HC Deb 20 February 1908 vol 184 cc1039-42
MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

I beg to ask Mr. Attorney-General for Ireland whether his attention has been drawn to a paragraph of a letter addressed by Mrs. Minnie Walsh to Mr. Trench, Lord Ash-town's agent, on the 2nd September, 1907, when she wrote, "I have been counting the minutes since seeing you hoping to hear good news this morning from Woodlawn, but as there is nothing in either the enclosed letter or the Irish Times I begin to fear it did not come off; if so, what an awful disappointment, enough to break one's hearts: whether this paragraph referred to the explosion at Woodlawn Church, which five men had been solicited to perpetrate in the anonymous letters produced at the recent trial in Dublin; whether, on 3rd September, after the receipt of the above-mentioned letter, Mr. Trench gave £5 to Mrs. Minnie Walsh to aid her in continuing her investigations; and whether the Irish Government will take effective steps to further investigate this transaction.


Before the right hon. Gentleman answers, will he say, in view of the disgraceful insinuations conveyed in this and former Questions on the subject, whether there is the slightest evidence in the papers or the facts which have come to his knowledge to show that Lord Ashtown was in any way connected with these anonymous letters?


If the hon. Member had been present at the debate the other day—


I was.


He might have heard me, and the Chief Secretary as well, say distinctly that we saw no evidence that Lord Ashtown was in any way connected with the letters. My attention has been called to the letter referred to in the Question, but as a criminal charge is pending against Mrs. Walsh in connection with it I refrain from offering any opinion upon it. The other facts stated in the Question appear to be correct, except that it was upon the 5th, not the 3rd, of September that Mr. Trench gave £5 to Mrs. Walsh. I have already stated that I consider his action in doing so most unwise under the circumstances, but it is only fair to him to say that before doing so he received another letter from her dated 4th September, in which she asked for £2 or £3 by way of loan. In answer to the last paragraph of the Question, I shall consult my right hon. friend the Chief Secretary as to whether any, and, if so, what, further steps can be taken in the matter.


Is it the intention of the Crown to put Mrs. Walsh on her trial again?


That is still under consideration.

*MR. J. MACVEAGH (Down, S.)

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the recent appeal of Lord Ashtown for increased financial support, in which it is stated that: "much more might be done in the direction where it is most needed, if only the funds were adequate to the needs?"


I receive regularly a copy of the document to which my hon. friend refers.


You do not send him any money.

MR. JOHN ROCHE (Galway, E.)

I beg to ask Mr. Attorney-General for Ireland whether any of the letters produced at the late trial of Mrs. Minnie Walsh were in the hands of the Crown before 3rd September; and, if so, can he state how many, and what date the same were written.


I am informed that on 30th August immediately after the receipt of the second anonymous letter from Mrs. Walsh, Mr. Trench, Lord Ashtown's agent, took the two anonymous letters to the Inspector-General, and showed them to him. Mr. Trench kept the originals until 12th September, when he handed them over to the police. Copies of the material parts of these letters were furnished to the Inspector-General on or before 30th August, but none of the original letters were in the hands of the authorities prior to 3rd September.


On what date was the last letter of the correspondence, amounting to sixteen letters, placed in the hands of the authorities?


I do not know, nor do I think it was ever placed in the hands of the authorities.


Am I to understand that of the fifteen letters produced at the trial only one was in possession of the Crown previous to the time the Member for the Division set the Crown in motion?


The letters were produced by Lord Ashtown at the trial—that is to say, the direct correspondence between Mr. Trench and Mrs. Walsh. The anonymous letters were placed in the hands of the police authorities in order that they might be investigated by an expert in handwriting. But extracts had previously been shown to the Attorney-General.

MR. JOHN WARD (Stoke-on-Trent)

What was the date on which the authorities received the letter from Lord Ashtown's agent, dated 2nd September?


I do not know whether we ever had the original of that letter.