HL Deb 26 July 1869 vol 198 cc665-70

rose to call the attention of the House to the inefficiency of the police and magisterial arrangements for the prevention of crime or detection of criminals in Ireland. The administration of justice in Ireland was a disgrace to the Empire, and most injurious to that country. It was but too notorious that the most horrible crimes were committed in Ireland in open day with perfect impunity; that assassins went through the length and breadth of the land perpetrating murder and outrage, and that the Government of the country, with all the power at its command, seemed to be unable to stop such violence. This state of things was notorious to all the world, and he need not trouble their Lordships with any proof; but he might read from a newspaper an extract, based on statistics, giving the unpunished crimes of the last fifteen or sixteen months in Ireland, beginning with the murder of Mr. Featherstonhaugh and ending with the attempt to murder Mr. Warburton. Within that period eleven victims of these outrages had been killed, three had been severely wounded, and only two or three of the cases at the outside were not agrarian in character. In one case only had the murderers been brought to punishment, and in one more a con viction was hoped for; but no life had been forfeited for so many lives taken. The number of agrarian outrages reported, exclusive of Fenian crimes—and without any mention of the county of Cork—had risen from 87 in the year 1866 to 123 in 1867, and 160 in 1868. All that showed that the Government were powerless, and that the assassins were without the least dread. The persons injured durst not come forward to swear informations against the criminals, because of the system of terrorism which these murderers created. It might be said that all that was an old story; that such outrages were common twenty, thirty, and forty years ago. He asked how many convictions there were twenty, thirty, or forty years ago in proportion to the outrages committed? Were they as numerous now as they were then; or were the offences similar? Formerly the Government had been successful in putting down the crimes of the Ribbon and other conspirators in Ireland. Since that time Ireland had enjoyed the advantages of Catholic emancipation, the odious tithe system had been done away with, and a system of national education had long been in operation; yet the fearful crimes to which he was referring were now committed with impunity— and this although a very numerous and costly constabulary force existed. Formerly their police in Ireland was not regularly organized. In 1823 Mr. Plunkett, then Attorney General for Ireland, brought forward a plan of police which was to cost £240,000. In 1845 the force was immensely increased, and its cost was £440,000. At present the public paid for the Irish constabulary a total sum of £899,871 per annum, including £29,359 from the Irish counties. The cost of the seventy-two stipendiary magistrates was £28,900. He knew it was only in particular parts of Ireland that the outrages of which he complained prevailed; but it was to these particular parts that the Government ought to turn their attention, and see whether they could not do something with the force they had at command. Could the Government complain that Parliament had refused them any coercive powers they wanted? Had they not at this moment an Arms Act, and yet people were carrying arms every day in the most notorious manner? There were five different counties in which those outrages prevailed — Westmeath, Leitrim, Tipperary, Gal way, and the Queen's County. It was only on Saturday last that the newspapers stated that another outrage had been committed, the details of which were given more at large in the papers of to-day, and, although no life was lost, the character of this outrage showed at once the truth of his assertions. It appeared that a man was employed as a surveyor to define the boundaries of two different estates; but the people thinking that he had come down for the purposes of valuation and raising the rents fell upon him, threatened him, took away his maps and papers, and fired shots in the open day. And where did all this occur but within a few miles of that notorious place, Ballycohey, where such dreadful murders had been perpetrated last year. Now, what were the police about, what were the magistrates about, what were the Government about? for, if there was any place in Ireland in which such doings should have been impossible it was in that very place. He had no doubt that the people who had perpetrated this outrage would also escape punishment. In the Queen's County the other day there was the Judge, the grand jury, and the whole police force of the county all collected together, and yet in the middle of the day, on the high road, Mr. Warburton was shot at and wounded. He hoped that gentleman would recover; but the heinousness of the outrage was the same. Well, it might be asked—"What are your remedies?" There were two. In the first place, the Government ought to establish a more really effective constabulary force, with a separate detective branch, such as existed in England; and, in the second place, they, ought to put themselves into communication with the loyal, honest feeling of the country. For, with all the power at their disposal, they could not do by means of the stipendiary magistrates what had been done by the local gentry with far inferior means at their command. He would take the liberty of reading the language of a very great man, one of the best Lord Lieutenants that Ireland ever had—he meant Lord Wellesley—and show what his conduct had been under similar circumstances. Lord Wellesley did not disdain to go to the gentry of the country and consult them, he did not disdain to come to Parliament, and he had no army of police magistrates throughout the coun- try. He could recollect the state in which many counties of Ireland were in 1822, when Lord Wellesley, by his resolution, skill, and the judicious use of the means at his disposal, aided by the local gentry, who displayed, as much courage, activity, and skill, as the present police, when called upon to fight, had shown, succeeded in putting down the disturbances. The Marquess of Wellesley, in a despatch, dated January 19th, 1823, said— The new police had been introduced into the lately-disturbed districts and into others with general approbation, with the cordial and effective co-operation of the magistrates, with great success in the detection of crime, the speedy apprehension of offenders, and the maintenance of public peace.… I, some time since, submitted to you a separate despatch, relative to the trial and conviction of several persons denominated Ribbonmen. … It is, at least, an advantage to the King's Government to have completely and publicly exposed the whole craft and mystery of the Ribbon Conspiracy. How did the Marquess of Wellesley do all that? By communicating with the local gentry and seeking their co-operation. These gentlemen could, of course, give him more information than the disciplined soldiers who were called the constabulary, but who were, properly speaking, no more police than they were Life-Guards. In 1862, the grand jury of the South Riding of Tipperary assembled at the Special Commission, held in Clonmel, drew up a representation to the Government, in which they stated that they considered it their imperative duty to call the attention of the Government to the constitution of the constabulary, which for some years had become a mere military force, quite useless for the detection and apprehension of offenders against the law, or the prevention of crime. Any noble Lord connected with Ireland would bear him out in saying that that representation to the Government, in 1862, was founded on strict justice. But he would like to know what answer was sent to it, or what was done in consequence of it? The advice of the Irish gentry was not taken—although, by-the-by, the very first attempt to stop Fenianism was made by a meeting of magistrates in the county of Cork, not called together by order of the Lord Lieutenant, but, he believed, very much complained of by the Government, who said their proceedings were premature. But if the Government had been in communication with the magistrates, and they were meditating a premature movement, it would be easy to stop them. He implored the Government to turn their attention seriously to this subject. They had now passed the Irish Church Bill, which he most anxiously hoped and sincerely believed would go a long way to conciliate the great body of the people of Ireland; but it would not prevent assassins and murderers from doing their evil deeds. He believed that the Irish on the whole were the best conducted people on the face of the earth; but in a population of 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 they could not do without a well-organized police. He entreated their Lord ships to impress upon the Government the necessity of taking this subject into their serious consideration. He could do no more than call attention to it; but if the country was not in a better condition next year he would certainly move their Lordships to grant a Select Committee—and it was quite open to them to make it a Secret Committee. It was, he believed, a long time since there had been a Secret Committee of their Lordships' House, but, nevertheless, it might be appointed. We were paying now the most enormous sum that ever was paid in any agricultural country for the police. In the rural counties of Ireland they had a police which, as a detective force, was useless. A Friend of his—a Member of Parliament—was travelling only a few weeks ago when he thought he had been robbed of his watch. Seeing a smart, well-dressed man among those who gathered round him, he accosted him as a detective, and was right. So it was always; the police of Ireland were as well drilled and bespoke their profession in their bearing as clearly as any soldier of the Line; but the detective should be a civilian to the back-bone, who had never been drilled, as like his fellow-citizens as possible, and singular only in his ability at thief-taking.


regretted that he was unable to offer any reply to the observations of the noble Marquess beyond repeating the assurance he had before given to their Lordships—that the Government deplored quite as earnestly as the noble Lord, or any of their Lord ships, those atrocious crimes to which he had alluded. But he was obliged to remind the noble Marquess that he had somewhat over-stated the facts of the case, for he had included the whole of Ireland in his condemnation; whereas, as he (Lord Dufferin) had before stated, these crimes were confined to a comparatively small area. Knowing how intimately acquainted the noble Marquess was with everything connected with the administration of Ireland, he had listened with considerable attention in the hope that he would submit some scheme which the Government could adopt; but the suggestions of the noble Marquess resolved themselves into two recommendations—the institution of a secret police, and the establishment of a more complete concert between the Government and the local gentry. Both in his private capacity as an Irish landlord, and also as a Member of the Government, he admitted that the first suggestion of the noble Marquess had much to recommend itself; and he would go further and say that such an obvious method of detecting crime had not escaped the attention of the Government; but, for obvious reasons, it would be extremely unwise to enter at length upon this occasion into any details as to the circumstances under which the Government might resort to the system. As to the nature of the relations which existed between the Executive and the magistrature of the country, from his own experience he could say that he did not think that any just complaint could be made as to the inaccessibility of the Government to any recommendations or suggestions emanating from that body. It was altogether beyond his own experience that any complaint could be alleged in this respect. He felt the slur that these outrages cast upon everyone connected with Ireland, and he assured their Lordships that not only the Lord Lieutenant, "but the whole of the Government felt as acutely as possible the deep responsibility that rested upon them to use every method and device known to the administration of justice to bring the authors of these atrocious crimes to punishment.