HL Deb 30 July 1857 vol 147 cc698-702

in pursuance of notice, presented a petition from the Protestant Inhabitants of St. Nicholas Without, in the city of Dublin, agreed to at a very large meeting of the parishioners, and signed on their behalf by the ministers and churchwardens, praying that legal Protection may be given to the Protestants of Ireland for the free execise of their Religion. The noble Lord said, the Petitioners sought to be protected from mob violence, and that their ministers, Scripture-readers, and school children may have awarded to them the protection of British law, and that magistrates and the police force may be compelled to an impartial discharge of their duty. The noble Viscount said, that for some considerable time the parties to the petition had been exposed to repeated insults, and even to absolute personal injuries and assaults at the hands of the Roman Catholic portion of the inhabitants of the parish; and that on the evening of the 12th of May last, in particular, a very large body of Roman Catholics assembled together and committed assaults upon a number of persons who were on their way to the Protestant schools as teachers. Amongst the individuals so ill-used he regretted to say there were several ladies of the highest character and respectability; and when the police were called upon and entreated to interfere, they not only declined to do so, but seemed, by their gesticulations, rather to give encouragement to the mob in their lawless proceedings. The petitioners represented that it was with no ill-feeling towards their Roman Catholic neighbours that they approached their Lordships' House, and that all they asked was that the same extent of protection should be granted to them that was granted to the Roman Catholics of Ireland; otherwise, as they certainly not without justice said, Roman Catholic emancipation would be the means of bringing about Protestant thraldrom. Now these occurrences, as he had before remarked, had taken place not once or twice, but repeatedly; and on the 12th of May, not merely were various persons injured, but the houses of the parents who sent their children to the Protestant schools were broken open, ransacked, and the furniture torn to pieces, whilst outrages were committed even upon the Church of St. Nicholas itself, and the Protestant minister of the parish was constantly subjected to outrage and annoyance on his way to the union. It was much to be lamented that any necessity should have arisen for placing a petition of this description upon their Lordships' table. It was much to be regretted that even-handed justice was not dealt out to all parties in the sister country, and that the constabulary, who had been appointed to maintain order and preserve the peace, had utterly neglected to do their duty when there happened to be any matter at issue between Roman Catholics, of which persuasion many of the police were, and per sons of the Protestant persuasion. Unfortunately also, in other parts of Ireland, the same feeling had been exhibited by Roman Catholic magistrates in deciding upon cases in which persons of their own communion and Protestants were concerned. No petition that had ever been presented to their Lordships' House was couched in more moderate terms than this. All the petitioners asked was the freedom of attending public worship and giving instruction in their own schools. And the petition was a reasonable one; for if the Roman Catholic population were to be allowed to have their schools and bring up their children in the faith they believed to be right, the same privilege ought not to be denied to Protestants. In presenting this petition he could not avoid expressing the opinion, that, however little attention such complaints might receive at the hands either of the Government in Ireland or of the Parliament in this country, the time would surely arrive when neither the Government in Ireland nor the Legislature in England would be able longer to turn a deaf ear to them. Such acts as he had described were disgraceful both to the Executive and the Legislature, and he did hope the matter would be seriously considered by her Majesty's Government here; that means would be found of pulling an end to these disgraceful proceedings; and that the Protestants of Ireland might have secured to them what every British subject had a right to claim, the free exercise of their religious worship without being liable to molestation, injury, insult, and brutal violence.


said, that those who had only heard the speech of the noble Viscount would form a very erroneous impression as to what had taken place. He would not trouble their Lordships by reading the papers which had been put into his hands, but he could assure them that much blame attached to both the parties which had been concerned in this unfortunate affair. But the same accusation had been made on each side with regard to the partiality of the police to the other, and the same sort of application to the Government, professing a desire for peace, but insisting upon having everything their own way. For the purpose of preserving the peace the police were directed to keep near the schools, and they did so in considerable force day and night. The result of their exertions was, that various persons had been taken before the magistrates, charged with being concerned in the outrages which had been committed, and sentence had been passed upon these persons. Upon reading the papers before him, it was impossible not to see that the Government of Ireland had acted with the firmest determination to maintain order and prevent the recurrence of these outrages; and what was more, the measures adopted had been perfectly successful. The noble Viscount had spoken as if he represented the entire body of Protestants in Ireland, instead of the Dublin Protestant Association. The noble Viscount said that the petitioners were actuated by the kindest feelings towards their Roman Catholic fellow-subjects; but if they were so, the language they had used elsewhere was certainly not calculated to lead to that conclusion; for in a placard which had been published by the Dublin Protestant Association, they compared themselves to the Apostle Paul, and Roman Catholics to the worshippers of the "unknown God." Surely that was not the language to be used by persons who were conscientiously desirous of promoting peace and good will. He must remind the noble Viscount who was so active in bringing forward these cases, that, while the Government had no difficulty in quelling this particular riot in Dublin they had had great trouble with most serious riots in Belfast, which had owed their origin to those Orangemen of whom he condescended to be the patron; and he thought that the noble Viscount was one of the last persons who ought to charge the Government with persecuting the Church of Ireland.


said, he had not stated upon what party the greatest blame was to rest, but he ventured to say that he was no patron, as the noble Earl appeared to assume, of any party who would resort to such irregularities. Although he had a connection with the Orange institution in Ireland, and held high office in it—namely, that of Grand Master of the county of Antrim—it had been his invariable practice, previous to the occurrence of any anniversary, to issue a circular, cautioning the members of the institution over which he had control cave-fully to abstain from anything that might tend to a breach of the peace or a violation of the law. He could assure their Lordships that he would be the last man in the world to encourage the display of any violent feelings towards those who differed from him in creed. He was in no way responsible for any expressions which had emanated from the Dublin Protestant Association, inasmuch as he had never been a member of that Association. He had always abstained from connecting himself with institutions of that description; because, happening to be a landlord of both Roman Catholics and Protestants, he considered that his beat course was to steer clear of societies which had for their object the conversion of their Roman Catholic countrymen, and he had never sanctioned the use of any sort of expression which disturbed Christian feeling, or showed a want of charity towards those who professed a creed that differed from his own. Nothing was further from his intention than to charge the Government with persecuting Protestants. True, he thought that Protestants had not had that even-handed justice dealt out to them which they had a right to demand; but, he repeated, he should be the last person in the House to encourage or sanction, on the part of the Protestant body, anything that might partake of an unchristian feeling, or an absence of charity towards those persons of another persuasion.

Petition to lie on the table.

House adjourned at Seven o'clock till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.