§ IRISH ADMINISTRATION.
§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."238
§ Mr. ROBERT THOMPSON
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to insert instead thereof the words "this House is of opinion that recent actions of the Executive in Ireland are calculated to impair respect for the laws, and to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice in that section of His Majesty's Dominions."
In moving this Amendment I am conscious of my inability to do justice to this important subject, which I regard as one of the greatest magnitude which can command the attention of any legislative body, as without confidence in the justice and impartiality of our Courts of Law there can be no feeling of security. Every sound statesman must admit that the laws of a country, together with the just administration of those laws, form the foundations for that feeling of security of life and property without which no country can be either prosperous, contented, or happy. Unfortunately I know all who know anything of Ireland must admit that throughout three of its provinces these conditions have been signally wanting, and that crime has been rampant, and that the punishment of crime has been exceptional, and that in many cases the police have either been powerless or, it may be, unwilling to detect the perpetrators of outrage. In many other cases, more especially of a political character, jurors could not be found to convict criminals when brought before the Courts, and accordingly it became a common saying in some of these districts "the King's Writ did not run." Fortunately in Ulster such a state of affairs was not to be found, but I much regret to say that more recently instances to the contrary have arisen through causes which are not obscure to unbiassed observers. Occasionally cases are beginning to manifest themselves where criminal offenders, especially those of a political character, are withdrawn from the venue of our local Courts to other districts where the surroundings are more sympathetic with the nature of the offence, and by such means prisoners escape from the ends of justice. Personally, I can recall a case which occurred in 1907, when an extensive and prolonged strike was organised among our dock labourers in Belfast by an English importation called Larkin. This strike continued from 6th May until 6th September of the same year. Larkin was instrumental in provoking a strong and bitter feeling against those who were willing to work honestly for their 239 bread. Ultimately he was brought by the police before the magistrates for a grievous assault.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The rule of the House is that hon. Members are not entitled to read their speeches, though, of course, they may refer to their notes.
§ Mr. R. THOMPSON
He was brought before the magistrates for a grievous assault which was conclusively proved against him. He had felled on the public street one of those honest workmen with a navvy's shovel, cutting open his head, and so seriously injuring him that his life was despaired of. For this serious offence Larkin was remanded by the magistrates to the Assizes, but when the trial was approaching the case was withdrawn from the Assizes in Ulster and relegated to a Southern Court and a Southern jury, and ultimately the prisoner was allowed to escape scot-free. Another example of the absolute failure of justice not due to want of evidence was the notorious McCann case, where a respectable married woman was robbed of her two children in the light of day, where she was robbed of her furniture, and where she was robbed of her clothing and effects, and till this day no one has been brought to justice for those offences nor have the children yet been found. Another example of the absolute failure of justice is the even more notorious case which occurred only a few months ago. I refer to the attack on the Sunday school children when on their annual excursion to Castledawson, in the month of June last, by members of the Hibernian League. Those children numbered 500, and 130 of them were infants between the ages of four and ten years. The main facts of this notorious affray were as follows. The children's train was timed to leave Castledawson station for Whitehouse at 6 p.m., and twenty minutes before that hour the children left the field which had been allocated for their amusement and marched in procession towards the railway station.
When approaching Castledawson a person told the clergyman in charge that a procession of Hibernians was approaching from the town, and that he must be very careful when they met. The children's party when meeting the Hibernians moved to their own side of the road, and no word 240 was spoken by any of its members and absolutely no provocation was given. The Hibernian party, according to police evidence, numbered about 300 men, sixty of whom were armed with pikes, and others with bludgeons and other weapons. Without one word of warning, that large body of men rushed into the excursionists among the children just behind the band. The scene which took place was almost indescribable. Their flags were torn, the musical instruments broken, the men of the excursion were stabbed, and even children were struck and some of the latter were trampled under foot on the roadway. The excursionists were scattered in every direction. Shrieking women and children sought safety in fields and houses; some forty ran to the police barracks. Almost every man of the excursion party was stabbed with pikes, or struck with bludgeons, or knocked down and kicked. Subsequently, but prior to the trial of the prisoners, Mr. Barron, the minister at Whitehouse, gave a list of the injured parties to the Crown Prosecutor, but not one of these was called to give evidence at the trial, nor was any reason offered why they were not called. I wish to read here, if I may, a few extracts from sworn statements of those who were assaulted. These statements were sworn before Mr. Edward Coey, J.P., one of the most respected county magistrates in the neighbourhood of Whitehouse where the parties attacked reside. The following is an extract from Mr. Barron's statement:—The Assizes at Londonderry opened on 2nd December, and I was summoned by the Crown to appear as a witness. On the opening day of the Assizes 2nd December, I was asked by the Crown Solicitor to give him a statement as to the nature of my evidence. I did so, and told him I had a list of men, women and children who were injured at Castledawson. He looked at the list and told me that it could not be used in evidence against the Hibernians, who were charged simply with rioting at Castledawson. However, he said that he would arrange for an interview between the counsel who were conducting the prosecution for the Crown and myself at 3 o'clock that day in his office. I attended at 3 o'clock at his office and was met by the junior counsel. We waited for a considerable time for the senior counsel to appear, but he did not, and it was then arranged that we should meet the next morning at eleven o'clock. I attended at that hour, but neither of the counsel made their appearance. The Crown counsel who were prosecuting never spoke to me about my evidence and had no interview with me. When I went into the witness box to give my evidence. I had a list with me, and I attempted to give the list in evidence, stating that I had such a list. But its prosecution was objected to on the grounds that the persons named in it were not produced at the trial, and I was not allowed to read the list. It has been frequently stated that no women or children were injured, but at the trial not a single person connected with the Sunday School Excursion was examined except myself. None of the injured persons were produced by the Crown. None of the teachers and 241 none of the parents were present or examined. And I make this declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true and by virtue of the Statutory Declarations Act, 1835.I will now give a short extract from the statement of Margaret Humphrey:—I accompanied the Whitehouse Sunday School Excursion to Castledawson on Saturday, 29th June, 1912. … I went to look after the children and saw the Hibernians running with their pikes. A Castledawson woman pulled me into her house, and I was crying, and asked her to let me out to look for the children, three young children of my cousin being in the excursion. The woman let me out by the back door, and on coming round a corner a man, with green slut and hat, struck me a heavy blow on the right shoulder with a pike. I remembered nothing after being struck, until I found myself in the house of Mr. Samuel Irwin, Castledawson. When I recovered consciousness I was hardly able to walk.I will trouble the House with only one other short extract. Sarah Brennan said:I was with the Whitehouse Sabbath School Excursion party on 29th June last at Castledawson when it was attacked by the Hibernians. One of the Hibernians kicked me on the stomach and knocked me down. In the crush I was knocked over a wall and got my arm hurt, in consequence of which I was off work for three days.I do not wish to occupy the time of the House by citing further examples of what every fair-minded and unprejudiced man must regard as practically a failure of justice, as all those who were convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment for complicity in these riots were, on the expiration of six weeks, set at liberty by the Executive. It may be said that I have only adduced two or three instances of the miscarriage of justice, but if I had only brought one in which there was manifest carelessness exhibited as to the just rights of the individual, or could it be shown that matters of expediency took prior place to the foundation principle upon which the stability of the Commonwealth rests, then, I hold, it would be sufficient to commend the Amendment which I now propose to the acceptance of every Member of the House.
§ Major M'CALMONT
I rise to second the Amendment which by the fortune of the ballot stands also in my name on the Paper. It is an unusual privilege for a new Member to draw a place in his first ballot, and more especially to be able to address the House for the first time upon a subject of his own choosing. But I would particularly ask the indulgence of the House, because the subject is one which many hon. and learned Members on both sides are much better able to judge than I am. My acquaintance with the law of the land, which is the subject of the Amendment, has been up to the present time, I am happy to say, entirely confined 242 to military law. But whether one is a soldier or a civilian, the whole nation prides itself on its love of fair play and justice. It is that feeling of confidence in the administration of the law which is at the present time so lacking in certain parts of Ireland. That want of confidence has been brought about through many causes during the last few months. Several of those causes will be referred to by other hon. Members; I propose to confine my remarks almost entirely to what is known as the Castledawson case. It is a rather curious coincidence that places in the ballot should have been drawn by the two Members representing the two constituenencies from which these excursionists were drawn. The outrage has been previously referred to in this House, and I do not propose to go further into the facts of the case. What I am more concerned with is the methods by which the prosecution of the offenders was carried out. It should be clearly understood that the prosecution was entirely in the hands of the Crown, and had nothing whatsoever to do with the Rev. Robert Barron, who merely happened to be in charge of the excursion. It has been frequently stated that he was the prosecutor, but that is not the case.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to one or two facts in connection with the gentleman who represented the Executive in this prosecution. Doctor Robert Todd appears to have achieved a wider reputation as an election agent than as a solicitor. In county Westmeath since the year 1885, when it because a constituency, he has conducted no less than eight contested elections in the interests of the party opposite. With this no doubt excellent claim, he was appointed Sessional Crown Solicitor for county Westmeath during the 1892–5 Administration of the party opposite. It is true that he subsequently became Crown Solicitor under a Unionist Administration, and I think he only resigned that office under a certain amount of pressure. In answer to a question which I put yesterday, the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture told me that the reason Dr. Todd resigned that office was that he insisted on living in county Londonderry, and was unable properly to carry out his duties from there. In any case, he resigned his office because he was unable properly to carry out his duties. He then turned his attention to further elections in county Londonderry, more especially in North Derry, and not many months ago 243 he received a further reward by being appointed Crown Solicitor for county Londonderry. The House will probably agree that it is, to say the least, unfortunate, that the prosecution of these rioters should have fallen into the hands of such a gentleman. Now as to the actual conduct of the case? The outrage took place on the 29th June last. On the 24th July these men were committed for trial. It was stated in answer to a question yesterday that it was not possible after that date to take any further depositions. That seems to me rather a ridiculous suggestion. If between the time a man is committed for trial and the time when he takes his trial important evidence comes to the notice of the solicitor in charge of the prosecution, it appears to me that the solicitor would be neglecting his duty if he did not take steps to produce that evidence at the Assizes. It is frequently done in criminal cases both in this country and in Ireland, and I can see no reason why it should not have been done in this case.
On the 26th November the local police themselves approached the rev. gentleman who was in charge of the excursion party, and asked him for a list of the injured persons. That list he gave. The Vice-President yesterday stated that the list contained only the names of three children and no women. That is possibly a quibble as to the definition of woman and child. I think the girls in this particular case varied in age from seventeen to twenty-one. But that is a small matter. I have received a telegram this morning from the Rev. Robert Barron, in which he says that the list included two women and eight girls. In addition to that, the police themselves found out one girl who had been injured. It is admitted that the Crown Solicitor had that list in his possession not only before the trial but a good many days before the trial. The Rev. Robert Barron saw the Crown Solicitor on the first day of the Assizes, some days before the actual trial came on, and discussed the evidence with him. He produced his list, but was told that that list would not be evidence. I quite agree that the list could not be evidence, but I wish to submit three points for the consideration of the House. The first is that the Crown Solicitor was well aware that certain women and children alleged that they had been injured through the action of the rioters, and that he took no steps what- 244 soever either to prove or to disprove their statements, which, it is true, were not on oath. Secondly, to have proved injuries to women and children in this particular case would have very considerably aggravated the seriousness of the offence, and therefore it was the duty of the solicitor prosecuting for the Crown to have produced evidence to that effect. Thirdly, in reference to the statement made by the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture on the 6th February in this House, when he said that the statement made by the learned judge at the trial to the effect that there was no evidence and that nothing had been proved as regards injuries to women and children was not challenged by anyone, I submit that the only person who could possibly have challenged a statement made in court was either the counsel representing the Crown, or somebody else connected with the prosecution. I cannot see that it was the business of anybody, either in the Press or elsewhere, to question a statement made by the learned judge in his charge to the jury, except one of the counsel conducting the case. The Government are well aware that this matter has been taken up by the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, who have recently gone to the trouble to have upwards of two dozen affidavits taken. They have circulated them, and they have demanded from the Chief Secretary that there should be a sworn public inquiry, a demand which I earnestly support, despite the fact the right hon. Gentleman says that such a thing is entirely out of his power. There is one other point I should like to refer to; that is that it is common knowledge that since this outrage took place there have been various small disturbances and law-breaking in various parts of Belfast. Various people were arrested. The prosecution of many of these people has been carried out in absolutely unusual and extraordinary methods. Men have been arrested, discharged, re-arrested; they have been brought before this bench of magistrates, and taken away and brought before a selected magistrate in a way that has been calculated, in my opinion, to kill all respect for the administration of the law in the minds of the accused. Let me refer to one very small case in detail, that is in connection with two men who have been charged with an offence committed as long ago as 17th September last. It has been admitted by the detective-sergeant who has given evidence in this 245 case that the evidence was absolutely complete within a very few weeks of the offence having been committed. Five months after no action has been taken. As a matter of fact, the warrants were only put into the hands of the police on 6th March, considerably more than five months after the alleged commission of the offence. This, I submit, is one more instance among many recent actions of the Executive in Ireland calculated to impair respect for law, and also to impair confidence in the administration of justice.
§ Mr. MULDOON
My first duty on rising is to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down on the eloquent little speech he has delivered. I am sure I may also congratulate my hon. opponents above the Gangway on the distinct accession they have received to their debating strength in this House. I hope we shall have the pleasure of hearing the hon. and gallant Gentleman on many future occasions. Both hon. Members who have spoken have brought against the Government a charge of general failure in the administration of justice in Ireland. I must say at once that I have upon the present occasion no brief for the administration of justice in Ireland. There are many things done which I should like to see done differently. But I think there is one fact to which the Government can point in their administration of justice in Ireland, namely, that they have reduced crime and outrage there to a figure to which it has never been reduced in the history of the country. I have here a résume of the charges which the judges of the High Court have delivered at the recent Assizes. This résume covers the thirty-two counties of Ireland. I will not read the extracts in detail. I deal first with the province of Ulster, where, with the single exception of Belfast city, the record is good. The learned judge who presided in the Crown Court there remarked that in some respects the conditions were favourable, and in other respects unfavourable. The condition of every single county in Leinster is described as "peaceful," "very good," or "almost enjoying an entire immunity from crime."
In Munster every single county is favourably reported upon, and even the county of Clare is described as "having experienced a distinct change for the better." The county of Kerry is described as "fairly satisfactory"; Limerick as in a "peaceful state"; Tipperary, North and South, 246 as in "a perfectly satisfactory condition." The county of Galway is described as "not satisfactory, but improving." I commend that state of affairs to this House, and I say that never previously in the history of the country has so good a report been produced from the Assizes. Both hon. Members referred to what they regarded as the comparative failure of justice. I regret to say there have been in one or two cases a failure of justice, but the most glaring case of the failure of justice has occurred in the last ten days in the city of Belfast. I may have to refer to that before I sit down. I must express my thanks to both hon. Members for having raised the case of Castledawson again. It is a case in reference to which we upon these benches have no complaint whatever to make. The more frequently it is raised the better we like it. The more it is understood in this country the better we like it. Our attitude in reference to it is that we deplore most heartily the fact that this incident at Castledawson arose. We regret it exceedingly. But we say that nothing is to be gained by exaggeration. Lying and untruthful statements have been made in reference to this affair…
§ Mr. MULDOON
I will read them before I sit down. They were made by the hon. Member for Mid-Armagh (Sir J. Lonsdale), who said in the "Morning Post"…
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
On a point of Order. Is it in order for the hon. and learned Member to talk about "lying statements" having been made by a particular Member? He has referred to my hon. Friend below me as having made one of these statements.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I did not understand that the hon. and learned Member used the words "lying statements" in reference to any statement made by hon. Members in this House. If so, that would certainly not be in order. The hon. and learned Member is, of course, entitled to refer his remarks to those outside the House.
§ Mr. MULDOON
I did not intend, Mr. Speaker, to refer to the hon. Member for Mid-Armagh as having made lying statements. I should not be guilty of such a thing. But the hon. Member did quote, in the "Morning Post," statements made by the Rev. Mr. Barron, the Rector of Whitehouse, which I say were absolutely 247 inaccurate. I have the evidence of Mr. Barron himself that they were absolutely inaccurate. I will read it…
§ Sir J. LONSDALE
Is the hon. Member entitled to make these references to me without the slightest justification?
§ Mr. MULDOON
Perhaps I may be allowed to refer to this very interesting topic of Castledawson in my own way. The first remark I have to make is that the Rev. Mr. Barron is the beginning and end of Castledawson. If he had not been there the story of Castledawson would not have been told. Nothing would have been known about it. It would have disappeared like one of those little riots which so frequently take place in the North of Ireland, which are dealt with at Petty Sessions, and returned for trial. Counsel appears on both sides. There is a conviction and a short term of imprisonment, and there is an end of the transaction. The Rev. Robert Barron went from Whitehouse with this excursion party, and returned home with them. Afterwards we have the most extraordinary activities by this reverend gentleman, the most extraordinary accounts of that transaction, suggesting, indeed, that the reverend gentleman himself has mistaken his vocation, and that if he had not selected the Church he would have been a mighty good war correspondent. He has a good deal of skill in his art, because he never published the name of a person injured at Castledawson until the 6th February of this year, although he was examined on oath twice upon the subject. Another statement I make, and I am prepared to verify it. Immediately after the Castledawson affair Mr. Barron appeared in the pulpit and on the platform, gave interviews to newspapers, and sent reports to hon. Members of this House. Let me quote from these. It must be remembered that when he spoke the reverend gentleman spoke as an eye-witness of the affray that took place, first in an interview with the "Northern Whig." In that paper, on Monday, 1st July—the incident having occurred on the 29th June—the reverend gentleman, in the course of a very lurid account, said:—In a moment the Hibernians were in the middle of our children with their pikes, striking and stabbing 248 right and left. They also used bludgeons and threw stones. Our teachers and the young men behaved heroically.That is the first statement made. The hon. Member for Mid-Armagh quoted that statement in a letter which he addressed to the "Morning Post" on 5th July.
§ Mr. MULDOON
Yes. The letter of the hon. Member reads:—The discussion in the House of Commons dealing with the disgraceful outrage perpetrated on Saturday upon defenceless women and children by members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians took place so late on Tuesday night that the Press were unable fully to report it. May I therefore ask you to allow me space in which to inform the British public of the plain facts of the case, which were misrepresented by Mr. John Dillon earlier in the evening. … Mr. Barron himself courteously saluted the leaders of the other procession. One of these men seized the Union Jack, which was carried by a small boy, and the rest of the Hibernians then rushed at the children. Mr. Barron says that in a moment they were in the middle of our children with the pikes, stabbing right and left, striking and stabbing right and left; they also used bludgeons and threw stones.The next extract I have from the Rev. Mr. Barron is published in a paper called "The Banner of Truth and Irish Missionary News." I only quote this because it contains one statement which the Rev. Mr. Barron apparently did not give to the other papers. It might perhaps be unpalatable to the hon. Member for Central Hull. In this he said:—The order has been given that Roman Catholics are to deny everything they do, and their friends in England do the same. Even Christian ministers are not ashamed to utter the same lie.Then he proceeds to give to the editor of this religious newspaper an account of the Castledawson not differing from what he had communicated to the "Northern Whig" in the interview to which I have referred. In this House, on 2nd July last, the Noble Lord the Member far the Horsham Division of Sussex raised the question upon the Adjournment. The Noble Lord assured me himself that the statements received from the Rev. Mr. Barron were in his own handwriting. Here is one purple passage from what the Noble Lord read:—Many of our people have been stabbed with pikes, women and children mainly.…And I ask the attention of the House to these words:—Many of them being cut in their struggle for the banner and flag. One of our young men was stabbed right through the hand. The struggle lasted for a considerable time, and so terrified were the children, that many of them fled as far as a mile from the scene, where, cowed and terrified, they crouched in ditches 249 and hedges. Several are seriously ill as a result of what has taken place, and many others will carry the scars of the struggle of this wanton attack to their dying day.That was the evidence of a man who swore before the Assize Court in Derry and swore before the magistrates when making his deposition, that he himself took special charge of the women and children, and conveyed them in three batches from the scene of the riot to the railway station, and that he had ample opportunity of seeing the cuts and scars and that was the description he furnished to the Noble Lord, and it was read in this House, and published broadcast. Now that same reverend gentleman, although appealed to again and again, never gave the name of a single woman or child injured, and the reason, of course, was plain. If he said that Mary Kelvie or Margaret Simmons had been struck or stabbed it would have been easy for the police to go and see these women, and see whether there was any truth in the statement or not, but wild horses would not drag from him the name of a single person struck or stabbed, and no hon. Member above the Gangway until the 6th February, 1913, ever gave the name of a woman or child injured. Upon that occasion the hon. and gallant Member for North-East Down (Captain Craig) for the first time read out a list of persons whom he said had been injured, and struck and stabbed, and he said he received them in a telegram that day from the Rev. Robert Barron. The next appearance of the Rev. Robert Barron, to which I wish to refer is when we have him before the magistrates sitting in the Court in Derry when the depositions of himself and a large number of witnesses were taken. The rev. gentleman upon that occasion was upon his oath, and he was examined and cross-examined.
I notice the charge is made against the Crown Solicitor of Derry that he is a partisan upon the other side. I know he is not a Nationalist, and I hold no brief for him, but before the magistrates the solicitor who appeared for the Crown was the Sessional Crown Solicitor, who, an hon. Gentlemen suggested yesterday, should have been the Crown Solicitor, because, I suppose, he was one of those who signed the Covenant. He had charge of the Crown case when it was before the magistrates, and he examined the Rev. Robert Barron, and he left that examination without ever suggesting that any woman or child was struck or stabbed, or giving the name of a single woman or child 250 who was stabbed. Let me quote one extract from that examination. I am sorry I cannot lay my hand on the extract, but I can quote the substance of it from recollection. He said that he saw men injured, but he was challenged to say whether he saw women or children injured, and he said he did not, and in cross-examination he said he took particular charge of the women and children, and conveyed them to the station, and conveyed them practically to their houses, and I would point out to the House that of the bogus list he since supplied of children whom he suggested were physically injured at Castledawson upon that day some of them live in the very village to which he belongs. What is the next appearance of the Rev. Robert Barron, to which I now call particular attention? On 7th August the Rev. Robert Barron wrote a letter to the "Times" in which he made the following statement:—So far as I know, no woman or child was struck or stabbed, but many of them suffered from shock and fright.That was the reverend gentleman, who told us about the scars that they were to carry for life, and who went home with them, and who wrote that lurid account the following day. No doubt women and children present at such scenes naturally suffer from shock and fright, but physical injury is a wholly different thing. He absolutely denied, under his own hand, that the women and children were struck or stabbed, but without one single word of explanation of the extraordinary account he sent to the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham or of the extraordinary interview he gave to the "Northern Whig" newspaper. What is the next step? He had another opportunity. He was examined before Mr. Justice Wright at the trial at Derry. It would be almost an impertinence for me to say that Mr. Justice Wright is one of the most experienced criminal judges in Ireland. He was many years Crown Prosecutor at Green Street Court-house, Dublin, and he was the Tory Solicitor-General for many years, and no one could suggest that he was not perfectly competent to try a case such as that which came before him. The Rev. Robert Barron was examined before him, and when it came to the point of the question of physical injury to women and children the learned judge took the Rev. Robert Barron in hand. Here is an extract from the report of the trial:—The witness was proceeding to say that the children were seriously injured, when Mr. Wylliem…251 He was counsel for the prisoners—objected, saying, 'No one had mentioned the matter that day, and witness had no right to make the statement.'His Lordship: Is it physical injury?Witness, producing a paper: I have a list of them here.His Lordship: Never mind the list. Did you yourself see any injury to the children?—I saw the injuries to the men.Mr. Wyllie: Yes, to the men.Witness: Eight or nine of the men were stabbed and received serious blows about the head and body.And the Rev. Robert Barron left the witness box in Derry without giving the name of a single person injured, or without justifying in the smallest degree the lurid account he wrote to the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham or the interview he gave to the "Northern Whig." Fourteen witnesses were examined for the Crown, and twenty-three witnesses were examined for the prisoners at that trial. Every single witness of that thirty-seven declared they saw no injury to the women or children, and that none appeared afterwards to have been injured. And what did the learned judge say in charging the jury after that great body of evidence was given? He first of all said:—The case was of some importance, but not of transcendent importance. He could not agree with Mr. Wood that it was a case that could have been disposed of at Petty Sessions.And he went on to say:—Practically every witness for the Crown agreed that a rush was made for the second flag, and that that had started the row.Continuing, his Lordship said:—He was glad to know that women and children had not been struck by pikes; he did not know whether the newspapers had headed their reports of this affair as 'Attacks upon women and children'; he was glad to say he did not read any of them. At any rate, what had been absolutely proved ….It was not a matter of inference. It was a matter the learned judge took to be absolutely proved.What had been absolutely proved in that Court was that no injury had been inflicted upon women or children, and he was glad to hear that proved in Court. It detracted so much from the seriousness of the charge, and they were glad to think that nothing so dastardly or unmanly had taken place.Proceeding, the learned judge said:—Fourteen witnesses, thirteen policemen, and the Rev. Robt. Barron had been examined for the Crown. In regard to the evidence of the Rev. Mr. Barron, he admitted to Mr. Wyllie that after the occurrence and in the heat of the excitement, he was interviewed by a representative of a Belfast paper, and that he had used very much stronger language than when he was upon his oath.That, in short, is the history of Castledawson. It is a history which begins with the Rev. Robert Barron, and ends with him, and he has made no serious statement in this Castledawson affair, which he has 252 not contradicted himself, either upon his oath in Derry or in his letter to the "Times." As regards the other charges made about Belfast, I notice there has not been very much put into the indictment to-day about what took place at Belfast following this unfortunate occurrence in July last. What we do know, from the Lord Justice Cherry in Belfast the other day, is that, although eighty persons were treated in hospital for injuries received during the unfortunate shipyard dispute, not one single person was convicted. Lord Justice Cherry, in one of these cases, complained bitterly that religious issues were raised in every case, with the result that in no case would a jury convict. Let me read one extract from his charge to the jury in Court in Belfast:—It was a most disgraceful thing for the city of Belfast, that a respectable workman could not come home from his work at night, and could not safely pass a group of men of the opposite religion to himself without incurring the risk of being attacked. That was what was most important. The man was attacked because he was a Roman Catholic and a Nationalist, and for no other reason. It was not suggested that he gave any offence. He was a poor hard-working man, who, from early morning to evening was working in the Sirocco Works. He Was going home when he was set upon and beaten in the way we have heard. It was a terrible thing that that could happen in the streets of Belfast.He went on to say:—It would be a still worse thing and a still more disgraceful thing if it had happened, and if evidence of the clearest character were given as regarded who were his assailants, if a Belfast jury would not convict them. He told the jury that plump and plain, and in that case, as far as he could judge, there was evidence of identification of the accused so clear that it was absolutely impossible to conceive any clearer. One could not conceive any criminal trial taking place, from petty larceny to manslaughter, where a man was charged with any offence they chose to name, in which there could be clearer identification of the accused than in the case the jury were trying. … Juries who were accustomed to their business, and who minded their business, would disregard evidence of that kind. They had evidence as clear as it could be, and it was their duty in his mind to act upon it.5.0 P.M.
The jury did not act upon that advice, and out of a dozen trials that took place in Belfast, there were two disagreements, and in every other case the accused were not convicted. It is not in the indictment of the Government that eighty persons were treated in the hospital for serious injuries, and no single person was convicted. That is a most glaring case of the failure of justice that has taken place in our time in Ireland, and I am glad the hon. Members above the Gangway have given us this opportunity of discussing the administration of justice in that country, because we have everything to gain and nothing to lose by a full disclosure of the facts.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
With one observation made by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, I entirely agree, and that is in regard to what he said about the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Antrim (Major M'Calmont). It would have been almost presumption on my part to have done it, because my hon. and gallant Friend is exactly the same age as myself, although I have had a longer Parliamentary experience, but I have no hesitation in saying that I do not think I ever heard a speech which contained so much matter put so shortly and clearly, and I congratulate him upon that speech. I want to deal faithfully with the speech we have just heard, but, like him, I want to proceed in my own way. I will promise to deal fully and faithfully with the whole of what he has said about the Castledawson affair. I want, in the first place, to formulate one or two more counts in the indictment which we bring against the Government. I want to put before the House two sides of the various proceedings which have taken place in Ireland. In Ireland, as in this country, the prerogative of mercy is exercised by the Lord Lieutenant, on the advice of His Majesty's Ministers—that is to say, on the advice of the Chief Secretary of the day. I want to call attention to a very recent occurrence in which this prerogative has been exercised and the way in which it has been exercised. On 19th December one Patrick Arkins was convicted of an offence at the Cork Assizes. There was a farm at Toormore, county Clare, which had been in the possession of one McMahon, who was evicted from it twenty-five or thirty years ago. When McMahon was evicted a certain person named FitzPatrick purchased the goodwill of the farm from the son of the tenant who had been evicted. No suggestion has been made that the sum of money paid was not sufficient, and FitzPatrick enjoyed peaceable possession on the farm for a long time. During the last few years Mrs. FitzPatrick has been subjected to a long serious of outrages, the culmination of which was a cattle drive, which took place on 19th December, The only person arrested for this offence was the man Arkins, who apparently was not one of the ringleaders. He was not accused of being a ringleader, but he was present on the occasion and took part in the unlawful assembly, and was caught in the act of destroying a fence. He was charged with taking part in an unlawful 254 assembly and with destroying the fence. He was convicted and Sentenced to seven years' penal servitude, and I should like to read to the House what the judge said in passing that sentence, because it is of some importance in this connection. The judge was Mr. Justice Dodd. Of course, a judge is supposed to have no political principles or political opinions, but I should not be far wrong if I said that when this judge did hold political opinions they were Radical opinions. Mr. Justice Dodd said:—The prisoner was probably one of the least guilty.And then he goes on to say:—If he, even after he was found guilty, had come for ward and expressed regret, and handed to the police the names of those who were with him that night, to be dealt with as the police thought fit, then he could ask for mercy. But instead of doing that he preferred to adopt another course. He would not tell who the other guilty parties were. He came forward as a foe and asked for mercy. When order was restored in the district from which the prisoner came it world be the proper time to make application for mercy. His lordship was certain that when that condition prevailed in the county, and the police could report to the Lord Lieutenant that there was no disorder there, the Lord Lieutenant for the time being would be very pleased to exercise his clemency. Until then those associated with the prisoner were in a state of war—war against the Government and war against the police. During the case the authorities had got an indication of what existed in the district. The prisoner's side had given away more than they thought, and his lordship, though he had spoken to no one outside the Court, could know that it was under consideration whether some of the witnesses for the defence would be prosecuted for perjury or not. They had done nothing to help the Crown. The jury had brought in very properly a verdict of guilty, and now the prisoner, still unrepentant, came forward as a foe and asked for mercy. There was not even a whisper of penitence. The sentence of the Court was that the accused he kept in penal servitude for seven years.And so Mr. Patrick Arkins disappeared from the 19th December to serve his sentence of seven years' penal servitude. What happened? Certain hon. Members in this House interested themselves in his case, and the hon. Member whom I see in his place was one of those who thought it right to bring the matter before the notice of the Chief Secretary.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
Well, at any rate, the Chief Secretary became seised of the matter by some means or other. What happened? Arkins, who on the 19th December was sentenced to seven years' penal servitude, was walking about outside on the 4th of March on a ticket of leave. I understand that there is an agitation on foot for a free pardon, and his friends hope that they will be able to obtain it. I think that beats the hunger- 255 strike hollow, and the performances of the Home Secretary are nothing to the performances of the Chief Secretary for Ireland if, after remarks of that kind made by a judge in the course of his exercise of judicial authority in sentencing a prisoner, these words are to receive no more respect than they have done from the Chief Secretary, because the prerogative of mercy in this case seems to have been very lightly exercised by him. It is impossible to discuss this question without a certain amount of justifiable indignation, and I do not want to be more provocative than is absolutely necessary. I want the House for a moment to consider how those who break the law in the South of Ireland are treated. The House will have noticed a statement that the learned judge spoke about the state of county Clare, and the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down had something to say on that topic. Here is the latest information available with regard to county Clare. Here, for instance is the evidence of a district inspector in that county which was given at the Constabulary Barracks, Ennis, on 27th November:—District Inspector Davis, Corofin, gave evidence that from January, 1919, to that date there were 104 serious outrages in his district.This inspector's district is only a little bit of the county. He further stated:—In forty-two cases firearms were used, twenty-seven were malicious injuries, thirty-two were of threatening notices, one ease of bomb explosion outside a house, one robbery of arms, and one attempted bribery.I am informed that in Clare, between January, 1910, and October, 1912, there were 457 cases in fifty-four of which firearms were used, and that is a picture of the state of things existing at the time which this learned judge referred to. This system of agrarian outrage and intimidation has formed part of what is known as the graziers' agitation which has been going on for a long time. I have been careful to look up what the right hon. Gentleman opposite had to say with regard to convictions in the palmy days of cattle-driving, before the Home Rule Bill was introduced. In the year 1908 the right hon. Gentleman gave the figures for cases up to 12th December, 1908, the number of cases was 1,051. Proceedings were taken in 162 out of that number and 1,582 persons were implicated. Out of that number how many were convicted? Only seventeen out of 1,582. Let me call the attention of the House to what another eminent judicial authority has said within the last 256 few weeks as to the state of things in that part of Ireland. The right hon. Mr. Justice Kenny, addressing the Grand Jury at the Connaught Winter Assizes in the County Crown Court, Limerick, on 3rd December, said:—The county of Limerick was stated to be in a peaceful state, but he could gather from the reports before him that such peace was only superficial since the July Assizes. There were six cases of argon, two of maiming cattle, three of malicious injuries, five of threatening letters and notices, and one of firing at a dwelling house. There was a number of people under police protection. … With regard to Roscommon and Galway, although he was informed there was a slight improvement in a portion of the latter county, the condition of things seemed to be still deplorable. In Roscommon there was a large increase of serious crime. There were seven cases of arson, four of threatening letters and notices, and police protection had to be afforded to several people. The statistics of county Galway showed that portions of it enjoyed an unenviable reputation for outrage and intimidation.And he gives the cases.His Lordship regretted to say that in all the counties where that most cowardly form of intimidation had been exercised, the exertions of the police had been rendered ineffectual in making anyone amenable.The right hon. Gentleman himself has been responsible for a complete statement of figures in a Return which he presented to this House on the Motion of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Down (Captain Craig). I find from those figures that in the six years 1906–1911 there were 2,350 agrarian outrages and only eight-two convictions. Quoting again from the Return, I see there were 837 shooting and bomb outrages involving injury to or death of 227 persons, whilst convictions were only obtained in 137 cases. Less persons were convicted than were either killed or injured. It is not suggested that any of these shooting outrages or any of the cases I have mentioned took place in the North-East corner of Ireland. There is no such suggestion, and, in point of fact, everybody knows they did not. I mention these cases in order to show how far the Government, have made a really serious attempt to enforce the law in the South and West of Ireland. Contrast that with the state of things when the Government have to deal with offences against the law by Unionists in the North-East corner of Ireland. There is no doubt that the law has been broken. I have myself said so before in this House. It is all very well to affect reprobation, but you cannot affect surprise under the circumstances. You cannot, in view of the state of things which exists, and which has existed in Belfast, wonder that things have become unduly exacerbated. The proceedings of the Government and the way in which the Government have sought to administer 257 justice in Belfast have done far more to exacerbate than to allay feeling in Belfast. The Government adopted a most extraordinary method of procedure. A Divisional Court in Ireland, although holding their method of proceeding to be strictly legal within the letter of the law, also took occasion to remark that it was extremely unusual. One Judge in the High Court went so far as to say that the Government procedure amounted to a travesty of justice. They charged certain men with various offences—conspiracy, I think—and, having got them before the Recorder, they then entered a nolle prosequi, which means that they withdrew the case. Immediately after having entered a nolle prosequi they arraigned the men before a Court of which I will only say that it was of a peculiar composition. The Chief Baron, in giving judgment upon the case, pointed out that, according to his knowledge—and according also to the knowledge of the counsel who took part in the case, and according to the best of my own knowledge and belief—there was no case on the records of the Court in which action of this kind had been taken before by the Government. There has never been a case in which the Government, having entered a nolle prosequi, has tried to secure a conviction.
There was also the case referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend. McKenzie and Harvey were arrested on 7th March, charged with the offence of conspiracy. In the ordinary way when a man is charged with an offence he is arrested as soon as possible after the commission of that offence. He is arrested as soon as the Government or the party concerned have had time to collect their information. That is only fair, and only in accordance with the great constitutional rule of not delaying justice. It is fair to the Crown and it is fair to the person charged, because it gives him an opportunity of collecting any witnesses and of getting any evidence he may wish to collect when it is fresh in the minds of the people concerned. These men were arrested on 7th March, on information sworn on 3rd March for an offence committed on 17th September. It may be said that it took the Government a long time to get their case together and that they took action as soon as they could, but it is on the records of the Court, in the evidence of the detectives concerned, that the Government had all the information they required in October, the offence having been committed on 17th September, 258 and that no additional information whatever was acquired after October. That is on record in the evidence of the chief officer concerned in the case, and I say it is a perfectly disgraceful proceeding of the Government that they should have taken action in the way they did. Here you have a picture of the Government on the one hand exercising what I can only characterise as undue leniency to men in the South and West of Ireland, and, on the other hand, straining every turn and twist of the law in order to try and secure convictions against men who happen to be their political opponents. I do not think that is creditable to the Government, and I do not think it is even-handed justice or likely to allay feeling in Belfast. The hon. and learned Gentleman brought a charge against the public citizens of Belfast acting in their capacity of jurymen, and he quoted Lord Justice Cherry, who is the first person who has ever had a word to say against a Belfast jury. What did the Recorder of Belfast say? He had nothing but good to say of Belfast juries. It was not until the Government took these proceedings, which brought justice into contempt in Belfast, as everywhere else, that a very natural feeling of exasperation was created.
Let me call attention to one other little case which is interesting as affording a sort of idea as to the way in which the Government, approach their duties at the present time. Some years ago, I think in 1898, the Congested Districts Board formulated a scheme for encouraging the erection of better small dwelling-houses in Ireland by the medium of grants, and in order to give these grants they set up a scheme of what are called parish committees. They were first set up in 1898, and they were remodelled in 1905, and again in 1910. I think, on the whole, they have worked satisfactorily. These parish committees consist of various gentlemen interested in the locality, including the resident landlords or their land agents, and they are administered by a president and a secretary. It has been decided, and rightly decided, that the appointment of the secretary must be confirmed by the Congested Districts Board before it is made final, the reason for that being that these parish committees are the channels through which the golden stream of beneficence of the Congested Districts Board flows. They have a very considerable amount of influence and of authority and power; they can direct that stream of 259 beneficence into various channels, according as they think right and fit. The Congested Districts Board and the Government therefore decided, and rightly and wisely decided, that before any secretary or supervisor was appointed by these bodies the appointment should be confirmed by the Congested Districts Board. One of these parish committees—the parish committee of Castleisland—in 1911 appointed as their secretary and supervisor one Mr. Richard J. Walsh. The appointment came up before the Congested Districts Board, and it was duly confirmed by the Board.
Who is Mr. Richard J. Walsh, and what had he done that he should be appointed as secretary and supervisor to direct the golden streams of the Government's beneficence? Mr. Richard J. Walsh is a gentleman who had peculiar and, perhaps, not altogether common economic views. He was appointed in 1911. Two short years before he had an acute difference of opinion with his landlord. His landlord was of the absurd view that when a man occupied a holding he ought to pay rent. Mr. Walsh, I say, held peculiar economic views. He did not agree, and he refused to pay rent. The landlord attempted to recover by the civil power, and the civil power was not welcomed by Mr. Richard J. Walsh. It is reported that on that occasion Sergeant McIntyre, of the Constabulary Depot, Dublin, gave evidence of a march to Walsh's house, commonly known as Walsh's Fort. Walsh had fortified his house, and it was strenuously defended. Tar, boiling whitewash, and other fluids were dashed on the police. That is the gentleman whom the Congested Districts Board delight to honour. That is the gentleman whom they confirm in his appointment as secretary and supervisor of their own parish committee, and I may also add that I am informed that since his election the gentleman in question has celebrated the feast of Christmas not wisely but too well, ending by being locked up and convicted in the Police Court of being drunk and disorderly on 30th December. I do not lay too much stress on that, because at that time of the year revels do take place, and perhaps a certain amount of latitude may be allowed even to people occupying such a public position. It is perfectly absurd of the Government to say, as they do say, that they had no knowledge whatever of these incidents in Mr. Walsh's varied career when they confirmed his appointment as 260 supervisor and secretary of this parish committee. If they had not got that information, it was singularly negligent of them to appoint him at all. I am anxious to believe everything the right hon. Gentleman says, but I cannot bring myself to believe that. Everyone in Ireland, even a lunatic or a baby, knew of the history of Walsh's Fort, and the right hon. Gentleman who confirmed the appointment has answered, not one, but a hundred questions in this House with regard to the matter. If further information is wanted, the hon. Gentleman, one of the Members for Mayo (Mr. Fitzgibbon), who is himself a connoisseur in somewhat unlawful proceedings, is a member of the Congested Districts Board. I do not believe the hon. Gentleman will get up in his place and say that when Mr. Walsh was appointed as secretary and supervisor to the Castle-island parish committee he had never heard of his name before and knew nothing of his history. I can only say that if that is the way in which the Government business is done, it is a very disgraceful state of affairs.
§ Mr. FITZGIBBON
May I say that this is the first time I ever heard of this Mr. Walsh, to whom the hon. Gentleman is referring.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
If the hon. Gentleman assures me, on his responsibility as a Member of this House, that it is the first time he ever heard of this Mr. Walsh, I at once accept his word. I come now to what the hon. Gentleman has to say in regard to the Castledawson case. He began his speech with very strong language as to the statements made by the Rev. Mr. Barron. But those statements were made by Mr. Barron before the Court of his Church, which, after careful inquiry, endorsed them and asked for a sworn inquiry, in order that the statement might be further dealt with. The hon. and learned Gentleman began by contrasting what he called the methods, or rather the remarks made in his letter by Mr. Barron, with some subsequent statement by that gentleman. Unfortunately my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham is not here, and I have not had an opportunity of consulting him in regard to the matter, but I hold in my hand a letter from the Rev. Mr. Barron, and he says:—I wrote no such letter, and if any such letter exists it is a forgery.I have looked up the Debate, and I find my Noble Friend did not purport to quote 261 from a letter. That statement is, therefore, a pure invention. What he did quote is evidently part of a newspaper account, and it is a matter of common knowledge that newspaper accounts are not always entirely accurate, either on one side or the other.
§ Mr. MULDOON
May I just say that I asked the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham whether he was reading from a statement made to him by the Rev. Robert Barron, or a newspaper, and he replied that it was from manuscript supplied to him for the purposes of the Debate by the reverend gentleman.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
It is quite a misunderstanding; it is obvious that the statements quoted by my Noble Friend were quoted from documents supplied to him. It has been suggested that the statement that the struggle lasted a considerable time, and that many would bear the scars of it to their dying day, was written by Mr. Barron. Again, I have a letter from that gentleman stating that he wrote no such letter, and, if it existed, it was a forgery. I cannot say more than that. I know personally of nothing about the rights or wrongs of the situation.
§ Mr. STEPHEN GWYNN
Does Mr. Barron deny having written any letter to the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham?
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
He does not deny that, and my Noble Friend admits that he quoted certain statements from information supplied to him by the reverend gentleman. It has been repeatedly suggested in the Radical Press that there is an inconsistency between Mr. Barron's statement on this occasion and his subsequent statement, but the reverend gentleman's reply to that is that he made no such statement in any letter which he wrote, and that is my answer to that part of the charge. Next I come to the allegation that Mr. Barron did not produce this evidence as to the injuries suffered by women and children, although he said it existed. My answer to that is that on 26th November, two weeks before the Assize trial, Mr. Barron sent to the Crown authorities a list containing the names of the injured persons to whom he referred. That was admitted by the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture yesterday. The list, therefore, was in existence. It was in the custody of the Crown two weeks before the trial, and, what is more, it was supplied 262 at the request of the Crown and of the local police, who went to Mr. Barron and asked him for it. The Chief Secretary does not deny it was in possession of the Crown. I want the House to be quite clear what our charge is against the Government in regard to this matter. Reference has been made to the judgment of Mr. Justice Wright, and that judgment is being used all over the country by the party opposite and by the Nationalists, who are saying that the judge found there was no proof that any woman or child was injured, and that there was no proof of premeditation. Our charge simply is that, having in their hands proof of which they might have availed themselves, had they thought it worth while, primâ facie proof of injuries to women and children, and primâ facie proof of premeditation, they suppressed both and produced nothing. As regards women and children, the Government admit that a list was given to the police containing the names of those injured. It was given at the request of the police; it contained also the addresses of these persons. I will go further and say that, in the last few days, many of these persons have made sworn statements before a magistrate, and my hon. Friend read one or two by women and children. I have one by a man to the effect that he was in the procession and had a little girl in his arms when the Hibernians broke through, and one of them struck him on the face, knocking him into a ditch with the girl in his arms. I do not propose to read any more statements; they are on record; they were all sworn before a magistrate. Hon. Gentlemen may say that these people are liars. If that is so our case goes by the board. I think it is very unlikely that they are all liars. It is very unlikely there is a common conspiracy among these people, among women and children, to unite in one great big, common lie and to swear to it before a magistrate. If one of these statements is true, the whole case which the hon. and learned Gentleman tried to set up goes by the board. It may be asked, "Why were not these people produced at the trial? Why did not the Rev. Mr. Barron produce these women and children?" The answer is that, unfortunately for the aims of justice, Mr. Barron was not the prosecutor in the case. The control of the case rested with the Crown. It was for the Crown to decide what evidence he should call or refuse to call, what questions they should put to Mr. Barron, 263 and what use they should make of the list which they admit they obtained from him. On their responsibility they decided to make no use of it. In point of fact not one of the persons reported to the police as having been injured was called. Not one was asked the question, "Were you injured?" or "Is this statement of the Rev. Mr. Barron true?" Not a single question of that nature was put by the Crown counsel Not a witness was called from the list supplied at the request of the police, yet the Crown counsel sat still and allowed the judge to observe that there was no proof of injuries to women or children.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
The Crown counsel and the Crown Solicitor with that list in their pockets sat still, and allowed the judge to say that there was no proof given of injuries to women or children! But whose fault was it that no proof was given? It was the fault of the Crown. They were the only people who could have given the proof, and they did not do so. The right hon. Gentleman has a heavy responsibility to discharge to this House to explain why no proof of the kind was given.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
A great deal was made of the suggestion by the judge that he was glad there was no proof that this was a premeditated affair. No evidence was called to show that it was premeditated, but there was evidence at the disposal of the Crown which would have shown that it was, for I have it on authority that they had in their possession the testimony of a police-constable which would have gone a long way to prove premeditation. This police-constable (McHugh) was called as a witness in the next case, that against the Protestants, and the sum and substance of his evidence was that he heard a man named Beeston say that there would be a row, and that the Hibernians were well able for it. Was that constable called at the trial? Was that question put to him? He was not called, and no question was put to him. The Crown counsel and the Crown Solicitor sat there with this evidence in their pockets, which allowed the judge to say there was no evidence of premeditation, and no questions whatever were asked on 264 the point. That is not open-handed justice. There is one brand of justice in Ireland for the cattle-driver, and there is another for the Unionist.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I do not say that the right hon. Gentleman himself is personally responsible. I would not for a moment make any suggestion of the kind, but for the doings of his underlings he must bear the Parliamentary responsibility. The rod of office has been used in this case, I firmly believe, to muddy the wells of justice. When you ask us, as most hon. Gentlemen do, what we are afraid of under Home Rule, and why we express the fears we do with regard to the passage of some such Bill as that which was recently before the House, I answer: This is a class of thing which makes us have fears for the future. It is the fact that the administration of justice, even under present conditions, is not even fair. Remember that under the conditions that may come to pass under that Bill your judges are going to be appointed by and be responsible to an Irish Executive and an Irish House of Commons, and that their Executive is Irish and not English. If these things are done in the green tree, what will be done in the dry?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The peroration to which we have just listened from the hon. Gentleman probably is the reason and may be an excuse for the long speech he has made. I hope to deal with his various points. I quite agree with his opening remarks in congratulating the hon. and gallant Member (Major M'Calmont) upon the maiden speech he delivered. Although we cannot help being sorry for the reason that brings him here, we are glad that he is here, and are sure that he will maintain the honour and distinction of his name. I think his sermon was a little better than his text, but he chose the text, and is entitled to be congratulated upon having preached an excellent sermon upon a very inferior text. I think the Castledawson incident is one of the best examples that could possibly have been given of the harm that is done to a good case by unnecessary exaggeration and rhetorical assertion, because there is no doubt that the incident in its origin and its method was a very shocking outrage. There is no doubt whatever that the Hibernians were the instigators and originators of a disturbance which certainly bore a cowardly and most 265 disagreeable aspect. Therefore, if hon. Gentlemen opposite and their newspapers had been content to reprobate an attack of that kind upon grown-up people who were assaulted and injured, not, I am happy to say, to death, or indeed permanently, but still so as to inflict upon them a cruel and painful outrage—if they had been content to confine themselves to that, they would have had a good case.
The proceedings took the form, I am glad to think, of legal proceedings, criminal proceedings, and the culprits turned out, when they appeared in the dock, to be first offenders, which shows what these horrible factions and religious fights can produce. The learned judge said that a more decent-looking set of fellows he never saw before him, and it would have been a great grief to him if he had been obliged to think that they had, in addition to the sin of making a wanton attack upon a peaceful Sunday-school party, been guilty of wantonly attacking women and children, or indeed if the outrage had been worse than it was. He went on to say that he was glad they were free from that, and proceeded to sentence them to three months' imprisonment. I will deal with the exercise of clemency, such as it was, later. [An HON. MEMBER: "Did he not exonerate them from any attacks upon women and children?"] In this miserable story everybody claims the right to tell it in his own way, and even I must share in the privilege of stating the case. The learned judge was evidently struck with the respectable character of these people as they appeared in the dock. They were all first offenders, and he rejoiced to think that they were not in any way guilty of wanton attacks upon women and children. It appears that there are persons who are interested in proving that this attack by these Hibernians was not confined to an attack by throwing stones on a mixed assembly composed partly of adults, partly of women, and partly of children, but that it is absolutely necessary to bring home to certain persons that women and children were stabbed—that is the expression that was used—with the pikes or halberds, which I dare say are formidable enough things, which are carried by the Hibernians as part of their adornment or equipment, or whatever the right word may be. We have had a trial, and now it appears that we must have it all over again on the floor of the House, that an Act of Parliament is to be passed authorising a sworn inquiry to be held 266 for the purpose of ascertaining whether the Rev. Mr. Barron was right or wrong in making allegations, if he did make them, or when he did make them, that women and children were physically injured and brutally assaulted by these Hibernians.
All I can make is a chronological statement as to the facts. This incident, this cruel and wanton proceeding to which I have referred, took place on 29th June, 1912. The first statement the Rev. Mr. Barron ever made was made in the "Northern Whig" of 4th July, 1912, when the matter was fresh in his mind. During the whole of this painful incident, which I have no doubt did make a powerful impression upon his mind, he, as the custodian of his flock, appears to have acted with a great deal of courage. He collected his people together, and behaved as a valued pastor would be expected to behave. Five or six days after the occurrence he gives the account which appeared in the "Northern Whig." No mention whatever is made by him in that statement of women and children having been injured. If it did happen he must have been aware of it, because he was all over the place. He was flaming, like Ariel, all over the scene. He behaved with great courage. He collected the women and children together, and did his very best for them, and yet five or six days after the occurrence he does not mention the incident, which is now the sole basis of our Debate. Then he wrote a letter to the London "Times" on 1st August, 1912, and in that letter also no reference whatever is made to injuries to women or children. In fact, he says they were not hurt—that was his case that they were not hurt in the sense of being particularly attacked, stabbed, or anything of the kind. So we get his statement on the 4th July and again on the 1st August. On the 26th November he furnishes a list to the police. Here I may say that Mr. Barron, since he knew that the matter was to be one for criminal proceedings—twenty-five defendants had warrants issued against them—was exceedingly anxious that I should give him a personal guarantee that he would be called as a witness. That seemed to be only right and proper, and I said that so far as was necessary I would give him a guarantee that he would be called. On the 26th November, 1912, I believe he furnished a list to the police. At any rate, he certainly furnished them with a list prior to the trial. That list he 267 sent on to me after the trial, and here it is. I believe this is an autograph letter—at any rate, I hope so, and that it is not a forgery. It is written from—The Manse, Whitehouse, Belfast,January 4th, 1913.List of Members of Whitehouse Presbyterian Sunday School excursion party who were injured by Hibernians on 29th June, 1912, at Castledawson:—Men: Silas Renwick, stabbed in the hand by a pike.Samuel McKelvey, stabbed in forehead by a pike.James Mitchell, stabbed in head by a pike.William Edward McCullagh, struck with weapon on the eye.Robert McClay, struck with pike on head.He mentions five other persons, all of whom were struck with pikes or bludgeons. They were all men.Children struck: Pearl McKelvey, aged 12, struck with stone, seriously injured.Maggie Birney, 15, struck with stone, hurt.Sarah Brennan, 16, knocked down and kicked.Those are the children. Then seven women were mentioned with these particulars:—suffered from shock, in doctor's hands; suffered since from St. Vitus Dance, in doctor's hands; convulsions, very ill since; had a fit that night; ill for weeks afterwards; nervous breakdown; hat covered with blood, very ill that night. Those are the women, and it is perfectly clear, and no doubt the case that these women suffered from the shock and had not suffered from any physical or actual injury done to themselves. What is important is that three children were struck with stones. That is the allegation, and it is a serious one.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
Oh, certainly. The allegation made against the Crown Prosecutor is certainly very serious. It is that with that list in his hand he did not state that the three children were struck with stones. [An HON. MEMBER: "Kicked."] One was kicked.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
No, all three of them were struck with stones. Really the hon. Gentleman who interrupts me is not the Rev. Robert Barron, nor was he present, I believe, on this occasion. That is the list, and the allegation is that the Crown Prosecutor, with that list in his hands, committed a dereliction of duty, he having clear evidence of riot and of violent assaults by these people and that he ought to have called evidence to show that three children were struck with stones, 268 and one of them alleged to be kicked, by whom it is not stated. One may easily be kicked in a crowd running away. I have never heard such a ridiculous allegation made against a person who was bringing a case against certain persons of riot and assault who was able to prove that they had been guilty of these serious outrages against a considerable number of men. They did not encumber the case any further by investigating it. The fact that a list was furnished proves nothing more than that they had been struck with stones, and one said he or she had been kicked. That is a most monstrous charge to make against a member of a learned profession conducting a case on behalf of the prosecution. There was no allegation or suggestion made up to that time by anybody of these serious offences which are now brought out. Now, what is alleged? At the trial on 21st December, 1911, the rev. gentleman was called—this man who has taken such an active part in this concern, who had proved himself at all events a very considerable master of language, who had made the very best case he possibly could. He was called, and yet we are told he was so tongue-tied in the box, so dominated, so tyrannised over by Mr. Justice Wright—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no"]—that when he was asked a question on the very point, "What allegation do you make?" he plainly said he made none. Mr. Barron does not need even the advocacy of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. H. Campbell). No doubt he will get it for nothing, but he does not need it in any way whatsoever. He was there at the trial, and he was quite able to take care of himself and to put forward any case of injury to women and children.
I do not wish to say anything against the Rev. Robert Barron at all, but it is rather curious that eight months after the event and six weeks after the trial two ladies were introduced into the case, a Miss Humphreys and a Miss Chanceller, who, according to their own account, were unconscious. Miss Humphreys received most serious injuries, being struck by a pike over the shoulder. She was a member of his congregation living in the same parish as himself, and he never heard of it or discovered anything about it until he came to make a visitation of his congregation eight months after the event. I find that rather difficult to believe. At the same time all I can say is that there must be an end of litigation 269 at some time or another. The incident took place in June. The trial was not until 21st December. It was tried by a most competent judge, and witnesses were called. The Rev. Robert Barron himself was called and every possibility was given him of introducing anyone he chose. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]. Why not? We knew nothing whatever about Miss Humphreys or Miss Chanceller. They do not appear upon the scene until six weeks after the trial was over. The only persons we knew anything about were the three children. There was no occasion to call these other women who complained of shock. We were dealing with people who had received serious injuries and wounds. We had a long list of men who had received such wounds and we had the names of the three children who have been mentioned, who had been struck with stones and one kicked, and the Crown Prosecutor proved quite enough to get a conviction against these persons without calling the children said to have been struck with stones, as part of a school party who had in no way been wounded or savagely attacked, I am sorry to say, many people went about the country giving the impression that the children were assaulted and cruelly wounded and stabbed by the Hibernians. Not a single child was stabbed. Not a single woman was stabbed. That much at least has been clearly established, and there is no such allegation except with regard to these two persons, who have really come upon the scene too late and after ample time had been given for full discussion and consideration of the question. I really cannot see how anyone can make a charge against the Crown that they did not prosecute in this case, and prosecute to conviction, the persons who were accused of having broken up the party. With regard to the allegation that the police heard something in a railway train, I hear of that for the first time. It is said some police-constable, in a train, heard someone say the Hibernians knew there was going to be a row, and that they should at all events have cross-examined the constable. For all I know they may have done that.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
They produced him in the case against the Protestants, but not in the case against the Hibernians.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The evidence he gave against the Protestants was not the evidence on which the Protestants were attempted to be convicted. There was no 270 evidence before the Crown Prosecutor before the constable made it in the box. I remember when the case first came on I rejoiced that it was going to be made the subject-matter of criminal proceedings, and I think the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. H. Campbell) agreed with me that we could have no better form of inquiry into the case than criminal proceedings. They have had that. These Hibernians were put on their trial and were convicted of a serious outrage committed upon the male portion of the school treat, and they received their sentence. Then the Lord Lieutenant has been accused of exercising the prerogative of mercy in a strange manner. The sentence was three months. If that had run out, if these persons had misbehaved themselves and had not got good marks, their term would have expired on 3rd March. If they had got good marks, which they all did, for they all behaved exceedingly well in prison, they would have been let out on 16th February. As a matter of fact, they were let out on 4th February. They were let off twelve days from the sentence which they would have received.
We received, as one generally does in Ireland, petitions from residents in Castledawson of all classes and professions, Unionists, Conservatives, Nationalists, Orangemen, Liberals, clergymen of all denominations, praying for the remission of the unexpired period of the sentence. More than a third of the signatories were Protestants, among them being the rector of Castledawson and Mr. Alexander Clark, J.P., proprietor of a large linen factory in Castledawson. The fact was that, though it may seem to suit hon. Gentlemen opposite to describe these Hibernians as ruffians, and although I admit they behaved in a ruffianly way, they were not, apart from these religious factions, ruffianly persons. None of them had come across the law before. Their appearance attracted the favourable notice of Mr. Justice Wright, and the clergy and gentry of the neighbourhood combined in presenting this memorial, and as the result of the memorial they were let out twelve days before they otherwise would have been. If it had been left to me—I knew nothing about it—I would have left them there for the twelve days, because hon. Gentlemen are always nowadays calling in question the action of the Lord Lieutenant. He thought he could let them out twelve days before the conclusion of the sentence. To say he did this 271 contrary to the wishes of the neighbourhood is not true, because the memorial I quote is evidence of that. He let them out, and perhaps you are entitled to say they ought to have been in prison twelve days more than they were. I do not suppose that would have done them any particular good or any particular harm, and to raise this as a case against the Lord Lieutenant for the manner in which he has exercised the prerogative of mercy is unreasonable. I therefore think on that part of the case we might surely have let bygones be bygones. These people have been imprisoned for the length of their sentence, having regard to their good behaviour, less twelve days. A conviction was obtained—not always a very easy thing in any part of Ireland where religious feelings or strong passions are excited. A conviction was obtained and you bring this case up again simply because the Rev. Robert Barron asserts as a matter of fact, that he thinks there were two women who were injured, though he admits he did not discover them until after the trial; and to make an allegation against the Crown Prosecutor that he was certain of getting his conviction and therefore did not insist on going into the case of the three children unfortunately hit with stones is a most unreasonable exercise even of the undoubted right of an Opposition to criticise. So much for the Castledawson affair. With regard to the other case, the hon. Member drew a picture of the state of things in Clare, and Clare, as everyone knows, for centuries past, has been a great trouble to all administrators in Ireland.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
What is always the difficulty in disturbed districts like Clare or even in the North of Ireland, where religious difficulties arise? It is to obtain convictions, and the great thing you want to do is to obtain convictions. I put it to any human soul who knows anything at all about the condition of things in the West of Ireland or in Clare, what chance are you ever likely to have of getting a conviction from a jury if you sentence to seven years' penal servitude a boy…
§ Mr. BIRRELL
Say twenty-one. A boy who the judge himself said was probably the least guilty of them all. The judge 272 did not mean that this sentence of seven years should be carried out, but he said to the boy, "You did not split upon your comrades, you did not let us know who your associates were. The condition of this country is very bad. I send you to prison for seven years, and you will be held there more or less as a hostage." I am not criticising the judge, though I do not think that is a wise action. He distinctly said an opportunity would soon occur, if only the people would indicate in some way their sense of shame, for the prerogative of mercy to be exercised. In my opinion that was not the wisest possible way of getting a conviction in Clare, but the judge had got a conviction, and a sentence proportionate to the offence would, I think, have been the obvious course for him to adopt. He never meant for a moment that a person should be kept in penal servitude for seven or for six years because he had knocked down a wall, although it was a bad case. It was a case of persistent persecution of a particular person, therefore it is not right simply to say he was sent to prison for seven years for knocking down a wall, but the judge himself said he was not the person most responsible. The right hon. Gentleman, I am sure, when he comes to sit upon the bench, would never pass such a sentence, though I dare say it would be better if he did, because the prisoner would be able to be let out sooner than he otherwise would have been if a reasonable and proportionate sentence had been passed.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The right hon. Gentleman does himself an injustice. I am taking a case which involves no political prejudice. It was a difficult case, and when it came before the Lord Lieutenant I was consulted, and therefore the responsibility is mine as much as the Lord Lieutenant's. It was as difficult a case as I have ever had to decide upon. One thing which was clear to me was that the sentence could not stand. That was impossible, and therefore we made the best arrangements we could. I think the condition of things in that part of Clare is very much better now. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Well, an improvement is noticeable, even there. Instead of allowing a sentence of this sort to be rigorously adhered to—it was not our intention to adhere to it—it was better to allow the 273 boy out of prison without having to undergo confinement for six or seven long years. He is now out on ticket of leave, under conditions which give a considerable hold on him. I know from the police that he is by no means the dangerous character some people represent him to be. I think, so far as this Debate has gone, we may be satisfied and rest quite content with the issue as regards the Castledawson affair. I was very glad that the persons who took part in that outrage received and served sentences they thoroughly deserved.
§ Mr. J. H. CAMPBELL
It is quite true, as the Chief Secretary observed, that it was necessary to say something in defence of the gentleman who has been so much assailed. I think the House likes to get advocacy of that kind, because it is likely to be more disinterested than if you are paid for it. Let us see what is the exact nature of the charge we bring against the Executive in regard to the Castledawson case, because the issue has been a little obscured by the Chief Secretary. If it were a question of accuracy of recollection, or the precise consistency of the various statements made by the Rev. Mr. Barron, I could understand the right hon. Gentleman's position. But that is only an incident of the case. It is not our complaint. Our complaint is of a very specific character It has already been mentioned by the hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Mitchell-Thomson). It is that at the trial the learned judge was allowed to remain under the impression by the Crown counsel who conducted the prosecution, first of all, that this attack had been made without premeditation; and, secondly, that he was allowed to believe that in this attack neither women nor children were injured. The learned judge said so in the speech he made to the jury and also when sentencing the accused. He said the matter assumed a much less serious aspect than it might have done, because he was glad to see that on the evidence produced by the Crown there was complete absence of premeditation, and no injury to women or children. Our complaint is that that false impression was deliberately produced on the mind of the judge by the improper conduct of the counsel who appeared for the prosecution. I have been in this House a good many years, and cases of this kind and discussions on the policy of the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors have cropped up here from time to time. I have never yet made an attack upon any member of my own profession in Ireland in 274 relation to his conduct when acting for the Crown. But this appears to be such a great scandal that I would not consider I was discharging my duty if I did not endeavour to have this matter fully discussed in the House.
I am not concerned about the Rev. Mr. Barron. I have never seen him. All I know is that he is not a rector. He is a Presbyterian minister of a congregation at Whitehouse, and, so far as I know, he has never taken any part in politics. There has never been any suggestion that he ever attended political meetings. There is no evidence of the kind, but he has been made the subject by the hon. and learned Member for East Cork (Mr. Muldoon) of a very grave charge indeed. The hon. Member thought it consistent with his duty to charge the reverend gentleman with having produced a bogus list of injured people, and to state that he did not produce it until weeks after the trial. He should have known that was false if he had known anything of the facts of the case he is undertaking to challenge. He has made a very grave and gross charge, and if he had taken the trouble to listen no later than yesterday he would have known that the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Mr. T. W. Russell), in the regrettable absence of the Chief Secretary, stated that the Rev. Mr. Barron handed in the list on 28th November last—that is to say, three weeks before the accused persons were put on their trial. Then the hon. Gentleman charged this clergyman, who has no interest in the matter except to protect himself and his flock, with getting up a bogus list. That shows the sort of justice and fair play we are going to get. The hon. Member charges him with fabricating that bogus list and not producing it until weeks after the trial. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not producing it publicly."] The hon. Member said nothing about "publicly." I took down his words. He said that the reverend gentleman never suggested that there had been any injury to women or children until he produced a bogus list. That is a gross charge, and I regret that the hon. Gentleman persists in it and has not got the good grace to withdraw. Let us look into the matter a little closer. The right hon. Gentleman is inaccurate even in reading his own documents. I do not blame him, for he would not have noticed it at first. He thought that the list only contained the names of three children, and that the rest were women. They are all children, and ten names are given.
§ Mr. J. H. CAMPBELL
Do not interrupt. I have pointed out that you have stated that, with the exception of three, the rest were women. The whole ten were children. The first three acutely suffered physical injury, one from being struck, another from being struck with stones, and another from being knocked down and kicked. The ages of the children ranged from five to twelve years. All suffered in various ways from the frightful shock they got on that occasion. The list which is described now as bogus, and as not having been produced until February last, was in possession of the right hon. Gentleman opposite in January, and it was in possession of the police on 28th November last. What did the police do with it? I wish to show how the prosecution was conducted. I do not think that English Members understand the situation in regard to these prosecutions in Ireland, because they are not conducted in the same way as in this country. In this country the individual aggrieved very often is given charge of the prosecution. In Ireland, I am almost safe in saying, that 90 per cent., I might say the whole 100 per cent., of the prosecutions are conducted by the Crown. They call the witnesses, and in this particular case the Rev. Mr. Barron had no more power to interfere with the prosecution or to suggest, or control, or dictate who the witnesses were to be, than you or I. On the 28th November he sent to the police the list of persons injured. I am informed—I do not vouch for it, for I am only speaking from information—that the police actually in the interval between 28th November and 22nd December, when the accused were put on trial, went round the houses and verified in each case the facts stated here. I challenge contradiction of that if it is inaccurate. Therefore Crown counsel in charge of the case knew before the men were put on trial the allegation which had been made in respect of a number of specific individuals who had suffered serious injury. Though the police had visited the homes of the people and found the facts as stated in the list, the case was conducted by Crown counsel without ever calling a single one of those who were alleged to have been injured. Not only so, but when the reverend gentleman was called to give evidence, and when he proceeded to state that, though he was not aware of his own knowledge that women or children had been injured, he had a list 276 of them, and had ascertained that they had been injured, objection was properly taken by counsel for the accused on the ground that that was not evidence, and that the only way it could be proved was by producing the injured people. Counsel for the defence knew his business. So also did counsel for the Crown, but he was not there for that purpose, and the judge was allowed to remain under that false impression when he gave his mild sentence. He said he was satisfied that neither women nor children were injured. How could he come to any other conclusion? Evidence was not presented to him, and the officials who could have placed it before judge and jury deliberately abstained from doing so.
There is another matter in connection with the prosecution which has a very nasty appearance indeed. The learned judge said that he was pleased to see from the evidence that this was a mere accident. It was accidental that the two processions by a fortuitous chance met on the same piece of road, one going and another returning. What are the facts? Before the magistrate a constable named McHugh was produced, and he made a deposition in which he gave a long account of travelling in the train with the members of the Hibernian procession; of hearing them talk of the other procession, and state that they would be there to meet them, that they would have a row, and that they would get the better of them. That was sworn to, and Crown counsel had that in their briefs when the case came up at the Assizes. They deliberately abstained from calling that man, and from giving that evidence, which was vital to the question of premeditation and deliberation. The result was that again the judge was led into a wrong conclusion, that this was a mere accident, wholly unpremeditated, When the Crown counsel had in the brief before him evidence of deliberate premeditation. The counsel who represented the accused on that occasion was a distinguished member of my profession, and a Member of this House, and in the open Court, in the presence of the judge, after these facts came out, he challenged the Crown counsel with improper conduct, with partisan and unfair conduct, and the learned judge neither reproved him nor censured him in any way, because the facts had come to the learned judge's knowledge, and I believe that he was as much ashamed and annoyed at what had taken place as anybody else. That is with regard to the 277 Castledawson incident. Let me now say a word or two as to the extraordinary proceedings that have been going on for some months in Belfast. I would be the last man to attack the right hon. Gentleman for the utmost vigilance in enforcing the law, and for resorting to every means that are legal and within his power with a view to bringing the guilty party to justice. But what we do complain of is that for the first time in the course of his long administration this anxiety and vigilance have been displayed in the case of Belfast, and his counsel, acting, of course, under his direction, and at least in a way for which he is responsible, have resorted to devices which the King's Bench declared to be unprecedented, in the administration of justice in Ireland or in any part of the Empire, and which they declared had turned the whole proceeding into a perfect farce or comedy, though I would rather have said tragedy. These men are brought up before the Court to be tried in the ordinary course before a jury. The hon. and learned Member thought it necessary to go out of his way to make some imputation on Belfast jurors. All that I can say is…
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
He would be the first judge in my long recollection who ever said anything except in praise of the high character of Belfast juries. I was counsel for many years in Belfast. I was in the riots of 1886 and in the riots of 1893. For many years it was my duty to defend, and in later years it was my duty to prosecute, and I say deliberately that, during all those years, I never knew a single case of miscarriage of duty in the case of a Belfast jury. Further, in the most exciting times, in 1886 and in 1893, the judge who chiefly came down there was a distinguished Liberal Roman Catholic and a great lawyer, Chief Baron Palles, who presided in the Courts on those occasions, over and over again, publicly and privately, particularly in public, bore testimony to the high character, the intelligence and fairness of Belfast juries. In 1886 and 1893 there was no difficulty when the case was proved in getting convictions whether the man was a Catholic or a Protestant. I have defended and prosecuted Catholics. I have prosecuted Protestants and defended them, and I say, without fear of contradiction, that I never found any case of the kind, even in the most exciting periods in Belfast, when there was any 278 difficulty or hesitation on the part of a jury in doing their duty, whether the accused person was a Catholic or a Protestant. And I remember many cases, which excited a great deal of public interest, in which Roman Catholics were being tried in connection with these political offences, where I had the honour to appear for the defence or the other way, in which Belfast juries promptly acquitted them. That being so, I was surprised to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman go out of his way to try to throw a slur upon the Belfast jurymen. What was the cause of his attack? He said that there was an appalling state of affairs. Eighty persons were sent for trial in Belfast, and there was not a single conviction, and the wrath of Lord Justice Cherry is roused at this reflection that he could not get a conviction out of eighty cases. That distinguished gentleman was Attorney-General here for some years. He was Attorney-General during the period when there were 2,000 agrarian outrages, and when out of the whole 2,000 there were only eighty-two convictions. I never heard him even deplore the fact. He was Attorney-General during a period when there were in three years alone 800 outrages with firearms, in which thirty lives were taken, and 130 people mutilated, and there were prosecutions in only 5 per cent. out of those 800 cases. I never saw any tears falling from the right hon. Gentleman's eyes during the time when he was Attorney-General, and he has reserved all his moral indignation, not for Clare, not for Kerry, where there has not been a conviction in an agrarian case for years past…
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
He has reserved all his indignation for Belfast. I pass away from that. I quite recognise that the hon. and learned Gentleman has got quite enough of it. I now come to what did take place in Belfast. Some of these men were put on trial before the Recorder and a jury, in the ordinary way, and the case being doubtful the jury gave them the benefit of the doubt, and acquitted them. There were a number of other men awaiting trial before the same judge and the same jury, and the Crown counsel then took a step, which I do not deny was within their right, but which I say was, and the Court of King's Bench held to be, 279 without precedent; that is to say, they stopped the prosecution. I have ransacked the books, and I cannot find that that was ever done before in the history of the Empire, except in one case. Then it was done in order to get the prisoner released, because the Crown were afraid that the jury were going improperly to convict, and they stopped the case, and entered a nolle prosequi. In this case, the right hon. Gentleman's advisers stopped the case, and refused to prosecute in order to get a subsequent conviction. That is without any precedent or any parallel in the history of our jurisprudence. The Lord Chief Baron himself said so in giving the judgment of the Court, and in fact the thing became such a grave scandal in the Court, when it was investigated, that one of the judges went out of his way to say that for all time, as long as he remained a judge, whenever the Crown entered a nolle prosequi, he would take the verdict of the jury in any event, so as to save the man from the risk of further prosecution and conviction.
What is the next thing they did? They picked out their own magistrate, a man called Emerson, and they brought up a lot of these men before him. Some of the other local justices who had exactly the same right there as he had, came and sat on the bench. He gave orders to the police, with the consent of the Crown Solicitor, whose conduct throughout the whole business has been most intolerable in the insolence of his manner and demeanour towards the magistrates, that these gentlemen should be all excluded. The moment this was brought before the King's Bench they declared Emerson's conduct to be a farce and upset the entire proceedings, and they issued an order prohibiting him from acting any longer as a magistrate in these cases. That is the sort of justice which is meted out to these men who happen to be Unionists and loyalists in Belfast. Was that sort of thing ever tried in the case of these cattle drivers and moonlighters and intimidators in Clare during the whole course of the right hon. Gentleman's administration? I know case after case—I could quote them if challenged—within the last eight years in which magistrates have packed the bench in order to refuse information against cattle drivers and moonlighters. Did the right hon. Gentleman proceed to prosecute these men as he did these mechanics and working men 280 in Belfast? Did he send down some of the most eminent counsel he could get to prosecute them? He never did. He let the cases go by the board. On two occasions he did pass over the magistrates, and though the magistrates had refused the information the right hon. Gentleman got a bill sending up the cases to the Assizes. But the moment the bill was found his counsel got up and said that he was not going on with it, and he entered a nolle prosequi for the purpose of getting these men off. The nolle prosequi in Belfast was for the purpose of securing a conviction.
There are one or two other instances in contrast to that. Take, for example, the case which has often been mentioned in this House. It is a case that affected me at the time, and I have since drawn attention to it, and I never shall cease to do so so long as I have a voice to raise in advocacy of what I consider to be a just cause. I refer to the case of Mrs. McCann. That woman sent a petition to the Lord Lieutenant, in which she set out that her husband had committed two criminal offences, first, the criminal offence of wife desertion, and, secondly, the criminal offence of stealing her baby. I saw the other day that the English police boarded an American liner at Southampton for the purpose of arresting and taking off an Englishman who had deserted his wife, and who was charged with wife desertion. Was there any charge of wife desertion in the case of this young woman of twenty-two, who had two little children, one of them at the breast? Her husband deserts her, kidnaps her children, and rifles her property. It is said by the right hon. Gentleman and the Lord Lieutenant that this is not a criminal matter, that it is a matter for the Civil Courts. Why, any attorney's clerk could have told them that it was a matter for the criminal law both in regard to the wife desertion and in regard to the larceny of the wife's property. But she was an unfortunate, helpless, Presbyterian girl, and they let him go, and from that hour her children have never been traced, and I suppose that on this earth she will never see them again. The right hon. Gentleman can congratulate himself that, owing to the inaction of the Executive and their refusal to take action on the plainest of cases where the matter was clearly within their juristion, they have allowed this unfortunate woman to remain without her children for all this time. I take another case. The 281 Unionists of the town of Limerick, acting strictly within their rights, held a public meeting for the purpose of protesting against the Home Rule Bill. There were a number of clergymen and other residnts in Limerick who attended that meeting. When they were coming out they were set upon, insulted, beaten, and stoned, the clergymen particularly suffering in that respect. The right hon. Gentleman comes down, his advisers intervene, and a number of persons are arrested. They are sent forward for trial, and every one of them is acquitted.
What becomes of the anguish of the hon. and learned Member for Cork? He will never forget, he said; he will always think with horror and dismay over this gross miscarriage of justice in Belfast. But what about these men who are brought up for attacking these defenceless clergymen and others in Limerick, all of whom are acquitted? Did the right hon. Gentleman change the venue there, or make any application to the judge, before the case came on, to change the venue out of the disturbed city of Limerick? They were tried in the venue in which the offence occurred, and, of course, they were promptly acquitted.
There is one other case to which I desire to refer, that of an unfortunate shoemaker named Long, who lived in Limerick. When the present King went over to Ireland this man, to show his loyalty, hung a Union Jack out of his window. That same afternoon a mob, headed by a Limerick borough councillor, broke open his house, assaulted him, and tore down and burnt the flag. This member of the Limerick. Borough Council was arrested, and was tried, curiously enough, before Mr. Justice Dodd, who for months had been sitting as a Radical Home Rule Member on the benches opposite, and, so far as his political leanings and qualifications were concerned, it hardly lies in the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman opposite to criticise his action. Mr. Justice Dodd sentenced this man, for the very gross offence, to a month's imprisonment with hard labour; and, next day, the Limerick Borough Council, to mark their sympathy with this criminal, adjourned the whole of their business for a month. The distinction which the gentleman obtained was that, with a mob of 300, he was cowardly enough to invade one man in his home, and to abuse that man and destroy the loyal emblem which he had displayed. For that the Limerick Borough Council adjourned all 282 their business for a month. What happened to that man? He was let out and he got a free pardon. Why? It is alleged that one of the Law Officers—we have never seen his opinion and would like to see it—stated that there was no power to give the man a month with hard labour, and he ought to have a free pardon. The result was that he was not only let out, but he absolutely got a free pardon, the object of the free pardon being to enable him still to adorn the Limerick Borough Council, of which he was such a distinguished member.
Let me give one other case, and I apologise to the House for doing so, but I only desire to mark the contrast which exists in the treatment of these cases. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members below the Gallery know me well enough to be aware that derisive cheers will not stop me. I wish to give one other illustration of Castle justice since 1906. There was a man named Larkin, who a year and a half ago was tried and convicted of embezzling the funds of the society to which he belonged. He got twelve months' imprisonment. The right hon. Gentleman let him out at the end of six months, and within a week he was the organiser of a most disastrous and silly railway strike which took place in Dublin. The railway men struck because they were asked to handle a wagon-load of timber which came into the yard, and which belonged to a certain timber merchant whose men were on strike, and this sympathetic strike spread among the railway company's servants. In the course of the disturbance which arose in consequence of the strike, Larkin made a speech in which he publicly advocated the propriety of shooting and assassinating blackleg labourers. He did it openly in his journal, and a few weeks afterwards he repeated it orally at a public meeting outside the railway station. He said that, he was not ashamed to have said it, and he admitted his responsibility, adding that he was prepared to stand by it, and that they were just as much entitled to shoot these men as the Government or the War Office to shoot deserters. The railway company, having a number of men working, became very uneasy, and sent a petition to the Lord Lieutenant for help, and asked him what he proposed to do with regard to the man Larkin. The reply came back that the Lord Lieutenant had been advised that Larkin's incitement was not a criminal offence. I suppose he was advised by the same Gentle- 283 man who advised that the Limerick borough councillor ought to get a free pardon.
That is the sort of thing that has gone on for the last six years, and the reason why it is necessary to bring these matters before the House is that at least this country may know what is going on. Let me mention what is common knowledge to everybody, that it has been boasted that while the right hon. Gentleman is nominally Chief Secretary and Governor of Ireland, the real administration during his time has been in the hands of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. They have said so themselves, and they have boasted of it. Therefore, we have really had a foretaste of Home Rule. We have been for six years under the control of an executive manned, or at least run by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. That is the sort of treatment we have got. That is what is meted out to those who happen to come within the meshes of the law, if they are loyalists or Protestants—contrasted with the treatment meted out to individuals from the South and West of Ireland. All I can say is that it is idle for hon. Gentlemen opposite, who do not live in Ireland, and who only hear of these matters second hand, to express astonishment at our determination never willingly to submit to such an executive. We would he perfect fools if we were to take in exchange for our past experience the prophecies, pledges, and promises which hon. Gentlemen have given, but which they are unable to perform, however willing and anxious they may be to fulfil them. We got those pledges and promises in 1898, and they have turned out to be futile and of no avail. All assurances of fair play and proper treatment which were then given have turned out to be absolutely false and illusive. Even hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have to admit that now. We have the experience of the past six years of the unfair and partial spirit with which the law has been administered, and which is found in the record of the cases that I have mentioned. I have taken special care to state nothing of any kind in those cases which is not on record, and which I am not prepared to verify if challenged by any single Member. The House has listened to the Debate with patience, and we have had an opportunity of stating our grievances, which have been fully ventilated, and I suggest to my hon. Friend that he should 284 be satisfied with that, and not press his Amendment to a Division.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Before the Amendment is withdrawn I should like to make a reference to a statement made by the hon. Member for East Cork (Mr. Muldoon), and which contained an inaccuracy in regard to a speech made by me last July. I do not want to go over the whole ground again, but in the course of the speech I made certain quotations from a newspaper published in the North of Ireland. Some six weeks ago the hon. Member for East Cork saw me in the Lobby and asked me if I had seen a letter from the Rev. Mr. Barron. In reply to the hon. Member, I said I had seen the letter, but, after my speech was made. The hon. Member for East Cork made a speech in which he stated what I had told him—and he repeated the statement in the House—that I made a quotation from a letter received by me. I have only risen to say that I never stated anything of the sort, and the hon. Member is under an entire misapprehension. I only hope in future, when he comes to Members in the Lobby to ask them a private question, he will not use what he is told to support what he states on the floor of the House.
§ Mr. MULDOON
I never spoke of it on the platform, and I was intending at the time to make use of the extracts which had been used by the Noble Lord, and purporting to come from the Rev. Mr. Barron. I asked him whether those were found in newspapers or sent to him, and the Noble Lord said, "The letter wag written to me by the Rev. Mr. Barron for use in the course of the debate. I can show you the original; I kept the copy." Those were his words.
Mr. W. REDMOND
Reference has been made to a case that occurred in my Constituency, to which the hon. Member for East Down (Captain Craig) referred—I mean the case of Patrick Arkins, who was convicted of the offence of throwing down a wall, and sentenced to seven years' penal servitude. I brought the case before the House, and therefore I am entitled, I think, to say one or two words in explanation of it. The charge has been made more than once that there is difficulty sometimes in the county of Clare and in other portions of Ireland to obtain convictions. The Chief Secretary pointed out that to give a man seven years' penal servitude for the offence of throwing down a small portion of wall would surely be an occurrence not 285 likely to help convictions in the county, because the people would say that it would not be safe for them to convict, as they could not be certain that a proper and appropriate sentence would be given. I asked the Chief Secretary to review this case, and he did so, and this prisoner had his sentence reduced to three months—a sentence quite sufficient for the offence with which he was charged. The hon. Member for Down in referring to my Constituency said that there were a number of outrages and crimes perpetrated there. There would be nothing easier in the world than for him or any other Member of this House to select any constituency or a portion of any county in Great Britain, and to bring forward all the crimes that had been committed there in a stated period, and to make it appear that the conditions were extremely bad.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I observe an hon. Member reading a newspaper. That is contrary to the Orders of the House.
§ Mr. RONALD M'NEILL
May I say in self-justification that I was reading an extract bearing on the subject with which the hon. Member is dealing.
§ 7.0 P.M.
Mr. WILLIAM REDMOND
There would be nothing easier—by the process which I have suggested—than to make it appear that any district in this country was given over entirely to lawlessness. To listen to hon. Gentlemen from Ulster, when speaking of Ireland, it would appear that Ireland is full of crime of every description, whereas anybody who takes the trouble to examine into the facts will easily find that Ireland from every point of view is far freer from crime than either Scotland, England, or Wales, or any civilised country in the world. That is a statement which I make most emphatically, and which I defy anyone to contradict. Those whose business it is to study the statistics of crime and the charges made against us, know as a matter of fact that what I say is true with regard to Ireland. It is certainly very hard to listen to speeches the language and terms of which must have the effect of making the people of this country believe that Ireland is 286 not free from crime, as Ireland undoubtedly is at the present time. Hon. Gentlemen like the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke, seem to labour under the idea that we in Ireland desire to see crime of some sort prevailing there when everybody knows perfectly well that whatever crime prevails in Ireland, and in my Constituency at any rate, certainly arises from the fact that the policy of the Government and of successive Governments has not been carried out. I am very glad to say that there is very little agrarian crime in Ireland, but undoubtedly until the system of land purchase has been completed there will be excitement and irritability shown. You cannot expect that people who have to go on paying old rents will rest entirely satisfied when they see their neighbours buying their land under more favourable terms. That is bound to create a certain amount of discontent and trouble. We have done everything in our power, and I think it is quite unfair of hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway not to say so, to condemn and discountenance crime and outrage of any description whatever. It is only within the last few weeks that I saw an immense mass meeting of my own Constituents, representative of all classes in the county, at which the strongest condemnation was given to everything in the shape of violence and outrage. I think that the hon. Gentleman who made these charges might have pointed out that even in the few parts of Ireland where disturbance still continues, there has been a great improvement, and, as a matter of fact, in no county at the present time is there anything at all in the shape of an abnormal shape of disturbance or of crime. Therefore, for any judge for any reason whatever to take a respectable young farmer's son who has been led into the foolish course of interfering with the fence of another person's farm and knocking down the walls, and to send him to seven years' penal servitude is, of course, directly calculated to arouse resentment, and to do a great deal of harm in the country.
I ask what would have happened in this country if a man convicted of the offence, the comparatively trifling offence, had been sentenced by a judge, not for what he was convicted of, but because of what other people had done, what would have been said here if a man in those circumstances had been told by an English judge, "You will be kept in penal servitude for seven years because the district in which you 287 happen to live is in an unsatisfactory condition, and because you have not given me the names of people whom you way know to have been connected with crime and outrage." Such a case was never heard of in the whole administration of justice in this country, and had such a case arisen it would not have been allowed to stand for a single moment. I therefore say that the charge made against the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in this matter is a charge which upon examination would not bear investigation. I do not know whether the Chief Secretary intends to keep this young man for seven years upon what is called ticket-of-leave—that is to say, that he is to report to the police as if, instead of having committed a comparatively trifling crime, for which he has been punished with three months' imprisonment, he had committed some ordinary crime for which people are sent to penal servitude. I hope the Chief Secretary does not intend to continue that police supervision, because I think, in the first place, it can have no good effect. The young man is a farmer's son, living in the country, and his whereabouts are always known to the police, who see him probably every day. He has no intention of going away, and I think, in view of all the circumstances, the time has arrived when he might be freed from this humiliating and unnecessary regulation of reporting at the police barrack. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last said that justice is not being done as between Nationalists and Unionists in Ireland. The extraordinary fact remains that arising out of all these disturbances not one single Unionist has been sent to prison, whereas the Nationalists all have.
Mr. WILLIAM REDMOND
I think it is so, and until the contrary is shown to be the fact I shall believe it to be so. That state of things does not in the least degree look as if there was partial action on the part of the Government. What happens in these disturbances is that the people on both sides get excited, and there is a little trouble, and there is something in the shape of rioting. Far worse things take place in Hyde Park almost every Sunday in this country. We hear from various parts of England of disturbances arising out of various movements at which there is more physical damage done and more excitement and trouble of every kind. 288 People regard those things as in the ordinary course of events. When they occur in Ireland they are elevated into some political movement, which is entirely incorrect. As far as I am concerned, and those who sit on these benches, whether the disturbances originate from those who are supporters of ours, or, as we all know they have done very often, from supporters of hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway, we equally condemn them. If I liked I might give stories quite as strong and, I think, quite as discreditable of the action of supporters of hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway recently in the shipyards in Belfast, when Catholics and Nationalists were driven out for no reason but because of their religious and political opinions. I do not propose to do so. I hope that this disturbance will speedily cease, and I think that every mean in this country who wants to see good feeling prevailing in Ireland and good feeling prevailing between Ireland and this country will deprecate these belated attempts to make bad feeling continuous by raising these debates. I would not have intervened at all but for the reference made to my Constituency. I have only got to tell the Chief Secretary that when he says that the county of Clare for centuries has been the cause of trouble he is very badly informed. The county I have the honour to represent has been in the foremost in the van of progress in Ireland. I would not be standing here with my Friends as a Catholic Member of Parliament if it had not been for the action of the grandfathers of the people who are now my Constituents. Therefore I hope, when next he returns to Ireland, that the Chief Secretary will come down with me to my Constituency, and I will show him that he is entirely wrong in what he has said.
§ Mr. RONALD M'NEILL
The hon. Member for East Clare (Mr. W. Redmond) concluded his speech by saying that he would not have intervened in the Debate if it had not been for what he called these attempts to stir up bad feeling between the different parties in Ireland. I should not have attempted to intervene in this Debate if it had not been for that entirely unjustifiable remark of the hon. Member. I think it is very unjustifiable when attempts are made, as they are bound to be made from this side, to show what we believe to be genuine shortcomings on the part of the Administration in Ireland, which necessarily from the very nature of the case must resolve themselves to some extent 289 into contentions between the different political parties, that it should be immediately objected that our motive is to stir up bad feeling in Ireland or that that necessarily has that effect. The hon. Member for Clare was very indignant, or appeared to be indignant, that my right hon. Friend mentioned a particular case which concerned one of his constituents, the case of the youth called Arkins, who was sentenced to seven years' penal servitude for throwing down a wall. I would like to repeat, because it ought not to be lost sight of, that my right hon. Friend, in bringing forward this case, did not, as I understood him, in the least commit himself to the proposition that the Government ought to have kept this youth for seven years in penal servitude. The right hon. Gentleman and the Member for North Down (Mr. Mitchell-Thomson) pointed out, in the first instance, that it is not right in a case of this sort to assume, as the hon. Member who has just spoken seemed to assume, that the mere knocking down of a wall, which was the technical offence of which this youth was convicted, was any more than a similar action might be under other circumstances.
The hon. Member spoke of similar occurrences taking place in Hyde Park or anywhere else in this country at any time, any day. It is quite true, I suppose, that much graver offences than throwing down a wall may go with much lighter punishment, but what has to be borne in mind is that the knocking down of the wall was an act in a long-continued series of persecutions directed as part of an agrarian movement against an unfortunate widow woman, who had committed the unpardonable offence, so far as I know, of being successor in title to somebody who had given offence to the United Irish League. Thus the real offence was not the knocking down of the wall, but it was the taking part and showing that this continued animosity and persecution was not allowed to die down, and from time to time some act took place to show that the persecution was still in operation. That is the sort of offence for which this punishment was given. I would like to call the attention of the House and that of the hon. Member, who appears to think it a great grievance that this trifling case should be mentioned, of the language which was used by the counsel for the Crown in the case. He said that the case was part of an organised system of outrage, and he 290 went on to say, "extensive lawlessness prevailed in certain districts of county Clare, where they had in broad daylight boys armed with Winchester rifles firing volleys from the hillside." It is impossible to contend, in face of a statement of that sort, that this particular offence should only be treated as if it were the mere trifling matter of knocking down a few stones of a wall. I want to repeat that I do not think anybody on this side would commit himself to the proposition, although that was a much more serious offence than it appeared on the surface, that on that account it should have been visited with penal servitude for seven years.
I should be entirely out of order if I did anything in the way of criticising the action of the learned judge. I have no intention of doing so. I find it difficult to understand from the reports of this case on what principle the learned judge acted. I think it is very difficult to understand why the learned judge should have held out hopes to this youth of a remission of punishment or a more lenient view when information was given as to his fellow conspirators and associates in the crime. Certainly, so far as I am concerned, I would be very sorry to think worse of this young criminal because he refused to give away his associates. I think we all feel that. But I find it most difficult to understand on what ground it was stated by the learned judge that this long sentence had to be imposed because the youth had not given the desired information. But when the learned judge, who had all the circumstances before him, had actually passed a long sentence of penal servitude, it was most ill-advised that the Government should so quickly have shown to the whole countryside that the sentence had no seriousness whatever in it. The Executive Government by their action have brought into contempt both the learned judge and the administration of justice in Ireland. With regard to the Castledawson outrage, the Chief Secretary laid stress on the fact that the Hibernians who took part in this horrible outrage were not ruffians, or hangers about at street corners, but people of respectability. I believe that to be absolutely true, and that is one of the saddest parts of the whole business. We are accused of stirring up bad blood in Ireland. It is the Government themselves, however, who, in the course of the last year or two, have stirred up such an amount of bad blood that two perfectly 291 respectable bodies of people cannot meet on the King's highway in Ireland without going off like two explosives which cannot exist in the same atmosphere. A Presbyterian Sunday school seems to me to be the essence of respectability, and according to the right hon. Gentleman the other side were also distinguished by their respectability. I was very much surprised at the way in which the right hon. Gentleman spoke of little children having been hit with stones. He seemed to regard it as a comparatively trifling matter. He congratulated himself and his party on the fact that no women or children had been hit with pikes, and it seemed to be of no consequence that they had been hit with stones.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I said nothing of the sort. I was sorry that anybody should have been hit with stones or anything else. But the allegation was that women and children had been spiked, and that I denied.
§ Mr. M'NEILL
I withdraw the statement if it misrepresents the right hon. Gentleman. I understood his position to be that being hit with stones was such a trifling injury as compared with the other that it really did not very much matter. But that is not the view which we take. A strong case has been made out by my hon. Friends against the Government. I do not care the least about Mr. Barron as an individual. How far he is to be trusted or how far his evidence is reliable, I am not at all called upon to discuss. What we say is that at some period before the men accused of this outrage were put upon trial, it does not matter whether it was in July or in November, he had put in the hands of the Government the material for sifting these allegations. Great stress has been laid on the fact that this particular list of persons injured was presented to the Government, as if that was the only means which the Government had of finding out whether or not any women or children were injured. One of the first duties of the prosecution was to satisfy themselves, quite apart from any statement by Mr. Barron or anybody else, whether any injuries had been inflicted. In addition to Mr. Barron, another gentleman who had some official connection with the Sunday-school, a Mr. Irwin, stated only the other day at a public meeting in Belfast that he himself gave a 292 statement to the police describing what he had seen. Therefore the Government had at their disposal means of discovering for themselves whether or not women and children were injured. Look at the results to-day of their neglect to take that course. It is quite clear from the way in which the trial was conducted and from the answer given by the Vice-President yesterday that what the Government Prosecutor had in mind was to present to the Court the very minimum of evidence against the prisoners that would carry a conviction.
§ Mr. M'NEILL
The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to accept that. The Vice-President was asked yesterday:—Why was not the evidence bearing on the wounding of these women and children brought before the Crown Prosecutor in Court?And his answer was:—Counsel for the Crown saw that the evidence given before the Petty Sessions Court was sufficient to convict them, and they were convicted on the evidence.It is quite clear from that that what was in the mind of the prosecution was, "How much evidence is absolutely necessary to obtain a conviction? We will not offer beyond that one tittle of evidence which might go to aggravate the offence with which the people are charged." The result of taking that course is the dispute which has raged ever since. I do not believe there can be any question on the matter of fact that there were a number of women seriously injured. Does the right hon. Gentleman dispute that?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I do not think there were any women seriously injured. There were four children hit with stones, and a number of other children were very much frightened and alarmed. I am not endeavouring to make nothing of the injuries the children sustained, but no women were hurt at all.
§ Mr. M'NEILL
Earlier in the evening there was some discussion as to the age at which a girl became a woman. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman considers a person eighteen years of age a woman.
§ Mr. M'NEILL
I am not saying that it was on the list. I do not wish to be tied to the particular list sent by Mr. Barron. That is exactly what I am complaining of. 293 Surely it was the duty of the Executive Government, altogether apart from Mr. Barron, to find out who had been in the procession and to discover whether anybody had been injured.
§ Mr. M'NEILL
I do not know what the result of those inquiries was, but I know that in consequence of the action taken by the official body of the Church to which these people belong a considerable number of women or girls, if you call persons eighteen or nineteen years of age girls, have made statutory declarations regarding what they suffered on that occasion. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman contests those statements or not. His officers say that there was no opportunity in Court for these facts to be brought out. They are now put on record in the only way in which they can be put on record on oath, but the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, brushes the whole thing aside, and is apparently not willing to accept the statements which these women have made. If the right hon. Gentleman and his supporters are taking up the line that these declarations are false, how do they account for the fact that these young women have suddenly come forward and made their declarations on oath? How do they account for the fact that Mr. Barron has taken this step? He is not a politician, and if he had not seen his Sunday-school treat attacked by Hibernians we should probably have never heard his name mentioned in this House. How does the right hon. Gentleman account for this subtle conspiracy on the part of a Nonconformist clergyman, his Sunday school teachers and scholars, who come forward before the magistrate and put down in affidavits evidence which is untrue? Unless the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to go to that length, I cannot see how he can continue to contest—at all events the fact—whatever conclusion he may draw from the fact—that a number of women and children upon this occasion were seriously hurt, seriously injured. That, at all events, is the case to which we tie ourselves. We think we have proved it up to the hilt, and the point we make against the Government is that they deliberately, by their action on the prosecution or before the judge in Court, purposely took steps in order that these facts might not become known.
§ Mr. NEWMAN
In the short speech made by the hon. Member for East Clare, there was a cool assumption on behalf of himself and his colleagues, that they were the executive in Ireland and not the Chief Secretary. The hon. Member may be right in taking that position for himself and for hon. Members below the Gangway. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford, certainly boasted that the United Irish League, and the secretary of it, the hon. Member for West Belfast, were in effect the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The hon. Member for East Clare went on to claim for the South of Ireland a state of absolute peace. It is the peace of terrorism. The peace we have in the, South of Ireland is that of the minority, and not that of a strong majority as there is in North-East Ulster. The small minority know perfectly well that the Executive is not there to help us. [HON. MEMBERS: "Absurd."] We know that if we persist in our protests we will get our heads broken. The hon. Member for East Clare claimed that what little crime there is in Ireland was nothing in comparison to what there was in England. In England, he alleged, there was far more crime than in Ireland. Well, our Divisions are populous in England, and bigger than in Ireland. The Division that I represent at present has in it something like 190,000 individuals. What we do complain of is where there are outrages there are no convictions, and nobody is ever arrested. Day after day I get letters from the South of Ireland giving me details of outrages. What do I do? I put questions to the Chief Secretary, and the replies wind up, as the House knows, with the old tag, "No arrests have been made." No arrests are ever made! In my hands I have got three accounts of outrages committed quite recently. Two of these accounts are from a Nationalist paper, the "Tuam Herald," and the third from the "Connacht Tribune." The first is given under the date 6th March, 1912. It says:—A series of explosions took place in the town of Athenry on the night of flab November. This is the second time that the town has been roused in terror by the discharge of powerful bombs, which had been employed with the object of destroying the walls which surround the Horse Show grounds. Abort 11 o'clock on Monday night (11th November) the first explosion took place, and as the night was intensely dark the street at Swangate was all ablaze when the explosion took place. Considerable damage was done to the walls. Some cars passed a few moments previous to the explosions, and pedestrians also had narrow escapes. It is only by a mere chance that some persons were not injured. A remarkable fact is that the street is the direct route to the canteen, and police are coming to 295 and fro from the canteen every ten minutes, yet no one can give any clue as to who are the perpetrators.The second relates to county Galway. It reads:—A daring outrage took place at Creggmure, Loughgeorge, on the night of 16th November, 1912, when a house was entered by two masked men late at night. The owner of the house was out at the time, and only his aged mother was in the place. The two men demanded the two guns which were in the house, and the terrified woman surrendered the weapons. The matter was reported to the police at Galway on Sunday morning, and Mr. Heard, district inspector, at once motored to the scene of the outrage. No arrests have been made.Here is the third, another shooting outrage:—On Sunday night (10th November. 1912), the house of a farmer named Bane was fired into at about 11 o'clock, and the windows of the dwelling were seriously damaged as a result. Most of the inmates were gone to bed, and happily none of those who were about at the time got injured. A number of motives have been assigned for the shooting. The police are engaged making inquiries, but up to the present nothing has resulted from their labours.The Royal Irish Constabulary is the finest body of its kind in the Empire, but if its men are getting slack in their work it is simply because they know that no encouragement is given to them…
§ Mr. NEWMAN
I accept what the Chief Secretary says. I am only repeating what is being said in many parts. Hon. Members below the Gangway claim to be the Executive, and claim to be able to keep the Irish people peaceable and quiet until the time Ireland gets Home Rule. If that be so, may I suggest to those hon. Members chiefly concerned that they should keep out of the local Press a great deal of the seditious matter that finds its way into it.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not entitled to go into that point; he is only entitled to discuss matters for which the Chief Secretary is responsible.
§ Mr. NEWMAN
The right hon. Gentleman is responsible for this, I submit. After all he is the Executive. I suppose there is some kind of Press law in Ireland as well as in other countries? I was motoring a couple of years ago in the Eastern Balkans, and I arrived at a certain town where the chief newspaper had been suppressed by the Austrian authorities. I was shown what the paper had said that incurred the suspension. It seemed to me ridiculously mild. Yet that paper was suppressed. We 296 have heard lately about that great French newspaper, the "Matin." Do hon. Members below the Gangway realise that the "Matin" was suppressed yesterday in Alsace-Lorraine by order of the German Emperor…
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
We are discussing now our domestic affairs; debate must be relevant to something the Chief Secretary can do without further legislation.
§ Mr. NEWMAN
I take it, Sir, that the Chief Secretary is responsible, and that the Irish Executive can prosecute an Irish newspaper for publishing seditious matter. Is that not so? May I give one quotation from a paper called "Irish Freedom." It, begins:—We bate you, bloody England, still…[Laughter.] Hon. Members below the Gangway may laugh, but I will ask them to recollect that this is read by a great many Irishmen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense," and "They never hear of it."] I continue:—We hate you, bloody England, still,Though time has shed seven hundred yearsSince first your savage sons did fillOur valleys with their scarlet spears,We hate as only those can hateWho, free in freedom's paradise,Are lured into the desolateBondage of pain by wiles and lies.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The Chief Secretary is not a censor of Irish poetry. I have been trying to show the hon. Member that he can only in his speech deal with things that are under the control of the right hon. Gentleman; that it is the duty of the right hon. Gentleman as Chief Secretary to administer. He ought not to bring forward outside matters.
§ Mr. NEWMAN
Surely, Sir, the Chief Secretary is entitled to take proceedings against a paper? Let me give one more quotation. Hon. Members below the Gangway know the "Limerick Echo." This particular paper…
§ Mr. NEWMAN
I bow to your ruling, and I will not persist with any further quotations. But I do say that a great deal is published in the local Irish Press that does a great deal of harm, certainly in the South, West, and East of Ireland. Papers are read and studied, and when you get inflammable young men reading these quotations on seditious subjects it must do a certain amount of harm. I am only sorry that hon. Members below the Gangway cannot see their way to have these seditious matters suppressed. Be that as it may, I am only sorry myself that we are not going to take this to a Division. We, certainly, in the South of Ireland, have a great deal to complain of in the non-administration of the law at the present time. It may be that they are teaching us, the minority, what we may expect, and that they are letting us suffer a little bit during the next eighteen months or so, so that we may get accustomed to their rule.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.