HL Deb 15 March 1858 vol 149 cc170-2

said, he wished to call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to a circumstance which had occurred in Dublin, and the details of which were in the newspapers of that morning. It had, indeed, caused great excitement and no little disgust in the minds of large classes of the population. He referred to the most disgraceful attack that had been made by the police of Dublin upon a number of young gentlemen students of the University. It was not his intention to defend a riot which might have been caused by throwing orange peels among a crowd, be-cause their Lordships well knew that such occurrences took place at all similar places when the students were assembled to exhibit their feelings; but what he complained of was, that the police of Dublin — the cavairy with drawn sabres and the infantry with truncheons—headed by one of their commissioners, made a cowardly attack upon a number of unarmed lads and inflicted serious injuries upon several of them. He believed that the case would have been very different if the police of London had been placed under similar circumstances, and he could not help thinking that the time had come when an inquiry into the constitution and efficiency of the Dublin police, and of the individuals who commanded them, had arrived, as it appeared clear that the force as at present constituted was wholly inefficient to preserve the peace and tranquillity of the city. He begged to read their Lordships an extract from a private letter from a gentleman, who was present during the affray: — I was present yesterday afternoon, and witnessed the attack, by mounted policemen, on some of the college students under the railing. I saw several of the police riding after the lads, and cutting at them, while they were running away, with sabres; also a great number of foot police following the students, and striking them on the backs of their bare heads and on the arms with their batons. I heard no Riot Act road by any one. I did not consider there was any occasion for a Riot Act to be read. I saw an old gentleman on horseback, whom I was informed was Colonel Browne, inside the college railings. I went up to him, and called upon him to withdraw those police ruffians, who had no business inside the railings. The mounted police were at the moment cutting and driving at the students through the partly closed wicket. Colonel Browne did not appear, as far as I could judge, to have any command whatever over the police; he did not seem to be in possession of his faculties. I saw him shake hands with two of the young students, at the same time that his men were cutting and laying about them in every direction. Colonel Browne never interfered. I saw nothing in the conduct of the students to provoke so gross and fearful an outrage. I saw no stones thrown, in fact there were no stones to throw. I saw some squibs and crackers let off, and oranges flung, also eggs, I saw in the early part of the day a policeman who had been deprived of his hat, and got in amongst the students, but beyond a little squeezing I saw no injury inflicted upon him. I myself Assisted in getting him clear of the crush of students and others. I particularly noticed the manner in which the mounted police were formed round the outside for the purpose, I suppose, of defying and exasperating the students. I also particularly noticed the savage butchery of the policemen, cutting and striking at mere boys, who were at the time running away. Nothing in the character of the Sepoys could go beyond the savage and revengeful demeanour of the Dublin police. Colonel Browne, the commander—I must do him the justice to say—appeared stunned and bewildered, but his conduct was not such as to entitle him to the command of the demons In could not control yesterday. Nor ought the public to permit drawn swords in the hands of such scoundrels, who have the character of being everywhere except the place in which they are most wanting. I should add that when the police first charged, the students ran away. There was then no occasion for the police to follow them. It will, as a proof of this, be found that most of the serious wounds were inflicted on persons whose backs were turned. I myself had to run, pursued as far by the police as the corner of the railing near College Street. I had not a cap or gown on, though an old college man. I am quite convinced that many students who were perfectly quiet were struck by the police merely for the fact of wearing a college cap. I saw no attempt at any party display, or party conduct, by the students; and nothing but the most perfect goodwill towards them by the townspeople. The question which he wished to ask was, whether the Government had received any information on the subject of this most disgraceful and ruffianly outrage?


My noble Friend has given me notice that he intended to put this question, and nothing can be more natural than that he and all others connected with Ireland should feel deep interest in the unfortunate subject to which it refers. Whatever may have been the origin of the affray, the results have been most lamentable; — I believe that two of the young gentlemen wounded are not yet pronounced out of danger. I am not aware that any official account of the occurrence has been received, but I did receive this morning a private letter from my noble Friend the Lord Lieutenant, in which he assures me that he has caused the strictest investigation into the circumstances, and that he will leave nothing undone to arrive at the truth. My noble Friend has mentioned in his letter what the impression left on his mind is; but as the inquiry is still pending, I do not think it expedient that I should state what that opinion is. I may say, however, and I believe my noble Friend opposite, the Viceroy under the late Administration (the Earl of Carlisle), will confirm me, that the Government to which he belonged intended to cause a strict inquiry to be made into the general character and conduct of the metropolitan police, and I assure the House that it is our intention to take up the subject immediately.


said, that the late Government, of which he had been a member, intended to inquire into the whole system of the working of the Dublin police system.

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