§ Order of the Day for the resuming the debate on the Motion for an humble Address to His Majesty, read.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I feel sure that there is no one in this country who has studied Irish affairs during the past year, and no one in your Lordships' House who listened to the Irish portion of my noble friend Lord Lansdowne's eloquent speech last night, will be surprised that I rise for the purpose of calling attention to the present condition of Ireland. To say the least of it, the condition of certain parts of Ireland is anything but satisfactory. I know it is said by those who are politically opposed to myself and to my noble friends behind me that the condition of Ireland is very seriously exaggerated. I say, with perfect sincerity and truth, that I, and those behind me who are associated with Ireland, have never desired to throw the (question of Ireland into the party arena; we are actuated solely by our desire to see that country peaceful, law-abiding, and prosperous. Consequently I do not hesitate to say that I should indeed be a happy man were I standing here to-day to tell your Lordships that the pessimistic prognostications to which I in this House and my friends from Ireland in another place have on previous occasions given utterance had been absolutely falsified by the events of the last year. I regret that that is not the case, because we all desire, no matter what our political feelings are, to see Ireland, if possible, governed under a system of ordinary law.
I do not speak on this question without a certain amount of experience. To my mind at the present moment the condition of Ireland is undoubtedly more serious than it has been during the past thirty or forty years. In the dark days of the early eighties I was the representative of an Irish county, and since that time I have been closely associated with all matters connected with Ireland. Naturally my mind goes back to those dark days, when there was crime in all parts of Ireland, and when the Chief Secretary and the Permanent Secretary 194 were murdered in the centre of Phœnix Park. I was Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland in the dark days of 1886–87, when crime and outrage stalked unchecked through certain parts of the country—unchecked because it could not be detected. Yet, in spite of those experiences, I cannot but think that the present condition of certain parts of Ireland is even more serious now than it was then.
I know that the open crime which existed in those days does not exist now. But why does it not exist now? The reason is that, owing to the system of intimidation and terrorism prevailing, such crime is not required to effect its former object, for the tyrannical law of the League has entirely superseded in those districts the law of the land. There is, too, a total demoralisation of those who are responsible for the administration of the law in Ireland in the districts affected. To what is this due? I say without hesitation that it is due entirely to the action of His Majesty's present Government. The law-breakers in the districts to which I am alluding do not hesitate to declare, and their unfortunate dupes who listen to them believe, that in their acts of lawlessness they have the Government at their back.
But the demoralisation has spread further than that. Judges are demoralised, knowing full well that, however strongly they may charge a jury, there will be no conviction. Then what is the position of the juries? It is well known to those who have studied the Irish question that trial by jury in the districts where this lawlessness prevails is an absolute farce, for witnesses are terrified and intimidated, so that they dare not give evidence which would convict. Benches of magistrates in those districts have been packed by men who are absolutely in touch with the law-breakers, and consequently trial in petty sessions is a complete farce.
Then I come to another question quite as serious—that of the poliee. The Irish Constabulary, who once were the finest body of men to be found in any country, are naturally demoralised, 195 and are now employed to drive back cattle on to the farms. It is common rumour, and I shall be glad to be contradicted if it is not so, that the police have been instructed not to come into contact with the law-breakers unless there is a case of absolute riot. I believe I am justified in saying that in many cases members of this highly trained and admirable body have had to stand by and see illegalities carried on because they believed it was not the desire of the Government that they should prevent them. Therefore I say that all those associated with the preserving of law and order in Ireland are demoralised, so much so that at the present moment the state of things is more serious than in the dark days to which I have alluded.
Who is responsible for this state of demoralisation? I think it can be proved that the present extraordinary condition of affairs is entirely due to the action of the Chief Secretary and his colleagues. On leaving Ireland Mr. Bryce stated, in a speech at Newcastle, that the condition of Ireland was very reassuring, and later—in April last—Mr. Birrell stated that—Ireland is at the present moment in a more peaceful condition than it has been for the last 600 years.So that on succeeding to his post the right hon. Gentleman had nothing to complain of. We naturally look to Mr. Birrell, as the Minister responsible for the condition of Ireland, and we have it on the authority of Mr. Asquith that the policy which I maintain has reduced Ireland to a state of disorder in little less than nine months, has been deliberately adopted and approved by the Cabinet. I should like to ask the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council whether he admits that this is a policy for which the Cabinet are collectively responsible, and whether he thinks it is one which commends itself to law-abiding people. The noble Earl in a speech in this House in June last repudiated, with considerable emphasis, the suggestion that the Government had any intention of dealing other than in the fullest manner with such disorder; yet at Watford, in January, he stated that the policy to which I have 196 alluded not only had his support, but admitted that it was a make-shift policy. I ask the noble Earl how he can reconcile those two statements.
Shortly after Mr. Birrell succeeded Mr. Bryce there began in certain parts of Ireland what is known as cattle-driving. It began on a very small scale in the County Galway. At first it was a cloud little bigger than a man's hand, but it has spread over eight or nine or even ten counties. It is due entirely to the fact that the Chief Secretary would not listen to the advice of men who knew Ireland and had only the interests of Ireland at heart. He ignored the advice of these men and described them in the somewhat inelegant term of "carrion crows." He accused them of trying to make political capital out of what was going on in Ireland. I can only say that our only object was to assure a man new to Ireland—a great lawyer, a great literary man, but absolutely ignorant of the ways of Irish people—that if he took action in time he could stop cattle-driving. Had Mr. Birrell read the speeches of some of Ireland's orators in the past he would have recognised what was said by one, that—The Irish are a dangerous nation to runaway from.Members of the Government and of the Executive in Ireland have pleaded extenuating circumstances in reference to cattle-driving, and I believe those speeches have led the people of Ireland to believe that the agitators, when they advocated cattle-driving, had the Government at their backs.
Let me quote a few passages. Mr. Birrell himself asked us in Parliament to distinguish between cattle-driving and cattle-lifting, and declared that cattle-driving should not cause any great measure of surprise. I do not know what English farmers would say if there was a proposal to drive their cattle for miles down the roads. I do not know whether the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture would dare to ask any of his agricultural supporters in the House of Commons to go down to a market town and say they regarded cattle-driving as a proceeding which should not cause surprise.
197 I doubt very much if any of those gentlemen would be returned again. I believe the result of the Mid-Devon by-election was to a great extent due to the fact that many gentlemen came over from Ireland and explained to the farmers what cattle-driving really meant, and the opinion of His Majesty's Government regarding it. The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition alluded last night to the unfortunate declaration of Lord Denman. I do not know whether that noble Lord spoke for himself, but I conclude he was speaking on behalf of the Government; he no doubt had his answer written out for him when he told your Lordships that the Government did not consider cattle-driving to be a crime of a very serious character.
As late as October, Mr. T. W. Russell the Minister for Agriculture and the successor of Sir Horace Plunkett, referred to—The comparatively harmless process of cattle-driving.I think that noble Lords opposite would have some difficulty in persuading agriculturists in this country that cattle-driving is a harmless operation. These speeches are understood in Ireland to mean that the Government not only do not disapprove of cattle-driving, but even connive at it, and that the lawbreakers are at perfect liberty to carry on this abominable system.
I think I have shown your Lordships to what a serious condition 'Ireland has been brought. What are His Majesty's Government going to do? How do they propose to deal with Ireland in its present serious condition? Without being a partisan, without in the least wishing to advocate ideas that I hold myself, I challenge any noble Lord on the opposite side of the House to say that he considers the present state of things in Ireland satisfactory. I ask the Government, How do you propose to deal with it? In June last the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council said that—Such disorder and illegality as exists can be dealt with under the ordinary law of the country.Does the noble Earl stand by that argument? The noble Marquess the Leader of your Lordships' House said 198 that the Government would act under the ordinary law until the ordinary law failed. I would ask, Does the noble Marquess consider that the ordinary law has done its work, or does he consider that the ordinary law has failed? That was a very remarkable statement to be made by the Leader of your Lordships' House. I assert that the ordinary law has entirely failed in Ireland.
The figures I have in my hand show how unsuccessful have been the Government's attempts to obtain the punishment of wrong-doers. The number of persons tried at the summer and winter assizes and before the King's Bench Division in Dublin was 237, and the number of persons convicted was only eight. The jury disagreed in 158 cases; the number of persons acquitted was fifty-six; and the number of prosecutions abandoned was fifteen. Can the Government therefore rely on the ordinary law? The Government are beginning to realise the danger of the situation. In December last Mr. Asquith said—No one pretends that the condition of Ireland, from the point of view of social order, is satisfactory.That is a great admission, and differs from what we have been told by others. Mr. Cherry, the Attorney-General for Ireland, and therefore a gentleman who ought to know, said—It was, in fact, a worse condition of things than was to be met with among the savages of West Africa. There exists nothing more nor less than mob law.That is the statement of your Attorney-General, and not of a "carrion crow." Then we had the admission of the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council that there was regrettable disorder and unrest.
The Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Aberdeen, speaking in Scotland, made the excuse that only four or five counties might be called disturbed areas. That is a remarkable statement. In the first place it is incorrect, because there are at least eight or nine, if not ten, counties in this disturbed state. But I maintain that the humblest subject of His Majesty in Ireland has full right to have protection for life and property. Mr. Cherry has stated that if these things were allowed to go unchecked and unpunished a state of anarchy 199 would result. This is the statement of the Law Officer of the Crown. Are the Government still going to allow persons who deserve punishment to go unpunished? I do not hesitate to say that to my mind the policy of the Government during the past year has been a policy of cowardice. They have prosecuted the dupes and the miserable "corner boys"; why have they not prosecuted the leaders? Mr. Birrell told us that his fingers itched to prosecute Mr. Ginnell. But why didn't he? It is true that Mr. Ginnell is now in gaol, but he was imprisoned, not by the action of the present Government, but by Judge Ross for having been guilty of contempt of Court. A more contemptible state of things I cannot imagine.
When we were in office in 1887 we put into gaol the leaders of disorder and not the unfortunate dupes, with the result that our policy of courage was successful, and within eighteen months of putting the Crimes Act into operation we had restored to Ireland law and order, peace and prosperity. I read the other day with the greatest interest a speech delivered by Mr. Morley, who had great difficulties to encounter in India in the restoration of law and order. Mr. Morley's speech was that of a statesman. He declared, in regard to India, that the maintenance of order was the foundation of future progress, and that violent disorder must be put down with a firm hand. What is the difference between maintaining law and order in India and maintaining law and order in Ireland? After the strong views which Mr. Morley expressed in regard to India, I would like to ask whether he agrees with what his colleagues in the Cabinet are doing in regard to Ireland. We in England like to criticise our competitors in foreign countries, but what must be their opinion when they endeavour to compare the speech of Mr. Morley with regard to the Government's policy in India with the Government's policy in Ireland, where a state of lawlessness exists which is a disgrace and a scandal to a civilised country?
It has been said that cattle-driving is dead. I believe from what I hear that to a certain extent it has been 200 abandoned in certain part, but to say that cattle-driving is dead in the disturbed parts of Ireland is a statement which is absolutely refuted by the facts published in the Irish newspapers. I fully recognise that high Roman Catholic-ecclesiastics and lay leaders have recently spoken against cattle-driving, but they have done so, not because they repudiate the principle of cattle-driving, but because they fear that if it is allowed to continue they may lose the benefit of certain measures which they hope to obtain for Roman Catholics and the Nationalist Party. I believe myself that a "deal" has been arrived at between the Government, the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and the Nationalists. That opinion undoubtedly prevails in Ireland. If that deal falls through, if Mr. Birrell's proposals do not come up to the expectations of this combination, is cattle-driving to be revived? I read only a few days ago the speech of Mr. Fitz-Gibbon, Chairman of the Roscommon Comity Council and one of the leaders of the movement. He said—A vigorous agitation will await the Government if the promised measures are not up to expectations.Other speeches of a similar kind have been made, and therefore I maintain that cattle-driving is not dead; it is ready for use again if the Government's Bills do not come up to the expectation of the Nationalists.
MR. Asquithsaid, in the course of his speech yesterday, that—There have been certain eases as to which be it observed, no Crimes Act would be of the least use, for the simple reason that the difficulty is not in obtaining a conviction, but in obtaining the evidence, and without evidence not even a drum-head Court-martial can convict.MR. Asquith cannot have consulted his colleague, the Attorney-General for Ireland, before making that assertion, because Mr. Cherry would have told him that in many prosecutions which have taken place he himself has stated that there was very clear evidence, and yet juries would not convict. The evidence in cases of cattle-driving is abundant. There are hundreds of people there; the police are there; and to say they cannot get evidence is absurd. What they cannot get are 201 convictions. Mr. Asquith also stated yesterday that—Apart from cattle-driving there is very little crime in Ireland.I differ entirely from Mr. Asquith. He cannot have read the Irish papers. Does not Mr. Asquith know that postmen carrying mailbags have been attacked because they were carrying writs? Has Mr. Asquith not read of process servers, even when surrounded by police, being attacked by large mobs? Has Mr. Asquith not read of houses being fired into and people fired at? This is to a great extent due to the repeal of the Peace Preservation Act, by which men are now enabled to carry weapons.
Has Mr. Asquith not read of the scandalous treatment of Mr. Blake-White and his mother when leaving the parish chapel of Killconicran one Sunday morning? They were shot down in open daylight in the presence of a large number of the congregation, who cheered the shooters and assisted them to escape. Has Mr. Asquith not read the charge of Judge Curran the other day, in which he told the jury of a man's not only being refused a coffin in which to bury his dead brother, but also being denied boards to make the coffin himself Has Mr. Asquith not read of the large amounts claimed for malicious injuries? Even the property of the Government has not escaped. A farm in Galway belonging to the Department of Agriculture was maliciously burned, £470 compensation being awarded. In the county of Meath alone there are claims for malicious injury amounting to £2,774. But these payments do not fall upon the lawbreakers; they have to be met by the unfortunate ratepayers.
The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition stated yesterday that he thought we ought to ask for returns with regard to the condition of certain parts of Ireland. I propose to ask for these returns in the shape of a series of questions, and I hope that before the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council replies, he will consult his advisers in Ireland, so that he may be able to answer the questions fully, fairly, and in a manner which we can thoroughly under- 202 stand. I ask the Government to answer these questions: (1) What was the number of specially reported cases or agrarian offences for the half-year ended 31st December 1907, and the numbers for the half-years ended 30th June 1906, and 31st December 1906; (2) the number of offences for the same periods in which loaded firearms were used; (3) the number of persons under police protection during the same periods; (4) the number and amounts of the claims for malicious injuries at the quarter sessions held last October and this January, as as compared with the claims made in October 1906, and January 1907; (5) the number of persons indicted in connection with agrarian offences at (a) the summer assizes, 1907; (b) the winter assizes, 1907; (c) in the King's Bench Division, 1907, and the number of person-; so indicted who were committed; (6) the number of persons bound over in 1907 in surety for good behaviour on the application of the Crown under the Statute of Edward III.; whether such applications could be heard and disposed of by a single magistrate sitting out of Court; whether the accused, when dealt with on such an application, was unable to give evidence and to call witnesses, and whether, if an order was made against him, he was unable to appeal; and whether, on the other hand, if those cases were heard under the Crimes Act, they would be tried before two magistrates, who would sit in Court, and whether the accused would, if tried under the Crimes Act, have the right to call witnesses, and, if convicted, to appeal to the County Court Judge.
I lay emphasis on the fact of prisoners being tried before one magistrate. I believe there have been many cases during the past few months in which prisoners have been so tried. If that is the case, I venture to say that His Majesty's Government are guilty of the grossest possible inconsistency. They declare that they will not apply the Crimes Act; but in trying a man before one magistrate they are taking more coercive measures than were ever taken under that Act. When tried before one magistrate, the prisoner is not tried in open court, and cannot call witnesses. That is the policy you are pursuing now.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The Earl of CREWE)
The noble Marquess is speaking solely of the process of binding over to keep the peace.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
But when taken before a Court established under the Crimes Act, a prisoner would be tried by two magistrates in open court and would have the right to call witnesses and a right of appeal. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House told us yesterday that the Government have always denounced the Crimes Act, and do not wish to go back on their words. May I remind the noble Marquess that the Crimes Act of Sir William Harcourt after the murder in Phœnix Park was a much stronger measure than the Crimes Act of 1887? Why will they not now, when they have a weapon at hand ready to deal with this most serious state of affairs, make use of that weapon I Simply on account of their speeches. Well, their speeches are not like the laws of the Medes and Persians; they can be altered. I say, as one who knows Ireland, that if His Majesty's Government allow the present state of affairs to go on spreading, in the future it will be impossible some day to cope with it. On these grounds I ask them honestly to consider whether they should not apply that Act. If they will only take strong steps to prevent the present awful state of affairs they will receive the support of every law-abiding man in Ireland. If, on the other hand, they continue in their present course of action, the condition of Ireland will only become worse, and they will be held responsible for tolerating a state of things which is a disgrace to the Government of any civilised community.
My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend. In my own neighbourhood considerable agitation has prevailed, and cattle-driving is there the chief feature. There have not been, I am happy to say, any outrages with firearms such as have been described, but I myself and others have been subjected to considerable annoyance. With regard to cattle-driving, incorrect impressions seem to prevail as to what it really is. I have heard it 204 spoken of as a rough kind of practical joke, as if the only injury that the grazier suffered was that he had the trouble of putting the cattle back again. The case is widely different from that. It is not that the cattle are driven off, but that the grazier is absolutely prevented from putting them back again; he is warned that it would not be safe for him to do so. The land therefore is left derelict.
I should like to say a word in commendation of the way in which the constabulary have discharged their duty. They have under the most adverse circumstances shown unremitting zeal, intelligence, and ability. They have been exposed to the greatest hardship patrolling the country at night in the hope of preventing these outrages; but what can a few policemen do against an infuriated mob? This cattle-driving is not confined to eleven-months farms. It has taken place on farms with long tenancies and on farms which have not been occupied by any of the smaller people for a hundred years. There have even been cases of cattle-driving on farms which have been purchased from the Estates Commissioners. There was a case in my own county not long ago where a man who had purchased his farm, paid several instalments, and was absolutely in possession of the land had his cattle driven a long distance off. When he went to look at his farm he found that the neighbouring people had put their cattle upon it. He proceeded to impound the cattle, but the result was that he was summoned before the court of the United Irish League and had to give way.
It may be asked why these men come to terms. In these cases the farmer is often obliged to give way in order to avoid personal danger and boycotting. I know a case of a member of an old county family who bus been deserted by every one in his employment except one old woman. He is a man of remarkable energy and determination, and is proceeding to work his farm by himself. He has been seen building up walls that have been maliciously pulled down, and leading his horse to the station to get coal. I mention this to show to what an extent boycotting may be carried.
205 It may be true that boycotting is not the fault of the Government, but it is only applied to people who resist the agitation or who are not sufficiently active in promoting it. It has often been complained that the graziers as a rule have not done anything to protect their property. It is very hard to know how they are to do so with the whole country against them. Complaints are also made against the magistrates that they do not attend sufficiently at petty sessions. But in certain districts the, number of magistrates is necessarily very limited. It is part of my duty, as His Majesty's Lieutenant of the County, to recommend suitable candidates to the Lord Chancellor for the Commission of the Peace, and I have had great difficulty in finding sufficient men fitted to be trusted with the administration of justice. These cattle-drives, again, generally take place on the property of at least one magistrate of the district, who is debarred from sitting. I desire to say this on behalf of many magistrates who feel deeply the accusation that magistrates as a whole have neglected their duty.
Cattle-driving, unfortunately, is not the sole form of outrage prevalent in Ireland. The noble Marquess has referred to the difficulty of serving process. I saw the other day a civil bill officer who, though accompanied by nineteen policemen, was attacked by a crowd, who pelted him and the constabulary with mud and filth of one description and other. They seized the processes and tore them up. The constabulary did their best, but they were completely overpowered. The fact is that the King's writ does not run in the country, and complete anarchy prevails. And then we are told that "'force is no remedy," and that the Government intend to govern Ireland in accordance with Irish ideas. I have always had a difficulty in understanding what was meant by that; but, if the present condition of things is a sample of the government of Ireland according to Irish ideas, we must suppose that it means that graziers are not entitled to protection and that every one else is at liberty to do what is right in his own eyes and to make free with other people's property.
206 I do not say that the Government intended to encourage the agitation, but the people have been encouraged by the light and airy way in which it has been treated by Members of the Government and by the little that was done to stop it. One cannot doubt that these poor ignorant people are exploited by Members of Parliament, and that they are not as culpable as those who are allowed to instigate them with perfect impunity by His Majesty's Government. The object of compulsion is to get land cheap, and these people think, therefore, that, by rendering the land derelict, they are doing a service to the Government. I am far from saying that His Majesty's Government approve of these tactics, but I wish that they would state more emphatically than they have done their disapproval and show their disapproval by their acts and extend the protection of the law to all law-abiding people, even though they happen to be graziers.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords, your Lordships will remember the speech which was delivered in Bristol on Tuesday last by the Chief Secretary, in which he expressed his delight at the prospect that he was going to face his enemies in Parliament and to have the opportunity of defending his administration in Ireland. Your Lordships will notice the alacrity with which his colleagues and supporters in this House are getting up to defend him. We have had a speech from a distinguished ex-Viceroy of Ireland, and a speech from a noble Lord who has had his cattle driven as much as anybody in Ireland. We have had an exposition lasting an hour and ten minutes of the state of Ireland, and neither noble Lord who has spoken is thought worthy of an immediate answer. I regret this extremely, and I am sorry that it should fall to my lot to pound the same horse. I would really have liked to have heard what His Majesty's Government had to say before troubling your Lordships.
There is no necessity now to describe what cattle-driving is. In spite of the fact that its very existence was for so very long denied, I think that what it is has 207 been brought home pretty clearly to people on this side of St. George's Channel. But I want to say one word as to its cause, because Mr. Asquith last night gave an explanation of what he believed to be its cause, and it was practically the same explanation as was given in the speech delivered last session by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. The explanation was that you really cannot help being to a certain extent sorry for these people. They are holders of small, poor, uneconomic holdings on the hillsides; they see the rich grazing land alongside of them and you really cannot, although you do not approve of their action, help sympathising with them in their anxiety to get possession of the rich lands within their sight.
I was very much struck with that explanation. I have been in Ireland during the whole of the recess, and have visited very nearly every county in Ireland. I have conferred with many people and have had an opportunity of making inquiries for myself. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has not been so occupied. He has been a great deal better occupied, and I hope he will allow me to say, with all sincerity, that I wish him every happiness. I know that the way in which the noble and learned Lord has been occupied is not the best way to collect political information, and therefore he will allow me perhaps to give him my experience. I have come to the conclusion that, in the vast majority of cases, cattle-driving is not being carried on by the poor man who wants to get hold of the rich land, but that it has been carried on by the rich man who wants to get hold of more land; and in one part of the country, where I made careful inquiries, I was particularly struck by the fact, that, as a rule, the cattle-drivers are the sons of rich farmers, who, seeing that they have rich, but at the same time, healthy fathers, and that there is not an immediate prospect of their getting posession of any land—and I think if I were in their place, and knew that I was certain not to be punished, I might be tempted to go out myself—are naturally out to see it there is any good to be got out of this disturbance.
208 I admit that there are cases in which the poor man is tempted, but in the majority of cases cattle-driving is the act not of the starving but of the greedy. These greedy people are the people at the back of this crusade, whose followers have adopted as their motto the new beatitude: "Blessed are the cattle drivers, for they shall possess the land."
In another place attempts have been made to minimise the present state of Ireland. We are told that the country is crimeless. Apart from agrarian crime—and I mean to cover a very large class by agrarian crime—I think that that statement is true. The Irish are not by nature a criminally disposed people. At the same time one cannot help thinking that there may be less criminality because people may not think it worth while to prosecute. When you have to deal with juries who will not convict, and with active partisans packing the magisterial benches, you naturally think twice before dragging people into Court. I do not live in a disturbed district, but I can quote a case which happened the other day not far from me, and which caused considerable local interest owing to certain disputes that have taken place in the locality. It was a poaching case, and it is a very curious thing that three or four magistrates from far distant parts of the country found it convenient to come along that day and sit and hear that particular case. Now, why did they come? They can only have come because they had made up their minds beforehand and were determined to see that the case went in a certain direction. That is not an isolated case, and it is most unfortunate that such a state of affairs should exist. It is most unfortunate that magistrates should consider it consistent with their duty that they should behave in this way, but that may explain why people are not so keen in going before tribunals.
So much for ordinary crime. I do not think, after the speeches that have-been delivered, it will be denied that there is a very considerable amount of agrarian crime apart from cattle-driving. I was going to say that the Ormond Hunt had been stopped, but I suppose it is not a crime to stop a 209 hunt, though it is an unfortunate thing for the locality. I have in my hand particulars of a number of cases taken from the public Press. On 28th November, on the Brown-Ardskea estate in Galway, the mane and tail of a horse belonging to the landlord's bailiff were cut off. That is taken from the Dublin Daily Express. On 30th November, in Galway, two shots were fired from a thicket at a woman as she was leaving Craughwell railway station. That is from the Irish Times. Then on 2nd December, in County Meath, extensive cattle and hay sheds and stables, the property of a Mr. Dove, were burnt to the ground; 200 tons of hay were destroyed, thirteen fat cattle roasted to death, and a valuable thoroughbred foal injured, the damage being estimated at £4,000. This is said to have been undoubtedly an act of incendiarism, as on the previous morning a bottle of explosive fluid was found near one hay-shed and the hay had evidently been fired in several places. These particulars are taken from the Northern Whig. Two days later the cattle were driven off the lands of Ragaculla, Milltown, and turned out on the roads with placards on their horns, inscribed: "The land for the people; the road for me," and "Blessed are the cattle-drivers, for they shall possess the land." That is taken from the Belfast News Letter. On 7th December, the tenants of the Pollex estate, according to the Roscommon Messenger, unanimously refused to pay rent until the estate is handed over to the Estates Commissioners.
I will not trouble your Lordships by quoting more of these cases, but they clearly show the disturbed state of the country, and I think the irony of the situation is apparent when we see it stated, in the West Meath Nationalist, that the Clooneyquinn ranches have been placed under police protection, the owner being president of the local branch of the United Irish League. I have here a return which we have prepared ourselves from the public Press and which shows that in the five days, from 3rd January to 8th January, compensation was awarded in fourteen cases by quarter sessions for malicious injury. Lastly, I was anxious to quote 210 the figures, that have already been given to the House by the noble Marquess behind me, as to the number of trials that have taken place in agrarian cases, in only eight of which convictions have been obtained. These figures are, I think, eloquent of the state of the country.
I notice that last night Mr. Redmond stated that in no case had cattle been maimed or ill-treated. I think the cases I have quoted are an answer to him. I wish Mr. Redmond would make further inquiries into the matter, for he would then, I think, realise that there have during the last autumn been cases of maiming and ill-treatment in connection with these drives. I wish Mr. Redmond had given more attention to this question, for I believe that strong words from him at the beginning of this movement would have had considerable effect in checking it. Cattle-driving having commenced, how did His Majesty's Government deal with it? At first they denied its existence. We all remember that. Then when they had to acknowledge its existence, they minimised it. Next came the utterance of Lord Den-man. That statement was most unfortunate in its results. It has been quoted throughout the length and breadth of the land in justification of cattle-driving, and it was, as far as I know, never repudiated until last night, when Mr. Asquith stated that he thought cattle-driving was not only a criminal but a stupid act.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
I am extremely glad to hear it, but that is not my recollection. My recollection is that the noble Earl declared that cattle-driving was not so bad as cattle-maiming, and that that was all we could get out of the noble Earl. However, it was not recognised that the statement of Lord Denman had been in any way 211 withdrawn. The nearest thing I can remember to it was that on 14th December the Chief Secretary told a deputation which waited upon him that he was not necessarily responsible for everything that a badgered Minister said. I do not remember that the noble Lord was particularly badgered at the time he made that statement, but, of course, I accept Mr. Birrell's explanation of it. I am very sorry the noble Lord felt badgered. It was all our fault. The big boys bullied the little boy, and he blurted it out. I wish that statement had not been allowed to remain unexplained, as everybody in Ireland thinks it was unexplained, for eight months. I should be glad to hear if the noble Lord still thinks that cattle-driving is not a very serious crime. I hope he is going to take part in the debate. I should like to hear his views of the situation at present. Rumours have reached us that the noble Lord is no longer going to join in our Irish debates. We hear, in fact, that he is going—shall I say?—to sever his connection with the Irish Office for the benefit of that Department. I hope not. I think it is a pity that he should run away just as there is a prospect of his reaping the whirlwind that I can assure him he did a great deal to sow.
Having done nothing to check cattle-driving, the Government then made it abundantly clear that they did not intend to prosecute the people who were really responsible for it. The Attorney-General characterised the question as to whether the ringleaders should be prosecuted as a political one. It is a political question if the prosecution of politicians is a political question, but not otherwise. I cannot help thinking that those politicians would have been prosecuted last year had not His Majesty's Government been afraid of their criticism when they came back to Parliament.
I pass to another point. I want to draw your Lordships' attention very briefly to something that the Executive in Ireland did—and for which, of course, the Chief Secretary is responsible—at the beginning of the recess. Mr. Birrell spent the first month of the recess abroad, and the events to which 212 I am going to refer happened while he was away, but I am sure he will not repudiate responsibility for them. The Executive usually gives aggrieved persons all possible assistance in the detection of crime, and it is only under Mr. Birrell's regime that there has been a change in this particular. I am referring to what is known as the Glenaheiry outrage, in connection with which we have been asked to believe that Lord Ashtown blew himself up. I am not, of course, going into the details of the case. It is still before the Courts, but I have a perfect right to criticise the action of the Executive in reference to this case, and the manner in which every possible obstacle has been put in Lord Ashtown's way in his endeavours to bring the guilty parties to justice. First of all, Lord Ashtown offered a reward of £100, and your Lordships would think that there would have been no objection to the police circulating his offer, but an absolute refusal was given to his request. Inspector Preston, who was in charge of that district, was away in the north at the time of the explosion, but he returned three days afterwards and wrote a report. I do not wish to criticise the details of that report, or how—to use the phrase of the judge who tried the case—it was "manufactured." Suffice it to say that it is obvious to anyone who reads the evidence that everything the inspector knew in favour of Lord Ashtown was suppressed, and all he knew that could possibly tell against Lord Ashtown was given a prominent place.
An explanation is required as to how that report got into the Press about a fortnight before the case came on. It could only have been so published with the object of prejudicing the course of justice. Can it be wondered that an inquiry has been asked for? Mr. Redmond asked for a sworn inquiry into the whole case, and received a polite refusal. Lord Ashtown asked for an inquiry of a similar character and received no answer to his letter until he wrote a second time. It is not difficult to understand why a sworn inquiry has been refused as to how that report came to be written, and the circumstances in connection with the typewriting of it in Dublin Castle. Impartial inquiry is the last thing that these proceedings 213 could stand. On his return from abroad, how did Mr. Birrell set to work, in the months of October and November, to restore order? First, he took no notice whatever publicly of what was going on, and then he made speeches deprecating, to a certain extent, cattle-driving. He made those speeches at Southampton, Belfast, and recently at Reading. He never went near the disaffected districts; he never brought his influence to bear on the cattle drivers himself; he kept in extreme parts of the country whenever he said anything about cattle-driving, and, needless to say, his oratory had no results whatever.
I want, in passing, to refer to one paragraph in the Reading speech. Mr. Birrell has always complained that he gets no assistance from anybody. "The landlords," he says, "do not flock to my assistance." He repeated this complaint at Beading within a couple of weeks of his receiving a deputation in Dublin Castle from the Irish Landowner's Convention. That deputation numbered twenty-five, including some Members of your Lordship's House, and it would have been three times that number had not Mr. Birrell requested that it should be limited to twenty-five. Mr. Birrell told the deputation that he was genuinely glad to see them; yet his comment within a few days is—The landlords do not flock to my assistance.He said further—He stood in Ireland an isolated and somewhat solitary figure. When the Tories sent a Chief Secretary to Ireland all the landlords flocked around him regarding him as a person who would look after their interests, and who might perhaps be worth two or three years purchase on every one of their estates.The landlords in this case, I think, need no defence. There is absolutely no possible practicable way in which we could improve the price we obtain by being civil to a Chief Secretary. But the suggestion that men like the present Leader of the Opposition in another place, or Mr. Walter Long, could be influenced by civility to do anything, in a transaction in which public money was used, to get their friends a better price is a gross libel on the characters of those right hon. Gentlemen. So much for Mr. Birrell's oratorical efforts to restore law and order in Ireland.
214 What has been done in the courts? His Majesty's Government, as has been stated, have obtained eight convictions. It is true that Mr. Ginnell has been sent to gaol. I am sorry for him personally, though I think he probably would admit that he earned what he got. Mr. Ginnell has been sent to gaol, though not in any way at the instance of His Majesty's Government. We are told—we have no evidence of it yet—that there has been a lull in cattle-driving. I suggest that one reason for that lull, if it exists, may be that Mr. Ginnell is temporarily deprived of his old activities. If so, that is a complete justification for our having urged the Government to prosecute. It is a most complete refutation of Mr. Birrell's statement at Belfast that he could not prosecute him for fear of encouraging him. You do not encourage a man much when you shut him up for six months. Of course, the Government could get convictions if they desired; the Crimes Act is there for the purpose, and the guilt of the parties is notorious.
And when members of the Government plead that the tradition of their Party forbids the use of the Crimes Act, I would remind him of the speech of the Prime Minister at Stirling on October 17th, 1885, shortly after he had been Chief Secretary:—In many parts of Ireland for offences of an agrarian character they could not trust to the ordinary class of jurymen doing their duty, partly from prejudice, but mainly owing to the cruel and overpowering system of terror under the National League. They could not be sure with the clearest evidence of being able to get a verdict. He maintained that, in order to uphold the arm of justice in Ireland, it was not merely reasonable, but necessary, to provide some measures which would overcome that difficulty, and which might very well be made part of the permanent law.The position is now certainly no better than it was in 1885, and what the present Prime Minister thought necessary and reasonable in 1885 is surely not unreasonable now. We have one thing to be thankful for. We have got at last Mr. Birrell's authorative explanation of the cause of cattle-driving—it is all the fault of your Lordships' House. In his speech at Bristol last Tuesday Mr. Birrell said:—The House of Lords say to me, 'Coward, scoundrel, why don't you enforce the law? and I say in reply,' Why don't you pass our measures?'215 He refers to measures he has submitted to your Lordships' House, and which he claims have been mutilated by your Lordships. Hence, he maintains, Ireland is disturbed. I have no doubt that placards are already being prepared in the Liberal Publication Department showing your Lordships, who are always depicted on these occasions wearing your coronets, starting out on a wet Sunday afternoon prepared to encourage the cattle to wander through the length and breadth of Ireland. That caricature would not be more grotesque than certain other placards that were issued from the same place a little while ago on another subject. Your Lordships are responsible, of course, for the speeches made by Lord Denman and Mr. T. W. Russell, which, by their carelessness, encouraged cattle-driving in Ireland. Your Lordships are responsible for the delay in prosecuting the leaders of the movement, and for the fact that only one has been prosecuted up to the present time. Your Lordships are responsible for the Attorney-General's failure to obtain convictions, and for the fact that juries refused to convict. Your Lordships are responsible for the whole movement. Yet cattle-driving was rampant in Ireland before Mr. Birrell submitted a single Bill to your Lordships ! I desire utterly to repudiate the suggestion, which would be laughed out of court in Ireland. In Ireland the cause of cattle-driving is known just as well as it is in your Lordships' House, and if only His Majesty's Government had dealt with it firmly and fearlessly from the beginning, instead of playing with it as they did, I believe they would have earned the gratitude of a large number of my fellow countrymen of all classes, for I am certain that cattle-driving and the present disorder are unpopular in the minds of everyone, except the agitators who are immediately responsible for it.
§ LORD CASTLETOWN
My Lords, I would like, if I might be allowed, to present another aspect of the Irish question than that which has been given to your Lordships by the three noble Lords who have spoken this evening. In the first place, what strikes me as very remarkable is the habit of exaggeration which Ireland undoubtedly does inspire in some of her sons. The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, after a short visit to 216 his beautiful place in Kerry, thought fit to compare my country to Macedonia, and the noble Marquess who spoke first this evening said its state was worse than it had been during the past thirty or forty years. I have known Ireland for a long time, and have lived year in and year out in the heart of that country. I went through the whole of what are called in Ireland the bad times, and I can say fairly and squarely that the present slight ebullitions are child's play to what happened in those days. In those days men's lives were in great danger. Mine was in danger for nearly a year, and there were six murders within a few miles of my own home. The noble Marquess said this evening that the police had received instructions not to come in contact with the people. I live in a district close to, if not absolutely in, some of the cattle-driving areas, and I have been told that there have been some very sharp knocks between the police and the people. Then the noble Marquess asked who is responsible for the demoralisation which he says has set in. I do not wish to speak of the Land Commissioners, who have done their best; but it is the Executive and the Ministers who have failed to carry out as rapidly as they might the Land Act of 1903 who are responsible to a great extent for any demoralisation there may be at the present time.
The noble Marquess next referred to the fact that there were nine or ten counties in a seriously disturbed state. If there are only nine or ten disturbed counties now in Ireland, there are at least twenty-two peaceful counties. Ireland is more prosperous, and, in a great number of places, more peaceful now—especially in the large tillage districts, and in those districts where sales from the landlords to the tenants have taken place—than it has been for the past thirty or forty years. Then the noble Marquess declared that the ordinary law was not available to deal with disturbance; yet in the same breath he said that compensation for malicious injuries to a very large extent was being ordered to be paid by the ratepayers. That shows that the ordinary law is able to deal with the matter. No one recognises more than I do the sadness of the fact that in Ireland juries often will not convict though the evidence is clear; but 217 the Government are not responsible for the weakness and supineness of juries. The position is one not demanding coercion, not demanding the Crimes Act, but demanding a sustained, sensible, and common-sense line of policy. If Mr. Wyndham's Land Act of 1903, which was framed after a great conference between the representatives of the landlords and the Nationalist Members, had been administered rapidly and in the way Mr. Wyndham intended in his interesting and able speeches, the present difficulties would never have arisen. In those parts of Ireland where the Act has been worked properly, there is practically no crime.
Why has cattle-driving arisen? What is the origin of it? Because the people see large areas of grass lands, which Mr. Wyndham intended should be handed over to the Commissioners and sold to the people to enlarge their small holdings, being sold to the graziers. The last chance of the people being able to enlarge their holdings and make them pay is therefore disappearing, and there is nothing left to them but poverty or emigration. Having lived among the Western people, I know how tenaciously they cling to their old homes, and how rooted has been the desire, since it was made possible by Mr. Wyndham's Act, that their farms should be enlarged so that they might be able to remain in their own country. If a separate Commission had been appointed to deal with those congested areas the agitation which is now going on would never have arisen.
It is the old, old story in Ireland of postponing the right thing, letting the unrest grow, and then applying coercion. The Government, in my opinion, have taken a much wiser course. They have appointed a Commission—I am afraid they were a little slow in making the appointment—which I hope will report very shortly. The Government are awaiting that Report, and they propose to act upon it. I hope they will do so rapidly. I have seen some of the cattle-drivers and know what they think. These men are now saying that they will wait because there is a possibility that the Government will carry a Bill which will enable untenanted land to be divided up to enlarge the other holdings. I have had talks with a great number of labourers, farmers, and shopkeepers, and 218 the attitude of many of them towards cattle-driving is changing. At first the labourers told me cattle-driving was a very fine thing, but now, when it is pointed out that if they get rid of the graziers the farmers will not be able to sell their store cattle, they admit that that is right, and say they are no longer in favour of cattle-driving. At fairs I have seen farmers begging the graziers to buy their cattle, upon the sale of which they absolutely depend for the payment of their rent; but the graziers stoutly refuse pointing out that it is no use buying cattle which will be driven off.
In my opinion it is absurd making a great outcry about this question, because many cases of cattle driving arise purely out of personal spite, which no Crimes Act could defeat. I know of a case of a Protestant farmer who was told that his cattle were to be driven. He told me that the people came down from the neighbouring village and went to the public house, where the whole thing had been arranged. They got so drunk that they were unable to proceed with the cattle-driving, and eventually retreated after a scuffle. Many of these cases are settled by the men themselves. One men who was boycotted, instead of appealing for police protection, called in a large number of his friends, there was a fair fight between the two sides, and the whole question was settled without any further trouble.
§ LORD CASTLETOWN
It is certainly my idea of settling a question of that kind. In another case near my own home trouble arose because the agent, instead of selling to the evicted tenants, very ill advisedly let the lands for long terms to men who did not belong to the district. The result was that the whole of that particular district was in a turmoil. Cattle-driving has been indulged in, and the reason given—to my mind a fair one—is that the agent by his action has deprived these men of any chance of getting back the land which they occupied previously, and to which it was intended they should be restored by the Act to which your Lordships gave your assent. I think it would be much better if, instead of initiating these debates, which, to my 219 mind are fruitless, noble Lords on the other side of the House would join hands with noble Lords on this side and assist in getting the Land Act of 1903 carried out in the way Mr. Wyndham intended. That Act should be carried out rapidly and vigorously.
When the time comes for His Majesty's Government to deal with the Report of the Commission presided over by Lord Dudley I would ask them to entrust that work to a separate Commission, and not to the overworked and under-manned Land Commission, who are absolutely incapable of dealing with a large problem of this nature. Before I sit down I wish to refer to an erroneous statement made by Lord Donoughmore. Referring to the explosion at Glenaheiry Lodge the noble Earl mentioned that the report of the police inspector was issued before the trial came on. I put a question on that point myself to one of the authorities, and I was informed that that is the invariable practice where an assessment has to be made by the county council. The inspector has to furnish a report to them, and to the person who claims, before the case can be gone on with. The noble Earl is therefore in error in thinking that this is not the regular practice.
LORD ORNMORE AND BROWNE
My Lords, I shall only trouble your Lordships for a few minutes, for many of the arguments I should like to submit have been ably urged by other speakers I am glad, that the question of Ireland has been brought forward at once, not because I believe any speeches, however eloquent, or any arguments, however cogent, will force upon the minds of His Majesty's Government the responsibility which is theirs for the present state of that country, but because I think it is very desirable that the question should be raised and brought before Parliament at the earliest possible moment, and that we should do our best to elicit from His Majesty's Government the principle on which they work the administration of Ireland.
I must confess that to many of us who live in Ireland it seems that the country is administered by the Chief Secretary, not as he finds the law stated in the Statute-Book, but as he would wish it to be in some far-off Utopia of his own, 220 where landowners and graziers are unknown, and where the principal duty of a Chief Secretary is to smile encouragingly on the national sport of "the finest peasantry in the world"—the midnight chase of oxen and sheep. I do not think His Majesty's Government feel their full responsibility for the present state of Ireland, but there is one point on which the Chief Secretary has assumed full responsibility. Mr. Birrell admits that by no action of his has any law breaker or instigator to law-breaking been turned from an agitator into what he calls a martyr by being punished for his wrong doing. Other martyrs there have been in numbers—martyrs of intimidation, martyrs of boycotting, martyrs who-have been forced to give up their means of livelihood as graziers; but these do not appeal, apparently, to the right hon. Gentleman. They are all law-abiding citizens, and, in addition to that, some of them have, perhaps, the discredit of possessing pro-English tendencies.
The Chief Secretary has often complained that those who are attacked do not defend themselves properly. The ordinary course in which one man would defend himself against 500 would be by the use of firearms, but that is not what he means. He says they ought to assist the police in the identification of the ring-leaders of these midnight raids. But how can the poor herd be expected to give evidence against the leader of the midnight raid, when that leader is the president of the local branch of the United Irish League, and the United Irish League virtually means the Government of Ireland I What I consider to be the most lamentable result of these cattle-drives is the lowering of the sense of right and wrong in the people, and the increase of malice and all uncharitable-ness. It is surprising, when we think how the people recognise the supineness of the Government, and how they listen Sunday after Sunday to inflammatory speeches, that there are so many parts of Ireland in which peace reigns. All honour to those who decline to be influenced by the agitators. I can testify fully to the good behaviour of the people in the eastern portion of Mayo, amongst whom I live, who, in spite of all temptations, have not yielded, or have yielded only to a very small extent, to the temptation to indulge in cattle-driving.
221 We are told in the gracious Speech that a measure is to be introduced to obtain the compulsory possession of grazing lands for the purpose of relieving congestion. I am sure many noble Lords hardly realise what that means, and I should like to transfer the scene of London. Imagine what would be said if His Majesty's Government were to announce that they proposed to purchase Curzon Street, Chesterfield Gardens, and Great Stanhope Street for the purpose of relieving the congestion of Shepherd Market, and that they would not give a fair value, but only such a price as the tenants of Shepherd Market would be willing to give, and from that would subtract 15 per cent. to represent a guarantee for the repayment of the money.
What are these grass lands? They are lands which have been brought to the highest pitch of perfection by the landlords, and which the neighbouring tenants covet because they see their own land in a state of deterioration brought about by their own bad farming. On the grass lands the improvements are all made by the landlords, and all taxes are paid by them. The landlords would have no objection to relinquish these lands voluntarily if they were really needed for reasons of State, provided they got a fair price, which invested at 3¾ per cont. would enable thorn to obtain the net income they have been getting from the land during the past ten years. But the Estate Commissioners will not give any such price, because they know that these lands would rapidly deteriorate in the hands of the new owners.
The Irish landlords have been called the English Garrison. For hundreds of years they have fought the battle of England through good and evil report. They are now old and politically powerless. His Majesty's Government propose to deprive them of the greater part of their possessions to make way for the younger democracy. We know His Majesty's Government are full of great schemes of social reform, and, if I might venture to submit something to their consideration, it would be that when this Bill is introduced for dispossessing these old and valued servants of this country, they will consider whether the old-age pensions they afford them should not be of a generous nature.
My Lords, as one who has never before addressed this House, I would ask for the kind consideration of your Lordships for the few words I have to say on this subject. I should not have intervened at all but for the fact that I live in the rural district of Trim, County Meath, where Mr. Ginnell started his campaign, and I wish to state to your Lordships my personal experience of cattle-driving.
On 14th September last I attended a meeting of the rural district council of Trim, and at the end of that meeting Mr. Ginnell was introduced. I found myself in a small minority on that occasion, and I objected to his coming there and using the district council room for a wrong purpose. My objection was over-ruled, and I remained and listened to his speech. I can truly say that the speech he made then was of a much milder type than subsequent speeches. I took exception to his remarks at the time, and pointed out that they contained matter which could only bear one interpretation. I was, however, not listened to very favourably. I was asked to support a resolution to be sent to the Estates Commissioners asking for compulsory powers to acquire lands in the immediate district. I pointed out that the Estates Commissioners had, by the Evicted Tenant's Act lately passed by Parliament, large compulsory powers given to them, and that no such resolution as that which had been prepared by Mr. Ginnell was required. I then left in as dignified a way as I could.
We all know what the results of this preaching has been. It has resulted in fourteen cattle drives in my own district. We were told at first that cattle-driving was only to take place on land held under eleven months agreements; but on the night of 4th November three cattle-drives took place outside my own gate, one off a farm held under a lease from myself, the second off a farm held under an eleven months agreement, and the third oft' a farm which had been purchased by the tenant; and in one case—a claim for malicious injury—which is sub judice, the amount claimed for damages is nearly £3,000. Whatever amount is awarded in that case will have to be levied on the ratepayers. I leave it to your Lordships to consider what a state of demoralisation must be produced 223 in a small area where there have been fourteen cattle drives. The number of cattle removed was 433, and the number of sheep 294; the number of arrests, however, was only four, and the number of convictions two.
I was one of those who attended with the deputation which waited upon Mr. Birrell. The right hon. Gentleman expressed his great pleasure at seeing us, but found fault with us on three grounds. He first blamed the magistrates, but I think my noble friend, Lord Clonbrock, has already referred to that matter and shown that the magistrates were not to be blamed. Secondly, he complained that those who are in possession of these grass lands did not defend themselves. The Chief Secretary, however, omitted to tell us what means of defence we have. I pointed out to Mr. Birrell that after one of the cattle-drives I asked one of the herds why they did not try and prevent what was going on. The answer was, "It would be as much as my life would be worth." And, of course, to imagine that a couple of herds can stand up before an excited mob of young men armed, as they were on one occasion, with great ash poles, at the top of one of which was stuck a shoemaker's awl, and an iron bar, is expecting of human nature more than human nature can do. I know another case where cattle were driven off and the herd dared not come in conflict with the mob. I have seen, in the expressions on the faces of the young men who have attended them, the effect of the meetings that have been held. They are filled with a desire to deal with this matter in a summary way, and it has been our experience that this is what generally happens when these agitators come down to the district.
If there is any body of men we admire in Ireland it is the Royal Irish Constabulary. But they have had to stand and listen to this crusade, to these illegal speeches, leading to illegal acts, while the leaders of the movement are allowed to go free, and the police are told to look out for the cattle-drives themselves. It is monstrous. The police are put on the wrong track, and the result we see in the figures I have quoted. Lord Castletown has left the House, otherwise I should like to have said a word to him on the question of law and order. We do not want to see rough-and-tumble fights such as he described. We have had enough of them in 224 Ireland. We do not want the Government to shelter themselves behind professions, of sympathy. We want to see law reestablished, the police supported, and the owners given a fair chance, free of the fear of intimidation. Are we to be told that these lands are to be driven down to-a very low value to satisfy the cupidity of the people in the immediate district? I fail to see, if these lands are broken up, how the fat cattle can be reared, to keep up that great industry which is one of the greatest assets of Ireland. I believe it has been an act of absolute madness on the part of the cattle-drivers trying to ruin that great industry, which has taken years and years to build up. I do not think that if these sales were to take place the land would be-used for tillage. You would find that the men who took possession would turn round and let the land again for exactly the same purpose.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships would wish my first words to be those of congratulation to the noble Lord who has just sat down, and who has broken a silence of twenty-four years by the excellent maiden speech to which we have just listened. With regard to the course of this debate I think noble Lords opposite have been successful in adopting what I suppose one may call the official attitude of pessimism, which it is the duty of the Opposition to take in a debate of this kind. They have looked upon the state of Ireland, and found it almost altogether bad, and they have turned their blind eye to those more satisfactory features, which, I think, an unprejudiced person cannot fail to observe when he turns his vision to that country. They have put the magnifying end of the telescope to those disorders which have already been condemned by representatives of His Majesty's Government in this House, and they have applied the other end of the telescope to those more satisfactory features, and have almost entirely neglected to refer to them. For my own part, I should prefer to appeal to those more clear-sighted people, who, suffering from no defect of sight at all, are able to give a more impartial consideration to the facts which are before the House. I think lam justified in saying that noble Lords opposite have taken a pessimistic view of the 225 present state of Ireland by reference to the phrase, which was used by the noble Lord who has just sat down and by the Marquis of Lansdowne yesterday, "the ruining of the grazing industry." So far as the police are aware, there has been nothing in the agitation against the present system during the past year which has been followed by any considerable increase in the number of grazing farms unlet. And it so happens that just now the banks in Ireland are holding their meetings, and most of them are talking of good business, while the prices of cattle are well maintained at the present time. There is no particular increase, if any at all, in the number of failures or bankruptcies, and, therefore, it is difficult to see how it is possible to defend such a phrase as "the ruining of the graziog industry" at the present moment.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
The noble Lord used the phrase "ruin that great industry;" and in his speech yesterday the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition said—These people "re content to ruin what is the most important of Irish industries.The noble Marquess seemed to take a particularly gloomy view of the present condition of affairs. He admitted that there was a lull in cattle-driving, but that circumstance did not afford him any satisfaction at all, but seemed to be one of evil augury. There was one other phrase in the speech of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition yesterday to which I think it is only right that exception should be taken once more. That was the reference to Macedonia. The noble Marquess has himself done so much for that unhappy country that it seems to me particularly unfortunate that he should have provided other people with a possible reply to any representation which may be made in the future from this country, and I am sure the noble Marquess would be one of the very first to regret if anything he said in the course of the debate yesterday should seem to assume that there was any very real analogy between the two countries. Lord Donoughmore seemed to hear with surprise that my noble 226 friend the Lord President of the Council had at any moment spoken of cattle-driving in terms of disapprobation: I do not understand why that is, unless it is due to the fact that, according to a growing custom in this House, noble Lords leave the House after they have made their speeches, and do not listen to the comments made on them by noble Lords on the opposite side. I have turned up, in Hansard, the speech on the state of Ireland, which my noble friend the Lord President made in this House on 5th June, and I find that he spoke of—This exhibition of disorderly conduct which we deplore quite as much as noble Lords opposite.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
What I complained of was not that the Lord President did not disapprove of cattle-driving, but that he did not disapprove of what Lord Denman said.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I do not think the noble Earl will find there are many on this side of the House who will disapprove of anything that Lord Denman said, because the Lord President pointed out, on the same occasion, that Lord Denman had no intention of minimising such criminal and disorderly acts. I am quite sure that, even supposing, which I am far from believing to be the case, that any phrase that Lord Denman used has had an evil effect in Ireland, it is chiefly due to the fact that that phrase was very largely advertised by noble Lords opposite, and used by them for partisan purposes in order to stir up an agitation both in Ireland and in this country. There is something to be said in opposition to the view that the state of Ireland is so very disorderly at the present moment. The Lord President, in the debate of last year, quoted figures in which he compared the 1,000 agrarian outrages in 1886 with the 234 in 1906, and with the recollection of those figures, as well as other figures which are at my disposal, I heard with considerable astonishment the noble Marquess say that the state of Ireland at this moment is worse than it was in 1881, 1882, 1886, or 1887. Surely I may point out to the noble Marquess that, although this cattle-driving does exist, at any rate it is not 227 accompanied by crime and outrage, and that there is exceedingly little maiming of cattle that are driven.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I especially pointed out that there was no crime required, owing to the intimidation of the League achieving all that was necessary. There is considerable demoralisation, and I consider the state of things quite as serious.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
All I was trying to point out was that there was neither crime nor outrage, and therefore, I think, it is exceedingly difficult to support the proposition of the noble Marquess. The "demoralisation which exists all over the country," is, I think, also a somewhat exaggerated phrase on the part of the noble Marquess. He even said that the judges were demoralised. I seem to remember reading a report a few days ago of a discussion in one of the Courts of Justice in Dublin, and it did not seem to me that the Lord Chief Justice, at any rate, showed any signs of demoralisation in the way he conducted his argument with the Attorney-General. Let me remind the noble Marquess that in 1881 there were no less than 4,439 agrarian crimes as compared with 234 in 1906. The more serious cases of agrarian crime, such as those requiring special police protection and the serious cases of boycotting, also showed a considerable diminution, and I think that when the full figures, so far as they can be supplied, are produced, they will go far to satisfy the noble Marquess as to the present condition of Ireland.
I should also like to point out that the condition of Ireland now is no worse than it was at certain periods under the administration of Mr. Gerald Balfour. But at that time His Majesty's Government did not think it necessary to revive the Crimes Act, and surely His Majesty's present Government, in following an example of that kind, cannot be doing such a very serious thing !
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
It is no use applying a remedy which will not fit the disease from which the country is suffering. The Crimes Act, if it were applied in these particular circumstances, would not assist in the detection or punishment of these crimes.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
That may be the opinion of the noble and learned Lord. He will have every opportunity of stating his view subsequently in debate. But what has happened when the Government have undertaken prosecutions is that the evidence has been wanting. No number of Crimes Acts will supply evidence, and I am sure that no noble Lord would desire that a Crimes Act should supply evidence. Therefore, even supposing the Crimes Act were put into operation and cases of unlawful assembly were tried before two resident magistrates, there is no evidence to show that it would be easier or more possible to secure convictions in those cases than it is in cattle-driving. The Crimes Act, therefore, in the view of His Majesty's Government, would be ineffectual for the present purpose. Cattle-driving is almost the only direction in which there is any symptom or sign of an increase in agrarian crime. Firing at people and firing in the neighbourhood of a house both show no sign of increase, and, though there is some increase in Galway and Clare in cases of firing at houses, that is covered by the opinion of His Majesty's Government that they would not be able to stop that practice by reviving clauses of the Crimes Act. The graziers have not done much in support of His Majesty's Government in putting down the practice of cattle-driving. It may be asked why there are very few instances, if any, of the beasts being lost or being any the worse for the driving which has taken place. That is explained by the excellent work that has been done by the Royal Irish Constabulary. In almost every case they have been able to track the cattle and restore them to their owners. The noble Marquess who initiated the debate tried to prove that the Government had taken no steps to stop cattle-driving by saying that, while 237 people were prosecuted, 229 of them had been acquitted.
229 But surely the fact that so many prosecutions have been instituted disproves the contention of the noble Marquess that the Government are disposed to allow the law-breakers to go unpunished. There was another inconsistency in the speeches of noble Lords opposite. Lord Donoughmore said that cattle-driving was chiefly done by rich men, the sons of rich farmers, and the noble Lord further declared that if he were in their case he would have done it himself.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
If noble Lords on this side were anxious to encourage cattle-driving they would make as much party capital out of that admission as noble Lords opposite have tried to make out of the statement of my noble friend, Lord Denman, last session. On the other hand, the House was told by Lord Clonbrock that cattle-driving was done by poor dupes of boys who had no sense of responsibility.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
Even if noble Lords live in different parts of Ireland, they should be expected to speak with a united voice on this subject.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
After all, cattle-driving prevails in a very limited area, and it is hardly possible that the causes which led to it should be different in different parts of that area. The noble Earl, Lord Donoughmore, told us that the Ormond Hunt had been stopped, and he was not sure whether noble Lords on this side of the House would look upon that as a crime. I can assure him that for my own part I do not look upon it as a crime, but as a blunder which, according to a well-known saying, is worse than a crime. There is one other inaccuracy in what the noble Earl said which I should like to correct. He quoted from the speech of Mr. Redmond in another place last night to the 230 effect that no ill-treatment of animals had taken place. I fancy that a careful reading of the verbatim report of Mr. Redmond's speech would make that clear. What he said was that no ill-treatment took place during the actual cattle-driving. That, I think, is a point which it is worth while to make. The causes which have led to this cattle-driving had their origin in events which took place a very long time ago. Anyone who knows anything of Ireland is aware that in that country events work out more slowly than perhaps in any other part of the world. The real cause of all this was operating as long ago as the time of John Wesley, for in one of his diaries there is this interesting passage—The gentry are continually driving away hundreds, yea, thousands, by throwing such quantities of arable land into pasture, which leaves them neither business nor food. Thus it is that man dispeoples many parts of Ireland.His Majesty's Government are most anxious in this matter to carry out and, if necessary, to perfect, the work which was done by Mr. Wyndham under the Land Act of 1903. They have every hope that they will be able to accomplish that purpose; they believe it is rather by following out their present policy that they will be able to do it; and I do not think it is unreasonable on the part of His Majesty's Government to ask for the support of noble Lords opposite in carrying out a policy which was inaugurated with so much success by Mr. Wyndham. I ask your Lordships to take, not a prejudiced, but an impartial, broad view of the present condition of Ireland, and I cannot think that your Lordships will then believe it to be as bad as it has been pointed by some noble Lords opposite this evening.
My Lords, I should not have intervened in this debate if it had not been for the remark made by both Lord Castletown and Lord Beauchamp, to the effect that there was no serious crime in Ireland. I think they can scarcely have made use of the ordinary channels of knowledge, or otherwise they would know that within the last fortnight there 231 have been three shooting outrages in the county in which I reside. The first man happened to be a councillor who was driving to catch the train in order to attend the council and perform his duties to the county. He was suspected of going to vote for a man as returning officer who was not particularly favourable to certain persons in his district. At nine o'clock in the morning, as he was driving along the road, his car was stopped. Three men attacked him and pulled him off the car, one of the men firing a revolver, the bullet from which struck him just over the heart and he is now lying in a critical state. That, in the eyes of the Government, may not be a serious crime, but those who live in the district look upon it in a different light. On this day week, within six or seven miles of where I reside, a Mr. Patrick Ryan was shot at shortly after seven o'clock in the evening and seriously wounded in the face, and a few days before that a Mr. Patrick Macnamara had his house fired into. In face of these facts I do not see how it can be said that there is no serious crime in that part of Ireland. The fact is that His Majesty's Government no longer rule in those parts of the country. Nor, indeed, can it be said that the United Irish League completely rule, because I believe they have sent out word that these outrages are to cease. But these ruffians have got so in the way of enforcing their decrees that when the United Irish League do not agree with their views they act on their own and shoot right and left. The Government has tried to govern Ireland, not by enforcing the law, but through the gracious permission of the United Irish League. We have been told a great deal about the want of evidence. But the Judges and the Attorney-General for Ireland have stated in many cases where there has been an absolute acquittal, that the evidence was complete, and that the juries were really perjuring themselves in returning the verdicts they did. The Government has never yet attempted to prosecute one of the instigators of these crimes. The only leader who has been sent to gaol—Mr. Ginnell—was imprisoned for contempt of Court. The Government have allowed Nationalist Member after 232 Member to state openly that this could continue, as His Majesty's Government were in sympathy with them. I hope the Government will hold out some hope that in the future they will do something to remedy the state of things in Ireland.
§ Moved, "That the debate be now adjourned."—(The Earl of Leitrim.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.