HL Deb 10 May 1904 vol 134 cc876-9

My Lords, I rise to ask His Majesty's Government whether their attention has been directed to a resolution of the South Galway Executive of the United Irish League, as reported in the Connacht Leader of 19th March last, according to which that body had decided on sending a circular to the secretary of each of its affiliated branches— asking that the local committee would take into consideration what action should be taken by them, with a view of compelling the landlords to sell before the next May rents became due, and containing a further instruction to these branches— to send a delegation without fail to the next meeting of the executive to explain what is being done by each branch; what steps, if any, the Government have taken to put a stop to such lawless conduct, or to meet the contemptuous defiance hurled by the South Galway Leaguers at the "voluntary principle" supposed to have been embodied firmly in the Irish Land Act of last session; and further, to ask, in the event of no action having yet been taken, whether the Government realise the effect of tamely ignoring such a menace, not alone to the property of those landlords affected thereby, but also to the agrarian peace of the West of Ireland.


My Lords, the matter to which the noble Lord has referred has attracted the attention of His Majesty's Government, and I have to inform him that there is no doubt that the resolution referred to was mischievous and illegal, and any attempt to carry it out in action would involve the partise concerned in crime. The May gale has not yet been collected. Up to the present moment there has not been any overt act committed in furtherance of the objects of the suggested combination, but the police are giving the matter their close attention, and His Majesty's Government will be prepared to take all measures necessary to protect the liberty and property of individuals and to enforce the law.


My Lords, I, to some extent, anticipated the answer which has just been given. In fact, I expressed some doubt when my noble friend showed me his Question as to whether it would not be better to defer calling attention to the matter until something more definite occurred, or at least until it had been seen whether the resolution to which the Question referred had been adopted by, or had commended itself to, other parts of the county. But while I thought the Question somewhat premature, I am extremely glad to hear that the matter has not escaped the notice of His Majesty's Government. In the West, especially, of Ireland, the expectations of the people have been raised to such a pitch by articles in the Nationalist Press and by speeches made in different parts of the country that the voluntary character of the Act of last year appears to be quite lost sight of, and the belief seems firmly fixed in their minds that a landowner is bound to sell his property to his tenants at whatever terms it may be perfectly convenient for the tenants to offer. The consequence is that only very ruinous terms are offered—terms such as no man who is prepared to sell, or even is anxious to sell, can possibly accept; and the Act to a very large extent remains a dead letter. The result is that there is great disappointment and a smouldering discontent which past experience teaches us may be fanned into a flame and lead to a renewal of the land war—a state of things which would not only be injurious to landlords, but most detrimental to the peace and prosperity of the whole country. I am very glad, therefore, to hear that His Majesty's Government have their attention directed to the subject, and I hope they will do their utmost to check any species of intimidation or agitation that might lead to such a result.


My Lords, I have heard with great pleasure the statement of the noble Earl who represents the Irish Office, for I am, perhaps, the last individual in this House who has suffered from the Land League. For a number of years I have never had the slightest difficulty with any one of my tenants. But, unfortunately, a short time ago a body of them suddenly appeared before my agent, and, almost putting a pistol to his head, demanded that he should sell my property at the ridiculous price of something like nineteen years purchase. Considering that the property adjoins the city of Cork that offer could not, of course, be entertained for a moment. What has been the result? The Land League held a big meeting on Sunday. They abused me and my agent, and I was distinctly told that I should not receive any more rent until I agreed to come to terms with my tenants. Now that is a very serious state of things to be existing at this moment in Ireland, and if His Majesty's Government do not speedily take steps to attend to it the Act which we all looked to as creating peace and contentment in that country will have the opposite effect.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past Five o'clock, to Friday next, half-past Ten o'clock.