HL Deb 30 April 1869 vol 195 cc1948-54

who had given notice to ask the Colonial Secretary, Whether the attention of Her Majesty's Government has been called to a speech reported to have been made by the Mayor of Cork at a banquet given to the Fenian convicts lately released from imprisonment; and what steps the Government mean to take in consequence? rose and said: My Lords, some of your Lordships may remember that two years ago I presented a Petition to this House in favour of the remission of the capital part of the sentence of the Fenian prisoners; and more than one of your Lordships are aware of the deep interest I took in the subject. I have, therefore, not been one of those who have found fault with the Government for remitting the sentences on these prisoners. Further than this, I may say that, at the time the Prince of Wales was in Ireland, I was in hopes that, as the Fenian conspiracy had entirely blown up, and it had been shown how futile were the efforts of those connected with it against the power of England, the sentence on these prisoners would have been remitted. I mention this on the present occasion only to show that in the Question I am now going to put I am actuated by no party spirit or by any animosity against the unfortunate men now in confinement. But I must now say that, in my opinion, and in that of others who know well the circumstances of the country, Her Majesty's clemency in respect of the Fenian prisoners was entirely misplaced. Since these men have been set at liberty they have, almost without cessation, done their utmost to disquiet the country which they have already so much injured. They have done all they could to drive away capital from Ireland and to drive away the thousands who are annually forced to leave Ireland from the want of employment there. I will say nothing further of them; but will it be believed that a person holding Her Majesty's Commission of the Peace—the Mayor of the second city in Ireland—a person who has taken the oath of allegiance to Her Majesty—has actually presided at a dinner where these misguided men have been entertained, and has uttered the words of which your Lordships have no doubt heard? I will not trouble your Lordships with the rubbish, the bombast, and the disloyalty spoken by these Fenians at the dinner. I will confine myself to what is reported to have been said by the Mayor of Cork—and I will quote, not from any Conservative paper, but from a paper of his own side in politics— The Mayor continued to say the company must be indebted to Mr. M'Auliffe for the brilliant address he had favoured them with, and in which he had graphically described the driving of the Moors from Grenada by the Spaniards, as the Irish would drive the English out of this country tomorrow if they were strong enough. (Loud cheers). Who are the Irish and who are the English? I have never yet been able to discover this; and, remembering that one-half the British army is composed of Irish Roman Catholics, I want to know which portion is to be driven out by the other. I will now read the Mayor of Cork's notion of the crime of murder— He believed that a spirit of concession had been aroused on the part of the dominant race. He did not say it was owing to Fenianism or to the barrel placed under the prison at Clerkenwell, but he believed he paid a solemn act of justice to his own countrymen—as solemn an act of justice as if he were a high priest—when he said those noble men—Allan, Barrett, Larkin, and O'Brien, who sacrificed their lives for their country, ought to be remembered and respected as good Catholics and good patriots. (Cheers.) There was at this moment in the country a young Prince of the English nation. (VOICE: He bed—d), At least there was one gentleman present, for I am thankful to say that a voice cried out—"No, he is welcome." However, the Mayor, taking no notice of the welcome, continued to say— When that noble Irishman. O'Farrell, fired at the Prince in Australia, he was imbued with as noble and patriotic feelings as Larkin, Allen, and O'Brien were. (Great cheering, and cries of 'He was.') He believed that O'Farrell would be as highly thought of as any of the men who had sacrificed their lives for Ireland. (Loud shouts of 'Bravo!') They all saw how a noble Pole had fired at the Emperor of Russia because he thought that the Emperor was trampling upon the liberties of the people. (Cheers.) Well, O'Farrell, probably, was actuated by the same noble impulses when he fired at the Prince. O'Farrell was as noble an Irishman as the Pole, and as true to his country, for each was impelled by the same sentiments to do what they did. (Cheers.) This was said by a gentleman holding Her Majesty's Commission of an unoffending Prince who was doing his duty in obedience to Her Majesty's orders in visiting various parts of Her Majesty's dominions. I need not remind your Lordships of the horror and disgust with which all the civilized world received the accounts of that crime. I will now leave the disloyalty of this man to be dealt with by Her Majesty's Ministers, the more fitting protectors of Her Majesty's honour, and I will confine myself entirely to the social condition of Ireland in consequence of such sentiments as these being diffused. That condition is deplorable. Assassination is rife; the murderers walk off undetected; and I distinctly say that this arises from the tampering with the laws of property, from the undue expectations continually held out to the Irish people, and from the too great delicacy shown in repressing crime. These assassinations are the result of an organized conspiracy of which the seat, I believe, is not in Ireland, but in England. And so completely organized is it that since I entered the House I have heard a most extraordinary story. I have heard that a message was sent to the family of Captain Tarleton, the man last murdered, from the Ribbon Lodge, which had ordered his death, saying that they extremely regretted it, for he was the wrong man. I cannot sit down without saying that, though I fully believe that the Irish Church Bill was introduced by the present Government with pure motives as a message of peace to Ireland, it has had a totally contrary effect. That measure has been regarded by the Catholics as a triumph over the Protestants; and trusting to the precedent, and believing that that Bill had sprung from the dread of Fenianism, I believe that there are not wanting in Ireland numbers of men who conceive that agrarian outrages will lead to the passing of an agrarian law. My Lords, I believe that only one course will give peace to Ireland. The British Government should put its foot down on the line of order and of law, and should announce- "Thus far will we go and no further." If the Government declare that they will enforce the law, and will in no way infringe the rights of property, and if that is felt to be the common understanding of both parties in Parliament, I have not a doubt that Ireland would be pacified. I beg now to ask the Colonial Secretary, whether the attention of Her Majesty's Government has been called to a speech reported to have been made by the Mayor of Cork at a banquet given to the Fenian convicts lately released from imprisonment; and what steps the Government mean to take in consequence?


I have always remarked-and the House has no doubt also remarked-the moderation, good taste, and fairness with which the noble Viscount always addresses the House, and I must add, that, even if he had in the slightest degree departed from that habit this evening, I should not have been much surprised. On the contrary, I think he has spoken to-night with even more than his usual moderation. No one is more inclined than I am to think lightly of what may be said in the case of public meetings, dinners, and suppers-I understand that this meeting was in fact a supper not numerously attended-and I think it is unwise to pay much attention to even the most foolish and harmful observations which may then be made. ["Oh! oh!"] I had hoped I might be allowed to finish my sentence. I entirely agree with the noble Viscount in the supreme eon-tempt with which he treats the miserable rubbish which these two convicts are said to have made use of. When, however, you come to the speech of a person who has been elected by his fellow-citizens to the highest office in the second city of Ireland - an office also which confers upon him the post of a magistrate, and whose duty it is to administer justice-the case is widely different. A Mayor, I should remind the noble Viscount, is not in Her Majesty's Commission of the Peace, but is a magistrate by virtue of his office. And when I add that, as a magistrate, he is not only called upon to administer justice in his own court, but under the charter granted to the city he has peculiar privileges which give him the right to sit by the side of Her Majesty's Judges when solemnly administering the law, the case, I think, wears a very different aspect. I am not able officially to state whether the language attributed to the Mayor of Cork has been correctly reported or not-I have heard since I came into the House that the evening papers state that he denies having used that language. It is, at all events, quite clear that it is the duty of the Government—a duty which they have performed—to take immediate steps to ascertain the substantial accuracy of the report which attributes to the Mayor the use of the words which the noble Viscount has read, and, if possible, to substantiate the fact of their having been used. If it should turn out that the report is accurate, and that the use of such language can be substantiated, the Government feel that the case is one which it will be impossible for them to pass over without taking further steps in the matter.


reminded the House that, although the Mayor of Cork was not now a magistrate, he had formerly held Her Majesty's Commission of the Peace, and had been removed from that office: he was now a magistrate ex officio as Mayor. In ordinary circumstances it was quite possible that their Lordships might not be much inclined to take notice of what might be said or done at a supper, at a late hour of the evening, when his countrymen were apt to fall into a certain confusion of mind, and use language which they would not utter in more sober moments. But he must observe that the present was not the only instance in which the Mayor of Cork had offended. He had on more than one previous occasion, according to reports the accuracy of which had never been denied, attributed disturbances which had occurred in his neighbourhood not to any ill-feeling on the part of the people, but to the stipendiary magistrates and the police. He was not a person who ought to be permitted to retract or apologize for the words now complained of. It was, he maintained, under all the circumstances of the case, the duty of the Government to bring the full vigour of the law to bear upon such a person, if they could get the necessary evidence to prove that he had given utterance to the treasonable words which he was reported to have used. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) contended that such language ought to be treated with contempt; and no doubt these after-dinner speeches would in themselves deserve to be so treated were it not for the lamentable effect which they produced in the country, which gave them an importance which they did not intrinsically possess. He did not know what course the Government could take with respect to the removal from office of the Mayor of Cork, and preventing him from exercising judicial functions; but he believed that those functions were not now performed under any charter, but under the general statute law of the land. Previous to the passing of the Municipal Reform Act for Ireland the Lord Lieutenant had, if he was not mistaken, notwithstanding the charters of the towns in Ireland, a power of vetoing the appointment of a Mayor; and it was a remarkable fact that one of the most popular Lord Lieutenants of Ireland, the late Marquess of Norman by, had exercised that power in 1835, by refusing to allow the gentleman then elected by the citizens of Cork to the mayoralty to enter upon the discharge of its functions, because he had been an Orangeman and had taken the Orange oath. By the Municipal Reform Act that power was taken away; but he might observe that, when the Act was passing through the House of Commons, Mr. Attorney General Wolfe distinctly stated that a Mayor would be liable to be brought for any offence, such as that under discussion, before the Court of Queen's Bench. He (the Marquess of Clanricarde) did not know whether the Court of Queen's Bench did really possess that power; but if it did, and the Lord Lieutenant had not the power of removing the Mayor of Cork, he trusted that person's conduct would be brought under the cognizance of that court, which he thought could scarcely have any hesitation or delicacy in removing from the position which he occupied a person who had filled it so unworthily, whether he retracted or not the language which he was reported to have used a few nights ago.