's prospects and grievances. The young con-stabularyman subscribes liberally to the Church; he is smiled on by the Irish clergy; be is smiled on by Irish girls; he is respected by the young fellows of the street corner and the country cross-roads.But when a debate conies on in this House, the whole Irish National party gets up man after man, and would have 1080 us believe—of course, we do not believe it, and, of course, they do not believe it—that a considerable number of the Irish constabulary are villains of the deepest dye. All through this sad business I have never — as it is said, two blacks do not make a white—besmirched other police forces by bringing, as I could easily have brought, solitary instances of this character as painful and, shocking. They are known to exist in all large bodies of men; but I say this in defence of the Royal Irish Constabulary, against these unmerited and unsubstantiated slanders, that they are a body of men of whom every Irishman may be legitimately proud. There was some derision on the other side of the House because the United Irishman is a physical force paper. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: Yes, subsidised by the Government.] In this House hon. Members for Ireland have few good words to say for the physical force party. [An IRISH MEMBER: That is not so.] But the hon. Member for North Kilkenny who seconded the Motion—who only took his seat yeaterday, and made a very eloquent speech—when in America was at great pains to explain to his American audiences that really there I was that close harmony with the physical force party. Let me quote his words—I myself am of opinion that it is always a good thing in Ireland to have not only what is known as the constitutional movement, but to have also in existence a physical force party, even if that spirit is never concreted into action.He went on to utter sentiments which would fill the right hon. Member for Haddington with despair.When we have freedom, then will be the time for those who think we should destroy the last link which binds us to England to operate, by whatever means they think best, to achieve that great and desirable end. I am quite sure I speak for the United Irish League in Ireland.This attack on the police reminds me, and must remind many in this House, of many former debates. No fact in former debates ever made a deeper impression on my mind than the fact that in 1893 Mr. Sexton, who was then a Member of this House, moved an Amendment to the Home Rule Bill of Mr. Gladstone, in order that an Executive responsible to a Dublin Parliament might remain in possession of a central police force. The 1081 Bill, as drafted, provided for disbanding the Royal Irish Constabulary and for trusting to local forces alone. Mr. Sexton said—Pending the final settlement of the land question, there may be disorder in Ireland, there may be agrarian trouble in one county or another, and it may not be expedient for some years to place on the local authorities the responsibility of preserving order.The present leader of the Nationalist Party supported that Amendment, and used these words—The government of Ireland under an Irish Parliament and an Irish Executive will necessitate for a considerable time the existence of some central police force, which will be quite apart from the local forces that will be created in the different localities. I take the strongest possible view ou this question, and when it comes up in another form, on an Amendment by the Prime Minister, I will express my opinion on the other branch of this subject as to whether this force should not be armed and drilled within certain limits.The present Prime Minister took notice of that, and of the interesting claim of the hon. Member that it was impossible to govern Ireland, even under Home Rule, unless you had an armed and drilled police, force to assist the Executive in protecting liberty and property pending the settlement of the land question. That is part and parcel of all the other incidents which are brought forward, such incidents as prosecutions under what is called the Statute of Edward III. I make no reproach against the right hon. Member for Montrose when I say that in his time he instituted 279 cases of agrarian origin, that in his time he had to proclaim some thirty-nine public meetings, and suppress them by this armed and drilled police force, and that his conduct elicited the most ruthless condemnation from a number of Nationalist newspapers. I do not refer to that as a barren tu quoque argument; I do not defend myself against a general impeachment levelled by the hon. and learned Member against the Government by saying that the same kind of thing was said even of the right hon. Member for Montrose Burghs. I do it to show that under any Administration in Ireland, even under an Administration in close alliance with the Nationalist Party and seeking to satisfy it with Home Rule, there is a necessity for a special police force, and there is a necessity, if not for the use of a special law, at any rate for the special use of the law which the right 1082 hon. Gentleman employed. These things lead, and must lead, to collisions between the people and the police, lead, and must lead to such discreditable episodes as that in the Court house of Cork; they are designed to lead to collision between the people and the police; and then each of these instances is taken up and isolated, and magnified not as a symptom of Ireland's unrest, but as the source of it. We are told that if you have no police, no magistrates, the troubles in the country would cease. [Nationalist cries of "No!" and "Whoever said that?"] It has been said over and over again ["Never"!] that it is a great mistake to have a large force of armed and drilled police, that they ought to be, if not disbanded, reduced to narrow limits. It is said that their intervention is uncalled-for and unprovoked, and that if there are collisions it is the fault of the police, and the way in which they are handled under the Government. Let me take one of those incidents, in order to explain, and therefore to defend, the conduct of the Government by tracing it back to its source. Say that a crowd assembles to intimidate some individual with a band and opprobrious cries; it is not a chance crowd—it is one crowd of many, the symptom of an organized evil which was widespread, and, in old days, was significant of far more terrible consequences than now happily ensue, an evil which would have become general unless it had been stopped by the Government by the use of special police and also the use of a special law. That single instance is isolated, and then a contrast is drawn between the government of Ireland and the government of England.
I wish to put this quite dispassionately, and I make this-admission. In England, when you have a solitary instance of turbulent and intimidatory action being taken in connection with some local right of ownership or occupation, or with some civil right of employment and personal liberty, on the first occasion there would not be a great number of police on the spot. I read only the other day in the newspapers of a crowd of 2,000 people, who levelled fences and sacked a house because they thought they had a right of way over the ground on which it was built. Again, if any persons were made amenable to the law in England because 1083 they had been guilty of rioting, when first so made amenable they would be lenient treated. But if an organised attempt was made all over England to decide such issues, not by pleadings in Law Courts, not by discussions in this House, but by deliberate turbulence and calculated intimidation, then in England, as in Ireland, the police would have to be multiplied and organised, in England, as in Ireland, the Courts would inflict a heavy penalty, and in England, as in Ireland, the Government as a last resource would have to pass and to employ special legislation. You cannot easily find a complete parallel for the trouble which now exists in Ireland. You find something of the kind on a very small scale if you go back to the Featherstone riots; you find something of the same kind, on a larger scale, if you go back to the Sheffield rattening cases: but to get anything like a parallel in the happier annals of this country yon must go back to the Luddites. Most people thought then—everybody thinks now, I suppose—that the Luddites were wrong in thinking they could assist labour by destroying machinery. Most of us on this side of the House think that the Irish agitator is wrong in thinking that he can assist Irish agriculture by expatriating the landlord and condemning the tenants to the roadside. But, in either ease, measures for protection and measures for punishment are not dictated by a view of the moral or economical merits or demerits of these controversies which give rise to such excesses; they are dictated by the sole duty of protecting the persons and liberty of citizens of this country, and that plain duty becomes enforced and magnified when the problem attains a large size.
We are charged with being responsible for the trouble in Ireland, because we have not passed a peculiar land law which would solve all difficulties; and therefore it is said that upon us lies the blame. In this country, if legislation of a special character were introduced, in the interests of the community at large, it would be discussed in this House, although it might have to wait a session or two for an opportunity of being discussed; existing rights would be safeguarded, and any attempt to rush this House while that legislation was being discussed, or after it was passed, but 1084 while it was on its trial, in the direction of going further and faster in disturbing existing rights or hypothecating public credit than the House was prepared to go, would be resisted by almost every single member in this Assembly. That is the cause of all the trouble now, a factitious attempt to rush this House by manufacturing collisions between the people and the police. When these collisions occur, the Government has to call up the reserves which are always there for the protection of society. Each incident is magnified into an act of wanton aggression, and the Government is impeached upon the Chief Secretary's salary. But the blame does not rest on the police, on the magistrates, or on the Government; the blame rests upon those who find it easier to inflame the peasant of Ireland with rhetoric than to persuade this House by argument. It is after all far easier to organise agitation than to master a case for remedial legislation, and to present it in a convincing manner to this House. May I attempt to make that good? The charge against the Government is that it will not proceed in the right direction, or fast enough, with remedial legislation in Ireland. What is going on? Two entirely inconsistent policies of dealing with the Irish land question are thrown at our heads at the same time. Compulsory, immediate, universal purchase is one panacea; I believe that is impossible in itself, but it is certain that it is demonstrably impossible unless you merely content yourself with soiling to each occupier the holding he happens to occupy at the moment. The other policy flung at our heads at the same time, however, is that of dividing all the large farms and distributing them among those who are only in the possession of small impoverished holdings. Those two policies cannot be carried out at one and the same moment, and no attempt is being made by hon. Members opposite who feel justified in raising another agrarian agitation in Ireland to give one hour's work to either of these schemes. What are their own views? I may say that one of their newspapers says as much—the Western News— the editor of which has been prosecuted and imprisoned in the course of the present year.
§ MR. TULLY (Leitrim, S.)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the editor of that paper is a Conservative?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
He called me by many harsh Dames, but what he said in his paper with regard to the policy of dividing the large farms and distributing them was this—It is all very well to say 'divide the gross lands,' but amongst whom are they to be divided? Where are the people? And how are the few we have to be spread out upon the land? What is the United Irish League doing? Has it any lists of men who could be relied on definitely to take up and cultivate small farms successfully? There is a great day's work before the League, if we only knew how to go about it.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
Is it not the case that he was sentenced to six months imprisonment for writing articles in that paper?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
In any case I think the Committee will feel that there is some sense in these remarks, and that there is no justification for attacking the Government on the score that it-represses agitation. If you start that agitation and carry out a wild-cat scheme without having been at least at the pains to discover whether it is practicable and peaceable, there is no justification for hon. Members to throw these two policies together when in the past they have not shown so much zeal in the cause of land purchase as justifies them in taking up that attitude. We have the hon. and learned Member for Waterford leading a large party in the House and the hon. Member for South Tyrone leading a smaller contingent. I say that neither of these leaders has urged his views on land purchase with a persistency and cogency over so long a period of years as to justify either of them in recommending or palliating disorder started on the ground that the Government is remiss in these matters, and that it is blind to the remedies which are as obvious as they are urgent. Take, first, the leader of the smaller of the two Irish parties who are opposed to the Government.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
Every Ulster member, with the exception of the Member for North Armagh, is pledged to compulsory sale.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
That is an admirable example of the spirit in which the hon. Member conducts this con- 1086 troversy. Supposing that every Member for Ulster is pledged in favour of compulsory sale, does that prove that the denial of this House of a Compulsory Sale Bill is a sufficient reason for palliating an agrarian combination which has destroyed all liberty? Can such attempts at palliation be put forward with any plausibility by an hon. Member who has himself denounced compulsory purchase?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I am bound to quote the language used on this question of compulsory sale by the hon. Member. Speaking at Fivemilestone in 1890. he said—Mr. Chamberlain—and, at least, I know his views—is not in favour of universal compulsion. Neither is Mr. Balfour. Rant of this kind is more worthy of the platform of a Kerry moonlighter than of a sober Ulsterman. But, if I liked I could imitate these reckless orators. I could pledge myself to compulsion. I could extol it as a heaven-born principle. I could tell you that, with it passed, the golden age would return. I could promise it next year, as O'Connell was wont to promise Repeal, and as the Parnellites now promise Home Hide. I absolutely decline to adopt this course. Whether it makes for or against my political future, I will not stoop to tell you lies, to tell you that a thing is possible when I know it to be impossible—to tell you that, a thing is rising on the horizon of politics when I know that it is outside the scope of all reasonable or practical politic. This, I hope, is plain speaking.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I now beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman, is that a proof that I palliate disorder in Ireland?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
But it is my statement that an hon. Member who denounced the plan as impracticable and unreasonable, palliated disorder in Ireland when he stated that voluntary purchase was a sufficient reason for having an agrarian combination leading to agitation, when he charged the Governmen with the whole responsibility for this disorder; and because the Government have not found the time to do voluntarily that which he not many 1087 years ago stated to be impossible, on the ground that he would not imitate hon. Members opposite by telling his constituents lies. I must take the leader of the smaller party to a later date. In 1898 the hon. Member made use of words which showed that he was satisfied in all except minor details with the Irish land system of that country. What he said showed that his mind was turning almost exclusively on rent-fixing and the laws affecting tenure, and that progress had been made in the matter of purchase. Every man has a right to change his mind, but he has not a right to attack the rest of mankind, including the Government of which he was recently a member, because it displayed less agility of conscience and belief.
I turn now to the leader of the larger Irish party opposed to the Government, and in order to be quite dispassionate, I will not give my own account of their past attitude on the question of land purchase. I will give the picture drawn by the leader of the smaller party. Referring to the attitude of the Nationalist party on the Land Purchase Bill, the hon. Member for South Tyrone, speaking in the House of Commons on 29th March, 1892, used these words—On the 22nd November, 1888, when the House was asked to pass the second five millions, sixty-seven Members of the Irish party voted against the Second Reading of the Bill, and if they had had their way, half the freeholders created under those Acts would now be yearly or judicial tenants. The second Ash-bourne Act was passed in spite of hon. Members below the gangway. On the 1st May, 1890, the first Land Purchase Bill came to issue in this House. It was a better Bill in every respect than the Bill of last year, but though it proposed to place at the disposal of the Irish tenant farmers a sum of thirty millions of British credit for the purchase of their holdings, seventy-eight Irish Members—practically a unanimous party — walked into the Lobby against the Second Reading, and sought to deprive the tenants of this great boon. Six months later, on the 3rd December, the Bill which is now the Land Purchase Act was brought before the House, and it proposed to place thirty-three millions of British credit at the disposal of the Irish tenants. Where were the hon. Members then? All of them were in London, but they were occupied in Committee Room No. 15, and only twenty-five of them, headed by the late Mr. Parnell, came down to vote for the Second Reading. The rest abstained from voting.That was their attitude on the Land Purchase Bill of 1891, and I would remind the Committee that the regular 1088 Opposition of that day, led by the right hon. Member for West Monmouthshire, fought that Land Purchase Bill tooth and nail. Yet those who carried it out, and have since extended its operation, are accused of being so remiss, of being blind to patent and obvious remedies, that for this disorder in Ireland they are responsible, and if they put it down they are criminals at large. I can afford to carry that matter down to a later date. The Daily Independent of 29th December, 1898, re-published the following report of an interview with Mr. Redmond by a representative of the Pall Mall Gazette.'By the way, a new land war is spoken of. Will you give me your views on its prospect?''Land war! There will be no land war. No league or organisation could bring it about.'On 20th January, 1900, there was a meeting of the Connaught Directory of the United Irish League in Claremorris.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
Are these the same quotations which the right hon. Gentleman has given three times this session?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
This one will have the charm of novelty. At that meeting Mr. Davitt was chairman. The meeting passed a number of resolutions, one of which said—The promoters of this Parliamentary unity have declared that 'there is no longer any land question in Ireland.'
§ MR. WYNDHAM
These were the words of the resolution proposed by Mr. Davitt, and seconded by the hon. Member for Cork City. If up to 1898 and 1900 you have the leaders of the two Irish parties being soundly taken to task for the urgency of the land question and the feasibility of certain solutions, why are we to be attacked and the Government blamed for trouble in Ireland because our attitude now is what their attitude was then? The whole charge is not only that we are slow or remiss or parsimonious in this matter, but of being blind to remedies which are so simple as to justify agrarian agitation throughout Ireland, which stops all liberty in that country and checks all progress; and when we attempt to deal with the agitation, the whole British rule 1089 is held up to odium as being comparable to the worst phases of despotic administration. This monstrous pretension—the failure on the part of Parliament to deal with the Land question now as a justification for this excess—is brought forward by a party which has day after day been voting with the Government in attempting to give education to Irish children in our large towns. That is an inconsistency of which the hon. Member for South Tyrone has not been guilty. If I turn to the Government's attitude, I can say that, year after year and session after session, we have extended the credit available for land purchase, and we have given more money for administrative work, which is the corollary of any extensive operations. I shall invite the House—I have invited the House—to proceed with purchase at a pace which is consistent with the security of the taxpayer and with efficiency and economy. It is in these circumstances that a land war is to be declared, although its inevitable consequences are known to be destitution for the poorest soldiers that are enlisted, the scaring out of the country of capital and industrial enterprise, and constant friction and collision between the people and the police. An appeal is addressed to the courage of the Irish people, whose bravery has been proved on many a stricken field, and never more conspicuously than during the recent war. But what a sordid enterprise is this chivalrous race invited to undertake: to blow horns at night to frighten people, to bring pressure to bear on the most defenceless of their neighbours!— and all these evils are to go on pending the settlement of the Land question; and of this very idea of settling the Land question I suppose the operations on the De Freyne estate are the best example. That may be taken as the touchstone of the chances of settlement. Pending the settlement of the Land question nothing is to be done; and it is to be settled, so it seems, by a policy of proscription, which, if—Heaven forbid—it is permitted to proceed, must lead by the mere process of exhaustion to the Irish nation's consisting of the solitary figure of the hon. Member for Cork City presiding, like a new Alexander Selkirk, over a wilderness. Mr. Davitt said, at Sligo on July 7. that there were three vital 1090 national necessities—first, a great economical impetus to industrial development; secondly, the cessation of agrarian crime; and, thirdly, a counter-influence to that of emigration. These are fair objects, but they can never be attained by chasing the rainbow and baying the moon. Irishmen of all ranks, and notably the landlords as well as the peasants, desire alike to live in their own country and not to send their children across the sea. The peasants are told, and therefore in part believe, that this can only be compassed by Home Rule. They are told, and some, strange to say, seem to believe, that Home Rule can be won by boycotting their more defenceless neighbours. They are told to go to gaol for that sinister offence, which works as much moral harm on the perpetrator as it inflicts material loss on the victim. They are ordered to ruin their neighbours and to degrade themselves. Others, including many of the commercial and professional classes, whilst yielding to none in national aspiration, and believing that a larger measure of self-government should be accorded, are loyal to the Empire, and view with alarm and disgust the prospect of being placed under the heel of a party which encourages class feuds and social tyranny. Yet others, more justly as we think, hold that the chance of extirpating that evil and averting the calamity of a decreasing population lies, not only in loyalty to the Empire, but also in union with this country and representation in this House. These constitutional questions have been argued, and they may be argued again. On this side of the House we are Unionist. On the other some are Home Rulers, either under existing conditions, or under new conditions which no one has been able to define, still less to create. Each may adhere to his conviction and seek to persuade lay argument. But this is certain. There can be no cessation to agrarian strife, there can be no stanching of emigration, there can be no revival of industry, the Union must become intolerable, and any development of self-government must remain impossible unless and until the desolating process of social proscription—with its attendant I miasma of apprehension, which penetrates 1091 to and paralyses every nerve centre of national life—be repudiated by the good sense of the people and suppressed by the power of the Government.
§ (7.20.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said the right hon. Gentleman had gone somewhat out of his way to make a direct personal attack upon him. He did not complain in the least, because before he finished his speech he should deal with the actual facts. The right hon. Gentleman had charged him with inconsistency on the question of land purchase. Upon that question he had nothing to conceal. He could have been content with a system of rent fixing if that system had been fairly administered, but he had said all along that what had driven the Ulster tenants into the demand for compulsory sale and purchase had been the maladministration of the Land Acts in the Land Courts. As purchase had proceeded year by year the position had become more intolerable, and any man who ten years ago might have been willing to go on with rent fixing, seeing that 70,000 occupiers had become owners, might without inconsistency say that what bad been done for them should be done for all. That was exactly his position. What had been the history of the right hon. Gentleman's own position in connection with the land question? In the session of 1901 the Speech from the Throne promised a Land Bill, but it came to nothing. The Ulster farmers, Unionists almost to a man, asked the right hon. Gentleman to receive a deputation, and he point blank declined. They made a second application, which the right hon. Gentleman again refused. Then the right hon. Gentleman introduced a Bill which he tried to send to a Committee upstairs as non-controversial. Then he stood at that Table and asked the representatives of these tenants to confer with him. Would it not have been better to consult the tenants before he introduced that Bill? The right hon. Gentleman had made an extraordinary statement about his speeches on the De Freyne estate. He said that the right hon. Gentleman had absolutely and intentionally misrepresented what he said. He was as loyal and law-abiding as the right hon. Gentleman himself, and he had no right to use his great position to make a statement of the kind.
§ It being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again this evening.