asked, Whether it is true that two non-commissioned officers of the South Cork Militia had been brought before a court-martial for imputed complicity with a traitorous association in Ireland in an attempt to steal the arms of the regiment for the use of such traitorous association; whether Her Majesty's Government. have adopted means other than the reports of commanding officers, to ascertain how far a spirit of disloyalty as evinced by such acts may extend through the same or other regiments of militia; and whether with respect to military offenders sentenced for breaches of military allegiance Her Majesty's Ministers are prepared to leave them to military law, or to consider that the fact of complicity with a treasonable conspiracy gives a political character to such offences entitling the culprit to lenient treatment as "political prisoners?"
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE,
in reply to the first Question of the noble Lord, said, it was quite true that two noncommissioned officers of the South Cork Militia had been tried and convicted for complicity in a robbery of arms, and being convicted, had been sentenced to the maximum period of imprisonment with a full proportion of solitary confinement. He thought the noble Lord would have done well had he abstained from placing on the Paper his second Question, requesting to know what special means had been adopted to ascertain how far a spirit of disloyalty, as was evinced by acts of arms stealing, extended itself through Irish Militia regiments. If special means were adopted by Government for the repression of crime, he thought it not at all for the public interest that those means should be described in a debate in Parliament.
said, the noble Marquess had no right to put such an interpretation on his Question. He had not in any portion of his Question asked that what special means were had recourse to should be disclosed. All he bad asked was whether other than the Reports of commanding officers were relied upon to ascertain how far such disloyalty as he had drawn attention to prevailed in either the South Cork or any other Irish Militia regiment?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
said, that the Question seemed to him capable of the inference which he had drawn from it, and he left it to others to determine whether that inference was not correct. With reference to the third Question—namely, whether the authorities were prepared to leave military offenders sentenced for breaches of military allegiance to the military law, or to consider that the fact that complicity with a treasonable conspiracy gave a. political character to such offences entitling the culprits to lenient treatment as political prisoners—all he could say was that if the noble Lord had paid the same attention to this subject as he usually did to passing events relating to Ireland, he might have noticed that the refusal of the Government to mitigate the punishment which some of the Fenian convicts were now undergoing had been justified on the ground that the offences of which they were convicted wore committed while they were serving in the Army.