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cussing the action of the Legislature | hon. Gentleman has judged the matter. and the Government, and for every pur- He has gone so far as to say that the pose which is consistent with the laws police could not have done less than of the land, and with the peace of the they did, and that all they did was in country. That is exactly what appears the last extremity wrung from them by to us not to have been the principle by dire necessity, and so long as he was which Her Majesty's Government were Chief Secretary for Ireland he would prompted in the case of Ennis, where take care that in like necessity they they not even attempted to show that should do the same. Had the right hon. their proceedings were in conformity Gentleman pursued what I think the with the law as laid down by the highest more usual course, had the right hon. legal authorities. Then the right hon. Gentleman maintained a discreet reGentleman went to those proceedings at serve on account of the nature of the Mitchelstown which have once more case, and at the same time pledged himharrowed up the feelings of the country at self to the House of Commons that large, and I must say that his conduct every effort that he could use should be appears to me to have been marked by employed to get at the truth, in order to singular rashness and imprudence in bring it out to the view of Parliament the line he has taken upon that subject. and the world, I for one-inconvenient It was perfectly competent for him to as it might appear at this period of the say in these grave circumstances, after Session in some points of view-unthe loss of two lives, if not three-if doubtedly would have accepted at once only two, the third hardly trembling in that declaration of Her Majesty's Gothe balance, but approaching certainly vernment, and would have declined any the latest hour-it was open to him to discussion of the question. But it is say that "This must be the subject of impossible to take that course-the right inquiry not less grave, and I decline to hon. Gentleman has made it impossible. enter upon any discussion. I decline to He has done all that he could to bias a say who was right or who was wrong, judicial inquiry. With all the authority and we must have these things searched of his Office he has declared what is now and probed to the very bottom, and the firm and fixed opinion of the Execuwhatever may be my private impression, tive-and he has compelled us to state at any rate the opinion of the Executive how the thing appears to us on the facts Government must not be given until we as they are before us. I reserve, Sir, are in possession of the fullest informa- my ultimate judgment upon them. I do tion." For my own part, I wrote to my not consider that anything but presumpright hon. Friend the Member for Derby, tions are open to me at the present when this painful intelligence was first moment. I consider the presumptions divulged, that I felt persuaded that that or the assertions-the presumptions or would be the course which the Govern- the judgments, of the right hon. Gen ment would take. Instead of that the tleman are right in the teeth of the right hon. Gentleman has rushed head- facts as they are given on trustworthy long into the thick of the fray; he has information. I am sorry that there made up his mind, and he has con- may be many here who did not hear tended in this House that all that was the extremely lucid, and I think fair done was right, and that if the police and impartial statement of the senior had not done what they did they would Member for Northampton. I listened have been guilty of the grossest neglect. to it with great attention. I have that the people in mass who had been gathered what I could from the public attending the meeting attacked the journals, and from what has been said barracks, and that the strictest laws of in this House, and especially I may self-defence required the police to fire say from the reports supplied to The upon them. These are propositions to Standard newspaper. It appeared to which, with an imprudence which I me to be written by a man of great cannot describe, the right hon. Gentle- intelligence, and a man of whom I am man has at a moment's notice been justified, I presume, in believing that at ready to pledge himself. He has identi- any rate he has not made his report fied himself with every one of these pro- under the influence of predilections for ceedings. It is idle for us to say now the cause of the Nationalists. Then that the police are to blame. The right there is a mixture here again of state

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ments of fact and of doctrine. Doctrines | turbance. Then I say these are addi-
have been laid down with respect to the tional reasons why, in sending your
attendance of a Government reporter at reporter to these meetings, you should
public meetings and Nationalist meet- take care do it in a way that is not in
ings. What appears to have happened itself likely to be a cause of difficulty.
in this case? No communication was What is done in this case? On this
held with the promoters of the meeting. occasion the police endeavoured by force
Is it possible to conceive a grosser or to make their way through a dense
more culpable negligence? The Chan- crowd gathered in front of the speaker.
cellor of the Exchequer thinks fit, I will I solemnly declare that, in my opinion,
not say to ridicule, but to signify there are but two explanations for such
astonishment at that proposition. [The an extraordinary course of proceeding-
CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER nodded one which I never saw, and I doubt
assent.] Everybody knows that it is whether any man who hears me ever
the usual practice of reporters to make saw. One is that there was an intention
arrangements with the promoters of to bring about disorder. I do not enter-
meetings. What are the rights of Go- tain that, but circumstances somewhat
vernment reporters? Why, the right warrant this possibility. It is not my
hon. and learned Gentleman the At- own belief; but I am bound to say it
torney General for Ireland has spoken shows a degree of stupidity and negli-
of them as if they were sacro-sancti. gence which it is hardly possible to
They have no rights at all excepting conceive. The hon. Member for North-
-[Mr. A. J. BALFOUR dissented]-oh, ampton assures us that there was an-
you are in too great a hurry, you do other route to the waggonette where the
not even wait for a comma-I was speakers were arrayed by which they
going to say excepting the right which could have attended without the least
all persons have of attending a meeting difficulty. Is anybody prepared to con-
to which all persons are invited. The tradict that statement? If they cannot
Government reporter, therefore, has that contradict it, why was not that route
right and no other. If he has any other taken? But even if they can contradict
right, what law or custom has given it it, why was this astonishing method
to him? If you have that right, why pursued of rushing with a body of men
did you not use it in a prudent manner; against a dense crowd except for the
why did you not communicate with the very purpose of creating disorder? Well,
promoters of the meeting? Why did Sir, these are questions which it appears
you not have your chief officer on the to me have never presented themselves
spot, instead of his being where nobody to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief
could find him? I do not believe that Secretary for Ireland, who rides so easily
in Ireland it will be necessary for all over this rough ground and finds him-
eternity to have Government reporters self able to assert that the conduct of
at public meetings. I have attended the police was perfectly correct, and
many in the course of my life, and I do that they would have grossly failed in
not think I ever had the honour and their duty if they had not done what
pleasure of seeing a Government re- they did. He contradicted me when I
porter. If he does go to a meeting he said that the police attempted to make
should attend subject to the rules of their way into the crowd by force. He
prudence and courtesy. It was the duty quoted newspapers. I quote the corre-
of the Government and of their agents spondent of The Standard, who says that
to take care to bring the reporter there three times over the police made their
in a manner most convenient to all con- way by force. He says, in the first
cerned, and least likely to bring about a place, that the police appeared, not 12
disturbance of the public peace. Above in number, but 20, on the outskirts of
all, if they choose to assert this doctrine the crowd, and attempted to force their
of right
which we shall scrutinize way through. Twice does the corre-
pretty severely-I hope there will be a spondent of The Standard refer to the
disposition to give us some explicit in- police attempting to "force their way
formation upon the subject. You tell through." In matters such as these a
tell me that there are meetings of a very large share of responsibility must
dangerous character, and likely in the rest on those who commit the first error,
circumstances of Ireland to lead to dis- and it certainly was a gross and most
VOL. CCCXXI. | THIRD SERIES.]

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hand writer through the crowd had
apparently failed. Why did the second
body of 50 police come up? Was it to
bring the shorthand writer through the
crowd? No. We hear no more of the
shorthand writer. According to The
Standard correspondent, this second body
of men formed up at the foot of the
square as a reserve to the dozen men
who had tried to force a passage for
the Government reporter. When these
latter men again advanced "they drew
their staves and charged at the people."
I say that they had no right to charge
at the people to secure a passage for the
shorthand writer. No one has a right,
be he a Government shorthand writer
or a police constable escorting a Go-
vernment shorthand writer, to disturb a
public meeting. The right to be pre-
sent at a public meeting is subject to
the obligation to observe its order and
to obey its rules. Anyone who breaks
that order, whether he be a policeman
or police Inspector, or a civilian, is a
disturber of the public peace. We now
come to the saddest part of all. These
50 policemen having charged the people,
were repulsed and driven back. There
was much hard fighting, and many of
the police suffered. I am sorry for
that; I have great respect for the police
of Ireland, for I believe they do their
best under very difficult circumstances.
They certainly have most painful duties
to perform in carrying into execution
the policy of the present Government.
I will not question their chivalry and pro-
nounce on the present occasion, or on
their present action. At any rate, they
were defeated and driven back, and
many hard blows were given and taken.
Then comes the saddest chapter of all.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us

dangerous error to attempt to force a body
of 20 policemen through a dense crowd.
What The Standard correspondent says
-and he seems to be a credible and fair
reporter-is that when the people were
ran at in this way "sticks were raised
threateningly at the police." The police
were not struck, but sticks were raised
in a threatening manner. This was at
the first onset. The crowd then "pushed
the constables to the rear." That was
the conduct of which the crowd were
guilty. The crowd refused to part, and
pushed the police back. Then came the
second event. Who was responsible
for this? The effort to get the short-point-and it was a very weak point-
of the case of the right hon. Gentleman.
What proof has the right hon. Gentle-
man given us that the people who were
at the meeting pursued the police to the
barracks and attempted to storm the
barracks? He gave us no proof what-
ever. There is, however, in support of
the story told by the other side the fact
that the victims of the police fire con-
sisted of an old man who had been for
21 years a soldier, another old man who
subsequently died, and a boy of 17 years
of age. Were these the men who with
blackthorn sticks had been driving the
police back? All the facts show that
there was no substantial attack on the
barracks, but that there were merely a
few persons, among whom were some
boys, scattered in front of the barracks,
and that, judging by the accounts in the
newspapers, some few windows may
have been broken. I do not push these
statements, which are necessarily im-
perfect, to the precipitate and imprudent
length of the Minister of the Crown, who
has dived to the bottom of this subject;
but I say that these are presumptions
entirely adverse to the propositions of
the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope we
shall hear, before this debate closes, that
this great and sad and grievous matter,
which has created a sentiment of horror
and disgust throughout Great Britain,
will not be allowed to remain in the
dark, but will be searched and probed to
the bottom, and the whole facts made
known to Parliament and the country.
The right hon. Gentleman said he wished
to pursue a course of conciliation and
firmness in the government of Ireland,
and that he has every confidence that it
will all come right in the end. I wish I
could say that there is either firmness or
conciliation in the course he has taken.

that the people who had been at the
meeting attacked the barracks and
were on the point of breaking into them,
and that the police fired in self-defence
and to save their comrades who were
still outside. But what proof has he
given us of that? The proof was that
one man, seriously wounded, crept into
the police barracks.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR: I gave the statement on the best authority the Government could get.

MR. W. E. GLADSTONE: I deny that that contained proof on the side of what appeared to be the one strong

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"If we tampered with the law, what justification is that for you?" But when did the right hon. Gentleman discover that he tampered with the law?

MR. W. E. GLADSTONE: I have not discovered it.

I am afraid that all that has lately taken place in Ireland tends all too powerfully to support our contention during the present Session of Parliament-that the legislation of the Government, which they stated to be directed against crime, is not directed against crime. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the amount of crime in the County Clare and the recent serious outrage which has been committed in that county. But what better means has the right hon. Gentleman of dealing with that crime under the Coercion Act than he would have had without that Act? We are confirmed in our belief that the policy of the Government is not a policy aimed at crime, but that, under the guise of pursuing crime, it pursues combination; it deprives the poor man of the arm by which he can alone maintain his position in the conflict in which he finds himself; and that it is aimed at the liberty of the Press, at the liberty of the subject, and at the liberty of public meeting. I, for my part, am convinced-and the circumstances of every day tend more and more to support that conviction-that the people of this country will not follow the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues in a course which can lead to nothing but disgrace and disaster.

THE ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON) (Liverpool, Walton): The right hon. Gentleman, in the remarkable speech which he has just delivered, has insisted very strongly on the duty of reticence; but he appears, nevertheless, in his own observations to have given the countenance of his support to those who have denounced the conduct of the police at Mitchelstown as that of murderers. In regard to the proclamation of the Ennis meeting, the right hon. Gentleman in one part of his speech condemns the conduct of the Government in proclaiming that meeting, and in the latter part of the same speech he said he would not express any opinion upon that point. The right hon. Gentleman also said that the question of constitutional law was one of personal tu quoque.

MR. W. E. GLADSTONE: No, no. On the contrary, I said it was entirely separate from it. I complained of the right hon. Gentleman for mixing the two together.

MR. GIBSON: The right hon. Gentleman used this expression. He said

were

MR. GIBSON: Can it be credited that the late Lord Chancellor of Ireland, Mr. Law, who had the confidence of the right hon. Gentleman, put his signature to illegal proclamations, that Lord Herschell, who was then Solicitor General, joined in an illegal proclamation, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), who was then Home Secretary, and his late Lord Chancellor, Lord Selborne-all concurred in issuing illegal proclamations, and that 130 meetings, or thereabouts, were put down? The right hon. Gentleman now appears to have thrown overboard the whole body of educated legal opinion. There were altogether 130 meetings proclaimed. Ninety of them assemblages at evictions, and 16 were coursing meetings proclaimed, because they thought that a comparatively innocent national pastime might be converted, and was converted, into a screen for some mischievous design. In addition there were 30 meetings proclaimed over a period down to January 1882. The right hon. Gentleman must have had these 130 meetings present in his mind, judging from the questions in the House addressed to his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary. It is not a question that could have escaped the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, or of his Law Officers. It must have been present to the mind of the Home Secretary, when he made the speeches on the Crimes Bill, to which attention has been called by my right hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, when he was defending the Proclamation Clause in the Crimes Act, stated that it was to supply machinery; but it did not alter the principle on which the Government were entitled to proceed. We have been told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) that the power exercised in the time of Lord Cowper was extensive, and was rightly and legally exercised. The same statement was made by the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow

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(Sir George Otto Trevelyan). The the Government to intervene until the right hon. Gentleman the Member meeting is actually being held? The for Derby, however, has told us to- right hon. Gentleman again and again, night that he was advised by his in the course of his speech, asked us Law Officers that no such power existed this question-" Why did you not wait at all, and that was the reason for until the meeting was held, and until applying to the Legislature for another you knew what was going to be done?" Act. [An hon. MEMBER: Hear, hear!] This is the vital question in the inquiry I leave it to the hon. Gentleman who upon which we are embarking. Is it, said "Hear, hear!" to justify the two or is it not, constitutionally competent for statements-the statement in 1882 that the Government, on satisfactory and the law justified what was done, but reasonable information to which it gives had imperfect machinery; and the credit, to proclaim a meeting as illegal? statement here to-night, that the Law [An hon. MEMBER: Certainly not.] The Officers of the Crown advised that no right hon. Gentleman the Member for such power existed. It is just as well Derby does not agree with his Colleagues to clear up this question of the prin- below the Gangway, because he has adciple of constitutional law. Does law mitted that it was; and therefore it change as we know political opinion comes to this-What are the grounds changes, or does it not? Does law upon which that power of the Executive change as we know justice changes, is to be exercised? Let me call attenaccording as Gentlemen sit on one side tion to this circumstance. The right hon. of the House, or on another side? Gentleman has admitted that the GovernHitherto it has been the idea of lawyers ment can proclaim a meeting that is prothat law is a thing which does not alter posed to be held in futuro. It is not except by the agency of an Act of Par- necessary that the avowed objects of the liament, and what I want to find out is meeting should be illegal. He knows on what ground the right hon. Gentle- very well that the objects put forward in man the Member for Derby in fair play, regard to numerous meetings in the takes it upon himself to denounce the time of Lord Spencer were of the most Government to-night, when they have innocent character-namely, to present founded their action exactly on the same addresses to certain Members of Parlia principle which guided his own Law ment. A mere declaration of the objects Officers? The question confronting us of the meeting beforehand can in no way is this. There can be no doubt, as I un- fetter the action of a responsible Governderstand the law, that the Proclamation ment. Again and again meetings of itself does not ascertain conclusively the that kind were prohibited. character of a meeting which is to be held in the future; and I distinctly stated in my answer to a Question the other evening, that it was a precautionary measure, and that if a Proclamation was issued wrongfully, persons who were aggrieved by the order of the Executive would have their remedy. I assert this to be clear constitutional law, that if the Executive had reasonable and safe grounds for believing that a meeting announced to be held would be attended with danger to the public peace, or to public tranquillity, or was designed for an illegal object, in that case it was the right and the duty of the Executive to interfere. What I want to ascertain from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby is this-does he dispute that it is competent for the Government beforehand to issue its Proclamation, or is it his proposition that it is not competent for

MR. PARNELL: Not in the time of Lord Spencer.

MR. GIBSON: I can assure the hon. Gentleman that meetings of such a kind were proclaimed in the time of Lord Spencer. If you once admit the power of the Executive to proclaim a meeting, the mere declaration of innocent objects cannot restrain that power. A second observation I would make is this-that the action of the Executive cannot be judged to be right or wrong from the fact that the language at the meeting subsequently held was moderate. With these two preliminary observations, I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby will find that I am not so much out of agreement with him as he appeared to suppose. I come now to consider what are the circumstances under which the Ennis meeting was proclaimed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, in his last

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