HC Deb 10 July 1907 vol 177 cc1612-4

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that, at the trial of eight men at the Leitrim Assizes on Thursday, who were charged with unlawful assembly at Drumkerrin on 7th July, 1906, the evidence showed that Thomas Brady was boycotted for caretaking two evicted farms, that his sons, aged seven and twelve, had to travel a distance of twenty miles to secure provisions under cover of the night, that on their return journey they were attacked by a mob of 600 persons and the provisions taken from them; whether all the prisoners were identified; whether he is aware that the Judge in his charge asked whether they were living in a Christian country, and said it was sufficient to see the extent of the boycotting to look at the starved appearance of the Brady boys; that the jury disagreed; and whether, seeing that this is the third time these men have been tried for this offence without any result, he will say what further action he intends to take in this case.


As the hon. Member is probably aware, I myself conducted the prosecution in this case at the last Leitrim Assizes, so that I am quite familiar with all the circumstances. The question states, fairly accurately, the case made on behalf of the Crown and some of the comments made by the learned Judge who tried the case. The jury disagreed. It is not usual after three disagreements to put the accused on trial a fourth time, but, owing to the peculiar circumstances of this case, I am considering the propriety of adopting this course in the present instance. I desire to point out to the hon. Member, most respectfully, the evil effects upon the administration of justice in Ireland of Questions such as this, put as regards pending cases, in this House. I am quite sure that his sole object in putting them is to assist the Government in the detection and punishment of crime, but unfortunately an impression prevails in Ireland that his intention and that of his friends is, for political purposes, to show that the Irish people as a whole sympathise with crime. The effect of the Question is, I have no doubt, to excite political prejudice among the jurors, and to render it more difficult to secure a conviction in a clear case than it would otherwise be.

MR. MOORE (Armagh, N.)

What I wish to know is if, after the three disagreements which have taken place in this case, the right hon. Gentleman will change the venue.

MR. P. A. McHUGH (Sligo, N)

Is it in order for a Member of this House to take advantage of his position as a Member for the purpose of insinuating what he dare not state in public outside this House, viz., that these men, all of whom are friends of mine, are guilty of the charges preferred against them?


I do not think that insinuation is conveyed. All the hon. Member asks is if, the jury having been unable to agree, the Government intend to take further action.

MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)

But the Question went further in asking if the trial would take place in the same venue. That is an insinuation, I submit. I would like to ask a general Question, and that is—Is it in order, or is it proper, that a Question of this kind should be put with reference to a case that is still sub judice?


I have always said it is extremely undesirable to ask Questions with reference to cases which are pending, and to that I adhere.


As a matter of personal explanation, my Question was not intended to presuppose the guilt of these people, but to ask for a fair trial of the issue, which we have not had up to the present. I ask, again, is it proposed to change the venue? Otherwise another trial will be a farce.


said the juries had already disagreed at three trials, and he therefore asked if the venue was to be changed.


It is, I hope, unnecessary for me to say that in considering these matters I am most anxious to decide on what is most advantageous in the interests of justice, but I cannot undertake to say in this House what steps it is proposed to take.