Order read, for further consideration of postponed Resolution:—
That a sum, not exceeding £97,499, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1891, for the expenses of the General Prisons Board in Ire-
land, and of the Prisons under their control; and of the Registration of Habitual Criminals.
§ (12.0.) MR. J. G. FITZGERALD (Longford, S.)
I beg to move a reduction in the amount of this Vote, and I do so in reference to grave matters in connection with prison administration in Ireland which I have to lay before the House. This is necessary from the failure of the Chief Secretary to give any reply to these grave specific charges which were made, not for the first time, when we were considering this Vote in Committee, and this must be my apology for again troubling the House on this the final stage of the Vote. The prison to which I refer is Derry Gaol, and the officials-against whom charges are made are Dr. Plunket; Dr. O'Farrell, the Inspector of Prisons; and Sir William Miller, who is still medical officer to the prison in which those prisoners to whom I shall presently refer lost their lives, which loss of life I hold the prison administration responsible for. I do not desire to do the Chief Secretary an injustice, and, therefore, I will mention that on the last occasion the right hon. Gentleman said the accusations made were not those that were brought forward on a previous occasion last year; that Derry Gaol was undoubtedly old, and many cells therein were not equal in size to-those found in modern prisons, and that all that was required was to diminish the number of prisoners sent to Derry Gaol, so that there should be no necessity to use the smaller cells. I now propose to make my accusations exactly in the same form as they were made last year, so that the Chief Secretary may have no complaint to make on that score, and I think I can show that something more is needed than a reduction in the number of prisoners to avoid the introduction into the prison of that plague against which we warned the right hon. Gentleman 12 months ago, and which, if it once enters, is as likely to kill a small number as a large number of prisoners confined therein. To make myself clear, I shall be obliged to touch upon what the right hon. Gentleman calls ancient history, and to which he seems to have much aversion since public opinion compelled him to recede from the position he formerly took up and to have recourse-to the more modern methods of prison treatment. It will be within 985 the recollection of the House that lamentable occurrences followed the earlier methods, ending in the death of John Mandeville and others, and permanent injury to the health of many of my hon. Friends. The right hon. Gentleman, by declarations in and out of the House, threw the whole onus of the care of prisoners on the Prisons Board, against whom as a body I have not a word to say. But, unfortunately, these lamentable occurrences did not end with the declarations of the right hon. Gentleman. A disease, to which I shall presently refer, broke out in Derry Gaol, attacking four prisoners, three men and one woman, and it killed the woman and two of the men. Among the deceased was the youth M'Gee, who had been allowed to remain in prison during the whole time of his illness, and who was sent to his desolate home on the morning following a night passed in delirium. All these prisoners were allowed to be done to death in prison month after month under the ignorant eyes of the medical officer, Sir William Miller, whom I charge with incompetence, but whom the Chief Secretary describes as an able public servant. In consequence of these deaths, we called for an examination into the condition of the prison. This was made by Dr. O'Farrell, who made a Report, and to one or two paragraphs of this Report I shall have to refer. He says—A careful examination of the present sanitary arrangements of the prison has satisfied me that there is nothing in the condition of these that would be in any way injurious to health. The buildings are in good condition, and are kept scrupulously clean and orderly; the cells are well ventilated, and the closets of modern type.In another portion of the Report the Inspector supports me in my charge of in competency against Sir William Miller, because he says—Looking back on the whole circumstances of the case, it is a pity that the disease of which the boy M'Gee died was not observed before.That is to say, that the prisoner died of a disease contracted in prison; that he had it all the time he was in prison, and the doctor in charge knew nothing about the disease. I beg the House to remember what Dr. O'Farrell says about the sanitary condition of the prison. Now I come to brief references from a more recent Report made by Major Beamish, 986 an English Prisons Inspector. He says—At the south-west angle of the male prison there is a hole in the ground where ashes and other refuse accumulate for six months before being cleared,and, Major Beamish naively remarks,It is not a good sanitary arrangement to allow refuse to thus accumulate for such a length of time.Major Beamish says the cells are half the size of those in English prisons; that there are 75 inches allowed for the inlet and outlet of fresh air, and no means whatever for the exit of foul air. English prison cells have 108 square inches for inlet and outlet, besides ventilating traps in the wards and air shafts in connection with the ventilators for the exhaustion of foul air. There is no-reception room in the prison, but there is a bath room used as a reception room,. where prisoners are huddled together higgledy-piggledy, and where, Major Beamish remarks, the air is very foul, and here the prisoners' clothes and changes of clothes for the prisoners are kept. But this is a trifling matter compared with the-Report as to the sanitary condition of the gaol. Here we are told there is no trap at the base of the soil pipe and no ventilation for air to enter the drain. It is a matter of opinion among sanitary scientists whether air can possibly escape through Buchan's trap; but here there is no trap whatever; the air consequently entered the prison through the closets, and no doubt was an important factor in producing the complaint for which these Derry prisoners died. At the time the Report was first brought under our notice I charged Sir William Miller, the medical officer, with in competency, and, as to Dr. Plunket, I said he was entirely ignorant of sanitary science. It was reported that these patients died of galloping consumption. I say that they died of diseases perfectly well known to medical men—i.e., typhoid-pneumonia, and suppurated typhoid-pneumonia. I want security for the future. I say that this prison must be levelled to the ground before it can be made fit for the reception of prisoners, and you have no right—legal or moral— to confine any class of prisoners, and much less prisoners for a crime created by yourselves, in a prison which your own Inspector has admitted should be pulled down. We hold the Chief Secre- 987 tary, who is the head of the Irish Government, responsible for these lives; we say that they were sacrificed to the avarice of his unworthy confederates, and that they would never have acquired the gaol plague had he not driven them from desolate homes in order to collect the rents of his friends. There is no other people on the face of the earth whose kith and kin would not exact vengeance from you in the form of the lynch law advocated by one of your Judges. Derry Prison is a pest hole and fever den, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will give us an assurance that in the future he will not confine prisoners there. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name—a reduction of the Vote by £2,000.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out "£97,499," in order to insert "£95,499."—(Mr. Fitzgerald.)
§ Question proposed, "That '£97,499' stand part of the Resolution."
(12.24.) MR. CONTBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I regret that my enforced absence on public duties elsewhere last week prevented me from taking part in the discussion on this Vote, because it is more convenient to bring forward facts and complaints at a time when it is possible to speak more than once, and to expose the fallacies in which the Chief Secretary indulges. I think I was entitled to address the House even at some length on my own treatment in Ireland by the Resident Magistrates at Falcarragh, but I refrained from doing that last night because I preferred to describe my treatment in Derry Gaol. I have listened with great interest to the clear and precise statement by my hon. Friend who moved the reduction of this Vote. I shall not attempt to follow him in dealing with the sanitary deficiencies of Derry Gaol from a scientific point of view. But I am, like my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Tipperary—a co-criminal with myself—able to speak on the general character of the prison arrangements, and I think I am in a position to throw some light on matters mentioned in Major Beamish's Report and the observations thereon of the General Prisons Board. While I was incarcerated in this gaol I had the satisfaction of seeing this Inspector going his rounds. Now, I will first deal with his 988 statement as to the cells for first-class misdemeanants. He says there are two large cells in detached blocks for the use of first-class misdemeanants, each containing 675 feet cubic space. In the observations of the General Prisons Board I find that Colonel Burke states that, in addition to the ordinary cells, there are now provided two other first-class cells, one containing 1,000 cubic feet space, and the other 1,600 cubic feet, both boarded and well ventilated and artificially lighted. My complaint is that these statements are absolutely misleading, and I ask the leave of the House to explain exactly what those cells are and what they were intended for before Father M'Fadden and myself came to occupy them. The cell in which I was incarcerated for 13 weeks and 8 hours contained 1,600 cubic feet, but it will better explain if I state that it is a tunnel 15 feet long and 9 feet high. So far from it having been intended for first-class misdemeanants, I am positively assured by the Governor of the gaol and by the Visiting Magistrates, who on two occasions punished me for my rebellious conduct, that there was no provision for first-class misdemeanants. In fact, my cell and a lesser one near had been used as store rooms. The lower part of the other cell was cut off for the purpose of being used as a water closet. For the first 24 hours of my confinement there was no ventilation beyond the air let in at the top of the window through an aperture of not more than five or six inches. Almost all the windows of the prison are of roughened glass to prevent the prisoners looking out. That is a refinement of cruelty which is a shame and a scandal. When Dr. O'Farrell came his round I told him I should certainly prefer a complaint as to why the window of my cell could not be properly opened; and I told him that if it was not opened I would smash the whole thing to smithereens. My remonstrance had the desired effect; and I had the satisfaction of looking from my prison window to the green fields, which could be seen beyond the intervening roofs. But Father Stephen, Kelly, and others, who were imprisoned for exactly the same crime as that for which I was confined, had the plank bed and mean prison fare, and they were unable to see from their windows. It was an unnecessary refine- 989 ment of cruelty, because, with the warders constantly patrolling, there was no danger of escape had the windows been opened. It is said in the Report that there is plenty of ventilation in the corridors of Derry Gaol; but it should not be forgotten that the prisoners are shut up in their cells for the whole 24 hours, excepting two allowed for exercise. We are told that the gaol must be entirely levelled and rebuilt, but we have no assurance from the Chief Secretary that that radical reform will be instituted. There are eight or nine different yards of different sizes in which the prisoners are exercised, and I pointed out to the Magistrates that it was possible to place a shelter in more than one of those yards; but the only answer I got was that the prisoners had got on as well without it so far; that it would be an expensive job, and that they did not know that anything of the kind existed in any English prison. The result is that on wet days the prisoners either have to remain in their cells during the whole 24 hours, which happened more than once while I was there, or they had to walk round the yards in the pouring rain, and afterwards to go and sit in their damp cells in their dripping clothes. This being so, there can be no wonder that typhoid fever, consumption, pneumonia, and other fatal diseases have carried off some of the prisoners during the right hon. Gentleman's régime. Such a state of things is a scandal even to the civilised rule of the present Chief Secretary for Ireland, and I say we have a right to insist that in the future this House shall have some assurance not only that these evils shall be remedied, but that there shall be adequate shelters for the prisoners on wet days, and that as far as may be no more lives shall be sacrificed to the ruthless vengeance of the present Government of Ireland. There is another point on which I addressed a remonstrance to the Visiting Justices, and that was a point on which I succeeded in carrying my suggestion. It will be remembered that questions were asked in this House last year, as to the effect of the constant glare of the whitewashed walls on the eyesight of the prisoners; but I had no fear that in the comparatively short time of three months or so I should myself naturally 990 suffer from this cause; but having to spend most of my time in reading in my cell, my eyes did suffer great inconvenience. I will give some proof of the effect of the glare of the whitewashed walls on the eyesight. I was exercising at half-past 9 o'clock one morning when the doctor came to see me. It was not Sir William Miller, but Sir William Miller's son. I may here say that although I do not think Sir William Miller is a competent authority on hygiene, I was always treated with the greatest kindness and consideration by that gentleman, and when he was absent by his son. Of course, I was a first-class misdemeanant, and perhaps Sir William Miller may have thought that he might allow more latitude in listening to my chaff about Home Rule, and so forth, than would be the case when he was talking to John Kelly. At any rate, I believe I may say without exaggeration that whatever may have been their motives these gentlemen did their best to make my lines in prison as comfortable as they reasonably could. But in speaking of my own personal treatment it must not be taken that I am excusing the treatment in the shape of harshness of other prisoners worse circumstanced than myself. Well, returning to Sir William Miller's son, we were standing close to a whitewashed wall, and the doctor turned away, saying, "How the glare of that whitewash does affect my eyes." Now if, when the glare of the sun was on that wall, the doctor found it too strong for his eyes during a few moments, surely we prisoners had a right to complain when we had to stand it day after day for months. The hon. Member for Clare, who was once incarcerated for nine months, found his eyesight naturally affected from the same cause. Well, before my time had expired the order had gone forth that the prisoners' cells should be block washed, that is to say, they were coloured with a sort of dusky-tint, which afforded relief to the eyes,' although it had the effect of somewhat darkening the cells. I now want to say a few words about the cells of the first-class misdemeanants. They are in the reception block, which is situate in that part of the buildings immediately at the back of the gaol office. There is one stair-casein the block, and on the left-hand side of the staircase is the bath-room. What I want to put before the House is the 991 fact that there is no proper distinction, in regard to this matter, between the prisoners of the worst and dirtiest class and the first-class misdemeanants, who are in other respects placed in a much more favourable position than the other prisoners. The new prisoners are brought into the waiting-room on the right-hand side, so that their descriptions may be taken down, and so forth; but at night that room was not in use, and the block in which I was imprisoned contained the casual ward, into which most of the drunken and noisy prisoners were introduced before examination, and locked up until they could be seen to in the morning. This is a matter on which, if I had been desirous of making a complaint, I should have been quite justified in so doing; because often, when I had retired to rest, these prisoners, many of whom were brought in for being drunk and disorderly or riotous, gave the warders a great deal of trouble, and there was so much noise on that staircase as to completely disturb everybody in that block. Naturally, a great many of these prisoners were of the lowest character, reeking with vermin of all descriptions. They were taken into a room called the bathing and dressing room, and in this same apartment—this very small apartment—was the weighing machine, in which all the prisoners were required to be weighed. Week after week, during the time that I was incarcerated, I was brought down to be weighed on this machine, so anxious was the Chief Secretary to show that I was improving in weight. I was brought into this disgusting hole perhaps a few moments after the dirtiest of the dirty had been in the scale, and I was compelled to stand there in my bare feet. After this had been going on for some weeks, as the House is aware, I was attacked by a loathsome and troublesome complaint, which I do not desire any further to refer to. It occasioned all these Reports on which we are basing this discussion to-night, and Dr. O'Farrell came down to discover, if he could, what was the origin of this particularly noxious complaint. I believe he tried his best to come to a conclusion, and all sorts of theories were suggested. It was said that even the unfortunate pigeons who used to feed in my cell were caught and examined to see if they could have communicated this pestilence to me. But after 992 I had seen one of these ordinary dirty prisoners stripped naked in this waiting room, I came to the conclusion that the fact of my being compelled to go into the scale barefooted after one of these fellows had been weighed was the cause of my misfortune, and therefore, when I came to this conclusion, I declared my refusal to go into the scale in that cell any more, whatever punishment they might choose to inflict upon me for such refusal. In this case, as, in fact, in every other, I got what I wanted. After a few days they took the scales out of this waiting room, and weighed me in the yard. To get to the storeroom, where the private clothes of the prisoners were kept, it was necessary to pass through this filthy waiting and bathing place. Some of my things were kept in this store-room with those of the ordinary prisoners. I hold that it was a most improper thing to put the clothes of the first-class misdemeanants in such a place, where they had to run the gauntlet of being infected with all sorts of filth and vermin. To say that in this gaol there was any accommodation for first-class misdemeanants is the most ridiculous statement ever ventured upon, and if it is not a mistake in these Reports it is put in for the purpose of deceiving the House. The Chief Secretary may reply that there were so few first-class misdemeanants that they were not worthy of consideration; but, I say, why not place such first-class misdemeanants as you do get, however few in number, in a proper place? Mr. T. D. Sullivan, when Lord Mayor of Dublin, was incarcerated in Kilmainham Gaol as a first-class misdemeanant, and he was supplied with two rooms—a sitting-room as well as a bed-room. The rooms were properly ventilated, and he had an open fire-place in his sitting-room. That was accommodation with which one could not have found any complaint, and I never heard that the hon. Member had to run the gauntlet of a cell through which the dirtiest and most pestilential prisoners had to pass. Mr. W. T. Stead and Mr. Gent-Davis were also first-class misdemeanants. The former, who was no more criminal than I was, was placed in a more or less comfortable apartment in Holloway Gaol. There was a good deal of difference between the criminality of the offences of Mr. Stead and myself as compared with that of 993 the offence of Mr. Gent-Davis. My only offence was giving a loaf of bread to a starving family, whereas that of Mr. Gent-Davis was one of having grossly defrauded parties to whom he was deeply indebted, and yet his accommodation, as hon. Members who remember what was said about it at the time will recollect, was palatial compared with either that of myself or the hon. Member for the College Green Division when we were first-class misdemeanants. We have a right to insist upon this point, because, if there is one argument, except the tu quoque argument, on which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary prides himself more than another, it is—"You have no right to complain, as first-class misdemeanants are treated in England in the same way as in Ireland." Anyone who knows the facts of the case knows that that is not so. Now, towards the end of my imprisonment I was anxious to consult a solicitor in regard to certain libels which had been published against me in certain newspapers. After some difficulty I succeeded in obtaining the assent of the Prisons Board to an interview with my solicitor, but when that interview took place a warder came and thrust himself into the little apartment in which I was to confer with my legal adviser. I refused to hold any conference with my solicitor under those conditions, and, by reference to the prison rules, I insisted on my right to have a private interview with my solicitor. I was not even then allowed to have a private interview in the proper sense of the term. I was compelled to take my seat on one side of a table, with my solicitor at the other; the blinds of the window were drawn up, and a warder was posted outside to spy out everything that took place, and, if possible, to listen to everything that was said. That is the way the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary treats his first-class misdemeanants. I do not wish unnecessarily to dwell upon the details of these particular inconveniences and annoyances to which I was subjected; but I may say, while it is in my mind, that the prison authorities did what they could in this mean and petty way, so characteristic of the present Tory administration, to heap what they thought was indignity and insult upon me. When I was leaving the gaol to return 994 to England on the termination of my sentence I asked for that which I believe I had a perfect right to, namely, first-class railway fare, but this was denied me, a second-class railway ticket being thrust into my hand by a warder. This is a petty matter, and I merely mention it to show the miserably mean and vindictive methods by which it was sought to humiliate me, my treatment in this respect being different to that of my Friend, Mr. Kelly, under the late Mr. Forster. And now, to show the idiotic fashion in which the Prisons Board of Ireland conduct their affairs, I will refer to the question of correspondence. I was allowed to correspond within certain limits, and naturally, not feeling in the least any lively sentiment of gratitude or affection towards the Chief Secretary, I was not very nice in my choice of the terms in which I spoke of him in some of my letters. I hold in my hand a postcard which I wrote to a friend of mine a few days after my imprisonment. It contains the words—Healy is going to try for a Habeas Corpus. I wish it was Balfour's carcass we could have in Court.That was a ridiculous little joke. It was my carcass that was going to be dealt with by the Court, and I thought the meanest intelligence would have seen that it was not intended as abuse. However, the post-card was not allowed to pass. It has never received the sign manual of the Governor of the gaol, and I suppose, like a great deal more of my correspondence, it was sent up to the Prisons Board, to be examined by that learned body. Even if one is a first-class misdemeanant, one is expected to conform to certain rules, I was expected to do so, but I did not. I can understand that there must be a supervision over the correspondence of prisoners going out of prison; therefore, I took good care, when I wished to send anything to the newspapers which I did not desire the Chief Secretary to see, not to send it in a manner which was under the supervision of the Governor of the gaol.
THE MARQUESS OF CARMARTHEN
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
This is the first time I have had an opportunity of deal- 995 ing with this matter, and I think I should be allowed to conclude my observations without interruption. The point I was endeavouring to make when I was interrupted was this: I do not complain so much of my own correspondence being intercepted, but when the correspondence of gentlemen outside, over whom I could have no control, was stopped, and letter after letter was refused me simply because they contained some miserable little expression, such as the name "Bomba," applied to the Chief Secretary, I do think the matter was carried to a ridiculous extreme. One letter I hold in my hand, sent to me by a little child six years old, was sent all the way to Dublin, and placed before the Prisons Board, because there was at the end of it, in the child's scrawl, "Three cheers for the Plan of Campaign." Another important question that has not yet been settled is that of the dismissal of Father Doherty, the Catholic Chaplain, from Derry Gaol in September last. When the Chief Secretary is again in the shades of the Opposition, but not till then, I shall be very glad to explain to him how I got my letters out of prison, and to initiate him into what I may call the freemasonry of criminals. Although it has generally been supposed that Father Doherty was the medium by which I succeeded in communicating my letters to the Press and to friends outside, and he was dismissed for that reason, it was not technically the case, and I had at least half-a-dozen methods by which I was able at all times to communicate with the outer world. So elaborate were the arrangements I was able to make that letters of mine passed through the hands of the Governor, and he was no more aware of their contents than the Chief Secretary himself. A fortnight or three weeks after the dismissal of Father Doherty I succeeded, in one day, in passing 12 letters out of the prison, and they all appeared in due course in different newspapers. This, I think, will convince the right hon. Gentleman that he hardly treated Father Doherty with justice in dismissing him on suspicion—for there was no proof—of carrying my letters. I may say also there is not a warder at this moment in Derry Gaol who has any idea how I succeeded in passing my correspondence out of prison. I was particularly careful not to ask the gaolers for a single favour 996 which could, by any possibility, bring them under the lash of the right hon. Gentleman's punishment. The only warder who, unfortunately, suffered anything in consequence of what I did, was a young fellow named Patrick Barry, who was fined 2s. 6d. by the Governor for replying to a few casual remarks I made about the weather, and so forth, whilst I was in the exercise ground, and he was waiting for another warder to bring him the key of a gate. Many unkind things have been said about my having sought the services of a Catholic Chaplain. When I was first taken into the prison and searched I was asked what religion I was. I replied, "That is not a question you have a right to ask, and which I shall, under no circumstances, reply to." I was then asked what service in the chapel I proposed to attend, and was informed that there was a Presbyterian service, a Disestablished Irish Church service, and a Roman Catholic service. I said, "I propose to attend the Roman Catholic service." I was perfectly justified in doing so. I never belonged to the Disestablished Church of Ireland, and if I had belonged to it I should have objected to the ministrations of a man who was, under the immediate jurisdiction of the Bishop of Derry, who at the time was the holder of 40 shares in the Smith-Barry Eviction Syndicate—a criminal conspiracy of a far worse character than any from which anyone has suffered in Ireland. Nor if I had been a Presbyterian would I have accepted the services of a minister who was the father of the blatant orator who was paid by the right hon. Gentleman opposite to abuse me and hunt me down before the County Court Judge of Derry. I cannot speak in too high praise of the devotion of the Catholic clergymen to every class of prisoners in Derry Gaoly and of the incessant kindness to the poor people committed to their care. When several of my letters written in prison had been published, the authorities decided to hold a Star Chamber inquiry into the methods by which I passed my correspondence out of gaol, and they sent down a gentleman named Joyce. I was summoned before him and questioned about a letter that had appeared in the Star. I declined to say anything, and was sent back to my cell. Father Doherty was also summoned, and was put on his oath. He was then insulted 997 by being asked a question which he very properly refused to reply to, and it was because he refused to hold any communication with this official, and not because he had been proved to have done anything wrong, that he was discharged from his chaplaincy. That was a monstrous injustice. Father Doherty refused to hold any communication with this man for one special reason, namely, that on a previous occasion Joyce had been sent down to the gaol and had ordered the warders to act as spies upon the chaplains in their communications with the prisoners. Father Doherty very properly refused to have anything to say to a man who had acted in this way. Father Doherty might have gone further and said: "I am placed here in confidential communication with the prisoners, and it would be almost a crime on my part if I were to reveal what has passed in confidence between me and these poor criminals whom it is my duty to solace with the ministrations of their religion." I hold that you have no right to deprive prisoners not only of the ministrations of their priest, but of the power of worshipping God one day in the week. There were, I think, 150 of these prisoners in the gaol at the time of Father Doherty's dismissal, and, to my knowledge, they have had no power since of conferring with a minister of religion, or of worshipping in their own religion on Sundays. I want to know from the Chief Secretary whether he has taken any steps whatever to replace Father Doherty by some other chaplain. Every man who calls himself a Roman Catholic has a right to the ministrations of a Roman Catholic clergyman. Just at the time Bather Doherty was dismissed, the Bishop of the Diocese died. It is well understood that the Bishop of the Diocese has the right to nominate a person to fill the office of chaplain. A deadlock arises. The Chief Secretary or the Prisons Board would not reinstate Father Doherty, and they had no power to appoint anybody else, because, as far as the new Bishop was concerned, they were not able to bring sufficient influence from Rome to bear upon him to induce him to nominate one who would have been acceptable to the Prisons Board. On this point I may be permitted to quote one or two sentences from a letter I addressed to the Chairman of the 998 Prisons Board on the 1st of October, 1889. I wrote—Sir,—Now that I am on the point of being released, I beg to offer for your consideration the following information, which may interest you, even if it fails to convince you that your arbitrary dismissal of the Catholic Chaplain was, to say the least, over-hasty; and is in any case grossly unjust to the Catholic prisoners, who, for no offence of their own, have been deprived now for more than three weeks both of the visits of their chaplain and of the consolations of their religion in Divine Service on Sundays—1. The real ground of Father Doherty's dismissal (whatever the nominal reason) was no doubt that you believed him to have co-operated with me in the publication in the Star newspaper of a certain letter alleged to have been written by me. That letter was written by me; but I can assure you that Father Doherty knew no more about it until it was published than you did. How I procured its publication is my affair, not yours.This letter must have come under the Chief Secretary's cognisance, and yet, after my distinct assurance that Father Doherty had nothing to do with the letter, he has thought fit to continue the punishment in the shape of the dismissal of Father Doherty.2. During the last three weeks since Father Doherty's dismissal I have continued to publish in the Press and otherwise whatever letters I desired. I have written and despatched, through the Governor's office, and subject to-official censorship, more than one letter to the editors of different newspapers, and scarcely a day has passed during the last week that the newspapers have not published some communication written by me, and bearing my signature, which undoubtedly had never received the imprimatur either of Dublin Castle or of the Authorities here, so absolutely impotent are you to stop my writing and publishing what I please. I laugh to scorn all your attempts to muzzle me, and treat with contempt your decrees which assume to punish me for breach of prison discipline. For instance—I asked you the other day, when I was deprived of writing materials, to forward for me a prepaid telegraphic message, which a friend in London was waiting for. But courtesy is not cultivated in Dublin Castle; and you returned my telegram to me. I at once dispatched it myself, without further troubling myself about you.3. Let me at once say that with all the increased rigor of the vigilance exercised over me since Father Doherty's dismissal, there is no single official here who knows anything of the means by which I am able to evade their watchfulness. I have all along made it a point of honour never to ask them to do for me anything which could bring their conduct into question, and I cannot too highly commend the fidelity with which my gaolers have fulfilled their duty to your Board in exercising the strictest watch over all my actions.9994. Considering the impunity with which I have continued to defy your authority and evade your prison regulations—all the more since your dismissal of the chaplain by which you thought you had seized my 'secret despatch boat'—I would venture to suggest that at is about time for you to send Inspector Joyce to hold another Star-Chamber Inquisition. But I can promise you that the results will not be such as to justify his travelling expenses.5. Under all the circumstances, would it not be more dignified on your part to frankly acknowledge your error and at once reinstate Father Doherty as chaplain, instead of sulking like an ill-conditioned school boy, who 'won't play any more 'because he has received a backhander? You have chosen to try a fall with the Catholic Priesthood on an issue in which you cannot possibly win. No clergyman will sacrifice the principle of the sacred secrecy which should veil the confidential relations between himself as a priest and the prisoners who look to him for spiritual guidance and consolation. Your claim that the chaplain should submit to the examination of your Inspector means simply this, that that relationship shall be laid bare to the cold-blooded dissection of the sneering and cynical 'philosopher,' who at present controls the destinies of this unfortunate country.By the information I have now given you, I. offer you a last chance of escape from the false position you have assumed. If you accept it, you may escape further contempt, though you cannot avoid the ridicule you have already incurred.That was the letter I wrote to the Prisons Board, and the right hon. Gentleman will probably not be surprised to hear that a peremptory order was sent down that no more of my letters were to be forwarded to the Prisons Board. One, however, did pass to the Prisons Board after that. I wrote that letter simply in order to clinch what I had already said to prove that the pretexts on which Father Doherty was dismissed, and the supposition that he had infringed the Prison Rules, were wholly without foundation, and that a gross act of injustice had been done the rev. gentleman and the prisoners who were entitled to a continuance of his religious ministrations. I will not add anything else. I will be content on this occasion with having done something I hope to throw a little light upon a portion of the right hon. Gentleman's administration in Ireland, which, but for the happy incident of my imprisonment, it might have been exceedingly difficult to drag into the light of day. There are plenty of other matters connected with my imprisonment, and what was called my trial, which call for remark, but I will take my own time in referring to them. I will spare the right 1000 hon. Gentleman any further humiliation by dwelling more at length upon the absurdities of his administration, and shall conclude by expressing my obligation to the House for having listened to me.
§ (1.52.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I think the hon. Gentleman has amply indemnified himself to-night for the enforced silence he was put to during the rest of the Irish Estimates. He has given us a long and elaborate account of his imprisonment in Derry Gaol, but he must choose between the characters in which he evidently wishes to appear before the House—a martyr or a rebel. He has spoken of his sufferings in gaol, and has exulted at his evasion of the Prison Rules. I think he has exaggerated the interest taken in the affair. The hon. Gentleman has complained bitterly of the action the Government have taken in regard to the Catholic chaplain of Derry Gaol. That action was very simple, and was in accordance with every rule of prison discipline. Father Doherty was asked to state, amongst other things, whether he was responsible for breaches of discipline. He refused to give the information, and if the result has been that prisoners of the Roman Catholic faith have been deprived of the ministrations of a Roman Catholic chaplain, the fault lies with the Roman Catholic Bishop in declining to appoint a successor to Father Doherty. The hon. Gentleman then complained that he did not receive the treatment of a first-class misdemeanant——
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
He complained that he suffered from mildew in the prison. I assure the hon. Gentleman I have carefully examined into the matter, and my investigations do not bear out his statement as to the state of the prison in this respect. The hon. Gentleman told us that his eyes suffered from the whitewash on the walls, and that his health may have suffered from the fact that there were no sheds provided in the prison yard under which prisoners might exercise.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I did not complain in regard to myself, but complained that ordinary prisoners had to exercise in torrents of rain, and then had to sit in 1001 their cells, their clothes having to dry on them.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I understand that it is the universal rule to whitewash the walls of English prisons, and that opthalmia does not result. With regard to sheds, I have only to say that sheds do not exist, as far as I know, in English or Irish prisons; it would be extremely inconvenient and unhealthy to construct them in most prisons.
§ MR. MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
Will the right hon. Gentleman pardon me for a moment? Some time ago I asked him a question with reference to the sheds in Derry Prison. That question was suggested to me by the hon. Member for Camborne, who wrote me a letter on the subject. He complained that the prisoners were exposed not only to rain, but in the summer time to the heat of the sun. Is it not the fact that within five days of my question being put a prisoner in Derry Gaol was struck dead while at exercise?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not know anything about the particular case the hon. Gentleman alludes to, but I have no doubt I gave him an answer at the time. On the general question of sheds for exercise in Irish prisons, I may say that such structures would be in many cases exceedingly inconvenient, and I do not know why they should be provided for one special class of prisoners who make themselves amenable to the laws of their country. I do not quite know what is the hon. Gentleman's complaint of the room in which he was confined—he did not like the proportions, I think—but, by his own account, the room was a large one, about twice as large as in first-class prisons. As to the general condition of Derry Gaol, it is one of those which, when they came under the management of the Prisons Board in 1878, were by no means up to modern requirements. But an immense deal has been done since that time. Derry Gaol is not of a modern type, and is now used for prisoners sentenced to short terms of imprisonment. It would be a great mistake to suppose it is unhealthy. The statistics of health are good; the drainage is reported good; the water supply is good; and as to the apprehensions of zymotic disease, I am assured they are altogether delusions. The Prisons Board are hastening on the work of re-modelling prisons 1002 in Ireland to meet modern requirements, and there is no reason to complain of their action in this or any other respect.
§ (2.2.) MR. HARRISON (Tipperary, Mid)
It has been found necessary once more to direct the attention of the House to the condition of Derry Gaol, and I cannot, I confess, accept the remarks with which the Chief Secretary has favoured us as at all satisfactory. I wish to press upon his attention again the points I ventured to raise in Committee. I referred then to ventilation, the size of the cells, the arrangements which, I still maintain, are not such as to ensure cleanliness, and the defective sewerage. The right hon. Gentleman on the last occasion referred to one point only upon which his assurance was not unsatisfactory, and if he had referred to other matters his assurances might have been such that it would not have been necessary for me to press these points upon him again. Perhaps it was due to inadvertence; perhaps I did not make myself clear, and I will endeavour to make those points clear now. I referred to the size of the cells and the insufficiency of ventilation, and the assurance the right hon. Gentleman gave was that the cells, being unhealthy, should no longer be used for the confinement of prisoners whose sentences exceeded three months. I asked the right hon. Gentleman on what ground he thought it right that prisoners whose offences were presumably small should be subject to unhealthy conditions from which greater criminals, sentenced to longer terms of imprisonment, were exempt, and it seemed to me that it could only be on the principle of taking as much out of the health of a prisoner as was consistent with turning him out alive at the end of his term of imprisonment. What I wish to press on the right hon. Gentleman now is that he will give an undertaking beyond that he has given, that, pending reconstruction, Derry Gaol shall be closed. I touched upon Major Beamish's Report, and I made reference to the statement we had 12 months ago, on his personal experience, from the hon. Member for South Armagh (Mr. Blane), and which was never answered, and I can now refer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne (Mr. Conybeare), to which I am bound to say we have had no satis- 1003 factory answer. In addition there is a serious question of discipline, arising in this way. A warder in the prison, suspected of sympathy with the popular cause, went into the prison store, and the head warder, with whom he was in ill favour, happened to be there, together with other warders and prisoners. It appears a few stores were missing, and the head warder, turning to the Nationalist warder, as he was supposed to be, said, "Wait here while I go and see if I can find the missing stores in your quarters." The warder, who bears a high character, refused to patiently bear this imputation, and said he would accompany the chief warder if he wished to make a search; and for this breach of discipline, pardonable under the circumstances, he was dismissed. It was a frivolous pretext; the real cause was he was suspected of having espoused the National cause, and so was considered objectionable. The question of the sanitary condition of the prison has, I think, been sufficiently dealt with. The Chief Secretary says that the health statistics are good; but I need scarcely say we have a deeply-rooted distrust of these official Reports. By keeping prisoners out of the hospital the health record may be kept up, and my hon. Friend has given sufficient proof of the culpable negligence of the medical officer. I presume the right hon. Gentleman has read the Report of Major Beamish, and that he has some knowledge, however superficial, of sanitary science. Anybody who reads between the lines of that Report must see that the sanitary conditions of Derry Gaol are in a distinctly dangerous state.
§ (2.14) Mr. BROOKE ROBINSON rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. HARRISON
I quite agree with the hon. Gentlemen who interrupt me that this is not a fitting time of night to be dealing with an important question of this kind, and to mark my sense of this, and my sympathy with hon. Members, I beg to move that this Debate be now adjourned.
§ Various exclamations, among which Dr. TANNER was heard to say "Scandalous."
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member for Mid Cork has made use of an expression which he is not entitled to use.
§ DR. TANNER
I did make use of an expression, Sir, in immediate reference to the action of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but it was addressed to an hon. Friend near me, and not to the Chair.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I did not suppose the hon. Member addressed the remark to the Chair, or I should have ordered him out of the House immediately. The expression is one that ought not to have been used. I take no further note of it now.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ (2.15.) The House divided:—Ayes 113; Noes 45.—(Div. List, No. 202.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That '£97,499' stand part of the Resolution."
§ (2.25.) The House divided:—Ayes 112; Noes 46.—(Div. List, No. 203.)
§ Main Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. ARTHUR BALFOUR claimed "That the Main Question be now put."
§ Question put accordingly, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.
§ (2.35.) The House divided:—Ayes 111; Noes 45.—(Div. List, No. 204.)