HC Deb 06 July 1906 vol 160 cc359-69

moved the following motion:—" That Mr. Speaker do issue †See Col.51. ‡See Col.50. his warrant to the Clerk of the Crown in Ireland to make out a new writ for the election of a Member to serve in the present Parliament for the county of East Tyrone, in the room of Patrick Charles Doogan, Esq., deceased." He had to acknowledge, he said, that this was an unusual proceeding, and therefore, if the House would allow him, he desired to say a few words in explanation. If this were a purely Nationalist seat he certainly would not have taken the course he now did. He had known in the past Nationalist seats in Ireland to be vacant for many months, and in one case for a year. He took no action then because it was to him a matter of satisfaction to have one Nationalist less in the House. This was a peculiar case, and for the last few years the pendulum had been swinging in the Unionist direction. There would be no surprise in the constituency, for a Unionist candidate had been before it for some time, and a Nationalist candidate had also been selected. The question was, what should be the date of the election? The hon. and learned Member for Waterford and his friends had one great advantage over the Unionists. The selection of a candidate to contest a constituency was no trouble whatever to them. Their candidates were not selected by the constituency; they were selected by the superior officers of the Nationalist Party, and so there was no difficulty in getting a candidate. Therefore the hon. and learned Member for Waterford had nothing to do but to consider the question of the time of the election. Representations had been made to them from East Tyrone that the electors desired that the election should take place without delay, and that accounted for the action he was now taking.

MR. PAUL (Northampton)

On a point of order I wish to know whether the right hon. Member, not being a Member of the Party to which the late Mr. Doogan belonged, is entitled to make this Motion without public notice.


I do not think public notice is required. Notice should be given by the right hon. Gentleman to the Whips of the Party to which the deceased Member belonged, and I believe that has been done.


said he would now say why the constituency desired that there should be an election. For some reason or other the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and his friends thought it would be better to postpone the election. He (Colonel Saunderson) did not think it would be to the advantage of the Unionists. They desired the election to take place without unnecessary delay. Already three weeks or more had elapsed since the death of the late Member, and if the writ was issued forthwith more than a month would have intervened before the election took place. He thought it was contrary to constitutional principles that anybody in this House should have the power of disfranchising a county or a division; and therefore he hoped that before long the issue of a writ would be an automatic process, and that after a certain lapse of time, say three weeks or a month, a writ would be automatically issued by Mr. Speaker. He dared say it would be said that an election taking place immediately might be dangerous, because it was so near to July 12th, but he could assure the House that the July 12th celebrations passed off almost invariably without any disturbance at all. Hon. Gentlemen below the gangway laughed, but perhaps they would give an instance of a breach of the peace having occurred on that occasion. He did not deny that there were warm times between the two parties at other periods, but July 12th had always been understood by the Roman Catholics and the Protestants as not one of those occasions. They never interfered with them, but had allowed the Unionist celebrations to take place from time immemorial, and so Unionists conceded to them like peaceable celebrations on Lady Day and St. Patrick's Day. That argument, therefore, would not hold water. Believing the postponement of the election was doing a wrong to Unionist electors in East Tyrone who wanted the opportunity of an early record of their votes, he now moved this Motion.

MR. T. L. CORBETT (Down, N.)

seconded. Motion made and Question proposed, " That Mr. Speaker do issue his warrant to the Clerk of the Crown in Ireland to make out a new writ for the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the county of Tyrone (East Tyrone) in the room of Patrick Charles Doogan, esquire, deceased."—(Colonel Saunderson.)

MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)

said the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member in moving the Motion had one thing to recommend it to the House. It was an exceedingly frank speech. He did not for a moment disguise his real object in moving the Motion. He commenced by saying that he was taking an unusual course. He had taken a most unusual course. The rule with reference to the isssue of writs was perfectly well-known to every Member. The moving of these writs was by unwritten and invariable rule left in the hands of the representative of the Party to which the late Member belonged. Of course there had been exceptions where what had been regarded by the House as unreasonable and unexplained delay had occurred in moving writs, and in cases of that kind after notice had been served on the Party an independent Member had moved the writ and it had been issued. It was essential for the hon. and gallant Member, in order to bring himself in conformity with the traditions of the House, to prove that there had been in this case some unreasonable and unexplained delay. Mr. Doogan died on June 16th, and it was therefore less than three weeks since he was interred. He doubted whether there was a single; precedent in the proceedings of the House of an independent Member belonging to another Party intervening to move the issue of the writ after a delay of only a fortnight or three weeks. Therefore he said that the unwritten and invariable rule of the House was against the right hon. and gallant Member, and if he left the case there without another word he would be justified in asking the House to refuse the Motion. But there was something more to be said. The right hon. and gallant Member could not pretend to the House that he did not know the answer which would spring to the lips of every Member when the Motion was made. He was not going to give instances of disturbances on July 12th; a more foolish and ridiculous task could not be imposed on anyone. Everyone who had ever been responsible in any degree for the Government of Ireland on either side of the House knew perfectly well that there was a period about July 12th when the public peace of certain parts of Ulster was endangered, and it had been the custom of successive Governments to draft large bodies of police there; and to select for a contested election in this constituency, where Party feeling ran high, a date about that time was a proceeding so reckless that he could not conceive how the right hon. and gallant Member could suggest it to the House, and he was sure that no man with any sense of public responsibility would aid the right hon. Gentleman in his effort. Some of his colleagues had gone through contests, and they knew that when in addition to the ordinary celebrations there was to be added the excitement and fervour of a contested election, there could be only one result. There would be not merely disturbance of the peace, but actual bloodshed, and he denounced the action taken by the right hon. and gallant Member as one which showed that for a small Party gain men in responsible positions in the Unionist set in Ireland were prepared to endanger the public peace and bring about bloodshed in Ulster. He would tell the House exactly what was the object of the Motion. This was a fairly evenly balanced constituency. In the last election the Nationalists won by about thirty votes. He won, no doubt, by the votes of a certain number of Protestant farmers in the constituency. He was very proud of the fact that they were able in Ulster to win seats for Nationalists by the aid of Protestant votes, but if this election were precipitated about July 12th, when riots were taking place between bodies of Catholics and Orangemen, did not every sensible man know that this quiet respectable body of farmers would remain at home, and not vote at all? That was the object of the Motion, and he confidently asked the House to scout it. Their only object in delaying the issue of the writ was that the election might go over this period of excitement, and it was his intention, if the Motion, were negatived, to move the issue of the writ next week, which would bring the election on after July 12th. He therefore asked the House to reject the Motion.


I think it is right to point out to the hon. and learned Gentleman that if the House refuses to-day to issue this writ he cannot make a similar Motion during the present session.


said he would ask in that case whether it would be in order for him to move the adjournment of the debate until a particular date. If he moved the adjournment without specifying a date, the Motion might be brought up again on Monday. If in order, he would move the adjournment of the debate until next Thursday.


That Motion will be quite in order.

MR. DODD (Tryone, N.)

said he had great pleasure in seconding the Resolution. He was interested to this extent in the matter, that he was Member for an adjoining constituency. He was further interested in that he held a commission as one of His Majesty's sergeants-at-law in Ireland, and he was desirous of the peace, good-will, and order of the constituency. The fact was very familiar to every barrister who practised on the northern circuits in Ireland that for a period of something like three weeks from July 1st, when the flags were flown from the church steeples, until July 25th, when they were withdrawn, the ordinary courtesies of life between Catholic and Protestant were suspended. The right hon. Gentleman had said there had been no invasion of the peace on July 12th of late years. That was because their Catholic friends had conceded it to them. He did not know whether the House remembered the genial personality of William Johnstone of Ballykilbeg. He was a genial and kindly person for eleven months of the year, kind and cordial to all his Catholic friends, but from the, time when the flag was flown to the time it was taken away he would have " no trafficking with traitors." The sentiment of Sir Samuel Fergusson's. poem became a vitality in the North of Ireland. It was a poem that was written about the state of affairs in 1848. An Orange farmer went up to the castle at Dublin to get a gun for the purpose of defending himself against the supposed inroads of his Catholic neighbours, and the then Chief Secretary of the day was supposed to have said to him," You won't object to mix with the ranks of the loyal Catholics." The answer was prompt and decisive. Says I, make no excuse, I pray, For asking me to serve that way. We won't consider the trouble much, For we don't allow there's any such. To that abiding feeling was added the speeches of the orators, including the right hon. Gentleman, and sermons delivered by preachers of the Gospel, who ought to proclaim peace and goodwill, but who raised something like a religious crusade, leading these Orangemen to stray from the paths of peace and quietness that ought to characterise the Protestant religion of which they were the practical adherents. Aroused by that enthusiasm no person could say that there was anything like judicial calm in Ireland during July. He spoke with knowledge of what had occurred. Judges had consulted him when fixing the summer circuits, and they had always to arrange with reference to the 12th. On one occasion he made a mistake, and they were unfortunately holding the Armagh Assizes when the Orange procession came past. First there was entreaty that they would not pass by the court house. Next there was a command, next there was a judicial order. All were flouted, all were disobeyed, and the judge, after having attempted to listen to him for a few minutes, being a classical scholar, made the only really good Latin pun that had been made, on circuit, because he took the quill pen with which he was taking his notes, flung it down on his note book, and said, " Inter arma leges silent," which freely interpreted meant that when the 12th was approaching there was no room for judicial personages in the county. There was no room either for a contested election. He had contested North Antrim in July, and for three days he had to keep himself secreted, and he was beaten by 2,000 votes. The last election took place in the calm of winter. Did hon. Members really think that a verdict got under such circumstances in July would be worth having? Were they content with having a verdict from a jury drunk with enthusiasm, religious fervour, and perhaps something more stimulating. [A NATIONALIST Member: " Whiskey."] He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that it was the courtesy and forbearance of the Catholics that enabled these processions to be held. On these occasions Members of Parliament and candidates withdrew to their rooms. The police absented themselves, riots reigned, and it was like pandemonium. Unless that was done there was no peace. He was in great sympathy with. Orangemen. He had defended them at Armagh, Monaghan, and Belfast and he had had forty in the dock at one time. He had heard Presbyterian clergyman after clergyman called before the judge to give evidence of character to gentlemen who had invaded the law and been guilty of acts of violence, and the clergyman had said— The accused is a good man—one of the best in my congregation—an elder of the church, a good citizen whom we have known for years. He is a man with a family, and it would be hard for him to be sent to gaol. The learned judge, a strong and able man, after taking notes of the evidence of character replied— I have listened to the character given, and I have every reason to believe that it is true. The unfortunate thing is that gentlemen of your character think they are entitled at this particular period to ignore the common obligations of citizenship, and therefore the sentence is that you get five years' penal servitude. That was a very powerful deterrent. His people had appealed to him and had asked, " Have we not a right to march through Connemara as well as the Orangeman." He generally replied, " Yes, you have that right, no doubt, but it is a right that you had far better forego than insist upon, it is a right which has not sprung from courtesy and forbearance; we have beaten our antagonists at the poll, we have beaten them in argument, now let us see if we can't beat them in courtesy and fair play." As far as possible they desired that there should be no tumult or riot. The proposition he made to the House was that it was unfair to the Executive in Ireland to add to the religious feeling and the fervour of religious belief at that particular period of the year when the people were aroused and excited to something like fanaticism. At such a time it was greatly to be regretted that the Executive should be burdened by having to march extra police into East Tyrone for nothing else but to secure a shadowy victory for the Unionist Party. Why did the right hon. and gallant Gentleman object to deferring this election for a week? Was he afraid they would lose? In Ireland they were anxious for good government. They were anxious for law and order, and it was not his business to say anything that would inflame either Orangemen or Nationalists. His lifelong hope and expectation was that sooner or later they would all shake hands across the Boyne and try to make Ireland a peaceful, united country such as they had in England, Scotland and Wales. He seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned till Thursday next."—(Mr. John Redmond.)


desired to repudiate the statements made by the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down. The hon. and learned Member had said that the last thing he wanted to do was to create differences or ill-feeling between Nationalists and Orangemen, but at the same time he said that during the month of July all ordinary courtesies between Roman Catholics and Orangemen were suspended. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: It is absolutely true.] He absolutely denied that. He came from a part of Ireland where there were Roman Catholics and Nationalists, and he said that in the majority of cases July 12th passed off wthout disturbance of any sort. The hon. and learned Member for North Tyrone was not an Orangeman, but he belonged to the denomination from which Orangemen were most largely drawn, and for him to make the statement that judicial calm in Ireland was conspicuous by its absence during that period was, to say the least, an extraordinary thing for one who knew the facts as he did to say. It was no use for him to try to convert the House of Commons to the idea that July 12th was a perfectly peaceful day, but such was the fact, and he could not allow the occasion to pass when such unjust accusations were made against Orangemen without some attempt at repudiating them. He wished to put on record a strong denial that such a state of things existed as had been described by the hon. and learned Members for Waterford and North Tyrone. In this case all they wanted was that the election would take place without undue delay. The holding of the election near the 12th July would have no effect at all on the election. If the Protestant farmer wished to vote for a Nationalist candidate, which he did not himself believe, he was perfectly certain he would be able to go his misguided way and vote for the Nationalist even if the election took place on July 12th. The reason why they wanted this election was that it was getting near the time of the year when people would go for their holidays, when they could not get a verdict of the constituency so well, or if they did get it properly they got it at considerable expense and trouble in bringing people back from their holidays. Having obtained from the hon. and learned Member for Waterford the statement that the writ would be moved on Thursday he thought he might say for his part that no further objection would be taken.


said he thought it right to make some reply to the hon. Member for North Tyrone. The Motion before the House was that this debate should be adjourned till the July 12th. It was well known to hon. Members below the gangway that Orange Members would find it their pleasure to be performing duties elsewhere on that day. Therefore he objected to the adjournment being made till July 12th on the ground that it was impossible for him to be in his place on that day. He wished to say that he was delighted, at all events, that the Grand Orange Order had impressed hon. Members opposite with the magnitude of its ramifications and also with the importance of the position which it held in this country. Although they were in a small minority in the House and in Ireland, they had a right to consideration in connection with the issue of the writ for a constituency which returned the late Member by such a small majority. It was on these grounds that the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh moved for the writ, and he could only say in associating himself with the rest of the Ulster Party that they were delighted that the object which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had in view had been achieved, viz., by the bringing on of this election at the earliest possible moment.


As far as I am concerned, I accept the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford.

Question put, and agreed to.

Debate adjourned accordingly.