§ Order for Committee read.
§ House in Committee.
§ MR. M. O'CONNELL moved, pursuant to notice, the insertion in Clause 1 of the words, "And that at all such elections in future the votes be taken by way of ballot." Every one acquainted with elections in Ireland knew, that though bribery, for some reason or other, did not prominently characterise them, intimidation was practised at them to an extent very materially impeding the proper exercise of that franchise which after so many centuries of denial had in late years been granted to the Irish people. The ballot was denounced here as being cowardly, unmanly, unworthy of freemen; and in a country where the people had been for ages past encouraged in the theory of their sturdy independence, the argument might seem to have some weight. In England, however, that argument had been repudiated by large minorities in the House of Commons, and by very large numbers of electors out of it. Failing thus in England, it most utterly failed in Ireland, whose people had, from their first connexion with this country up to a very late period, been debarred from any franchise whatever, and been treated as altogether unworthy of it. Even when a Reform Bill was extended to them, it was one quite of a Conservative nature, keeping the people almost as completely as ever under the power of their political opponents. An important step, however, one for which he was deeply grateful, was now being made towards the just regulation of the system, towards giving Ireland a reasonable franchise; and he trusted that the Committee would not refuse to accompany that franchise with the protection so essential to its fitting exercise. The voter in Ireland had to choose between his purse and his conscience—
said, he was unwilling to interrupt the course of any Motion, but he must beg to express to the hon. and learned Gentleman his opinion that the Motion which he (the Chairman) found the hon. and learned Member was about to propose, did not come at all within the scope of the Bill under discussion, which 1282 was "A Bill to Shorten the Duration of Elections in Ireland, and for establishing additional places for taking the poll thereat;" whereas the Motion of the hon. and learned Member had reference to the mode of taking votes, and could not be admitted as within the scope of the Bill.
MR. M. O'CONNELL
said, he did not much like to be thrown over in such a manner; but, of course, if the hon. Gentleman in the chair decided against his proceeding with the Motion, he should at once submit. He begged, however, to observe, that when he first contemplated to bring the matter forward, it was his intention to propose his clause as an Amendment on the Irish Parliamentary Voters Bill; but then he was told he could not introduce it into that Bill, and that the present Bill would afford the fitting occasion. His Motion had been for sometime on the Paper, and he really thought the objection now started ought to have been communicated to him before. However, he was in the hands of the Chairman.
had had no communication with the hon. and learned Member as to the fitting occasion on which to propose the Motion.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, no doubt the rule propounded from the chair was quite clear; the course for the hon. and learned Gentleman to pursue, however, was equally clear; all he had to do was to withdraw his Motion, of which he (Mr. Aglionby) entirely approved in itself, and which he should cordially support, both as an act of justice towards Ireland, and as a valuable precedent for England, and to propose it again on the third reading as a separate clause. The Bill, if so amended, would then have to be put from the chair "as a Bill to shorten the duration of elections in Ireland, for establishing additional places for taking the poll thereat, and for taking the votes thereat by way of ballot."
§ MR. HUME
hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would adopt the course suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Cockermouth, and upon the House resuming give notice of the clause as a separate clause to be proposed on the third reading. The House would then have full notice of what was intended; and all who desired to give this most necessary protection to the people of Ireland would, he trusted, be in their places when the occasion arrived for recording their votes.
MR. H. BERKELEY
cordially thanked the hon. and learned Member for Tralee 1283 or bringing forward this proposition; it would have been disgraceful to the Irish representatives, if not one of them had been found prepared to assert the right of the electors of Ireland to protection; and he trusted that all friends to the principle would be present in the House when the Motion should be made.
The O'GORMAN MAHON
fully concurred in the hope that his hon. and learned Friend would give the notice suggested, so that all the Irish representatives might have the opportunity of rallying for the protection of the Irish constituencies, and for the benefit, ultimately, of the electors of England.
MR. M. O'CONNELL
had certainly not consulted the hon. Gentleman in the chair upon the point; but, on the other hand, the objection had not seemed to strike the hon. Gentleman until he (Mr. M. O'Connell) had made some progress in his observations introductory of the Motion. The Government, as all other parties ought to be, had been quite aware that the Motion was on the books; he himself had been in attendance every evening watching the Bill; and he must repeat his feeling, that it would have been more courteous to him had he been informed that this special demurrer would be started. As it was, he should adopt the course suggested.
had really not been aware of the scope of the hon. and learned Gentleman's Motion; indeed, he had so many things before him, that he had not had time to notice it at all.
§ Clauses I to 21 were agreed to.
§ On Clause 22,
§ MAJOR BLACKALL moved the omission of that part of the clause that related to the division of a barony.
§ Amendment proposed, page 9, line 38, to leave out the words, "but so as to divide any barony or half barony."
§ LORD C. HAMILTON
said, that the clause proposed to give powers to the Lord Lieutenant; the office might be abolished.
§ SIR W. SOMERVILLE
apprehended that in that case the duties of the Lord Lieutenant would devolve by statute upon some other functionary.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 157; Noes 44: Majority 113.
§ MR. S. CRAWFORD
agreed entirely with the noble Lord. If the Executive Government could alter the polling place as they pleased, the elections would be virtually in their hands.
§ SIR G. GREY
explained that his attention had not been particularly directed to the clause. As the principle of the Bill certainly was to assimilate the law of Ireland to the law of England, it would be better to leave out the clause, and introduce a new clause with similar provisions to the English Act. If the noble Lord had prepared any such clause, perhaps it could be introduced then.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.