§ Mr. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
had the following question on the Paper: To ask the Chief Secretary whether the seventeen men prosecuted at the Cork assizes for a political riot at Bantry, and sentenced to six months' imprisonment with hard labour, were all members of the All-for-Ireland League, while no prosecutions were instituted against any member of the opposing crowd connected with the United Irish League; was it proved by the police witnesses for the Crown that the meeting held by the latter body at Bantry was mainly composed of strangers who arrived by special trains from Cork city and elsewhere, and that a number of those 1498 strangers, known to the police, were seen by the police to assault with stones and batons the inhabitants of the town and to break the windows in the houses of the policemen as well as of the townspeople; is he aware that at the inquiry in the police court it was sworn by one of the officers in charge of the police, District-Inspector M'Mahon, that the United Irish Leaguers guilty of these offences were as typical a set of rowdies of the corner-boy class as he had ever knocked up against; will he say why District-Inspector M'Mahon's evidence was withheld by the Crown from the jury at the assizes; why were no proceedings taken against any member of the United Irish League mob; were the counsel engaged for the prosecution by the Crown the same counsel habitually engaged by the United Irish League and the Irish Parliamentary party in their legal business, and, in a case involving so much strong political feeling, why was not some nonpartisan counsel, such as the Solicitor-General for Ireland, commissioned to represent the Crown; is he aware that at a meeting held a week or two afterwards at Crossmolina, county Mayo, where two Members of Parliament were waylaid with stones, batons, bottles, and revolvers by an organised crowd in the interest of the United Irish League, a man named Moclair, a pensions officer in the pay of the Government, admitted that he discharged his revolver five times in the street and broke a pane of plateglass in a shop window with a stone; that no proceedings for conspiracy or riot, such as were taken against the Bantry traversers, were instituted against Moclair or against any other member of his mob; that he did not think it necessary to make a personal appearance to the ordinary police summons served upon him, and was nevertheless let off with a fine of 10s., and is still retained in the Government service; and what is the explanation of the different treatment extended by the Crown to members of the All-for-Ireland League and of the United Irish League on such occasions?
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
May I ask whether there is any rule or regulation of the House governing the length of questions by hon. Members?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. Redmond Barry)
My right hon. Friend has asked me to answer this question. I am informed the men prosecuted and convicted at Cork were members of the All-for-Ireland League, and it is true that no other prosecution was instituted with reference to the riot at Bantry. The meeting, I believe, was largely composed of persons who had come from Cork City and elsewhere, but there is no police evidence, so far as I can trace the matter, identifying any of those persons in connection with the breaking of windows, either in the houses of policemen or of the townspeople. Some of these persons, not, as I think, many, were seen throwing stones during the progress of the riot, but the police reports show that they threw the stones in retaliation for and in defence against the unprovoked and violent attack made upon them, both with stones and sticks, by the crowd of which the persons convicted at Cork formed part. It will be found on an examination of the depositions that the police evidence was substantially to the same effect. District-Inspector McMahon, in describing one section of the people who came from Cork, did refer to them in the terms indicated in the question, but the district inspector in no way conveyed that the persons he was speaking of were guilty parties on the occasion. The district inspector's evidence was altogether of a general character. He did not profess to identify anybody, and I am informed that he was not called as a witness for the prosecution because there was an abundance of merely descriptive evidence of the riot given by other witnesses. He was, however, in court, and was available for examination by the counsel for the accused, had they considered his evidence in respect of service to them. The prosecutions were confined to the persons charged, because on the police reports they and those acting with them were the aggressors in and authors of a wholly unprovoked and a preconcerted riot prolonged for several hours, in the course of which many persons, including several policemen and their officer were severely injured by the deliberate and persistent attacks upon them by the All-for-Ireland League party, some of the police being struck with stones and seriously wounded on their heads and faces. The acts of their opponents were, on the contrary, considered by the police mainly as a defence against the organised 1500 attacks made on them, and on no occasion did they attack the police. It is an unfounded idea that the two eminent counsel who conducted the prosecution are in any sense partisans. They are, and have been for many years, as is well known in Ireland, the permanent Crown prosecutors for the county of Cork, where the offence was committed and the trial was held.
Regarding the Crossmolina meeting, judging from the accounts given by the police, the hon. Member takes a highly-exaggerated view of what occurred. I am glad to say no one, so far as I know, was injured on the occasion. The man Moclair did, I am informed, fire some shots from a revolver, but this was not done at or during the meeting, nor till long afterwards. The shots were fired as Moclair was driving away from Crossmolina at about a quarter to eight o'clock in the evening. It was never suggested the shots were fired at anybody, and for the offence of firing in the street Moclair was prosecuted, and was fined in the maximum penalty, with costs. For the breaking of the window, an incident which took place also long after the meeting, Moclair paid £2 by way of compensation. There is no foundation whatever for the imputation made in the concluding part of the hon. Member's question.
§ Mr. W. O'BRIEN
In reference to the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, may I ask: Is it not the fact that those men were acquitted of the charges of conspiracy and of assault; further, is it not the fact that this row at Bantry was the only occasion on which any crowd of All-for-Irelanders came into collision with the police, while there were many occasions on which the opposing crowd have come into collision with the police without any prosecutions having been instituted against them either for conspiracy or for assault?
§ Mr. REDMOND BARRY
All I can say in reply to that is that the hon. Gentleman is right in stating that charges of assault were not found against them, but that a charge of very gross riot was. For that alone they were sentenced to six months hard labour. As to what are the relations between this party and the police I am not in a position to make an answer.
§ Mr. W. O'BRIEN
I would like to ask the Chief Secretary, as the responsible Minister, whether he will grant us a public inquiry that will discover what is true as between the allegations in this question, 1501 and the answers that have been supplied to the Attorney-General for Ireland, seeing that any possibility of debate upon the subject has for the moment been rendered impossible in this House?
§ Mr. GILHOOLY
Was there not conclusive evidence given in the Bantry cases that this mob came down from Cork, and, without anyone molesting or interfering with them, smashed several windows of the houses of the members of the All-for-Ireland League, and also the windows of other houses; is he also aware that one of the policemen saw one of these men striking another with a baton, and that, though the policeman knew the man, he did not prosecute him; and how can he account for the one-sided action——
§ Mr. SHEEHAN
Does the right hon. Gentleman make himself responsible for the statement that no revolver shots were fired during the progress of the meetings in Crosmolina? Is he aware that one man in the same carriage with two Members of Parliament had his skull split open with a stone during that night?
§ Mr. REDMOND BARRY
I never heard such a thing suggested before. The police reports that have come to me are to the effect that one man alone fired a revolver shot, as I have described.