§ MR. LECKY (Dublin University)
moved:—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to withhold Her Consent from paragraph 5 of Scheme No. 90, Supplemental, framed by the Educational Endowments Commissioners relating to the Endowment heretofore belonging to the Limerick, Killaloe, and Kilfenora Diocesan School, which provides for sale by public auction of the premises known as the Roxborough Road School, held by the Rev. James Fitzgerald Gregg, and to disapprove of any part of the said Supplemental Scheme, which will operate to have the said premises sold without giving to the said Rev. James Fitzgerald Gregg a right of pre-emption of the said premises or payment of compensation for his expenditure thereon and disturbance therein.He said that the Motion was not of great compass, and he hoped to be able to state the simple facts without giving much offence to hon. Gentlemen opposite. The diocesan school to which the Motion referred dated back from Queen Elizabeth's time. In the 12th year of Her Majesty's reign, a Measure was passed with a curious preamble lamenting "the rude and barbarous state of the great majority of the people of Ireland"—[Ironical Nationalist cheers and laughter]—and "the many and heinous offences which they, through utter ignorance, daily and hourly commit." [Ironical Nationalist cheers and laughter.] To remedy this state of things it was provided that in every diocese there should be a free Protestant English-speaking school, to be placed in the principal town of the diocese, unless a school existed there previously. This, like so many other Irish Acts, was not very perfectly observed, but it continued more or less operative until the disestablishment of the Irish Church in 1869. The original Diocesan School of Limerick fell into complete ruin, and was rebuilt on another site in 1837 by funds which were raised by the Grand Jury of the County and City of Limerick. [Nationalist cheers.] It was placed in the parish 248 of St. Lawrence, of which parish Canon Gregg was now rector. When the diocesan character of these schools was done away with on the disestablishment of the Church, they passed into the hands of the Education Commissioners. Canon Gregg entered into negotiations with. Mr. Hall, the occupier of the schools, who had compounded and commuted under the Church Act, and on his death in 1874 he obtained possession from the widow. He did this after consultation with the Secretary of the Educational Commissioners, and in February 1875 the Commissioners formally sanctioned his occupancy of the building during the next two years. The school was used as the parish parochial school of the parish of St. Lawrence. The tenancy of Canon Gregg was at first of a provisional character, pending the settlement of some dispute about terms between him and the Commissioners, but since 1880 he had been a regular yearly tenant at a small rent. The school when he took it was in a state of extreme dilapidation, but in his hands it has become a considerable institution. When the Commissioners of Endowed Charities looked into the matter in 1879 they found that there were 99 scholars on the roll, 64 of whom were boarders, and that the whole establishment was supported by voluntary subscriptions, which amounted to no less than £700 a year. Lord Randolph Churchill visited the school at that time and pronounced its state to be admirable. ["Hear, hear!"] When the Educational Endowments Act was passed in 1885 the Educational Commissioners resolved to sell this as well as some other properties which they had in Limerick. The question then arose what was to be done with Canon Gregg and his school? There had been a college called Mungrets College in the possession of the Jesuit body in Limerick, and the course taken in that case was that the Jesuit body received the right of pre-emption at a valuation ascertained by the Commissioners. Canon Gregg supported by the Diocesan Council 249 of Limerick, petitioned that the same course should be adopted in his case. The two Judicial Commissioners at this time were Lord Justice Fitzgibbon and Lord Justice Naish. They were both inclined to give Canon Gregg the pre-emption he asked, and in a letter to him dated December 12, 1885, they pronounced themselves "favourably inclined towards such a project," but Unable as yet to arrive at a final conclusion. Lord Justice Naish about this time died, and Judge O'Brien who succeeded him objected to the preemption. In consequence of his dissent the Judicial Commissioners came to the conclusion that Canon Gregg should not have pre-emption, but that he should be compensated to the extent of £450—£400 for permanent improvements and £50 for goodwill. The scheme was sent to the Privy Council, who reverted to the former plan, and instead of a money compensation, decided to grant Canon Gregg the pre-emption which he desired. The matter was again referred to the Education Commissioners, and they employed their own valuer, and consulted other valuers as well, and the result of the transaction was that the school was valued at £831. The matter came no less than three times before the Irish Privy Council, and three times the Council recommended that Canon Gregg should receive pre-emption at the valuation thus established by the Commissioners, and nearly everybody believed at that time that on that basis the scheme would become law. On May 20, 1895, in the last days of an expiring Parliament, and an expiring Ministry, the matter was brought forward by the hon. and learned Member for North Louth, and he urged that the pre-emption clause should be struck out. He did not, however, propose that the compensation clause should be inserted, and the fact that the pre-emption scheme was brought forward as an alternative to a compensation scheme was never brought under the cognisance of the House, and was not even mentioned in the Debate. The Irish Government at 250 that time was represented by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, and, considering the relation of Parties at that time, it is not surprising that he should have supported the hon. Member for Louth, but it was a surprising circumstance that the right hon. Gentleman representing the Irish Government never informed the House that the Judicial Commissioners had recommended that Canon Gregg should receive compensation for his improvements. The matter was represented merely in this way, that the Judicial Commissioners were right and the Privy Council wrong, and that by simply striking out the preemption clause they came back to the position which the Judicial Commissioners had taken. Under such circumstances, and through such representations, at one o'clock in the morning, and by a majority of five, the pre-emption clause was struck out, the effect being that Canon Gregg was not only deprived of the pre-emption, which the Privy Conned had proposed to give him, but also of the money compensation which the Judicial Commissioners thought he ought to have. A more shabby proceeding he never heard. The right hon. Member for Montrose dwelt on the superiority of the judgment of the Judicial Commissioners in this matter. What these Commissioners really thought of the transaction is sufficiently shown in their own protest against its extreme injustice. Theypointed out that the effect of striking out the pre-emption clause, without reinstating the original compensation clause, would be to deprive the Rev. Canon Gregg both of the right of pre-emption directed by His Excellency in Council, and also of the compensation to which the Judicial Commissioners originally, and still, thought him to be justly entitled, in substitution for which the clause for pre-emption was inserted. They thought that if the right for pre-emption should be taken away, the right of compensation for which the pre-emption had been substituted ought to be restored; and they suggested that it was probable that if attention had been called to it at the time, the Resolution of the House of Commons would have been so expressed." This, in their opinion, "would be the just and expedient course to pursue.251 In spite, however, of this protest, the Privy Council, considering, perhaps, that they were bound by the Resolution of the House of Commons, sent back the scheme exactly in the form in which it was passed through the House of Commons in May, 1895—[Mr. T. M. HEALY: "No, no!"]—that was to say, without any clause of pre-emption and without any clause giving compensation. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: "No!"] Probably the House would think there was something behind this matter, for it was almost inconceivable that an act of such flagrant injustice could have been done. The root of the opposition arose in the animosity of a very eminent and powerful person, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Limerick, Bishop O'Dwyer, to these schools. He had no wish to speak disrespectfully of Bishop O'Dwyer, who had shown in very difficult circumstances both courage and uprightness. No one, however, would dispute that he was a pursuit of singularly masterful character, and both the Chief Secretary and some hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House had had occasion to learn that he was apt to express very strong opinions in very unmeasured language. [Laughter.] For a long time Bishop O'Dwyer had been attacking Canon Gregg and his school with extraordinary perseverance, and, he was afraid he must add, with not a little of that vindictiveness which might be sometimes traced in celestial minds. [Renewed laughter.] It was said that the school was a proselytising one. Of this he believed that there was not one scintilla of evidence, and Lord Justice Fitzgibbon had acquitted Canon Gregg of this charge. It was, however, true there were in the school many children of mixed marriages. They were placed there by their legal guardians, and brought up as Protestants at their wish. This was the sum total of the offence, and the chief cause of the opposition to the school. It was said that the manner in which Canon Gregg obtained possession of the 252 school after the death of Mr. Hall was irregular. All he would say in reply was that whatever was then done was done with the full knowledege and cognisance of the Educational Commissioners, who were the legal landlords. It was said that the compensation in this compensation scheme was put too high, and the valuation in the pre-emption scheme too low. It may be answered that these sums were arrived at by qualified valuers, and fully sanctioned by the Judicial Commismissioners, who were the proper authorities to deal with them. On these grounds he believed absolutely nothing could be said against Canon Gregg. The House was not asked to determine between the rival schemes of pre-emption or compensation. All that they asked was that it should redress a gross and palpable injustice. He submitted that it was beyond all reasonable doubt that Canon Greg should either obtain the right of pre-emption which three Privy Councils had proposed to give him, or else that he should receive that pecuniary compensation which, after a careful investigation, the Commissioners had pronounced to be unquestionably his due. It was on these grounds that he confidently asked the House, as a matter of common honesty, to give Canon Gregg one or other of these two things.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
said he understood that he spoke there tonight by the favour of the hon. Member for West Belfast, who had been kind enough to challenge his right to speak.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
said he was informed that it was a mere matter of professional etiquette, and not a matter of order, and therefore he did not raise the point.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Certainly this is no question of Order, as was pointed out by Mr. Speaker in the case of Mr. Ross in 1893.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said that he begged to inform the hon. Member for West Belfast that as a matter of fact he had never at any time received a fee, or acted as 253 counsel in this case. The Bishop of Limerick had been good enough to send him a brief, but, having acted in the matter in Parliament, he had returned it, which was more than could be said under similar circumstances of the hon. Member's colleagues, who had made themselves the loudest advocates in the case of the Erasmus Smith Endowments. The hon. Member for Trinity College had twitted the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose with having, in 1895, made a speech in which he had had the courage to advise the House what line it ought to take in a similar matter, but he should like to know whether that hon. Gentleman would now get up and advise the House what course it ought to take in reference to this matter. The hon. Member for Trinity College had no doubt made a very reasonable statement, but he would undertake to blow that statement out of the water. He was only sorry that a man who was so fair and so liberal as the hon. Member for Trinity College should represent so unfair and so illiberal a constituency. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] The hon. Member was challenged by parsons on his election with probably the most illiberal fusilade ever directed against any candidate—["Question!"]—and to-night he was making amends for his speech in favour of amnesty for the Irish political prisoners. The hon. Member was doing penanance, in a. white sheet—[laughter]—before a constituency of parsons—["Oh, oh," and"Question!"]—who had called upon him to redress the wrongs of their Canon Gregg. ["Oh, oh!" and cries of "Question!" and "Divide!"] What were the wrongs of the Rev. Canon Gregg? They had heard in that House many denunciations of Irish tenants. The Irish tenants, at all events, were not squatters. Their possessions had been handed down to them from father to son—[laughter on the Ministerial side, and A VOICE: "Champagne!"]—and any rights they possessed had been won at great sacrifice. The hon. Gentleman had 254 said that Canon Gregg was entitled to compensation for his wrongs, because, under Lord Randolph Churchill's Act of 1885, he was at length compelled to see the school house, of which he had fraudulently obtained possession, put up to public auction. It would be found in the Minutes of the Evidence, taken before the Endowed Schools Commissioners, that Lord Randolph Churchill asked Canon Gregg how he got into possession of these premises, and a letter was read addressed to Canon Greg by a Mr. Hackett, the Secretary of the Incorporated Society of Schools. The letter was as follows:—Dublin, 4 November, 1874.My dear Friend,From what I can ascertain from a reliable source, I think if you got into possession of the premises, giving Mrs. Hall something to satisfy her, so as to put you in possession, and in that position you had to deal with the Commissioners, all would be right; and I fancy the parties in question would not object. Such is my position you will understand it from myself, not for a moment associating anyone with me in giving this advice. Still I write advisedly.Mrs. Hall was the widow of Dr. Hall, the former schoolmaster, Lord Randolph Churchill asked Canon Gregg,'By what process were you enabled to enter into possession of these premises?Answer,They came into my possession quite unexpectedly. Dr. Hall, the diocesan Schoolmaster, having compounded, was anxious to get away. Under the Church Act there could be no further payment to the school, which had ceased to be a diocesan school. Dr. Hall looked about to see what be could get for his interest, and applied to the Commissioners, but there was some difficulty there.How did Dr. Hall then get possession of the school? He would read how from Cannon Gregg's own circular.Dr. Hall applied in 1865 to the Commissioners of Education to give him possession of the school house, which the secretary told him to get possession the best way he could. This he effected by paying 30s. to the parties then resident in the building, and then getting his bed in through a sitting room window.[Laughter.] He hoped hon. Members opposite were proud of their protégé, who 255 based a title to compensation on such proceedings. Thus Dr. Hall got his bed into the house by bribing the caretaker with 30s. He left his wife in the premises, and Canon Gregg gave Dr. Hall £30, and from 1874 to 1880—six years—he never paid one shilling or sixpence in rent. [Cheers and counter cheers.] Who had built these premises which now formed a battle ground for the House of Commons, and in which hon. Members took so much interest, that they were willing to stop out of their beds—a thing which they would not do for the Armenians? Canon Gregg's own account was that the premises were built at a cost of £1,913, and the ratepayers of the City and County of Limerick found the money, 95 per cent. of them being Roman Catholics. The money had all come out of the pockets of the occupiers; not one sixpence had been contributed by the landlords. What was the House asked to do? The hon. Member for Trinity College stated that he was in error in regard to the scheme which he was opposing. He had held no brief in this case, and he did not know the facts as some hon. Members opposite did, who had received briefs from the Rev. Mr. Gregg, and who would be heard no doubt in the Debate after the ruling of the Speaker. But he would take the statement of the rev. gentleman himself. The hon. Member for Trinity College had stated that the Rev. Mr. Gregg was getting no compensation whatever. What was his own statement?By the provisions of the supplemental scheme it is proposed that the Commissioners of Education shall put up for public auction all their estate and interest in the land, building, and premises described in the schedule annexed to the scheme, and the Rev. Mr. Gregg shall be entitled to absolute credit out of or against the purchase money to the sum of £400.
§ MR. EDWARD CARSON (Dublin University)
That is the original scheme; that was struck out by the Privy Council.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said he could only give the facts as they were stated in the statement of the rev. gen- 256 tleman himself. He did not know about this case beyond what he had read in the Blue-books, and in the statement of the rev. gentleman. What, then, was the meaning of the statement he had read?To that part of the proposal contained in the supplemental scheme relating to the sale by public auction of the estate and interest in the Commissioners of Education, land, building, and premises, I object.… I also object to the sum proposed to be allowed for goodwill and disturbance as insufficient.
§ MR. CARSON
The supplemental scheme in respect of which my hon. Friend has made his Motion is on the Table, and contains no such proposal for compensation as that to which the hon. Member refers.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said he had not enjoyed the advantage of seeing the supplemental scheme which was laid on the Table. It was very difficult to get documents which were laid on the Table. He tried to get some information on the point, but every time he attempted he was told that some one else had the document. The Rev. Canon Gregg objected to the compensation on the ground that it was insufficient, and he claimed for a sum of £56 16s. 6d. expended upon sanitary alterations absolutely required. [Cries of "No, No!" and interruptions.] This rev. gentleman, according to his own account, objected to the amount of the allowance, and he had issued a statement to Members of the House.
§ [MR. JOHNSTON, crossing the floor of the House, handed a paper to the hon. and learned Gentleman].
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
thanked the hon. Member, and quoting from the Scheme, said he could not see where was the injustice to the Rev. Canon Gregg. His tenancy was undisturbed, it was allowed to continue, the sale of the premises must take place subject to his tenancy—the tenancy of a gentleman who in six years had paid no rent. The rev. gentleman made a claim for compensation for improvements, but whoever heard of a tenant holding premises under a covenant to keep them 257 in repair getting compensation for having kept them in repair? If the Government, in relation to this Scheme, took the part of bigotry and supported the claim of this ecclesiastical squatter, if they took a line different to that which had been taken in regard to tenants in Ireland who had made their own improvements with their own hard work on their little holdings and were told that length of enjoyment was compensation, if this reverend descendant of the man who got in through the window was to have the right of pre-emption or compensation for disturbance, a man who never had a title or tenure, because he happened to be a proselytising clergyman, while they dealt so hardly with regard to the immemorial tenant of the soil who had been in possession, and his forefathers before him, so long as Ireland had been an agricultural country, what was to be said of their impartiality? That was the position of the Government, and remember they were doing that in the case of this man who was a town tenant at the best, while in the case of town tenants, as in the case of Kingstown, when men had claimed something like leasehold enfranchisement, they were turned out at the end of the lease without a sixpence of compensation. He should like to know what the Lord of Hatfield would think of this treatment. If men were to be turned out at the end of their leases with all their improvements confiscated, which were to pass into the landlord's possession, what was to be said of the man who never had a lease, who never had a tenure, but who was a mere squatter, who, for seven years had never paid a penny of his rent? Yet this House of Commons was now asked to reverse a decision of another House of Commons, just as one Royal Commission was appointed to reverse the decision of another, and then they declared the Government was a continuity! Yes, a continuity of fraud and imposture. The Irish Members were told of the great advantage they enjoyed in being 258 allowed to come to that House and state their grievances before fair-minded Englishmen; and the fair minded Englishmen were driven there by the beaters of their Party, knowing or caring not one pin's point about the merits of the question, except that there was a Protestant clergyman at one end and a Catholic Bishop at the other. He only hoped the Bishop of Limerick and every other bishop would take that Debate to heart. The Bishop of Limerick gave support to the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor and relative in the days when his Government wanted that support sorely. The Times was willing to applaud him for his courage, and now, to-night, his reward for this sustainment of what they were pleased to call the policy of law and order, was that the Government which was going to kill Home Rule by kindness had not the courage to do what the Member for Montrose did, at all events, and say—
§ An HON. MEMBER (from the Government Benches) : Where is the hon. Member for Montrose?
§ An IRISH MEMBER: In bed, where you ought to be. (Laughter.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said that, at any rate, the Member for Montrose gave the House of Commons the benefit of his advice, which the Government refused. He would call the attention of the House to the way this matter came before them. When, on 21st May, 1895, the House annulled the former scheme, the late Government, about a fortnight afterwards, were defeated. But officials of the Irish Office of that day, instead of sending across that scheme to the Lord Lieutenant, although strongly pressed by urgent telegrams to send across the decision of the House of Commons in order that the Lord Lieutenant might make up his scheme and sign it, refused to respond to the telegrams from Dublin Castle, and it was kept on this side of the water until the late Lord Crewe went out and Lord Cadogan, he believed 259 his name was—[Ministerial cries of "Oh!"]—they had so many grandees in Ireland that it was impossible to remember all their names. Although the intention of the House of Commons was plain, as anyone who read the Resolution of the House would see, what happened? It was delayed, that the Tory Lord Lieutenant might pass judgment upon it. There was anxiety to know what the Lord Lieutenant would do. The Chief Secretary was asked by the Bishop the cause of the delay. Here was the reply, dated 18th February, 1896:—It became essential for His Excellency to be definitely informed whether the right of preemption was intended as a substitute for compensation. If so, then it was obvious that the ordinary scheme for the amount of pre-emption right might work grave injustice.The Privy Council did, apparently, according to the statement, restore the scheme to the form in which it was left, by Parliament in May of 1895. What was the body that did this? It was a body of Privy Councillors, the majority of whom were Protestants. Having heard the arguments of the reverend gentleman and his counsel, and after having stated that he delayed the Lord Lieutenant's sanction to the scheme in order that it might be laid before the Privy Council (and the Privy Council had reiterated the decision of the House of Commons and endorsed it), the right hon. Gentleman was, he understood, about to declare that he, would leave the House to its own free will—in other words, to its Protestant opinion. After 17 years' experience of that House, he held the opinion that it was absolutely impossible for any Catholic ever to get justice from that House. [Cries of "Oh!"] He was further of the opinion that it was absolutely impossible for any Catholic in Ireland as against a Protestant to get justice. Their liberality was all pretence, and their fair-mindedness a sham. He hoped the true inwardness of this apparently small matter would come home to those who had governed thought and 260 opinion in Ireland, and that they would come to the conclusion that he had come to—that, without either force or violence in Ireland, or something approaching to it in that House, there was no more chance of justice for an Irishman than there was for a man who was being robbed to secure justice front a brigand.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
said that on occasions similar to this it was the practice of the Government to refrain from directing the way the House ought to vote, and from that practice they should not attempt to depart on the present occasion. The hon. Member for Louth, having a knowledge of the course the Government was likely to take, had twitted them on what he called their want of courage, and compared them to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, who, when Chief Secretary, had taken a decided line on this subject. He should have more respect for the courage of the right hon. Gentleman had he been present to explain how it was that, having voted in favour of the hon. Member for Louth on the former occasion, he would not vote for the Resolution of the hon. Member for Dublin University on the present occasion. Speaking for himself personally, he should be glad to be able to remain silent on the present occasion, especially in view of the somewhat angry correspondence which he had had in connection with the Roxborough Road School with one of those interested in the question. But silence would probably expose him to some misinterpretation, and, moreover, he thought the House had a right to expect that he should endeavour to throw some light on the confusion and obscurity with which the successive decisions of conflicting authorities had invested the question. He had noticed in the course of the tenure of his office that it not unfrequently happened in Ireland that questions which were of the least importance excited the angriest feelings 261 and gave the greatest amount of trouble. The entire capital value of the endowment disputed in the present instance was not more than between £800 and £900. But in connection with the claims of a single individual in regard to this property the whole machinery of the Judicial Commissioners, the Privy Council and Parliament had been engaged twice over. The Privy Council had in connection with this question differed twice from the Judicial Commissioners. It had differed once from itself. Parliament had once differed from the, Privy Council, and now, if the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University was accepted, Parliament would for the second time have differed from the Privy Council. The question now presented to the House was one of the more difficult it was possible to imagine. He would not trouble the House with the recital of all that had taken place in regard to the endowment front the beginning. The statement of his hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University was substantially correct. But he would take up the tale at the moment when the Judicial Commissioners had framed a scheme in connection with the endowment. The Judicial Commissioners had come to the conclusion in the first instance, that the Rev. Mr. Gregg was entitled to compensation for expenditure of £400 for permanent improvements in the building, and to £50 for disturbance. That scheme was sent up to the Privy Council, who cut out the clause relating to compensation, but inserted a clause giving to Canon Gregg the right of pre-emption at a fair value of the ground and building. The scheme was remitted to the Commissioners to decide what the value was, and they fixed it at £831. The amended scheme was again presented to the Privy Council, who again remitted it to the Judicial Commissioners that they might further examine into the true value of the ground and building. This inquiry resulted in the reaffirmation of the former valuation; and in that form the scheme came up to the 262 House of Commons. At the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Louth that part of the scheme which related to the right of pre-emption was thrown out by a majority of five. Shortly after that the Government went out of office, and their successors, the present Government, in consequence of a minute written by one of the Judicial Commissioners, referred it back to the Commissioners before being finally approved by the Lord Lieutenant.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that he could not say, but the substance of it was the same as the Report of the Judicial Commissioners on the scheme as it came from the House of Commons. That Report stated that, in framing the original scheme, the Commissioners did not think it right to give an absolute right of pre-emption to Canon Gregg. On the other hand, they did not think it just that he should be disturbed in his possession without compensation in respect of some part of his expenditure. The effect of now striking out the preemption clause, they said, without reinstating the compensation clause in substitution for the pre-emption clause so introduced, would be to deprive Canon Gregg both of the pre-emption directed by his Excellency in Council, and also of the compensation to which the Judicial Commissioners thought, and still think, him to be justly entitled. Upon receipt of these observations the Irish Government considered that it was impossible to leave matters as they stood. Accordingly the Judicial Commissioners were invited to prepare a fresh scheme, that being in accordance with the only precedent, on the subject. The Judicial Commissioners did prepare a fresh scheme, in which they reinstated this provision as to compensation. This supplementary scheme was brought before the Privy Council, who decided that, under no circumstances, was Canon Gregg entitled to compensation in respect of his tenancy of the school. They felt bound to ask the Judicial Commissioners 263 to draw up a new scheme, and he thought the House would admit that, in view of the very strong expression of opinion by two Judges of the eminence of Lord Justice Fitzgibbon and Mr. Justice O'Brien, one a Protestant and the other a Roman Catholic, it would be taking a serious responsibility on itself at the present time in rejecting the Motion of the hon. Member for Dublin University. At the same time he thought there was a great deal to be said on the other side, and he would state why the House was placed in a position of peculiar difficulty in connection with this question. In the first place, the Privy Council must be regarded as in a certain sense a Court of Appeal, and the Privy Council had decided for the second time that Canon Gregg was not entitled to any compensation. They were now placed, in respect of these two decisions, in this position. The Judicial Commissioners, on the one hand, had declared—at least the practical effect of their declaration was—that an injustice would be done unless Canon Gregg either received compensation or was given the right of pre-emption. The Privy Council, on the other hand, had decided that Canon Gregg was not entitled to any right of compensation. Therefore, it appeared, on the one side they had the Judicial Commissioners declaring that one of two alternatives must be adopted; on the other side, they had the Privy Council declaring that one of those alternatives was unjust, and on the other side they had the Judicial Commissioners themselves condemning the other alternative as unjust. The House would therefore see what a great difficulty they were in. But he would call attention to the position in which they would stand, supposing the Resolution were accepted. If it was accepted the scheme, as it stood, would be destroyed altogether. The suggestion was, that the Commissioners should be invited to draw up a scheme and give a right of pre-emption, but he saw little or no probability that, under the circumstances, they would consent once more to take any further part in this extraordinary merry-go-round. But he felt it would be a misfortune if this scheme were entirely to fall to the ground. It might be said the result of that would be to leave Canon Gregg where he was, in possession of the school. 264 Yes; but Canon Gregg was only a yearly tenant, a precarious tenure. The House would see this was a most extraordinary position. It appeared to him that whatever course the Government adopted objections might be urged which would be fatal to that course; there would be a deadlock in any case, and under those circumstances he left it to the House to take their own course. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"]
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
said it seemed to him the right hon. Gentleman's misunderstanding was due to the fact that he had not studied the scheme. So far from this scheme preventing Canon Gregg having the right of compensation or the right of pre-emption, it gave him both alternatives. The property was to be sold subject to the tenancy of Canon Gregg. That gave Canon Gregg the right to go into the market—
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. KENNY) Dublin, St. Stephen's Green
,: Giving power of sale to anybody is not pre-emption.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
said that as occupying tenant Canon Gregg was able to offer a higher price than anybody else. What more did Canon Gregg want? Then supposing the premises were bought over his head, that he did not exercise his right to purchase, whoever bought had to compensate him for his tenancy. It was amusing that the Chief Secretary should have looked upon this question as a question difficult of solution, when it was clearly devised by the Judicial Commissioners that this man should have the choice of being a purchaser and continue in possession, or, if not a purchaser, to get due compensation for disturbance. Under these circumstances he did not see why any appeal should be made to the House to go back on its decision on a former occasion, and to bring itself into collision with the Privy Council.
§ MR. SERJEANT HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
said he felt bound to make a few observations, for he feared that the insinuations and beguiling graces of the hon. Member for Dublin University might induce the other side of the House to set up a very bad precedent in this case. He wished to know whether there was to be any finality with regard to the proceedings before the Privy Council. The case had been heard in December last 265 before a full attendance of the Judicial Committee, and on which occasion the Reverend Mr. Gregg was represented by eminent counsel. The conclusion that was then arrived at was, that the Reverend Mr. Gregg was entitled to no compensation, and that the idea of his being entitled to pre-emption was wholly unreasonable. The decision of the tribunal spoke for itself, because it entirely ignored the Reverend Mr. Gregg's claim, and directed the property to be sold to the highest bidder by public auction. Of course, the rev. gentleman could attend the sale by auction, like anyone else, and might bid for the property. The sale, of course, was to be subject to the existing tenancy of the rev. gentleman, whatever that might be. That tenancy appeared to be one from year to year, without any limitation as to its duration. The hon. Member for Trinity College had complained that reference had been made to what occurred a century and a-half ago; but the hon. Gentleman himself had alluded to what had taken place in reference to this property in the time of Elizabeth. It appeared from the facts of the case that the schools were built in 1837 at the expense of the ratepayers of Limerick, and that subsequently the property was occupied by the Reverend Mr. Hall, after whose death it was sold by his widow, who had no earthly title to it, to the Reverend Mr. Gregg for £20. Mr. Gregg had no merits. [Ministerial laughter.] He got in as a trespasser because Mrs. Hall had no title, and he continued in possession from 1874 to 1880 without paying a shilling of rent. He then made a contract with the Commissioners to pay £20 a year, as a yearly tenant, and keep the premises in repair, but he broke his contract and allowed the premises to fall into dilapidation. Mr. Gregg had laid his case before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and they were unanimous in their opinion that he had no merits and no claim for compensation, but that he might go on as a tenant, and that the premises would probably be sold, subject to his tenancy. The only Resolution that could be passed in the House of Commons, as he submitted, was to strike out that clause altogether, and then where would the scheme 266 be? The House had no power to insert a clause for compensation. In the circumstances he respectfully asked the House to be guided by the wise and moderate suggestion of the Chief Secretary, and not to stultify itself, and not to cast ridicule on the Judicial Committee by agreeing to a Motion which, he confessed, having regard to his philosophical and historical nature, he was surprised the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University did not leave to someone else. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. FLYNN
said that this affair was an outrageous attempt at jobbery. This claim of Canon Gregg to compensation was most audacious. The nominal rent of the premises was £30 a year, but the Commissioners of National Education had been spending that money for the last 10 years in keeping the place in repair. The reverend gentleman was only a tenant from year to year, and was bound by the terms of his tenancy to keep the premises in proper repair; but in 1892 the architect of the Board of Education visited the house and pronounced it to be dilapidated and in a filthy state. The Irish Members had difficulty enough in getting anything like fair play for honest agricultural tenants who made improvements; but hon. Members opposite readily supported baseless claims in cases where there, was a sectarian element. It was intolerable that the House should be kept sitting to an advanced hour in order to entertain unjustifiable claims of this kind.
§ MR. WILLIAM JOHNSTON
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. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)
described the Rev. Mr. Gregg's claim as a ridiculous one, and pointed out that the rev. gentleman was bound himself to do the repairs for which he was now claiming during a period of 20 years, when he was allowed by indulgent landlords to remain in occupation of the premises on extremely favourable terms. The item of £400 was made up of such items as £20 in cash to Mrs. Hall for possession; postage of order, 7d.; car hire and man, 267 5s.; washing out the house, 9s. Even religious bigotry apparently could make hon. Members opposite vote in support of a scandalous job like this. Then there was a poor rate claim in 1895, whitewashing in 1874, 3d. spent in nails 15 years ago, painting a gate in 1875, an ironmonger's bill, 3s. 4d., in 1875, and charges for the insurance of the premises. In the name of honesty would hon. Members vote that this money should be paid to this gentleman out of the endowments for education in the county of Limerick? Among the items of the account were such as these:—Evergreens, presumably for Christmas decoration; glazing, which meant, he supposed, the repair of broken windows; repairing gate, 30s., in 1879; glazing again in 1882; 12 loads of gravel in 1882. It was an account made up almost entirely of the smallest kind of repairs, for which, if a tenant came into the Land Court for compensation as for permanent improvements he would be justly laughed out of Court. Of course strange things were done in Ireland out of religious bigotry, and there were in Ireland exaggerated ideas on the rights of property. He remembered reading in the hon. Gentleman's book how a Lord Lieutenant of the last century remarked that probably Ireland was the only country in the world where a professorship of Greek in fee could be granted, and perhaps it was upon that principle of dealing with an educational endowment the hon. Member was asking the House to act. It was difficult to get Members to vote against their own Party and their own religion, but here were the details of claim before them, here were the facts. This Gentleman was bound by his agreement to keep the house in good repair, and at the determination of the tenancy—
§ MR. SPEAKER
reminded the hon. and learned Member that the covenant had been read several times. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. KNOX
said he would not read it again, he was only trying to press home his point that what the House was being asked to do would be a scandalous misapplication of the funds of an educational endowment. This rev. Gentleman was bound to keep up these premises in good repair, and here was a Report on the state of the premises by an architect of a representative body of the Church of England—
§ MR. SPEAKER
, interrupting the hon. and learned Member, said this also had been read to the House, not the whole of it, fortunately, but parts of it. ["Hear, hear!" and cries of "Divide!"]
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
I beg to move, "That the Question be now put." [Ministerial cheers.]
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 142; Noes, 48.—(Division List, No. 83.)
§ Question put accordingly.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 134; Noes, 51.—(Division List, No. 84.)
§ Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to withhold her consent from paragraph 5, of Scheme No. 90, Supplemental, framed by the Educational Endowments Commissioners, relating to the Endowment heretofore belonging to the Limerick, Killaloe and Kilfenora Diocesan School, which provides for sale by public auction of the premises known as the Roxborough Road School, held by the Rev. James Fitzgerald Gregg, and to disapprove of arty part of the said Supplementary Scheme which will operate to have the said premises sold without giving to the said Rev. James Fitzgerald Gregg a right of pre-emption of the said premises or payment of compensation for his expenditure thereon and disturbance therein.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors.
§ And it being after One of the Clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.
§ House adjourned at Twenty-five minutes after Two o'clock.