THE EARL OF ARRAN
rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether, in view of the statement of the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland on 12th June that he expected owners of property in Ireland to take "the ordinary steps to secure their property," they would define those "steps."
The noble Earl said: My Lords, in rising to ask the Question which stands in my name I venture to express my anxiety not to embarrass in any way the authorities in Ireland in the very difficult situation which now exists in that country. That the situation is a serious one is, I think, generally acknowledged, and it was admitted to be so by His Majesty's Government in the debate which took place the other day following the Question of my noble friend Lord Londonderry. It was natural that His Majesty's Government should take the most optimistic view, but, even taking that view, the best that could be said of the situation in Ireland was that, like the curate's egg, parts of the country were excellent. It was generally admitted that the situation in various parts of Ireland was a very serious one.
I am perfectly convinced of the anxiety and the determination of His 814 Majesty's Government to re-establish law and order in Ireland, but, as has been repeatedly said both here and elsewhere, the impression, wrongful though it is, has got abroad in Ireland that His Majesty's Government are in sympathy with the agitation. We have heard a great deal about Irish ideas and that Englishmen fail to understand those ideas. I would like to remind your Lordships that Irish Nationalists are not the only Irishmen in Ireland, but that we Irish Unionists who live in Ireland claim the same right to that nationality and the same right to understand Irish ideas. I venture to hope that I may show to-night how, according to Irish ideas, the interpretation has come about that His Majesty's Government are in sympathy with the agitation. It has arisen from various speeches which have been made by different Members of His Majesty's Government. Let me once more repeat that I am convinced of this being a wrong interpretation. I do not wish to refer unnecessarily to the debate which followed Lord Londonderry's Question, but in that debate my noble friend Lord Denman in replying for the Government made a remark which has almost become historical. In discussing the Question of cattle driving the noble Lord said, speaking on behalf of His Majesty's Government, that the Government did not consider this to be a serious crime.
§ * THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The Earl of CREWE)
I do not think that is what my noble friend said.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
Well, the noble Lord said that, in the opinion of the Government, it was not a crime of a serious nature.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
That it was not in itself a crime of a serious nature. 815 I venture to think the noble Lord's words, as corrected, will serve my argument just the same. My noble friend Lord Donoughmore, in criticising that remark, foretold, with what must have seemed clairvoyance to many Englishmen but which to those of us who know Ireland and Irish ideas was merely reading from an open book, what the effect of that speech would be. It was telegraphed over to Ireland that night and published in every Nationalist paper the following morning; it was read in every Irish cabin, and the interpretation which was foretold was placed upon it. It was used by solicitors in defence of cattle drivers and in justification of their clients' action.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
I know of one case in which it was used by a solicitor in the defence of his client.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
I feel that the noble Lord cannot have considered their solemnity when he uttered those words so lightly, and unless they are withdrawn I believe that in the coming winter the effect may be disastrous. It is perfectly true—and I recollect with what joy we heard the statement—that the noble Marquess who leads the House, Lord Ripon, assured us that His Majesty's Government intended to re-establish law and order, but I venture to think that Lord Denman's speech has made the re-establishment of law and order more difficult. I most sincerely hope that the remark will be withdrawn, or otherwise the impression will remain, wrongful though I know it is, that His Majesty's Government are in sympathy with this form of agitation. If the story could end here I think it would be sufficiently serious, but to our astonishment, and I venture to think to the astonishment of the agitators themselves, we read in the newspapers a report of some remarks made by the Chief Secretary. I propose to make the quotation from the Freeman's Journal, because it is the most widely read Nationalist 816 paper in Ireland, but should your Lordships' wish it I will also quote from the London Times and from the Irish Times. Mr. Birrell is reported in the Freeman's Journal to have said, in discussing this question of cattle driving—The police authorities have offered all possible protection to the holders of grazing farms, and have in many cases succeeded in preventing cattle drives.I think the inference from that is that in many cases they have not succeeded. Mr. Birrell continued—It must be understood that police efforts are but an adjunct to the primary duty of an owner to provide for the safety of his property.Mr. Birrell went on to say—The Inspector-General informs me that hitherto the owners of cattle have done practically nothing to protect the farms. The police will continue to afford all the protection in their power, but it is obviously impossible to place a large force of police in every one of the numerous grazing farms in the country.Later on the Chief Secretary is reported to have said—I think the Inspector-General is perfectly justified. It is the duty of the people in Ireland or elsewhere to protect their own property.I should like to take the interpretation that would be placed on those words according to Irish ideas. Parts of Ireland are, on general admission, in a very serious condition. The present agitation chiefly takes the form of cattle driving, which, after all, is the depreciation or destruction of a man's property by violence, and has been described by one of His Majesty's Judges in these words—This was actually a conspiracy which on ordinary moral grounds amounted to highway robbery.Yet one of His Majesty's advisers states in your Lordships' House that this is not, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, a very serious crime; and the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in the words which I have just quoted—and I take it that the right hon. Gentleman is accurately reported—states that people must take the ordinary steps to protect themselves. My Lords, what are the ordinary steps which a man can take?
In the prehistoric age the responsibility of defending property rested upon its owners, who defended it to the best of their ability. But civilisation, by slow degrees, destroyed these ruder methods, 817 and from time immemorial it has been comfortably arranged that in return for the payment of certain rates and taxes and for the performance of the ordinary duties of a citizen, the law undertakes to protect the individual and his property. Are we to understand that the Chief Secretary for Ireland proposes that we should return to these ruder methods? What are the steps that a man in such a position can take? I would remind your Lordships that in almost every case of cattle driving the man would be under the boycott. To show what boycotting means in Ireland I propose to read a letter from a Unionist magistrate in county Galway. This gentleman writes—Boycotting around me is fierce. Several new decrees were issued by the committee of the League on Sunday night, and all traders were warned not to supply the parties with any goods. Only this morning one of those sentenced on Sunday came and asked me for heaven's sake to lend him £2 that he might go to a place fourteen miles distant in order to procure the necessaries of life. Men in more or less quiet possession of their farms since 1886 wore warned to give them up, and orders for strict boycotting wore issued against them.‖It is simply a hideous reign of terror. How it will end God only knows. Well may we say 'God save Ireland.'I would ask your Lordships what are the ordinary steps that a man in such a position could take to protect his own property? It does not require any great effort of imagination to picture the position. A man, himself boycotted and with no friends and no assistants except members of his own family, is awakened in the dead of night to find his sheep being driven from his own fields. What steps could such a man take to prevent the drive? There is only one thing he could do, namely, to take the law into his own hands and fire upon the people; but I can scarcely believe that the Chief Secretary intended that the victims of such outrages were to take so extreme and so dreadful a measure.
The impression that all these incidents and speeches are making upon us is that the authorities in Ireland are at their wit's end what to do. We heard from the Government themselves only last week that from fifteen to seventeen outrages had happened during the last two or three months, or, at any rate, during the present year, in connection 818 with which no arrests had been made. It looks as though the ordinary law has completely failed in some parts of Ireland. I know there is another law, but that law His Majesty's Government have declared to be dead and buried, and they seem unwilling to exhume the corpse. Some people attempt to make out that the condition of Ireland is not so bad as it is said to be, but I think the admissions made by His Majesty's Government are sufficient to show that the condition of Ireland—I do not wish to use too strong a word—is dreadful.
I have often wondered why the opinions of Unionists in Ireland, who have always been loyal to the flag, regarding the state of that country should be treated with abuse and contempt—why, to quote another saying of the Chief Secretary, we should be described as "carrion crows." I would remind your Lordships that we Unionists have the cause of Ireland as deeply at heart as any Nationalist. All that we desire is to see the condition of Ireland such as will ensure for the country the prospect of advancement, prosperity, and repose. I know that the accusation has been made against Irish Unionists that we try to make out that the condition of Ireland is worse than it is in order to prejudice the English mind against granting Home Rule. I should be very sorry to think that anyone in a responsible position would stoop to believe a suggestion so baseless.
Many people in Ireland are awaiting with great interest the Answer of His Majesty's Government to this Question, and I venture to hope that we shall receive to night an assurance to the effect that the words of the Chief Secretary do not bear the sinister meaning which has been put upon them. I also hope that His Majesty's Government will give an assurance, so emphatic and so clear that it will reach to the uttermost ends of the agitated parts of Ireland, of their intention to stamp out the lawlessness that now exists; and I also hope that we may have an assurance from the Government that residents in Ireland, of whatever class, whatever politics, and whatever creed, may depend on the law to defend them and their property with the same reason and the same confidence 819 under a Liberal Government as under a Conservative Government. I beg to put the Question standing in my name.
My Lords, before I answer the Question which the noble Earl has placed on the Paper, I desire to refer briefly, as he did, to an incident arising out of the recent Irish debate in your Lordships' House. It is this, that when I make use of some expression which provokes unsparing criticism from the Party opposite then I am told that I am a Minister. The noble and learned Lord the ex-Lord Chancellor of Ireland, speaking with all the weight to which his position entitled him, alluded to me the other day as a Minister.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
What I said was that the noble Lord, who was avowedly the mouthpiece of a great Department, was speaking for that Department, and was therefore stating the views of the Government. He was not speaking his individual opinions.
When only Lord Crewe and myself had spoken the noble and learned Lord said that "Minister after Minister," rising from this Bench, had stated—and so on. I also think that Lord Donoughmore alluded to me as a responsible Minister. If noble Lords opposite and the Party to which they belong took the consistent attitude of treating my utterances as those of a responsible Minister, of course I should not complain. Unfortunately that is not the consistent attitude of the Party opposite, because when I say something which might be considered a desirable thing to say then I understand from an influential section of the Unionist Press that had the particular remark been made by a responsible Minister, had it come from any of the responsible Ministers who sit on the Front Bench behind me, it would have carried some weight, but coming from such a lowly and insignificant person as a Lord in Waiting to the King it is absolutely unreliable. That has been the sense in which some of my remarks at all events have been received by the Unionist Press. Again I say that if that were the consistent attitude of the Party opposite, although it might be rather a harsh thing to say, I should 820 certainly not complain. One prominent provincial paper which supports the Party opposite stated that I hold such a teeny-weeny office that nothing I said could be treated as reliable. Well, if these different lines of argument are used alternately, or if they are used, as they were in this case, to criticise the same speech, then I say that I have a very real and just ground of complaint, because it amounts to this—that nothing I can possibly say in the eyes of the Party opposite can be right, and everything I say must necessarily be wrong.
Well, I think that is a fair deduction to make. Cheered and invigorated by that thought I will proceed to answer the Question which the noble Earl has placed on the Paper. As hs has told the House, this Question arises out of an Answer given by the Chief Secretary for Ireland in another place, and I should like to tell the House the circumstances under which that reply was given. It had been reported to the Inspector-General of Constabulary in Ireland that in many cases when cattle raids were threatened the graziers had taken no steps to give any assistance whatever to the police. In some cases they or their servants had actually hampered the action of the police; and in other cases when informed by the police that a cattle raid would take place at a given time in a given locality they had deliberately remained absent and thrown the whole burden of protecting the cattle upon the police. At a place in Roscommon where a cattle drive had taken place the police assembled and drove the cattle back. A conflict with the mob ensued, and, while the attention of the police was so occupied, a herd who was employed to look after the cattle drove them away in the direction which the mob desired.
I cannot recollect for the moment the name of the farm, but I can ascertain particulars. I do not pretend to be acquainted with the 821 conditions of life in the West of Ireland, or indeed in any other part of Ireland; but I have never heard of a country in which a man did not take some steps to protect his property if it were attacked. I am asked what steps could be taken. Well, the following steps would materially assist the police. If owners of cattle knew that a raid was going to take place they should be on the spot and assist the police in identifying the persons who were breaking the law. They might also, one would have thought, do their best to employ reliable men to look after their cattle, and give information to the police if they knew a raid was going to take place, which, in some instances at all events, I understand, has not been done. Further, the Attorney-General for Ireland suggests that graziers should sometimes take civil proceedings by way of trespass against the more substantial offenders, when they could recover damages in the county court with an appeal to the High Court, without the intervention of a jury. I rather think the Answer the Chief Secretary made in the House of Commons was almost in the identical words that came from the Inspector-General's office in Dublin. Naturally, the Chief Secretary adopted those words, and he assumes entire responsibility for them. The use of this incident as evidence that the Chief Secretary is indifferent to the cause of law and order in Ireland shows how false and groundless insinuations such as these are.
Some expressions which I recently used have been alluded to. My speech was received next day in a considerable section of the Unionist Press as showing that the Government were determined to maintain law and order in Ireland. That was the impression I had hoped to give. If I had thought the words I used were liable to the misinterpretation which has been placed upon them, I would have endeavoured to express myself in different terms. I can only say that the people who encourage, and the people who continue the practice of cattle driving, besides being engaged in an entirely lawless enterprise, are rendering a grave disservice to the people of the disturbed district, for they render the task of those who are 822 endeavouring by legislative reforms to do something for the unhappy case of these people infinitely more difficult.
* LORD CLONBROCK
My Lords, I was very glad when I saw on the Paper the Question which my noble friend Lord Arran had put down. I was then in the West of Ireland where there was the greatest possible perplexity as to what the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant could mean when he said that farmers were bound to take the ordinary precautions, (therefore, reproaching them, apparently, for not having done so), and that police assistance was only an adjunct to what the owners themselves ought to do. I therefore anxiously looked for the Answer which would be given to my noble friend's Question by His Majesty's Government, but I cannot say that the matter has been made much clearer to me now that that Answer has been given.
The noble Lord has told us of an instance where, when a cattle drive was taking place, the herd employed by the farmer drove the cattle in the wrong direction. Well, it is rather hard to blame the owner because his herd, who was probably in collusion with the mob and was acting under the orders of the United Irish League, took this action. In other cases owners are blamed because they have not identified the people concerned. Now, that is a matter of the greatest possible difficulty, unless the owner of the farm himself happens to know the people concerned by sight, for he cannot hope to obtain information as to who they are, as his herd and others on the farm would be afraid to identify the offenders. I have read cases where the people whose cattle had been driven off had given information to the police that so-and-so were concerned in it, but when the cases came for trial they swore that they did not know any one of them. Further, the noble Lord stated that it would be the business of the owner of a farm to engage a certain number of people to assist in protecting him. That is only another illustration of the idea, which it seems impossible to eradicate from the English mind, that what applies to England applies to every other country 823 under heaven, and that action which would be successful in England must necessarily be successful everywhere else. Can anybody who has followed the state of things in the West of Ireland think it possible that trustworthy people could be enrolled for such a purpose?
My noble friend who asked the Question read a letter showing the League's power of boycotting, and how persons boycotted are prevented from obtaining the mere necessaries of life. Only yesterday I heard from the county of Ross-common of a case where a man could not get a shearer to shear his sheep, and he sent to his brother, a farmer many miles off, requesting him to send a man. This shearer arrived, but returned the next day, stating that he had been ordered to leave by the United Irish League and was afraid to stay. If a farmer cannot engage a man to shear his sheep, is it likely that he can engage a number of men to protect his property. As long as the United Irish League is allowed to hold supremacy unchallenged, as at present, it is idle to talk of people obtaining any assistance from those around them, or even from a distance, to resist these attacks. The League holds regular courts, it issues decrees and they are blindly obeyed. The League interferes in every relation of life, and orders people to cease working for a man who is unpopular.
It may be asked, Why do people submit to this grinding tyranny? My Lords, they have too keen a recollection of the way in which the party of agitation, whether the Land League, the National League, or the United Irish League, has been accustomed in former years to enforce their decrees. I allude not only to the dark days of 1881, 1882, and 1883, to the terrible times when murders and outrages of all kinds were of constant occurrence, but to a much more recent period. Only a few years ago a neighbour of mine—a farmer—was ordered by the United Irish League to surrender a farm in a distant part of the county. He asked the deputation which came to him who was going to give him compensation. The answer was: "You will be safe and your stock too." He naturally replied: "Then if anything happens to me or to my stock 824 it will be known where it comes from." A short time afterwards, at least twenty of his cattle had their tails cut, not I am glad to say hacked off as has been sometimes done, but so marked that they could be identified as boycotted cattle, and were thereby rendered unsaleable at any fair or market. As long as this tyranny exists in the country it is idle to hope that any progress or improvement can be made.
We are informed that the country is quiet. It is deadly quiet in the sense that outrages of a very serious nature are not committed. The League possesses so thorough an organisation that it is able to maintain its authority without the necessity of committing the outrages which formerly used to disgrace the country. We are told, too, that the ordinary law is sufficient for the maintenance of order. In a normal state of society no doubt the ordinary law is sufficient. But in a state such as exists now it is not sufficient. The ordinary law can protect a man's life, but it cannot protect him from the persecution which renders life intolerable. It can to a certain extent protect his property, but it cannot secure him in the legitimate employment of it whereby alone he can make a livelihood. I would therefore earnestly appeal to His Majesty's Government to put in force the powers which they have in reserve and free Ireland from the incubus of the tyranny of the League which is paralysing the whole country.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord Loreburn)
My Lords, my right hon. friend the Chief Secretary has asked me to say something in the course of this debate, which relates to the administration of the law. I think we ought first to form an opinion as to what is actually going on. What is actually going on is this, that in certain parts of Ireland, almost entirely in Galway and Roscommon, there are unlawful proceedings, principally cattle driving. The extent of the disturbed district is about 23,000 acres, not a very large district.
At the same time I have not the slightest wish to minimise the seriousness of the fact that these cattle drives take place in considerable number and that 825 they take place by night as well as by day. I do not think my noble friend Lord Denman had the smallest intention of minimising or treating with levity that which has taken place. There is no doubt that a state of things of this kind maybe the prelude to more serious things, but it should be borne in mind—and I think that was what my noble friend Lord Denman meant—that there is a favourable side to it, comparatively speaking, and that is the absence, which I am thankful to note, of the hideous and revolting practice of mutilating cattle which was at one time common in Ireland. I am glad that at least this offence has not been accompanied by cruelty and cowardice and brutality, for that is the only language I have ever applied or will apply to the ill-treatment of dumb and inoffensive animals. That is, at all events, satisfactory, and I believe it is due to the progress of civilising influences and to the spirit and temper which pervades Ireland as a whole.
It is not sufficient to see what is being done. It seems to me necessary also to ascertain what is the source of the trouble, what is the original foundation of it. Well, my Lords, I do not suppose there can be any doubt that it is part of the agrarian struggle which has distressed Ireland for so long. In these parts there have been great clearances, and the agricultural holdings which existed in times past have been turned into large grazing farms. I am stating an historical fact, and in the knowledge of that fact is to be learnt the ultimate and real remedy. I do not put that forward in the least degree as any justification of what is being done, but only as a fact in the consideration of which you will find the true remedy for the existing condition of things.
I need not repeat what has been said by my noble friends in the previous debate about the duty of the Government, which is an elementary proposition. The police are patrolling the district, and all is being done, as my right hon. friend assures me, that can be done for the purpose of protecting the grazing farms and the graziers and those in their employ. The noble Earl has criticised the state- 826 ment of my right hon. friend that there ought to be some self-help on the part of those who own the grazing lands, and it is suggested that this is something new. There are noble Lords in this House who have been responsible for the government of Ireland, and I am sure they will not contradict me when I say that this observation about the duty of persons to assist in protecting themselves has been made and supported and endorsed by leading statesmen on the Conservative side in former Governments, not once, but repeatedly. While the police are bound to extend their protection it is not sufficient for those in possession of these farms to stand supine and offer no assistance. Still less is it justifiable in them to refuse the means of identifying those who have committed offences.
The noble Lord has asked what it is that my right hon. friend Mr. Birrell referred to. Well, I will tell him. The owners in many cases and also the herds have failed to assist the police either actively or by identifying offenders, and they have failed subsequently to give truthful evidence, and on one occasion to which my noble friend referred they have actually played into the hands of the raiders. These proceedings have been repeatedly the subject of complaint by Ministers responsible for the government of Ireland. My noble friend gave one illustration. Let me give another. I do not propose to identify the case, but will show the information to any one who desires to see it. Certain cattle were driven off farms, and in two instances the owners and in others the stewards and the herds witnessed the occurrence. They made written and signed statements to the police and identified the offenders, who were in due course brought before the magistrates, but the witnesses falsified their statements and the cases had to be dismissed. It is and always has been a legitimate subject of observation that assistance of that kind has not been given to the police. I think myself that a certain amount of moral courage, firmness, and self-reliance may fairly be expected from those who are owners of property. At the same time I quite admit that they are entitled to the protection and assistance of the police.
827 While it is necessary to maintain the law—and the law will be maintained—it is also necessary to apply other remedies. The remedial policy of the Government, which will not be either accelerated or retarded or affected by the existence of this lawlessness, is by fair and honest methods towards the owners to obtain the land which is necessary for the purpose of the population of these districts, and that, I think, will be the real source of satisfaction and quiet in these parts of Ireland. I do not deny that there is intimidation in some parts, but I believe it is in a narrow compass. I remember an observation made by the late Lord Salisbury in regard to boycotting, which is a process I have never defended nor am I likely ever to defend it. Lord Salisbury said—It is extraordinarily difficult to chock and to bring under conrtol.I always feel, when I am speaking or thinking about this subject, that we do not realise that Ireland for the last forty years has been going through a real agrarian revolution. This social and agrarian revolution has proceeded in Ireland under Acts of Parliament for which both Parties have been in common responsible. In the first place there was the Act of 1881, which was a Liberal measure, and then came a series of Acts known as the Ashbourne Acts, and other measures have since followed. There still remains other work of the same kind to be done, and I certainly hope it will be done in as liberal and generous a spirit by purchasing honestly and on fair terms land which can be made available.
I will not dwell further upon the subject, except to say that it would, to my mind, be a very great misfortune if any debates in this House led the public here or in Ireland to think that there was any sympathy with lawlessness on the part of His Majesty's Government, which, I need hardly assure your Lordships, there is not. What we desire to do is to amend the condition of the people of Ireland by methods analogous to those which have been already been adopted in agrarian laws, and for my part I should most willingly and happily take part in that pending the time when what I believe to be the far superior and the only real remedy can be applied— 828 namely, to allow Irishmen to manage their own affairs.
§ *LORD ASHBOURNE
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has delivered an interesting speech, but he has not applied himself much to the question which was brought under the notice of the House by my noble friend Lord Arran. The noble and learned Lord spoke of the necessity of showing moral courage and self-reliance. Those are excellent words. I wish that His Majesty's Government would show moral courage and self-reliance in this matter. It was to induce the Government to recognise their fluty and not to shut their eyes to plain facts that my noble friend Lord Londonderry initiated a debate the other day, and with the same object in view my noble friend Lord Arran has recurred to the subject to-day.
The Lord Chancellor has not, I think, sufficiently recognised the gravity and the extent of the present disturbance in Ireland. The noble and learned Lord quoted a figure as representing the acreage of the disturbed district. I am not going to criticise the particular figure, but I do take exception to the broader declaration that the present state of affairs is confined to two counties. On the previous occasion when this matter was discussed as many as seven or eight counties were mentioned where lawlessness was proceeding. The West of Ireland is at the present moment so disturbed as to be in a state almost of civil war. It is not suggested that there is a wide state of general crime in the seven or eight counties where lawlessness exists, but it is asserted that there is what amounts to a conspiracy to make the lives of those who own these grass lands a burden, and either to compel them to surrender their lands, or to induce them, when their lands are reduced almost to the zero of value, to sell at a gross under-valuation.
The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said his view was that remedial legislation should be carried on by fair purchase on honest terms. We have never dissented from that. Abundance of land can be obtained in the west of Ireland now, in the very heart of the disturbed districts, if you go into the 829 market and say you are prepared to give fair and reasonable terms. But that has not been done. It has been said that this is an agitation which has been going on in consequence of clearances over a great many years. I do not recognise that statement. This agitation is of comparatively recent date, and it has become more accentuated unfortunately during the last eighteen months. It has been going from bad to worse, and there is now a spirit of rampant lawlessness afoot. My noble friend behind me stated in the previous debate what is the most painful aspect of the whole matter—namely, that it is believed in Ireland that the object of this agitation is looked at by the Government with sympathy. The Lord Chancellor said that he sympathised with what it is intended to attain, but what is really aimed at is the dispossession of the present owners of the land by those who are now intimidating them.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
What I said could hardly, I think, have been misunderstood. I stated that the policy of the Government, quite apart from all these cattle-driving performances, was to acquire land on honest terms for the purpose of improving and enlarging holdings. That is a policy which was pursued by the late Government for many years.
§ * LORD ASHBOURNE
Yes, but this agitation is to take a short cut to purchase by intimidating owners and reducing the price of land to zero. Instead of the owners being given an honest price they are to be given it is hoped only such a price as will be deemed sufficient compensation for land the value of which has been reduced by what has been going on. I do not believe the Government sympathise with this lawlessness, but the effect of this agitation has been to cut down the value of land enormously, and so little has been done effectively to cope with the agitation that the belief is strong in the West of Ireland that the Government sympathise, not with the crime itself, but with what it is intended to attain as the result—the depreciation of the value of the land.
The people should be made to understand that intimidation will not pay. 830 It would be a monstrous thing after intimidation and lawlessness of this kind that those who were the leaders in this campaign should be allowed to benefit as a result of the consequent depreciation in the value of the land. This is a matter which Mr. Long when he was Chief Secretary applied himself to, and he indicated that the Estates Commissioners should take intimidation into account and see that properties in connection with which there had been intimidation were not given at any rate priority and were put back. I understand the noble Earl the Lord President stated, towards the close of his speech the other night, that he concurred in the opinion that those who had been guilty of intimidation should not get the benefit of that intimidation; in other words, that intimidation should not pay. The noble Earl said—I think the proper remedy is not to stop the sale of the estate, but to see that the persons guilty of intimidation do not obtain any allotments on that estate, and that is the course which I am led to believe is likely to be pursued.I think those words represent what should be the plain justice in the matter. I am very glad that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack used words that amounted to the same thing.
The position in parts of Ireland is very serious, and when you have a house or a wide district on fire the best thing to do is to stop the fuel. What efforts have been made in this case to stop the fuel? This is a common action to defy the law and to show that there is some power in these districts which is stronger than the law; that people need not fear the law, but must fear the other power which is not the law. That is the fuel which feeds the fire that is destroying the West of Ireland at the present time. It is all very well to say that in this state of terrorism landlords and fanners should display moral courage. Moral courage is very easy at Westminster, but it is very difficult in Roscommon. With regard to the statement made the other night by Lord Denman on the subject of cattle-driving, I was very glad to hear him explain that he would not have used those words if he had contemplated the meaning which would be attached to them.
831 How keen and active this campaign is appears from a statement in The Times of to-day that a Sligo County Councillor made a speech inviting the people who were present to—follow the Roscommon example and let the bullocks wander; and not be satisfied until the land was won for the people.When such speeches are made by responsible speakers they let in a flood of light on the condition of Ireland, for there is no suggestion of the delightful euphemism of "an honest price." What light has the Lord Chancellor thrown upon what Mr. Birrell had in his mind when he used the words "ordinary steps"? I do not like to suggest that Mr. Birrell had nothing definite in his mind when he used those words, because that would be indecorous and probably would not be entirely accurate. But what meaning had he? What is a poor man to do who is living in a disturbed district which has been allowed to get out of hand and in which this state of terrorism prevails? Everyone, of course, should have moral and physical courage, but I am confident that if the minds of many of your Lordships were zealously scanned by an earnest seaker after truth it would be discovered that the moral courage which you would exhibit would not be greater than that displayed by these poor people who have to think of their lives and of their wives and families.
I can imagine the conversation which took place between Mr. Birrell and the Inspector-General of Constabulary. Mr Birrell probably asked: "Why on earth don't you put down this thing?" and the Inspector-General no doubt replied: "I have not enough police. The men should help themselves. "I should like to ask whether the strength of the police force and the resident magistracy is being kept up in Ireland. There is some economy which is the dearest thing in the world. If you have reduced the police to a point when the law-breakers are more powerful than the police, is that right? Benevolent words have been used to-night by the Government. But what is wanting is courage energy, and determination. I think it might be as well if the Irish Government ware to try and borrow the vigour of Mr. Morley for two or three months in Ireland.
* THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, having listened to the speeches which were delivered by Lord Denman and by the Lord Chancellor, I ask myself, what answer have we got? Lord Denman told us that the Attorney-General recommended that civil proceedings should be taken by the graziers for trespass. Anybody who knows Ireland would state at once that a grazier who took civil proceedings for trespass might as well leave the country. There would be an end of him altogether, and he would never have a chance of holding another grazing farm in Ireland. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack stated definitely that the district in which these disorders were taking place was only 23,000 acres in extent. The truth of the matter is that the disorder is prevalent in nine counties in Ireland, and is not confined to anything like such a small area as 23,000 acres.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
What I said was that the grass farms in connection with which disturbances actually exist amount to 23,000 acres—I ought to have said 22,410 acres.
* THE EARL OF MAYO
I could give your Lordships chapter and verse to show that the disorder exists in nine counties. The Lord Chancellor further stated that the graziers should display the quality of self-help and should not stand supine. I venture to think it is impossible to contemplate a crowd of 700 men and not stand supine. I do not think the Lord Chancellor fully realizes the position. I have a farm which I let on the eleven-months' grazing system. The ordinary protection on that farm is my own herd, who is responsible for the cattle. If 400, or even fifty, people came on a Sunday afternoon or in the middle of the night to drive the cattle off, what could the herd do? He could do nothing at all. If an attempt of this kind to drive cattle took place in a parish in, say, Wiltshire, in England, the suggestion would never be made that the farmer must take the necessary precautions himself. If a man identifies an offender in Ireland he becomes in many cases what is known as an "informer," and if he is not actually shot he is told to get out of the country as quickly as he can or he will be shot. 833 That is the reason why people are afraid of giving evidence which in Ireland is becoming an informer.
The noble Lord who represents the Irish Office has suggested that the graziers should take civil proceedings for trespass, and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has declared that the population are eventually to have these lands and that the process will not be accelerated by cattle-driving. Those, my Lords, are the two things which the Government have given us to think over. After the very decisive words of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House the other day, in which he said that the Government were determined to restore law and order in Ireland, I really do not think the answer which has been given by the Government to-day is at all satisfactory. To show how the chickens of Mr. Birrell have come home to roost, I would like to read what a solicitor for the defence in a prosecution at Athenry said. He stated—One could not help seeing that the person responsible for the government of the country— the Chief Secretary—had himself said that the people in charge ought to do something to protect their own property; yet the Bench were asked to return the defendants for trial when the owner had not made any attempt to protect the stock.The Crown witness was the policeman who was on the land guarding the sheep. The people opened the gate and drove the cattle out. Informations were refused, and the prisoners were not returned for trial by the magistrates. I consider, as one living in Ireland, that the answer given by the Government to-day is not half as satisfactory as the reply which we received the other night. We should like to have something definite. To suggest civil proceedings for trespass is merely to laugh at us in your sleeves. Therefore, in the name of those who are bullied and harrowed by the United Irish League, I ask for more information as to the definite steps they should take to protect themselves from these cattle-driving raids.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords, before the noble Earl oppo- 834 site replies I would like to ask a question, but as a preliminary I wish to enter my protest against one statement which was made by the noble Lord who represents the Irish Office when he blamed us for certain things appearing in the Press which usually supports us. The noble Lord drew a lugubrious picture of his own position, in which he claimed that he is, so to speak, always minimised when he is good, and magnified when he is naughty. But that is not our position. We accept him as the responsible speaker—I use this word as he objects to the word "Minister"—holding the brief of the Department, and we accept everything he says as representing the voice of the Irish Office, and we shall follow no other course. But if the noble Lord is going to hold us responsible for everything that may be said by some small section, which he does not specify, of the Unionist Press, we may be tempted to retaliate and hold noble Lords opposite responsible for everything that is said by the Press which usually supports them, and in that case I do not think we should have the worst of the bargain.
I remember a certain Amendment to the Irish Labourers Bill last year, which we accepted as a compromise at the suggestion of the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council, and we were rather surprised when that Amendment reached the House of Commons to find the Chief Secretary himself moving that the House of Commons should disagree with it. Similarly we have been a little frightened as regards the statement which my noble and learned friend Lord Ashbourne has quoted of the noble Earl the Lord President in the recent debate. The noble Earl told us that arrangements were going to be made by which agitators should not be allowed to profit by the result of their agitation in the case of sales. I am told—I have not actually looked up the quotation—that the Chief Secretary in another place has refused to say anything about any regulation being forthcoming to that effect, and I therefore beg to ask if the Government can tell us when the draft regulation 'which it will be necessary to make will be laid on the Table of your Lordships' House.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, this debate has wandered over a considerable field, as debates arc accustomed to do in this House, and Irish debates in particular. The question as put by the noble Earl opposite was simply and solely a police question, and I say so because it has been already stated by my noble friends who have spoken that my right hon. friend the Chief Secretary, in giving the answer he did, made it at the desire of the police authorities in Ireland. The noble and learned Lord on the Front Bench opposite seemed to think that the Chief Secretary had forced this opinion on the police, and that it was not a voluntary opinion on their part. I can assure him that he is entirely wrong.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
I did not wish to convey that. I rather suggested that I thought it possible that there had been a conversation in which the police authorities intimated that they could not do more without additional police.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I will deal with the question of more police in a moment. I can assure the noble Lord that it is entirely wrong to suppose that the Chief Secretary had forced upon the police the opinion that owners of property should take the ordinary steps to secure their property. I should have thought that any one who had been at any time concerned with the government of Ireland would know that this is a very old story indeed, and I challenge contradiction from the noble Marquess opposite—the Marquess of Londonderry —who is equally familiar with these matters, when I say that it has been a frequent subject of complaint on the part of the police that the whole responsibility is thrown upon them for the protection of property. There were well-known cases in which on large farms one caretaker was placed in charge of a large quantity of stock. That caretaker had to be guarded by a body of police, who were nominally there to protect the caretaker but who were in reality desired by the owner to act as assistant herds; and that was a process naturally resented by the police.
It is perfectly true, of course, in these particular Roscommon and Galway cases, 836 that there are certain things which the graziers cannot do. Although a great many of them are fairly substantial men, they cannot, as though they were American millionaires, have an army of Pinkerton detectives to protect their stock; but they could employ men of sufficiently resolute character to be willing, not only to identify, but to swear to the identity of those who lead and are mainly responsible for these raids. Your Lord ships know very well that in the course of your own affairs you employ a large number of people to watch game. You take care to employ people of sufficiently resolute character, who would not be readily frightened by threats, and generally you recognise it to be your duty to look after your property as far as you can. If you wore to expect the county police to parade your covers in large numbers to look after your pheasants, I am afraid you would find that the chief constable of the county would object to undertaking that duty, and after a time most of the pheasants would not be there. In Ireland, however, in the districts in question, it is the case that the graziers as a class have not attempted to take any special steps to meet this, I admit, extremely difficult and trouble some form of agitation. They would no doubt be put to some extra expense for it, but that is a matter which I fear could not be avoided. They have not attempted, for instance, to drive their cattle together in many cases; they allow them to wander at night over farms in a great many cases imperfectly fenced, and therefore they facilitate —
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I know the character of Irish fences. Then the noble Lord opposite, Lord Clonbrock, admitted that in a great many cases those who could identify marauders would not stick to their identification when it came to be a, matter of doing so in a Court of law.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
That is exactly what the police complain of. I 837 quite admit that owing to the extremely strong force of public opinion, often, I am afraid, of an illegitimate kind, which exists in these parts their lives might not be made entirely pleasant for them; but, at the same time, these people know perfectly well that they would be adequately protected.. I think we are entitled to ask, in return, what any kind of law will do for people who refuse to give evidence. Under the strongest system of coercion Government could do no more than supply people with adequate police protection, and, in the absence of all evidence, I confess I do not see how you can hope to convict marauders.
The noble and learned Lord who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench referred to the wide extent of the disturbances, but my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack was perfectly within his right in stating, as he did, the acreage of the grass farms involved in the present agitation. The noble Earl Lord Mayo speaks of nine counties, but he knows as well as I do that the real weight of the disturbances rests upon two districts—parts of Roscommon and the East Riding of Galway, though I quite admit there are sporadic outbursts in other counties. The noble and learned Lord objected to the Lord Chancellor's history. It is perfectly true that these have to a certain extent been grazing districts for a great number of years, but the noble and learned Lord must surely be aware that within the last sixty or seventy years there have been very large clearances in Roscommon, and that the area under grass in that county is very much larger now than it was.
The noble and learned Lord will also realise that there has been a tendency to keep land in grass which might have been otherwise employed. He will know what I mean when I mention the limit of pasture farms which enabled a landlord to keep out of the Land Act of 1881. The utterly unintended and unforeseen tendency of the section in question undoubtedly was to encourage landlords to keep lands in grass which otherwise they might have been willing to employ differently. The noble and learned Lord also said that intimidation ought not to pay, and he alluded to an expression 838 which fell from me in the last debate. It was understood to be the view of the late Government, at any rate of Mr. Long, that in cases where intimidation had existed sales should not take place, and that appeared to be a rather singular method of proceeding.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
Postponed until all other cases had been disposed of. In any ease that seemed to me a somewhat illogical proceeding because you could not be at all sure that you would punish the right persons. I entirely hold to what I said as to the desirability of preventing those who are convicted of intimidation from profiting by it. It seems to me a most proper and reasonable course to pursue, but I think it is important to be clear upon this point. You ought not to attempt to punish an entire district because there has been some intimidation in it, and the only people who in my view ought to be subject to disability are those who have been actually found guilty of intimidation. As the noble Earl Lord Donoughmore knows, I am not at the Irish Office, and therefore if he will kindly put down his Question on this point in the terms in which he asked it in his speech, either I or my noble friend Lord Denman, will be happy to answer it.
The noble and learned Lord opposite fell somewhat foul of my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack for the manner in which he spoke of the agitation. It would be utterly unreasonable to accuse my noble and learned friend of expressing the faintest kind of sympathy with any agitation of a lawless character. What he did was to attempt to account for it, which is an entirely different matter. I am entirely at one with my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack in everything he said as to the remedy which ought to be adopted for this unfortunate state of things; and I also agree that if that remedy is the right one, that is to say the purchase of these lands for the purpose of being added to uneconomic holdings, it ought not to be postponed on account even of lawless agitation. I do not know whether noble Lords opposite will accept that, but it is a 839 proposition which I should lay down. If a particular course of policy is right in itself it ought not to be either postponed or hurried on account of agitation of any character. To my mind the policy of postponing reforms in Ireland on the ground that the country was lawless has been most fatal in its results. I do not know anything which to those who read the past history of Ireland more fully accounts for the Irish difficulty than that most suicidal course which Governments, not on one side only, have been disposed to take.
Then the noble and learned Lord asked a question with reference to the police. The police, as the House probably knows, have been considerably reduced, but they have not been reduced by this Government. I think, speaking from memory, that there are a few more police now than when we came into office. My impression is that there are now some two or three thousand fewer police than when I left Ireland in 1895, but no reduction has been made by the present Government; and, so far as I am aware, the forces at the disposal of the Chief Secretary for this purpose have proved adequate, and there is no case in which protection has not been afforded on account of the insufficiency of the police. I think I have dealt with the various points raised by noble Lords opposite. I confess to having been sorry that the observation made by my noble friend Lord Denman during the last debate was not allowed to rest. The noble Lord was, I think, wilfully misunderstood by two classes of persons. He was wilfully misunderstood by some people in Ireland who chose to regard what I thought a perfectly straightforward and intelligible phrase as affording some kind of colour for their lawless proceedings. He was also, I am afraid, somewhat wilfully misunderstood by friends of noble Lords opposite who, in search of a dialectical advantage, did not quite realise the harm that they themselves were doing in Ireland by putting a colour on my noble friend's words which we maintain they did not bear.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
They only re-echoed our words. Did we wilfully misrepresent what the noble Lord said?
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I hope not. I certainly did not accuse noble Lords of misrepresentation. But I do say this, that if there was any dialectical advantage to be obtained against my noble friend it was pressed with rather less generosity than I, in my longer experience than that of the noble Lord, have known in this House, particularly whore younger Members of the House were concerned.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
If the noble Earl had withdrawn the expression on the last occasion the matter would have been put right.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I certainly did not ' withdraw the words, and I should not have withdrawn them if I had said them. I am sorry my noble friend was misunderstood, and I think he has explained, with the utmost fairness, that if he had supposed that his words would have been misunderstood he would have chosen others. There is nothing singular about finding one's words read in different ways in Ireland. I did not happen to come across the comments in the Irish papers on the speech I made myself in the last debate, but I am told that whereas the papers which support noble Lords opposite spoke of that speech as being extremely mischievous and showing neglect of the duties of a responsible Minister in relation to law and order, the Nationalist newspapers spoke of it as being of the rather truculent and tyrannical character which they would have expected from its author. Consequently, I do not think my noble friend need greatly mind if his words, too, have been received in more than one sense. The noble Lord who introduced 841 this subject used one phrase to which I am entitled to allude, if we are to be such great purists in regard to expression. He said the condition of Ireland was "dreadful." That is a phrase I should be very sorry to see go out, because I do not think it is one which can be fairly sustained in argument.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
I only used the expression as applied to those spots which His Majesty's Government admit to be in a bad state.
§ * THE EARL OR CREWE
I quite recognise that, but those were the words he used, and I allude to the expression more as an instance of the kind of statement which I am afraid does harm. I have regarded this debate all through as being rather more a criticism of the police than a criticism of His Majesty's Government, and that is one of the reasons why I am sorry it has taken place. We all, I am sure, would desire to strengthen and support the hands of that fine force, the Royal Irish Constabulary, in every conceivable way, and I am obliged to remind noble Lords that the observation of the Chief Secretary to which attention has been drawn was an observation made, not out of the inner consciousness of my right hon. friend, but at the absolute desire of the police themselves.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, though this debate, as was stated by the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council, has ranged over a very wide field, I do not consider that my noble friend who has asked this Question has received an Answer of a satisfactory character from either of the noble Lords who have addressed us from the Government Bench. All that I could gather from their speeches was that the people in those parts of Ireland which are under the tyranny of the United Irish League should defend themselves and render assistance to the police; but noble Lords behind me who have had experience of these districts will confirm me when I say that it is quite impossible for a small minority in an isolated position to defend themselves or to give evidence before the magistrates without the greatest risk.
842 In parts of the country there exists a reign of terrorism as great as that which existed in 1886. The noble Earl the Lord President told us that the Answer of the Chief Secretary was given on the representation of the police, who had declared that they could not get the people to give evidence or assist them in carrying out their duty, and he appealed to mo whether I had not had experience of the reluctance of these people to come forward. I certainly have had that experience. These people do not dare give evidence or their lives would be in danger. My noble friend who raised this question this evening stated with great truth that when men paid rates and taxes they naturally looked to the authorities for protection. In England this is fully recognised. There was a case some time ago in which a man was imprisoned for mutilating horses. The search for the miscreant who perpetuated this offence was initiated by the police, and the offender was eventually brought to justice. Then there was the case of the Park Lane robbery the other day. What happened? The gentleman whose goods had been stolen reported the matter to the police, who took the case in hand and never left it until they had discovered the thief. Why, I ask, are people in Ireland to be treated differently in this respect and to be expected to defend themselves? Moreover the people in question cannot afford to provide the extra assistance which would be necessary to protect their cattle from wilful injury of this description. The noble Earl, defended the statement which Lord Denman made in the last debate that in the opinion of the Government the driving of cattle could not of itself be considered a crime of a very serious nature. The noble Lord who used those words read them from a written paper, so I suppose they were provided by the Irish Office.
The words were my own words, and I accept full responsibility them. They were not given to me by the Irish Office.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
Well, do the Irish Government repudiate that statement? They have not done so 843 publicly, or I would not have again referred to it. The noble Earl the Lord President put forward extenuating circumstances for the expression, and stated that, after all, cattle driving was not nearly such a bad crime as cattle maiming. Both are contrary to the law and would not be tolerated for a moment in this country. I understand that since that expression has been used in your Lordships' House there has been an increase of cattle driving in that part of Ireland. One gentleman who had sold all his land in the West of Ireland to his tenants, retaining for himself only one farm, had his cattle, notwithstanding, driven off that farm. And why? Because the people in that part of the country do not believe that the Government are in earnest in desiring to stop these raids. I venture to say that any supporter of the Government in the House of Commons who represented an agricultural constituency and went down there and stated that he endorsed the view of the Government that cattle driving off farms in that constituency was not a serious crime would stand very little chance of being again returned to Parliament.
Attention has been drawn to the rule laid down by Mr. Wyndham and Mr. Long that no property should be sold to a man who had been guilty of intimidation, and the noble Earl opposite said on a former occasion that he considered that when land was broken up no one who had broken the law should be allowed to become the owner of any of it. Since then the Unionist Members in another place have been inquiring of the Chief Secretary whether he endorsed the views of the noble Earl, but the Chief Secretary has fenced with the question. He has never said yes or no. Therefore I think I am justified in asking the noble Earl whether it is the intention of the Government to act on the noble Earl's views.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
I do not think the noble Marquess heard the question put to me by Lord Donough more on the same point. I stated, in reply, that if a Question on that subject were put down I would answer it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I think the point is an important one, 844 and one upon which we should have an answer. I now come to the serious question as to what the Government really intend to do to restore law and order in Ireland. We have not moved in this matter for any Party reason; our only desire is to see Ireland prosperous and contented, and we will assist the Government in every way in our power in arriving at that result. I hardly like to quote a case which is at the present moment sub judice, but I notice that Mr. Kelly, who made a violent speech, has been arrested. What is to be the result? We have seen men brought before packed benches of magistrates and their sympathisers on the bench have declined to convict. There was the Luttrell case. Three times has that case been tried, but owing to the packed nature of the bench no decision has been arrived at, and on the third hearing the Crown solicitor said—The Attorney-General will send the ease for trial himself. We are not going to have three or four adjournments for nothing.Prosecutions carried on present lines are simply burlesques and bring the law into contempt. I maintain that until strong measures are taken law will not be respected in that part of the country. In 1886 and 1887 Ireland was in a state very much as it is now, but we then had no powers whatever to cope with that condition of affairs. Crime constantly stalked unchecked and unpunished, but in ensuing years we obtained the necessary powers of dealing with it, and by using those powers with fearlessness we restored law and order in the country. Why cannot the Government do the same now? You have the power to proclaim the United Irish League, and their meetings would then be illegal. You would then have the power of prosecuting anyone who took part in this illegal driving and of bringing them before two of the resident magistrates, who could send them to a distant part of the country where an impartial trial would be secured. The Government have in the Act of 1887 powers which would enable them to cope at once with the present condition of affairs, and I venture to think that if they do not take advantage of them they are not recognising the responsibility which rests upon them.