HC Deb 01 March 1906 vol 152 cc1321-2
MR. P. A. MCHUGH (Sligo N.)

I beg to ask Mr. Attorney-General for Ireland, whether he is aware that at the trial of Messrs. John O'Dowd, M.P., Conor O'Kelly, M.P., and James Mills, J.P., for alleged conspiracy at the recent winter assizes at Sligo, every member of the jury empanelled to try the case was a Unionist in politics and a Protestant in religion; that all Catholic jurors, to the number of eighteen, who were called to the box, were ordered to stand by, and that in the same case nine Protestants were ordered to stand by; is he aware that the Crown Prosecutor, Mr. Powell, stated in reply to the judge that the Crown Solicitor was acting on the instructions of the Attorney General in ordering certain jurors to stand by; and that the Crown Solicitor in the case has since been promoted to the position of Chief Crown Solicitor for Ireland; and what steps does he propose to take to prevent in Ireland the abuse of the practice of the Crown of unlimited challenge without cause assigned.


At the trial referred to, the number of persons called as jurors and ordered by the Crown to stand by was, as stated, twenty-seven. The Crown Solicitor informs me that he did not inquire into the religion or politics of the jurors; and I do not know, and I have no means of ascertaining, what their opinions on political or religious matters were, or now are. The Senior Crown Prosecutor stated at the trial, in reply to the learned judge, that the Crown Solicitor was acting under the authority of the Attorney-General in challenging as he did. As the hon. Member is aware, I was not at the time Attorney-General, and I know nothing of the facts personally. The Gentleman who was at the time Crown Solicitor for Mayo has since been promoted to the position of Chief Crown Solicitor for Ireland. In reply to the last paragraph of the Question, I beg to say that I propose immediately to call the attention of all the Crown Solicitors in Ireland to the Rule, originally issued in 1894, that no person should be directed to stand by on account of his religious or political opinions, and to impress upon them the importance of strict compliance with it. I am also conducting inquiries with a view to ascertaining whether it is possible, with due regard to the interests of justice, to make any change in the rules at present in force upon this subject.


Is there not an organised system of intimidation of the special jurors in the West of Ireland who have to deal with agrarian offences?


I must ask for notice of that question.