§ Mr. FRANCIS MEEHAN
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he will state on whose authority twelve town tenants in Manorhamilton were arrested on the morning of 6th January last and tried by a Court consisting of one resident magistrate, who sat in the day-room of the police barracks and refused to admit the public; whether he is aware that the magistrate refused to hear evidence in defence of the prisoners, who were charged with intimidation by booing a bailiff, and sentenced them to a term of one month's imprisonment or, in default, 217 to give bail for their future good behaviour, and whether he will state under what Act of Parliament these prisoners were tried, and why was a Catholic holiday, when people were going to prayers, selected to disturb the town by the drafting in of a large force of police to arrest these men?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The persons referred to were arrested by the direction of the Attorney-General. The resident magistrate sat in the day-room of the police barracks, as stated, to hear the charges, but the Press and the public were admitted as far as the accommodation would allow. The magistrate allowed the solicitor for the defence to cross-examine the police witnesses, but refused, as he was legally entitled to do, to hear evidence for the accused. The prisoners were tried under the Act 34 Edward III., cap. 1, and the jurisdiction vested in magistrates by the Commission of the Peace. The arrests were effected and proceedings instituted on 6th January without any regard to that day being a Catholic holiday.
§ Mr. MEEHAN
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that several of these prisoners were tried by the Star Chamber system and were innocent of the charge, and will he consider the advisability of revising this method with the view of substituting the old Tory system for Star Chamber trial?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I do not quite understand the reference to the Star Chamber system. I am not in a position to say, of my own knowledge, whether these persons were innocent or not.