§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
rose to ask Her Majesty's Government, What statutory powers, if any, they considered to be still in force, the Peace Preservation Act for Ireland having expired, which would enable the Lord Lieutenant to send an additional police force into any locality, with a view to the repression of crime; and to what extent such powers, if they existed, would enable the Government to levy the cost of maintaining such force on the locality as well as to circumscribe the area of taxation? The noble Duke said, an Answer was given a few days ago in the other House to this Question; but that Answer dealt with the matter in such a partial and fragmentary manner that he felt justified, considering the gravity of the circumstances, in putting the still further Question to Her Majesty's Government, in the hope that they might be able to give him a satisfactory Answer. In many parts of Ireland peace and order prevailed to the same extent that it did in England and Scotland; but in some places that was not the case, and he should like to have a satisfactory explanation as to the course which the Government intended to pursue. The Peace Preservation Act had been in operation in Ireland for 30 years; but now that it was brought to a sudden conclusion, the consequences might be serious. It was not for his own information that he asked this Question, but for the consolation of a large number of the peaceable, orderly inhabitants of various parts of the country. It was most desirable—and he was sure anyone who had anything to do with the government and administration of public affairs in that country must wish most ardently that everything in Ireland should be assimilated to England—that no repressive measures of any sort might be necessary, but that Irish subjects should be as loyal in their sentiments and as peaceable in their habits as those of any other part of Her Majesty's Dominions, and that the time might come when no measure of any exceptional character or any repressive steps would be necessary. But there was a peculiar characteristic in the Irish people which was totally different to anything that existed in any other people, and therefore they had to 1323 cope with a state of things that was not like those prevailing in other parts. There was in Ireland an illegal combination for illegal purposes, and there was a total absence of evidence with which to bring offenders to justice, and it therefore became necessary to strengthen the ordinary administration of the law; and there was this further element of danger, that more than 12 months ago there was raised in Ireland an agitation which had gone on increasing in intensity, and which appeared to rely on the false hopes which were held out to the people. That being the case, he thought he was justified in asking the Government what measures they proposed to take for the prevention of crime and for the protection of life and property in Ireland? Probably, this would be the last occasion on which the subject would be brought before their Lordships during the present Session—certainly, the last time upon which he should trouble them upon the question; but they had before them a very anxious time, for in another six weeks or two months the Government would have to administer the country without the assistance of Parliament. During that time, though they might hope that favourable seasons would diminish the dangers of agitation, at the same time a state of things would display itself in which every inducement and every motive would exist to bring about increased agitation. It was no use blinding their eyes, like a bird hiding its head and fancying its body was not seen—it was no use blinding their eyes to the fact of what was existing at the present moment in Ireland. Some Returns had recently been laid on the Table of their Lordships' House, the significance of which could scarcely be over-rated. He would not weary them with figures, but would state what had been the increase of agrarian outrages in the four Provinces. In the Province of Leinster, in the year 1877, there were 48 cases of agrarian crime; in 1878 there were 86 cases; and in 1879 there were 147 cases; in the Province of Munster there were, in the same years, 45, 74, and 136 cases; in the Province of Ulster the numbers in the same years were 52, 57, and 109; while in the Province of Connaught they numbered 94, 84, and in last year as many as 468. If he went to another point, and inquired how many of these cases had been brought to jus- 1324 tice, he found the Return a little different, inasmuch as it extended over 13 months, instead of 12. He found that in the Province of Leinster, out of 158 cases, 139 were never brought to conviction; in Munster, out of 148 cases, 112 were not brought to a conviction; in Ulster, out of 127, 95 were not brought to a conviction; and in Connaught, out of 544 cases, as many as 458 escaped conviction. He thought those figures showed that there was a total absence of any evidence on which the Government could rely for the detection of crime. The only means which the Government hitherto had had in their power was the taxation of a district by sending into it protection parties of constabulary, for which the district especially had to pay. That, at all events, was an inducement to the discovery of crime, and it was a measure which was supported in 1875 by the noble Marquess now at the head of the India Office, who said that, although under that law cases of hardship might occasionally occur, it appeared to him, on the whole, just and right that in the case of a district, the great majority of the inhabitants of which knew something of the crime, or who might have taken steps for its prevention, the people ought to be made feel in their pockets—those words were spoken in 1875 by the noble Marquess now at the head of the India Office. Of the effect of that provision he could speak from his own experience. Most remarkable instances had come before him in which on several occasions calculations had even been entered into as to whether it would pay to commit an agrarian outrage, and the result had been that many valuable lives had been saved, because the people of the district considered that the intended crime would cost them too much. The point which he desired to have cleared up by his noble Friend was whether the area of taxation for protective measures would be so circumscribed that it would act as a deterrent to crime. He would not trouble their Lordships further; but he considered that was a question of such importance that he was justified in bringing it before them, and asking the noble Lord representing the Government to give an answer, and he hoped such a one as would be considered satisfactory.
desired, on behalf of those interested in the prosperity of 1325 Ireland, to return his thanks to the noble Duke for having called attention to this matter, which he himself proposed to bring before their Lordships again on Friday next. It would, it was true, be easy enough for the noble Earl who would reply to this Question, to say that the state of Ireland had frequently been worse than it was at the present time. That, no doubt, was true; there had been more outrages in past times than now; but the land agitation carried on by what was called the Home Rule Party, but which he preferred to designate the Agrarian Party, had several exceptional features. During the General Election the Home Rule or Agrarian Party bought the constituencies by a Bill drawn upon the land of Ireland. That Bill had been introduced in the other House, and he should like to know how that Bill would be met at maturity? That entirely depended on the attitude of Her Majesty's Ministers in regard to the agrarian or the revolutionary party in Ireland. These were hard words to apply to any particular party; but there could be no harm in believing that they meant what they said, or taking them at their word. They openly professed a desire to revolutionize the country in regard to the tenure of land. Home Rule was with them only another cry for separation, for it was absolute separation that they called for.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
said, that he was one of those who suffered from the present very unfortunate state of things in Ireland, and he also thanked the noble Duke for asking these Questions. He had to complain when the late Government was in Office, that they had yielded to the pressure from the Home Rule Party, and, by doing so, had passed an inefficient Peace Preservation Bill, and that they had not put the one they had into full operation. The noble Earl the other night gave some reasons why the Government ought to dispense with the measure; but he did not say anything which led him (Lord Oranmore and Browne) to hope that they could do with milder or more ordinary legislation When the present Government was in Office before, they passed laws, which he thought were objectionable, in the hope of bringing about peace and order in Ireland. But what had happened since?—though he would not say that those Acts 1326 had produced the present unfortunate state of things there. He was intimately acquainted with the state of affairs in his own district, and he would ask the Government whether they had read the charge of Baron Fitzgerald to the Grand Jury in Mayo? The state of things therein described existed in many parts of Ireland; and when they remembered that the leader of all the land agitation, who sat in the House of Commons for the city of Cork, and was returned also for Meath and Mayo—in the latter county in opposition to the Roman Catholic clergy, who hitherto had been a most influential body—he could not but see that an alarming spread of disorder was imminent, and that lawlessness was likely to prevail throughout a large portion of Ireland. The principles which were put forward by the hon. Member for Cork, and which were repeated over and over again in Ireland, were simply—"Your land or your life." The hon. Member said—"We will have the land by fair means if we can, but by foul if we cannot." He said, both in writing and speech—"We will see what we can do by merely pressing, and, if that fails, we have plenty of subscriptions to pay for lead to enforce our claims !"In the face of that, Her Majesty's Government did not renew the Peace Preservation Act. It was reported in the leading journal that the Government had stated that they did not see that they could preserve peace and order by enforcing the Act; but they would appeal to the forbearance of this very Party, who were agitating by violence, to preserve peace and order. The Government said this Party had great influence; they said—"Use your influence with them, and do not allow murders to take place." This course of Her Majesty's Government was, in his opinion, deserving of the most severe reprobation, as it was relegating to others the first function for which a Government was created. What would come to Ireland without this Peace Preservation Act? He had at first seen the full danger; but the noble Duke had pointed out that one most important result would be that the people would be able to commit murder without any risk of even paying for it. The large land meetings would be repeated. At the recent gatherings sham weapons, such as wooden guns, had been used; but at the future demon- 1327 strations real firearms would be used. There would be no difficulty in obtaining them. He believed many people possessed them at present, and there was no difficulty in procuring ammunition. Let their Lordships picture to themselves the dreadful things which would occur when the excitement and agitation reached its height. The people had been told that they could get the land; and, if in this belief, they came into collison with the police, what a dreadful sacrifice of life must occur, independent of other disastrous results. These men would march home from the meetings half-drunk, in martial order, and anyone who opposed them would suffer. What was their habit now? Why, they stopped at every house where anyone lived who was unpopular, and shouted and insulted them in every way. He had just heard of two cases of outrage at Westport—one in which a train was fired into, the other being a case of firing into a house. He could assure their Lordships that it was not safe for a man to go to sleep in his own house in security from dangers of this kind. This was a most miserable state of things, and yet it prevailed this moment over a great part of Ireland. There was general demoralization and want of confidence existing between all classes. Pear possessed everyone. The people could not deal with one another. They were as much afraid of one another as landlords or agents were of them. What prosperity, therefore, could there be in a country where the law was so in abeyance? He deprecated the course adopted by Her Majesty's Government in coquetting with the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his Party. There was a Bill before the House of Commons—down for this very night, if he was not mistaken—to extend the disturbance clause to every—
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I do not think the noble Lord is in Order in discussing a Bill that is at present before the other House.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
The noble Lord must be equally out of Order to "suppose that such a Bill" as that before the House of Commons exists.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
Then, he would not suppose; but would 1328 merely say that coquetting with measures that would transfer landed or other property from one class to another without compensation was abrogating one of the first functions of a Government, and doing that which would tend to increase the disorder which existed in Ireland. He prophesied that later on—that, after there had been great sacrifice of life and after incalculable injury had been inflicted on his unfortunate country, the Government would have to come forward, if they were still in Office, and demand from Parliament far more stringent powers than those which they were now surrendering.
§ EARL SPENCER
My Lords, I do not for a moment complain of any Irish grievance being brought before your Lordships. I think it is natural that grievances of this sort should be brought on for discussion, and I can assure the noble Lord on the Cross Benches (Lord Oranmore and Browne) that Her Majesty's Government will always be disposed to meet these questions, and to discuss them in the fullest manner possible; but I must complain of the inconvenience of introducing a debate going into considerable detail on a variety of matters merely on a Question such as that which has been put by the noble Duke. I do not propose to follow any of the noble Lords into the matters to which they have referred. I feel there is no necessity for this, particularly because of the Motion of which Notice has been given for Friday next by a noble Lord who addressed you some time since. In answer, however, to the Question of the noble Duke opposite, I wish to say that Her Majesty's Government consider that the powers conferred by the Constabulary Act, 6 & 7 William IV. c. 13; 2 & 3 Vict. c. 75; and 9 & 10 Vict. c. 97, still remain in force, and that, under the provisions of these Acts they can, if necessary for the repression of crime, send any additional force into any locality in Ireland, and require that the cost of maintaining such force shall be levied on such locality. As to the latter part of the Question, I have to say the Government believe also that they could circumstribe the area of taxation. The only other point I think it is right distinctly to answer on behalf of Her Majesty's Government is this, that they believe they have under the common law which exists at this moment in Ireland full 1329 power, with a firm hand, to maintain order in the country.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
asked the noble Earl to state whether those powers enabled the Government to exempt from taxation persons who might be injured, either in their persons or in their property, by any outrage?
§ EARL SPENCER
said, that was not a part of the Question of which Notice had been given, and he was not now prepared to answer it.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.