The Arrest of Fr James McFadden: Debate at Westminster (1889)


For background to this debate see also this excellent essay:


House of Commons Debate, 12 April 1889. Hansard, vol. 335, 401-422.

MR. THOMAS SEXTON (Belfast West — Irish Parliamentary Party): Yes, the law which the right hon. Gentleman himself helped to make; the law for the iniquity of which himself and his Party are responsible, and every step to remedy which has been persistently and obstinately impeded by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends. I ask, how dare the right hon. Gentleman ask the Liberal Party what they have done for Ireland? Does he think that the memory of the past is obliterated and blotted out? Does he think that we know nothing of what has happened in Ireland since 1870? I know very well that perception is not a prominent quality in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman; but there seems to be no limit to his irresponsible and irrational daring. He asks the Liberal Party, forsooth, what they have done for Ireland. Why, Sir, I wonder how it is possible for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) to listen to this in mere silent indignation. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian has failed to remedy the agrarian situation in Ireland so as to meet such crises as this, it is due to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford and his associates on those benches, and his confederates in the House of Lords. Does the right hon. Gentleman forget all that has been done by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian? Does he forget that the right hon. Gentleman introduced a Bill for the purpose of giving compensation for disturbance? Well, what happened to that Bill, which would have met the case of many of the tenants whose position called for such a remedy? That Bill passed this House in the face of the vehement and persistent obstruction of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite; but when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, by an effort for which the Irish people will ever be grateful, passed that measure for the relief of the small tenants through this House, it was defeated by the associates of the right. hon Gentleman the Member for Sleaford in the House of Lords. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian passed a Bill which saved the homes of tens of thousands of poor tenants on whose behalf we plead to-day. He passed the Act of 1870 and the Act of 1881; and if those two Acts have not been—and they have not been—a complete and genuine protection for the tenants of Ireland, the defect is due, not to any fault on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, but to the persistent efforts of the Member for Sleaford and his friends to mutilate those measures, and render them less useful for the purposes they were intended to subserve. Within the limits of Parliamentary experience, it is impossible to cite an example of more measureless audacity than that displayed by the right hon. Gentleman to-night in daring to rise up in this House, and question the Liberal Party as to their efforts on behalf of the Irish tenants. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has on this, as on many former occasions, constituted himself the Censor of Debate, for which position no man in this House is by temper and disposition worse fitted; for he invariably succeeds in lowering the tone of the Debate. But there is one sentence of the right hon. Gentleman with which I agree. He said “the country will judge.” Yes, Sir, the country will judge, and the country is waiting for the chance of judging. We are willing to challenge you at this moment to proceed to a General Election. I should like to hear the hon Gentleman who sneers at this say what was his majority at the last election. We, on this side of the House, call on you to go to a General Election. Who is it that fears the judgment of the country? It is the Government who are afraid to face the verdict of the country. It has been said that this Parliament will continue until 1893, and that nothing will induce the Party in power to appeal to the country, unless it be a hostile vote of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer can argue pleasantly—such are his disposition and nature—over the woes of others; but, in this case, he is speaking of what he does not understand. He has referred to the Plan of Campaign in Donegal. Does the right hon. Gentleman know what has been the action of the Plan of Campaign? Will the right hon. Gentleman deny that on 57 estates in Ireland the Plan of Campaign has resulted in settlements under which the landlords have conceded the demands of the tenants? The moneys are lodged in a Trust Fund, and the moment that the landlord is willing to agree to the settlement, every penny of the money lodged in the Plan of Campaign will be ready and at his disposal. Is it not disgraceful, is it not painful that Irish Members, acquainted with the affairs of their country, should have to listen to such a speech as that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, inspired by contempt for the Irish Members and for the sufferings of their race, and marked at every point by the most absurd ignorance of the state of affairs in Ireland? What does the Chancellor of the Exchequer know about these poor people in Donegal? Irish Members around me will confirm me when I say that this district was naturally rock, mountain, and marsh; the Ordinance survey and valuation of Ireland will confirm me; it was not worth sixpence an acre; it was not worth a penny until these poor squatters came upon it. The value of the land is due to them. They carried soil upon their back from the valley and they brought seaweed from the strand to improve the land; and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer speaks eloquently of the Irish landlords, does he think that we are ignorant of how these men have laboured to make the soil, and not only they but their fathers before them? The experience of the Donegal district may be described in this way—that land, naturally worth nothing, spas made worth something by the penal servitude of the tenants. They made it worth something while the landlord, if I might borrow a phrase from the Chief Secretary for Ireland, critically watched from his chateau, or his club in London, until he saw the soil spread up the mountain side and over the rock, and then he raised the rent from 6d. to 1s., from 1s. to 5s., and even 10s. an acre. And after this revolting plunder, sanctified, I suppose, by law, carried on for years, and, in some cases, generations, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer stands up at the Table and tells us that the rent in this case is an insignificant consideration. Little he knows how these people live, and how little they can live upon. Little he knows that the father leaves for the harvest in England, and that the whole family live meagrely that he may be able to use his wages thus earned to satisfy the landlord. I know of a family who depend for sustenance upon the enterprise of a poor girl, the daughter of the house, who, after buying thread, makes a pair of socks, and then, with bare feet, travels along the road to sell these socks for twopence. That is the way they live, and yet the rent of a shilling a-week is described by the right hon. Gentleman as insignificant. Why, these poor people live, many of them, on a shilling a-week. Had they lived under an equitable rent for 10 years, they would have been able to have put by the difference between that and the rack-rent, and would not to-day have been compelled to live on Indian meal. They would have been able to have satisfied the primitive wants belonging to a way of life undiscoverable by a gentleman with £18,000 a-year of private income and £4,000 a-year of salary. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) has said that he would critically watch the case. I think it is a revolting phrase, but I think it is one which very well tests his method of regarding Ireland. Does he know that seeding time has come; does he know that the fate of these people must be settled in a fortnight or a month? The right hon Gentleman will stand critically by, he will analyze their sufferings, he will watch them in the extremity of their despair and of their hunger, and by the time his critical mind has come to a conclusion he will find that their homes have been levelled by his spiked battering ram—15ft. long, bought with Imperial money, hung upon chains, and surrounded by armour, made to ram horizontally in defence. And when their homes have been levelled by the battering ram, these people will be turned out to starve by the roadside, or drift into the workhouse. That will be the result of the critical examination of the Minister. What information can he give us? What Reports has he received? If he has got any Report, will he lay it on the Table of the House? We know the facts of the situation. People have been eating meal since last September, and the potato crop at that time was a quarter of the average crop. Does he consider what that means? The credit of the tenant is gone. The encouragement given by the right hon. Gentleman to the landlords to proceed to evictions has destroyed the credit of the tenants. They are eating seed potatoes in many instances. My hon. Friend the Member for Cork has asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he will provide some seed potatoes for this season. He has replied that he will give the matter his critical observation. Seed potatoes in Donegal are 6d. a stone—which is famine price—or more than 100 per cent in excess of the market price, 2½d. It means that seed potatoes are not in the market at all, that they have been eaten, and that the people have absolutely no seed potatoes. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us some assurance upon this subject before the debate concludes. Unless the people are provided with the means to seed their ground, undoubtedly there will be death from famine, and there will be a state of affairs which will cast disgrace upon the British Government, and on which the right hon. Gentleman, if he has any human feeling, could not look upon with equanimity. There is a gulf between the right hon. Gentleman and the late Mr. Forster. Mr. Forster, when he adopted a policy which was considered cruel, felt himself under the necessity of pursuing it, but I think Mr. Forster pursued that policy reluctantly, and I have no doubt he never ceased to be a man of humane instinct. The right hon. gentleman on the other hand is a cold and deliberate inciter to cruelty. Another thing I will say of Mr. Forster, that when you asked him a plain question he gave you a straight answer. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that other Chief Secretaries have been worse treated than he. I do not think we could have another Chief Secretary whose character would display so revolting a combination. I call it a most revolting combination of human character to find the minimum of frankness associated with the maximum of cruelty. I should like for a moment to test the question of frankness. The right hon. Gentleman was asked to day with reference to the issue of a secret circular, about a month after the meeting of the Special Commission. The Chief Secretary has two ways of dealing with Irish affairs—either he point blank refuses to answer, or he gives an answer which is worse than misleading. He boldly refused to answer to-day the allegation about the circular. Now, I have the text of it before me. This circular was issued last November, when the Commission Court sat. It is headed “Very Secret; Agrarian Crime.” It is unfortunate for the British Government in Ireland that under the present system, even that which is very secret immediately becomes public. This circular is not simply “private” or “confidential,” it is very secret, and has consequently come into our hands. It is from Dublin Castle to the police— Very secret! Agrarian crime! Please let me have as soon as you can the particulars asked for on the opposite margin regarding all Leaguers convicted of agrarian crime since September, 1879. Of course ‘Leaguers’ include members of the Land League as well as of the National League. Be very discreet in collecting this information. From the local knowledge of the police no difficulty is apprehended in the performance of this duty. (a) Where tried and. offence: (b) names of persons, addresses, and witnesses generally, and what each can prove; (c) names and present addresses of persons who can produce records of each conviction as entered; (d) remarks, showing nature of evidence given, and any point of interest showing connection between League and offences. That is the circular issued by the Government, which declared its determination to stand impartially between the parties. Would any honest man—I will not say Chief Secretary—desire to bring into Court a case which he was not prepared to submit to the test of cross-examination? How were we to be prepared with the material for cross-examination when we were unaware that this circular had been issued? Although the right hon. Gentleman refused to answer, we know that his refusal was simply an admission of the existence of the circular. We can all appreciate the advantage it would have been to the Chief Secretary if he could have said, “No such circular has been issued.” Why, he would have bounded to the Table if he could have made such a declaration. He could not do so; two things restrained him—a desire to keep within the lines of truth, and the second, a more binding, restraining influence, I imagine, was the knowledge that we had a copy of the circular in our hands. Now, I say, quoting the Chancellor of the Exchequer, “the country will judge.” A ‘Special Commission was given to us to enable us to clear our character. The Government were most anxious that we should clear our character. They loved us more than brothers; they desired that we should prove ourselves worthy of retaining our places in this Imperial Assembly, and, prompted by that desire, they directed the police to set about collecting not merely evidence, but rumour. Why, we had the result offered to the three Judges who form the Special Commission in the very form of this special circular. A District Inspector had a Return in the form of this circular; but the Judges refused to receive it, and the Court was plunged into inextinguishable laughter when the District Inspector was found to have included in his Return of reasons why Irish Members should be expelled from this House—perhaps for disfranchising Ireland—that in one case a Land Leaguer was alleged to be reasonably suspected of having been guilty of “furious driving.” Yes; the country will judge as to this Circular, and as to the methods adopted by the Irish Government to assist us in the endeavour to clear our character in this inquiry, and as to the sincerity and frankness of the Chief Secretary. It is too late for the right hon. Gentleman to pretend that we never made proposals for an alteration of the condition of things in Donegal. The poor tenants of the district stand on a special footing and must be dealt with in a special manner, and if we were responsible do not doubt but we should deal with the case promptly. We have made many proposals, in the form of compensation for disturbance, for dealing with arrears and on the direction of migration. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian kindly and compassionably assented to our proposal in the Bill of 1882, and those proposals have been effectual in saving these poor people in their homes. If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who are so ready to deride the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford (Mr. Chaplin) and others, had urged upon their Government the concession in the legislation of 1887, of our demand for providing for arrears, and a provision similar to that which the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian agreed to in 1882, the distress we lament and deplore to-day in Donegal would not have arisen. My hon. Friend the Member for Cork proposed a system of migration. The Chief Secretary says it is easy to get land. My hon. Friend when defeated in his efforts to embark upon legislation attempted by other means to effect his object and carry out migration for the relief of the crowded districts, but he was boycotted by the landlords; he could not get land at less than 25 years’ purchase. If he could have got it at 20 years’ purchase, if he could have obtained it on any terms that would not have meant a material loss, he would have bought it, and the question would have been disposed of. The Chief Secretary, who has done nothing to assist in a solution of the difficulty, says you can get land cheap, and I tell him you cannot. There is this special feature attached to these Donegal holdings that whatever value they have belongs to the tenants, and the landlord has no right to rent for such. The tenants cannot pay rent from the produce of the land, they come over to England every year, they labour in the harvest fields here, they carry home the bulk of the wages they thus earn, and out of this they pay the landlord’s rent. When the Chief Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer speak of the English labourer and his allotment, they simply display their ignorance, for there is no analogy in the cases. Is it the case that an English labourer builds his own house and gives his allotment whatever value it has? A comparison in cases fundamentally distinct is fallacious, and tends only to mislead. Does the House know what occurred in Donegal yesterday? There were seven evictions carried out, the battering ram standing by in a position of self-defence, and in these seven houses there was not found one potato or other food. I challenge contradiction to my statement. In one house broken into was a woman with a babe on her breast; her husband was absent. The first emergency man who entered after the door was burst, without warrant, gave the woman a violent push. The poor woman holding her babe with one arm stooped to seize a stool, and another emergency man gave her a blow on the face with his clenched fist, blood spurting out from the force of the blow. Here was a poor woman, her husband being absent, trying to defend her house against the brutal wretches who were executing a brutal law. She had not in the house a single potato or item of food whatever. With the aid of the battering ram the proceedings were carried out in pursuance of what has at other times been described as a policy of conciliation. I press for a reply before this debate closes. Will nothing be done by special grant of out-door relief, by provision of seed for the tilling of the farms for the present year, to save these people from starvation? What is the use of the right hon. Gentleman opposite standing upon the abstract letter of the law? What has been done has been a direct incitement to landlords to evict. The Government have incited the landlord not to come to a settlement with his tenants, for they have taken away from the tenants their guardian, their benefactor, their protector, their banker—Father McFadden. The right hon. Gentleman will not discuss the arrest of Father McFadden. Does he forget the case in which, the Attorney General having declined to proceed against a policeman who was accused on the finding of a coroner’s jury of having killed a man at Middleton, the Chief Baron called attention to the failure of justice, and in the interests of justice the Attorney General was compelled to proceed before a magistrate? It is a question, in the case of Father M’Fadden, of the exercise of the functions of the Attorney General. What is he about to do? We have a right to know. The materials have been for many days before him; is he going to institute a prosecution or not? The imprisonment of Father McFadden means that the case of the other persons is prejudiced by the closing of the mouth of their principal witness. It means that the accused can make no adequate arrangements for their defence. It means there is no one to look after these poor starving women and children, no one to assist the tenants by endeavouring to promote a settlement with the landlord, should he be willing to come to terms. By your method of arresting Father McFadden you have done more than, in my memory, has ever been done by any Government to plunge the district into confusion and despair, to bring about breach of the law and peril to life and property. The police were planted about the church from an early hour. The warrant for arrest had been held for several days and no attempt was made to execute it—it was held over while Father McFadden went about the parish on his parochial duties. Why, if, as the Chief Secretary says, you are anxious that arrests should be made in a manner and at a time when they are likely to cause the least disturbance, did the police wait until the people were assembled on a Sunday morning? The police were there 100 strong from 7 in the morning, why did they not effect the arrest at an early hour? They waited until he passed into church and until Divine Service was over. Perhaps the House is not aware that on that day Father McFadden, with the near prospect of his own arrest, addressed the people from the steps of the altar with as powerful an address in the interest of peace and on the duties of self-denial, forbearance, and Christian church. Divine Service being over, Father M’Fadden walked out, wearing his soutane and biretta, and carrying his breviary in his hand. Outside the door the people were collected, and the authorities could not have chosen a psychological moment more likely to provoke a riot. Inspector Martin, whose tragic death no man can deplore more deeply than my colleagues and myself—he was known to be a man of excitable disposition and should never have been sent on such an errand—came to the priest and seized him by the arm at the same moment drawing his sword, saying, “Come along with me.” With the force used the priest’s garment was torn, and as the sword flashed an excitable girl in the crowd cried out that the Inspector had struck the priest with his sword. Father M’Fadden asked for the authority for his arrest, and the warrant was produced. From that moment—and the evidence of the police is unanimous on this—Father M’Fadden did as he was desired, and went in the direction of his house, went on so fast indeed that he stumbled by the way. Father M’Fadden, as well as the officer, was struck in the burst of irrepressible uncontrollable fury which seized the people when, as they thought, they witnessed an attack upon their best friend and protector, whom they loved and almost worshipped. They rushed forward with the tragic result we all deplore. Father M’Fadden called out in English and Irish to the people to preserve peace and return to their homes. We have it from Father M’Fadden himself that in the course of his 10 years’ administration of the parish he had never before in many crises found the people escape from his control, and the only occasion on which they failed to respond to his appeal was when he was powerless, because the people saw him made the victim of outrage. This holy priest, this devoted man who has given his time and his substance to the service of these poor and wretched people, stands charged with murder. Now, I beg the House of Commons to try and consider these things apart from all political feeling—I appeal to every Member, no matter what his political opinion, what is the possibility of convicting such a man, who all his life has behaved in the interests of peace and for the welfare of his people, of such a crime? The release of this priest is necessary for the preparation of the defence of the other persons accused, he is the one moral bulwark between the desperate people of his parish and the teachings of despair. I most unfeignedly declare that I have nothing but the interests of public peace at heart when I say that justice is outraged by the indefinite postponement of proceedings. If the Attorney General, having the evidence before him, finds it is not sufficient to sustain the charge, let him fulfil the duty he owes at once to justice and to his Government and withdraw the charge, giving thereby the best security he can for the preservation of peace in Donegal. How long is the military occupation of the country to continue? Forty-six men have been arrested; you hold 23 of them in prison. Every reasonable man, every lawyer, must be aware that this is far in excess of any number that can be criminally concerned. Cordons were drawn around an area of 16 miles, and soldiers and police dragged the country into a net, searching every house, stable, and field for evidence. The ordinary course of procedure is subverted; instead of collecting evidence and making arrests as suspicion pointed, the police swept the country with a drag net, and having got their prisoners then searched for evidence. The whole thing is scandalous to the last degree. We had a drunken constable on the witness table giving his testimony in a matter of life and death, but the magistrates saw nothing wrong until his ribaldry became so intolerable they were obliged to censure him. We had a prisoner identified in the dock by a constable, and when the accused changed places with another, the constable a few minutes afterwards declared an entirely different person to be the same man. We have had a policeman who knew the names of prisoners telling them to the witnesses. We have had throughout the whole proceedings the most flagrant examples of that tendency among official witnesses to have less regard for truth and justice than esprit de corps, and the desire to procure convictions. What is to be the sequel? When is this system of oppression and military terrorism to cease? It is bad enough that these poor peasants should suffer hunger as the result of your system of rule; but if they must live in hunger, at least let them live in peace. Hunger and ease are the rights of a dog; but you not only condemn these poor people to starve, you deny them ease. The men have sought shelter in the mountains and caves, and so you institute a system of passes. I have heard of two men gathering seaweed being asked for passes—for their authority to be at work. They had no passes; they were taken to the police station and examined, and subsequently set at liberty; but they were fined for working without permission, for when they came back the tide had washed away the result of their day’s labour—the seaweed they had collected. We have heard of midnight visits to the house of a poor woman who was in that condition that ought to excite the sympathy of any man. Three nights before the birth of her infant was she visited, and again three nights afterwards. Upon her bed, which lay upon the ground, did the police trample in carelessness, in wantonness, or reckless search for something. The police went to the bed where the children were and turned down the clothes—we have all this on undoubted evidence—it is not sufficient to say it is not true—and finally they went to the bed of a girl of thirteen, and held a gun to her head while they put a series of questions to her. Is this conciliation? Is this civilization? Is this the Unionist policy for Ireland; or is it rank, undiluted, revolting barbarism? I trust, at any rate, the arrests are completed; that, under these conditions of hunger and destitution, the people are at liberty to live, and that we have heard the last of these military cordons, domiciliary visits, and passes. It is high time that a district so scourged by nature should have relief from the terrorism of man. I wish Members would pay a visit to the district and see these miserable houses, built of mud and wattles, which are being levelled to the ground by the battering ram of self-defence. There is not on the face of the earth a district more bleak and stern. It has been well described by the correspondent of the Daily News. Whoever sees the place must be convinced a policy is being there pursued unworthy of a statesman, of a Christian, of a man—a policy repugnant to the feelings of humanity and the sense of justice dominant in the breasts of Englishmen; and I believe the British people will yet avenge on the Chief Secretary at the first opportunity the contempt with which he treats those principles they hold sacred, and which they endeavour to carry into effect all over the globe wherever the British Empire holds sway.

THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. Madden): I do not rise to interpose for any considerable time between the House and the termination of this debate, but merely to make a few observations, having regard to the direct challenge or appeal from the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, to the Government, and especially to myself, and to make some statement with regard to the concluding portion of his speech. The right hon. Gentleman put forward a number of circumstances or alleged facts upon which in express terms he asked the House to conclude the innocence of Father M’Fadden. I only wish to point out that it is absolutely impossible for any Member of the Government to enter into that question at all. What is the position? We are invited to enter into the consideration of circumstances which are alleged to point towards the innocence of Father M’Fadden and other persons awaiting trial in connection with the lamentable murder of Inspector Martin. Let the House consider what the position would be if we accepted this challenge and entered into circumstances and considerations that might be considered as pointing to the guilt of the reverend gentleman or of any of the accused; surely every fair-minded man must see at once that would be in the highest degree improper? I think I may venture to say every fair-minded man on either side will understand why it is no Member of the Government can enter into a discussion of the matter in regard to which we have been challenged. Let it be clearly understood I do not in the least degree contend that the circumstances which the right hon. Gentleman has with power and eloquence brought before the House are unfounded in fact, or that they do not point in the direction in which he asks the House to believe they point; I say I am precluded in the discharge of my duty from discussing the question at all, or considering the hearings of any of the circumstances mentioned. But, before I sit down, there are one or two other matters as to which there is no such obligation of silence imposed. The right hon. Gentleman has brought forward two specific allegations, one in relation to the alleged treatment of men who were engaged in the collection of seaweed, and the other as to domiciliary visits made by the police to make arrests or collect information. I merely wish to remind the House that both these allegations were made the subject-matter of distinct questions in the House, and both questions were answered by my right hon. Friend or myself upon information we obtained. That information satisfied us, and upon it we founded our statements that, in substance, the allegations were in their main features without foundation.

MR. SEXTON: I repeat the statements deliberately and emphatically, and I challenge inquiry.

MR. MADDEN: The statements having been embodied in questions and put on the Paper in the ordinary way, inquiry was made, and we gave the result. Inquiry was made through the usual sources for obtaining information, and everyone must recognize that it is the only way by which a Member of the Government, whether it is the Home Secretary as representing the English Government, or the Chief Secretary as representing the Irish Government, can, when questions are asked, procure the necessary information to answer them. I do not ask the House to judge as between the statements in the questions and the answers given; but when those statements are repeated, as they have been, let the House remember that when those statements were made previously the information we obtained, in the only way in which we could obtain it, was in contradiction of those statements. Another reference was that in relation to what occurred after the Middleton inquest, and it is my duty to refer to this, as the right hon. Gentleman cast a distinct slur on my learned colleague the Attorney General for Ireland’s conduct in the matter. The allegation was that the Attorney General was to blame in not putting a person on his trial in consequence of the result of a Coroner’s inquisition, and it was suggested that the course taken by the Attorney General met with the disapproval of the Lord Chief Baron. I say distinctly, without wearying the House by going into details, the course taken by the Attorney General in refraining from putting the man on his trial on the Coroner’s inquisition was in accordance with the practice which prevails both in this country and in Ireland. He took a course which met with the entire approval of the Chief Baron—namely, that of having a magisterial inquiry into the facts of the case, with the result which is known to the House. The Lord Chief Baron at no time animadverted on the fact that the man was not put on his trial upon the inquisition of the Coroner’s jury, and that was in accordance with the practice his predecessors had followed, and which is followed in England.

MR. SEXTON: I did not say anything about the approval or disapproval of the Lord Chief Baron.

MR. MADDEN: The action of the Attorney General for Ireland was in no way the result of the debates in this House, neither has the Lord Chief Baron at any time animadverted on the fact that the man was not put on the trial on the inquisition of the coroner’s jury. I must repeat that the course taken by the Attorney General in this case was the usual course. But I have simply risen to explain to the House, in regard to the portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sexton) in which ho challenged me to meet certain charges, that, having regard to the circumstances of the case, the matter is one which cannot possibly be discussed in the House at this moment.

COLONEL JOHN PHILIP NOLAN (Galway South — Irish Parliamentary Party): I should like to bring the discussion hack to what, I think, is the most important point of the statement of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), and which to a great extent has been lost sight of. The hon. Gentleman has specially warned the Chief Secretary that there is very great distress in the districts, and has implored the right hon. Gentleman to make some provision to meet it. I think it would be impossible for the Poor Law Authority in the district to find funds to afford adequate relief, and therefore it is imperative that the Chief Secretary should afford relief. The right hon. Gentleman has said that for the Government to afford relief would amount to an encouragement to what he called the congested districts. The right hon. Gentleman seems to have lost sight of the fact that there is no multiplying in the West of Ireland. The marriage and birth rate there is only about half what it is in England; indeed, there is no possibility of the population increasing. A second reason which the right hon. Gentleman gives is that the original seed rate has not been paid. But of the £700,000 94 per cent has been repaid, and it is only in the exceptionally poor districts where the money has not been repaid.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester East — Conservative): I said the seed rate has been exceedingly well paid, compared with other Irish loans, but that it has not been particularly well paid in that part of Donegal.

COL. NOLAN: Anyhow, all over Ireland 94 per cent has been paid, and there is every probability that another 3 per cent will be paid. A loss of 3 per cent on the whole loan is not very great, all the circumstances considered. Suppose you now advance £7,000 or £8,000 for the same purpose, and £4,000 or £5,000 was not repaid, I do not think that would be an extreme case. The right hon. Gentleman talks about eleemosynary aid, but I do not look upon the matter in that light at all. I never forget that we in Ireland contribute £8,000,000 to the Imperial Exchequer, and that we only get back for any useful purpose whatever about £2,000,000. Instead of asking for alms on this occasion, we are only asking for a small portion of our own money.

MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton — Liberal): I rise to emphasize the fact that the Government’s reply to what has been brought before it has been a reply of shreds and tatters. The Solicitor General for Ireland did not refer to the Circular about which questions have been put to the Chief Secretary. I put on the Paper a question upon the subject very reluctantly, because I felt that if the charge happened to be baseless, it was very undesirable it should remain on the Paper for even the short time a question may appear on the Paper. I made up my mind to put the question on the Paper owing to the circumstances under which the Circular came into my hands, and because I felt the Government would have an opportunity of denying its correctness. Up to this moment its correctness has not been denied. The Government, too, appear to be wanting in appreciation of the point raised by us. They say they will not deal with the case of Father M’Fadden. Why have we raised the case? Here there is a population in the extremity of distress; they cannot even get seed potatoes; and you will not do anything for them. Who helped them in their trouble before? Father M’Fadden and Father Stephens, whom you are about to send to prison. When the people were evicted, who received them and comforted them? Father M’Fadden and Father Stephens. It is because you have removed what the people relied on. that you are called on and implored by us to take some steps for meeting the difficulties of the people. One would have thought from the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Plan of Campaign commenced all the trouble in Donegal. That is not the case at all. The Plan of Campaign has helped to stop evictions not only in Donegal, but all over Ireland. Last night the Chief Secretary seemed to think that an attack on the right of private property is what I and others mean when we speak against the system of landlordism. He asked what I meant by landlordism. I can show by a short quotation what landlordism in Gweedore, with which the Government are identifying themselves, is. I hold in my hand a letter addressed to Father M’Fadden by a landlord in the neighbourhood of the Olphert estate. It is useless,” this gentleman writes, “to deal kindly any longer with these tenants. I may tell you that I would not now accept 99 per cent. of all rents and costs due to me, as I am going to clear out the two townlands, and it is my land I want now. Remember, they are merely living on my land as long as I let them, and I will not regard cost in carrying out my plans. I have ample private means and will set aside a sum yearly until all are out of that. In doing this I am only following out the Scriptural precept that ‘a man may do what he likes with his own.’ I am determined on this, and in five or at the most ten years’ time there will probably not be a single family left there. This is an example of the “iron sleet of arrowy shower” which in my remarks yesterday I referred to, and against which Father M’Fadden has been a rock of defence, and it is an example of the unjust system which the Donegal peasantry have been taught by our administration to identify with the Government of the Queen.

MR. T. P. O’CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland Division — Irish Parliamentary Party): I wish to call the attention of the House to another estate on which the Government or their agents are acting in a somewhat different fashion. The Plan of Campaign has been raging on the Massereene estate some time, and there is still a dispute there. In the Down Recorder an advertisement in the following terms has appeared:— Vacant farms, important to Protestant tenant farmers and their sons. There are several vacant farms to let in the counties Louth and Meath in close proximity to the important seaport and market town of Drogheda. None but Protestants need apply. Special advantages offered to suitable tenants. For further particulars apply to Messrs. Dudgeon and Emerson, Land Agents and Solicitors, 14, Upper Sackville Street, Dublin. I think that advertisement might almost be left to speak for itself. I believe that four Protestant tenants have already gone down to the estate. so that actually the Government or their allies are endeavouring to break down the combination of tenants by appealing to the devilish passion of religious prejudice.

MR. THOMAS PATRICK GILL (Louth, South — Irish Parliamentary Party): I hope the Government will pay some attention to the matter just brought under their notice by my hon. Friend. The Massereene estate is about to become the scene of one of the worst struggles that the country has witnessed since the régime of the right hon. Gentleman began. A number of Catholic tenants on this estate have been expelled from their holdings, to which Orangemen are being imported. This is a new policy, so far as the present crisis is concerned; but it is not novel in the agrarian history of Ireland. It is an attempt to work on the sectarian animosities which have wrought so much misery in Ireland. These sectarian animosities, wherever they have been fostered and not discouraged and put down with a strong hand, have always resulted in bloodshed and outrage, and scenes that every friend of Ireland and humanity must deplore. If the landlord of this estate succeeds in the course he is now pursuing, the result must be that the Catholic tenants will be driven to despair, because they will be deprived of that hope, and that self-confidence, and that aid which they now receive from being banded together — a fact which has served to keep their hands free from crime. This experiment has been tried in Ireland before. One of the most notorious cases of the kind was that of Lord Lorton in County Longford. Men were driven to despair, and the result was that a series of outrages and murders took place upon that estate which wrought ruin to everyone concerned, ruin and death to the Protestant farmers who had come there, and ruin and crime to the unfortunate Catholics who had previously been at peace with the rest of the population. The experiment proved a failure from every point of view. Yet the Chief Secretary is now about to lend encouragement to a scheme ostentatiously insulting to the feelings of the people of one particular religion—and that the chief religion of the country. He proposes to lend his countenance to a scheme which involves the expropriation of tenants whose demands the Land Courts have admitted to be perfectly just. What has taken place during the last month has proved that we, the Irish Parliamentary Party, and those who have the control of the National movement in Ireland, would and do deplore as much as anyone the terrible consequences which must follow this policy, and I warn the right hon. Gentleman that terrible consequences must ensue if he allows a policy of this kind to be carried out. The Massereene dispute could have been brought to an end long ago if the right hon. Gentleman had not lent encouragement to the emergency agents of Lord Massereene. We have seen recently how, through the Plan of Campaign, settlements have been arrived at on several estates, and how willing the tenants have been to submit to arbitration. The Massereene tenants have been equally willing; terms could be easily arrived at, but it seems that the landlord intends to exclude certain of the tenants from the arrangement, and wishes to make victims of them. I say this is a case in which the Government should take some steps to bring the landlord to his senses—steps such as were successfully adopted by the immediate Predecessor in office of the right hon. gentleman the Chief Secretary. Now, Sir, I feel confident in the strength of the tenants’ organization on that estate; I am sure that the proposed experiment cannot succeed, and I urge that it is the duty of the Government, in the interests of the peace of the country, to check the unjust and oppressive conduct of the landlord.

MR. A. BLANE (Armagh, South — Irish Parliamentary Party): On the estate of Lord Lurgan in my county, the tenants were recently invited by the landlord to purchase under Lord Ashbourne’s Act, and I believe some of them signed agreements to do so at 16½ years’ purchase. Now one of these tenants was in arrears with his rent, and at the time I questioned the Chief Secretary as to this man’s position and liability. The right hon. Gentleman would not answer me at the time, as he said a case raising a similar question was pending before the Courts. To-day I have received a communication to the effect, that this tenant was sent to Armagh Gaol yesterday because he resisted an execution for arrears which, certainly, was not contemplated under Lord Ashbourne’s Act. This man’s house was surrounded by constables with fixed bayonets, and because he resisted he was carried off to the county gaol. I think it was most unreasonable for the landlord to take these steps after the man had signed au agreement to purchase at 16 years’ purchase. Why will not the Chief Secretary interfere to prevent action like this? ‘We can never get any information from him; when we put a question in this House we are invariably met with platitudes and commonplaces; but if Lord Ashbourne’s Act is to work successfully tenants must not be entrapped in this way. I do not think the Chief Secretary could have really understood the facts of this case. He allowed the law to take its course; the Attorney General directed the prosecution to take place; and when the appeal was heard, instead of the Government remaining neutral, they actively maintained the prosecution. I say it is a grave public scandal that a tenant should have been treated in this way. A certain Member of the Conservative Party was returned to this House for the express purpose of resisting every reform and maintaining every abuse, and I believe that not a few Members of the Party act upon that principle. In this particular case the Resident Magistrates said they had grave doubts as to whether the action taken against the man was legal. In England, I believe, the prisoner receives the benefit of the doubt, but in Ireland the reverse is the case, and the benefit is refused to the accused. I have no doubt in my own mind that this man was perfectly justified in resisting the execution, as he had signed a purchase agreement under Lord Ashbourne’s Act. Lord Ashbourne’s Act does not contemplate the collection of arrears at all. It is, however, rather a hopeless thing to draw attention in this House to abuses in Ireland, because the Tory Party is interested in the maintenance of every abuse, and in resistance to every reform.


Posted on August 18, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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