§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £2,500, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1908, for Criminal Prosecutions and other Law Charges in Ireland."
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
said that one day last week his noble friend the Member for the Chorley Division asked a Question of the Chief Secretary in regard to the Vote for which a Supplementary Vote was now asked, 1549 and the answer given had caused him and those who worked with him some little trouble, because it was very difficult to identify the statements made in the reply with the figures to be found in the Estimates. The Question was "What had been the expenditure for law charges in Ireland under the sub-head 'Fees to law officers and fees to counsel,'" and the Chief Secretary's reply included the statement that fees to law officers amounted to £7,000. He could not find in the Estimates those figures at all. He found that the fees to law officers in the Estimates stood at the sum of £1,000, and that the £7,000 was found in the Estimates as fees to counsel. That was a totally different question altogether, and was included in his noble friend's Question, but was not replied to, and he hoped that they would have an explanation of this discrepancy. But that was not really the serious aspect of the Supplementary Vote. The Government the other day took part in a debate initiated to call attention to the condition of affairs in Ireland, and they declared through the mouth of the Chief Secretary, the law officers and others, that everything was fairly satisfactory and much better than it had been. It was a most remarkable fact that in face of these declarations for the first time for many years the Irish Executive had to come forward and ask for Supplementary Vote in respect of law harges for expenses incurred in connection with criminal prosecutions, and also in regard to the police. Not only was the Estimate which the Government made for this particular purpose proved to be insufficient, not only was the £1,000 proved to be altogether inadequate, but the Government now had to come to the House of Commons and ask for a Supplementary Vote of £2,500. He believed he was right in saying that this particular sub-head of the Vote was created in 1879–80, and he thought that he was also right in saying—and he challenged the Chief Secretary to contradict him—that since 1879–80 there had been no equal to the sum now expended; he found that the average for the ten years ending March 31st, 1906, for all but eight or nine months of which the Unionist Government were in power, and practically prepared the Estimates, was only £886 on the Appropriation Account. That was more eloquent than the speeches of Gentlemen opposite in regard to the 1550 results of their administration, when they asked them to accept their simple statement that the condition of things was all that could be desired, and that all it caused was a certain amount of anxiety. When they found that the first result of the tenure of office of the Party opposite was to increase the law charges so that they had to come to Parliament for an extra Vote, they were justified in saying that here again, as in the statistics produced the other day, there was far more powerful and eloquent testimony to be found in support of their contention than in any of the arguments produced by the Government. He was aware of the fact that a few years ago additions were made to this vote in respect of the Public Works Department, and that that amounted to about £12,000 a year, and that had to be taken out altogether in comparing the figures, which he had done. Under the whole Vote there had been unexpended in the year 1902–3 £6,500, the next year £8,400, the next year £6,000, and the next year £1,100. This year there was nothing to surrender, because everything had been expended, and in addition to that the Government as a result of the policy of conciliation had to come and ask for more money. The last thing he would do was to oppose the Government in an honest endeavour to secure justice and enforce the law; but did this represent expenditure which had been honestly incurred in such an endeavour? The result of this money paid to law officers for State prosecutions were two convictions involving eight persons. The other day, in the debate, the Solicitor-General stated—and he listened with amazement, because it came from one of the law officers speaking with all the authority and responsibility of his office—that the Government in making these prosecutions had found that the real difficulty which confronted them was due to the statements made by Members of the Opposition that the Government were in sympathy with the offence of cattle driving. He had read the references to these trials in several Irish papers, but he did not remember having read one single statement by counsel representing the people prosecuted to the effect described by the Solicitor General. He did remember a statement made by counsel to a very different effect, viz., that these prosecutions were a sham, and that there was no reality in them. He had made it 1551 his business to look up the reports of these cases, and he would take one statement alone. He did not think the Chief Secretary or the Attorney-General would attempt to argue that it was an exceptional statement or in any way inaccurate. On November 25th, in the Nisi Prius Court before Justice Wright, Mr. Macdermott acting for the accused, said—If the Attorney-General said, like Mr. Birrell, that these practices were reprehensible, perhaps they were, but they were not illegal. If cattle-driving was illegal, where were the men of education and position, and where were the Members of Parliament, who, on every platform throughout Galway, month after month and week after week, advocated this form of agitation? They were told that the Irish Executive itched to prosecute members of this great political party, but the same Executive in fact prosecuted five farmers in the West of Ireland, who had no criminal intention, but who were endeavouring to undo the work of devastation done in the county in the past. He asked the jury to come to the conclusion that these people were gilty of no crime. They would be lending themselves to do the dirty work of other people if they found any other verdict than not guilty.That was the language of a counsel de-fending these people, who they knew from his distinguished reputation would have used the best arguments he could command in defence, and if he could have brought home to the Opposition the charge made by the Solicitor-General, that it was due to their misrepresentations, he was sure he would very gladly and properly have done so, but he made no reference to it. It was never referred to until the Solicitor-General spoke on behalf of the Government, and he hoped they would have some further justification for such a charge, for which there was not a shadow of foundation. This expenditure of public money had been absolutely wasted, and he was convinced that Mr. Macdermott represented the views of the great majority of the people in Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom when he said that if they were going to embark on the expensive and laborious process of State prosecutions, surely in common justice and fairness they should prosecute all those who came under the charge, whatever might be their position in life or in Ireland in regard either to a political or any other movement. The Chief Secretary told them in his speech that his fingers itched to prosecute one Member of Parliament, who had since been sent to 1552 prison. He did not know what the sensation of itching fingers might be, but he was perfectly certain of this, that whatever may have been the condition of the Chief Secretary's fingers, his hands were paralysed. If he and the Government had intended to make these prosecutions real they would have prosecuted all concerned in the offences, regardless of individuals and the position they held in the world. They prosecuted these farmers from the West of Ireland, these farm labourers, these lads, and the juries acquitted them or disagreed; and could anybody blame the juries? They knew very well that in this country it was a difficult thing, in a case where popular opinion was largely aroused, for a jury to give a verdict against that popular feeling, but it was far more serious and difficult in Ireland, for a juryman, if he found a verdict contrary to popular opinion, was likely to find himself an unpopular person, which probably meant social ostracism and might mean that the man and his wife and family could not get even the necessaries of life. The Chief Secretary when he took office talked of boycotting, and told the House that he knew something of boycotting, the boycotting of Nonconformists in Church of England parishes. He thought the Chief Secretary's language about boycotting now would be very different from what it was then. He did not think now he would get up in the House and compare boycotting in a county in the West of Ireland with boycotting of Nonconformists in an English parish where there was a vast majority of Church of England people. The responsibility for the ridiculous results of those State prosecutions rested solely with the Government counsel, for those who prosecuted put the whole case in the words he had just read to the House. If they had intended that this public money should result in something practical, the Government would have taken steps very different from those they did adopt. He was in this difficulty, that it was not part of their policy to interfere with the Government in the fearless discharge of their duty for the maintenance of order, and, therefore, he had not thought it right to put down an Amendment to reduce this Vote; but he did not hesitate to say that this money had been wasted in a profligate manner owing to the want of courage and determination on the part 1553 of the Government. The prosecutions had failed, not because there was no evidence, but because the Government had failed to carry them through with courage and determination, and it was a remarkable fact that for the first time they should have a Supplementary Estimate in regard to these law expenses, and that at the same time they should have the results he had described, unsatisfactory in themselves if one compared them with the expenditure, and ten times more un satisfactory if one judged of them by the effect they must have had on the people and on the maintenance of law and peace in that country.
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. CHERRY,) Liverpool, Exchange
said that with reference to the first question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin he would reply as well as he could, and explain the discrepancy in the figures. The answer which the Chief Secretary had given the other day in reference to the amounts spent on law officers' salaries related to the salaries of the law officers. The Supplementary Estimate which they were now discussing was for fees.
§ MR. CHERRY
said the Question might have been misinterpreted as well as the answer, but he had the return, and the figures had reference to the salaries of the law officers and not to fees.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
Here is a copy of the answer given by the Chief Secretary. It says—Fees to law officers, voted £7,000, expended £5,740. General law expenses, etc.
§ MR. CHERRY
said that must have been a mistake. Those were the salaries and not the fees. He thought the right hon. Gentleman only wished for an explanation of an answer which was certainly a little misleading. The real question was the important one as regarded the increase in the expenses for these prosecutions, and the fact that a larger sum was asked for now 1554 than in previous years, and the fact that for the first time for some years a Supplementary Estimate was asked for. That was, he admitted, perfectly true, but he would like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the general expenses for law charges had been continually reduced for twenty-five years, and were brought down last year and the year before to a lower figure by many thousands than they had been for a long time. In 1881–1882 the total amount voted for law charges was £105,669. In the following year, which was the largest on record, they rose to £126,396. They then came steadily down to £70,000 in 1893–1894. They came down in 1900 to £68,000, and rose in the following year to £70,000. In 1902–1903 they were £68,517; in 1903–1904, £68,600; in 1904–1905 £65,416; in 1905–1906, £64,416; in 1906–1907 £62,652; and for the present year the original estimate was £62,875. So that, with the exception of last year, the sum was smaller by several thousands than any sum voted in previous years.
§ MR. CHERRY
said it was, but the following year, 1899–1900, they rose to £67,000. The total amount voted for the present year including the Supplementary Estimate would amount to £65,224, and that was actually less than for the year 1904–1905. In addition to this, several additional charges had been put in recent years upon the Vote for Law Charges that were not on before. In 1889 the expenditure of the legal department of the Board of Works, £3,500 a year, was added to the Vote, and considerable expenditure in connection with legal department of the War Department. In 1899 an addition of £8,400 was made to the Vote for the High Sheriffs' expenses of receiving Judges of Assize. These sums amounted to £12,000 a year, and in addition to 1555 that, in 1901 the law expenses of the Department of Agriculture were added to the Vote. He had not the figures but they amounted to a very considerable sum, for the Agricultural Department carried on business all over Ireland, and was constantly involved in disputes which led to legal expenses. He thought it would be reasonable to assume that they would not be less than £1,000 or £2,000 a year. There had been added since 1889 at least £13,000, probably £14,000, which were not charged upon the, vote before. If they deducted that from the total amount of the Vote for this year they would bring it down to very nearly £50,000 as compared with over £100,000 twenty-five years ago. No doubt there had been more expended in the last year than in previous years, and in view of what had been said as to the terribly disturbed condition of the country it was only natural that there should be. He had always admitted that there were some portions of Ireland in a disturbed condition, which gave very great trouble. In addition to that, when they changed the venue in criminal cases an immense amount deal of additional expense was incurred. They had been blamed for proceeding against these men in the way they had done. He supposed the only alternative was to put in force the Crimes Act, but he did not think that had been suggested by the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, at all events without giving the jury system a trial. Whether they were right in persisting in it as long as they did was another question. He thought that they were, and that the results had justified their action. Whether they succeeded in getting convictions or not cattle-driving had died down, and he held it was due to the prosecutions. He held that the calling of public attention to the circumstances of the individual cases by trying them in the ordinary way before an ordinary tribunal had a very considerable effect in inducing the people of the districts to use their own influence to put a stop to cattle-driving. Nobody seriously doubted that the number of cases and the number of persons concerned had very greatly diminished. Cattle-driving was a very easy thing to do. One or two men could open a gate and turn the cattle out of a field. With reference to the 1556 Solicitor General's speech, his recollection of what his hon. friend had said was that the difficulties of the Government in regard to cattle-driving had been greatly increased by the fact that Members of the Opposition were stating that the Government were encouraging rather than discouraging it. There was no doubt that some people concerned in cattle-driving thought the Government were encouraging it, and public speeches in which that accusation was made, and which were published all over Ireland, must have had a very great effect in encouraging the very thing they wanted to stop. He thought hon. Gentlemen opposite had not really given them the help they might reasonably have claimed from them. It must be obvious to anyone that whether they were right or wrong in not prosecuting Members of Parliament, they were not wrong in prosecuting the men who actually took part in the drives. In the cases which had been referred to they prosecuted every person they could identify as having actually taken part in the driving of cattle. They did not prosecute any Members of Parliament who merely made speeches encouraging cattle-driving. The right hon. Gentleman said that they prosecuted one particular Member, but that was not so. One of the Judges of the Chancery Division exercising his power of committal for contempt of court had put an hon. Member into gaol for six months, but the Government had nothing to do with that. He did not think that that had had much effect upon cattle-driving, and it should not be overlooked that the most serious cases of cattle-driving were not in the hon. Member's county at all. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the subject of boycotting, and spoke of its serious character. As a matter of fact there was very little serious boycotting in Ireland now.
§ MR. CHERRY
said he would read a report for the East Riding of Galway made by the county inpector in the month of October. He stated that there was no really serious boycotting in the Riding. There were a good many unpopular people who were boycotted to the extent 1557 of being unable to get work done locally and some were boycotted in the local shops; but they all contrived in some way to get what they required.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
Will the right hon. Gentleman, in accordance with the invariable practice, lay the document from which he has just read upon the Table of the House.
§ MR. CHERRY
Certainly. It was agreed that it was most difficult to stop boycotting by prosecutions, in fact, it was almost impossible, because prosecutions stirred up feelings against individuals and embittered them. In many cases the persons boycotted were most anxious that prosecutions should not be undertaken because the evil was only increased thereby.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG (Antrim, S.)
said these Supplementary Estimates had been rendered necessary by the numerous cases that came before the Courts in one way or another in connection with cattle-driving, and it was to the attempts of the Government to deal with this crime that he intended to confine his remarks. On Tuesday last the Attorney-General and the Chief Secretary declared that they had considerable difficulty in knowing what the nature of the charge was which the Opposition brought against the Irish Government. This debate would afford them another opportunity of making that point clear. The charge which they made was that the so-called prosecutions against persons charged with cattle-driving were undertaken at a time and under circumstances when the Attorney-General and the Chief Secretary must have known that they would be futile and the money spent on them would be thrown away The Solicitor-General acknowledged that the state of affairs existing in Ireland was a serious one and he asked what were the Government to do under the circumstances? That was not a question for the Opposition to answer. The Government had created the situation themselves, and it was their duty to solve it. They had failed to find a way out of the difficulty and they had handled the question in the worst possible way. Instead of showing a firm front in the 1558 early stages of cattle-driving, the Government led those engaged in it to believe that they did not look upon it as a serious offence, and four or five Members of the Government made speeches which he maintained could not be taken to mean anything else than that the Government did not intend to take any serious cognisance of this crime. The Solicitor-General tried to put the blame upon the shoulders of his political opponents for having created the present situation by their speeches. After having heard the declarations of his own colleagues on so many occasions that cattle-driving was not a serious offence and ought not to be treated seriously, the Solicitor-General had the effrontery to turn round and declare that it was his political opponents who had placed the Government in this difficulty. The Attorney-General claimed that cattle-driving had decreased and that the publicity given to the question by his prosecutions had caused that decrease. And yet the Opposition had been frequently blamed for giving publicity to cattle-driving cases by bringing them before the notice of the House of Commons and the country. They were all familiar with the name which the Chief Secretary thought fit to call the Unionist Members from Ireland in April last, for bringing before the House of Commons each case of cattle-driving as it occurred. Now the Attorney-General was claiming credit for stopping cattle-driving, by that same publicity which was a crime six months ago when brought about by a Unionist Member. To say the least of it, such language was highly inconsistent. They must, however, judge this matter by results. What had been the result of the legal proceedings instituted by the Attorney-General? There had been 572 persons proceeded against for cattle-driving, and out of that number only five were convicted. No amount of talk could prove more conclusively than that fact the absolute futility and ridiculousness of those prosecutions. What had all the mild remonstrance against cattle-driving which had lately been indulged in by members of the Government accomplished? Only five convictions out of 572 cases. Probably the Chief Secretary would 1559 reply that in 288 of these cases the defendants were ordered to find bail, but he did not see how he could get much comfort out of that. In a great many cases each individual man only took part or wanted to take part in one cattle-drive, after which he would wait until the Estates Commissioners divided the estate up, and then he would get his share. In the 136 cases in which proceedings were taken by indictment, five were convicted, twenty-seven were acquitted, and in 104 cases the jury disagreed. The right hon Gentleman said the Opposition were responsible for these proceedings.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
said that, at any rate, the Attorney-General claimed that the greater share of the blame of having rendered these proceedings necessary belonged to his political opponents in Ireland. That was a most absurd contention. During the whole of last session when a debate took place here or another place on the state of Ireland the same sort of reply was made by Ministers of the Crown. On each and every occasion the Minister who spoke for the Government, while admitting that technically speaking cattle-drives were breaches of the law, proceeded to point out extenuating circumstances.
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted, and forty Members being found present—
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
said the Minister who replied for the Government invariably proceeded to state extenuating circumstances and to excuse the persons who had taken part in the drives. On one occasion the Chief Secretary, when making the usual extenuating speech, said the House must remember that these cases were not "predatory" but only "intimidatory," and that the House should take that into consideration.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
said it was certainly put forward as something in the nature of an excuse or at least as a fact that ought to be taken into account to minimise the degree of the offence. The Government had shown in regard to cattle-driving their unwillingness or their inability to deal with it. From beginning to end the Government had shown to the people of Ireland that they were not prepared to take the serious view of the situation that Unionist Members said they ought to take, and it was perfectly ridiculous, after the results of the last summer assizes, to come to the House and ask for money for law proceedings, when they had not the least chance of obtaining convictions. The Attorney-General had read a report of an inspector from the county of Galway saying there was practically no serious cases of boycotting in that part of Galway to which the report referred. Well, he did not think that amounted to very much. They did not know what the inspector meant by serious boycotting, but fortunately they had some idea of what the Chief Secretary's idea of boycotting was. In the early part of last year the right hon. Gentleman speaking in the debate on an Amendment to the Address said—Boycotting is limited, I should say, at the most to a score of cases—any boycotting to which the term 'savage' can be applied. As to exclusive dealing, as to cutting people, I know enough of village Nonconformity to say that if a microscopic eye was focussed on our villages as it is focussed on the villages of Ireland, we should have a record too of that method of exclusive dealing which I deplore and deprecate, but is too often almost inevitable when feeling runs high.All he could say was that if that was the right hon. Gentleman's idea of boycotting of the second class in Ireland he was grievously mistaken. The Report which the Attorney-General read bore him out in that statement, for the county inspector said there was practically no serious boycotting, and then proceeded to tell what class of boycotting did exist. The county inspector pointed out that there were many persons in that part of Galway who found it difficult to get men to work for them, and who found it difficult to get food for themselves and 1561 their families, but that those people got hold somehow of the necessaries of life.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
said he thought he had paraphrased the words of the right hon. Member correctly. He asked the Attorney-General whether he could show a single case throughout England, Wales, or Scotland where such a state of things existed as was described in the county inspector's report. He did not agree with the Chief Secretary that these cases were few and far between. Only the other day he was informed that a person in another part of Ireland, who had suffered very seriously in past years from boycotting, recently sent a confidential agent of his into Roscommon, Galway, and other parts of the country to find out what was the true state of affairs. That gentleman returned and said that cattle-drivings were very frequent, but as a rule they were carried out in a more or less good-humoured way because the people had long ago come to the conclusion that there was not the slightest use in attempting to prevent it, but that with regard to boycotting, in the whole of his experience he had never see boycotting of the same cruel and relentless nature as existed at the present time. In the old days children were left out, but that was not the case to-day. He did not mean to say that there were so many cases at the present time, but where it existed it was of a more cruel and relentless not are. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: Who was the agent? Was he an agent of Lord Ashtown?] No, Lord Ashtown unfortunately lived in the most disturbed part of Ireland, so there was no need for him to send an agent to another part to find out what boycotting and intimidation was like. He asserted that it was bad policy for the Chief Secretary and Attorney-General to come down to the House and minimise boycotting. It was not presenting the matter in its true colours. Such a matter ought to cause grave anxiety to the Government and their first duty was to communicate that 1562 anxiety to the House instead of trying to minimise and excuse the matter.
§ MR. JOHN ROCHE (Galway, E.)
said he would not occupy the time of the House by referring to more than one case which, he thought, would illustrate why Nationalist Members complained of the manner in which cases were conducted by Dublin Castle methods. The case to which he referred occurred quite recently in the constituency he had the honour to represent. On September 2nd last he received a wire from a constituent who lived at Woodlawn, better known as the residence of Lord Ashtown, a gentleman who appealed for funds to carry on a journal which was edited by him, and was called Grievances from Ireland. The wire contained an inquiry whether he was at home, and he replied in the affirmative. In the evening three of his constituents arrived at his place, having travelled twenty-one Irish miles. The object of their mission was to submit to him three anonymous letters which they had received on the morning of August 31st. The substance of these was that those men were requested to go to the church at Woodlawn at eleven o'clock at night and assist in placing a bomb under the church, for doing which they were to be handsomely rewarded by considerable sums of money. He got those letters and requested the people who received them not to say anything about the matter at present. On the next day he wrote to the county inspector at Ballinasloe requesting an interview, which he granted, and the inspector came immediately to his place at Woodford. He laid the letters before the inspector, and told him that the people who received them were under the impression that this was a plot to entrap them into the perpetration of a proposed outrage. He would only read one of the letters which was typical of all the others. He might mention that five different persons in his constituency were written to and not one of them had the most remote notion or idea that any second person had been written to, so that if any of them had responded to the appeal and gone to the church at eleven o'clock on that Saturday 1563 night the object of the originators of the plot would have been accomplished. I will now read to the House a letter which was addressed to a man named Mahon and was headed "United Irish League"—Dear Mahon,—If you are as we think a true Catholic and Irishman with the welfare of your religion and country at heart and a faithful member of our Land League, and if yon are willing to do a little work for the same we will give you £50 in hand and £50 more in monthly instalments. The cowardly cruel evictor that is the curse of our country will be going in a few days to foreign parts; now or never is the time to nail him; we won't fail this time like we did in Waterford.We have a man that's well used to the work to blow him up while he is praying to his friend the devil in church next Sunday and send him home to hell sure and certain. It will be done in such a way that the costs won't be heavy, but the man is a stranger and as you know none of the rotten supers round Wood-lawn can be trusted, we want you to show him the right place to bury the pot. We are told that his pew is under the stained window-that faces the gate close to the headstone; that's the spot to put the bomb; be sure of the right place. All you have to do is to be at the church at eleven o'clock to the minute next Saturday night; don't go before the time as the shorter you are on the ground the safer for yourself and be sure to avoid the blasted peelers on the way, but there will be no risk as they will be all on guard at the big house and will never dream of the church. The man will be there at eleven; if you arrive at the window first give a very low whistle and when he appears say 'Franuawail.' If he is there first he will say the same word to you; ask no questions, but just point out the spot. Give him a small bottle of paraffin oil, which you must bring with you in your pocket; about a half-pint bottle, that will make no bulk in your pocket, for fear you might meet any of the patrols on the road going. If the man does not join you at the church window at once, don't wait longer than five minutes, as it would be too dangerous to make any delays, but just place the bottle of paraffin oil on the right spot and the man will know. If he asks your name say it is Fahy; he is a stranger and will be leaving the country at once, so you need not be afraid of him, but if you like you can bring a mask and put it on when you get inside the church ground; a piece of cloth with the eyes and mouth cut out would do. For God's sake, Tom, be careful; don't walk on the grass if it is wet, but keep on the gravel if you can. You ought to get the loan of someone's boots. You will meet a friend at the cross roads going back, and will hand you five £10 notes; don't delay a minute with him, but hurry home. If you are afraid, Tom, to go alone, you can bring another man with you, but be sure he is one that can be relied on, for remember, Tom, if this secret is let out, as sure as God is above your life will be taken. If you bring a man with you we will give you ten pounds for him, but we would rather you went alone as the less that know the secret the better. If you are 1564 afraid to do this little job yourself, Tom, send a true man that won't fail and he will get the same money; but don't fail if you can't go yourself to send someone, or the man might put the bomb under a wrong window and we would miss our mark a second time. If we hear he has left Woodlawn before Saturday we will let you know. We are sending this for safety to a friend to post far away, and think it safer not to sign our names. God be with you.If you tie two old cloths over your boots before you cross the church wall, you won't leave any footprints, as that is the only danger. Tom, for the good of your father and mother and brothers' souls, don't let out this secret, for if you do you will be killed as dead as a maggot; but if you are true to us you will never see a poor day. If you can get a bit of fusee without rousing suspicion, bring it with you. A groom will post this letter for safety on his way to the horse show.He might mention in passing that the letters those five different persons received were each and every one of them posted in Dublin. At the interview with the county inspector on 5th September, five days after the attack on the church was to take place, he told the inspector that those people were under the impression that this was a plot got up in the interest of the editor of Grievances from Ireland; that he thoroughly agreed with that view; and that if that was correct either of two things should have occurred. In the first place, if the editor of Grievances from Ireland had anything to do with the plot, either he or his servants were at the church to receive the people who were invited to go there; or that the police were there—and there by his direction—on the night in question; and he trusted that the inspector would be able to clear up those two points. And he further added that if neither of those two things had occurred he was thoroughly convinced that Lord Ashtown was in no way connected with the plot. The county inspector was a bit sceptical at their first interview and gave him no in-formation upon that point. He assumed that the inspector at once got into communication with the Castle. The next time he heard about the matter he was informed that the inspector had thoroughly satisfied himself that he knew who had written the letters, though the inspector did not tell him who. He told him, however, that he had sent the original letters to Dublin, to be submitted to an expert, but 1565 up to that time he had not received a reply. Afterwards the inspector informed him that on the night of the 31st, he and four police had been at the church all night waiting to receive those unfortunate people of his, if any of them had been foolish enough to respond to the appeal that had been made to them. Furthermore, what happened? Those letters were written and posted in Dublin, and during the time they were written and posted in Dublin Lord Ashtown was there and left Dublin on the Saturday morning, the 31st, for Woodlawn; but before he left he communicated with the police in Dublin and told them that he expected there would be an attack made on the church that night and requested that the police should be sent to receive the men who were invited there to commit the outrage. The precaution was taken that none of the local police should be trusted, lest they might give the case away to the enemy; men were brought therefore from an outlying district, and he was told that they had to tramp four miles, through the fields rather than trust the local men, in order to get to the church that night. However the plot did not come off. Now the important point was that while these letters were written and posted in Dublin, inviting these five persons to the church that night, Lord Ashtown at the same time was inviting the police to be there to receive them. That had been proved beyond any shadow of doubt. The next thing he heard about it was two days before the police court proceedings. He was informed by the county inspector that the proceedings were about to be taken in the Police Court, Dublin, and he asked him to attend. He went there and he might mention that he was never more amazed in his life than at the manner in which that case was presented by the Crown. How did the Crown present the case? They shoved this criminal conspiracy into the background, and the ostensible charge made was that this woman was being prosecuted by Lord Ashtown for obtaining money by false pretences; and while that was so, Lord Ashtown and his agent in the witness box, and upon their oaths, repudiated any connection whatever with the prosecution and the statement that the woman ever obtained 1566 money by false pretences. But the real point was this. When the county inspector on 12th September went to Lord Ashtown and told him—I, by your instruction, had police at the church at eleven o'clock on Saturday night, the 31st August, when you said that an attack was to be made upon it. Since then I have received letters, written to four or five differen persons, inviting them to go to the church that night and lay the bomb in the right position. They did not go there, but they have given me the letters, and now I want to know from you on what authority did you at the same time invite the police to be there,it was not good enough for Lord Ashtown to refuse to give his authority; neither would it do for him to say, as he did in regard to another letter, that he had lost it; because even if it was an anonymous letter it was one of such importance, and as it was only a week or ten days afterwards when he was asked about it, it would not do to say that he had lost it; and then, when his back was to the wall, he gave away this unfortunate dupe of his, and by some legerdemain got the Crown and Dublin Castle, which were in reality the same thing, to prosecute, not for writing these letters to these people, but for obtaining money under false pretences, a charge which the very persons who were said to have made it repudiated on oath. The sole object was to allow Lord Ashtown to ride out of the corner he would have been in if the case had been honestly dealt with. He was for two days in the police court; he demanded to be put into the box, but was not; in addition from the day he gave the letters to the county inspector, 5th September, up to the present moment, he was never asked either in public or in private one solitary word on the part of the Crown as to what information he had or could give. The county inspector who took up the case and put the proceedings in motion, was the whole day in the police court on the first day without the slightest reference being made to his action in the matter, and after that day's proceedings the outside public knew no more about the real origin of the case than the chairman did at the time. The inspector attended on the second day of trial at the police court, and the last witness was put up and asked one or two questions. In addition to 1567 these facts he might add that not later than Thursday last he received a wire from Dublin Castle saying that he was not required at the trial which took place on Friday last. They heard a great deal about respect for law and order in Ireland, but to use a famous expression of the late Prime Minister, "There is a limit to human endurance," and after experience such as they had had in Ireland it was certain that there could be very little respect for law and order there while so administered. They also heard a good deal about boycotting, of which he had some experience. His business, and that of his father before him, was that of a miller. In a radius of six or seven miles from where he lived there were about seven or eight resident landlords, and up to 1879 when the late Michael Davitt started the Land League there was not a single one of them who did not do more or less business at his place, and with his father before him. But he could assure the House that since the day he took an active part in the promotion of the Land League, up to the present moment, not a solitary one of them had ever entered the mill gate. He made no complaint. He was proud of it, but he failed to see why these gentlemen should come whining to this House, when they paid them back with a little of their own coin. He did not come there to whine, but he thought they were certainly justified in referring to the policy adopted by their enemies when they were in power, and when they would crush them if they dared.
§ Mr. GEORGE CLARK (Belfast, N.)
said that, representing as he did one of the divisions of Belfast, the commercial capital of Ireland and the city which only within the last few months suffered so severely, both in trade and in reputation, from the lawlessness and disorder that were allowed to exist there owing to the feebleness of the present Administration, he would like to say a word or two upon these Estimates. They were prepared to pay for justice in Ireland, but when they did so, they expected to get it, and he would like to let the House know what sort of justice they had been getting in Belfast. He asked the Attorney-General for Ireland the other day whether he was going to 1568 prosecute a man named James Larkin, who was tried at Dublin before a Dublin jury who disagreed. He was surprised that the Attorney-General told him that he was not going to prosecute, and he could only say that that statement would be received with great astonishment by the people in Belfast, because everyone there, at least the law-abiding and respectable class of people in the city, were convinced that this man ought to stand another trial and ought to get a fair one. In connection with this might he say that he received a letter from a gentleman in Belfast who wrote about some information which he had obtained with reference to the jury who sat on this case in Dublin. His correspondent said that one of the jurymen was a partner in business in Dublin with one of his sons, and that that juror stated that another member of the jury, when in the hotel to which they were sent for the night, was allowed by the police in charge to leave the room and to remain away from the other jurors for about two hours. Next day when they were considering their verdict, this man held out against the other eleven who desired to bring in a verdict of guilty; hence the disagreement. To allow Larkin to go free without any further trial after this fact the writer of the letter said was beyond comprehension. [Cries of "Name." AN HON. MEMBER: It is no use without the name. Another Hon. Member: We will take it for what it is worth.] He was bringing this matter before the House of Commons, as he had a right to. Another matter worthy of the attention of the authorities was that while they were prosecuting this man Larkin, he was appointed by the Home Secretary a member of a Departmental Committee, to consider and report on the best means of securing the working men paid by weight and measurement the correctness of the weights and measures.
said the question of a gentleman being appointed on a Departmental Committee by another Department had nothing to do with this debate.
§ Mr. GEORGE CLARK
apologised for being out of order and explained that he was not acquainted with the ways of the House. He would like to bring before 1569 the House another matter with regard to the riots in Belfast. He listened very carefully to the debate on Monday and Tuesday last in connection with crime in Ireland, and he questioned some of the statements made, because he knew that if people in Ireland were asked whether they got the justice they were entitled to the invariable reply would be "no." And when this Committee was asked to pass Supplementary Estimates of this kind, he contended that the people of Ireland ought to receive the justice to which they were entitled.
§ MR. J. F. MASON (Windsor)
said that the reason, apparently why these suns were not included in the original Estimates was that at the time those Estimates were passed Ireland was peaceful. They had become necessary owing to the lawless state of Ireland at the present time. They included an extra £1,000 for the costs of prosecutions, and an extra £1,500 for the law officers of the Crown, and he ventured to think that these items were rendered necessary by the policy which underlay the two little words used by the Chief Secretary recently, the two words "I won't." This Supplementary Estimate had not been rendered necessary by any heroic measures, but by carrying out the ordinary law of the country. That had not only cost these extra sums, but had also cost the ratepayers something over £7,000 which, as damage for malicious injuries, had been awarded in the six months ending with January. Although he believed the Chief-Secretary hated cattle-driving, nevertheless his action in the administration of the law in Ireland had without doubt been considered by the agitators in that country as an encouragement to the agitation. In the words of one hon. Member of the House who was now incarcerated in Ireland—If you resort to cattle-driving the land will be yours in twelve months, and the new Land Bill will ratify your acts.The Chief Secretary had told the Committee that he objected to make a martyr of a Member of Parliament by prosecuting him. Well, fortunately for this country, the Government had not been so particular and so careful or so afraid of making martyrs in India as in Ireland. 1570 Cattle-driving was described as "unlawful assembly" and the Government had it in their power to send cases to be tried before a tribunal of two magistrates without any stigma of coercion. It was therefore not true to say that the course which had been taken was the only one possible short of putting into force the provisions of the Crimes Act. The fact was that the Government were in a pitiful position. They dared not govern Ireland themselves because they had to consider hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, and they could not allow her to govern herself because they feared the electorate of this country.
§ MR. J. WARD (Stoke-on-Trent)
said he thought the right hon. Gentleman was well advised in the attitude he took up with regard to Belfast. As he understood there was a temporary dispute at Belfast, and incidents occurred which were regretted by all. But it was generally admitted in this Committee that those who led the men on that occasion led them in a very cautious manner, taking it altogether, and that there had not been scenes of disorder such as sometimes disgraced incidents of that character. Notwithstanding all the bad feeling and ill-will which was excited on such occasions the men behaved extremely well. Therefore, as the dispute was over, and the man had stood his trial and the jury had disagreed, in his opinion the right hon. Gentleman was well advised to leave that matter where it was. He had been also interested in another phase of the question introduced, he believed, by the Member for East Galway. It was not usual for English Members to intervene in Irish debates, but upon this occasion he could not help thinking that if many English Members had been present, and had heard the speech of the hon. Member for East Galway, they would certainly have required some explanation from the Government. The statement of the hon. Member for East Galway was to the effect that certain men in Galway had received letters inciting them to commit sacrilege and murder. Five letters in a fairly well-known handwriting were sent. Those letters were posted in Dublin. Lord Ashtown, who 1571 had taken great trouble in tabulating these outrages, when they occurred and when they did not occur, was in Dublin at the time those letters were posted. He made some inquiries and informed the police that this outrage was going to be committed upon the date mentioned in the letter, and the police took care to have men in readiness at the place where the outrage was to take place. It seemed to him that if Lord Ashtown was in the position to tell the police where the outrage was going to take place or likely to take place and to fix the exact time, he either knew something about it or there was something about the business which required a very strict investigation. That was a point to which he, as an English Member, would like to have an answer from the Government. The explanation of the officials in Dublin wanted elucidating and clearing up. It was a very awkward position, as it appeared to him that it would be impossible for a man to ask for police protection because a certain outrage was about to take place, unless he knew something about it. He hoped they would be given some information as to whether they had tried to find out what connection Lord Ashtown and these letters had with each other. The hon. Member for East Galway had not said it was alleged that these letters were received from him. He did not know whether the Attorney General had any views upon that subject. If so he would certainly like to hear them. Unless something was done to clear up this mystery, it would seem that there was someone attempting to lead men who perhaps were not very clever, into difficulties and danger, and to entrap them into practices that they would all deplore, and he thought that for the prevention of cases of that description every effort ought to be made to investigate the charges suggested by the letters and the statements they had heard.
said that these were difficult matters for him to deal with as the jury had disagreed as regarded one of the persons accused of offences in connection with the matter. The boy had been acquitted, but the jury had disagreed with regard to his mother, and no 1572 determination had yet been come to as to whether there should be another trial. But as the matter had been opened and discussed it was right that he should put the House in possession of the facts as far as he could.
§ MR. CHERRY
thought that there was disagreement upon all the counts. He was rather in a difficult postion too because he had been attacked most vigorously by both sides. He had been charged with having entered into a conspiracy with Members opposite against Lord Ashtown, and now there was a counter charge relating to some conspiracy to shield him. In the first place, he desired to take upon himself the entire responsibility of this matter. He did not think it would be at all fair to the counsel engaged in the trial that they should be in any way blamed for what had been done. Everything that had been done from first to last had been under his directions. He had endeavoured to the best of his ability to do what he considered to be his duty as regards bringing the matter forward for public investigation. The hon. Member for East Galway had not stated the whole case. Simultaneously with the anonymous letters there were letters, which were not anonymous, sent to Lord Ashtown.
§ MR. JOHN ROCHE
said he had not referred to those because he would then have had to refer to the person whom he held to be the writer, and as the case was still sub judice he was afraid the rules of the House would not allow him to introduce the names.
§ MR. CHERRY
said he thought it was only right that if they discussed the matter at all, they should discuss it fully. He was very sorry indeed that the matter had been brought forward. The letters he referred to were signed "Minnie Walsh," and in them she told Lord Ashtown and his agent that she was in a position to give information as to the perpetrator of the outrages, and that there was a second plot to commit 1573 murder. He did not think the writing of these letters had ever been denied. They were at once communicated to the police authorities. They could find nothing whatever to blame Lord Ashtown or his agent for, except that they were foolish enough to give the woman £5. He could not see the slightest ground for any suggestion that Lord Ashtown or his agent had anything to do with this business, or were in any way privy to a conspiracy to get up a bogus outrage. When the matter came forward he consulted other members of the Government and the prosecuting counsel as to what the charge should be, and they resolved that they would get expert evidence as to whether these anonymous letters were written as was suggested by Minnie Walsh or her son and that if that were so she should be put upon her trial on every charge which could be framed against her for violation of the criminal law. They wanted the whole matter and every phase of it to be investigated, and put before a jury. The hon. Member complained that he was not examined as a witness. The sole reason was that he could give no material evidence. The hon. Member had taken the letters to the county inspector, but the persons who received them were examined. The hon. Member could only have given hearsay evidence which would not have been accepted by the Court. They were charged with putting the matter of the £5 in the forefront of the indictment, but he found it was the thirteenth count in the indictment. In the forefront of the case they put the conspiracy which they thought had been entered into to create a bogus outrage. They all thought there never was any real intention on anybody's part to blow up Lord Ashtown, but that the intention was to bring these people who were really innocent to the place and get them falsely accused; and they brought before the Court those who could give evidence on that point against the woman and her son. They had absolutely no evidence with regard to the anonymous letters, except that they were posted in Dublin, and the evidence of a handwriting expert. The counts in the indictment were: soliciting Peter Kelly to murder Lord Ashtown, endeavouring to persuade Kelly to murder Lord Ashtown, proposing 1574 to Kelly to murder Lord Ashtown, soliciting Kelly to conspire to murder Lord Ashtown, soliciting Kelly to damage a building with intent to murder, soliciting Kelly to cause an explosion to the danger of life and property, soliciting Kelly to conspire to cause an explosion. These were all repeated in reference to the others; then—soliciting to conspire to damage a building, conspiracy to solicit the man to commit the crime, and at the very end of the indictment, conspiracy to obtain money by false pretences. They were bound to include that because if the woman's story was all false, and she was inventing from beginning to end, they were bound to charge her with taking the money as well as getting innocent men falsely accused. They had racked their brains getting together every possible charge, and they put everything forward. The leading counsel for the prosecution, Mr. Bushe, was the fairest man he ever came across, and to suggest that he had done anything to shield a person from justice was a most far-fetched idea. All those who were responsible for the form of the indictment were anxious to have the whole matter investigated and every circumstance of the case brought out fully. As regarded the speech of the hon. Member for North Belfast it should be entitled "Grievances from Befast." It referred to the case of a man called Larkin. During the strike in Belfast there was a row between this man Larkin and one called Bamber. Bamber had come there as what was commonlly called a "blackleg." In consequence of the row both men were arrested and put upon their trial in Belfast. The Crown Prosecutor—a Gentleman who sat on the Unionist side of the House—acted in every way quite fairly. He decided quite rightly and fairly that neither of these two men should be examined as against the other, but that the case should be based upon the evidence of the police and bystanders. As the result of the trial Bamber was acquitted in Belfast. It was suggested that in Belfast there might be some prejudice as regarded the prisoner Larkin, who was connected with the strike, and in consequence he consented to the trial being held in the county of Dublin. The hon. Member for North Belfast had stated that he had received a letter alleging that the policeman in charge of the 1575 jury had allowed one of the jurors to leave for two hours. That was a very great dereliction of duty and ought to have been investigated. The House was, however, left in ignorance as to who wrote the letter.
§ MR. CHERRY
said he would have preferred that the hon. Member had communicated the letter to the authorities at the time. If the hon. Member would send it on to the police it would be a good thing to do. The trial of Larkin was at the beginning of the present sittings and over a month ago. The law officers were most anxious that everything should be done as regularly as possible. When Larkin was brought on for trial Bamber was not examined against him according to the arrangement made. Those engaged in the case had told him that it would be utterly useless to proceed with the case against Larkin unless Bamber was examined as a witness. That, he thought, would have been unfair, and as the strike was over and the city quiet he thought it was best to let the whole matter drop. There was, he feared, a vindictive spirit in Belfast and a desire to punish Larkin, not because of the assault, but because he was a leader in the strike.
§ SIR EDWARD CARSON
said that as regarded the Ashtown case it was to his mind a scandal that in that House a charge which amounted to one of attempted murder, or inducing people to commit murder, should be made against a man upon the flimsiest evidence and upon the keeping back of evidence put forward by the hon. Member for East Galway. Lord Ashtown had been the subject of obloquy and charges in Ireland during the last six months, which anybody who had followed the discussion must know to be absolutely without foundation. Inquiry had been challenged by no one more prominently than by Lord Ashtown himself. For three months it was insinuated against him, by people who ought to have known a great deal better, that he was the cause of the explosion in which he very nearly lost his own life. It was insinuated over and over again that Lord Ashtown 1576 had attempted to blow himself up. He knew the ways of Nationalist Members and their doings in Ireland. This matter was hardly terminated when these charges were made in the House of Commons on the suggestion of the Member for East Galway, that Lord Ashtown was implicated in a second outrage in which he invited people to blow up the church in his own district in order that he might have the gratification of calling it another outrage in Ireland, or in order that these people might be induced to commit crimes so that he could have the pleasure of having them arrested. A more disgraceful and more serious charge it was impossible to imagine. He really thought the Attorney-General might have said something a little stronger than he did in denouncing this system of making false and scandalous charges against people in Ireland simply because they happened to be obnoxious to hon. Members below the gangway. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: Above the Gangway.] How did the hon. Member for East Galway bring the matter forward? Certain letters were written bearing the postmark of Dublin. Lord Ashtown had informed the police that there was going to be an attempted outrage on that day it was a terrible coincidence that Lord Ashtown happened to be in Dublin at the date when the letters were posted and that Lord Ashtown should himself inform the police that he had got this information. What the hon. Member apparently knew was that Lord Ashtown himself had received letters in the same hand-writing, and that he had at once taken those letters to the police. [Cries of No."] That matter was fully investigated by the Attorney-General and he took the proper course. This woman was put upon her trial in Dublin and the prosecution appeared to have broken down because the expert evidence as to the handwriting was not entirely satisfactory. There was the whole matter so far as the House knew, and he said again that for an hon. Member of that House to get up and make charges of that kind against Lord Ashtown, who was not there to answer for himself, was a scandal and was an act of cowardice. [Cries of "Order, order."]
§ SIR EDWARD CARSON
said he would of course withdraw, and he would leave it to all hon. Members themselves to place the proper epithet upon conduct so scandalous. He wished to say a few words on the matter out of which the debate had arisen. It seemed to him that the system of yielding in Ireland to the pressure of the mob was becoming rather an expensive matter. The Committee were asked for a sum of £1,500, in addition to £1,000 already voted, for extra fees to the law officers for the prosecutions which they had had to conduct. He might say, in passing, that the only gratification he had was that this money was going to the law officers rather than to any of the other Departments in Ireland. He did not in the least begrudge that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues who had had to carry on the work should be properly paid, but during this year of conciliation, as he supposed he must call it, apparently the fees of the right hon. Gentlemen amounted to £2,100, whereas the average for the previous ten years, during the regime of the wicked coercionists, it amounted to about £800. From the figures before him it appeared that previous to the coming into office of the present Government the sum of £8,000 was surrendered to the Exchequer out of the sum voted, and that in the year before £6,000 was similarly surrendered. Not only was nothing to be surrendered to the Exchequer this year, but the year of conciliation had eaten up the whole of the sum voted for law prosecutions, and they were faced with this Supplementary Estimate. The truth of the matter was that they had in the present year the maximum of cost and the minimum of result. Whether they had any result at all was a matter of grave doubt. The Attorney-General thought that cattle-driving had been largely put down 1578 by abortive prosecutions. Therefore, in future, the law would be administered in this way: juries would be advised not to convict, as it was more successful to acquit than to convict.
§ MR. CHERRY
I said that bringing the prosecutions and having the facts brought out in public had a certain amount of effect.
§ SIR E. CARSON
did not know anything that could have a worse effect than day I after day exhibiting to the public who were inclined to break the law, the absolute paralysis of the law itself. He was sceptical whether the action of the Chief Secretary was stopping cattle-driving. Prom the newspaper accounts he read he very much doubted it. If it had been stopped, at what cost was it? By the absolute surrender all along the line to the men who had broken the law with impunity. What else could he do? When he announced the other night that his policy was to break up the rich grass lands, he was announcing that surrender to the forces of disorder in Ireland. Everybody must have anticipated what would ensue if the right hon. Gentleman was not prepared to enforce the law and to take care that people should not break the law with impunity. He would like to ask the Chief Secretary I what were the means he proposed to take with regard to the holdings of grass lands? Were the tenants to understand that they had better not take them because they would be broken up?
§ SIR E. CARSON
said he only wanted to point out that the paralysis of the law under the right hon. Gentleman had led to an impossible situation in regard to the letting of these lands, and he would not pursue the subject. The Attorney-General had tried to minimise boycotting in Ireland. He himself did not take the same satisfactory view of the report of the inspector from East Galway. The Attorney-General seemed to think it was a very small thing that a man was unable to procure what 1579 was necessary for carrying on his business, that he should be unable to secure in his locality what was necessary, that he should not be able to get his horses shod, that he should not be able to get labourers, and that the people in his employment should leave him. To him it seemed a very grave interference with the liberty of any man who honestly wished to carry on his business. When the Attorney-General was minimising these matters, he wondered whether the right hon. Gentleman had ever had a conversation with Mr. Persse, one of the gentlemen whose cattle were driven. He wished everybody there could have heard a lecture which Mr. Persse gave the other day, how in Galway he took a farm from whom nobody had ever been evicted, not grazing land either, how immediately his labourers were ordered to leave at the dictation of the League, how when he cultivated the land each labourer had to have a policeman behind him, and the police had to follow the plough. Mr. Persse stated, with great truth, that he knew when he walked down the street in a free country even with his bodyguard of police, he might be shot at or assaulted, and not a single man would be made amenable to justice under the law as at present administered. It was all very well to try and minimise matters, but these were facts which could not be denied, which could be borne testimony to by many persons. He might well ask: How far had the Government prosecutions been successful; and if they had not been successful, what did the Government propose to do in future to make them successful? The real test was whether they could punish the criminal under the present law. If they could not, then it must be amended or supplemented to make it effective. On another matter he desired to call attention to the extraordinary contention put forward by the Attorney-General in the Judge Bodkin case recently, which seemed to be of far-reaching importance. He would not discuss the merits of the case. He knew Judge Bodkin and was glad to see him appointed. When the Court was asked to grant a writ of quo warranto for the purpose of discovering whether Judge Bodkin was rightly appointed, the Attorney-General 1580 put forward an extraordinary claim, and it was a claim of such far-reaching consequences that it ought not to be allowed to go without observation. When the Court was asked to grant a writ quo warranto, as he understood it, the contention of the Attorney-General was that he had a right to come into the Court and say: "I am superior to the power of this Court: it is ray right, as Attorney-General for the King, to stop the proceedings of the Court, even if the Court wish to grant the writ." It was impossible to conceive that the Attorney-General had a right to set the Court at defiance, and such an extraordinary claim ought not to be allowed to pass without observation. They might have the Attorney - General when someone came into the Court and asked for a writ of habeas corpus for the purpose of testing the validity of the imprisonment of a man—
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Kildare, N.)
I rise to a point of order. I desire to know whether the right hon. Gentleman is in order in questioning or bringing up an argument which was confirmed by the whole Court—the three Judges—in their judgment of the case?
I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is referring to the action of the Attorney-General for Ireland in connection with one of these contentious Cases in the Estimates. If that is so, I do not think there is any reason to stop him.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR
I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman in attacking the argument is not also attacking the judgment?
So far as I remember, the particular plea of the Attorney-General for Ireland was not adjudicated upon.
§ SIR E. CARSON
said that that was so; it was never adjudicated upon; but even if it had been, he contended he had a perfect right to challenge the action of the Executive in Ireland, because if such a claim was to be allowed to go on and it were said that, if a writ of quo warranto was issued or a writ of 1581 habeas corpus, the Attorney-General, as representative of the King, had a right to stop the action of the Court, away went the whole liberty of the subject. This was a matter of far-reaching consequences, and it seemed strange that the Attorney-General of a Liberal Government should have put forward such a contention. All he could say was that if there was any ground for such a claim on the part of the Attorney-General the sooner there was legislation to put an end to it the better. But so far as he knew any such claim had never been made before on the part of any Executive Officer either in this country or in Ireland,
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said that before the right hon. the Chief Secretary spoke he would like for a few moments to call the attention of the Committee to what appeared to him to be an important matter brought before the Committee that evening by his hon. friend the member for East Galway. They on that side of the House had been denounced in very strong terms by the right hon. Member for Dublin University, for making charges against Lord Ashtown. He himself made no charge against Lord Ashtown. All he maintained was that a case had been made out that night deserving of the most careful investigation. It seemed full of suspicion. He thought that if the right hon. Member for Dublin University felt it his duty to indulge in eloquent denunciations of hon. Members from Ireland for making such charges, his language might have been better directed against Lord Ashtown, who had made it his profession and had elicited large sums of money from people in this country and in Ireland, to make charges against the Irish people which were entirely without foundation. Before he explained the nature of their complaint against the administration of criminal law in Ireland in connection with this case, there were two points to which he desired to draw attention. First of all, the main point in the speech of his hon. friend the Member for East Galway, the point which undoubtedly aroused attention of hon. Members, had not been answered either by the Attorney- 1582 General or by the Member for Dublin University. That was, "How did Lord Ashtown come to know the hour and place at which the outrage was going to take place?" Letters were written from Dublin to five men in Galway—who had no intention of committing the outrage—inviting them to do so. These letters were criminal letters. They were not acted upon. Prom what source did Lord Ashtown hear of these letters being written? He could have no other means of knowledge except from the same hand which wrote the letters. That was the really important point, and neither the Attorney-General nor the Member for Dublin University who stood up to champion Lord Ashtown, had dealt with the matter.
SIR E. CAESON
The facts I know were the facts stated by the Attorney-General. What he stated was that Lord Ashtown was informed on the Saturday that the outrage would take place.
§ MR. DILLON
Whom did Lord Ashtown get the letter from? Was he right in saying that the letter was in the same hand-writing as the letters written to the people of Galway inviting them to commit this outrage?
§ MR. DILLON
Then these criminal letters were sworn in Court to be in the hand-writing of Minnie Walsh. He did not for one moment say whether she was guilty or not. The man who swore that these letters were in the handwriting of Minnie Walsh was one of the greatest experts in this country, a man from the Home Office, he believed, and all he maintained was that the handwriting must have been very like the hand-writing of the other letters. Minnie Walsh was an old retainer of the Ashtown family, a person who had been for years in correspondence with Lord Ashtown and his family, and who at that moment was in correspondence with Lord Ashtown. How was it possible, if Lord Ashtown received a letter of this character in a hand-writing familiar to him, telling him 1583 of this outrage, that three days afterwards he gave this same woman £5 to pursue investigations and strive to obtain information he alleged could be obtained? All he maintained was that the case made out by his hon. friend was one clouded with the gravest possible suspicion and one demanding the most searching investigation. That was all the Nationalist Members claimed. They had made no charge. He made no charge, and he did not believe his hon. friend made any charge beyond stating, as they are perfectly entitled to state, that the whole of the circumstances and the facts of the case were surrounded by suspicion. Then the right hon. Member for Dublin University went on to say that Lord Ashtown had had many other letters—some anonymous and some signed by Minnie Walsh, and that he immediately handed them over to the police. He did nothing of the kind. It was perfectly true that he had in his possession many letters from Minnie Walsh, but he did not hand these letters over to the police. He never approached the police until the police approached him.
§ MR. CHERRY
What I said was that he communicated with the Castle authorities. I think it was from the Under-Secretary that I heard at an early stage of the letters of Minnie Walsh.
§ SIR E. CARSON
I was merely restating the facts as stated by the Attorney-General. When the Attorney-General quoted the Castle authorities I thought he meant the police.
§ MR. DILLON
Am I not right in saying that Lord Ashtown never communicated with the police until my friend the Member for East Galway set the criminal law in motion?
§ MR. CHERRY
I know that at a very early stage he communicated with the Castle authorities; whether with the police or not I am not sure.
§ MR. DILLON
said that the first suggestion of a prosecution or of bringing the matter to the knowledge of the Government and the public was the action of his hon. friend, and he was informed that after he put the law in motion Mr. Trench, Lord Ashtown's agent, and the gentleman who paid £5 to Minnie Walsh, wrote her that her letters were safely locked up in his safe, and that he would take care that they would never come into the hands of the police. Therefore, he came to the point and said that it was absolutely inaccurate to say, so far as he understood it, that Lord Ashtown immediately handed over these suspicious letters to the police. He believed that these letters would have still been in Mr. Trench's safe and would never have been handed over to the police had it not been for the action of his hon. friend. All he said was that there was very grave cause for suspicion, and that in these matters they were entitled to have suspicion aroused much more easily in Ireland than in England. It was all very fine for hon. Members to attack them for making insinuations, as they were pleased to call them; but in a case of suspicion hon. Members must remember that they lived in a country where the agent provocateur was a common instrument to employ, and when Lord Ashtown handed over this woman to justice he knew that Dublin Castle had over and over again initiated prosecutions and obtained convictions by asking people to commit crime. The first fact he wished to bring home to the minds of Members of the House and of the people of this country was that in this case, although there were a large number of suspicious letters, some of them anonymous and some of them signed, all of them in the possession of Lord Ashtown and his agent, they did not communicate them to the Government, or put the law in motion until his hon. friend forced their hands. On the first occasion on which the county inspector visited Lord Ashtown at his residence, the latter did not hand over all these letters; he did not hand them over until the occasion of the trial in Dublin. He thought, also, there was a well-founded complaint as to the method by which the law was put in motion by the prosecutors in Ireland. The Attorney- 1585 General had very properly taken full responsibility for that action. They complained of the proceedings in the police court. In Ireland and even in this country, public attention had been aroused by these proceedings, and when this new case arose, everybody naturally said that this woman should be prosecuted, as the police thought her guilty, in the first instance for an attempt to procure the commission of an abominable crime—and in connection with that let him direct hon. Members' attention to facts showing that there was an abominable conspiracy in this matter. In the columns of London newspapers he had read weeks before of this abominable crime which was going to horrify Ireland. In the Daily Telegraph he saw it stated that their correspondent had information of a crime which was to throw all previous crimes into the shade, and that he could point to a certain church where a week hence a bomb was to be exploded in the church, and the whole congregation while worshipping their God were to be hurled into eternity. These things caused in their minds the deepest suspicion as to the ramifications of this whole business. Then came the police court trial. The Attorney-General answering his hon. friend, who said he was not asked to give evidence, replied that his hon. friend had no evidence to give of any value. How did the Crown know that? Because when his hon. friend came to Dublin they never asked him what his evidence was at all, and told him simply and curtly that he was not required. He himself went to Dublin, and when he went down to the court with his hon. friend to hear this interesting case, what was their amazement to see this woman put into the dock and charged in the first instance with obtaining money by false pretences from Lord Ashtown and Mr. Trench, his agent, and the first two witnesses called against her were her employers Lord Ashtown and Mr. Trench, who made no complaint of that sort. The result of these proceedings was to convince public opinion in Ireland and in England that this was a fresh plot against Lord Ashtown, and yet Lord Ashtown and Mr. Trench too, he thought, said that they had no part in making the charge against this woman of obtaining money under false pretences. 1586 Where did that charge come from, and who invented it? Had hon. Members ever heard in this country of a woman being charged with obtaining money under false pretences, and then evidence of that nature being given? Lord Ashtown admitted giving her the money and being constantly in correspondence with her, and Mr. Trench admitted that she was frequently in his office, and that on the last occasion that she was there Lord Ashtown came into the room and Mr. Trench discreetly retired and left them together. They had no complaint to make against her of obtaining money under false pretences, and yet that was the main charge brought against her. And when she was summoned by the Crown for these two crimes, the main one being obtaining money by false pretences, where did she go to for protection? She went down straight to Mr. Trench's office, where she brought out the summons and said, "What am I to do now?" And Mr. Trench said, "Go to Mr. Brady the solicitor, and he will take up your case for you," and she actually went and employed a solicitor, acting on the advice of Mr. Trench, from whom the Crown prosecutors said she had obtained money under false pretences. This was not a case to be dismissed by the eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University. It was a very serious case, and while he made no charge, as he said, the facts were uncontradicted and were full of suspicion and doubt, and when they thought of this, that the whole liberties of the people of their country were aimed at by an abominable conspiracy at the head of which was Lord Ashtown himself, with confederates among the leading English newspapers, they were entitled to appeal to the House of Commons and ask that the fullest possible light should be turned upon these proceedings. It was the duty of the Government to resort to whatever means were at their disposal to examine this thing to the very bottom, and to find out how it came to pass that the proceedings of what it was admitted was a bogus conspiracy to commit outrage, was revealed to Lord Ashtown at the very moment that it was plotted in Dublin, and that this extraordinary and criminal correspondence between him 1587 and this unhappy woman was concealed from the knowledge of the Government until it was dragged out of Lord Ashtown.
§ MR. BIRRELL
said that this was rather an unusual debate, and after what had fallen from the hon. Member who had just sat down he thought they would all agree that this House was not a tribunal well suited to investigate such a matter as that which he had brought before them, and he himself felt that it was perfectly impossible to continue the discussion when they had not the same means of knowledge, and all of them knew little bits of the facts and not the whole case. The Attorney-General—he did not know whether he was wise or not—read the whole thirteen counts—a method rather calculated, he thought, to bring into contempt the noble profession to which they both belonged. But he agreed that those counts were very complete, and that they charged this Mrs. Walsh with every possible offence that could by any ingenuity of a draughtsman be connected with the occurrence in question. Upon that indictment she had stood her trial, and, although it was true she had not been acquitted, the jury had disagreed, and it was for the Attorney-General to consider whether fresh proceedings should be taken. In that state of things he thought it would be very undesirable for them to discuss the matter at all—although, no doubt, it was rather late in the day for him to make that suggestion. But the real difficulty of the case was that it broke down because the jury were not disposed to rest upon the evidence of the expert witness with regard to handwriting, and the whole point was to connect the defendant with these most villainous letters which were so properly brought to the notice of the police by the hon. Member—letters which were enormously long, which were animated by a most malicious and dangerous spirit, and which were certainly well calculated to stir up a feeling of the keenest indignation that such letters should have been written. It was often urged against him that he did not send all sorts of people to prison in Ireland. The difficulty he found was to get evidence against them upon which the Courts would convict; 1588 and here the case broke down because of the unsatisfactory nature of the handwriting evidence. The learned counsel brought in the Beck case, and the fact that the expert had given evidence in it, although he did not know that anybody who had anything to do with that case stood condemned for all time. The counsel also occasionally called him Mr. Beck instead of his own name. This was one of the humours of the trial, and in that way the whole case was prejudiced. He did not pretend to have acquainted himself very accurately with the facts of the case, but he read the newspaper report of it, and he did not think anybody could say that it was a gross miscarriage of justice that the jury disagreed. It was rot unnatural that hon. Gentlemen below the gangway should feel rather strongly when Lord Ashtown's name was mentioned. Those who did not quite agree with Lord Ashtown would feel that it was a very painful duty—if it was a duty—that he had taken upon himself, of collecting mere newspaper reports—and the Irish papers did give very singular reports—of such things as rowdy meetings of boards of guardians and other boards, putting them together under one band, and circulating them all over Europe as if they represented fairly and honestly the real state of things in Ireland. He did not wonder, therefore, that there was a good deal of feeling. But no accusation whatever was made against Lord Ashtown. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, everybody who had spoken had disclaimed making any accusation against him, and he entirely associated himself with what fell from the Attorney-General, that all who had an opportunity of investigating this case felt perfectly satisfied that he had no concern in it. Upon other matters really everything that had been said to-day upon the general case against him was said with great ability by Opposition speakers in the debate on the Address. There was one thing, however, that he would refer to. It had been supposed that if only they had prosecuted the hon. Member for Westmeath they would have obtained convictions in the cases in which the law officers prosecuted with so much vigour in Dublin and 1589 elsewhere against cattle-driving. That was, of course, an easy thing to say. He did not complain of the hon. Member for Westmeath on a former occasion, because he confessed he had a great dislike to seem even to sneer at a man behind his back. It was a matter of regret to him that he was not in his place, and he certainly had nothing whatever to do with his not being in his place. And if he had been in his place, he would have felt at greater liberty to give him the reasons which animated him in leaving him alone. He had the advantage of being acquainted with the character of the public speeches of that hon. Member. He dared say he might have underrated the power of his eloquence and his great personality. He knew the hon. Member had been described as another Daniel O'C'onnell, that it had been said that he had been received with great enthusiasm by crowds who had been depicted in the newspapers as hanging upon his words as they dropped from his lips. But really he did not take that view of the eloquence of the hon. Member or the importance of his subject. The hon. Member went about different parts of the country, and when he met people coming out of chapel he addressed the portions of the congregations that cared to listen to him; and if he had been reported verbatim, if the manuscript of his speeches had been handed to the reporter, he could not help thinking the speeches would have fallen as flat upon the mind of the reader as he had reason to believe they often did on the particular spot where the words were emitted. He took, therefore, the view that it would be an exceedingly undesirable thing to give the hon. Member what he called a State trial, a prosecution for using language inciting to an illegal offence, before a jury, of course, in which his own defence was to occupy three days—this punishment he did not desire to inflict even on the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. He did not take that step, and he was still satisfied that he was right. But one thing he had overlooked which he ought not to have overlooked, having practised law himself. He did not consider so carefully as he ought to have done perhaps that when his right 1590 hon. and learned friend did direct prosecution of those who were actually engaged in the illegal offence, the use the ingenious counsel engaged for the defence would undoubtedly make of this. Counsel was, of course, bound according to traditions of the profession to make use of every possible argument for his client, and he undoubtedly did use a powerful argument to the jury when he said that the Government left alone this great orator, this peripatetic philosopher who went about delivering these speeches; and then portions of the reports in the Irish Times would be read, and sympathy would be excited for cattle-driving. He was by no means certain—in fact he thought indeed that the effect would have been the other way—that, had the hon. Member been found guilty in a State prosecution—and it was quite possible he would not have been—and sentenced to a period of imprisonment, the fact would in any way have affected the minds of juries when they came to hear cases against cattle-drivers The offenders had been described as lads, boys, dupes, and poor farmers. Some of them were sixty years of age, many forty years old, and very few under twenty-five; they certainly were not boys, when the term was used in a common colloquial sense, they certainly were not boys, and he did not think it was right to call them dupes. They had mistaken notions of their own interest, and had formed an entirely wrong conception of the effect that might accrue to themselves personally and their hopes of getting land, but he was afraid it was giving them a far too favourable view to say they are dupes, and certainly they were not dupes of the hon. Member for Westmeath. All this is supplementary to what he said the other day as his reason for leaving the hon. Member alone. He deliberately came to the conclusion that a prosecution, so far from tending to put down cattle-driving, and the evils that gave rise to cattle-driving, would increase the practice. Though language was used day after day towards him personally to induce him to do what he did not want to do and give the hon. Member a State trial, he abstained from doing so believing that it would increase lawlessness, and in no sense would it 1591 have punished anybody in Ireland for lawlessness. An hon. Member who had spoken, as he always spoke, very well—and he did not know why the hon. Member suggested that he did not treat him with courtesy; he always listened to the hon. Member with attention and found considerable force in what he said—that hon. Member had complained that he (Mr. Birrell) had said the offence of cattle-driving was intimidatory and not predatory, and the leader of the Opposition had complained of a distinction he had drawn at an earlier stage between cattle-driving and cattle-lifting; the right hon. Gentleman thought this was an undesirable thing to do because it seemed to minimise the nature of the offence. But what was an unfortunate Chief Secretary to do when he had to make an explanation to the House anxious to know the facts? The very essence of the criminal law was clear definition of the offence, and he said the offence is not predatory; the object was not to steal the cattle, as many people thought it was, and he was not sure that there were not educated people even now who thought that cattle-driving was cattle-stealing,. Because he felt in honour bound to make it perfectly plain, and because in making it plain he minimised the offence, it was unfair to assume that in his heart he sympathised with the offence. In the same way he might say the object was intimidatory, not predatory. He had said so, and it was so. It was an unlawful reprehensible form of intimidation, but if he was not allowed to say what is was and the occasion of it, that was to impose upon him an amount of silence which was unreasonable From cattle-driving speakers passed to boycotting. For the offence of cattle-driving he admitted that the Government had failed, lamentably failed, in the great majority of instances to obtain verdicts. Then they dragged in boycotting with all its horrors, and here again the Chief Secretary was put into a rather awkward position. A particular case was brought up, facts were known to him, and a good many things were said on both sides that ought to be gone into; but so much did he desire to see the detestable practice put down that he was slow 1592 to go into the actual facts of a case lest he might expose himself, as he had in relation to cattle-driving, to the imputation of seeming to minimise the effect of the practice. Therefore, he was not going to say a word about its being serious or less serious. He wished to God it would cease; it pointed to a state of feeling which he was sure every body deplored. It was resorted to as an act of war; the only way in which anybody had been able to say a word of excuse for it was in the same way as they excused the horrors of war—things they could not contemplate in cold blood. Those days he thought were gone by, but he admitted there were far too many cases of boycotting. Hon. Members would say, why not put it down? and there the Government joined issue. They never would be successful in putting down boycotting by criminal prosecutions. The only successful method of putting down boycotting was by civil procedure. In a civil proceeding when they could show a case of genuine conspiracy to deprive a man of the means of livelihood or to prevent him from making profit from his produce and obtain damages, they did more to deal a blow at boycotting than by putting persons in the dock and prosecuting them under the very dangerous and questionable law of conspiracy. He agreed that if they had chosen to put into force the clauses of the Crimes Act, which would have enabled them to put the crime of cattle-driving before two resident magistrates, they could have filled the gaols of Roscommon and Galway with prisoners. But when they jumped off that into boycotting and spoke as if he could by the exercise of legal process secure convictions in many—too many—cases of boycotting that existed all over Ireland, he said at once he could not do it, and he did not think anybody could do it, and it was not by these commercial proceedings that they could put down these offences. He, therefore, could only say that although he regretted as much as anybody this Supplementary Estimate, he did not agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that these law costs were matters of congratulation. He thought it Was most melancholy that the Police Estimates should be over a million of money, and that he should be there 1593 asking for a Supplementary Estimate, but he did not suppose Gentlemen opposite seriously complained because they had employed the law officers to make these prosecutions. In fact they were asked to do so by one Gentleman opposite in order to show that the Government was in earnest. They took that expensive form of showing that the Government was in earnest. All he could say was that he deeply regretted it, and he hoped the day might come when, not only no Supplementary Estimate of this kind would ever be asked for, but that much of the vast sum now required to keep Ireland in order might be set free for other purposes greatly needed.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think he was going to take advantage of the opportunity given by this Supplementary Estimate to make a speech which would be more fitting and proper to the debate which had taken place last week. The Committee, however, need not be under any such alarm. The few observations he had to make would be strictly relevant to what had passed in that debate. The first observation related to the case of Lord Ashtown. Of that case he knew nothing except what he had heard in the course of the discussion, which nobody could hear without feeling that the House was really being used for the purpose of making the very gravest charges against an individual who, from the nature of the case, could not be there to defend himself; who had courted inquiry into this matter consistently from the very beginning; and whom the Government were bound to defend if they had the means of defence at their disposal. He thought they ought in any case to shelter him when he was made the subject of an attack such as that to which they had listened from the hon. Member for East Mayo who, although he told them in his speech that he intended to bring no charge, spent twenty minutes in enforcing upon the attention of the House, with his accustomed eloquence, the most serious charge which he thought could be brought against any human being—a charge, namely, that Lord Ashtown was guilty, not of committing crime himself, which 1594 was bad enough in all conscience, but had in it the element of personal courage, but of the far more infamous crime of urging other people to commit a crime in order that they might be found guilty, and that through them a blow might be struck at the Party from whom he differed, or at an agitation of which he disapproved. For his part, he did not gather that any evidence had been brought forward in that debate, or in that House or out of it, in favour of that abominable charge. He did not think it ought to be made unless there was evidence; and when he remembered that Lord Ashtown himself had done all in his power to court inquiry into the matter he thought it ill became the hon. Gentleman to use his great ability for making such an accusation against Lord Ashtown; and he was sorry it was not in the power of the Government to make a more effective defence of the man whom he was convinced they did not believe to be guilty of the crime with which he had been charged. He hoped at any rate the Attorney-General for Ireland would remember, in dealing with any future developments of this case, if future developments there were to be, that, as he thought, he was bound to consider whether the machinery of the law he had at his disposal could not be used to elucidate the whole of this matter—to get to the very bottom of the affair. If he used all the machinery at his disposal he would rejoice whatever the result might be.
§ MR. CHERRY
Can the right hon. Gentleman suggest anything that I could do and have not done to get to the bottom of it?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said he did not suggest that, because he had not the means at his disposal. He had not the adequate knowledge; and if the right hon. Gentleman told him that he had used, and desired to use, every machinery at his disposal to get at the truth, he accepted his statement.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said the right hon. Gentleman was qualified to give that assurance, and he accepted his statement. Then, if all the machinery 1595 at his disposal had been used to get to the bottom of the case, and nothing had been shown that threw the smallest suspicion on Lord Ashtown, it was most unfortunate that the House should be used as a theatre in which and from which accusations could be levelled against a man whom he firmly believed to be innocent and whom the Government believed to be innocent. Leaving that subject, he came to the broader aspects of the question with which the right hon. Gentleman had been dealing. He had been charged of course—he himself had been one of those who had charged him—with not having dealt with the development of crime in Ireland at a sufficiently early stage and with not, dealing with it when he did take it, in hand with sufficient rigourous. There was now another theory to account for the failure of the machinery of law in Ireland, a theory which he had heard for the first time that evening, and which was developed by the learned Gentleman the Attorney-General for Leland. He described colloquies he had had with his colleague in Dublin in which these two gentlemen, contemplating the painful state of crime in Ireland, came to the conclusion that it was mainly due to Unionist speeches. In the view of these two learned gentlemen, Unionist orators, when they charged the Government with dealing too lightly with the crime of cattle-driving, were really spreading effectively; broad amongst the people the doctrine that the Government were indifferent to the crime which they were really doing their best to put down. Let them contrast that theory of the influence of English Unionist oratory in this country with the Chief Secretary's view of the impotence of Irish oratory in Ireland itself. His friends behind him and he himself in the course of their speeches in the country did say and thought that earlier utterances of the Government with respect to cattle-driving in Ireland spread abroad the view that they regarded it lightly. The right hon. Gentleman had sincerely done his best to mitigate that not unnatural error of the public mind in Ireland—the effect of those earlier utterances. But because they, the critics of the Government, said so, the whole Irish population in these 1596 disaffected districts had become poisoned by this view. The infection had spread, and they were the authors of the Irish view that the Government treated this matter lightly. When an Irish representative—the chosen spokesman in that House of Irish opinion, the valued colleague of the representatives of a large part of Ireland sitting below the gangway—when he went about Sunday after Sunday in the very districts themselves propagating this view, the right hon. Gentleman had nothing to say for him except that his speeches, as far as he could learn, fell very flat whenever and wherever they were uttered, and that if they had not got an unfortunate and temporary notoriety through the enterprise of some journalistic pen in Ireland, they would not have been noticed. That might be the relative weight of importance attached by the Government to Unionist speech on the one hand and Nationalist speech on the other. He confessed he rated the authority and power of hon. Gentlemen below the gangway over the minds, opinions, and actions of their fellow-countrymen far higher than the right hon. Gentleman did; and he did not think that an Irish Member of Parliament could go about the country preaching to willing ears a particular policy, recommending it not merely to the general, but to the personal and immediate interests of these people, and be the impotent, the dull, the neglected, and the negligible quantity which the right hon. Gentleman supposed he was. Even if the hon. Member had been as negligible a quantity as the right hon. Gentleman supposed, he did not think there was a worse moral to be preached in any part of the world that the leaders were to be allowed to escape because they were Members of Parliament, but the followers, dupes or not, were to be prosecuted. That mentally suggested that the Government did not treat the matter very seriously. The right hon. Gentleman's own natural style of oratory did not always suggest that he took a very serious view of his subject, although he personally—let him hasten to add—thought that the veneer of jocularity which occasionally glittered over the solid basis of argument he inclined to use was so natural to his 1597 style that he believed, however deeply he felt on a subject, he could not refrain from entertaining them in all his speeches.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said the right hon. Gentleman could not help adorning his speech by these playful sallies which nobody enjoyed more than he did. At all events, he thought it would be admitted that, when his object was to persuade the population of these districts that the Government took the very gravest view of the situation, his method of indoctrinating them with that view was not always, perhaps, the most felicitous that could be chosen. But, after all, the argument most relevant to the Supplementary Estimate was the argument based on financial considerations. Had the additional money which they were asked to vote been really used effectively for carrying out law and order in Ireland? By the admission of the Government themselves, the spending of this money, however it might have fructified the legal profession in Ireland, had done absolutely nothing to put down lawlessness. The Chief Secretary said recently that in his view one of the great objects of jury trials was to enable the Government of the day to come into touch with the public opinion of the districts where the jury trials took place. He did not deny that in the case of duelling, which the right hon. Gentleman quoted, the discrepancy between the legal sentence that might be inflicted and the public view taken of the crime as shown by the action of the juries had some effect on our jurisprudence. But what had that to do with the present case? In this case, as the Government admitted, a very grave offence had been committed. Was it not a scandalous state of things that they should be spending thousands of pounds, not in vindicating the law, but in showing that the law was useless?—not in protecting unoffending and harmless citizens, but in showing that they could not protect them? There had been an expensive legal movement in which the Attorney-General for Ireland had borne a leading part, but it was purely a parade. Not a single shot had been fired, not in anger at all events, and certainly not a shot had 1598 gone home, for no one had been brought down. It has been a pure sham from beginning to end; and the Government must have known all along it was going to be a sham from beginning to end. Was it not an expensive way of coining into touch with public opinion to spend these thousands of pounds on abortive jury trials? The Government knew very well before these trials began what the opinion of certain classes in Ireland was in regard to these offences. What, then, was the use of these abortive jury trials? They did not convict the offenders. They did not give the Government any information which they had not already possessed as to the state of public opinion. The Attorney-General for Ireland, with an optimistic spirit which did him credit, declared that while the jury trials were abortive in the sense that no guilty person was brought to justice, they had done good by spreading abroad sound views in regard to the enormity of the crime of cattle-driving.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That was an excellent reason for trying a second case, and the Government did try it and failed. I do not know how many cases the Government tried and failed, but there was a large number. Indeed, no one has been louder in proclaiming the lamentable failures than the Chief Secretary with his usual candour. What, then, is the use of talking about one success out of so many failures? And what was the source of those failures? Were they owing to the speeches for the prosecution? I am sure they were able speeches. But does the Attorney-General really think that while his addresses failed to convince the juries to whom they were addressed, they had great influence outside the Court in carrying a more wholesome spirit to the criminal districts?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I gather from that interruption that the Chief Secretary thinks I am unduly harping on the want of success of 1599 the Attorney-General; and that there would have been acquittals in all cases had not the Attorney-General by his addresses prevented that scandal from polluting the course of justice in Ireland. Well, I give the Attorney-General the benefit of the doubt. But the real question for the House is this—if we have to vote this enormous amount for legal charges in Ireland, ought we not to see that something happens in consequence of it—that justice is done and the law is vindicated? Are the Government doing all they can in that direction? They are not. They know perfectly well that they have at their disposal laws which would enable them to deal with a situation which they admit is deplorable. They do not take the view of the Leader of the Irish Party that Ireland is a crimeless country. On the contrary, they admit to the full the indictment which has been brought against certain portions of Ireland by this side of the House.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I never said that Ireland is crimeless. That would be absurd. I said there was less crime in proportion to population than in England.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said the hon. Member for Waterford would have the House believe that all these charges of agrarian outrages in Ireland were the result of a criminal conspiracy of English newspapers and Unionist politicians. But that was not the view of the Government. The Government admitted that there were parts of Ireland where the rights of peaceable citizens were not preserved by the laws under which those peaceable citizens lived. Were they going to tolerate that state of things? To use the old phrase, "Force is no remedy" was futile. Force was a remedy; and it was the only remedy against all kinds of crime.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said that if he had his way he would certainly try the machinery 1600 which the law provided to see that the law was obeyed. He could not understand anyone denying in cold blood that perfectly sound maxim, which ought to control the policy of the Government and influence the views and votes of all Members of this House. The Chief Secretary frankly admitted that the only laws he chose to put in force were inefficacious for the purpose for which alone laws were intended. The responsibility of refusing to use the machinery which the law provided for seeing that the subjects of His Majesty were allowed to exercise the rights which the citizens of every free country were permitted to exercise tested heavily on the Government, and he thought when they looked back in calmer moments of reflection, they would admit that it shed little lustre or glory upon an administration which, at all events, was powerful enough, if for nothing else, to carry out the fundamental duties that rested upon all Governments.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
said that the discussion had in the main been devoted to the Lord Ashtown incident, and he wished to say a word or two in regard to that question. He had always been one of those who thought that absentee landlordism had contributed very much to the bringing about of the unfortunate condition of Ireland, but having regard to the position of Lord Ashtown and the way in which he occupied his time he was inclined to wish that he was an absentee landlord. Lord Ashtown and certain other persons in Ireland seemed to spend their time in endeavouring to blacken the character of the country. In the publication "Grievances from Ireland," edited by Lord Ashdown and circulated broadcast throughout England, he selected a few isolated cases, and said that the country was to be judged by those cases. What would be said of Irishmen if, founding their judgment on the scenes which could be witnessed in the streets of London and other cities every day, they were to say that there was no domestic purity in England. It was equally unreasonable to say that the selected cases which were published were typical of life in Ireland. He had from the first regarded the Glenaheiry case as a very suspicious one, but after 1601 the revelations which had been made that night, he thought it was more suspicious now than it ever was. The people whom he represented had found fault with the Attorney-General for not having a proper investigation in this case, for, after all, the inquiry which took place could not be regarded as having been complete. He and his friends were anxious that the case should be probed to the bottom. Anyone who looked at the matter with an unbiassed mind would come to the conclusion that the case was full of suspicion and that it should be investigated in the most thorough and searching way. In view of the opinion expressed by the English official who was sent over to Ireland to inquire, it was only right that there should be the fullest possible inquiry, and on behalf of the people who had to pay for the so-called outrage he asked that such an inquiry should take place.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT (Down, N.)
said the Committee must feel that it implied a want of respect on the part of the Government towards the Leader of the Opposition that no reply had been given to the very powerful speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He desired to refer to the very feeble answer given by the Attorney-General to the hon. Member for North Belfast in regard to the case or Mr. Larkin. The Attorney-General spoke of the trouble in Belfast as if it were an ordinary labour trouble. He seemed to endorse the remark of the hon. Member for "Stoke that the men and their leaders on the whole behaved fairly well. That was a view, at all events, which would be endorsed by no one who knew the facts. It was not a purely labour trouble. It was a Nationalist conspiracy organised and inspired by party and religious hatred of the worst kind. The case presented by the hon. Member for North Belfast had not been answered by the Attorney General. What were the facts? Being afraid that a jury cognisant of the facts in Belfast would convict Mr. Larkin, the Attorney-General and the Chief Secretary determined to remove the accused for trial to Dublin where he would be tried before a more sympathetic jury. The Attorney-General and the Chief Secretary desired that 1602 Larkin should be acquitted of the crime with which he was charged. [An HON. MEMBER: What happened?] The jury disagreed. The disagreement of the jury and an acquittal were equally satisfactory to the Chief Secretary and the Attorney-General, because in either event the result was that a criminal was allowed to go free, When an application was made for a new trial it was refused. The Chief Secretary denied that there was any crime. Why did the Government institute a trial at all if they were not convinced that there was a prima facie case?
§ MR. CHERRY
said the motion that Larkin's trial should take place in Dublin was made in Belfast, and he assented to it.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT
said that no doubt by assenting to the motion the Attorney-General achieved the result he desired, namely, the sending of the man to a more sympathetic place to be tried. In the case of Lord Ashtown the hon. Member for Stoke spoke in terms which, he thought, he would regret on consideration. He admitted with creditable candour that he knew nothing about the case.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT
said that what the hon. Member had heard from hon. Members on the Nationalist benches would not largely enlighten his mind. The Judge who tried the case did know something about it, and some importance must be attached to what he said. The hon. Member for Stoke would not dare to repeat outside the House the insinuations he had made against Lord Ashtown. There had been a significant silence maintained by the Nationalist Members in this debate. There was a certain grim humour about these Supplementary Estimates for law charges and criminal prosecutions. What he and his friends complained of was that the law was not enforced in Ireland, and that prosecutions proved, as a matter of fact, to be absolutely futile. The answer to the charges which had been brought against the Government, made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, no doubt with great eloquence, physical 1603 energy, and thumping of the box, was after all unsatisfactory. If nothing was to be done why should they pass Estimates for prosecutions for maintaining the so-called law in Ireland; and why should these Estimates be so very much higher than in the days when the law was carried out with efficiency and effect? There were 532 prosecutions for agrarian outrages during the past year. [HON. MEMBERS on the NATIONALIST Benches: Your figures are wrong.]
§ MR. HAYDEN
The figures you quote refer to the number of persons and not to the number of prosecutions.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT
said he accepted the correction, the slip being due to the interruptions from below the gangway, largely encouraged by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford. [Cries of "Divide."] Not until he had replied to these interruptions.
§ MR T. L. CORBETT
I will continue to address you if you prevent hon. Members below the gangway from continually interrupting me.
I asked the hon. Member to address me, and he makes a reply which is not particularly civil.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT
said that no one had more respect for the Chairman than he had, and if he had infringed order
§ in any way, he humbly apologised. What he wanted to say was that 532 persons had been prosecuted by the Government, and only eight had been convicted. In addition to the agrarian crimes which had been prosecuted by the Government with prima facie evidence before them, cases of outrage upon outrage had been brought before the House by hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Opposition Benches, and the invariable answer of the Chief Secretary was the formula to which they were now becoming accustomed, but with which they were not satisfied, that "the fact was entirely as stated, but that there had been no arrests." Inquiries had lately been made by hon. Members below the gangway in regard to crime in English counties and constituencies, but he noticed that a Question to the Home Secretary about the crime in an English constituency by the hon. Member for Newry had somehow mysteriously been dropped.
§ MR. MOONEY (Newry)
said that if the hon. Gentleman was anxious to know the reason, it was because the Home Secretary had stated that the statistics to be published in a day or two would show the amount of crime there.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT
said he did not quite follow the interruption His contention was that there were many cases in Ireland where the crime had been clearly proved, but no conviction had followed.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 207; Noes, 75. (Division List No. 7.)1607
|Agnew, George William||Berridge, T. H. D.||Byles, William Pollard|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Cameron, Robert|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Black, Arthur W.||Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.|
|Armstrong, W. C. Heaton||Boulton, A. C. F.||Carr-Gomm, H. W.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Brace, William||Channing, Sir Francis Allston|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Bramsdon, T. A.||Cheetham, John Frederick|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Brigg, John||Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Bright, J. A.||Clark, George Smith (Belfast, N.|
|Barker, John||Brocklehurst, W. B.||Clarke, C. Goddard (Peckham)|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Brodie, H. C.||Cleland, J. W.|
|Barnard, E. B.||Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)||Clough, William|
|Beauchamp, E.||Brunner, Rt. Hn. Sir J. T.(Cheshire||Cobbold, Felix Thornley|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Bryce, J. Annan||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)|
|Benn, Sir J. Williams (Dev'np'rt||Burns, Rt. Hn. John||Collins, Sir Wm. J.(St. Pancras, W|
|Benn, W.(T'w'r Hamlets, S. Geo.||Burt, Bt. Hon. Thomas||Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Gr'st'd|
|Bennett, E. N.||Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Charles||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Rees, J. D.|
|Cox, Harold||Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Rendall, Atherstan|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.||Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir John H.||Richards, Thomas (W. Monm'th|
|Cremer, Sir William Randal||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Crombie, John William||Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Cross, Alexander||Lambert, George||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Crossley, William J.||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Robisnon, S.|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan||Leese, Sir Joseph F.(Accrington||Rogers, F. E. Newman|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Lehmann, R. C.||Rowlands, J.|
|Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Lewis, John Herbert||Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)|
|Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.||Lockwood, Rt. Hn. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Scott, A. H. (Ashton under Lyne)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Lough, Thomas||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Duckworth, James||Lyell, Charles Henry||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk B'ghs||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)||Mackarness, Frederic C.||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Maclean, Donald||Stanger, H. Y.|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N. W.)|
|Elibank, Master of||M'Callum, John M.||Steadman, W. C.|
|Essex, R. W.||M'Calmont, Colonel James||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||M'Crae, George||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Evans, Samuel T.||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Everett, R. Lacey||M'Micking, Major G.||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Fenwick, Charles||Maddison, Frederick||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Ferens, T. R.||Mallet, Charles E||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E|
|Findlay, Alexander||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston||Torrance, Sir A. M.|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Marnham, F. J.||Toulmin, George|
|Fullerton, Hugh||Massie, J.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Menzies, Walter||Vivian, Henry|
|Gooch, George Peabody||Micklem, Nathaniel||Wadsworth, J.|
|Grant, Corrie||Mond, A.||Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)|
|Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Walters, John Tudor|
|Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Montagu, E. S.||Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent)|
|Gulland, John W.||Morley, Rt. Hon. John||Waring, Walter|
|Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Morrell, Philip||Wason, Rt. Hn. E. (Clackmann'n|
|Hall, Frederick||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney|
|Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||Myer, Horatio||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Napier, T. B.||Watt, Henry A.|
|Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||White, Sir George (Norfolk)|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Nicholls, George||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Haworth, Arthur A.||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Hazel, Dr. A. E.||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Hedges, A. Paaget||Partington, Oswald||Whiteley, John Henry (Halifax|
|Helme, Norval Watson||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Henry, Charles S.||Pearson, W. H. M. (Suffolk, Eye)||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Perks, Robert William||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Higham, John Sharp||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Hobart, Sir Robert||Pirie, Duncan V.||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||Pollard, Dr.|
|Horniman, Emslie John||Priestley, W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES,—Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.|
|Horridge, Thomas Gardner||Radford, G. H.|
|Idris, T. H. W.||Rainy, A. Rolland|
|Illingworth, Percy H.||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)|
|Jackson, R. S.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro'|
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Fell, Arthur||Hudson, Walter|
|Barnes, G. N.||Ffrench, Peter||Jowett, F. W.|
|Boland, John||Flynn, James Christopher||Joyce, Michael|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Gill, A. H.||Kilbride, Denis|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Glover, Thomas||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Gretton, John||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)|
|Clynes, J. R.||Guinness, Walter Edward||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift|
|Cullinan, J.||Halpin, J.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.|
|Curran, Peter Francis||Hayden, John Patrick||MaeVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.|
|Delany, William||Hazleton, Richard||M'Kean, John|
|Dillon, John||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||M'Killop, W.|
|Duffy, William J.||Hodge, John||Meagher, Michael|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Hogan, Michael||Mooney, J. J.|
|Murphy, John (Kerry, East)||Power, Patrick Joseph||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Nolan, Joseph||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Walsh, Stephen|
|O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid||Redmond, William (Clare)||Walton, Joseph|
|O'Brien, William (Cork)||Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'mp'n||Wardle, George J.|
|O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Roche, John (Galway, East)||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|O'Doherty, Philip||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|O'Grady, J.||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Sheehy, David||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Patrick O'Brien and Captain Donelan.|
|O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|O'Malley, William||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.|
|O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Snowden, P.|
|Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Summerbell, T.|
First Resolution read a second time.
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £5,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1908, for the Expenses of the Royal Irish Constabulary."
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
suggested that the Government should postpone this Vote, in view of the fact that they had only a quarter of an hour to discuss it, and it would take some little time as they desired to raise serious points upon it which they could not do in that limited period. It would be more convenient that it should go over, as otherwise, his hon. friend who was going to initiate the discussion, would take up a quarter of an hour, and then have to repeat himself on another occasion.
§ Leave to withdraw the Vote being refused.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG moved to report progress on the ground taken by the hon. Member behind him, that the time at their disposal was not adequate for the discussion of the Vote. They, in that part of the House, also had a number of very grave points which they wished to raise.1608
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee also report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.