HL Deb 26 April 1869 vol 195 cc1533-5

, who had given notice to ask, Whether, having regard to the facts that within the last few months five open-air assassinations—independent of other agrarian outrages—have been perpetrated with absolute impunity in the one barony of Clanwilliam, in the county of Tipperary, it is the intention of the Government to adopt any immediate measures, repressive or remedial, for the protection of human life in that district?—having risen to put his Question—


I wish to state publicly, what I have already communicated privately to the noble Viscount, that since I have been in the House I have received a telegram from Earl Spencer, that he is desirous that the Question of which the noble Viscount has given notice should be postponed.


At the request of the noble Earl I shall for the present withdraw my Notice; but I reserve to myself the full right to put the Question at a future time if I should think it necessary.


It is all very well for the noble Viscount to postpone the Question for the convenience of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; but I think the convenience of gentlemen in Ireland who are being murdered so frequently ought also to be considered. At any rate, I think the Government should take an early opportunity of stating to this House or to the other House what measures they mean to adopt for the pacification of Ireland, and in what way they mean to deal with the land question, which is at the root and is the origin of the contempt and defiance of all law which prevails, and is on the increase in Ireland.


I hope that—I will not say the Government, for it is an abuse of words to call them a Government with regard to their administration of the affairs of Ireland—I hope the Administration will, on the part of the Prime Minister, inform us what is the maximum of assassination that, in their opinion, ought to be permitted before he thinks fit to suspend the prosecution of the matter which he is now undertaking in "another place," for the purpose of turning his attention to this important subject. When he introduced that measure the Prime Minister spoke of it as a panacea for all the ills of Ireland; but, though I am not going to anticipate the discussion of that question, I must say I have not the slightest faith in it as a means of pacifying Ireland. Therefore, unless something important has happened within the last few days, I do not think the Government are entitled to any forbearance in this matter.


The answer to the Question that was to have been put by the noble Viscount is a matter in which we all take a deep interest, and therefore, although the Question is not to be put to-night, I should like to ask the noble Earl opposite on what day he will be prepared to give an answer to a similar Question; and also whether the reason why it cannot now be answered is the personal convenience of the Lord Lieutenant; or whether it is because there are measures in contemplation by the Lord Lieutenant, the mention or discussion of which in this House would be inconvenient?


I am surprised that the noble and learned Lord should have concurred with the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Bath) in thinking that this request of the Lord Lieutenant had anything to do with his personal convenience. I am sure that upon a subject of this sort your Lordships would not for a moment consider what would be for the convenience of yourselves. The Lord Lieutenant's motive is that he thinks there are reasons why the case should not be entered into at this moment, because it might defeat the ends of justice. I am sure that is a reason which your Lordships will all accept, and which will also prevent me from fixing any exact day on which I can undertake to answer the Question.


The reason that the noble Earl has assigned—that it would be inconvenient to the public service to answer the Question—is one which is always accepted by your Lordships; but I think he ought to tell us that the day is not far removed when a discussion of this kind may, for the credit of the House, be entered into. It is impossible for this House to sit silent when crimes like these continue, and are renewed almost daily. I have heard this moment of another frightful assassination of a most respected and estimable magistrate in Tipperary; and these announcements are now coming at the rate of two or three a week. It is impossible, I repeat, for the House of Lords under these circumstances, to refrain from asking the Government when and how they propose to interfere to put an end to this state of things. Surely we are not asking too much of the noble Earl if we inquire whether, at an early day, he will allow the House to take this subject into its consideration?


The answer I have already given to the noble and learned Lord opposite is one that was constantly given to us last year by the noble Earl when he sat on this Bench, and it was always accepted by us without criticism. I trust that it is neither disrespectful nor discourteous to your Lordships to state that Earl Spencer thinks that to answer exactly what the noble Viscount demands, and to state how we are going to deal with these particular assassinations, would not only convey information to your Lordships, but also to those very persons whom it is most desirable to leave in the dark.