§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR,
asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord. Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether he is aware, in reference to a letter published in the "Newcastle Chronicle," on "duty work," accompanied by physical punishment, that such labour was exacted in Barna, and the neighbourhood from time immemorial until the establishment of the Land League in the district last year; whether he is aware that up to a recent period, the tenants on some of these estates were obliged to give fifty-two days' labour in each year, at the rate of sixpence for one half, and eight-pence for the other half of the year; whether the tenants thus employed were superintended by a "driver" armed with a blackthorn stick, and occasionally struck, many of the persons thus punished being still to be found in the village of Barna; and, whether he will accept the proposal of Mr. Patterson to have his contradiction and Mr. Patterson's assertion of these facts testified by an investigation oil the spot?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Sir, I have already answered one or two Questions on this subject. With regard to the first part of the Question, I have stated on information forwarded to me that Ice account was apparently without foundation, and certainly I am not aware that "duty work," accompanied by physical punishment, was exacted up to last year. The question is not as to what happens now, but as to what happened at some previous periods. It is not the business of the Government to investigate into what has happened in former times. It is our business to make the most strict investigation, if we had reason to believe or suspect that the state of things represented was going on now; and, if so, upon receipt of anything approaching reasonable information, we will take care that the most strict inquiry is made, and a prosecution instituted against anybody who offends. But we have sufficient to do with the state of Ireland as it is without attempting to find out what may have been the state of things in former times. In ranking this statement, I am not to be supposed as admitting the truth of what is alleged to have happened lately.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
Sir, I will read a letter which I have received in 1205 reference to this Question. The right hon. Gentleman has frequently given contradictions to the fact, and his contradictions were distinct that "duty work" of this kind, accompanied by physical punishment, never took place. MR. W. E. FORSTER: I never said so.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is entitled to put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman bearing upon the Question which he has already asked; but he cannot enter into a debate.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I will not enter into a debate with the right hon. Gentleman. I wish to state that I do not at all want to cast any slur on the veracity of the right hon. Gentleman; but I would ask him, whether it is true that, a short time ago, a man named John Molloy was employed as a "driver" on one of the estates outside Galway; whether there lives still in Galway persons who have been subjected to physical punishment by this John Molloy; and, whether in view of that case, he will withdraw the slur he has cast on the veracity of Mr. Patterson, my correspondent?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
The hon. Member must give Notice of that Question. All I can say is, that I inquired into these allegations, and the answer I received led me to believe that there was no truth in them. I cannot undertake to find out what has happened in previous times. I do not believe that at any recent period such a thing as physical punishment of the kind described has happened; but I certainly never stated—I could not think of stating—that it never happened in past times.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, that I must be a little persistent in this matter. I will not move the adjournment of the House unless I am forced to it. The right hon. Gentleman states his belief that these things never took place; but, as a matter of fact, they have taken place, and the right hon. Gentleman, when he comes into such direct conflict with facts, should have the matter settled by an impartial investigation.