§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I rise to call attention to the lawless condition of certain parts of Ireland, and to ask His Majesty's Government whether there has been an increase in intimidation, boycotting, cattle-driving and offences against property and individuals in those districts during the current year; and whether the law as administered has been found adequate to deal with the existing state of affairs and, if not, what steps the Government propose to take with a view to protecting the liberty and property of individuals.
Your Lordships will remember that I have brought this subject before the notice of the House on more than one occasion. On the first occasion the disorder was but as a small cloud no bigger than a man's hand, but the misgivings I then expressed have, unfortunately, been since realised; and 1070 this lawless condition of affairs, owing to the action of His Majesty's Government in not checking it in its origin, has now spread over a certain number of counties in Ireland. Indeed this entire disregard of the law has extended to almost within eighteen miles of Dublin. When I drew the attention of His Majesty's Government to this matter, and warned them as to what would take place, the noble Earl who now leads the House denied that the Government—Had any intention of doing anything but dealing in the fullest manner with such disorder.And the noble Marquess whose absence we so much regret (Lord Ripon), who then led the House, declared that the Government—Wanted to stand by the ordinary law until the ordinary law failed.Now, are His Majesty's Government to-night prepared to repeat their declaration that the ordinary law is sufficient to check the disorder?
It will be observed that I have restricted my Question to certain parts of Ireland, to the parts which are at the present moment in a lawless condition, and to those districts I shall entirely confine my remarks to-night, because I rejoice to think that outside eight counties the ordinary law of the land is recognised and respected. Hitherto when attention has been called to the serious condition of certain parts of Ireland it has been the custom of His Majesty's Government to slide off into an entirely different channel, and instead of giving a direct reply they have endeavoured to prove that ordinary crime in Ireland was no worse, and perhaps less, than in England. Therefore I ask the noble Lord who will reply to me on behalf of the Government to confine himself to replying to my Question.
I do not think that His Majesty's Government will deny that at the present moment this lawlessness exists in no less than eight counties in Ireland. It was, therefore, with some surprise that I read a speech delivered at Liverpool on 8th October, by the Attorney-General for Ireland, who said that we were at theBeginning of an era of peace, concord, and prosperity in Ireland.I do not hesitate to say that I rubbed my eyes with astonishment when I read 1071 that statement coming from a prominent member of the Irish Executive, and I hope there will be some explanation of how such a statement can be reconciled with the actual facts. The Government have themselves recognised in some degree the actual state of affairs, for they have issued a certain kind of proclamation enabling them to introduce extra police into disturbed districts. That was one reason why I rubbed my eyes with astonishment at reading the Attorney-General's statement. I find that the charges of the Judges of assize are at complete variance with the statement made by the Attorney-General. I do not propose to weary your Lordships by quoting more than a few of the charges. Mr. Justice Kenny, at the Galway Assizes on 20th July, said—With the exception of one district its condition is deplorable.Mr. Justice Madden, at the Longford Assizes on 3rd July, referred to the condition of things as—Other than satisfactory.At the Roscommon Assizes on 10th July, Mr. Justice Kenny said—Roscommon, I regret to say, is in a state of extreme lawlessness.I have other extracts of a similar kind, but I think those I have quoted will be sufficient to prove that the condition of these parts of Ireland has been declared by the Judges to be unsatisfactory and deplorable.
The actual returns of outrages confirm these statements. Persons under police control on 31st January, 1906, were 41; on 30th September, 1908, they numbered 104. Under patrol protection on 31st January, 1906, there were 167; on 30th September, 1908, 252. Cases of wholly boycotting on 31st January, 1907, were 14; on 31st August, 1908, 75. Cases of partial boycotting on 31st January, 1907, were 38; on 31st August, 1908, they were 40; and minor cases had increased from 164 to 639.
Then I come to another very dangerous class of crime, which appears as far as I can see, not to disturb the authorities at all—what is known as firing at persons. In 1906 there were three cases of firing at persons, and up to 30th September there had been ten such cases in 1908. Firing 1072 into dwellings during the same periods had increased from nine to fifty-five. Agrarian outrages numbered 234 in 1906, and were 418 to 30th September, 1908. Cattle-drives in 1907 numbered 381, and in 1908 up to June there were 413. The awards for malicious injury in the six months from April to September, 1906, amounted to £372; and the amount from October to March, 1908, was £2,912. These figures are of so remarkable a character that I think it must strike your Lordships as extraordinary that the Attorney-General for Ireland should endeavour to lead the people of England to believe that we are at the beginning of an era'of peace, concord, and prosperity. I maintain that the statement of the Attorney-General is entirely misleading and absolutely contrary to the facts.
I now come to the second part of my Question. I ask the Government whether the law as administered has been found adequate to deal with the existing state of affairs. Again, I turn, in the first place, to the charges of the Judges. Mr. Justice Kenny, at the Roscommon Assizes, said—From the information before me it would appear that binding to the peace is a very ineffective remedy for the state of things that exists:and Mr. Justice Ross, at the Land Judges Court said—This leniency is now interpreted as imbecility, cowardice, and connivance.Judge Curran, at Longford on 15th June, declared that—Cattle-driving will never cease as long as the Government only binds to the peace.That is the opinion of His Majesty's Judges, and I ask His Majesty's Government whether it is their intention to allow this state of lawlessness, which I have shown, is on the increase, to go on absolutely unchecked, certainly unpunished. Why will not the Government take proper steps to secure respect for the law, and to put an end to the present condition of lawlessness? I should like an answer to that question.
The Attorney-General for Ireland, in the same speech at Liverpool, said—The Liberal view was to associate the people with the administration of criminal law in such a way as to make them feel they were responsible for the welfare and good 1073 order of their own country. In this way the Liberal Party believed they would really gain to their side the whole mass of the people, making them feel that the law was their friend.Surely the way to associate the people with the law and order is through trial by jury. But what has become of trial by jury in Ireland? The Government have virtually admitted that trial by jury is an absolute failure. The law officers have told you that they have had plenty of evidence but could not get juries to convict the cattle-drivers, so great was the intimidation. Accordingly the offenders are brought before the magistrates, who simply bind them to the peace. Therefore I repeat that the Government have virtually acknowledged that trial by jury is an absolute farce.
What steps do His Majesty's Government propose to take to remedy the present serious state of affairs? It is not for me to advise His Majesty's Government; but I would suggest that there is a very simple course before them, and that is to make use of the statutory powers they at present possess. Without the need of reviving the Crimes Act, which the Government seem so much to dread, cattle-drivers could be tried under the existing statutory law for riotous assembly before two resident magistrates and summarily convicted. It may be said, in the interests of the law breakers, "Oh, but they would receive a severer punishment." So much the better. Law breakers ought to be punished. I regret the absence to-day of the noble and learned Lord the Lord-Chancellor, as I should like to have appealed to him on this point. I am confident that if cattle-driving took place in this country the authors of it would be prosecuted for riotous assembly, and they would be liable to two years' imprisonment. If that is the case in England, why, I ask, are these law breakers in Ireland, who are equally guilty, to be let off by being bound to the peace, which the Judges tell you is a complete farce? I hope I shall have an answer to that question.
I leave the question of cattle-driving and turn to that of boycotting. Boycotting, as the figure I have quoted so tragically show, is rampant in those counties to which I have referred to an extent which, to my mind, is a disgrace 1074 to those reponsible for the administration of the law in Ireland. We had difficulties with regard to boycotting at the time I undertook the Lord-Lieutenancy of Ireland, but by the administration of the Act of 1887, we entirely stamped it out. Why cannot that be done now? I noticed that Mr. T. W. Russell in a speech the other day asked—How can the Crimes Act stop boycotting?I shall show you very shortly that when the Crimes Act was administered by a strong Government, who recognised their responsibilities, boycotting was very soon stopped. But I will answer the Nationalist Mr. T. W. Russell, in the words of the Unionist Mr. T. W. Russell, who, speaking in the House of Commons on 21st August, 1889, as to the effects of the Crimes Act, two years after it had been in operation, said—In October, 1887, the number of persons boycotted was—in Clare, 500; and in Kerry, 477; and on July 1 this year there were seven persons in Clare and thirteen in Kerry, wholly or partially boycotted. Now, if that does not indicate an improved condition of things, I do not know what would be called an improvement.… Now, if I take the whole country apart from these two counties, I find the facts showing an equal improvement.Mr. Jackson, who succeeded Mr. Balfour as Chief Secretary, and to whom the restoration of law and order was due, speaking in March, 1892, said—In 1888, according to a Parliamentary Paper presented to the House, there were on 31st July, 1887, totally boycotted people in Ireland to the number of 870, and partially boycotted, 3,965. On 31st December, 1891, there was not a single person in Ireland boycotted, either wholly or partially.These are two conclusive testimonies of the success of the Crimes Act in stopping boycotting, yet Mr. Russell asks how the Crimes Act could stop boycotting. I know full well that there are considerable difficulties in dealing with very subtle cases of boycotting in Ireland. My own experience, and I was in the thick of it, demonstrated to me how difficult it was to deal with a certain mischievous class of boycotting; but in those days the Government recognised their responsibilities, and were determined that the law of the land should be effectively administered. I will give your Lordships a concrete instance of a case that occurred during the time I was Lord-Lieutenant. Certain 1075 men were prosecuted, and there was a great deal of comment at the time because it was stated that they were being proceded against for simply winking. It sounded a very trivial thing to be prosecuted for, but I will explain what that winking meant. There were a certain number of farmers on one of the campaign estates who were the victims of a ring of boycotters, and the general evidence was that they were systematically pursued by persons who gave this signal to intending purchasers, thereby rendering it absolutely impossible for them to sell their cattle or produce. Well, we prosecuted the boycotters, and our action resulted in a conviction and a smart sentence. The consequence was that the whole conspiracy collapsed, and these men were allowed to live in peace under the protection of the law. If boycotting in the shape of winking can be effectively dealt with under the Crimes Act I fail to see why, if you put it in force, you could not do away altogether with the present lawlessness.
When I have previously drawn attention to boycotting in your Lordships' House I have been told that the important cases were very small in number, that the cases enumerated were minor cases, and that, therefore, it was not worth while reviving the Act of 1887. To the uninitiated in England a minor case of boycotting may seem a trivial matter. Let me quote a definition given by the Lord Chief Justice, who, at the Spring Assizes for County Clare, held at Ennis on 3rd March, last, said—Let them take an instance of those so-called minor cases.… He would take the case of a man named Taylor. People did not speak to him or deal with him in any way, and he had to go to Limerick for all the necessaries of life.… There were five cases where people did not speak or deal with the parties, and they had to go considerable distances for the necessaries of life. These were in-stances of minor boycotting.Will any one tell me that cases of boycotting ought not to be taken notice of because they are minor cases only, when this intolerable treatment is meted out to the victims?
When I last raised this question the Lord Chancellor said that the Crimes Act—Would only inflame ill-feeling, and increase the volume of crime.1076 I was surprised at that statement. If the noble and learned Lord studied the Irish papers as closely as I do, he would find that when men were prosecuted and, refusing to be bound over, went to gaol, they caused quite as much ill-feeling as would result from putting in force the Crimes Act. Again, I cannot reconcile the statement of the Lord Chancellor with the fact that when the Act was put in force by a Unionist Government the volume of boycotting was reduced. What has gone far to increase the volume of crime in Ireland is the action of His Majesty's Government and the statements which have been made by Ministers. I remember well that when Sir Edward Carson called upon the Chief Secretary last summer to take advantage of the law that existed or could be revived, Mr. Birrell replied—I will not.I submit that that word did more to increase the volume of crime than anything that had been done for some time, and it carried joy to the hearts of the lawbreakers. I hope the Government, though rather late in the day, are realising the seriousness of the present state of affairs and will take steps to put an end to it. I have noticed that Mr. Birrell has never spoken very strongly of the disorderly conduct of certain parts of Ireland. He certainly said once that his fingers itched to prosecute the cattle-drivers or those who promoted cattle-driving, but his hands never grasped the offenders.
The land settlement in Ireland is being suspended because the agreements for sale which have been signed are not being carried out. I maintain that Mr. Birrell cannot ride on two horses; he cannot say that the disorderly condition of Ireland is stopping the progress of land settlement, and yet at the same time take no steps to put an end to that disorder. When the last Unionist Government, of which I was a member, passed the Land Purchase Act, we never anticipated that it would be such a glorious success. It is now Mr. Birrell's duty to quell the present disorder and go on with the land policy, for in allowing lawlessness to continue, the Government are doing serious damage to the industrial prosperity of Ireland owing to the great 1077 charges that are placed on localities for extra police.
On this occasion we have an advantage which we have not had before. We have now present with us Lord MacDonnell, who has been created a Member of your Lordships' House since we last debated this subject. Lord MacDonnell had been in Dublin while the serious increase of crime was going on. Of Lord MacDonnell I speak in terms of sincere respect. His friends have told me that he is a man of great ability, and a staunch supporter of law and order. With regard to the first description, I most cordially concur, and with regard to the second, I should like to hear his speech to-night before I form an opinion. Lord MacDonnell occupied the great position of permanent Under-Secretary at Dublin, and in that capacity he naturally had a large voice in the conduct of affairs. Doubtless he will tell us his experiences there at that time, and whether he concurred in the action of his Chief in permitting this lawlessness to go on.
I have frequently been told that the condition of Ireland is not nearly so bad as it was in the dark days before the Act of 1887, when crime and outrage stalked unchecked. I fully admit that. But there exists in Ireland at present a state of demoralisation of those who are responsible for the administration of the law. There is demoralisation from the highest to the lowest. The Judges know it is no use charging juries, and benches of magistrates dare not sit for fear of the consequences. Their lives would be in jeopardy if they gave decisions contrary to the will of the United Irish League. The police themselves are in doubt when they are doing their utmost to maintain law and order as to whether they will be supported by their chiefs. Surely a state of demoralisation such as this is a scandal to a civilised country and ought not to be allowed to exist. It is the custom for English people to say: "Oh, it is only Ireland"; but I maintain that the life and property and comfort of Irishmen, no matter how humble, have a right to be protected. As the spirit of lawlessness is spreading in Ireland, so will it spread over the whole of the United Kingdom, and it is because I believe it to be to the interest of England 1078 as much as of Ireland that law and order should be maintained by those responsible for it that I have put down the Question which stands in my name.
My Lords, I wish to support most strongly what has fallen from my noble friend who has just sat down as to the condition of a very considerable part of Ireland. I can assure the House that deep anxiety exists in Ireland both as regards the present time and as to what may happen in the immediate future, because we have it on very high authority that there is to be a renewal of agitation during this coming winter. As my noble friend has pointed out, eight counties out of the thirty-two are concerned. That is not only a quarter of the number of counties but it approaches very nearly to a quarter of the whole area of Ireland. A quarter of the whole area of Ireland is a little over 8,130 square miles; the area of these eight counties is 7,912, and we have seen in the public Press that the agitation is extending further south and east into the county of Tipperary.
The Government are evidently well aware of the increasing amount of agitation, as we see from the step, about the only step they have taken, in the direction of increasing the police force in these several counties. In the half year ended 31st March, 1907, the amount charged to the counties for extra police was £799; on 31st March of this year the amount was £7,073. That shows the opinion of His Majesty's Government as to the requirements of the country in the way of police in consequence of this agitation. I must point out that this is a very heavy burden upon these counties, and that it falls chiefly upon the people who are injured by these illegal acts and outrages. In speaking of the police, I wish again to bear testimony to their admirable conduct, to the energy and activity which they have displayed under very discouraging circumstances; for it must be most discouraging to them, after all the hard work that devolves upon them in endeavouring to check cattle-driving and other outrages, to find that when they make an arrest the defendants are merely bound over to keep the peace. There are plenty more to take the place 1079 of the cattle-drivers who are bound over, and they are encouraged by the leniency shown with regard to this offence.
My noble friend has well described the state of terrorism which can be produced by fear of outrage and boycotting. Boycotting could not continue to any extent were it not for the terrorism which is inspired and the fear of violent outrages. In the first six months of this year there were seventy-five cases of firing into houses and at people; and only a few days ago I read that in my own county about twenty shots were fired into a house in which two ladies resided, and, as usual, no arrests were made. The system of terrorism is so great that orderly and law-abiding persons are debarred from following their ordinary avocations in life, and they look, as I say, with the greatest possible apprehension to the future. I do hope, therefore, that it is not too late to urge His Majesty's Government to give up vague generalities, as to the state of Ireland being, on the whole, satisfactory, to consider how large the disturbed area has become, and to extend to peaceable, law-abiding citizens that protection which they have a right to expect in any civilised country.
My Lords, once more we are embarked on a debate dealing with the question of law and order in Ireland, and once more the attack on the Government has been led by two noble Lords well qualified by their position to speak for the landlord party in that country. This is not the first time—no doubt it will not be the last time—that this question has been discussed in your Lordships' House during the life of the present Parliament. I notice that there is a certain similarity in the arguments and in the views which are put forward with those which have been put forward on previous occasions, and I think it possible that there may be a corresponding similarity in the answer which I have to give to-day.
The noble Marquess dealt at some length with statistics, and I shall have a word to say on that matter. Formerly, when I have taken part in these debates, I have endeavoured to ground my case 1080 a good deal on the figures supplied to us by the police. I have endeavoured to show that if the number of outrages and crimes was not much worse in a particular year, say in the year 1906, than in the previous year, the state of Ireland even in the disturbed districts could not be so very bad, and I have been rather surprised, I am bound to confess, at the ease with which the figures I have given have been brushed away by noble Lords opposite either suavely or brusquely or contemptuously, according to the disposition of the speaker. A noble Lord would get up from the front Opposition bench and say: "What do I care about your statistics. I much prefer relying upon the opinion of Mr. So-and-so"; and it is a curious thing that Mr. So-and-so's opinion always coincided with his own. Then some other noble Lord, say, for example, Lord Mayo, would rise from the benches opposite and say: "After all, the number of these outrages depends upon the way in which they are ordered to be reported by the police."
The noble Earl adheres to that statement. Well, that knocks the bottom out of my statistics altogether. The noble Marquess has grounded his case to-day on figures and answers which have been supplied, I presume, by the Irish Office in the House of Commons. After my experience of statistics I had not intended to ground my case upon them to-day. The noble Marquess, however, has dwelt at length upon the state of the country which obtained when he was Viceroy, when he was a member of a firm and courageous Government, and I would like to quote some figures which will give a comparison of the state of the country as it is to-day with the state of the country as it was during the last year of the noble Marquess's occupancy of the office of Lord-Lieutenant. That, I think, was the year 1889.
I find that the figures are as follows: In 1889 the cases of intimidation numbered 202; in 1908 they are 242. Offences against property were 132 in 1889; in 1908 they are 64. Offences against the person were 27 in 1889; 1081 in 1908 they are 18. Offences against the peace were 96; to-day they are 108—that is to say, we have a total of 432 cases to-day as against 457 when the noble Marquess resigned his office and at a time when the Crimes Act, to which the noble Marquess is so devoted, had been some two years in force. With regard to boycotting, I find that there were 53 serious cases in 1889; there were 26 in 1908. Therefore, I think we may conclude, if there is any force in the figures that I have given or that the noble Marquess has given, that the country is in no worse condition to-day than it was during the rule of the Government of which the noble Marquess was a member and after two years application of the Crimes Act.
I was glad to notice one rather important admission in the speech of the noble Marquess. He told us that outside eight or nine counties the ordinary law prevails. I thank the noble Marquess for that admission. That is a very distinct improvement upon the attitude which he took up in the debate at the beginning of this session. What did he tell us then? He said—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.Now he tells us that outside eight or nine counties the ordinary law prevails, and that the condition of Ireland is, I presume, fairly satisfactory. Therefore, if we are to judge by this admission, the state of Ireland has certainly improved during the last few months.
I have said that I do not intend to rest my case to-day on figures, but I admit that importance should attach to these figures. I have said so before, and it would only be consistent on my part to-say so again to-night; and if you judge by the figures I admit that certain counties in the west of Ireland are certainly in a bad condition to-day; indeed, I believe their condition is worse than at any time during which the present Government have been in office. But, having said this, I propose to dwell for a few moments upon the cause of the trouble, and I hope I shall be able to show that the state of things 1082 even in these districts is not really so bad as the admission I have just made would seem to imply. In the first place, as the noble Marquess and his colleague, Lord Clonbrock, I think, have admitted, the disturbance is confined within certain areas. County Clare, in which, I regret to say, the disturbance has lately spread and which is certainly one of the worst at the present time, is responsible for 149 out of 313 agrarian outrages and for 106 out of 536 cattle-drives. In other words, County Clare is responsible for half the outrages in the disturbed area and for one-third of the outrages in all Ireland; it is also responsible for half the threatening and intimidatory letters and notices. Of the other counties, Galway and Roscommon are the worst. As I have said, the trouble is confined within certain districts.
As regards the steps which have been taken to cope with the disorder in those parts of Ireland, nine counties have been proclaimed for the purpose of increasing the police establishments. An addition of 750 men has been made to the constabulary force. The police in these counties, under difficult conditions, have done their best to deal with the disorder that exists. Half the cost is borne by the counties proclaimed. Signs are not wanting that the local authorities are beginning to be concerned at the cost which they will have to meet for extra police, and it is to be hoped that they may bring their influence to bear in the cause of law and order.
To my mind there is one hopeful sign in the rather gloomy picture which the two noble Lords who have just spoken have drawn, and that is that we know, or at all events we believe we know, the cause of the disease. I believe it is generally agreed on both sides of the House that the cause of this disease is known, and once you know the cause surely it should not be entirely impossible to find a remedy, even though we may differ as to what that remedy should be. Of course the primary cause is congestion in the West of Ireland. You have poor people living in the neighbourhood of rich grazing lands which they covet for themselves, and, human nature being what it is, they have resorted to extremities in an entirely mistaken attempt 1083 to attain their ends. I do not wish for a moment to be thought to excuse or extenuate any of the crimes or outrages that have been committed in these districts. Nothing is further from my mind. Indeed, no language can be too strong to condemn them. But, at the same time, we know that this land hunger is a factor in the situation, and it is a factor which anyone attempting to deal with this problem will have to take into consideration.
There is, I think, a reason why the land hunger in the West of Ireland is worse perhaps than it is in other parts, and it is to be found in the Land Act of 1903. The Estates Commissioners have bought untenanted land in different parts of Ireland, but owing to the high price of grazing land in the west I believe it is true that a comparatively small number of properties have been acquired there compared with other parts. The consequence is that people in these districts have seen untenanted land change hands in other parts of Ireland but not in theirs, and as a result the disappointment in those particular districts has been deep and bitter. The Government intend to lay before Parliament during this session legislative proposals for dealing with the question of congestion and with the points raised in the Report of the Commission presided over by Lord Dudley, and of which the noble Lord behind me, Lord MacDonnell, was a distinguished member. Of course, it would be impossible that at this stage of the session any Bill dealing with a question of this magnitude should be expected to pass through either House of Parliament. That is out of the question, but I think it is possible that when the people realise that the Government are in earnest in grappling with this problem of congestion it may do something to allay the disorder even in the districts where it is at present most pronounced. Then the noble Marquess asks us what we are going to do; and from the terms of his speech I gather that what he wants us to do is to apply the Crimes Act.
I have to tell the noble Marquess frankly that it is not the intention of the Government at the present time to apply the Crimes Act. They prefer to rely on the ordinary law, in the belief that their policy will result in the creation of a healthier state of public opinion, and that by refusing to resort to exceptional measures they will eventually enlist the sympathies of the people themselves on the side of law and order. If we want support for our policy of refusing to apply the Crimes Act to-day it is to be found in the weighty words which fell from the noble Earl, Lord Dudley, in a debate at the beginning of this session. And I would venture to remind the House that Lord Dudley was a member of the Tory Government, that he was himself responsible in part for the government of Ireland under a Tory Administration, and that if he were prejudiced it is not likely that he would be prejudiced in favour of the views which generally obtain on this side of the House. Lord Dudley, in the speech to which I have referred, described coercion as—A policy which cuts at the root of all true union between England and Ireland, and which embitters public opinion in that country to such an extent as to render successful government difficult, if not impossible.He said—It inevitably turns discontent into real disloyalty.And he went on to declare that—There is no doubt that coercion under any Government means war to the knife in Ireland.If that is true of any Government, surely, my Lords, it is especially true of this Government, because the people of Ireland have been led to believe, by the utterances of leading members of the Liberal Party, that they will receive more sympathetic treatment than that which was accorded to them by their predecessors. Therefore, when the noble Marquess urges us to apply coercion in order to deal with the trouble in the disturbed districts, my answer is that it is not only a question of these particular districts. It is a question of whether you are to stir up this feeling in the country, whether you are to have war to the knife between the people and the Government of Ireland.
1085 There is considered something rather fine and brave and courageous about a policy of coercion. Why, goodness knows! For, if you come to look into it, really exactly the opposite is the case. It may, perhaps, be easy to govern for a time if you choose to resort to methods such as these, and to my mind I am bound to say the reputation for courage which coercion carries with it would be a temptation to some men to apply it on a very slender pretext. Were I, by any horrible concatenation of circumstances, to be Chief Secretary for Ireland—and I can imagine no more terrible fate—I would certainly be tempted to yield to any pressure, however slight, to apply the Crimes Act in order to acquire a reputation for firmness and courage on such absurdly cheap and easy terms. We are urged to apply coercion and to crush down any threatened disorder by force, or, at any rate, by coercive means. Well, this may succeed for the moment, though even this, as I think is clear from the figures I quoted of the state of affairs after the noble Marquess himself had applied coercion for two years, is open to question; but you would inevitably increase tenfold the mistrust and the hatred which so many Irishmen feel to-day for English institutions and English forms of government.
If you only take thought for the present, what can be easier than for those charged with the duty of government to avail themselves of the weapons which a powerful country like ours places in their hands? Surely, my Lords, it is a far more courageous policy to look beyond the needs of the moment and to refuse to do anything which might intensify the bitterness of a people whose goodwill it is still possible you may gain, or which might, so to speak, have the effect of mortgaging the political future of the nation. Shrewd observers have given it as their opinion that before long in Ireland we shall come to a parting of the ways. Either we shall have to trust in the loyalty and the goodwill of the people of Ireland—and that there is not loyalty I, who have fought alongside Irish regiments in South Africa, refuse to believe—or we shall have to rely on government by force, which, if you are consistent, al- 1086 though the Government of Ireland never has been consistent, must inevitably result, as was pointed out in this House by the Lord-Chancellor, in Crown Colony Government.
I venture, with all possible respect to noble Lords opposite from Ireland, to take leave to doubt whether these debates, after all, serve any very useful purpose either in Ireland or in this country. I am quite sure of one thing—that by constant repetition of these things, by constantly raising these debates in your Lordships' House, by reports in the Press, sometimes, at all events, exaggerated, the people of this country are beginning to think that the description of a particular parish, or a particular district, or a particular county in a disturbed condition applies to the whole of Ireland. The other day I came across rather a striking instance of this. A lady living in the outskirts of Dublin was engaging an English governess, and a few days before the governess was due to go over to Dublin to take up her position in this lady's household she wrote a letter stating that she was extremely sorry she was unable to go after all, as her mother would not let her, because she feared that her life would not be safe. That is the kind of impression which these repeated debates and newspaper paragraphs will, I believe, give to the people in this country.
My Lords, I have no wish at all to minimise the disturbances in these counties in the West of Ireland, and I think that in the greater part certainly of Galway and Clare the property of the grazier, if you reckon cattle as being the bulk of his property, is certainly not as safe as it is in other parts of Ireland; and from our point of view one unfortunate aspect of the case is that these deliberate outrages and this criminal folly of cattle-driving will, if persisted in, alienate and exasperate public feeling in this country, and will set the tide of public opinion flowing against a policy of conciliation and sympathy, which I notice even such a stalwart Tory paper as the Morning Post recommends, and it is, of course, always possible that this Government may be driven to adopt the policy recommended by the noble Marquess.
1087 It seems to me that you have to look at this question from a broad and wide aspect, for, in spite of all the things that have been quoted, Ireland at present is hopeful and is looking for the dawn of a better day. In other parts of the world, indeed, one might say all the world over, the claims of nationality and the demand for self-government are making themselves heard. In other countries, in our own Colonies, you applaud these things; you deem them fine and noble aspirations, and if it lies in your power you do what you can to assist in their realisation. But to Ireland, with all the bitter memories of the past still rankling in her mind—to Ireland, if we adopt your policy, we are in effect to say, "Let there be war, and war to the knife between the Government and the people," and all this in order to allay temporary disturbances and check local disorders, grave enough, I admit, in themselves, but symptoms, after all, of a still graver disease which only years of patient, sympathetic, and courageous treatment can ever hope to remedy or cure.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
My Lords, I listened with close attention to the speech which has just been delivered by the noble Lord who represents the Irish Government, trusting that he might have been able to hold out some hope that the Government had realised at last that it was necessary to do something. That was not a very extravagant expectation, but what have we had? All that the noble Lord did was to express the hope that when the people of Ireland realised that the Government were in earnest—they appear not to have realised that up to the present—we might then expect to see some tremendous change. Then the noble Lord intimated that it would be an appalling thing to have war to the knife, and that the Government would not resort to a policy such as that, at all events for the present.
Now, what are the realities of the situation? Are we to lose sight of the speech of my noble friend the noble Marquess beside me? The noble Lord who has just sat down indicated a great desire to make a contrast between the 1088 state of the country in 1889 and in 1908, but that is not germane to the question. The contrast I would make is between the time the present Government came into office, three years ago, and the present moment. The question is, Why have the Government allowed the country to get into such a state; and what are they going to do? The noble Lord used the word coercion. It is a word that some people like to use as if it meant a great deal more than in substance anyone can ascribe to it. It is not suggested that all the clauses of the Act of 1887 should be applied. Attention has been drawn over and over again to one particular clause in that Act which enables two magistrates to deal with unlawful assembly and riot. If that clause had been applied, cattle-driving would have ceased in a week, and Ireland would now be absolutely quiet.
The contrast I make is between December, 1905, and the present time. Mr. Long was then Chief Secretary. He is the last man in the world who would seek to have praise given to him, but it cannot be denied that he proved himself a straightforward, manly English gentleman who knew his own mind and was direct in his purpose. When Mr. Long was in Ireland, law and order were held in respect. It was known that the people administering the Government would not tolerate disrespect of the law. When the Government of which the noble Lord is a member came into office it found Ireland comparatively quiet; there was no coercion that could be so-called; the clause of the Crimes Act to which I have referred was in occasional operation whenever needed; the police were not discontented; and all this was taking place at a time when there was no Irish Nationalist sympathy with the Government. We could not rely upon the popular sympathy which the present Government have done so much, they think, to enlist. But when I turn to the Irish Nationalist Press and read the reports of meetings that take place in Ireland, I do not find that the absence of anything effective to maintain law and order has won for the Government a single particle of popular esteem or sympathy.
1089 No one can question the position in which the Government found Ireland when they came into office. Is not Mr. Bryce's testimony written large? Mr. Bryce's testimony before he went to America—he was, I have no doubt, very glad to go there, and I am not at all sure that Mr. Birrell would not like to follow him—was that when he came into office the condition of Ireland was satisfactory. Later on, when it came to Mr. Birrell's turn to raise his voice, he left Mr. Bryce nowhere. He said that Ireland had not been so peaceful, contented, and tranquil for 600 years. This was the testimony of your own Minister. I do not know a people in the world who can take the measure of a man quicker than the Irish; they know when they are face to face with a man who means to govern and knows how to govern, and when they are face to face with a man who cannot or will not govern. Therefore, after a time lawlesssness naturally assumed a prominent position, and crimes, intimidation, and boycotting developed daily. Then came a new form of crime in the shape of cattle-driving, which advanced by leaps and bounds. If cattle-driving had been faced and met with resolute action in the first month of its existence it would have been promptly put down.
When attention was called to the matter in Parliament, Mr. Birrell said he would have nothing but the ordinary law. Give him time, he said, and he would be able to achieve the necessary result by the ordinary law. Abundant time has been given; the ordinary law has been tried and has failed, as everyone knew it would fail; jurors cannot be relied upon, and ordinary magistrates cannot adequately deal with the situation. The state of the country has become worse and worse, and there is a kind of paralysis in the administration of justice. Is this to go on for ever? Will not the Government try the section of the Act to which their attention has been drawn and which is known to be efficacious, instead of pottering with the ordinary law, which they know is inappropriate, and furbishing up Statutes of Edward III. and William IV.?
The noble Marquess has referred to the statements of Judges that binding to the peace is not efficacious, and it 1090 has been declared by one Judge to be an imposture. Surely this is a very serious state of facts, bearing in mind that it is not suggested by Lord Denman that it is intended to do anything more vigorous in the future than has been done in the past. Meanwhile open contempt of the law is expressed in Ireland and scorn for those who will not govern but leave matters to go on as at present. I read recently a statement by the Recorder of Galway, who, speaking with great knowledge on the subject, said it was impossible now to get process servers on account of the fact that men acting in this capacity carry their lives in their hands. That is the state of things we are asked to accept tranquilly whilst the Government are waiting to be thought by somebody to be earnest about something. Can your Lordships appreciate the state of things in some parts of Ireland? Have you ever tried to realise in your own minds what boycotting is? The victim is not allowed to be supplied with the necessaries of life, he is not to be spoken to by his neighbours, he is shunned in fair and market.
The noble Lord boasts that all Ireland is not in such a terrible state as the eight counties. Are not eight counties enough to be in the awful state that has been described? The other day I read of an application made to the vacation Judge sitting in Dublin that some other method should be adopted for serving writs as no process server could be found. The post was mentioned, but the postman's life would not be safe if it were known that his bag contained writs, and permission was sought to serve by posting in some public building in the locality. And this is going on within a few hours travel from London, and the Government have said nothing to indicate that they intend to grapple with and put an end to this scandalous state of things. Lord Denman referred to uneasiness about congestion. That will not do. Congestion is a word we are getting very familiar with. When we see the Report upon congestion we will deal with it in debate, and deal with it, I hope, adequately and efficiently. I will not now enter into any discussion 1091 of Lord Dudley's language. I had the responsibility of following him in the debate to which reference has been made, and I expressed my opinion with reference to his words then, though on consideration, I think I might have said more. What has been said on the subject of congestion does not meet the case. We are now dealing with cattle-driving and lawlessness. Meath was one of the quietest counties in Ireland; it was most sparsely peopled, it had splendid land, and was crimeless; yet under the beneficent sway of the Government who are always waiting for something to turn up it became, last year, one of the most lawless parts of Ireland without any congestion to rely upon for the scandalous and repeated cattle-drives that took place there.
I never enjoy figures, though I once had the honour of being connected as hon. secretary with a statistical society; but I will give one figure because it is very symptomatic. I read, a couple of days ago, an answer given in the House of Commons in which it was stated that from March to September, 1905, the awards for malicious injuries amounted to £506, whereas in the corresponding six months of this year, under the beneficent sway of the present Government, that sum had gone up to over £10,000. Can your Lordships conceive a more significant fact than that? Is it not also strange that while the Government are hoping everything and doing nothing the people who have not yet come to believe they are in earnest will not stay in the country? While in 1905, emigration reached the very large figure of 31,000, last year the figure had gone up to 39,000. The noble Lord said something about the police. The police in Ireland are a splendid body of men. I hope they will never have to lose confidence in the Government. It is they who ensure respect for the law. Let them feel that they can respect the Government. The result of waiting and doing nothing has been that lawlessness and outrage have increased, and the maintenance of the police cost an additional £47,000 last year. It is very expensive not doing the right thing. If the Executive had applied the one section 1092 of the Act of 1887 to which I have referred, much of that would have been saved and Ireland would be quiet.
Is it fair to keep Ireland seething in the present state of lawlessness? Has any Government a justification to keep it in that state when they have a remedy ready to their hand if they would but use it? The noble Lord said it was a sign of splendid courage not to use it. Many a man has been shot for such courage after a battle. It is said that it is no sign of courage to use the coercion Act. I do not say it is. I do not claim any praise for the Government of Mr. Long for using the clause I refer to, but every Government, I care not what it may call itself, should rise to the dignity of trying to do its duty, and the first duty of a Government is to maintain law and order. His Majesty's present Government have not done that. They have asked for time to try the Statutes of Edward III. and the ordinary law, and Ireland is now in the state which my noble friend has described.
It is never too late to mend. Although Ireland is, in many of its counties, in a bad state, I believe that if the remedy the Government have at hand were applied with nerve and energy peace and quiet would return, but the Government must realise that something has to be done and done at once. It will not do to tell us to wait for the debate on the Report as to congestion. It will not do to wait until the people find out that you are in earnest. It is necessary to act now if you want to cope with the disorders that exist. The Government have been looking on for a long time doing nothing. Do they not think that the time has arrived when they might cease talking of a future that may never come, and try to act in the living present to restore some respect for the administration of the law?
§ *LORD MACDONNELL OF SWINFORD
My Lords, I did not come down to the House this evening intending to take any part in the debate on the maintenance of order in Ireland, although it was my intention to ask your permission to make a few remarks on another aspect of the Irish question. But, responding to the invitation of the noble Marquess, 1093 I venture to say that I have listened to the debate with feelings of great depression. I listened to the impeachment of the noble Marquess and to the defence of the noble Lord, both of which were conducted with accustomed ability, and the impression left upon my mind was that the cause of good government in Ireland would be furthered neither by the impeachment nor by the defence. I know the West of Ireland well—I have recently had an opportunity of perfecting my knowledge regarding it—and I can assure your Lordships that the feelings which animate the people in that part of the country are due, not to any innate wickedness of their nature, or to disloyalty to the Crown, but entirely to the slow operations of land purchase, especially in regard to congestion.
As to the policy pursued by the Government in regard to crime in Ireland, I think that a sharper method of treatment for those who instigated cattle-driving would produce better results. But there may be doubt as to whether it is better to ignore men of that description, fanatics and instigators of misconduct, or to treat them sharply in the beginning and so suppress them. My own feeling leans to the latter method of treatment; but, whatever your Lordships' judgment on that question may be, I feel that it must be in any case a judgment on a side issue. The real issue which to my mind is raised by this debate is not whether cattle-driving or boycotting should be treated in one way or another, but how best to push on and complete the work of land purchase in Ireland. I firmly believe that in coercion you have no substitute for land purchase, and that in land purchase you have a complete remedy. Therefore is it not better and more statesmanlike and more profitable for the Empire, that, instead of wasting your time on such debates as these, you should endeavour to rescue the Government from the impasse to which they have come with regard to the provision of funds for land purchase? I came down to the House with the intention of making some observations on that subject. I do not know whether I should be in order now in pursuing my comments. If I am considered to be in order I propose doing so.
1094 What is the present position of affairs in regard to land purchase? Briefly it is this: when the Act of 1903 was passed it was thought by the Government of the day that £100,000,000, with the grant of £12,000,000 as bonus, would suffice; but experience has shown that at least £150,000,000 will be required to complete the work, and the root difficulty at the present time is how this money should be provided. Up till now £25,000,000 in round numbers have been actually paid to landlords under the operation of the Act, leaving £125,000,000 still to be provided. Of that sum of £125,000,000—I speak in round figures, but I do not think I shall be out in any case more than a £1,000,000—agreements covering some £45,000,000 to £50,000,000 have been deposited with the Estates Commissioners. This question divides itself into two parts—first, how should those agreements be financed; and, secondly, how should the remaining £80,000,000 be provided. I will submit to the House my view with regard to each.
I presume that the agreements now deposited with the Estates Commissioners must be dealt with under the strict terms of the Act if the landlords, or the vendors, insist upon it; in other words, the money must be provided and cash paid unless the vendors agree to a variation of the contract. Assuming that no variation in the terms of the contract is agreed to, the difficulty is how to provide the cash. It is understood that by the end of this month a time will have arrived when a different course to that hitherto followed must be pursued in regard to land purchase finance. To the course to be followed later, I will presently refer. But limiting myself to the period before the 1st of November I think that if the balance of the bonus fund which, amounting to £4,000,000 or £5,000,000, would remain after the distribution on the Agreements now deposited had been made, is allocated for the flotation of loans, the Government will be able to pay off the £45,000,000 of deposited agreements, and to consider what new arrangements should be made to promote land purchase. The consideration of that problem should, I think, lead it to conclude that—after the 1st of November—it will be impossible 1095 to pay the landlords in cash. But if a scheme were devised under which a loan at 3 per cent. could be floated, which would stand at about par, the landlord could be paid in stock from which if he did not wish to keep the stock he might readily realise the price to which he was entitled for his land.
The floating of a loan at 3 per cent. would necessitate an additional charge upon the tenants; their annuity would be 3½ per cent. instead of 3¼. On the other hand, the probability is that the landlords would receive from one to two years purchase less than they had received hitherto; but I cannot regard that as a substantial hardship. It never was expected when the Land Act of 1903 was being framed that prices would go so high as they have. It was always thought that the average price would be about twenty-two years purchase, which, with the bonus, would be about twenty-five years purchase, a higher price for land than had been paid in Ireland theretofore. If this scheme is accepted the Government will be able to raise its loans with less or at very little less and pay the landlords a price of about twenty-five years purchase.
The only thing required to make the arrangement complete is that the Treasury should be a contributing party. If the landlord and the tenant both contribute something, it is only fair, when a great national settlement of this sort is under consideration, that the Treasury should take its part. I do not think it will be a satisfactory settlement if differential treatment of landlords is introduced, giving a larger bonus to those who sell before a particular date and a smaller bonus to those who sell afterwards. If the Treasury would come forward and secure that the same amount of bonus should be paid to the landlords in the future as has been done in the past, by advancing another £6,000,000, more will be done for the peace of Ireland than by any number of Coercion Acts. Coercion as a remedy has always failed. My experiences in the West of Ireland have burnt this into my soul, that coercion will only exasperate still more the people who are now imploringly stretching out their hands to this country, in 1096 the hope that at last peace and amity may dawn for them.
*THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, after the interesting speech of Lord MacDonnell on the subject of the finance of the Land Act of 1903, I desire to bring the House back to the question put to the Government by the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, regarding "the lawless condition of certain parts of Ireland." I do not wish to do so in any Party sense. I would much rather talk of other things than the condition of certain counties in Ireland, but we who live in Ireland cannot sit still and say nothing while the responsible Government take no steps to suppress the disorder. Lord Denman made the important admission that the present state of certain parts of Ireland was worse than at any time since the present Government had been in office. I think that is an important admission to have got from my noble friend. Personally I live in a part of the country that is quiet, and in peace with my near neighbours, my late tenants. Others are not so happily situated.
This is no question of religion, which is so often in Ireland the cause of discord, hatred, and even outrage, for during the time the present Government have been in office a priest's house has been fired into and a priest's cattle have been driven off his lands. This only shows that a lawless spirit has crept into the minds of the young men which did not exist before. I ask, Who is responsible for the state of certain counties in Ireland? Nine have been proclaimed under the Act of William IV. There is one man, and one man alone, who is responsible—the Chief Secretary; and I often ask myself what evil genius sent us the present Chief Secretary and what demon of unrest possessed the souls of those who appointed him.
What has happened during the rule of the present Chief Secretary? From March to September, 1905, the malicious injury claims amounted to £506; from January to June, 1908, they amounted to £10,178. These are claims made upon the counties for injury done through driving cattle and burning barns and hay sheds, etc. 1097 The police have been increased by the present Government by 750, at an annual cost of £47,000. It has been pointed out that half of this cost is charged on the counties; but the other half is borne by the Imperial Exchequer, and that is a point to be remembered by the English taxpayer. The Chief Secretary, speaking in England, has over and over again tried to throw dust in the eyes of the English electorate by saying that Ireland was never more peaceful than it is at present. At Halifax, on 26th April, 1907, in what is known in political circles as the "carrion crow speech," the Chief Secretary said—Ireland is at this moment in a more peaceful condition than for the last 600 years.It is quite true that Irishmen are not being ruined and murdered as they were under the Tudors, nor is there a Cromwell in Ireland burning and slaughtering the people. Comparisons are odious. Surely in the twentieth century we may expect civilised rule and law, order and progress to be maintained in the land. Only the other day—on 18th July—at Port Sunlight, the Chief Secretary said, speaking of Ireland—Now we got a great body of impartial persons, presided over by the late Tory Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and he and all his companions, Tory landlords among them, combined and came to this unanimous conclusion, that, after all, these poor people were right and the Government were wrong in withholding the land.First, let me say a word with regard to the Tory Lord-Lieutenant. Your Lordships heard Lord Dudley's speech before he left this country to go to Australia. I do not think it gave us the impression that he was a Tory Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. The reference to his companions, the Tory landlords, includes, I suppose, Mr. Kavanagh, who was a member of that Commission. Mr. Kavanagh now represents a Nationalist constituency, and will, no doubt, vote for Home Rule like noble Lords opposite. Therefore I contend that the Chief Secretary's statement was made to throw dust in the eyes of the English electorate.
It is an outrageous thing that a man in the position of Chief Secretary should practically say to the people of Ireland that to agitate to get what was not their 1098 own by means of boycotting and outrage Was a right thing for them to do. That is how it was construed. I hold that that is a monstrous creed. The power of the Chief Secretary is absolute. He has officials under him who have to obey his behests with the utmost subserviency. He can make or mar a man's career in Ireland, and he has, besides, enormous patronage. Now let me state how he discriminates in precisely similar offences between different classes of citizens. Mr. Farrell, M.P., held a meeting on 4th October at Moydon Cross Roads in County Longford, and openly advocated the boycotting of Mr. Henry Bruce Armstrong, a local landowner who declined to hand over his property to the League. As the direct result of his speech Mr. Armstrong's cattle were driven off his farm. This is precisely what occurred in County Clare in the case of Mr. Dermott O'Brien, who was arrested by the police and is now in prison in default of giving bail to be of good behaviour. Up to the present the Chief Secretary appears to have taken no action in the case of Mr. Farrell. Why on earth is not a Nationalist M.P. who is guilty of inciting to boycotting treated in the same way as Mr. O'Brien? It is difficult to conceive on what principles of law or equity a Member of Parliament in Ireland can defy the law with impunity, while other persons are put into prison for practically the same offence. This is one example of the present Chief Secretary's rule in Ireland, and of his method of dealing with boycotting and the driving of cattle. In answer to a question on the subject of boycotting, the Chief Secretary informed Mr. Long the other day that on 29th February last there were thirty-seven persons wholly boycotted, whilst on 31st August last the number had gone up to seventy-five, or more than double. The happier era which has been referred to will only come in Ireland when the law is properly administered and these blackguards are kept in order. We wish these plague spots adequately dealt with. It is because the Government think that a little cheap popularity will go a long way with the Nationalist Members in the House of Commons that this is not done. I will quote what an Irish Judge, Mr. Justice Kenny, said 1099 at Galway, on 20th July on this subject. He said—It is lamentable to think of the perpetual dread of outrage, misery, and wretchedness that must enter into the lives of these unfortunate people who have to pass their existence under such conditions.I know from my own knowledge that some of these places are a "hell upon earth." Lord Denman told a story of an English governess. I know of a case of a lady's maid who went over to spend her holiday with friends in Ireland. She said she walked alone, being afraid to speak to any one on the road in case that person had been boycotted. She said the place was like a desert, everybody being suspicious of everybody else, and her holiday, such as it was, very soon came to an end. I put that alongside the noble Lord's story.
I have other instances in my hand showing the failure of the "ordinary law" and how this leniency has been interpreted as cowardice and connivance, but I will not delay your Lordships further. The only conclusion at which we can arrive is that it would be better for Ireland if the present Chief-Secretary—I speak of him only in his official capacity—could find some more congenial work in another political sphere. I am sure he would be less harassed, and we in Ireland would be greatly relieved. What is wanted is a Chief Secretary who is not afraid to administer the law—a strong man who will and can rule, and not a witty cynic.
My Lords, the noble Lord who replied on behalf of the Government commented upon the fact that once more we had listened to speeches about lawlessness in Ireland, and that there was much similarity in the remarks. No one regrets more than I do the fact that your Lordships had to listen to those speeches. I can assure the noble Lord that we who come from Ireland do not consider it a pleasant task to speak in this House upon the condition of certain parts of that country. We do not do so from any sense except that of duty. The noble Marquess who initiated this discussion knows Ireland well and is fully competent to call attention to this matter. I should like to ask His Majesty's Government one question. There are nine 1100 counties proclaimed in Ireland, and extra police engaged who are costing the people of Ireland a certain amount of additional money. How many more counties will have to be proclaimed before the Government take stronger steps to put an end to this lawlessness, assuming that the disorder does travel to additional counties?
There is one aspect of this case which I do not think has been presented, and I would put it in this way. Ireland is not a rich country, she has no great manufactories, no coal, no iron. Almost her staple industry is that of the raising and selling of cattle. This cattle-driving is doing that trade enormous harm. It is affecting a considerable number of people, and the trade is going down in many parts owing to these outrages. How long, I ask, is this to be allowed to continue? We see the trade gradually diminishing and the people who live by this industry becoming bankrupt. It seems to me that that is a most serious aspect of the case. Speakers far more able than myself have dealt with this question, but I should like specially to direct the attention of the Government to the financial loss that is accruing to the whole community in Ireland owing to the fact that one of her staple trades is at the present moment in a critical condition.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
My Lords, I have no desire to cavil at the facts and figures put before your Lordships by my noble friend who opened the debate, and I certainly have no intention of expressing any opinion on the very difficult subject as to what is precisely the best way of dealing with, the unfortunate, but, after all, sporadic cases of disorder that are occurring in Ireland. I only wish to say two or three words in protest against the inference that I fear is sure to be drawn from this debate in England as to the general condition of Ireland.
When a debate on this subject, of which we have had a great many in this House, is introduced by so important a member of the late administration and inaugurated from the front Opposition bench, the attention it attracts in the country must be very 1101 great, and the people of England are naturally unacquainted with the real condition of Ireland. It is perfectly true that the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, confined himself in his Question to the lawless condition of certain parts of Ireland, but it is exceedingly difficult to confine one's remarks to any particular area. Even my noble friend himself in his speech spoke on several occasions of the "disorderly condition of Ireland," when, of course, he meant certain districts only.
The fact that these debates are raised and that literature is constantly cast upon the people of Great Britain narrating every conceivable, occurrence in Ireland which by any possibility can be considered to be disorderly must have the effect of presenting a perfectly false picture of the general condition of Ireland. It is the easiest thing in the world to do that. Supposing anyone made out a list of all the lawlessness and disorder that had occurred in Great Britain itself during the last few years, they could convey a quite erroneous impression of the general state of this country. It would have to be stated that thousands of respectable householders in Great Britain refused to obey the law as a protest against the Education Act, and only the other day nearly the whole force of the Metropolitan Police was engaged in protecting the sacred precincts of Parliament. In regard to unemployment, council chambers have been stormed, and riot and disobedience to the law have been openly preached and riots have occurred not only in London, but in the provinces as well. Then there have been cases of gross municipal corruption. What inference would anyone not knowing England draw after hearing of these things?
I do not say one word condoning cattle-driving or the other offences referred to, but there is one peculiarity with regard to cattle-driving which ought to be mentioned. It has been denounced from the altar—that is not singular; but I think it is singular, though, perhaps, not absolutely novel, that it has been denounced also from the platform. Politicians, leaders of 1102 the people in Ireland, have spoken out strongly against cattle-driving, and it is not at all a popular pastime in Ireland. The great bulk of the people are against it. They see the idiotic folly of it and realise the expense it involves on the rates.
It ought not to be quite lost sight of that Ireland is passing through a great revolution in land tenure, and even if that revolution had been allowed to conduct itself as it might have done perfectly quietly, it would be almost, I think, unreasonable to suppose that so great a change could be accomplished without any sporadic cases of disorder occurring. Unfortunately the Land Act of 1903 has not had a fair chance. It has been violently opposed by forces in Ireland whose main desire seems to be to keep that country in a condition of perpetual disorder, and it has, unfortunately, been allowed to become blocked for want of sufficient financial support, and sufficient staff, and possibly through faulty administration. It is inevitable that the deadlock that has taken place in the Land Act must have caused an accentuation of crime in the direction of agrarian disorder. I agree with every word that Lord MacDonnell said on that point, and I most sincerely hope that His Majesty's Government will realise how completely the whole future of Ireland—social, industrial, and economic—depends upon the Land Act of 1903 proceeding with unnecessary friction and with reasonable speed. I think these matters ought to be considered.
It should not be lost sight of that, after all, there is, according to population, less crime in Ireland than in any other of the component parts of the United Kingdom. I do not desire to labour the point. I merely rose to make my protest against the inference that will be drawn from this debate. I agree with Lord MacDonnell that your Lordships on this side of the House would be better employed in centreing all your energies on endeavouring to persuade His Majesty's Government of the necessity of removing the deadlock in regard to the Land Act. I hope that in the report of my noble friend Lord Londonderry's speech the reporters will be careful to make it perfectly plain that he was referring only to certain districts 1103 in Ireland, for otherwise I feel sure that throughout England generally the impression will be formed that the whole of Ireland is in a state of considerable disorder. The popular party in Ireland, the people who want peace, conciliation, and quiet development of their business, and who are in favour of law and order are strong and are becoming stronger day by day, but they have a hard fight before them, they have considerable forces to contend against, and it is absolutely necessary, at any rate it is most desirable, that they should have the sympathy and support of the people of Great Britain on their side. Consequently I deprecate anything that could possibly present a false picture before the people of Great Britain as to the state of Ireland, and which might have the effect of alienating their sympathy.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, the noble Lord who represents the Irish office observed early in the debate that in his opinion these discussions on Ireland served no useful purpose. That is true up to a certain point. I am afraid that, so far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, these debates do not serve any useful purpose, because the Government are, if I may be allowed to say so, impervious and incorrigible. We have had to-night all the old formulas to which we have so often listened as to the iniquity of what Ministers are pleased to call coercion and, worse than that, we have had again the use of that equivocal language which almost in the same breath condemns these outrages and offers an excuse for them.
The noble Lord told us with unction that he did not excuse or exculpate the individuals who were responsible for these deeds, but he went on immediately afterwards to draw a picture of the state of Ireland which was evidently intended to produce on our minds the impression that, while these poor people might be very misguided, yet there was, after all, a good deal to be said for their view of the case. But although I am afraid these discussions may not produce any great effect upon His Majesty's Government, I think they are useful so far as the impression which they will produce on the 1104 public mind is concerned. They will enable those who read the reports to judge for themselves of the manner in which His Majesty's Government have discharged the important trust committed to their hands in Ireland. My Lords, there has been no attempt to challenge the statement of facts laid before the House by my noble friend who sits behind me. The noble Lord who spoke for the Irish Office admitted very frankly that the condition of that part of the country about which we are speaking to-night is at this moment worse than it had ever been during the time in which His Majesty's Government have held office. That is my noble friend's case, and we have it admitted by the representative of the Irish Office. He could not do otherwise, because my noble friend confronted him with the statements made by the learned Judges in Ireland one after the other—statements which went to show that disorder in that particular part of Ireland was more prevalent than ever, and that the amount of immunity attending it was greater than it had ever been. You cannot brush aside evidence coming from such a quarter as that, and therefore, I say my noble friend behind me has proved his case and proved it up to the hilt.
My noble friend who spoke just now, Lord Dunraven, insisted that we should, be very careful to avoid misleading the public as to the condition of other parts of Ireland. But the noble Marquess was careful throughout his speech to make it clear that he was only talking about the particular eight counties in which cattle-driving prevailed. The noble Lord opposite told us, indeed, that one single county was responsible for the greater part of these disorders. If that is the case surely there are two conclusions that one may draw. The first is that if the symptoms of disease are so acute, and are concentrated in this particular district, it is the duty of His Majesty's Government to deal with these occurrences just as a sanitary authority would deal with a particularly insanitary, although, perhaps, small area in a great city; and the second is that the mere fact of the trouble being concentrated in a particular district, not, perhaps, a very extensive one, renders 1105 it easier for the authorities to deal effectually with it if they set their hand to the task. When, however, we admit that these occurrences are limited to certain parts of Ireland, let us remember that cattle-drives naturally do not take place in parts of Ireland where there are no large herds of cattle to drive. Therefore, I rather doubt whether His Majesty's Government are entitled to take so much credit as they do for the peacefulness of other parts of the country. There is another consideration which should never be lost sight of when we are discussing these matters, and it is this—that there are parts of the country in which things are comparatively quiet, for the reason that intimidation prevails so completely in them that there is no friction or apparent trouble on the surface.
We lay the responsibility for the condition of things in these eight counties to the charge of His Majesty's Government, because, in the first place, they have most unwisely allowed it to appear that they are to this extent in sympathy with these cattle-driving operations, that the goal which the organisers of those operations desire to reach is the same goal at which they also desire to arrive. That has been laid down again and again in distinct language by the Chief Secretary. At the beginning of the present year he announced that what really occupied his mind and caused him most anxiety was how the grass lands of Ireland could be broken up and distributed among the people who required them for a livelihood. That was, to my mind, a very incautious and thoughtlessly proclaimed policy, because the breaking up of the grass lands all over Ireland means the breaking up of a particular form of industry without which the agricultural system of Ireland regarded as a whole cannot possibly be successful. That is one reason for which we regard His Majesty's Government responsible.
But there is another reason—a reason which has been dwelt upon by previous speakers this evening. His Majesty's Government have deliberately abandoned the means with which Parliament has provided them for putting down these illegal operations. They have given up the Peace Preservation Act, which one Chief Secretary after another has re- 1106 garded as indispensable for the government of Ireland and which they found in operation when they assumed office in certain districts which had been proclaimed, not by Unionist or Conservative Governments, but by Liberal Governments and by Liberal Chief Secretaries. They gave that up. The result is that you find a marked increase in the number of outrages in which firearms have been used. Everybody knew that that result was likely to happen, and it did happen.
Then there is their failure to avail themselves of the provisions of the Crimes Act and their fatuous desire to rely exclusively upon what they are pleased to call the ordinary law. The Crimes Act is part of the law of the land; it is on the Statute-book, and there are parts of it—parts which would be most effective for putting down cattle-driving—which can be made use of without any proclamation and without resort to anything which can properly be described as inconsistent with the ordinary law of the land. Instead of using this effectual measure, His Majesty's Government are relying upon old Acts of Parliament which differ in this from the Crimes Act that, while their procedure is in certain respects less favourable to the person put upon his trial, on the other hand the penalty imposed is an ineffectual and derisory penalty, while the tribunal is a less efficient tribunal than that to which you can appeal under the Crimes Act. That is the difference between the two. His Majesty's Government have deliberately preferred an old and ineffectual law to the law which is ready to their hand, and which would give them an effectual remedy for the trouble with which they have to deal.
We were told that on former occasions the application of the Crimes Act had not had the desired effect, and noble Lords opposite declare that they are afraid of setting it in motion because they think its application is likely to increase the volume of crime. My Lords, did it increase the volume of crime when it was set in force before? It has been shown, on the contrary, that the application of the Crimes Act resulted in diminishing the volume of crime. We had an interesting speech, and one which, if no other speech did so, would render 1107 this debate memorable, from Lord MacDonnell, and I hope that your Lordships will take note of the statement that fell from him at the outset of his remarks. He told your Lordships, speaking with intimate knowledge not only of the facts as the public knows them, but of the under-currents which were then moving in the Irish political world, that he personally would have been in favour of using what I think he called sharper methods in dealing with the principal instigators of these crimes. But the advice of the trained administrator was brushed aside, and His Majesty's Government preferred to be guided by the advice of their Attorney-General.
We know what the policy of the Attorney-General in regard to this question has been. It is the policy founded upon what His Majesty's Government are pleased to describe as sympathy with the Irish people. Let me tell them that I for one am deeply convinced that what the Irish people sympathise with more than anything else is a strong Government that knows its own mind. I doubt whether your so-called sympathetic treatment has won you very much genuine affection, certainly not very much genuine respect from the people of Ireland. The noble Lord who spoke for the Irish Office gave us, however, a very candid and very interesting piece of information as to the real reason for which this policy, this feeble policy, was preferred by His Majesty's Government. He told us that the people of Ireland had been led to believe by the public utterances of leading Members of the Liberal Party that His Majesty's Government would refrain from coercive measures. So that it really comes to this, that disorder is to be allowed to remain rampant in eight counties, honest people are to be persecuted and their lives made unbearable, because, forsooth, presumably, before they took office, the leading Members of the Liberal Party had announced that it was their intention to refrain from using those weapons which lay ready to their hand.
I venture to describe that as a fatuous policy. It is a policy which was initiated as an experimental policy, but the experiment has been a miserable failure. It was recommended by the Attorney-General 1108 on the ground that he desired to associate the people with the administration of the criminal law. My Lords, I wonder whether His Majesty's Ministers seriously believe that in County Clare you are likely to get efficient administration of the criminal law by associating the peasantry of that county with that administration. Can the noble Earl who will follow me lay his hand upon his heart and say that with his knowledge of Ireland he believes for a single moment that an attempt to associate the people of County Clare with the administration of the criminal law is likely to serve the interests of order and justice?
There are not many ways in which you can associate people with the administration of the criminal law. You can make some of them magistrates. You have made a good many of them magistrates in Ireland; some of them are magistrates ex officio. Will the noble Earl tell us that he has found these ex officio magistrates very valuable allies in the administration of the criminal law in County Clare? Another way—and a very valuable way—is to employ the people as jurymen. What do we know of the result of trial by jury in that part of Ireland? Whenever you do associate the people with the administration of the criminal law the result is that they make the criminal law of no effect. I am told—I believe it is the case—that there has not been a single conviction for agrarian crime by a common jury in the West and Midland counties since His Majesty's Government came into office. As to juries, the Irish Government have ceased to rely upon them. They do not dare to put an accused person before a jury. The result is that there have been 413 cases of cattle-driving reported in six months, and in no single case has the accused person been put before a common jury. That is an illustration of the results of endeavouring to associate the people of a disorderly district with the administration of the criminal law in that district.
We have been told that the object of His Majesty's Government in this exhibition of extraordinary and misplaced leniency is to produce a healthier feeling in the disaffected parts of Ireland. I confess I see no signs of the growth of 1109 that healthier feeling. Perhaps the noble Earl will be able to tell us whether his diagnosis differs from mine. But whilst His Majesty's Ministers are waiting for that healthier feeling to grow up, law-abiding citizens are being ill-treated and persecuted and the public is losing that respect for law and order which is a condition of civilised government all over the world. In order to promote that healthier feeling we are to have more Irish legislation. A Bill is to be produced, founded upon the Report of the Royal Commission presided over by Lord Dudley. I shall, of course, not attempt to anticipate the contents of that Bill. I will only say this, that I hope the framers of it will read, mark, learn and inwardly digest not only the main Report of the Commission, but also some of the documents attached to it, and notably the separate Report made by my noble friend on the back benches and another extremely valuable document attached by Sir John Colomb.
My noble friend Lord Dunraven referred to legislation of another kind, with which I confess I am much more in sympathy—I mean legislation dealing with the question of land purchase. I do not think I should be quite in order if I were to enter at length into that subject. I only desire to express my entire concurrence with what fell from Lord Dunraven and from Lord MacDonnell when they told us that it was all important that no interruption in the steady progress of the purchase of land in Ireland should be allowed to occur.
But before I sit down let me say this one thing with regard to Irish legislation. Do not believe that any legislation, whether it is the Bill which we are told to expect, dealing with the question of congestion, or any measure dealing with the question of land purchase—do not expect that any legislation affecting Ireland will succeed unless the Government of the day make up their minds to maintain law and order in that country. Your remedial measures will fail if you allow the attention of the public to be distracted from them by the kind of occurrences which are happening every day in Ireland at the present time. Those who are respon- 1110 sible for the government of Ireland must be aware that, even in regard to the particular matter of relief for the congested districts, it may be necessary for them to deal with a very firm hand indeed with the forces which operate in Irish agricultural society. It has already been made abundantly clear that there is likely to be a fierce and bitter struggle for the possession of these grass lands between the people who inhabit the congested districts in other parts of Ireland and those who, living in the grazing districts, have not got farms themselves and are described as the landless men. You will have a fierce struggle between those two, and unless you are prepared to hold the balance with a firm hand your legislation will fail. I daresay some of your Lordships may have seen in the newspapers an account of a visit paid by a Government inspector to some untenanted land which had been acquired by His Majesty's Government for the purpose of finding room for people from congested districts, on which occasion the men on the spot rose and I believe, hunted the inspector off the land in such a manner that he had to retire without completing the duty which he had been set to perform. The first duty of His, Majesty's Government is to see that the law is respected and to protect those who obey the law, and if they fail in the future, as I am afraid they have failed in the past, to secure obedience to the law, then I do not believe that any of their remedial measures are likely to have fair play or to be successful.
*THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (The Earl of CREWE)
My Lords, it would be affectation if I were to pretend to be surprised that the subject of the administration of Ireland should once more be debated in your Lordships' House. I make no complaint of the action of the noble Marquess in introducing it, although I am in general agreement with my noble friend behind me and also with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor that there is some risk that harm may be done both in Ireland and in England by debates of this kind.
1111 But on one specific point I do make a very distinct complaint against the noble Marquess. In the course of his speech the noble Marquess challenged my noble friend behind me, Lord MacDonnell, to state his opinion and give a justification of the policy which was pursued when he was Permanent Under-Secretary in Ireland. To do that would be, to my mind, a breach of political propriety. I would like very much to know what the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition would say if, on a question of foreign politics, we were to appeal to Lord Sanderson and call upon him to justify the foreign policy of the Government at the time he was Permanent Secretary. We are all proud to see in this House men like my noble friend and Lord Sanderson, who have filled high positions in the Civil Service, but I do not think any of us are entitled to cross-question them as to the policy pursued by the Departments of which they were formerly members.
I fully admit that, so far as certain districts in Ireland are concerned, a condition of very considerable gravity prevails, and that, as my noble friend behind me frankly admitted, the condition there is less favourable than it has been during the last two years. But it is necessary to make certain reservations on that point. The noble Lord spoke of eight counties as though the whole were in a condition of active disturbance. That is not the case. The disturbances are sporadic. They break out first in one place and then in another. There are parts of some counties which were much disturbed a year ago and are now in a state that may properly be described as quiet; on the other hand, there are new districts in which disorder has broken out to an active extent. It is necessary, therefore to make that caution.
It is also necessary to make another caution. The noble and learned Lord opposite, Lord Ashbourne, spoke as though crime in Ireland were a fixed quantity, and as though the liquid rose and fell in the tube according to the application of particular legal measures; but crime in Ireland depends, and always has depended, on the particular condition 1112 of things at a particular moment. Therefore comparisons of one period with another are of very little value. The noble and learned Lord said triumphantly that when Mr. Long left office Ireland was in a peaceful condition. At that time what I may call the glamour of the Purchase Act was still over Ireland. That glamour has, I am sorry to say, to a considerable extent passed away, particularly from those districts where most disorder now prevails. It would, of course, be a gross exaggeration to speak of the Act as having broken down, although I think one may say that its finance has broken down. There is no doubt that the particular parts of Ireland in which disorder most reigns are not those in which the Act has operated most, or most to the advantage of the inhabitants. Men hear of and see large sales of great estates going on in the prosperous parts of Ireland, while sales in their immediate neighbourhood are conducted slowly and with great difficulty, and this creates a feeling of unrest which at any time is liable to lead to disturbance.
Then there is a new element in what is called the grass-land question, on which the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition and other noble Lords have spoken. In one sense, at any rate, that is a new question. When Lord Londonderry or I was in Ireland the possibility of dividing up any part of the grazing lands and turning them into holdings was, so far as I know, never contemplated by anybody. Therefore, when you are speaking of criminal statistics you must consider these points of cause and effect. This question of the grass lands has grown up gradually. It was recognised in Mr. Wyndham's Act; Section 8, I think it is, of that Act deals with untenanted land. Then you have had the operations of the Congested Districts Board; and I think it cannot be denied that the provisions of Mr. Wyndham's Act and that action have given an impetus to the feeling, often exaggerated and certainly finding vent in most reprehensible and criminal acts in some cases, that the policy of dividing the grass lands is a policy adopted, not only by this Government, but by the late Government, and 1113 that almost any man may hope in time to get a share of a grass farm. It is unfortunate that that should be so.
I fully recognise the special difficulty of dealing with the whole question to which the noble Marquess who spoke last drew attention. If legislation were passed to-morrow I admit that you do not settle the question as to who the particular people are who may properly be supplied with farms formed out of untenanted land, and you cannot guard against people wanting farms which ought under no circumstances to be turned from the grazing purpose to which they are now put. But we have to admit this grass hunger, if I may use the expression, and it is, so far as I know, responsible for the whole of the disturbances in these eight counties.
The noble Marquess spoke of the increase of outrages with firearms, and blamed us for having dropped the annual renewal of the Peace Preservation Act. I think we admitted at the time that that was a policy which might very fairly be argued against, and that it might be said by some to be an imprudent step, but I do not think it is possible, as a matter of fact, to establish any connection between the dropping of that Act and the firing outrages which have taken place. After all, when that Act was in full force there were many more, and much worse, firing outrages than there are now. It is perfectly true that the very odious and contemptible form of intimidation known as firing into dwellings has seriously increased. The increase has very largely been in the county of Clare, to which allusion has been made. That county has for many years past had a character of its own. I think we should all have said of County Clare what I daresay my noble friend the Secretary of State for India would say of such a place as Poona—namely, that if there is trouble there it is of a more deep seated and worse kind than in any other part of the country. That has always been the case, certainly within the last forty years, in County Clare, and I will not pause to inquire into what the causes of that may be. As regards the cases of firing into dwellings, it is quite true that people have not been brought to justice. That is because they have not been arrested. 1114 It is an offence extremely difficult to bring home to the perpetrator, and therefore it cannot be said that our system of dealing with prosecutions has had any effect so far as this particular class of outrage is concerned.
Now I come to cattle-driving; and I believe that when the noble Earl, Lord Dunraven, said that cattle-driving was anything but a popular practice, he was speaking the whole truth. I think at first cattle-driving was regarded somewhat leniently by a great many people in the districts where it took place; they regarded it as a sort of practical joke, of a violent kind no doubt, but still not much more than a practical joke. I think that what has happened since, and in particular the charge placed for extra police upon the counties, has caused a great many people in the neighbourhood to regard it as anything but a joke. The noble Marquess asked whether in regard to these cattle-driving cases we had been able to obtain any assistance from popular feeling, and he quoted a statement by the Attorney-General for Ireland that if we could associate the people with the administration of justice it would be a very desirable thing to do. The noble Marquess named two instances—the presence on the Bench of ex-officio magistrates and the service of citizens upon juries. As far as regards jury service, I am afraid we cannot profess to have found much improvement. It is a deplorable fact, and has been for many years—certainly in the time of the noble Marquess—that for a very large class of crimes you cannot get juries in Ireland to convict.
§ *THE EARL OF CREWE
I think the noble Marquess must have had his share of failures, too. As regards ex-officio magistrates, it no doubt has been the case that in some instances the presence of 1115 ex-officio magistrates who do not do their duty has interfered with the administration of justice. But I am able to give an instance to the contrary which, to my mind, is an encouraging one, because it took place in that very county to which the noble Marquess alluded—County Clare. These forty-three young men, all by general consent respectable—that is to say, I suppose, that they belong to the more or less solid farmer class—were brought up and charged with cattle-driving. The resident magistrate and two ex-officio magistrates, if I remember rightly, were present. The defendants were all bound to the peace and in default of giving the securities all went to gaol, and one of the ex-officio magistrates made a short statement in which he denounced the practice of cattle-driving and declared his adhesion to the principle of the sentence. Of course, noble Lords may say that the sentence was not a severe one, and that this does not amount to very much, but I think it means a good deal considering the circumstances under which it happened, and the place at which it occurred, and to my mind it is a very hopeful sign of a revived spirit of independence among those who are called upon to administer justice in this way.
We are asked once more why we did not revive, at any rate, one of the provisions of the Act of 1887. The Act of 1887, is one of those measures which is regarded with almost romantic affection by its authors. Both the noble Marquess and the noble and learned Lord have had affectionate experience of that Act, and they would like to see it put into free use. Their regard for it is of the same nature and quality as Mr. Balfour's regard for the Education Act of 1902. The noble and learned Lord is one of the most practised debaters in this House, and in that capacity he went through the familiar operation of begging the entire question. He assumed that if we had applied this particular provision of trial by two magistrates at the beginning of the cattle-driving disorder it would have immediately ceased. That is an assumption about which it is impossible to argue, simply because each person must maintain his own opinion. I do not say that it would not have been 1116 possible. Of course, it would have been possible to have put a few more people in prison. But the real force of what the noble and learned Lord said must depend upon what the strength of the movement really was. Lord Clonbrock asked—What is the use of binding people over to peace, for if they do go to gaol, there are always others ready to take their place?It is a remarkable fact that the people who have been bound over to keep the peace have very seldom appeared again in these transactions. Would not that argument also hold good if you sent people to gaol? Does it not show that there is this very large body of people who are prepared to engage in this practice, and it does seem to me an unwarrantable assumption that simply because you were able to send a certain number of people to gaol with hard labour you would necessarily—
§ *THE EARL OF CREWE
That is true; but those who are bound over do not take part in subsequent cattle-driving. It seems to me that the assumption is one which the noble and learned Lord is at liberty to make, but one which is not, as a matter of fact, supported by the past history of the country.
§ *THE EARL OF CREWE
I do not agree with the noble and learned Lord there, and I think it is necessary to give one caution, because what fell from the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition may in one point be misunderstood. I understood my noble friend Lord MacDonnell to say he would have approved of stronger measures being taken at the outset against those whom he described as the instigators of these outrages. By that I take him to mean the Members of Parliament who made speeches. But do not let it be thought that my noble friend advocated the use of the Crimes Act, because I understood him to say that that is exactly what he did not do.
§ LORD MACDONNELL OF SWINFORD
Situated as I am now, I would have approved of the more sharp method of dealing with these people. But I did not intend to make any reference to what my approval or disapproval was when I was a servant of the Irish Government.
§ *THE EARL OF CREWE
My noble friend was, I understood, speaking of the instigators of the movement. He did not say anything about different treatment of those who actually took part in the cattle-driving. The alternative which we have chosen and which we maintain is that of the provision of extra police, and we do believe that, as a considerable part of the cost falls upon the districts, it will have a certain effect in turning public attention in the direction of the maintenance of law and order. I should be very sorry to have it supposed that we regard this method or any other method as a panacea, or a perfect system for entirely stopping crime in Ireland. I think the whole history of Ireland shows that whenever there has been an outburst of crime and outrage in relation to a particular movement such as this, accounted for as this can be in all its features and in all its stages, no method has been discovered, and, after all, it is not surprising, for completely dealing with such ebullitions of public feeling. But we think that there is at any rate one method of action which can have no effect. There may be advantages attaching to what we call coercive measures, and there are advantages, as we think, attaching to the plan which we follow; but I am quite certain there can be no advantage in hovering backwards and forwards between the two.
In this matter you have to take a line and stick to it. As I understand, the line which noble Lords opposite would take would be to repress, and, I suppose, if the repressive measures adopted were not sufficient they would have to apply more repressive measures still. We have taken the line which was, I think, very fairly described by my noble friend in a phrase to which the noble Marquess objected. My noble friend did not say that we were in any way bound, by any obligation to anybody in Ireland, to adopt 1118 any particular policy with regard to this matter. That, of course, is not so. We are bound to nobody. But we are anxious, it is perfectly true—and we are not ashamed of it—to administer the Irish Government so far as possible in a sympathetic spirit, and we recognise the very intimate connection which exists between these deplorable and sporadic outbreaks of crime and the question, which has somehow got to be dealt with or solved, of the relief of congestion and, so far as possible, the allocation of at any rate some of the grass lands in Ireland to those who are now insufficiently provided. That, as I say, is the line which we have taken, and to that line we must adhere. It is not the least indifference to the claims of the law or any carelessness about the preservation of order which make us decline to adopt a particular remedy upon which noble Lords opposite lay so much stress.