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impression. He did not arrive at any
words, appears to me to convey his final, speeches of hon. Members and their
me to refer, in greater detail, to what
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT: De
The right hon. Gentleman referred to
instead of newspapers. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to advance a proposition very alarming, very dangerous to the administration of the law in Ire land, and in complete departure from and contradiction to everything done in Ireland by his own Executive. Nobody ever, until this debate, thought that any Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench would have questioned the right of the Government to have a police reporter present to take a note of the speeches made when the Government considered it necessary for the public safety. Nor did the right hon. Gentleman discover before that it was an unwarrantable and impertinent intrusion on the part of the police to make their way into a public meeting. The right hon. Gentleman made his speech with a full knowledge of the circumstances which surrounded the Mitchelstown meeting. The night before the meeting the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) announced that he would not obey the order of the Court to attend his trial. Advertisements had been inserted in United Ireland calling on the different branches of the League to go and hold an indignation meeting under the walls of the Court House to testify the opinion of the people as to the course the Crown was taking. Accordingly, 3,000 or 4,000 men did muster on the day of the trial in pursuance of those advertisements, and there were among them some of the gentlemen who were present on the preceding night, when the hon. Member for North-East Cork definitely declared that he would disobey the order of the Court, and who had gone down to attend the meeting. It is in a meeting of that character, composed of men coming from strange counties, armed with bludgeons,
MR. PARNELL: What are the decided cases?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, order! MR. GIBSON: Is it to be suggested now that the opinions which have again and again been given as to the power of the Executive to proclaim meetingsrepeated deliberately in this House-is it to be tolerated, for one moment, that those opinions which were given as to the power of the Executive are to be disavowed without one word of explanation by the right hon. Gentleman who was a party to all the Proclamations? I now pass from the Ennis Proclamation to the second matter referred to by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman, I suppose, intends to practice what he preaches. He commenced his observations about the Mitchelstown occurrence by lamenting what he deems the reckless defence of the police, which my right hon Friend the Chief Secretary made. He said that my right hon. Friend, in his responsible position, ought to have held the scales evenly, and ought not to have indicated any opinion whatever, but have reserved the matter for future inquiry. But what are the facts? The right hon. Gentleman must recollect that we were pressed again and again in this House for official information; and when we gave it, we were told that it came from a tainted source. I say that my right hon. Friend would not have discharged his duty if, believing the official testimony he had received to be true, he had not indicated that belief to the House, especially when that official testimony was so fiercely assailed.
and, as described by The Freeman's Journal, with a force of mounted cavalry, that the right hon. Gentleman throws doubt, for the first time, as to the propriety of protecting the police reporter in the crowd. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby seems to have learned some new law, and to have forgotten some old law. As long ago as the 29th of March, 1881, the right hon. Gentleman said.
Mr PARNELL: He has no right to disturb the meeting.
MR. GIBSON: What was the meaning of the words of the right hon. Member for Derby
MR. W. E. GLADSTONE: No. MR. GIBSON: The right hon. Gentleman has forgotten his speech. He was perfectly dialectic in his reasoning. He stated that it was a matter of prudence for the Executive Government; but he distinctly added that they had no right.
Did that mean that a crowd of 4,000
"If it were necessary in the interests of law
there at all.
MR. W. E. GLADSTONE: I said that the reporter, like everybody else, had a right to attend a meeting to which everybody was invited.
MR. GIBSON: He distinctly stated that the police reporter had no greater rights than the men in the crowd, though he is ordered to attend the meeting.
"If it were necessary, in the interests of law and order, to send note-takers to public meetings in England, it would be done as it is in the case of Ireland ?"
evening. Suppose the trial had actually been going on. Suppose a jury had actually been deciding the case, could it have been tolerated that this great mass of men should have been brought into the town? Could it be tolerated that the police reporter who attempted to take a note of what was going on should be treated as an impertinent intruder, who might be kicked, hustled, and beaten? One of the most remarkable points in the matter, I am sorry to say is that the police reporter, a sergeant of police, was a man who gave evidence only shortly before. Another man, Constable Leahy, also received serious injuries. It is easy for hon. Members in this House to talk about the public right of meeting, but when regard is had to what happened at Mitchelstown, and to what may occur elsewhere, hon. Gentlemen should be careful in their language with respect to the Executive responsibility. Our position is not made easier for us by the language used here by great no-statesmen to-night. In circumstances of great danger surrounded by peril, we shall endeavour to do our duty to the loyal people of Ireland, and to carry out the proper administration of the law.
fess I think my right hon. Friend could not have done less than he has done in stating for the information of the House, the information he had himself received, and of the accuracy of which he had certainly satisfied himself. My right hon. Friend would have done less than his duty, after the fierce attacks made upon the police, if he had not stated the information which he relied upon, and which influenced his judgment. The right hon. Member for Derby, following in the same direction as the late Prime Minister, has stated that the same meetings would continue to be held in Ireland.
MR. W. E. GLADSTONE: I did not say so.
MR. GIBSON: That is the statement of the late Home Secretary at any rate. Am I to understand that that is a statement with which the right hon. Gentleman opposite agrees?
MR. W. E. GLADSTONE: Pray do not understand anything about it. I said nothing about it, and I have thing to say.
MR. GIBSON: The right hon. Gentleman observes an attitude of judicious caution, and, in my opinion, he is acting with great wisdom. If the late Home Secretary will take my advice, having regard to the bloody scenes enacted at Mitchelstown, the fearful injuries inflicted upon the police, and to what may happen elsewhere he will take a like
Si WILLIAM HARCOURT: It is important that what I said should not be misunderstood. I said that I hoped the people of Ireland would continue their claim to hold meetings, and if the Government chose unconditionally to suppress them, I hoped they would not be forcibly resisted.
MR. GIBSON: I think there is much greater elasticity in the later form of the right hon. Gentleman's expression, but I am willing to take the right hon. Gentleman's later statement. The circumstances of the meeting at Mitchelstown were, as I have said, of a very serious nature. It is impossible to deny that it was dangerous for the administration of publio justice to hold a meeting of 3,000 or 4,000 persons within sight of the Court House on the day that the trial might have taken place there. The right hon. Gentleman must see that, and indeed, it was admitted the other
MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.): I rise, Sir, for the purpose of stating to the House the facts of which I was an eyewitness at Mitchelstown on Friday last; and although I partly recognize the very great importance of the questions involved in the suppression of the meeting at Ennis, and would gladly say something on that matter, the proceedings at Mitchelstown have become of such vast importance, and have so excited public interest, I think I had better confine myself to describing what occurred there. And now, Sir, I would first ask this question. We have heard from the Chief Secretary and the Attorney General denunciations as to the impropriety of holding a meeting at Mitchelstown that day. What I want to ask the officers of the Government is this-Do they consider that it was wrong to hold a meeting at Mitchelstown on that day; and, if so, in view of the declarations which they have made as regards the power of the Executive Government in Ireland to proclaim and prohibit any meeting in Ireland which they considered dangerous and improper, why did they not proclaim and prohibit the meeting at Mitchelstown that day? They had
experience of the meeting in Ennis, and which we did-I say, if the authorities what was their experience as they allowed that to be done while the Court boasted here to-day? That the meet- was sitting, how on earth could it be ing, when ordered to disperse, did dis- supposed that any objection would perse peacefully. We have been sneered be held or taken to our holding a at because the people dispersed at Ennis meeting in the square at Mitchelspeacefully; that is the reward we get. town two hours after the Court rose? The Times newspaper called us cowards And now let me draw the attention of because we did not storm the hill at the House to this circumstance. I heard in astonishment, for the first time, where the Special Resident Magistrate was the magistrate in command of the whole of the forces at Mitchelstown-I heard just now where he was. We sought for him and could not find him anywhere, and nobody knew where he was. Where was he when the row commenced? When the Court rose, although he knew a meeting was to be held in about two hours, he, thinking no disturbance could possibly arise, having seen the whole of our people march past him in procession, and seen the very peaceful attitude of the people, with secret information in his possession, and considering from the state of the town that no tumult could possibly arise, he went to see Mr. Eaton. Of course, he went to have a glass of punch and some social enjoyment with the Resident Magistrate of the town, and they were shut up enjoying themselves when the row commenced. I will leave the House to digest this circumstance. What was the next step which occurred? We proceeded to the town of Mitchelstown with this procession, which was a very fine one, and we passed through the square and by the Court House. The police were stationed at the corners; but, Sir, nobody uttered an insulting word to the police, nor did any angry word pass between them and the mass of the people. We passed through the square and went round the town, and came back again after about half an hour. Now comes the next question I want to put to the Government. Why, in the case of this meeting, of which they had full notice, did they depart from the universal practice, as I know perfectly well has been the universal practice in Ireland with regard to the Government reporters? What is that practice? A hon. Gentleman, whose experience of Irish politics is not so great as mine, stood up and made a silly observation. He said "Are the officers
to submit to the humiliation of asking
the promoters of the meeting for accom
Ballycoree, but dispersed peacefully. I have always said that I intended to assert the right of public meeting in Ireland; but I shall always advise the people not to be made silly by the miserable taunts of The Times newspaper, but to yield to force, when the force is exercised, although illegally; and if the meeting had been prohibited at Mitchelstown, my advice to the people would have been to hold no meeting, or to hold it outside the town where no disturbance could have arisen. The meeting was not prohibited; and what occurred? We started from the town of Cahir in company with a number of English people in several carriages, and when we reached within one mile of Mitchelstown we met a multitude of people and the local managers of the demonstration. The first question I asked of the gentleman who had charge of the proceedings at Mitchelstown was, if the authorities had prohibited the meeting. And his reply was-"No; we have already been allowed to parade through the town while the trial was going on. We passed in procession by the Court House, and a police officer came out and said, 'I will not allow the bands to play while passing here, lest it should interfere with the proceedings.' We ordered the bands to cease playing, and passed by the Court House in silence, and on these conditions the police were withdrawn, and we were allowed to proceed with our procession." That was the statement made to me a mile outside Mitchelstown. "In that case," I said, "you will be allowed to hold a meeting?" "Certainly; so I understand," the gentleman replied. What I say is this-if the authorities in the town, with their full military and police force at their back, allowed a procession of something like 8,000 people to pass by the Court House without remonstrance, and with approval because they actually entered into an agreement to withdraw the police, on condition that we silenced our bands,