§ Order of the Day read for resuming the adjourned Debate on the Motion for an humble Address.
§ VISCOUNT RIDLEY
My Lords, in continuing this debate upon the subject raised by the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, I have no desire to enter at any great length into the issue, but only to offer a few observations. I do so for this reason. Hitherto the only noble Lords who have taken part in the debate have been themselves either resident in Ireland or intimate with its circumstances and conditions, who have spoken from the Irish point of view. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, in the address which he delivered, dwelt upon the circumstance that he was not sure how far the people of this country realised the truth about the conditions of things in Ireland. Speaking for myself, and I am perfectly certain for a great many others, I can say that there is a growing and widespread indignation among the people of this country at the condition of affairs allowed to continue in Ireland.
I fully realise that the people of this country have practically always had the Irish question before them. We have been accustomed to statements and contradictions on both sides of the Irish controversy over a long series of years, and those concerned with Ireland on both sides have thrown a certain amount of poetic glamour over their statements which has sometimes left the ordinary English hearer a little bewildered. But what we observe about the present condition of affairs is, that now the statements made by those who have intimate know- 72 ledge of Ireland are without contradiction. Even His Majesty's Government do not substantially contradict any of the allegations that are made as regards the state of affairs in Ireland. We are confronted, not merely by statements of agitators or by men in the heat of conflict, but by grave and impartial statements by His Majesty's Judges; by the definite statement of the Prime Minister that condemnable actions are taking place in certain parts of Ireland, and by the admission of the noble Lord who has in this debate spoken for the Government, that one-third of Ireland is in a disturbed condition. Therefore, English people will take note that this seriously disturbed state of Ireland is not merely an allegation but a fact, admitted by everybody who has any knowledge of the country.
In view of these circumstances, and in view, I might also say, of all the admissions that have been made by the representatives of the Government, His Majesty's Government are perfectly silent with regard to what they propose to do to put an end to an admitted and rapidly growing evil. Instead of being told what His Majesty's Government propose to do, we are told by one representative that they deprecate what they term exaggeration for political purposes. I ask the House to note that if His Majesty's Government admit exaggeration, they have first to admit the fact which is behind the exaggeration. His Majesty's Government, in talking of exaggeration, admit the fact that a grievous case exists which can be exaggerated. But if there has been exaggeration—and I am not concerned to say that people who go about in fear of their lives may not possibly at moments have exaggerated the danger to which they are subjected—if there has been exaggeration by a few people, it has not been by His Majesty's Judges, or His Majesty's Government would not admit the grievous state of Ireland. Whatever exaggeration there may have been on the part of people possibly in danger of their lives, that exaggeration is a far less serious thing on their part than the extenuation for political purposes of the circumstances which are now taking place in Ireland.
There is no mention in His Majesty's gracious Speech of what the Government intend to do. We have no statement from the Prime Minister of what he proposes to do. So far as we have read what 73 he said, he has only referred to other times when the state of Ireland was more troublesome. He takes consolation in the fact that, though there is evil now, it is not so great as at another period of Irish history—a period, the House may note, coinciding with a period of Liberal administration. The state of Ireland twenty-one years ago was remedied by the application of measures that are not now resorted to. The noble Earl the Leader of the House, instead of telling us what the Government propose to do, busied himself with analysing the causes which, in his opinion, led to this state of affairs, and he found them very largely in the Land Act, passed by the last Government. I am not concerned now to dispute how far that measure did, or did not, contribute to the present state of affairs. Whatever may be the causes, an analysis of them does not take you very far towards the remedy. What His Majesty's Government are being asked now is to put an end to the present state of affairs, and not discuss why it has arisen.
The noble Lord who spoke yesterday on behalf of the Irish Office, began his speech by expressing regret that he knew nothing about Ireland—a regret which I am quite certain the whole House will share. I venture to think, without any personal reflection upon the noble Lord himself, that when questions of this grave importance are at stake, His Majesty's Government might well consider the propriety of having in this House some representative with an intimate and close acquaintance with the affairs of Ireland, who might be supposed to speak with some knowledge of those affairs in this House. The noble Lord's defence is that His Majesty's Government spared no expense in dealing with the present situation, and that there are no fewer than 839 more police. But the whole head and front of the accusation against the Government is that they have brought about a state of affairs which has necessitated this expense and these additional police. We have been given no hint of any measures to be taken to put an end to the present state of affairs. The noble Lord, after devoting a few remarks to what he conceived to be the situation, made an interesting and able speech on a great variety of other topics—on old age pensions, congested districts, and other important subjects—which, however, have nothing whatever to do with the maintenance of 74 law and order in Ireland; and he concluded his speech by a pleasant hypothesis as to what may happen when a Unionist Government comes into power—an event which, I was glad to notice, he seemed to contemplate at no distant future. But what has that pleasant ,speculation got to do with the subject? I do not propose to follow the noble Lord into his speculations. His Government are charged with neglecting the maintenance of law and order in Ireland, and he is pleased to make jokes about a possible future.
Whatever may be in the future, I cannot conceive any Unionist Government which would extenuate, for party or other purposes, the state of things existing in Ireland; and under no possible combination of circumstances can I conceive a Unionist Government in alliance, open or covert, with the forces that make for disorder in Ireland. The Unionist Party came together on its present basis in order to maintain the Union in Ireland. It has now cast upon it the greater and larger duty of cementing the Union between England and her self-governing Colonies. It would be an ill beginning for such a programme, an unhappy augury, to assent to any measure which could possibly weaken the Union between England and Ireland. The party which is responsible now for the disorder in our national finances is also responsible for disorder in Ireland, which they have taken no adequate measures to suppress; and there is a strong feeling in this country that the remedy the Government have at hand should be put in force at once.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
My Lords, I have on more than one occasion deprecated these discussions in this House, and for two reasons. First of all, I have thought they might do positive harm by acting as a gratuitous advertisement to those persons in Ireland not inaptly described by Lord Denman last night as twopenny-halfpenny agitators. In the second place, I did not see that these discussions were likely to do any good. I have also said that exaggerated statements had been made, and made for party purposes, as to the condition of disorder in Ireland. I can no longer say that a discussion of this kind can do any harm by acting as an advertisement to the village tyrants and the twopenny-halfpenny agitators in Ireland. They have established their tyranny so completely, their rule is 75 so fixed in the country, that they no longer require any advertisement, and I can no longer raise that plea against full discussion of the state of Ireland in your Lordships' House.
I have said also that exaggerated statements have been made. I can no longer say that. It is impossible for me to pretend that the facts that were put forward yesterday in this debate contain any element whatever of exaggeration. I feel constrained, therefore, to add my mite to this debate, in the hope, though I fear it may be a vain hope, of impressing upon His Majesty's Government the terrible injury that their policy of inaction is doing to Ireland. I frankly admit it gives me no pleasure to do so. I have been strong in sympathy with the views of His Majesty's Government in other directions with regard to Ireland; I sympathised strongly with their efforts to give Ireland a larger measure of self-government in their Council Bill; but I feel myself bound to endeavour, to the best of my ability, to show His Majesty's Government the terrible consequences which the policy of inaction they pursue will have upon the country which I believe they honestly, though very ignorantly, desire to serve.
I hope I shall not be understood as not feeling sufficient sympathy with those who have suffered so terribly in Ireland from boycotting and from other outrages when I say that what I protest mainly against is the strong contempt for the law which has been engendered in Ireland. I do not know whether boycotting should be considered as a more or less jocular thing or not; but, if that is the correct expression that the noble Lord opposite used, I admit that there is some foundation for it. People in Ireland simply laugh at His Majesty's Government, and, although these cattle-drives originated to a very large extent from personal spite and the worse kind of land-grabbing, I am quite sure that in many of them there has been a certain element of spree. They like to see how far they can defy His Majesty's Government. They are like a pack of naughty children, not naughty altogether from vice, but from exuberance of spirits, who want to see how far they can defy the rule of a weak and rather imbecile governess. Of course, I understand and realise thoroughly the difficulty. It is a lamentable fact that in Ireland there is not that 76 universal respect for the law such as exists in England. I have long ago come to the conclusion that that universal respect for the law will never arise in Ireland until it is given much larger powers of self-government than it possesses now, and the people feel the responsibility of supporting an executive and legislation which emanates from centres in Ireland. That I believe to be so, and that opinion is shared by His Majesty's Government. But that does not in any way exonerate His Majesty's Government from the duty of maintaining law and order under the circumstances which now exist.
His Majesty's Government are raising great difficulties for themselves. That, however, is their affair. Perhaps it is immaterial to them. But they are raising also great difficulties for their successors. They may not think much of that. But Ireland some day will obtain the self-governing powers which the people of that country desire, and the Government by allowing the law to fall into utter contempt in Ireland, are leaving a legacy of enormous difficulty for those who will have to administer the country in the different circumstances of that time. I remember when my noble friend opposite, Lord MacDonnell, was considering whether he would accept office in 1902. I remember very well the correspondence which took place between him and Mr. George Wyndham. They had a programme for the betterment of Ireland which it is a great pity they had not a fair opportunity of carrying out. What was the first item in the improvements that Sir Antony MacDonnell, as he then was, set out? The first item was the maintenance of law and order. It may be impossible to create in Ireland, as at present circumstanced, affection for the law, but, at any rate, it is in the power of the Government, and ought to be their duty, to see that the law is respected. National character does not change so rapidly, and I think the national character of Ireland was well described some centuries ago by a very eminent man, who, speaking of the Irish people at that time, said:—There are no people under the sun that love equal and indifferent justice better than the Irish and will rest better satisfied with the execution thereof, although it be against themselves, so as they may have the protection and benefit of the law.
That is true of the Irish people now. Are His Majesty's Government protecting 77 the people? Are they giving them the benefit of just laws? They are not. They are not defending the people in the enjoyment of their liberties, their property, and their rights.
The noble Earl the Leader of the House has added very much to the interest of this debate by evolving a totally new theory, namely, that one ought not to do right lest by any possibility wrong might ensue. He told us that the condition of affairs in Ireland was due to the Land Act of 1903. He said that the state of things in some counties of Ireland directly, in his judgment, arose out of the Irish Land Act, which he described as "the unfortunate fruit of an otherwise noble tree." The noble Earl went on to say:—If you establish a peasant proprietary, it may be a wise or foolish thing to do, but if you tell by your legislation every Irish peasant that the object at which he ought to aim is to become a peasant proprietor, you excite a new form of that land hunger which has always existed in Ireland. That is exactly what has happened.
The noble Earl spoke of the Act of 1903 as a bribe, and said—You can always make Ireland peaceful for a time by bribing it, and the last and greatest of all these bribes was the Irish Land Act of 1903.
I do not for a moment suppose that the noble Earl meant to use the expression "bribe " in any offensive way, but it certainly is an offensive expression, and I for one entirely protest against it as applied to Ireland. Of all people, the Irish people are least open to be bribed. I have never heard old age pensions or the Small Holdings Act spoken of as a bribe, though I can conceive it might be argued that old age pensions are distinctly in the nature of a bribe. It is, however, impossible that the Irish Land Act of 1903 can be looked upon in any such light.
What was the Act of 1903 aimed at? It was aimed at doing away with a system of dual ownership which all parties agreed ought to be done away with as being absolutely ruinous to Ireland. The Act was founded upon recommendations made by representatives of the tenants and representatives of the landlords. Those recommendations and terms were accepted as fair by the Irish Parliamentary parties, by the National Convention, and by every county council and district council. They were accepted as fair by both the great 78 parties in Parliament and became law with the acclamation of both Houses. It was a great and statesmanlike measure for a definite purpose—to do away with a system of land tenure which was ruinous to Ireland, and to substitute a system of peasant proprietorship. It is absolutely impossible to say that a measure of that kind had anything in it whatever of the nature of a bribe. What possible connection can the disorder which now exists in Ireland have with the Act of 1903? It is indirectly connected in this way. The Act of 1903 brought peace to Ireland; wherever that Act has operated largely the people are contented and the district is peaceful, and that is a state of things which does not appeal to the forces of disorder in Ireland, with which, I am sorry to say, His Majesty's Government appear anxious to ally themselves.
The noble Lord, Lord Denman, fell into precisely the same error in attributing the unfortunate condition of things in Ireland to the Act of 1903. Of course, he brought in the case of the Leinster Estate and the enormous bonus. I would like to mention why it was that these large estates came into the operation of the Act, because it seemed to me that Lord Denman rather attributed it to some action on the part of Irish landlords or the Unionist party. I remember those circumstances very well, though I daresay, very naturally, many noble Lords in this House have forgotten them. I remember perfectly well that in the Bill of 1903, as introduced, the bonus was to be given in inverse ratio to the value of the estates. That was objected to, and by whom? By the Irish Parliamentary party. Mr. Redmond, speaking for them, strongly protested against it, and said the effect would be to keep large estates out of the market. He urged that public opinion in Ireland was very strongly opposed to that, and, as a result, the Bill was altered and larger advances allowed to be made. Lord Denman accused the Act of 1903 of causing difficulty in dealing with congestion. I do not quite know why the question of congestion was brought in, but as it was introduced I should like to say a word or two upon it.
The noble Lord said the effect of the Act of 1903 had been to increase land hunger. He told us that the Estates Commissioners were unable to acquire 79 untenanted land in the west. He told us that poor people living on small holdings and having heard of land transfer were naturally discontented that congestion was not relieved; and he added that he would risk injury to the cattle trade if he could remove congestion. Finally, he asked how holdings in the west could be enlarged without dividing untenanted land. So far as I am concerned, I quite admit that congestion cannot be relieved without getting possession of untenanted land. But the noble Lord is under a complete delusion in these matters. He may search in vain for any expression on the part of the Estates Commissioners which justifies him in saying that they cannot get untenanted land. He will find that the Estates Commissioners complain that people are too impatient, that they will not give them time; he will find that they complain that they have not sufficient money or staff; but he will not find them complaining that they have not sufficient land offered them.
My noble friend is quite mistaken in supposing that there is any agitation among the small proprietors in the west. There is nothing to prevent these small proprietors obtaining the freeholds of their property, except one thing—His Majesty's Government will not find the money. If you will allow the Land Purchase Act of 1903 to go on, the peasant proprietors in the west can obtain the fee simple in their farms just the same as the peasant proprietors elsewhere. The agitation is on the part of men who are not tenants, who are not occupiers, men who, not having land, desire to get land—pure land-grabbers. They want to get hold of the untenanted land which, as the noble Lord has admitted, is absolutely necessary to relieve congestion; and in doing anything to assist these landless men to get hold of the untenanted land and grass land you are making the relief of congestion impossible. That is one of the principal grounds of objection I have to the legislation which His Majesty's Government introduced last session, and which we are told is to be introduced again. Lord Denman complains that under the Act of 1903 not much has been done for the relief of congestion. I am quite ready to admit it, but the legislation of His Majesty's Government would make it absolutely impossible to do anything at all for the relief of congestion, because the use of untenanted land for this purpose is abso- 80 lutely essential, and every acre of it that the landless men are allowed to take makes it more difficult to do anything really to relieve congestion. As to the great question of breaking up the grass lands I do not propose to say anything. The noble Earl the Leader of the House admitted the other night that he did not know whether breaking up this land would be economically wrong. He thought it might be economically wrong, but at the same time he appears to be quite willing that it should be broken up as a sop to the elements of disorder.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE EARL OF CREWE)
Not at all. The noble Earl has entirely mistaken the line of my argument. What I said was that out of the Land Act of 1903 had arisen this demand of what he calls the landless men for the grass lands. I expressed no opinion as to the desirability of breaking them up.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
The noble Earl distinctly said he was not sure whether it was economically sound to do so. My impression of the general line of his argument was that this disorder, which by some extraordinary means the noble Earl seems to regard as a sort of outcome of the Act of 1903—that this disorder was for the breaking up of grass lands, and I understood him to imply that the breaking up of grass lands was not considered undesirable by His Majesty's Government. As a matter of fact, they do connive at it in the legislation which they are bringing forward. That does appear to me to be in the nature of a bribe. You are permitting men to break up grass lands and become possessed of them, although you admit yourselves that allowing them to do so may be economically unsound.
I am glad, at any rate, for one thing, that this debate has cleared up a great mystery. The Act of 1903, as everyone knows, has been an enormous success; some £80,000,000 worth of property has been transferred from the owners to the occupiers under it, without, practically speaking, the smallest difficulty or friction. I think I should be safe in saying that in no instance in any other country has so great a revolution been effected with so little difficulty. That beneficent Act is now to be put an end to. Up to the night before last I was puzzled to discover what possible reason His Majesty's Government could have for introducing 81 legislation which they must know would put a complete stop to the operation of the Act of 1903, and with it land purchase. Now I begin to understand. Their line of reasoning appears to be this. The Act of 1903 has given rise to a description of land hunger and disorder which they are incapable of putting down, or, at any rate, unwilling to put down. As that disorder arises from the Act of 1903, that Act, and with it land purchase, is to be put a stop to. In addition to that, the relief of congestion cannot be gone on with. I only hope that the tenants in Ireland who have not yet bought their holdings but who wish to buy them, and also the unfortunate people in the congested districts in the west, will clearly understand that the reason why congestion is not to be relieved and why land purchase is not to go on is that His Majesty's Government are incapable, or unwilling, to deal with the existing agitation.
§ LORD MACDONNELL OF SWINFORD
My Lords, in listening yesterday to the speeches from the other side of the House it occurred to me that noble Lords failed to deal with the important case before them with the breadth of treatment which it required, and in listening to the noble Lord who resumed the discussion to-day I was confirmed in that impression, because, confessing that he himself knew nothing about Ireland, he proceeded to give opinions which I venture to say were of a negative quality and added nothing to your Lordships' knowledge of the subject. I fear, my Lords, that if in this state of the discussion you are called upon to come to a decision, the objects which I, speaking as an independent member of this House but with some special knowledge of Ireland, have at heart will seriously suffer. I therefore desire to treat the subject in a wider manner, not to restrict my consideration of it to the events of the last year, but to consider the circumstances and conditions of Ireland from the time that I became myself connected with it.
I would ask your Lordships to travel with me in your minds back to the beginning of this century—not so many years ago. The late Government assumed office at the end of November, 1900, and Mr. Wyndham took over the duties of Chief Secretary for Ireland. During 1901 he was given that respite which is allowed to Chief Secretaries in order that they may make the usual promises, and in 1902 he was called upon to fulfil some of those 82 promises. In fulfilment of a promise he introduced the Land Purchase Bill, which met with a very unfavourable reception in another place. The Bill was not without its good points—everything that Mr. Wyndham produced had its good points—and its rejection led to the renewal of disorder in Ireland, and the introduction and enforcement of coercive measures were followed in the usual way by the imprisonment of the representatives of the people. The clouds that darkened the Irish political sky were gathering apace, and all parties in Ireland, frightened at the prospect before them, took counsel together, and the result was the Land Conference. I think a deep debt of gratitude was due and is due by Ireland and by England to the gentlemen who, at the risk of great odium, and taking upon themselves a great responsibility, did come together on that occasion and discuss with each other the means whereby the evils threatening the country might be prevented.
The result of the Land Conference, as you know, was the Act of 1903. The effect of that Act in Ireland was magical. A spirit of hope and of mutual trust was produced in the country such as, within the memory of old men then alive, had never been known before. It was an Act which was acceptable to the Irish tenantry. The fact that within the short period of four years more than half the land of Ireland had been sold is the best proof that can be cited of the popularity of the Act amongst the tenantry of Ireland. There were persistent attempts, from the very outset, to interrupt the working of the Act—attempts which came, not from the friends of Ireland or of England, but from the enemies of both. Still, the good sense of the country was satisfied that the Act was working well. Statements were made with the object of producing discontent amongst the people, but the answer was given in an increased number of agreements perfected and in the smooth and easy working of the Act so far as the means available permitted that to be secured.
The year 1904 passed over in the same way, with hope and growing confidence in all classes of the people. A great deal of that was due to the manner in which Mr. Wyndham worked the Act. I was most intimately associated with him, and I know that all his great abilities were directed towards anticipating any defects 83 which the working of the Act might produce and towards finding fitting remedies for them. Towards the beginning of 1905 circumstances occurred which severed Mr. Wyndham's connection with Ireland. Those circumstances were injurious to the best interests of Ireland, and they created in the minds of the Irish people the same effect that they created in my mind—a feeling of the strongest regret. The result was that the working of the Act in 1905 became less smooth than hitherto. Previously the spirit which actuated the administrators of the Act was one of conciliation wherever difficulties arose between landlord and tenant. That, to my own knowledge, was effective in preventing serious conflicts, not only in the West of Ireland, but in other counties also. In 1905 a different spirit prevailed. The spirit of reconciliation was frowned upon, parties were allowed to remain aloof, and the result was a growing feeling of friction on both sides. This is not the occasion to consider what were the reasons which led to that state of affairs.
At the end of 1905 the present Government came into office. In his speech in the debate on the Address the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition said—We know, to begin with, that we hold your receipt when you took office for an Ireland which the then Chief Secretary described as more peaceful than it had been since the time of Strongbow.
The noble Marquess was misinformed as to the facts. That certificate, or that receipt, was given, not when the Liberal Government took over the charge of Ireland from the Unionist Government, but when the Liberal Government had been some seventeen months administering Ireland. It was a certificate given by Mr. Birrell to Mr. Bryce. If Mr. Bryce had been called upon to give a certificate, the terms of the document would have been of an entirely different kind. Mr. Birrell, speaking on April 26, 1907, said—You may take my word for this, that Ireland is at the moment in a more peaceful condition than she has been for the last 600 years; the general condition of Ireland is peaceful, and her people are quite hopeful and expectant.
The people of Ireland were hopeful and expectant at the time that certificate was given. I do not think that in the whole history of the connection of Ireland and England a more peaceable year than 1906 84 is to be found. The country was expectant, the administration of the Act was smooth, but it was foreseen that the difficulties connected with congestion would call for very serious treatment, and early in that year Mr. Bryce, then Chief Secretary, appointed the Royal Commission over which Lord Dudley presided. The proceedings of that Commission were unexpectedly prolonged. The hope was entertained that it might be able to report early so that legislation might be undertaken. The inquiries, however, were so intricate that great delay was necessary, and during that time circumstances in the West of Ireland led people to entertain the belief that the relief of congestion was not a serious object with His Majesty's Government. When the Council Bill failed and it was necessary for the political party which encompassed its failure to take "virile steps "in order to bring the Government to what they considered the proper conception of its duty, advantage was taken of the state of the western districts and of the difficulties relating to the grass lands, which was, in fact, the only vulnerable point then open to them with regard to the government of Ireland. That agitation has gone on up to the present time, and it is a question whether the Government are not blameworthy in not having taken steps to put an end to it.
The agitation is due, in my opinion, to two causes. It is due, in the first place, to the bulk of the tenants of the congested districts being anxious that the advantages conferred upon other parts of Ireland under the Land Purchase Act should not be kept longer from them; and it is due, secondly, to the agitators playing upon that state of the public mind in the congested districts. I think that, having regard to the feelings of the people, the policy of the Government in treating them with patience and endeavouring to bring them to reason without the enforcement of the Crimes Act was, in the circumstances, the proper and the correct one. But, if I am asked to say what my opinion is in regard to the agitators, I should say that if the same circumstances were to occur again I would give them short shrift. As matters stand now, we are at a critical stage in the agrarian troubles of Ireland. More than half of the land of the country has been sold, although it has not all been paid for. There remains some £70,000,000 to £80,000,000 worth of 85 land which has yet to be sold. It seems to me—and in this I concur with my noble friend Lord Dunraven—a great pity that the procedure which has served so well in the past should be seriously or materially altered in regard to the balance of the land to be sold. The only provisions of the Act of 1903 which seem to call for modification are those which throw upon the ratepayers of Ireland the cost of flotation of Stock, and which deal with the provision of money and the relief of congestion. To change the fundamental principles of the Act of 1903, to throw the whole of Ireland, or that part of Ireland which remains unsold, again into the melting-pot seems to be lamentable. The provision of funds for the balance of the money ought not to be beyond the competency of the Treasury, if it is really anxious to bring the Irish difficulty to its conclusion.
Speaking as an Imperial Irishman, for that is my political faith, I do not see why the Government should not say that, having put its hand to the plough, it will continue to the end of the furrow. If the Government were to take over the entire responsibility for the payment of the loss on flotation and for the payment of an additional bonus, it would, according to my calculation, cost no more than £500,000 a year for sixty-eight years, and if that conclusion were come to there is very little doubt that at least half of that sum could be saved within the near future by economies in the government of Ireland. Even if the proposals in last year's Bill are pressed, I still look forward, with a little more concession from the Government with regard to the bonus, to the completion of land purchase within ten or fifteen years. That is a great Imperial object to be gained, for, land purchase once finished, the great leverage which disaffection in and out of Ireland now has will have disappeared, and you will be able to count upon a strong body of opinion in Ireland which will be as proud of its connection with the Empire as most of those Irishmen who have taken part in the administration of the Empire truly are.
§ LORD ATKINSON
My Lords, I desired to be an interested listener to this debate, but owing to two statements made by the noble Earl the Leader of the House I think it would not be right of me to withhold 86 from your Lord ships some information which my long official connection with the Government of Ireland has enabled me to obtain and which has a direct bearing on the two propositions laid down by the noble Earl. I had not the good fortune to be present when he made his speech, and I was occupied with other matters so fully that I did not read it until last night. The noble Earl said:—The very reason we do not apply the Crimes Act is that we believe it is a rotten weapon. As regards intimidation, I have always held the view that well-organised intimidation cannot be checked by law. I know no method of checking it by the application of the most drastic coercion. That may be an unhappy admission for a Government to make, but I believe that what I say will be confirmed by everyone who has had to do with the Government at Dublin Castle.I read that statement with such absolute amazement that I began to think had not correctly comprehended the meaning which the noble Earl desired to convey. If he means that in the case of some deep-rooted cause of discontent which has its origin in the unhappy past of Ireland the Crimes Act, as regards a permanent cure, is a rotten instrument, he is perfectly right. No person ever claimed such a virtue for the Crimes Act. But precisely the same objection might be made to the law against homicide or arson. The law is no remedy for discontent. But if agrarian troubles unhappily lead to crimes of a serious character, are you to say that the criminals who are guilty of them are not to be brought to justice because they have been led to commit the crimes through some deep-seated grievance which has not been redressed? If, on the contrary, the noble Earl meant that the Crimes Act is not an effective instrument in the case of widely-extended agrarian crime in bringing criminals to justice, then I say that, so far as my experience goes, the noble Earl is utterly and absolutely mistaken.
What is the history of the Crimes Act? The Crimes Act, from the date of its passing in 1887 until 1905, has never been tried without proving conspicuously effective in checking disorder and in successfully grappling with crime. I make that statement on the authority of those who have been charged with its administration. The noble Lord, Lord Denman, said you could not deal with intimidation under the Crimes Act. The most effective, subtle, and all-pervading and successful form of intimidation 87 is that of boycotting. Mr. Gladstone, in bringing in the Act of 1882, the seventh section of which is identical with the second section of the Crimes Act of 1887, under which boycotting prosecutions are instituted, said:—What is meant by boycotting? In the first place, it is combined intimidation. In the second place, it is combined intimidation used for the purpose of destroying personal liberty and choice by fear of ruin and starvation.Has the Crimes Act been a success in dealing with boycotting? When the Act of 1882 was passed the crime was committed at the rate of 404 cases per week. In a few months it had fallen to 201 per week, and in three years it had practically disappeared. On August 31, 1887, there were 4,556 cases of boycotting; in December, only three months afterwards, they had diminished to 2,400; in the following year they numbered 712; and in 1901 they had vanished altogether. Therefore I cannot understand how it can be put forward as an excuse for the inaction of the present Government that they have a rotten instrument to hand which does not enable them to deal with the existing crime. One of the other crimes that remain at present is cattle-driving. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Denman, on having made a discovery in law. He assured your Lordships that unless there was an organised crowd of 100 people they could not be prosecuted under the Crimes Act for unlawful assembly. I believe the noble Lord said he got his information from the Inspector-General, Col. Sir Neville Chamberlain. If so, I should counsel him to change his legal adviser.
I do not think the noble and learned Lord has quoted me quite correctly. What I said was that only 100 of the cases of cattle-driving could have been dealt with if the Crimes Act had been in force for unlawful assembly.
§ LORD ATKINSON
I completely comprehended what the noble Lord said, and that is what I am endeavouring to show contains not an element of law or sense. Any assembly of three or more persons met together to effect an unlawful purpose is an unlawful assembly, and as the Crimes Act enables the Government to prevent an unlawful assembly, there is not a single 88 cattle-drive from the beginning to the end of the series that could not have been dealt with under the Crimes Act without any proclamation. I speak with authority, because I have directed dozens of those prosecutions myself. I do not mean that repression should be the only remedy. Not at all. That has never been the Unionist policy. The application of the Crimes Act in 1891 under Mr. Balfour's regime and again in 1901 took place while the Land Acts of 1893 and 1903 were in preparation.
Another excuse of the Government is that it is very difficult to obtain evidence in Ireland. That is untrue. But there is nothing that increases that difficulty so much as inefficient or cowardly administration of the law. Terror seals the lips of witnesses in Ireland, and confidence in the Government and in the administration of the law is the only thing that will unloose their tongues and enable offenders to be brought to justice. How can there be a difficulty in obtaining evidence when the large majority of cattle-drives have taken place in the day time and in the presence of the police? The noble Earl the Leader of the House said that every one connected with the Government at Dublin Castle had admitted that no matter how drastic the coercion it would not put down intimidation. I traced back in my mind to the year 1887 to try and discover who on earth connected with Dublin Castle could have given the noble Earl such information. The three Viceroys of Ireland on the occasions that the Crimes Act was put in force were the Marquess of Londonderry, the Marquess of Zetland, and Earl Cadogan. Earl Cadogan, I know, shares the view which Lord Londonderry and Lord Zetland have expressed. The three Chief Secretaries admit nothing of the kind, and the two Attorney-Generals are certain to the contrary. Of the two Under-Secretaries I can speak for one; as to the other—Sir West Ridgeway—that, at all events, was his opinion at one time; but Sir West Ridgeway's convictions have been for the past few years in such a state of flux that I am not sure whether he has changed what was once a staple part of his creed. I go further. I challenge the noble Earl, or any person who sits on the opposite side of the House, to produce one resident magistrate who has been engaged in putting the Crimes Act in force, or one county inspector of police, who will tell you that 89 the Act is not a most effective remedy for dealing both with intimidation and boycotting of the most effective form. Therefore, judging by what has been done in the past, the Government can have no excuse on the ground of not possessing the means of grappling with crime. They have an effective weapon, but they deliberately refuse to use it, and prefer to do nothing.
The breakdown of the ordinary law has been confessed. The Attorney-General for Ireland has said that it is useless to prosecute before juries until you have the jurors in sympathy with the law. And the means of bringing them into sympathy with the law is to let them violate the law with impunity! There cannot be a more humiliating farce than prosecuting a member of a confederacy before twelve members of the same confederacy for doing an act either counselled or applauded by the confederacy as patriotic and a public service. That is what you have in Ireland. No one wishes to dispense with trial by jury where it is effective; but I concur with the Attorney-General for Ireland that it is useless to try by jury until you have the jurors in sympathy with the law. It is frequently said that the disorder is confined to a small part of Ireland, and that the other parts are in a peaceful condition. Why not try cattle-drivers by jurors taken from the good parts of Ireland, and why not try them in those parts that are quiet? However much the Chief Secretary may dislike the Crimes Act, it is his bounden duty to apply it if it is the only means by which law and order can be preserved. It has been truly said that—Liberty is like food: take it from us and our bodies soon sicken and we die. Good order is like the air we breathe: deprive us of it and we instantly perish.
Though I am greatly interested in the Act of 1903, I do not wish to follow either of the noble Lords into a discussion on that matter.
It is a new theory put forward by Lord Denman that the evil of cattle-driving arose from the land hunger of poor holders of small uneconomic farms, a hunger that had been stimulated by the success of the Act of 1903. There are a few facts which it is difficult to reconcile with that. The first is that the cattle-driving has taken place in a great number of places where there is no congestion at all. Next, I think it can be said with confidence that the men who have been arrested and bound 90 over for the offence are landless men who by the neglect to put down violence, have been encouraged to hope that their crimes will be rewarded by the unoccupied lands being divided amongst them. I entirely agree with the noble Earl, Lord Dunraven, and the noble Lord opposite, Lord MacDonnell, that the distribution of untenanted land amongst these landless men makes relief of congestion almost impossible. The reason is that there is not enough land. Every acre you take away to give to landless men makes relief of congestion all the more impossible. The preservation of law and order is the first and paramount duty of Government, and a Minister is not within his right in deliberately refraining from the use of an instrument ready to his hand and allowing crime to go unpunished.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, I had not intended intervening in this debate, as there are so many noble Lords better fitted than myself to call attention to the serious state of affairs now existing in Ireland; but I have been so much struck by the attitude which His Majesty's Government have taken up in defending themselves against the attack made upon them that I shall venture to trouble your Lordships with a few remarks. The Government's attitude in this case reminds me of a complaint once made at a Pall Mall club by a dissatisfied member, who placed the following entry in the complaint book—The hot water in the bath room is stone cold; besides there is none.
That is the attitude which His Majesty's Government have taken up. They first of all say that the deplorable condition of Ireland is due chiefly to the legislation brought in by the Unionist Government in 1903, and then add that there are no deplorable circumstances at all, or rather that the deplorable circumstances are greatly exaggerated for party purposes. I have had the honour for some years now of supporting His Majesty's Government, and therefore can have no object in exaggerating the present state of affairs for party purposes. Speaking both as a Liberal and as an Irishman resident in the West of Ireland, I say that the condition of the country has been by no means exaggerated, but has been temperately and accurately described in this debate. As to the argument that the present 91 condition of affairs is due to the policy of the Unionist Government in 1903, I would refer noble Lords to the pages of Hansard, where they will find that the policy of land purchase was enthusiastically and almost unanimously supported by His Majesty's present advisers. Therefore, if there is any responsibility for the present condition of affairs owing to that policy, His Majesty's Government are as responsible for it as the Conservative Government who passed the Act. Lord Denman expressed the opinion that the present state of affairs is chiefly due to the congestion in the West of Ireland. He also went on to say, with an ingenuousness which I cannot but admire, that that congestion could not have been removed by His Majesty's Government because they could not get land at a price which the State could afford to pay. That, it seems to me, foretells the policy which His Majesty's Government are going to pursue for the amelioration of the present state of things. One would gather that they are going to bring in compulsion for the purchase of the grass lands at a price which, as the noble Lord says, the State can afford to pay—that is to say, a price which the purchaser is willing to give, and that means a price which is allowed by the United Irish League. if the Loyalists in Ireland have to take the steps adopted in countries where the ordinary laws of civilisation are not in force, then I venture to say the responsibility will rest entirely on His Majesty's Government. The United Irish League realise that they can, with practical impunity, do precisely what they like. There is, however, one consolation. They demonstrate clearly how absolutely incapable Ireland is of self-government. The question has been raised as to whether these debates are of any advantage. For myself, I think they are necessary in order to enable the people of England to thoroughly realise the extent to which anarchy and crime have progressed since His Majesty's Government undertook the administration of the country.
My Lords, I have the fortune, good or bad, to live in the county of Clare, and I feel it my duty to inform your Lordships of what is going on in that part of Ireland. I will relate a few incidents that have come to my own knowledge. There is one case of a widowed lady who lives only a few miles from my home. 92 She owned a small property of 350 acres, of which 150 acres are outside the actual demesne. Some two years ago there was an agitation to induce her to sell her outside land to her tenants. This she did, and the land was divided amongst them. That was eighteen months ago, but I may state that it has not been paid for yet. Only the other day another agitation was started to compel her to break up her park, a very picturesque one with many amenities. The local League determined that it should be broken up and divided amongst the landless men. Naturally, this lady objected. The first thing that happened was that the agent of the property was forced, by threats, to resign. A new agent was secured. He is, I might mention, the man who owned the bullock to which the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, referred yesterday, the head of which was cut off and placed conspicuously in a hedge. A few days afterwards the herd received notice from the League, and refused to work any longer for this lady. A few days subsequent to that, her only remaining labourer departed at the instigation of the League. She was then left with this demesne land on which were thirty or forty cattle, with absolutely no farm hand to feed or look after them in any way. Only two days ago her gardener received notice from the League, and he will have to go. This will leave the lady with only one male servant and one female servant in the house. Being boycotted, she can get no help whatever, except by procuring emergency men from the north of Ireland, but to these men she will have to pay from 18s. to 20s. a week, whereas the ordinary rate is from 9s. to 10s. per week, and will also have to obtain more police protection. Recently her barn, containing 15 tons of hay, was burnt, and in a letter written after this event she says:—I hope you can read my writing. My hand has become very shaky since the fire. How little English people know of our sufferings, or, if they do, how little they care if we are shot down. But I will fight for my home with my last breath.This lady is nearly eighty years of age, and I call that real pluck. That is merely one case which illustrates what is going on in Ireland. This lady, fortunately, has friends whom she can visit and who can visit her, but in smaller cases the boycott is absolute.
Then I come to cattle-driving. There was the case of Mr. Macnamara. These 93 cattle-drives were the result of League meetings, at almost all of which Members of Parliament were present and advocated cattle-driving. On August 30 there were two or three Members of Parliament at the meeting, and they openly advised cattle-driving. Mr. Macnamara heard of this and warned Mr. Birrell that trouble would occur. Mr. Birrell was away at the time, but his private secretary replied that the facts would be laid before the Chief Secretary on his return. A few days after that the cattle were "turned out to wander." Two days later 160 cattle and a large number of sheep were driven twelve miles—and it must be remembered that the Irish mile is considerably longer than the English mile. On December 20 the cattle were driven for the third time from the same land. On this occasion the police were active. They captured one man, and took the names of others. The man who was caught was taken before the magistrate and bound over to keep the peace. Nothing more than that was done, although there had been great cruelty in the driving. The police, in giving evidence, said the crowd discharged shots and knocked down walls and fences. Yet they were only able to capture one man and to take the names of two or three others. The next day those whose names were taken were also called before the resident magistrate and bound over, and at the very moment of this ceremony another drive was taking place. There has been a good deal written in the papers and said at public meetings to the effect that there is no cruelty in cattle-driving. That is quite a mistake. It is true that in these particular drives there was no actual cruelty in the driving. The cattle were driven quietly along the road because there was no opposition. But the moment the police attempted to stop the driving, cruelty took place.
I am informed by one of the victims of cattle-driving that he was awakened at eleven-thirty on one night in September by shouts of "For God's sake get up; the boys are coming." His informants had heard this man's name mentioned and had rushed along to warn him. He went in and spoke to his mother, who is nearly ninety years of age, and told her to keep as quiet as she could while he went out to meet the men. When he reached the corner he found twenty or thirty men, with a herd of cattle, shouting and yelling. They said 94 "Will you put your cattle back?" He at first said he would. They then threatened him, and he had to promise that he would not put the cattle back.
I know of another case of a man, seventy-nine years of age, who was so feeble that he had had a nurse from Dublin for several weeks in the house. A number of men came down, nearly frightened the life out of the old man, and drove his cattle. This case took place in broad daylight, and only just previously the two Members of Parliament for the county—Mr. W. Redmond and Mr. J. Halpin—had addressed meetings. Mr. Redmond said:—He came there as an enemy of English rule in Ireland, and as a bitter enemy of Irish landlords. As to cattle-driving, he had no word of blame for the men who drove the cattle. As far as he was concerned, he would never blame the young men of Clare for any risk they took in order to secure land that it was intended should be divided amongst them.
Mr. Halpin used practically similar words and added:—If you take my advice you will not leave a single thing on the land.
Subsequently a priest spoke. He said:—Last night I had the most pleasant night's sleep I have had for a long time, because I heard there was a cattle-drive in the district. Driving an old bull or a heifer is not a sin.That is how cattle-drives have arisen. Why do not the Government go to the fountain-head and attack those men who give advice to the poor, wretched cattle-drivers, who themselves are not so much to blame, because they are promised land for nothing. The point is often overlooked that the owners of the cattle driven are frequently yearly tenants. The result is that they have to pay rent, rates and taxes in respect of land which they are not allowed to use.
I think few people in England have the least idea of the terror inspired by the United Irish League, or how its branches are formed. Generally some half-dozen blackguards, who have nothing to lose but everything to gain, decide to start a branch in their district. A meeting is called, members are proposed, and practically everybody in the district is bound to join whether he likes it or not. Then these half-dozen scoundrels call monthly meetings. The ordinary member attends because he is obliged to, otherwise he would be boycotted. He takes no part in the pro- 95 ceedings, but at the end throws a shilling on the table to pay his dues. One-half of the people who belong to the League hate it body and soul and would give anything to have it suppressed. Why do not the Government suppress this League which is causing all the trouble?
Lord Denman said there had been a great deal of exaggeration about crimes and outrages. In the official reports these crimes and outrages are a good deal minimised. Let me give three cases. A man going down a country lane the other day had five revolver shots fired at him. One would expect that to be entered as "Attempted murder." It was returned as "Intimidation." Another man who lives within a mile of my house was sitting by his fireside when he was fired at through the window four times. The first bullet went just over his head, the second shot away part of his cap, and others went near to hitting him. This was reported officially as merely "Firing into a dwelling-house." A case of boycotting, where the victim was unable to get food or anything else within a distance of twenty miles, was officially recorded as "Partial boycott." What is boycotting if this is partial boycotting?
I should like to call attention to a statement which the Prime Minister made in the House of Commons on Tuesday in reply to Mr. Balfour. He said:—I was struck by one observation of the right hon. Gentleman. He said 'Can you wonder, when you allow this terrible state of things to go on unchecked in Ireland, that no one is found ready to invest in Irish land?' Are they not ready to invest in Irish land? Who are the people who are investing in Irish land? Not British capitalists. British capital is not being exported to Ireland. The people who are tumbling over one another in their eagerness to invest in Irish land are the Irish people themselves. It is just because there is this eagerness to invest in Irish land that we are obliged to come to Parliament and ask for an extension of the facilities which have hitherto existed.My impression was that the Irish tenants who wished to buy land were obtaining the money at a very low rate of interest, repayment being extended over a long period of years. A very great percentage is taken off the price of the land before they buy it, and they are given a long period in which to pay back the purchase price at a very low interest. Surely that cannot be called investing in Irish land. I have endeavoured 96 to give your Lordships a number of instances which have come to my knowledge in the county of Clare, and I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions. It is not a pleasure to us to bring these matters to the notice of the House, but it is our only means of drawing attention to the present serious state of affairs.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords, we have been reproved for bringing on this debate. We have been told that these debates fulfil no useful purpose. Well, my Lords, these debates, one regrets to say, are now familiar both at the beginning of a session and at the beginning of an autumn session. But I myself have no hesitation in saying that of all the debates of this kind that have occurred since His Majesty's Government came into power this one has served by far the most useful purpose.
The debate has clearly established two things. It has exposed, in the first place, the poverty of the case which the Government are trying to defend. Very little answer has been attempted to be given. Since the two leaders spoke on Tuesday there have been twelve speeches; eleven of those speeches have been attacking the Government, and the speech of the noble Lord opposite who represents the Irish Office contained far more about Canadian cattle and Tariff Reform than about the state of Ireland. The second interesting fact established by the debate, as evidenced by the speeches of Lord Mac Donnell and the Earl of Arran, is that even the supporters of His Majesty's Government have no enthusiasm for their Irish policy. Indeed, I am reminded of a speech that was delivered only a few weeks ago in the South East of England by Lord Brassey. My noble friend made a speech covering a great many political topics, in all of which he praised the Government, and the only rift in his golden cloud came when he was constrained to admit that "perhaps there has been partial failure in Ireland." Therefore I think we have made considerable progress. Nobody will deny the position of Lord Brassey in the counsels of the Party opposite. I am glad to see the noble Lord in his place, and can assure him that his speech was read with great gratitude in many parts of Ireland; and I can almost hazard a guess that there are many noble lords who usually sit opposite who would not be disinclined to agree with Lord Brassey. 97 I wish, first, to refer very briefly to one of the few points in the speech of Lord Mac Donnell with which we on this side of the House would disagree. I do not desire to misrepresent the noble Lord, and therefore I am sure he will correct me if I misunderstood him. One of the points that I think he made was that it was quite true that Mr. Birrell gave somebody a clearance certificate, if I may use the phrase, as regards the satisfactory condition of Ireland when he took Office, but that he was referring to Mr. Bryce. I quite agree. Mr. Birrell did give Mr. Bryce such a clearance certificate. But it must not be forgotten that Mr. Bryce gave us such a certificate. The noble Lord shakes his head. I must appeal from the noble Lord to Hansard. In a speech in the House of Commons on February 21, 1906, Mr. Bryce said:—This is a moment of tranquility, of peace, and of comparatively well-settled order. Seize that precious opportunity; seize it while you can.
Is not that a testimony to the rule of his predecessors, who had gone out of office only three months before?
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
Very well. I shall be quite happy to run a byelecton against the noble Lord on that point. I do not think it necessary now to go into the figures that have been produced to prove that disorder exists in Ireland, but perhaps I may be allowed to read a very remarkable telegram that I have just received from my noble friend Lord Farnham, who took his seat here a couple of days ago. My noble friend has returned to Ireland, and is interesting himself very much in a certain organisation that is being formed in the north-east of Ireland with the object of attempting to send down from that part of the country labourers to assist boycotted persons in the less quiet parts of Ireland. This is what he telegraphs—The Orange Emergency Committee applied to a leading insurance company under the Workmen's Compensation Act to insure the workmen supplied by them to assist boycotted people throughout Ireland, and their representative has received the following written reply: 'Re Accident Insurance of Emergency Men. Referring to your enquiry in this connection, I regret to advise you that, in view of the disturbed condition of the country in which these men would be employed, my directors would prefer not to issue policies on their behalf.'98 What an eloquent comment on the result of three years efforts by Mr. Birrell over a very large part of Ireland!
We have been accused of exaggeration. I do not like the tu quoque argument. But I do complain that noble Lords opposite who represent the Government have here in the House of Lords minimised the true state of affairs. I do not think we have been treated quite fairly in the matter. The noble Lord who spoke last night for the Government told us that two-thirds of Ireland are peaceable; and in the debate last October he used a phrase which I think he probably intended, by saying two-thirds were peaceable, still to maintain—that the condition of certain counties in the West of Ireland was bad. Now, my Lords, is that a quite fair description? On November 3 last Mr. Birrell, replying to Mr. Lonsdale in the House of Commons, gave statistics which proved that cattle-driving had taken place in twenty-two counties, and there are only thirty-two counties altogether in Ireland. Let us see which counties those are. There is the county of Dublin; I do not think that county is in the West of Ireland. Then there is County Louth, which is on the extreme east coast; County Meath, which touches the east coast; and County Waterford, which is in the almost extreme south-east of Ireland. Is it, therefore, fair to speak of "a few counties in the West of Ireland"? Included in the counties that are proclaimed by the Government as being in a disturbed condition are King's County, in the centre of Ireland, and West Meath. Perhaps the noble Lord thought that "West " in West Meath made it a western county. The town of Athlone we are taught to regard as being the centre point of Ireland, And the town of Athlone is the extreme western point of the county of West Meath. Have we, therefore, been quite fairly treated by the Government in their turn when they have described the extent of the disorder which exists in Ireland. There is a very old fable on which we were all brought up—the story of the beam in your own eye and the mote in your brother's. I suggest that perhaps a reading of that fable might be a very good penance for some members of His Majesty's Government.
The noble Lord asked me a question direct. He asked me what was to be the 99 remedy for congestion. The noble Earl, Lord Dunraven, practically answered the point for me, though not in the way I intended to answer it. He said—You have got all the land you want. I confess I was unaware of it. I should have been rather inclined to say that the Government can get all the land they want if they are prepared to pay an honest price. Any of your Lordships could go into Ireland to-morrow, and, if you were prepared to pay the price that is settled by the law of supply and demand, influenced, naturally, by the willingness or the unwillingness or the anxiety of the owner to sell, could buy acre after acre, and you could find scores of men ready to sell. The reason of your difficulties over the settlement of the question of congestion, just like the reason of your difficulties over the solution of the evicted tenants question, lies in the fact that the Government are not prepared to pay that economic price, but prefer to pay a price fixed by a tribunal of which they themselves are members.
What remedy does the Government propose, not for the question of congestion, but for the vastly more important question—the suppression of disorder? No doubt we shall be told by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who is to conclude the debate for the Government, that, after all, the real remedy for these things is the granting of Home Rule. But, my Lords, at present if there is not a Home Rule Legislature there is a Home Rule Executive. Who, after all, are the members of the Executive? We have the Chief Secretary, an undoubted Home Ruler; we have the two Law Officers of the Crown, both undoubted Irish Home Rulers; and we have, lastly, the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture, the keenest Home Ruler of all of them, which is the more remarkable since it is only a few years ago that he was an equally keen Unionist. The Executive at this moment is thoroughly in touch with the Home Rule element in Irish politics. A mere glance at the way in which they exercise their patronage proves that. I have referred to this matter before very briefly. May I be allowed to go in detail through the appointments that Mr. Birrell happened to make during the year 1907? He had to appoint a County Court Judge for Limerick at a salary of £1,400 per annum, and he appointed Mr. Richard Adams, a leader writer on the staff of the Freeman's Journal. He then 100 had to appoint a removable magistrate at £800 per annum, and he appointed Mr. P. J. Kelly, the chief leader writer of the Belfast Morning News, which is the Belfast edition of the Freeman's Journal. He then had to appoint a Local Government Board Inspector at £800 per annum, and he appointed Mr. John George MacSweeney, the Editor of the Weekly Freeman. He then had to appoint a temporary Local Government Board Inspector at three guineas per day and travelling and maintenance expenses, and he appointed Mr. Maurice Cosgroeve, chief leader writer of the Evening Telegraph, which is printed, I believe, in the office of the Freeman's Journal. He then had to appoint a Registrar of the Court of Appeal at £1,500 per annum, and he appointed Mr. Edward H. Ennis, leader writer of the Freeman's Journal. And, lastly, he had to appoint a County Court Judge of Clare at £1,400 per annum, and he appointed Mr. Matthias MacDonnell Bodkin, the chief leader writer of the Freeman's Journal. The Freeman's Journal has done yeoman service for the Home Rule cause ab initio. Could any Home Rule Government have more faithfully rewarded their political supporters? Again, Mr. John Dillon sent a message on December 13 last to a meeting at which he was unable to be present, in which he said:—The Land Bill has been framed by the Government on lines given to them by the Irish party.
I cannot conceive of a single subject on which I want to agree with Mr. John Dillon, but I have certainly never had reason to accuse him of being untruthful, and His Majesty's Government can only deny this statement by giving Mr. Dillon the lie direct. I shall be interested to see whether that is done from the Woolsack this evening. Is it too much to say that we have a a very good example of the working of a Home Rule Executive? I do not think the experience encourages us to extend to them legislative functions. We are not yet to have the Crimes Act. What other remedy do the Government propose? The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, asked the question point blank.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
I will not be unfair to my noble friend. I will not ask him whether he expected one. Another remedy has been propounded by the Government. It was propounded last October, but not again now. In October last Lord Denman told us that the Government intended to enlist the sympathy of the people themselves on the side of law and order. I want statistics on this point. How many criminals have you enlisted on the side of law and order since last October? How many cattle-drivers have joined in suppressing cattle-driving? A meeting that was open to all took place a few weeks ago close to where I live in the South of Ireland. It was called to discuss whether it was desirable to start cattle-driving in the surrounding country. Should they drive Brown's cattle? Should they drive Jones's cattle? Should they drive Robinson's cattle? The results of the meeting and the names of those who attended were public property a few days afterwards. There was no concealment; why should there be? There is no penalty for cattle-driving and no inconvenience is caused to those attending the meeting.
The Government say—Oh, we are dealing with this by means of the ordinary law. But they are not; they do not even put the ordinary law in force. Lord Denman gave us some figures as to the number of prosecutions for cattle-driving up to yesterday. Now the same figures were asked for in the House of Commons at the end of last session, and on December 19 Mr. Birrell gave the number of people who had been prosecuted up to December 12 last; and, will your Lordships believe it, the total which Mr. Birrell gave up to December 12 exceeded the noble Lord's figures by over 200. The noble Lord will find the figures in Hansard. Up to yesterday, according to the noble Lord, there had been 1,210 prosecutions, but by December 12 there were 1,434; up to yesterday 1,114 were ordered to find bail, but on December 12 the number was 1,181; up to yesterday sixty-eight were discharged, but on the 12th of December 109 had been discharged. The noble Lord knows perfectly well that I am not going to suggest for a moment that he dreamed of deceiving the House. He, of course, quoted the 102 figures given him by the Irish Office. But does not this show the state of chaos that must exist in that Department? The Chief Secretary very seldom goes to Ireland. He is known as the absentee Chief Secretary. The Chief Secretary's Lodge is not good enough for him; he prefers a couple of rooms at the Shelbourne Hotel, and following precedent he spent a good part of the recess, when one would have thought the state of affairs in Ireland sufficiently demanded his attention, enjoying a holiday in Switzerland. In these circumstances, is it surprising that even some noble Lords opposite are beginning to think that there may have been a partial failure? The figures which are supplied prove the sort of discipline obtaining in the Irish Office.
May I ask the noble Earl whether Mr. Birrell's figures were for the whole of Ireland or for particular counties?
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
I understand that they applied to the whole of Ireland, but if they only concerned fewer counties it would make the case worse. An examination of Mr. Birrell's figures shows that of the 1,582 persons proceeded against, only seventeen convicted by a jury can be said to have received adequate punishment, because it is well known that binding over to keep the peace is a farce. Bail is hardly ever estreated; it has only been estreated in four cases. The 1,100 or 1,200 bound over to keep the peace suffer no inconvenience; they have only to keep a little more in the background and the agitation will go on unchecked. But whereas there have been 1,051 cattle-drives, proceedings have only been taken in 162 cases. Why have no proceedings been taken in the remaining 889? The figures show, taking the average number at ten per cattle-drive, that something like 10,000 people have been engaged in cattle-driving since it started. Of these, only 1,582 have had action taken against them, and only seventeen have received adequate punishment. Can we wonder at the increase of disorder?
Yesterday the first speech was made by a member of the Government in which the idea was contemplated that perhaps some day the Crimes Act or some other process ma be necessary. What will that other 103 process be? If the Government say the Crimes Act or some other process, they must have had under consideration what steps they may have to take, but there is no mention of legislation on the subject in the King's Speech. Perhaps what the Government will do can be done without legislation. I press, however, for an answer to the question—What other process is at the back of your minds? We are told that the time has not yet come for the use of the Crimes Act; the state of Ireland is not yet sufficiently bad. Then I ask, When it is going to be bad enough? There are 840 people boycotted; 351 under police protection; there have been forty cases of firing at persons, and eighty-one of firing into dwellings. How many such cases would justify the Government in carrying out their elementary duty of insisting on obedience to the law? There have been 635 cattle-drives during the first eleven months of last year, or an average of fifty-seven per month, and 537 agrarian outrages. When will the Government be satisfied that it is necessary to do something? The noble Lord said that Ireland must be judged by a different standard. It is judged by different standards. I hesitate to think what a row there would have been if there had been ten cattle-drives in one of the grazing districts in this island.
But, worse than that, there has been an agrarian murder. How many lives are to be sacrificed before the Government think it time to do something to check the rising tide of crime? That tide is rising more and more rapidly as the people realise the impotence of the unwillingness of the Government to deal with the criminal classes. The murder of Police-constable Goldrick has been already referred to. Remember in what circumstances it took place. He was murdered while endeavouring to protect two workmen, whose murder had been attempted and who were unpopular with the League because they had committed the unforgivable crime of consenting to work for a poor woman who was under the ban of boycott. Parallels have been drawn between the Craughwell murder and the murder which occurred in Tottenham within forty-eight hours. May I be allowed to carry those parallels perhaps a little further? Have both murders been treated in quite the same way by His Majesty's Government? In connection with the victims of the Tottenham murder 104 the Home Secretary wrote a letter announcing that His Majesty's Government were going to send a subscription of £100 towards the fund being raised, and Mr. Gladstone added that he would be glad to send a donation of £10 on his own behalf. Is it the intention of the Government to make a similar contribution to the Irish case? Is it the intention of Mr. Birrell to subscribe £10 himself to the victims in the Irish case? I should like an answer to that question, or some reason why the two cases are to be treated differently. Lord Denman claimed that the Craughwell murder had no more relation to the state of the country than the Tottenham murder had to the state of London. But was the Tottenham murder an agrarian crime? The motive in the Tottenham case was, as I understand, robbery, and it is ridiculous to suggest that it was part of a great political agitation of a Socialistic nature. But the Craughwell murder was the culmination of an agrarian agitation that has been going on for three years, all the details of which were given yesterday by the noble Marquess behind me. So far it is an isolated instance. It is the first that has occurred in the course of the present agitation. Would to God that it were likely to be the last.
I hope the criminals are likely to be brought to justice. Investigation, I know, is proceeding, and it is not my business to speculate whether the unfortunate men now under arrest are guilty or not. It remains to be seen whether any evidence is going to be produced that is likely to lead to conviction. If the preliminary investigation results in the production of any evidence, it remains to be seen whether His Majesty's Government will institute a prosecution before a jury, or whether they will do what they have done in five-sixths of the cases that have come before them so far in the present agitation—namely, bind over the murderers to keep the peace for three months. And if a prosecution does take place, it remains to be seen what the jury will do. Will the jury decide the case fairly on the evidence put before them, or will they, in the teeth of the evidence, disagree or find the prisoners "Not guilty "? But is there no guilt outside the narrow legal sense? Whom are we in your Lordship's House to consider most to blame—the unfortunate criminals who fired the shot or the Chief Secretary who, by the neglect of his duties during the last three years, has 105 outwardly encouraged the perpetration of these outrages? Mr. Birrell has educated the population over a very large part of Ireland into the belief that whilst the exceptional law of King Edward III causes them little inconvenience, the law of King Edward VII is unable to touch them. There was a case at Ennis last January, in which a poster was produced that had been put up on the walls in the neighbourhood, saying openly that—Our society is led to believe that murder is no sin in a land war.
My Lords, the moral guilt of this murder, at all events, is shared by the criminal who fired the shot and the Chief Secretary who has neglected his proper function and failed to maintain law and order, and the blood of Constable Goldrick stains the hands of both. Let us not forget the point to which we have come. Successful agrarian murder has been revived. I do not think anybody will envy His Majesty's Government the epitaph when the time comes for recording their deeds on the pages of Irish political history.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD LOREBURN)
My Lords, I do not quite agree with the noble Earl who has just spoken in thinking that this has been so remarkable or so important a debate as he imagines. There are a good many Members of the House who have for a long time been in Parliament, and I think they will remember—at least I remember—exactly the same kind of debate over and over again during the whole thirty years since I first sat in either one or other House of Parliament. There is the same elaboration of statistics and dispute as to their accuracy, the same lurid description of individual crimes in comparison with others which have taken place here or elsewhere, and the same digressions—if I may so say respectfully to the noble Earl—into such subjects as the appointment to this or that office of gentlemen employed on the Freeman's Journal or some allied newspaper.
The truth is that these debates—although I do not in the least deny the necessity for them—fall into the same groove for reasons which, I think, a good many of the speakers seem to have entirely ignored or forgotten. Ireland for the last thirty years has been passing through an agrarian revolution— 106 an agrarian revolution more complete within so short a space of years than has ever been accomplished without civil war or something like it in almost any country in the world. It has been due, no doubt, in part to the presence of a powerful Government in Great Britain. But does any noble Lord who thinks of it dispute this proposition, that every stage in that agrarian revolution—and, I might add, in many other agrarian revolutions in other countries—has been accompanied by more or less agrarian crime? To-day it is an abatement, to-morrow it is a recrudescence, but there has been constantly crime of an agrarian kind during all the years through which this period of change has been developed. One would think from hearing these debates that there had been no crime in Ireland during the time of Conservative Administrations, and no agrarian difficulty in Ireland then.
I am speaking in the presence of some who have had the responsibility for government in Ireland, and they know perfectly well that you may in debate attack this Government and say that the blood of a police-constable rests upon the head of the Chief Secretary. Will the noble Earl forgive me for saying that that is a figure of speech which is not worthy of his kindly nature? I suppose Mr. Birrell would feel as acutely as any man in this House the sadness of an affair like that murder, and I may say that he purposed to have attended the funeral if he had not been summoned necessarily to London to attend a Cabinet meeting. I am sure that the noble Lord does not in his heart believe that Mr. Birrell would not feel as grieved as he would at an occurrence of this kind. Therefore, let us deal with it as a thing which is constantly occurring. Unfortunately, in a period of change of the law and change of customs it will take a considerable time before what has been settled by both Governments will come finally to its issue—because the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, is as responsible for one part of the agrarian changes as Mr. Gladstone was for another part. Under those circumstances let us deal with it as a constant difficulty and anxiety of every British Government during the lifetime of the oldest man here. That is what the case of Ireland has been, and, if I might suggest, if there were a little less recrimination there would be a little better understanding of the true bearing of these events. 107 Let me confine myself to three points:—(1) What is the state of Ireland; (2) what is it that we have done for the purpose of meeting the evil; and (3) what do you say ought to be done? In the first place, as to the state of Ireland, there is the cruel murder which has been referred to. I have inquired into that case, and I speak about it with reserve because two persons are under arrest at the present moment in respect to that murder. But the story has been told that there was a policeman watching at the house of some poor woman who had, with the assent of the evicted tenant, obtained an evicted farm. It is suggested that she had incurred the disapprobation of the United Irish League. That is not so. She had incurred, I believe, the disapprobation of one of those dreadful secret societies which are the result of trying to drive crime underground. A certain man fired at the men who were repairing a wall, and the fine young fellow whose death ensued, with the courage of his race, although unarmed except with a revolver, followed, and the man turned round and shot him dead. It is an atrocious crime; everybody agrees as to that. It is no satisfaction to those who are aggrieved to say that it is the only agrarian murder that has taken place within the last three years, or, I think, more. All I can say is this—that two men are under arrest, and the Attorney-General, I know, will do his duty if he can procure satisfactory evidence in regard to that case.
As regards other crime, will the noble Earl allow me to correct him as to a few facts? Let me say, in the first instance, I am not for a moment disputing that in certain parts of Ireland—I think rightly described as about one-third of Ireland—there is in places a deplorable state of things which ought to be punished, that ought to be stopped, and we try and have tried to punish and stop it. The number of cases of firing at persons in 1908 is fifteen—that is a very serious crime; riots and affrays, thirty—they may be serious or very slight; threatening letters, 233— do not think people who are conversant with Ireland attach too much importance to threatening letters, although, of course, it is a crime and a very wicked thing, and ought to be punished; killing, cutting, and maiming cattle—a brutal and cowardly class of offence—thirty-two cases; firing into dwellings, sixty-six. That is the state of crime in Ireland.
I do not deny that it is a serious matter 108 when the number of crimes reaches such dimensions. But, without attempting to institute comparisons, every one must know that there have been periods in Ireland during which crime has been infinitely greater and infinitely more serious. All I mean is, do not let us do more than see things exactly as they are. There are no other figures to which I intend for the moment to refer. But what have the Government done? Prosecutions have been undertaken in every case where evidence could be procured. It is true that evidence in many cases could not be procured, and that any one acquainted with Irish history will know is not uncommon. That, in fact, is our great difficulty. There have been few cases in which evidence could be procured until the end of last year. Now at the end of last year assizes were held in Limerick and Cork, and I can assure your Lordships that the juries in both places, though there was not the slightest attempt at packing, and they were not special juries under the Crimes Act, did deal with the cases before them in the most satisfactory manner. There were sixteen agrarian prosecutions, and in ten cases there were convictions, in three pleas of guilty, and in three disagreements. Of sixty-seven persons charged with agrarian offences at these assizes, the only assizes at which agrarian crimes came forward at all, forty-five were convicted or pleaded guilty.
I think I ought to mention that Mr. Justice Kenny, speaking at the close of the December Assizes at Limerick—nearly all the cases were tried there, there were but a few at Cork—said he could give his testimony to the correctness of the verdicts found by the juries empanelled, and could not speak too highly of their courage, honesty, and sense of justice; their conduct, he said, deserved all praise. That was the result, I hope a good result, of trying to trust a jury without packing or introducing a different class of people like special jurymen; the result was marked by a courageous sense of responsibility. The result has been satisfactory in the convictions obtained at Limerick and Cork in this way. I have asked for and obtained from the usual sources extracts showing that in December and January there has been a much more satisfactory state of things. That is the information given to me; I do not pretend to have personal knowledge.
Let me now come to other figures in 109 reference to proceedings in the Summary Courts; 1,210 persons—by some mysterious process increased to 1,400 or 1,500, probably by some error of a compiler—were brought before resident magistrates under the Act of Edward III., nearly all cattle-driving cases, but not all; 1,114 were ordered to give bail; 139 refused and went to prison, and those who gave bail, with hardly any exceptions, have observed their undertakings. The noble Earl thinks it a grievance that recognisances were not estreated; but they cannot be unless the undertakings are not observed. Further, I would make this observation to the noble Earl in regard to these cattle-driving cases. He said in all cases of conviction the average was ten persons to each cattle-drive, and therefore he assumed that in the 1,100 cases there must be ten persons concerned. But in the great majority of cases there were one or two men only concerned, and at night, when nobody could see them. But in all cases where evidence has been forthcoming proceedings have been taken, either before a magistrate or a jury. This is the information given to me.
Now with regard to boycotting. Nobody has been more severe in condemning this offence than Mr. Birrell, as those who remember the language he used in the House of Commons will allow. In January last there were fifteen cases of persons wholly boycotted—I am not sure whether I should say persons or cases, but practically it does not make very much difference—ten cases of partial boycotting, and 172 minor cases, where some persons only refused to deal, causing, no doubt, extreme annoyance. It is very difficult to get evidence in these cases, but in one serious case a prosecution is now pending. It is very difficult, I say, to get evidence, but wherever evidence can be procured there will be prosecutions under the ordinary law.
I observe that during the debate a good deal of indignation has been expressed at the Government not taking advantage of the Crimes Act for the purpose of proceeding against boycotting, and Lord Ashbourne, who is learned in the subject, assures us such action could be taken. Let me give an illustration. I do not do so in a spirit of tu quoque, and I think it was successful from the course taken under the late Government, and for excellent reasons I have no doubt. In the year 1903 there was, I think, a worse 110 state of things in this respect; there were four persons boycotted wholly, thirty-seven partially, and 148 minor cases. On that occasion there was the Tallow boycotting case. Did the Government proceed under the Crimes Act? No, they instituted an ordinary prosecution, the accused persons were tried, and in both cases the jury disagreed. It was the most serious case of boycotting there had been for a long time, but I think the Government were well advised in not taking action under the Crimes Act. Proceedings were afterwards taken for damages, and the jury awarded in this civil action a large sum of money—I think something like £5,000. It was the verdict of a jury, and it did what a prosecution before a magistrate would not have done; and boycotting at that time was stopped by the verdict. This shows, I think, the value and the importance of trying to get an expression of public opinion upon a particular form of offence.
We have tried every case where we could get evidence, and what ought we to do? The old controversy emerges in which I have taken a modest, a subordinate part for some years, and many noble Lords have taken part. I ask the question—Does it pay to introduce the Crimes Act? Is it not a thing that every constitutional Government desires to avoid? Of course before 1887 it was necessary to bring in a Coercion Bill—I call it by its summary term—every time a particular question seemed to call for it, and Parliament was very jealous of giving the power. Has any Coercion Act ever been passed on information of the state of Ireland such as has now been given to the House? Was not a much stronger case required to justify the suspension of the Constitution in any way? The reluctance of Parliament now is as strong as ever, and your Lordships should dismiss from your minds the idea that the Government have any idea of palliating or extenuating crime.
Our chief difficulty is to get evidence. Our other difficulty is to get juries to convict. What is it suggested we should do? "Oh, you should get special juries!" There was another suggestion by one of your Lordships, and that was that we ought to use the power of what is known as ordering jurors to stand by. That is a euphemism for packing a jury. Packing juries is the broad Saxon; you call it "ordering to stand by." The power exists in England. It has never been used since a case in 111 England in 1854, when there was a certain number of persons summoned to be jurors who were Peculiar People and disapproved of bloodshed, and therefore in a murder case were ordered to stand by because of their peculiar tenets. Otherwise it is unknown in England. Is it unknown in Ireland? I will tell you a terrible case. It made such an impression on my mind that I shall never forget it. In 1904 or 1903, I forget which, Mr. Wyndham came to the House of Commons and asked us to vote compensation to certain men who had been unjustly convicted in Ireland. It was an application from a Conservative Government and a Conservative Minister. There were four men, and one of them had pleaded guilty, and yet the Government came forward and recommended that he should be paid compensation, because he had suffered an unjust sentence. Why did he plead guilty? Because he was afraid of a packed jury!
It is just the same with any other method which is outside the ordinary law, as history tells us. I am not, of course, comparing this with medieval methods of torture—an abomination in English law, even in the times of Lord Bacon. Why was that abolished? Because the people found it tended to produce injustice and not justice; and that is the evil of the packed jury. Is that what your Lordships ask us to do? It is useless to cover it over by using the euphemism of speaking of ordering jurors to stand by. The noble Earl knows what is meant by ordering ten, fifteen, twenty, or thirty to stand by until by a process of exhaustion through forty or even fifty you get your jurymen selected out of a panel of, say, eighty. Is that justice? It is not the justice which Englishmen are in the habit of administering in their own country. We should be loath, indeed, to have that in Ireland. The other method is to appoint resident magistrates and to give them the power to try cases which would otherwise be tried by jury. I have given you an illustration of how that works and of what the consequence was in boycotting during the time of the Conservative Government. 112 I will not enlarge upon it or trespass longer on your patience. Our feeling is not a desire either to extenuate the conduct or to minimise the extent of the mischief that is going on in Ireland now. It is certainly not to protect the people who have committed these abominable offences, but that they should be properly punished. It is that we cherish the time-honoured principles of the British Constitution, and we do not want to depart from them. That is the reason for the course we have taken, and we hope that it will succeed.
The noble Earl
tempted me to enter upon another field by suggesting that I should say that the only remedy was self-government. Lord Mac Donnell said some things on that more than once. Lord Dunraven said something on it. I wonder how long it will be before your Lordships will come to see that Ireland is not entirely different from all the rest of the world. In every country of our race, not only throughout the British Empire, but outside, indeed in almost every country of Aryan race, the throwing upon a governed people of a good full share of the responsibility of governing themselves has always succeeded. I really do not know that there is any instance to the contrary. The attempt to suppress and to deny them full or indeed any real responsibility in the management of their own affairs has always failed. Your Lordships will constantly have before you this old problem and these old difficulties until you take your courage in both hands and forget that it is the wicked Liberals who want to give something better to Ireland. It would be a grim satisfaction for me if, in addition to the memories I have of the Conservative party's conduct in the past, I may be able to add the memory that at least they were the instruments of giving Home Rule to Ireland.
On Question, Address agreed to, nemine dissentiente, and ordered to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.
House adjourned at five minutes before Eight o'clock, to Monday next, a quarter before Eleven o'clock.