HL Deb 23 May 1873 vol 216 cc331-41

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


in moving that the Bill be now read the second time said, that the measure, which came up from the Commons, was a Bill to continue the Peace Preservation (Ireland) Act of 1870 and the Protection of Life and Property Act of 1871. The Government regretted the necessity for the renewal for another year of what they admitted to be exceptional legislation; but acting on the best advice they could obtain on the matter, they had come to the conclusion that in the interests of Ireland herself it was their duty to bring forward this Bill. As showing that the Acts had been attended with good results, he might mention that whereas in 1870 the number of agrarian offences in Ireland was 1,329, in the following year the number fell to 373, and in 1872 to 256. By the Bill now before their Lordships it was proposed to modify the Act of 1870 in three particulars. Under the Peace Preservation Act, the fact of a district being proclaimed was held to be evidence that it was in a state of disturbance within the meaning of a code of laws known as the White boy Acts. That provision was not re-enacted in the present Bill, for the future the prosecution would have to prove that the district in question was in a disturbed state. In the next place, it was provided that notice given to any newspaper before the passing of this Bill, in pursuance of the 30th clause of the Act, should not subject the pub- lisher or proprietor to any penalty or proceeding in relation to anything published after the passing of this Bill—but that a fresh notice must be given. The third modification would remove a doubt which had arisen in connection with the existing law, and would enable any person summarily convicted under the Peace Preservation Act of 1870, and sentenced to a term of imprisonment exceeding one month, to appeal against such conviction. With these modifications, the Bill proposed to continue the Peace Preservation Acts to the 1st June, 1875.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a" —(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)


said, it was not satisfactory to find that Ireland could only be governed by exceptional legislation. He had no opposition to offer, but the question was one of such vital importance to Ireland that, without the least disrespect to his noble Friend (the Marquess of Lansdowne), he thought the measure should have been introduced to their Lordships by a Member of the Cabinet. It would certainly have been more satisfactory to his side of the House if the Government had shown some indication of interest in what he (the Duke of Richmond) could not but look upon as a very grave state of affairs.


said, he thought the remarks of the noble Duke entirely uncalled for. By an arrangement among Ministers his noble Friend (the Marquess of Lansdowne) usually took charge of the Irish business in their Lordships' House. He was free to admit that if the Bill was one proposing an original enactment, their Lordships might expect that it should be introduced by a Member of the Cabinet; but, seeing that it was a continuance Bill, and with the objects of which everyone was perfectly familiar, and which, instead of increasing, diminished the severity of an existing law, he could not think there was any good ground for the objection of the noble Duke. He believed he had the concurrence of his Colleagues when he said that in the manner in which the noble Marquess had stated the provisions of the Bill he had left nothing to be desired, and that the duty could not have been performed with more ability by any Member of the Cabinet.


said, it was to be regretted that after the passing of the Church Act and Land Act, not to speak of the Juries' Act—which towards the innocent and the guilty seemed to deal with equal impartiality—a renewal of the Peace Preservation Acts should have been found to be necessary by the Government which had introduced those other measures. As a resident in one of the counties in which these special Acts had been in force, he fully concurred in the necessity of continuing them. He had never heard that the provisions of the expiring Acts had been oppressively applied, or that well disposed citizens had suffered any inconvenience from their operation. On the contrary, he had heard the wish expressed that the Lord Lieutenant would apply with more vigour the power which those enactments placed in his hands, and he had heard these sentiments even from persons who in public took opportunities of denouncing the Acts as unconstitutional and unjust.


thought that if a different and more definite policy had been pursued towards Ireland, such Bills as this would not have been necessary; but we must hope for better times.


said, he would first ask the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) to explain what was the 8th clause which was not re-enacted under the present Bill? In 1871, when the Westmeath Act passed, he had proposed to include Mayo. Her Majesty's Government had accepted the responsibility for not doing so, but there was no doubt had that Act included Mayo, the murder of a man named Tunbridge would not have taken place. He then showed that the prevalence of crime in Mayo was greater than in Westmeath, and now the noble Secretary for Ireland, in "another place," stated there had been eight undetected murders committed in the year 1872 in the county of Mayo, besides many other serious crimes, a number greater than Westmeath. Why, then, did not Her Majesty's Government propose to afford the same protection to life in Mayo which had stayed crime in Westmeath? But he thought the House and the public should now, when this Parliament was near its close, consider how far the Irish measures and Irish policy of Her Majesty's Government had produced, or were likely in the future to produce, a beneficial or injurious effect, both as regarded the internal peace of Ireland and on the relations of the two countries to each other. He knew their Lordships disliked all long discussions, especially on Ireland, but he thought a very lamentable state of things was evidenced by the necessity of constantly re-enacting coercion Bills, and as no Member of the front benches thought it well to enlarge on this matter, he felt it his duty, as shortly as possible, to endeavour to place the true bearings of the case before the House. What was the effect of disestablishing the Irish Church? Half of the property of the Church was absorbed in buying up the life interests of the clergy. As the Act passed, justice to them demanded this, but by a less precipitous method of disestablishing, this large sum might have been saved to the public; but it should be borne in mind, that, beyond a sum given in lieu of property left to the Church from private benefactors, not one shilling of her property was left to her, while about £600,000 from her funds was unconditionally handed over to Maynooth, which was applied to the support and training of Jesuits, a Body religiously and politically hostile to every institution of this country, and one whose presence had been found so injurious to the common weal that now and in former times there was not a country in Europe from which they had not been expelled. Thus far Protestantism had been disendowed and Popery endowed, and later he would call the attention of the House to proposals already made to hand over the large surplus of Church property to the Roman Catholic Church. He would now say a few words as to the working of the Land Bill. He would not dwell on the jeopardy in which all property was placed by the acceptance of the principle of confiscation without compensation as carried out under that Bill, nor on the declaration he heard, from the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) a few nights ago at the Press dinner, that doubtless this Bill would form a precedent for an English Land Bill, nor would he trouble the House with a long list of farmers' meetings, at all of which entire dissatisfaction was expressed with the provisions and results of the Bill as well as the demands put forward for fixity of tenure and rents fixed by valuation; but he would only give a few examples of what was said at those meetings. At a meeting in the county of Dublin, where farms were large, tenants rich and prosperous, and where no complaints from tenants had been heard before the passing of the Land Act, among other remarks the Chairman said£ The Land Act of 1870 might have been intended, but certainly never was expected by any one who gave the matter a serious thought, to be of any real positive benefit to the tenant or a final settlement to the land question. The rule of law under the Act is—first, evict and ruin, and then compensate for the injury done. And how compensate? By compelling the tenant to embark in a course of litigation which commences in the County Court and may terminate in the Court for Land Cases Reserved.….. Now, it is my opinion that the generality of tenants will submit to almost any terms sooner than seek to obtain the benefits seemingly conferred on them by the Land Act. When this Act was passing, he had frequently told the House that not the least statesmanlike part of it was the endless litigation it must create; and here was a tenant farmer immediately hitting the blot. At another meeting, after one farmer stating that the benefit from the Act was illusory, and that Home Rule was the only way to obtain tenants' rights, a Mr. Farrell, in seconding a Motion£ Informed the meeting of an effectual mode of treatment which had been adopted in the part of the country from which he came to check the exterminating propensities of some landlords. A person from the north of Ireland purchased 40 acres of land, and attempted to raise the rent from £1 5s. an acre to £2 6d. The tenants refused to pay, and were evicted, but got compensation, having gone to law under the advice of their parish priest. It was then determined to report every man who took the land as an enemy to his country, and from that time to the present the lands lay waste. This piece of intelligence afforded evident satisfaction to the meeting. Thus, by advice of the priests, the tenants first obtained compensation for disturbance, &c., and then kept the land waste by terror. This was not strong evidence of the beneficial results prophesied from this message of peace. Again, previous to this Bill, all disputes between tenants — and these among 300,000 small tenants were not a few—were settled by the landlord or agent; now all power of enforcing their decisions was taken out of their hands, and hence, ere long, "domestic calamities" would be added to "agrarian outrages;" and all power and influence being taken from the landlords, nine-tenths of whom were Protestants and friends of English institutions and English connections, there was no check upon the power of the priests, whose influence at Elections would be paramount and universally exercised against English connection. Then they had the Jury Bill of Lord O'Hagan. It was stated at last assizes and sessions by every Judge and Chairman of sessions in Ireland that this Bill rendered the administration of justice impossible; and Her Majesty's Government by agreeing to appoint a Committee, in "another place," to inquire into its working, had acknowledged how ill-considered and injurious was the character of this pet measure of their Colleague, and he trusted they would not let the Session pass without repealing it, for if they did they would but continue to bring the executive and the administration of justice even into greater contempt than they had already done! He would say a few words on the O'Keeffe case. He would not dwell on the merits of the case further than to express his regret at the part that three Roman Catholic Judges had taken in the matter. He referred to Lord O'Hagan Chief Baron Pigott, and Judge Fitzgerald. A Brother Judge (Judge Lawson) called on them, as the case might come before them as Judges—and it was tried by Judge Fitzgerald—not to prejudge it as members of the Education Board; but they paid no attention to his remonstrance. Well, he in no wise called in question the high character or conscientiousness of these eminent men; but, as Ultramontane Roman Catholics, they felt a conflict between their duty to the Pope and their duty to the Queen, and decided to accept Dr. Manning's advice—to prove themselves Catholics first and Judges afterwards. Nothing could be more disastrous than the effect of such conduct on the minds of the people of Ireland, confirming them in the belief that the Roman Catholic clergy were above and beyond the jurisdiction of the civil power, while the platform of that clergy was now, as always, Catholicity, Nationality, and Socialism—a platform they had so long stood upon that even if willing, they were unable to recede from it. He would touch very shortly on the measure for Irish University Education brought forward by Her Majesty's Government in "another place." The Premier stated he had not consulted the Roman Catholic hierarchy about it, that it was entirely undenominational, and founded only on the most patriotic principles. He thought the right hon. Gentleman did not require any direct communication with the Irish Roman Catholic hierarchy, when he had Mr. Monsell in his Cabinet, Lord O'Hagan£Cardinel Cullen's mouthpiece—as Irish Chancellor, and his old friend, Archbishop Manning, close by to counsel him. But the Premier said it was "undenominational;" though, strange to say, the Secretary for Ireland, and the ex-Secretary, stated their belief that if well understood, the Bill would be found to satisfy the claims of the Roman Catholic hierarchy; and as they had repeatedly declared they would accept nothing less than the sole direction and teaching of Roman Catholics at the public expense, there was a serious antagonism of opinion between the Members of the Cabinet as to the results of the proposed measure, though none, he believed, in the mind of the public, who were convinced that the Secretaries were correct in their views and the Premier deceived, as to the inevitable results of his own measure. And here he was sorry to be obliged to repeat a remark which some Sessions back gave grave offence to the noble Earl (Earl Granville)—namely, that the fact of these right hon. Gentlemen remaining Members of the Cabinet, showed how well-subordinated were the Members of the Government to their some what imperious Chief. He was much surprised to hear a noble Earl (Earl Grey), for whom he had the highest respect, a few nights back, recommend Her Majesty's Government to hand over the surplus funds of the Irish Church without condition to the Roman Catholic clergy, to educate the youth of the country in the principles of the Bull, In Cœnâ Domini, the Syllabus and the Encyclical, and uncompromising hostility to every institution of this country. He was surprised that the noble Earl ignored the fact that Republican Switzerland and Autocratic Russia, Roman Catholic France, Austria, Spain, and Italy, aye, the great Bismarck in the height of his glory, had each and all alike found that for the preservation of the independence of the civil power, education had to be taken out of the hands of the Roman Catholic clergy, and severe restraints placed on their insti- tutions and the exercise of their priestly functions. The noble Lord next read the abstract of the charge of Judge Lawson on the Belfast Riots, as given in The Times, which, after stating the outrages of the rioters and the remissness of the magistracy, contained the following passage:— He made great allowances for the local authorities, for magistrates and constables must act or refrain from acting according to the instructions they receive from head-quarters, and he could scarcely wonder if they often hesitated to act with firmness and decision, and recent experience had, unfortunately, shown that they cannot always rely for countenance and protection upon those whose duty it was to defend them when they were assailed for the faithful discharge of their duty. The assembly was unlawful at Common Law, and if it had been dispersed and the ringleaders arrested the disastrous riot would never have occurred. He could not say to what the learned Judge referred in the paragraph£ And recent experience had, unfortunately, shown that they—police and magistrates£cannot always rely for countenance and protection upon those whose duty it was to defend them, &c. —but he was sure that neither the House nor the public could forget that the Parliament had forced upon the Judges the duty of trying Election Petitions—a duty they undertook most reluctantly—that when a Roman Catholic Judge, who had already distinguished himself by the undaunted courage he had shown in the trial of the Fenian prisoners, and since which time Her Majesty's Government were well aware that the closest and most constant surveillance was necessary to protect his life—careless of the odium, unpopularity, and increased danger he would incur, condemned in unmeasured language the conspiracy of the Roman Catholic bishops and clergy to prevent the free exercise of the franchise by the electors of Galway county—instead of receiving that countenance and support from Her Majesty's Government which he so much needed and deserved, their action could only be described in the language of the poet as Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike, Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike. And yet so just was the decision of Judge Keogh that the Law Officers of the Crown were obliged to prosecute the Roman Catholic bishops for their conduct, but in doing so counsel for the Crown never challenged a juror, nor did they even include "conspiracy"—which was the principal crime for which they were deprived of the franchise for seven years—in the indictment. Such treatment of a Judge under such circumstances, such sham prosecution, such cowardly abstinence from protecting life and property, such countenance of lawless meetings had brought the Executive into entire contempt. One word more on a remark of the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley) who last Session—repeated lately at Ipswich—said, that Fenianism was now less important, because it had taken a more Constitutional form. This would be the case if the separation of the two countries were an open question, and if it would be accepted when a large majority of Irish Members showed it was the desire of the majority of the people of Ireland; but if, as he believed, the English people never could or would allow Ireland to establish a separate Nationality, then Constitutional discussion could only excite false hopes, bringing rancour and disappointment, and making the Irish people feel themselves justified in endeavouring to enforce their views, which could only lead to all the horrors of civil war and violent repression, unless, indeed, by the new scheme of depôt centres an Irish army were created which would always be ready to support Irish Nationality and assist the enemies of England. He firmly believed that the Irish measures and the Irish policy of Her Majesty's Government was the principal cause rendering legislation, such as the measure now proposed necessary, and the continuance of the same policy, could result only in violence to be repressed by bloodshed and violence.


said, that the Bill ought to have been brought in at an earlier period of the Session, when their Lordships might have discussed the use the Government had made of the expiring Acts of which they seemed to him to have availed themselves more for political purposes than for the good government of the country. It was said that the Bill was one for the protection of life and property in Ireland, but he protested against the enactment of this exceptional legislation for that country. The Government could not govern England by such measures. If this sort of legislation was to go forward, what would be the result? Why the people of Ireland would, he believed, return a large number of Members to Parliament pledged to support the principle of Home Rule, and the end might be that all Constitutional Government would be rendered quite impossible.


bore testimony to the beneficial effects of recent legislation in Ireland, and said the people of that country now felt the Imperial Legislature was willing and anxious to do them justice. Under such circumstances, he did not see how their Lordships could refuse to the Government the continuance of powers which they deemed necessary to the peace and order of the country.


said, that having had opportunities during the last 12 months of judging of the state of Ireland, he believed that it was absolutely necessary the Peace Preservation Acts should be continued. The renewal of the Act was the more necessary in consequence of the present state of the Irish Juries Act. In the county with which he was himself connected, not a single conviction could be obtained at the last Assizes, and he trusted that an amended Jury Bill would be brought in without delay, in order that there might be no repetition of such a state of things. If a satisfactory Juries Act were passed for Ireland, it might be possible for their Lordships to come forward and suspend the Peace Preservation Act.


said, it was unnecessary to reply to the stock objection urged against all Bills of this kind, that they were unconstitutional. It appeared to him that Her Majesty's Government, holding as they did Liberal opinions, deserved some credit for continuing a measure of this description. Notwithstanding the opinion of the noble Earl on the cross benches (the Earl of Leitrim), it did not tend to make the Government popular among the disaffected portion of the population, although they ought to be popular among all classes who valued the peace of the country. Of late years, even in the worst times, agrarian crime had been confined to a small portion of the country, and even there it had been confined to a very small proportion of the people. This Act turned the system of terror against the criminals, and he thought it had had the best possible effect. In conclusion, he expressed sa- tisfaction at the course taken by the Government in renewing the Act, without which it would be impossible for some time to come to restore peace in certain small districts in Ireland.


said, he did not intend to enter into the wide field of discussion over which the noble Lord opposite (Lord Oranmore) had travelled. The noble Lord reminded him of those Fanti warriors of whom his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies spoke the other night, and who, when they possessed a large quantity of ammunition, fired it off in sheer exuberance of spirits. He understood one complaint made by the noble Lord to be that the county of Mayo was not included in the Act for the Protection of Life and Property. That county was already proclaimed under the Peace Preservation Act, and he could not at present state whether or not it would ultimately become necessary to bring it under the provisions of the other Act. With regard to the remarks of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Inchiquin), he need only point out that the Bill for altering the qualifications under the Juries Act was awaiting a second reading in the House of Commons.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly; Committee negatived: Standing Orders Nos. 37 and 38 considered (according to Order), and dispensed with: Bill read 3a, and passed.