HL Deb 14 February 1893 vol 8 cc1344-6

asked Her Majesty's Government whether their attention had been drawn to a paragraph in The Dublin Daily Express of Thursday, February 9th, which, referring to "The State of Kerry," stated that— On Monday and Tuesday nights a number of men, who were disguised with masks awl sackcloth over their clothes, visited the houses of several farmers in the district between Tralee and the Spa, and demanded money and arms. In most instances they were successful. The gang also surrounded the car on which a clergyman was driving to visit a sick lady, but when they found who their prisoner was they ran off; whether such paragraph was correct; and, if so, whether any person or persons had been made amenable for any or all of these outrages? He said when last he addressed their Lordships he drew attention to the increase of serious crime in Kerry and Clare, and referred to the sources of information open to the public in the daily Press. For venturing to do so he was taken to task by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who accused him of credulity in believing what he read in its columns. In order that he might not again incur that censure he would simply invite the attention of the Government to such statements, and leave them to either contradict or explain them as best they could. As the Irish Executive was represented in their Lordships' House, he proposed whenever paragraphs of a similar character appeared in the Press, to call attention to them in like manner.


said, he would endeavour as briefly as possible to satisfy the vigilant curiosity of the noble Marquess. The statement quoted with regard to outrages in Kerry which happened to have appeared at the same time in several other Irish Party newspapers was as it was there given entirely untrue. It was true that at the time and place specified certain persons did combine together and did proceed from house to house carrying away all the money they could obtain. But those "armed moonlighters" were children inoffensively keeping, as it appeared, according to local custom, a religious anniversary. The 5th November celebration was not kept, as their Lordships were aware, in that part of the country, and Guy Fawkes had been there dropped out of the calendar but on St. Bridget's eve the children went about dancing and singing and extracting coppers from their neighbours. They had even a weapon of offence. Their weapon of offence was a broomstick dressed up and decorated like a doll, and technically called a "Biddy." This was not the first time in the Session that the noble Marquess, With his great opportunities and advantages of knowing the state of Irish affairs, had challenged the Government upon them, and he ventured to entertain the hope that it would not be the last.


said, he could not but think their Lordships had received with a certain amount of surprise the statement just made, and he thought the British public when they read in the papers tomorrow the noble Lord's assertions with regard to what could only be described as raids on dwelling houses, but which the noble Lord had treated as simply the pranks of children in a part of Ireland regarded by Her Majesty's Government as being in a condition by no means satisfactory, would not consider it a satisfactory answer to the question. He would not, however, press the matter further—but would simply draw attention to the fact that the "children" alluded to must have been very precocious, as they took the precaution of disguising themselves with masks and sackcloth—if the noble Lord would assure their Lordships from the information he has received that these attacks on dwelling houses in Kerry were merely the freaks of children celebrating the wake of "Biddy," or whoever the person might be, and were not in any way connected with that system of moonlighting which had gained for the county an unenviable notoriety during the past few months.


said, he had forgotten to state that the children were disguised or got up in some sort of costume, and he might also have stated that the entire story was a hoax.