§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 (Short title) agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Commission to have powers herein named).
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W., and Sligo, S.)
Before this clause is disposed of, I wish to move an Amendment by adding at the end of the clause the words—None of the powers conferred by this section shall be exercised before the twelfth day of October eighteen hundred and eighty-six.I think it is essential that the inquiry should not sit until the revisions of voters 493 in Dublin and also in West Belfast are concluded. Mr. Adams is a revising barrister for one of the constituencies of he City of Dublin, and it would be well that he should complete his revision before this Commission of Inquiry sits. He knows the voters' lists for the City of Dublin very well, and it would be extremely inconvenient to take him away from the Revision Court and send him to Belfast. Then, again, Mr. O'Shaughnessy, a Protestant gentleman and a member of the Bar, has been engaged by the Catholic Committee to represent them at the inquiry; but he is also engaged in the revision of voters in Donegal, and the Revision Court only opens on Monday next. Considerable importance is attached to this year's revision in West Belfast. The work there is very heavy; indeed, the Government have felt themselves bound to appoint two revising barristers to discharge the work done last year by one. In July the Tory Party in Belfast transferred some hundreds of these voters to West Belfast from the other divisions of the town, and the Nationalists followed suit. There is this year, therefore, a very extraordinary amount of work, and great interest concentrates upon it. The Revision Court is now sitting, and if the revision be interrupted by the inquiry one of two things will happen. Everyone in Belfast, whether Tory or Nationalist, who takes any interest in public affairs, concerns himself with the revision in West Belfast; and if the Court of Inquiry sits now, the result will be that everyone will either desert the Revision Court, or else the Court of Inquiry. It is necessary for the effectiveness both of the inquiry and the revision that the respective Courts should be held at different times. There is a good deal of excited feeling in Belfast, and the House of Commons ought to refrain from doing anything which will tend to increase the excitement. I can hold out no hope that the revision will proceed satisfactorily if the Court of Inquiry sits at the same time. There is no urgency about the inquiry. Peace is restored, and the Chief Secretary has taken ample measures for policeing the town. The Report of the Committee cannot be acted upon until next Session; therefore I think we may safely adopt my suggestion, and thus reduce the chance of a renewal of excitement.
Amendment proposed, in page 2, at end of Clause, add—
None of the powers conferred by this section shall be exercised before the twelfth day of October, eighteen hundred and eighty-six."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, "That these words be there added."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
I do not think it would be advisable to accept this Amendment. I was under the impression that all Parties in the House were desirous that this Commission should sit as soon as possible. I think that in the course of the discussion on the second reading the hon. Gentleman himself conceded this point. An additional reason has arisen since then why the inquiry by the Commission should not be postponed until the date named in the Amendment. We have secured, or we feel certain of securing, the services of Mr. Justice Day, in accordance with circumstances mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, and we all know that his duties in this country will commence at the end of October. It will, therefore, be very desirable, indeed almost necessary, that the Commission should sit earlier than the day suggested by the hon. Gentleman. As far as Mr. Adams is concerned, the Government are quite prepared, if necessary, to provide a substitute for him in the Revision Court at Dublin; and as to Mr. O'Shaughnessy, I have no doubt means can be found of getting over the difficulty in which he is placed. It will hardly be possible for the Commission to sit at once; in fact, I think I am in a position to say that the Commission will not sit much earlier than the 28th or 29th of September. If the hon. Gentleman will accept such an assurance, there will be no necessity for the Amendment he has proposed.
§ MR. SEXTON
On that I have only to say that if the Commission commences its sittings on the 12th of October I cannot see why it should not be able to conclude its labours before the end of October, and thus release Mr. Justice Day for his English engagements. At the same time, I am not disposed to press my Amendment in any obstructive spirit. I only desire there should be a reasonable prospect of the revision getting through before the Commission begins. Will the right hon. and learned 495 Gentleman undertake that the Commission will not sit until the 24th of October? If he did not, Mr. Justice Day could be released for his higher duties.
§ MR. HOLMES
I am afraid I cannot do that, as the 24th of October is the day on which the English Courts of Justice begin to sit.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
It is very desirable the Commission should not interfere with the revisions. Would it not be as easy to find a substitute for Mr. Justice Day as for Mr. Adams?
§ MR. SEXTON
I wish the right hon. and learned Gentleman had gone a little further, and said the Commission shall not sit until the 1st of October at the earliest; but, under the circumstances, I beg to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clauses 3 and 4 severally agreed to.
In page 1, line 22, after "disorder," to insert, "and whereas the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland intends by warrant under his hand to nominate Sir John Charles Day, one of the Judges of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court, additional member of the said Commission."—(Mr. Attorney General for Ireland.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. SEXTON
I entirely approve of this Amendment, for I think the appointment of the learned Judge will materially strengthen the Commission. It is well, however, I should say that I have never based my criticism on the ground of creed, though I remember that, in the course of the debate, some Members did point out it was unsatisfactory the Commission should be constituted of three Protestants and one Catholic. I admit that the appointment of Mr. Justice Day tends to redress that inequality. I objected to what is understood to be a judicial inquiry being presided over by a military officer. My objection is removed by the appointment of Mr. Justice Day, and I only hope that the inquiry will be conducted with that impartiality, fairness, and care, which usually distinguishes judicial proceedings in England.
§ Question put, and agreed to.496
§ Preamble, as amended, agreed to.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at half after Two o'clock.