§ Captain DONELAN
I beg to move "That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown in Ireland to make out a New Writ for the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the county of Louth (North Louth Division), in the room of Richard Hazleton, esquire, whose election for the said county of Louth (North Louth Division) has been declared void.
§ Mr. MOORE
moved as an Amendment after the word "do" ("That Mr. Speaker do issue") to insert the words "not before the 8th July."
I offer no apology for bringing this matter before the House, because the House in every part of it is, I think, directly concerned in seeing that the election of its Members and their return to this House should be in every sense free. I read through the Debates with regard to the Worcester election writ when the matter came before this House, and I find that on that occasion, in a more or less parallel statement was made by the present Prime Minister in which he said it was no party question, but was a question in which the whole House, as the custodian of its own interests, was bound to see that the elecion of its Members was freely carried out. Therefore it is in no party spirit that I bring this matter before the House, but in the interests of the whole House itself, and I take it that Members in whatever part of the House they sit, are equally interested in having free election. I should like also to be allowed to say that I bring forward the Amendment which I move without having had any communication directly or indirectly with Mr. Healy, the defeated candidate. I had no communication of any sort or kind with him whatsoever. I am sure, if I did not make that clear, the mere fact of my bringing the matter forward would have militated very seriously against Mr. Healy if he stands for the Constituency again.
The House has on this occasion an admirable opportunity of forming its judgment from three different documents that have been printed and circulated in the Parliamentary Papers. I hope hon. Members will study all those documents, because they afford a most interesting light as to the manner in which elections are conducted in certain parts of Ireland under our present so-called free system. The first 1226 document is the report of the judges, read to this House on Wednesday last. Of course, it is perfectly impossible for me to read all the documents, and if I only read those parts upon which I place reliance I hope it will not be suggested that I am trying to give a one-sided version of the matter. I have no inclination to suppress anything. The result of that report was this, as the House will remember, that Mr. Hazleton, the present Member for Gal-way, who, I am sure, all of us on this side of the House were quite pleased to find was honourably acquitted of any personal complicity in these proceedings. As a matter of fact, the hon. Member was absent from the country until the day before the election began, and even if he wanted to, his absence would have prevented him taking any part which would involve him in personal responsibility. The judgment proceeds to name seven different persons for undue influence in the nature of intimidation; they name five other persons for bribery, nine persons for treating, and then set out a list of corrupt practices with which their names are associated. With regard to illegal practices, they find three persons guilty of illegal practices in minor matters, such as using hired conveyances for voters, but they find that matters containing false statements of fact in connection with the character of Mr. Healy, which false statements of fact assisted the election of Mr. Hazleton, were actually circulated by the election agent of the successful candidate. That is a serious matter. The judges go on to say that the petition contained a charge of general intimidation at common law, but no charge of general bribery and general treating. I mention these matters because I am anxious that the House should have both sides, and the judges say:—We find the charge of general intimidation sufficient to invalidate the election was not established.I do not propose to read anything more from that report. I pass from that, and I come to the general judgment of the judges, because what is very important is this, the House will find when they come to read the evidence and the judgment that out of six polling districts into which this Constituency was divided there were cases of personal intimidation in four. If the House examines the evidence, it will be found that except in two districts, one of which was breast-high for Mr. Healy, and not the subject matter of the Petition, there was only one other district in which there was no personal intimidation, and Mr. Justice Gibson, dealing with this ques- 1227 tion of intimidation sufficient to invalidate the election, said that his view of the law was founded upon the Ipswich case. He said:—If you upset an election for general intimidation, it is necessary to show that there was such general intimidation as would have affected the result of the election.The petitioners were not in a position to show that the general intimidation could, or did, as a matter of fact, affect the result of the election, but the judges found that no less than seven individuals were guilty of personal intimidation, and the House will see that that intimidation existed in every polling district except one, and the judges differed as to whether there was or not wholesale treating. With regard to this intimidation, I only wish very shortly to deal with two instances. In the first place I ask the House to remember that intimidation is really the most serious of electoral offences. In the first place a man may submit of his free will to bribery, but not to intimidation, and in the second place a man can be so intimidated as to be induced to vote against the man for whom he otherwise would have voted, or to abstain from voting altogether, and that intimidation may also prevent him from giving evidence at the petition.
The very information I have received from the constituencies shows that it has been almost impossible to get these people to come forward before the Election Petition Judges, and depose to actual intimidation, which is still being exercised against them to prevent them from giving evidence. In the interests of free election, when the House finds an instance of personal intimidation in every polling district, I think we ought to be very careful before we issue a writ within a week of the finding of the Election Petition judges. I think the House ought to be satisfied that in future free election will be secured. There are seven men reported here. We do not know yet what the Irish Government are going to do with them, but I presume that the law will be put into force, and that they will be tried in July. They have not yet been proceeded against, and at present these very men are walking about free, and in absolutely no way are they being deterred from repeating the same practice if another election was to be held there next week.
With regard to intimidation, I wish to deal with that on two heads. Mr. Justice 1228 Gibson pointed out that in all the oases of election law there is no case where an election was set aside on the ground that the candidate himself was intimidated. The House is not asked to set any election aside on this motion, but we have power to delay the issuing of the writ. Irrespective of party, I put it that if hon. Members found that there was a system of direct personal intimidation against any candidate in any part of the country, I believe they would say at once that that sort of thing ought to be stopped, and that the writ ought not to be issued. I would like the House to see the extent of this intimidation, it should be remembered that Mr. Healy did not represent such a miserable minority at all. In the North Louth election some 4,500 persons voted. The successful candidate, the present Member for North Galway (Mr. Hazleton), received some 2,500 votes, and Mr. Healy got 2,000 votes. That was quite a respectable minority that ought to be heard and a minority whose candidate should not be intimidated or interfered with. I will give the House some evidence as to the intimidation of the candidate. On the 4th September the hon. Member for Tipperary went down to Dundalk and told him that a General Election would shortly come upon them and they ought to be ready for it. On the 8th September Mr. Healy went down to Dundalk, and an excursion train brought adherents of his to a meeting to be held there. There was a riot at the station. Although they were protected by the police the train was riddled with stones. When Mr. Healy went down to the Town Hall one of his supporters, a doctor, was assaulted, and they had to take refuge in a small upper room. Mr. Healy had no public meeting, and the judges drew attention to the fact that from the 8th September until the day of the poll it was never possible for Mr. Healy as a candidate to have a public meeting in Dundalk. That is called the free exercise of the Parliamentary voice of the electorate. How did Mr. Healy spend his time in Dundalk? The words of Mr. Justice Gibson are very powerful on this point. Mr. Healy could not go out into the street from the time the election began without a bodyguard of friends never less than twenty-five, and sometimes the number was 100. He could not go out without seventy policemen to enable him to conduct a canvass in his own Constituencies. The representative of the United Irish League found the finances for the campaign, and organised it very well. In- 1229 spector Henderson, the district inspector, was called, and his evidence is all that I will refer to. The House will remember that this is the officer responsible for the peace of the town, and I will quote from his evidence in the Blue Book:—Cross-examined by Mr. Sullivan.7928. Could Mr. Healy with safety to his life go through the town of Dundalk canvassing at this last election alone and unattended?—Before the polling-day?7924. Yes?—Well, whenever he was going out I always tried to make it my business to know if he was going out; and if I knew where he was going, I used to make it my business to see that there were men on the route, because I was afraid of him being attacked by individuals.7925. Then the answer is, it was not possible for him to carry on unattended the ordinary business of a candidate at the election. Is not that true?Mr. Serjeant Moriarty: I do not think that is a correct interpretation.Mr. Sullivan: Is not that so?Mr. Justice Gibson: He is cross-examining the witness; he is being asked.Mr. Sullivan.7920. Is it true that Mr. Healy could not with safety to himself unattended, carry on the business of canvassing the electors?—Well, he always ran the risk of assault, I think, by individuals.Mr. Justice Gibson.7927. In other words, his appearance in the street would be attended with a breach of the peace. Is that it?—It might at any time.7928. Is that what you anticipated?—Yes.Mr. Justice Gibson.7935a. How would you know the hour to make those arrangements to have the men on the look-out?—We used to go to the hotel and ask him to let us know his arrangements beforehand, and he always did so far as he possibly could.7936. On the polling day here in Dundalk, did you endeavour as far as you could to keep the mob outside the Court House railings?—The mob, yes, but there were an awful lot of people we could not interfere with.Mr. Justice Madden.7937. Was he surrounded by a number of his friends and accompanied by a number of the police. About how many police would there be?—Coming home at night there would be about 35 police on duty.7938. What is the total force of police in Dundalk?—The town has 31 or 32, but we always had extra men in on those occasions.
"Mr. Justice Gibson.
7939. How many extra men would you have on that occasion—70 would there be?—70 there would be altogether.
7940. You would attach half the force to attend Mr. Healy?—There would be 35 or 40 on duty between the hotel and his rooms. There would be 30 with him and 10 a little further off.
7941. They were told off for the special purpose of protecting Mr. Healy?—Yes.
I assure the Committee I could refer if necessary to passages of evidence in the Blue Book in which witnesses assert that Mr. Healy would have been murdered if he had gone about without the police in this compact force. That is the effect of the evidence of a witness called by the respondents and the men responsible for the peace of the town. I wish to draw
attention to what Mr. Justice Gibson said on this matter. Of course I have reminded the House that Mr. Justice Gibson said that general intimidation was not proved. He said in his judgment:—
In a popular sense the December election was not free. The candidate in Dundalk was under police protection, and was not allowed to exercise the same right of canvass and appeal as was enjoyed by his opponent. It seems strange that the law, as it at present stands, should apparently restrict its special protection to the ordinary troops, the voters, engaged in the election battle without securing the position of the general, the candidate, who is left as an individual to the protection which the law affords to an ordinary citizen as regards assault, etc. Interference with the liberty of the candidate may, however, supply a strong argument to support on inference of intimidation of his followers, though it may not in itself constitute a distinct substantive ground for impeaching an elector. No authority on this point was cited, and I have not been able to discover any case of the present type, a case which I and my brother sincerely trust will not again recur.
Mr. Justice Gibson goes on in his judgment to deal with the difficulty which Mr. Healy experienced, and he comes to the polling day. What happened on the polling day? Mr. Healy went out to a place called Louth accompanied by a force of twenty police. He arrives in the town and goes to the polling booth. There he is met by a hostile mob and Mr. Healy is imprisoned on the day of his own election in one of the polling booths. The sergeant said to him:—
It is as much as your life is worth to go out. I have telegraphed for extra men and you cannot leave until they arrive.
That is the position of a candidate having a free election. Mr. Justice Gibson says that it is an intolerable thing, and he goes on to say:—
The crowd proceeded to assail the schoolhouse with stones, Mr. Healy being inside The constabulary did what they could to disperse the crowd with the baton. Finally things got so menacing that the head constable had to requisition a further force of forty men, which would make up, with the twenty-two already on the ground, a corps of sixty-two altogether. Meanwhile Mr. Healy was anxious to leave, but in reply to a question from him, the head constable told him that it would be dangerous to life and limb if he went. The result was that Mr. Healy was held up by this fierce mob for two hours, losing thereby a most important part of the vital day of the contest, when his presence was so desirable to inspirit and encourage his forces.
When the House appreciates the position Mr. Healy was in, successful or unsuccessful, popular or unpopular, hon. Members will agree that he was entitled to a free run. It cannot be said that any candidate for Parliament is having a free run or ordinary fair play if he has to go about, when he has 2,000 supporters, with a posse of police, and when he is not allowed to hold a public meeting in the town where half the electors of the whole Division reside. I will leave that part so far as Mr. Healy is concerned. There is another part which I certainly should be
failing in my duty if I did not bring forward. I have no desire to say anything offensive to hon. Members below the Gangway, but I wish to refer to the treatment of Protestants at that election. There is a Protestant minority in North Louth, and we have evidence in this Blue Book as to how five different Protestants in five different polling districts were treated when they came to the poll. We are told that in Ireland, although the Protestants are in a minority, they hold the balance of power, but in this case, where they attempted to hold a balance of power they were beaten and assaulted, and one got his jaw broken. That is how the Protestant minority is treated in Ireland. I should like to read what Mr. Justice Gibson has found with regard to that, because it relates to the question of a free election, and I think that minorities of all people—notwithstanding the view of the Chief Secretary for Ireland on this point—ought to be allowed to act just as independently as any other member of the community. Mr. Justice Gibson, on page 9, says:—
It shows there is an idea entertained that, in disputed elections between Nationalists, Unionists should not be allowed to Vote.
That is what the Petition Judge finds on the evidence before him, and I may say on my own responsibility, having read the book, there is any amount of evidence that will bear that out. It is like an election in some of the Southern States of the United States of America, where there may be a majority of blacks on the register, but where, if they dare come to vote, the minority of whites make them feel it, and the result is the blacks stay at home. The Nationalist theory is that when there is a Nationalist fight the Unionist should stay at home, and there is plenty of evidence to support that. There is, in the first place, the case of a man named Bolton. I have his own evidence here, but I think it is sufficient to give what the judge finds. Mr. Bolton is a respectable gentleman, who has been the High Sheriff of Monaghan, and he is a magistrate and a man of position. If hon. Members wish to find his evidence in the Report of the Evidence, they will find it at Question 418, but I think, if I may be allowed to read how the judge deals with the case, that will shorten matters:—
' At 3 o'clock Mr. Bolton, J.P., late Sheriff of County Monaghan, drove up in his car to rote. A cry was raised 'No hunting. Bolton,' and the crowd gathered round, booing and shouting. Then a voice, heard by
Sargeant Leer, called out 'Let him vote,' which strongly corroborates a remark attributed by John McLoughlin, to Murray, Mr. Hazleton's agent, in the booth. The latter, when McLoughlin demanded that the violent conduct outside should be stopped, replied that no voter was interfered with until after he had voted, and then it did not matter. Murray denies this, but he was not a candid witness, and I do not believe him. It is noticeable that all the serious assaults in the various districts on the 8th December took place after the voter had been polled, or after the poll bad closed. Punishment for voting is, of course, just as much intimidation as threats before.
To return to Bolton, having voted, he was at once savagely assaulted with stones. The police at that place, twelve in number, were unable to protect him. He was got by them into Byrne's yard, but the mob made their way through Bryne's front door, and finally Bolton was put into a stable behind for protection. Ultimately, he was got away, one tooth knocked out and his jaw fractured.
In the evidence his reply was that, being a Unionist, and, I believe, a Protestant, he was prevented from voting in a Nationalist election. He was asked:—
What happened then?—But the man on the left side hit me on the jaw just there (describing).
What was the result of that blow?—One tooth was knocked out, and two or three are loosened still, and my jaw was fractured. The doctor says it is fractured. It is not well yet.
Then he is asked:—
Are you suffering from the effects of it still?—It is not healed up yet. I feel it still.
That was a most brutal and unprovoked assault, which no one can justify. It was committed in open daylight in the presence of a crowd, who were wearing the Hazleton card and intimidating everyone whom they suspected of being a Healyite. Then there was a Protestant clergyman—a Mr. Strickland. The police protected him from physical violence, but you will see how the crowd treated him. The evidence with regard to him will be found at Question 1004. He came up as an outvoter to register his vote, and he came running into the booth, followed by two men.
He was followed by two men, you say, were these members of the mob or voters?—They were not voters.
When Strickland came in, did he make any complaint to the presiding officer?—One of the men pushed his head into the door and said, 'put him out, he has no right in here'; Mr. Strickland then said, 'this is scandalous treatment,' and he complained of being jostled.
Did you offer to escort him back to his car?—Yes.
Did you leave the booth with him for that purpose?—I did
Will you describe what happened?—When we were going up the pathway, leading from the school-house to the village street, a crowd of about eight or nine met us half way down the field and surrounded us, and they shouted out 'You Orange bastard, you, how dare you come here to vote.' and they shook their fists in his face. By this time the police were round us and we got up to the end of the pathway and on to the street, and there was a bigger crowd there, and they repeated the same.
Then it goes on to say that they eventually got Mr. Strickland into his motor car which was about twenty yards away, the crowd shouting and groaning. Mr. Strick-
land, fortunately for himself, escaped, but that is ample evidence of intimidation in the town of Louth. There is another polling district called Ravensdale, where there was a poor Protestant basket maker, an humble man, who had the audacity to come and vote against the Nationalist candidate. What was his fate? It is also found in the Judge's Note and in the Report of the Evidence at Answer 2595. The story is there told in his own words:—
Are you a basketmaker?—Yes.
Where do you live?—Ballymascanlon.
Did you vote at Ravensdale?—Yes.
Were you a supporter of Mr. Healy?—Yes.
Did you go to vote at Ravensdale on the 8th of December?—Yes.
Will you tell my Lords what happened to yon?— Between seven and eight o'clock at night I went in and voted, and, when I came out. I was struck on the back of the head with something and knocked to the ground, and my face was cut I was knocked into a dazed condition.
When you came out of the booth were you struck?—Yes.
Just as you came out?—Yes, in a couple of seconds.
Was anything said before yon were struck?—I heard a remark passed.
What was it?—There is an Orange bastard.
And immediately after that were von struck?—Yes.
Were you then brought into the house, where Dr. Blake told us he attended you?—I do not remember. I was in a dazed condition, and I do not remember what happened for a good while afterwards. On my way home, Sargeant M Enteggart had me.
Were you laid up for anytime?—T was ill in bed two days and felt the effect a good while afterwards.
Do yon know anyone in the crowd?—It was too dark. I did not know anybody in particular.
About how many were there in that crowd as far as you could gather?— I should say 60 or 80, as far as I could gather. I would not be particular.
I leave that with regard to Ravensdale. I am not going into the question of the doctor who attended him and was assaulted. I am dealing with the Protestant minority who, according to Mr. Justice Gibson, Nationalists say have no right to vote. I am now coming to a very powerful case, the case of the other polling district, called Dromiskin. Although general intimidation is not found, hon. Members will find individual cases of intimidation. There were two men called Murdock. They were subpœned. They were unwilling witnesses. They did not want to give any evidence at all. Mr. Sullivan, petitioner's Counsel, referred to them as cowards. He said they were evidently unwilling to give evidence, and it was cowardly of them. Mr. Justice Gibson says, on page 9 of his notes:—
Two gentlemen, named Murdock, were also examined. Archibald Murdock voted, but before voting went to buy a daily paper, when he was struck a slight slap—.
You will hear what a slight slap was. The poor witness was afraid to describe it as anything else.
A slight slap, as he described it, by Patrick Barran, a carpenter, whether in good humour or not he professes not to know.
William Murdock, his brother, who did not vote on 8th December, had, about a week before the 8th, walking on the road on his way home at night, been followed and assaulted by an unknown man. He stated he did not connect this assault with the election, but he had no enemies. He had, he says, made up his mind for some time past not to interfere on one side or the other,
When these two witnesses were giving their evidence, I did not attach much importance to it, but my suspicion as to the gravity of the incident was aroused when the witness Rogan stated that in a public-house, after he came from voting, Barran approached the counter and, striking it, said he had broken one Unionist's nose that morning, and he would break another before he went home. If this refers to the socalled slap which Archibald received, it is a melancholy example of successful bullying. Murdock no doubt voted, but he submitted to an unprovoked and insulting blow without complaint, pretending that he did not understand the character of the act. In any case, Barran's remark, which Barran was not called to contradict, shows that an idea is entertained that in disputed elections between Nationalists, Unionists should not be allowed to vote.
This incident appears to represent successful moral intimidation. It is upon voters, not properly belonging to the rival parties that intimidation has its most certain effect. Why run a risk for one to whom the voter has no special duty and for whom his feelings are lukewarm?
That is the story of a Free Election as conducted by the United Irish League. After they had made their report the judges were obliged to give notice to those who were to attend to see what excuses they could make, and on the same day that they sat a Nationalist Convention was held in the town, Nationalists being sure that the House of Commons would think so little of interfering with the election that a new Writ would go as a matter of course. The candidate selected was Mr. Roche, from Cork. I could not get a copy of his speech for the purpose of this Debate, but he got up in the public place at Dundalk and ascribed his own defeat in Cork to the fact that the Protestants in Cork voted for his opponent. That is a good way to begin! That is calculated to allay party differences and religious bitterness! And now, after that suggestion that it is no disgrace to be beaten by a Protestant vote, this gentleman says that the House of Commons is to give him a Writ to enable all this performance to be repeated again, within one week of the finding of the judges. This is a matter in which the honour of the House is involved. It is a matter affecting the whole dignity of this House. The Amendment I have the honour to move is that no election should be held in this division for four months, to enable things to steady down, and, above all, to give any candidate there
may be a fair field and no favour. I believe the Motion is one which should commend itself to the good sense of the House. I would point to the letter issued by Cardinal Logue to the priests in North Louth—I have not a copy here, but it is a letter suggesting that, in view of the great bitterness of feeling existing in the constituency, they should take no part, one side or the other, in order to allow that bitterness to die out. I am not aware that there will be any change if an election is held next week, but it certainly will be a lesson if the election is postponed for four months. That will enable the Writ to go out in the middle of July. I do not suppose it will be suggested that there are any 12th July celebrations in Dundalk; at any rate, the Writ can be issued on the 16th or 20th, and then hon. Members below the Gangway will get their colleagues returned this year instead of having to wait till next. I respectfully submit under all the circumstances, that it would be in the interests of free election and fair play that the Amendment which I move should be adopted, and that the Writ should not be issued for four months.
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
After the way in which my hon. and learned Friend has put the arguments in favour of his Motion before the House it is not necessary for me to say very much. I should like to point out to the House the fact that the intimidation, which, I think, all will admit was very bad, actually began before the election contest commenced, and that it did not cease for hours and even days after the closing of the polling booths. The judge very pertinently pointed out that the punishments for outrages committed on persons after voting in a certain way was just as much intimidation in the eye of the law, and I should say in the eye of common sense as the intimidation which had taken place before the polling. My hon. and learned Friend confined himself to a few cases of intimidation where it was exercised against Protestants. That was a part of the case he was bound to lay before the House first of all, presuming, as he did, that only a small number of hon. Members have read the judges' report, and that a still smaller proportion have read the evidence published in the Blue Book, for the reason that it is a very bulky document, and has only been available for a very short time. But I think that those who have read these documents 'will agree that the intimidation was by no 1236 means confined to the case of Protestants. There is instance after instance in the Blue Book, all referred to by the judges in their judgment, and there is actually a case of a Roman Catholic priest who was most grossly insulted, as Mr. Justice Gibson pointed out, in his judgment, by his own fellow-religionists. There was the case of a man called Sweeny, who, after he had voted, was followed for a mile and severely kicked. Then there was the case of a man called Waters, a postmaster, whose windows were smashed after he had voted. Then there was the case of Father Owens, the case of the Protestant clergyman, to which my hon. and learned Friend has drawn attention; the case of Mr. Bolton, and a number of other cases equally bad. There was a doctor who happened to be driving towards one of these places—Dr. Sellars—and on the assumption apparently that he was going to vote for Mr. Healy he was refused admission to the town. I think the facts laid before the House show that the intimidation at this election was such that if it took place at an English election the constituency would be disfranchised for a very considerable period.
All we ask is that in this matter we should be treated like the rest of the United Kingdom. There is an unfortunate tendency, I am sorry to say, to treat us in Ireland as though we were a different class of human beings altogether, and to tolerate things in Ireland which would not be tolerated in this country for one second. We say that in this case Mr. Healy had no chance whatever, for the simple reason that his meetings were stopped, and that he was unable to carry out the ordinary business of election times. He was unable, as the successful candidate stated on one occasion—I might almost say he boasted it, for in a speech in which he was contrasting his own position with that of Mr. Healy he said that Mr. Healy had been unable to hold one single public meeting throughout the whole course of the campaign. That was a very strong order. It is on the ground of intimidation that we chiefly rely in asking this House to adjourn the issue of the writ for four months.
The question of treating, Mr. Justice Gibson looks at in the right way. He says the Irish are of such a hospitable disposition that it would not be right to treat the cases of treating that came before him seriously. I agree with him there. I think, as compared with this systematic intimidation, that these cases of violent outrage,
these other matters, such as treating, which I admit in the eye of the law are as serious as intimidation, sink into comparative insignificance on this occasion. The only other matter I need refer to is with regard to the leaflet which was sent out early in the election. What led to this particular leaflet I need not refer to at length, but it was sent out obviously with the object of injuring Mr. Healy's chances of being elected. I should like to read the leaflet to the House, but before doing so, I would ask the House to remember that it is one of the boasts of hon. Members below the Gangway—and the House must bear in mind that Mr. Healy himself was a member of the party below the Gangway for upwards of thirty years—it is one of their boasts that they have never accepted office from the Government and never recommended any of their friends, either in or out of Parliament, for preferment by the Government. This leaflet was issued by the United Irish League and freely circulated throughout the Constituency. It is headed:—
Place Hunting At Home. Tim Healy's family list. Mr. Carthage Healy, brother, appointed Local Government Inspector 1907, by the Corrupt Liberals!! £500 a year. Mr. Joseph Sullivan, cousin, examiner of Title, Irish Land Commission, £800 a year. Anthony Carroll, cousin, Crown Solicitor of Cork, £500 a year! Arthur O'Connor, ex M. P., for years Healy's fellow wrecker in the Irish Party, an English Judge. £17,000 a year! M. Healy, senr., father. Postmaster, Lismore, County Waterford. A. N. Sheridan, Election Agent of Mr. Healy. Dundalk, Clerk of the Crown and Peace, Louth, £600 a year. The Corrupt Liberals!!
These are not my words. They are the words of the leaflet. It continues:—
Jeremiah Howard, Henchman of Wm. O'Brien, Director U.I.L. and Wrecker 1907 Land Commission, £800 a year.
And so on. The others are all similar to that. But what I want to put before the House is the fact that the accusation is that Mr. Healy procured all these appointments for these various gentlemen. "Whether he did so or not is not the question at all. The document was sent out, and it cannot be denied for one moment that a document like that, falling into the hands of a large number of illiterate, and probably not very intelligent voters, must have had a very considerable effect on the minds of many of the persons who received it. Twenty thousand copies of this leaflet were issued and circulated. I might remind the House that the allegations contained in this leaflet were held by the judge not to be true. That, of course, makes the matter worse. The finding of the judge was that Mr. Warren circulated
during the election a false statement with regard to the personal character and con-duct of Mr. Healy, his honour, his rectitude, and patriotism, and that these false statements materially assisted the election of Richard Hazleton. I submit to the House that my hon. Friend and myself have laid sufficient facts before the House to justify it in acceding to the Motion we have put forward. As my hon. and learned Friend has said we do not desire to put off the date when another election shall take place for any unreasonable time, but we do say that, after such a bitter contest as took place, after a contest in which such conduct was indulged in as we have drawn attention to, a certain reasonable amount of time should be allowed to go by before another election takes place. I have much pleasure in Seconding the Amendment.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is to speak on behalf of the Government addresses himself to the Amendment which has been made, I desire to say a very few words indeed. I have not risen for the purpose of quoting precedents showing that the House of Commons has never taken in similar circumstances the course now recommended to it. I leave that to the learned Attorney-General, who is far better qualified to deal with the case on those lines than I am. All I can say on that point is that, in my judgment, having been a long time in this House, and having heard the good many cases brought forward about the issue of writs after petitions, I never heard a weaker case made. [A laugh.] That is my opinion. I cannot expect hon. Gentlemen to agree with it, but I must be allowed sufficient freedom of speech to express my own opinion, and I repeat, that that opinion is that a weaker case for the postponement of a writ was never made, and no precedent can be quoted where the action recommended has been followed by the House of Commons under similar circumstances. I have risen because I want to say a few words as to what is evidently the guiding motive of the proposer and seconder of this Amendment. In my opinion, these hon. Gentlemen do not care very much whether the writ is postponed or not. They have seized this opportunity in order, if they can, to bring evidence to show that the Protestant minority in a constituency in Ireland is liable to be intimidated and ill-treated at election times. It is on that question I desire to say a few words. First, let me allude to 1239 the fact that the Protestant minority in this constituency is very large. The hon. Gentleman used the word "Protestant" where; he ought to have used the word "Unionist." You will not once find in the whole of the judgment of Mr. Justice Gibson, the word "Protestant" used. With reference to the five individuals who have been picked by the hon. and learned Member as Protestants who were ill-treated or insulted with the exception of one, who apparently was a Protestant clergyman, there is no evidence whatever that they were Protestants.
§ Mr. MOORE
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman is mistaken. He will find on Page 8 there is a reference to the effect that, while there is no substantial violence proved in the district of Ravens-dale, yet there is the case of a Protestant basket maker who, after he voted, was struck on the head, knocked down, and badly hurt.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
If I have misrepresented the hon. and learned Gentleman in the smallest degree I will at once withdraw, and I will qualify what I said that the word Protestant was never used by Mr. Justice Gibson by saying it was used in regard to one individual only, but the hon. and learned Member apparently desired to show that everyone insulted or ill-used in this connection, and whose case was brought forward, was a Protestant, whereas he ought to have contented himself with pointing out that they were Unionists. What is his case about the ill-treatment of the Protestant clergyman? It is a most deplorable incident—an incident which I and all my colleagues deplore and resent in every possible way. The hon. Gentleman who followed him had to admit that a Catholic clergyman was equally attacked. Therefore I point this out to show that it is not an attack upon the Protestant minority, but it was an attack upon men who differed in politics, and it was a political attack. I, for my part, deplore that there has been any intimidation whatever. I deplore if there has been any violence whatever, but I protest that it is a monstrous thing to ask this House to believe that it was intimidation practised against the men because they were Protestants, because we have evidence that the intimidation was used equally against Catholics who took the same line at the election. As a matter of fact what is the position of the Protestants in the county of Louth? Take the town of Dundalk, 1240 which is mainly a Catholic town, and the business of which depends mainly upon the Catholic population in the town and outside. The chief traders and business men of that town are Protestants. They are successful and thriving Protestant traders. Their trade depends entirely upon the good-will and the custom of their Catholic fellow countrymen, and in the name of those Catholics of Dundalk and the county of Louth I protest with all the vehemence of which I am capable against the suggestion that these attacks were conducted against men because they were Protestants. There were only five of these cases mentioned in a constituency of several thousands, and you are asked, because of these five deplorable cases, to disfranchise the Constituency.
You are told that the Unionist minority, which the hon. and learned Gentleman called the Protestant minority, were intimidated, and his proof of this consists of these five cases which he has produced. There are in the Constituency, I am credibly informed, some 800 Unionist voters. Did they abstain from voting? No, because the poll at the last election was a larger poll than before, and therefore I say that the attempt made by the hon. and learned Gentleman—in no party spirit as he says—the attempt which he has made must fail. He endeavoured to induce the House of Commons to believe that because five men were insulted or attacked in the Constituency, and these five men happened to be Protestants, notwithstanding the fact that others were attacked who were Catholics—he tried to make out that from these facts the House is to be led to infer that there was something in the nature of a Catholic and Protestant row over the election. That is all I desire to say. We deplore that there has been any interference with freedom of speech or with the freedom of any single man in the constituency. I deplore it most earnestly, and all through my public life I have done my best to see that perfect freedom of speech is given to every man who has differed from me in public life in Ireland, and I sincerely trust that in every election in future that will be done, but whether that happens always or not, we cannot say, we cannot control. Some men are so unpopular that they cannot go down to address a public meeting in the town hall of Birmingham without having their lives endangered, and we well know that when cases like that take place we ought not to wonder, because there is a limit to 1241 human endurance. You cannot prevent turmoil and trouble in exciting times everywhere, but I say my colleagues and I desire to do it, and that, so far as this election was concerned, we regret that there was any interference with freedom of speech or freedom of action even on the part of five men; but we say that no case whatever has been made out why the constituency should be punished by the withholding of this writ, and I ask the House of Commons to defeat the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Rufus Isaacs)
I have intervened at an early stage of this Debate in accordance with the practice of the House of Commons, that a Law Officer should address the House and, to the best of his ability, state to the House what the position is with regard to the matter before it. Of course, the House is entirely free to follow its own view. The House is quite master of the situation, but it must remember that this matter has been inquired into before by two Judges, that it has taken some ten days for the examination of witnesses, that there was a great deal of examination and cross-examination of those witnesses, and the speeches of counsel on both sides which the learned Judges who tried the case heard. They must not forget that over 150 witnesses were examined during the course of this Petition, and that the Judges, after hearing the evidence, considered it most carefully. It is quite clear that they did that as both the learned Judges have said after considering it again and again, and after repeated conferences with each other they came to the conclusion which they have stated in their Report to this House, which is before the House, and which is to the effect that they do not report that in that constituency as a whole undue influence or corrupt or illegal practices prevail, or that there was reason to believe that such corrupt or illegal practices did prevail. That is a very important finding. The House will allow me to say it is the important finding in this matter. We have to be very careful in considering the question which is now before the House which has in a sense not only to consult and safeguard its own honour and dignity, but also is acting in a judicial capacity. We have, therefore, to keep before us what the ques-is upon which the House has to pronounce judgment. May I point out, as no doubt the vast majority of Members know, we 1242 are not considering here whether the Petitioner proved his charges against the Respondent—we are not considering here either the interests of one party or the other—we are not concerned either in the slightest degree with the parties in the matter which is before us, or whether the voters were Protestants or Roman Catholics. What we have to determine is whether the Report of the Judges who have given study to this matter justifies the House in arriving at the conclusion that the constituency should be disfranchised—that a large number of voters, 5,761, on this register, shall lose their vote because of occurrences of this kind.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
The question is whether they shall lose their vote for four months, which they will do if the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman is carried, because there are altogether apparently seven persons who have been found guilty, out of a total of 5,761, of undue influence; five persons have been found guilty of bribery and eight persons have been found guilty of treating. That is the result of all this examination and of all this inquiry before the Judges. I desire at the outset to state what I am quite sure the House will already have gathered from me, that in what I am about to state to the House and in what I have already stated I am putting forward my views, and I am not in the slightest degree intending or meaning that I am dealing for the moment either with one party or the other. What I wish to deal with is the constitutional question which arises. I do not propose either to go into the details of the cases which have been referred to, because I do not think hat really helps us. We have the judgment of the learned judges. The hon. Member has selected the best material that there is in the judgment—I do not complain of it, it is quite natural—and in order that he might make his observations as pointed as possible he has put before us the best that can be found in the whole of this volume, containing many pages from his point of view and the worst as concerns the constituency. The reason I do not go into the discussion of the acts of the particular persons involved in the charges, or who have been assailed—eight cases, I think—is because it would be impossible to do so, as the cases of a number of persons who are charged are before my 1243 right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General for Ireland, who will have to determine what course should be taken in accordance with the law in consequence of this decision. That makes it impossible to discuss the various detailed items of evidence in regard to the persons implicated. I pass from that to this observation, that accepting all that is said by the learned judges as I do, and condemning as I do, and as I think every hon. Member of this House must—condemning in the very strongest terms the course of conduct which has been pursued by those persons who are implicated in the report of the learned judges, deploring as one must do the interference which has been described by the learned judges, we still must come to the real question, which is, is the constituency to be disfranchised?
May I point out to the House why it is that the judges report, as they do invariably in accordance with the Act of Parliament, to you, Mr. Speaker, in reference to this matter, not only that they do not find—if that was the fact—that there was undue influence, or either corrupt or illegal practices prevailing in the constituency as a whole, but that they have to go on to state whether they have reason to believe that such corrupt or illegal practices have prevailed. That is the most important difference between these two reports. In the first what the learned judges are dealing with is the evidence which is before them and on which they have come to the conclusion on the sworn testimony whether corrupt and illegal practices have prevailed in the constituency as a whole. But when they have disposed of that their duty is not finished, because this House requires the judges to do something further, and that is to say whether, notwithstanding that there may not be legal proof in this case of undue influence and illegal practices, yet the judges nevertheless have reason to believe or seriously to suspect that the practices which have prevailed in this constituency would amount either to undue influence or corrupt or illegal practices. It is their duty to report that under the Act of Parliament.
The House will see at once why that is. When the House has got that report it determines whether or not there shall be a Royal Commission appointed on a joint address of both Houses of Parliament in order to inquire into the report of the judges, and then the report comes back, and this House 1244 determines what shall happen as the result of that Commission. I will ask the House to bear in mind, on the constitutional aspect, how important that is. If the Royal Commission issues the effect is that the constituency is on its trial. It is no longer a question of a petition against the particular sitting member. The constituency has an opportunity of being heard. The judges or the Royal Commissioners go to inquire, and they cite those witnesses whom they think necessary before them, in order that they can examine into all the circumstances, and then they report to the House, as was done in the Worcester Petition. In the Worcester Petition the judges reported that they had reason to believe that corrupt and illegal practices prevailed extensively throughout the constituencies.
§ Sir R. ISAACS
The hon. and learned Member knows quite well that does not affect the question. In terms intimidation is not mentioned, but it is surely a corrupt or illegal practice.
§ Sir R. ISAACS
Everything is in a sense for the House to decide, but intimidation is actually one of the practices mentioned in the Statute as a corrupt or illegal practice. If there is intimidation, of course, the judges have to refer to it, and that is the reason why the judges refer to it in this report. When that came before this House the House, as the result of a joint address with the other House, obtained a Royal Commission, which was sent to Worcester and inquired exhaustively into the judges' report and into this system of corruption and illegal practices, and the result was that the Commission reported that amongst the poorest classes of voters they did find that there were some 500 who had been bribed, and therefore came within the category of persons guilty of corrupt practices. Thereupon the Commission reported to the House, and the House delayed for a short time, in order that the then Attorney-General, Sir John Lawson Walton, might consider what course he should take. Subsequently, when the matter came before the House again in a few weeks, there was a Debate, and it was pointed out by the Attorney-General that he desired to have a little more time, as the report had only just come, so that he might enquire and see what course should 1245 be pursued. The matter came on again on 17th December, 1906. There was not a much longer sitting of the House and the matter was postponed until the beginning of February, 1907, and then there was a Debate upon it and a Motion proposed, and in the end, I think by a majority of two, the writ was refused. But the important point is that, in reference to Worcester, you have first the report of the judges, which is a condition precedent to the joint address for a Royal Commission, and, having got your report from the judges, and the Commission having proved that there was an extensive system of bribery, the House naturally did what it was perfectly right in doing, and what it is always bound to do, it expressed its view upon the report of the Commission. There is this essential difference, therefore, in the case we are now dealing with and the Worcester case. In this case the judges have reported that they have no reason to believe that there was this extensive system of either corrupt or illegal practices, and, further, there has been no Royal Commission issued, and there has been no report. When I come to deal with the Amendment I will point out what a very important matter that is, and I shall submit that the course which has been taken by the hon. and learned Member is quite novel. There is no precedent for it at all. I know no case in which there has been such a Motion produced without any Commission having sat to inquire and report to the House. No Commission can be issued in the ordinary course upon the joint address of both Houses—the ordinary constitutional practice—because there is not the condition precedent to that joint address, on a report of the judges that corrupt and illegal practices had extensively prevailed in the constituencies. That is fatal to the Amendment, and it is a complete answer.
Just consider what it is that the hon. and learned Member is asking the House to do. Because you have some sixteen or seventeen persons out of these 5,761 electors who have been found guilty by the judges of corrupt and illegal practices, you are to say that for four months you are to disfranchise the constituency. That is practically for the whole of the Session, or until next year, except that it will allow some very short interval of time during which a Member, if returned, could be present here. But what is to happen during that four months? What is the justification for the House of Commons saying that the electors, who have a right 1246 constitutionally to be represented here, are to be deprived of that right? If you have the justification of the report of the judges or the Report of the Royal Commission consequent upon the report of the judges, of course, you have the amplest justification for any course of that character which you may take. But when the constituency has never been heard upon its defence the House is to be asked to visit it with the serious punishment of four months' disfranchisement, when, as I say, it has never had an opportunity of putting itself right before either judges or Commissioners who would be sent down in the ordinary course to inquire into the matter. I ask the House to bear in mind that this is a novel form of procedure to which this House has never resorted, and I will say something further which I am quite sure will have the support of nearly every Member of the Houses, and certainly of those who have been law officers. Ever since 1868 this House has parted with its primary control over these controverted elections. It no longer sits as a Committee or appoints its own Committee to inquire into these allegations of corrupt practices, and it has delegated the functions of the House to the judges, thinking it better in its wisdom that there should be inquiries by the judges who should pronounce upon the matter after hearing the evidence. I have looked into the precedents and I know of no case in which the judges' findings have been set at naught or in which there has been any Motion by this House refusing to give effect to the findings of the judges. I am not suggesting for the moment that the House has not the power to do it if it chooses. I certainly should not like to-lay it down as my view that, notwithstanding the reports of the judges, the House of Commons could not, if it thought right, come to some different conclusion, but the House never has done it, and' never will do it without examining the evidence and without seeing and hearing all the witnesses.
If you do accept the judges' report, as the House always has done, the result is that we ought not to give effect to the Amendment. We ought to take our stand on what the judges have said, and it would be a great injustice to this constituency if it was to be disfranchised on the Amendment. I cannot help saying—and I am quite sure the hon. and learned Member will bear me out in this—that reading through the evidence and the judgment the one thing which is very plain 1247 was that there had been treating, and, as the judges show, drink was at the bottom of the whole of this trouble. Again and again, it is pointed out, particularly by Mr. Justice Gibson, who says that by eleven o'clock in the morning there was a drunken crowd. I am not suggesting that it is entirely due to drink, but a great deal of the disturbance which took place was in consequence of drink. My advice to the House will be to allow the Writ to be issued and to vote against the Amendment, viewing this matter, as I am sure the House will, not as a party matter at all. Although I am speaking on behalf of the Government and stating the view at which I have arrived and the view which the Government take in the matter, it certainly is not the intention that the Government Whips should be put on to tell in the Division The matter must be left entirely open to the House of Commons. I conclude by asking the House of Commons to pause long and to hesitate long before it acts contrary to all precedents, before it takes a step that would really disfranchise a constituency which, if the opportunity were afforded, would show that there was no ground for saying that there was at the recent election general intimidation or general corrupt practices. On these grounds I ask the House of Commons to reject the Amendment.
§ Sir EDWARD CARSON
Before I come to the observations of the learned Attorney-General, may I refer for a few moments to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond)? He is never tired of telling us in this House of his great anxiety for fair play being shown to the northern part of Ireland. I can assure you that you hear a great deal more of it in this House than in Ireland, and I think if the hon. and learned Gentleman really wanted to give us confidence in those assurances, of which I have no doubt he will hear frequently in this House in the course of next year, he could have got up and said to the Government that it would be a very good example to accede to the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend (Mr. Moore). I think he would have been doing far more in that way to show his earnestness and some degree of that fair play of which even a scintilla does not exist among those whom he wishes to remain possessed of the franchise. There is another matter to which the hon. and learned Member referred. He commenced with the usual 1248 taunt that we have seized this opportunity for bringing the case of the Protestants and the Unionists of Ireland before the House. [Cheers.] That is received with cheers. Why! that is what we are here for. The idea of hon. Members below the Gangway as to the way of carrying out fair play towards Ireland is that they should have a monopoly in bringing before the House the case of their friends, but every time we attempt to bring before the House the case of the minority we ought to be taunted with that as a matter unworthy of political representatives. I do not think that we mind very much the taunt of the hon. and learned Gentleman or other hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. We know perfectly well that there is nothing would please them better than that we should never be heard in this House at all. We know perfectly well that there is nothing they hate more than that we should bring up the treatment of the minority in Ireland, because it is much easier to carry out oppression if oppression is never heard of. I can assure the hon. and learned Member that he may taunt us as often as he likes, but we will go on whether we are called Protestants or Unionists, or, as we are called by his friends in Louth Orange bastards, or, as the Chief Secretary for Ireland would call us, "carrion crows." We shall go on under all these amenities of public life, doing the best we can for those with whom we are concerned in Ireland.
Nobody can read this report without seeing that the election which took place in Louth was one which, to talk of it as free election would be an entire misnomer. There was really no election. There was a period of violence, ending in the success of a Member of this House who has been unseated by the learned judges who tried the petition. I put this to the Attorney-General. It is really ridiculous in the face of this report to say to anybody who will read it and take the trouble to understand it, that if you now give another election you are going to have a free election, such as we understand it as laid down by the law. Are you going to tell me that in an election to-morrow, in which those men who went through what is described in the evidence in this case would take part you are going to take the risk again? In point of fact, do you think that any candidate would be found to go down and take the same risks as Mr. Healy did? What is it that is called an election there? What is it that you are asking to repeat? for that is what it comes to. The candidate when 1249 he goes down will not dare to hold a meeting during the whole campaign. From the time Mr. Healy went down there he was not able to hold a single meeting. In the first two days, the windows of his committee rooms were smashed, and from that time they remained boarded up. From 28th November to 8th December the polling day, Mr. Healy did not attempt to canvass the electors. Do you think Mr. Healy is the kind of man to be intimidated? His efforts in Dundalk were confined to the committee rooms in which he was protected by a large force of police, while others were posted along he road. According to Mr. Henderson, the district inspector, the number of police retained for this duty would be thirty-five or forty, and special arrangements had to be made beforehand by ascertaining when Mr. Healy would leave his hotel, and this was necessary to avoid a breach of the peace. Then the judge goes on to say:—The state of things I have described is deplorable. It represents the exclusion of a candidate from his rights as a citizen.Is the next candidate to go down to-morrow and be excluded from his rights as a candidate and his rights as a citizen? Can you expect anybody of independence or self-respect to go down to a place where those things have so recently occurred. There is another matter to which I would earnestly call the attention of the Government. I pass over now the imprisonment of Mr. Healy on the polling day. That seems to be treated as a very light matter. I will pass over the fact that on the polling day a large number of people were injured, but I desire to make this remark. When the hon. and learned Member for Water-ford and the Attorney-General talk of the few number of people who are mentioned in the evidence as having been intimidated do they have any power of imagination at all? Do they not realise what it is for those men to come up in Louth before the judges and give their evidence? Do they not wonder that the witnesses come at all? Do they not know perfectly well that every man who came up to give evidence ran the risk of injury to himself or his property? We have the miserable story of the two Murdocks who came up to give evidence. One of them was accused of being a coward, and the judge, who knew something of the district, would not adopt that suggestion, but rather gave his sympathy to the man who, under the compulsion of a subpœna had to come forward and face the terrible consequences which might, 1250 and which did, occur to him for coming forward on this occasion.
Therefore, I say that the number of cases proved is as nothing compared with the number of cases which may have occurred. Let me call the attention of the House to this, because it is really a most important part of the judgment. The judge said that in his opinion for a considerable period the proceedings at Louth inclined him to infer general intimidation, but on consideration of the numbers voting he had come to the conclusion that he was mistaken. His Lordship added that the intimidation practised, however, "suggests plan and system and not a casual ebullition." To that, I believe, is due almost all the rows and riots that take place at elections in this country. You had the whole force of one of the most powerful organisations that has ever existed—the United Irish League—at the back of this intimidation. You had them paying the expense and employing those people, and you had system and plan, and not a mere ebullition. Have the system and plan gone? Has the United Irish League gone? No, Sir; you have all the same material existing there as existed on the day of the polling. The Attorney-General tells the House that you are going to have free election in that constituency with all the same machinery for intimidation and all the same machinery for dragging into the dirt the very idea of representative institutions in this country.
There is another matter mentioned in the course of this report about which I must say a word. It is the matter of the illiterates. Perhaps the Attorney-General does not know as well as I do the facts in relation to the number of illiterates voting in elections in Ireland. Nothing shows the constant and continuous intimidation which is practised there as much as the statistics of illiterates voting in elections in Ireland. It is quite misleading to suppose that the proportion of illiterate voters is nearly as great as would appear from the statistics. We all know perfectly well in Ireland that the electors are canvassed beforehand, and if they are suspected, they are told that they must declare themselves illiterate, and must go into the polling booth and get the paper signed so that it will be known how they vote. What happened in this case? Nothing shows more the amount of intimidation that took place than the statement at page 11 of the judges' report. Listen to this: "The second and more weighty point is that fifty-nine of those 1251 who declared inability to read in December had voted in the ordinary way in the January before." You do not forget how to read between January and December. Does not the Attorney-General when he talks of three or four or a dozen people, see anything behind that loss of power of reading by these unfortunate people, who have, because they have lost the power of reading in those few months, to make a false declaration? Not that they like making false declarations; but they have to do so. Can a more pitiable example of the demoralisation of a whole constituency be shown than by this one fact? The Attorney-General says there is no precedent for the Motion now proposed, and I have no doubt he has looked conscientiously and carefully into the matter. But I think there is no precedent for allowing a Writ in conditions similar to those disclosed to-day. We put the case upon this broad ground, that if the Motion is novel so are the circumstances, and that it will be asking this constituency to go through a farce, while there is this organised system of intimidation in existence to proceed immediately with the new election after this petition. We say it is a reasonable thing not to disfranchise the constituency, but we also say that it is a reasonable thing to have some short postponement of the issue of the Writ in order that there may be some chance of matters returning to their normal condition in Louth, if a normal condition as we understand it ever exists there at all. I quite agree with the Attorney-General as to a Report from a Royal Commission. That has many objects, one of the most important being to investigate the facts and get at—because there are very wide powers given to those Commissioners—the individuals who have been guilty of these various practices. But the Attorney General does not suggest for one moment that there may not be circumstances in which this House ought to interfere, and I submit that it would be ridiculous and absurd for us, on whom is is thrown the duty of, as far as possible, seeing that men returned to this House are returned by the free votes of electors, to allow this Writ to be issued.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. Redmond Barry)
I think that the House will agree that the right hon. Gentleman has omitted—and very remarkably so—challenging the proposition laid down by my right hon. Friend the 1252 Attorney-General (Sir Rufus Isaacs) to the effect that the uniform practice of this House has been not to interfere in the direction suggested by this Amendment, except in one special set of circumstances. That is when the election judges have reported to this House that corrupt practices have extensively prevailed in the district, or that there is reason to believe that they did extensively prevail. The House will remember how very pointedly the Attorney-General expressed the view of the Government, which is that the uniform practice of the House has, ever since the passing of the Act in 1868, been to act upon that principle. The matter has been discussed on frequent occasions in this House, and the law officers of both parties have been heard upon it, and there has been a long uninterrupted agreement between them, as I understand the precedents down to the present moment, to the effect that the House should not interpose except under some such conditions as I have indicated. It is very easy, of course, for the right hon. Member to pick out special individual cases for criticism, and beyond all doubt deplorable instances did occur during this election, both of intimidation, of bribing, and treating; and these cases, as my right hon. Friend has pointed out, will, of course, become necessarily the subject matter of investigation elsewhere; but the existence of these special cases, it must be agreed upon the precedents, is no ground whatever for taking the course that is proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Armagh; and it would be thoroughly inconvenient, particularly for me to follow the investigation into these special cases, for the reason that I have indicated, that each and every one of them will probably become the subject matter of investigation in the criminal courts in Ireland in the near future. But has the right hon. Gentleman in any way challenged at all the proposition of the Attorney-General?
This matter has been considered on repeated occasions in this House, and perhaps the House will allow me to read one or two passages from a Debate which took place on the Motion for the issue of a Writ for Rochester City on 3rd February, 1893. On that occasion the late Lord Russell was the Attorney-General, and he spoke in the Debate in presence of the present Lord Alverstone, Sir Richard Webster, as he then was. The first thing he discussed was what the law and practice of Parliament had been on such a question as this. The proposal was then 1253 made, as it is now, to suspend the writ. In that case there was not, as there is not in this case, any report from the judges to the effect that any extensive corrupt practices had prevailed in the course of the election or that there was any reason for believing that they had prevailed; and the right hon. Gentleman will find that upon that distinct specific ground both these learned Members of this House agreed that the House should not interpose and should not suspend the writ. Lord Russell said:—But while my hon. Friend gave the House some portions of the evidence it is not possible to consider in all its fulness that evidence unless it is fully before the House, and even if it were it would be impossible for this House to constitute itself the judge of that evidence, and go behind the report and the results founded on the evidence by the learned judges whose responsible duty it was to try this petition.And, he adds:—If the House came to the conclusion that the evidence in the case was such as to justify the imputation of the existence of widespread and general corruption in the borough the Government of the day on whom the responsible duty was imposed proceeded to the next step, which was to bring in an Act for the disfranchisement of the borough.That, he pointed out, was the practice prior to the Act of 1868; but a notable feature in this Debate is that the hon. and learned Gentleman makes no such proposition to the House at all. His proposal, as I understand it, is for a mere suspension for a period of four months to be followed by the establishment of a commission of inquiry, and, above all, not to be followed by a Bill for the disfranchisement of the constituency. Later on, Lord Russell said:—The House will recollect that under the more recent Acts the mode of procedure has been entirely changed, and now, instead of a Committee of the House having cast upon it the duty of enquiring into the alleged corrupt practices, that duty is performed by the judges of the land, and their report takes the place formerly occupied by the report of a Committee of this House.He was followed by Sir Richard Webster, who stated:—I do not know that I could have expressed or should wish to express my understanding of the law in regard to this matter in better or clearer terms than the Attorney-General has used. I only desire to say this, that in the first place the interference of this House, whether based upon the report of the old Committee, or upon the report of the Election Judges has, so far as I know, never gone the length of interfering with the issue of a Writ unless there has been a distinct report that corrupt practices have extensively prevailed in the borough.
§ Mr. REDMOND BARRY
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that now, by express statutory definition under the Act of 1868, and most certainly by Section 3 1254 of the Corrupt Practices Act of 1883, corrupt practices is defined to mean treating, undue influence, bribery, and personation, and the right hon. Gentleman will find that in Section 2 of that Act undue influence includes the very charge of intimidation. All this was prior to 1893, when the discussion from which I am just now reading took place in the House. I may quote one other sentence from Sir Richard Webster:It is worthy of note on this case, that the language to which the hon. Member referred clearly indicated—whatever may be their criticism of certain practices—that neither of the learned judges thought there had been extensive corruption in this particular case. I should be disposed to say this, adding my observation merely to what the learned Attorney-General said, I believe the House has never for a great many years suspended the issue of a Writ unless prepared to direct a prosecution or to order an enquiry or direct a Bill to be brought in by the Government of the day, with a view to the disfranchisement of the borough.It was a most remarkable fact that the hon. and learned Member for Armagh disclaimed any such intention. He does not ask the House either to establish a Commission or to direct a Bill to be brought in by the Government with a view to the disfranchisement of the constituency. I do, therefore, think that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken is remarkable for the fact that he has failed absolutely to challenge the proposition laid down by the Attorney-General as to what the practice of the House has been, founded upon these precedents which I have just quoted. These instances of intimidation, bribery, and treating will be the subject matter of investigation in the Courts in Ireland, but I do submit that they constitute no ground whatever for the course suggested by the hon. and learned Member, which, if taken, would have the result of disfranchising the constituency for practically the whole of this Session. The increase in the number of illiterate voters which has been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman was one of the matters closely present in the minds of the learned judges who investigated this petition, and was discussed by both judges, particularly by Mr. Justice Gibson; and, in the result of the important fact for the consideration of this House, is that the tribunal to which this matter was committed decided that in their opinion no general intimidation did prevail, and no reason existed for believing that general intimidation did prevail, which is the essential condition laid down for such interference as the hon. and learned Member for Armagh proposes. I should like, in conclusion, to point out one other matter. It is a very notable thing that Mr. Justice 1255 Gibson, whose judgment has been so much quoted in the course of this Debate, after having discussed the question of general intimidation, and discussed as well specific cases of intimidation, of bribery, and of treating, on Page 18, says that he came to the sixth head, and he introduced that subject by saying that it was the last and, perhaps, the most important matter relied on as invalidating the election, and he referred to the alleged violation of the Act of 1895. The House will know, or anyone who has investigated the matter will know, that the reference was to the publication in the constituency of the charge against Mr. Healy of being connected with "placehunting." It is a remarkable circumstance that, in the estimation of Mr. Justice Gibson, this should be the most important matter relied upon as invalidating the election. I find that Mr. Justice Madden, on Page 23, with reference to the same point, said:—I shall deal in the first instance with the alleged violation of the provisions of the Illegal Practices Prevention Act, 1895. I do so because this is, in my opinion, the most important branch of our enquiry, both in itself and in its relation to the conduct of the election.It certainly is a most notable circumstance that two learned judges, when all this evidence of intimidation was brought before them, and when they gave their judgment, should have placed primary reliance upon that matter of the violation of the Act of 1895. But this, of course, could not be put forward by the hon. and learned Member as any ground whatever for the course that he is now inviting the House to take. I submit, according to the clear practice, as absolutely settled by this House in relation to such questions as that now at issue, that no case has been made out by the hon. and learned Member for the Amendment he has proposed.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I cannot help thinking that the House must feel that the Attorney-General, in the speech which he has just made, has treated the matter solely and exclusively as one of legal precedent. I do not know any reason why it should be treated entirely as a matter of legal precedent, having regard to the statement very properly made by the Attorney-General for England, that he would not attempt, or could not attempt, to exclude the right of the House of Commons to deal with a matter of this kind on its merits, and without regard to technical considerations 1256 on one side or the other. I would point out, in answer to the statement made by the Attorney-General, that the uniform practice in matters of this kind has been only to deal with one case, that is to say, where corrupt practices have extensively prevailed. It really would have been useful to the House if either the Attorney-General for England or the Attorney-General for Ireland had explained to an audience of laymen what is the meaning of the doctrine of the extensive prevalence of corrupt practices. It has a technical meaning. It does not in the least mean what the ordinary lay Member of the House may assume it to mean. It has not necessarily any relation to the number of persons who carry on these practices, or the number of persons who are convicted of them. What it does mean is the extent to which corrupt practices have taken place in relation to the number of voters and to the result on the particular election. It is obvious that the Law Officers of the Crown both for England and Ireland are not placing the whole facts of the case before the House, and they say that the matter of corrupt practices extensively prevailing is a purely technical consideration. I understood that was the argument of the Attorney-General. If it was not his argument, then I am quite at a loss to see where is the distinction between the Worcester case and the Louth case. Having heard the Debate on the Worcester case, and read the judgment in that case, I take it the distinction attempted to be set up between the Worcester case and the Louth case is that in the former the judges found that corrupt practices did extensively prevail. If that is so, the question, and the only question the House has to consider, is in the moral and not in a technical sense. In reply to the Attorney-General for Ireland, I would point out that if it be true that my right hon. Friend (Sir E. Carson) did not deal at length with the technical question, he certainly did deal very extensively with the moral question, and received no answer of any kind at all.
What, in fact, was the argument of the Attorney-General for England? It was that if you examine the number of cases, only seven persons were found guilty of undue influence, five were guilty of bribery, and eight were guilty of treating. He said that twenty persons out of five thousand were guilty of corrupt practices, and was the House on that number to come to the conclusion against the judges that corrupt practices extensively pre- 1257 vailed? May I be allowed to point out, in the first place, that if the House of Commons arrive at that conclusion there is no sense in which with propriety that conclusion could be arrived at against the finding of the judges. The judges most carefully laid down that, in arriving at their conclusion, that corrupt practices had not extensively prevailed, they were dealing only with the technical question with relation to the result on the election. The Attorney-General asked whether we are to disenfranchise Louth because twenty persons out of 5,000 have been guilty of illegal practices. For myself, I think a far more satisfactory criterion is that the House of Commons should deal with this matter in the moral sense. Is there any Member of the House, wherever he sits, who will be bold enough to get up and say that if the Writ is issued tomorrow in Louth, a fair election is likely to be possible. I specifically ask the Attorney-General for Ireland, apart from the technical argument, whether he will take upon himself the responsibility of saying that, in his opinion, if the Writ were issued to-morrow there would be a fair election. I follow up that question by another—if the Attorney-General for Ireland is not prepared to assure the House that there would be a fair election if one were held to-morrow, may I ask the Attorney-General for England whether this case is not expressly one of those which he so carefully reserved when he said there were cases in which the House of Commons might properly intervene? I would point out that the hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke below the Gangway did not contend that if an election took place in Louth to-morrow it would be a fair one. No one who has read the judgment could possibly put forward that contention.
I may perhaps be allowed to summarise the terms of the judgment. It comes to this, that when Mr. Healy went down to Louth to commence his campaign he was confined to his committee rooms, which he could not leave except in the company of 150 or 200 of his friends, and he was protected by a large force of police. Is there a single Member of this House, wherever he sits, who would say that he was having a fair election, if, on going down to his constituency to begin his campaign, he could not go out into the streets unless accompanied by 150 or 200 of his friends, and guarded by a body of forty police. I ask this further question—will anyone give us a guarantee that if there is an election 1258 in this constituency to-morrow, and Mr. Healy goes down there, the services of 150 friends and of forty or fifty police would not be required by him? What happened on the actual polling day in the Hackbalscross district? There was a large and excited crowd. That crowd was attacked by a larger crowd, which then assaulted Mr. Healy, and probably would have inflicted serious injuries upon him if he had not been rescued and protected by the police. The judges found on this in terms that a deplorable state of things existed in Louth, and that as far as Mr. Healy was concerned he was excluded from the pursuance of his candidature and from his rights as a citizen. What is the use of lawyers telling us here that there has been no general intimidation? Can it be said that there was no general intimidation because only the names of fifteen persons are mentioned?
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I certainly understood the Attorney-General for England to ask the specific question, Because twenty people are guilty of illegal practices is that a reason for disfranchising 5,000? The fair and reasonable answer to that is that it was not a case of twenty persons being guilty of illegal practices; it was the case of a crowd assuming the whole control of the election from the moment Mr. Healy commenced his campaign to the moment when Mr. Healy was violently assaulted within the polling booth by a large crowd, who prevented him from exercising his rights as a candidate. If that is true, it is obvious that there was here a case of genuine intimidation of the clearest possible kind. I take another passage in the judgment, that dealing with the Hackbalscross. The judges found that there were fourteen police on duty, and throughout the day Mr. Healy's voters were boohed and jeered at by an organised crowd. Who organised that crowd? I do not know, but I might perhaps ask hon. Gentlemen below the gangway who organised it. Is it suggested this is a case in which there was no genuine intimidation in the moral sense. We have Mr. Healy prevented from pursuing his candidature, and we have the crowd jeering and boohing Mr. Healy's voters. Is it suggested that this was not an exercise of general intimidation against the supporters of Mr. Healy? We find in the report that fifty-nine persons declared their inability to 1259 write in December, but they voted in January. How did the Attorney-General for Ireland deal with that? Anyone who listened to the argument of my right hon. Friend (Sir E. Carson) will admit that the reason that these fifty-nine were able to write in January, and not able to write in December, was that they were afraid to give their votes. Nobody will dispute that conclusion at all. The Attorney-General says that these facts were before the judges, who did not find that there was general intimidation. That is not an argument, with all respect to the Attorney-General, that a lawyer ought to address to an audience of laymen, because they would only conclude that the judges did not mean general intimidation in the popular and moral sense, instead of which the judges report as to its effect on this election. However gross this intimidation might be on general grounds, if it did not affect the election the judges would have found in the same way. This is what the judge said:—After patient consideration of the entire evidence we have come to the conclusion, my learned brother and I, that though not in person guilty of overt acts save so far as Byrne used the expression Orangeman in presence of a booing crowd, Byrne and Dr. McGinnity sanctioned and connived at the lawless proceedings going on under their eyes on the part of a mob which, when attacking the police, they were able to control.Let the House observe what that finding comes to, and the findings of the Judges have been accepted by all parties—by the Leader of the Irish party and by the Law Officers. It comes to this, that two prominent supporters of the successful candidate connived at and sanctioned lawless proceedings going on under their eyes on the part of a mob which was attacking the police, and which they could have controlled if they had attempted to control it. Here is a case in which we are told that there is no general intimidation, and that there ought not to be a short suspension before the writ is issued, on the ground that there has not been intimidation. This is a case where you find an organised crowd preventing the electors exercising the simple freedom of the franchise and destroying the whole efficient working of representative institutions. Reliance is placed on the absence of names, and because of all that crowd in the case of only one name is identification possible, showing how entirely fallacious is the argument that because many names are not forthcoming that there has not been general intimidation. Let me invite the 1260 House to consider the language in which the judge summarised the whole case:—To summarise, the Election must be declared void upon the following grounds. Corrupt practices by the agents; that is undue influence, bribery and treating; illegal practices by agents, that is, payments otherwise than by the election agent; payment for conveyance of voters to and from the poll; false statements of fact for the purpose of affecting the return of T. M. Healy in relation to his personal character and conduct published by the respondent's election agent and circulated at his expense, and which materially assisted the return of Mr. Hazleton.I do not suppose that anyone will dispute if I say that here you have a remarkable accumulation of illegal practices, everyone of which has been found by the judges to exist in the constituency. Before the House can arrive at a conclusion in this matter surely it is very desirable that in all parts of the House we should be clear as to the principle on which this jurisdiction rests, and on which it ought to be exercised by the House. I agree with the historical retrospect of the Attorney-General. He spoke of the period at which the decision of these matters was diverted, for well understood and generally approved reasons, from the House of Commons to the judges. But the House of Commons, it is equally well known, has always retained in its own hands the power of dealing with the finding of the judges when such findings have been reported to the House. On what principle ought the House of Commons to exercise the jurisdiction which we still retain, because it is clear that unless there is some agreement as to the power on which it is exercised it would be impossible for the House to give what it is desirable the House should give, namely, a consistent decision, and a decision which agreed with their own views. On this point we have the great advantage of having the guidance which was given to the House of Commons by the then Attorney-General (Sir John Lawson Walton) in the case of the Worcester Petition. I hope I have satisfied the House whatever technical distinction may be established between Worcester and Louth, no moral distinction of any kind can be established. In fact, if a moral distinction could be established, it would be more in favour of postponing the Louth Petition than there was for postponing the Worcester Petition, because it is obvious there is a stronger reason for postponing the writ for Louth than there was in the case of Worcester. Sir John Lawson Walton, speaking on 17th December, 1906, said:—If they were to ignore all these facts and issue the writ in not haste, what became of the law which remained to be vindicated.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I agree that the principle is maintained. The then Attorney-General, proceeding, asked would it not make the task of purifying elections very much more difficult if it could be said that on the Motion of one of the great political parties the House threw that principle to the winds. Worcester was very severely punished after the Attorney-General had made those observations. The matter did not arise until 14th February, 1907, when the question of the issue of the writ was again on. The Attorney-General (Sir John Lawson Walton) rose and informed the House that, in the view of the Government, the matter ought to be left to the House of Commons, and that the Government would not oppose the writ. Mr. Hemmerde, who was then a Member, opposed the writ, and gave reasons which commended themselves to large numbers of hon. Gentlemen opposite and to hon. Gentlemen from Ireland below the Gangway, who voted that the issue of the writ should be suspended, and who were parties to that disfranchisement of Worcester. What were the arguments used by Mr. Hemmerde? Mr. Hemmerde said that the House was jealous of the purity of elections. He earnestly asked the House whether they would be justified in allowing an election to take place in which the sole question would be who was responsible for the Petition. That argument appeared so forcible that other speakers complimented Mr. Hemmerde upon the clearness with which he stated that point of view. The hon. Gentleman who followed him on the same side also made it clear that if an election was immediately to occur the only question would be who had been responsible for the Petition. The House of Commons on that occasion, by a majority of two, and obviously there was a considerable minority which would have been a majority if it had not been for the votes of Irish Members, the House decided that although Worcester had been punished by a year's disfranchisement that punishment had not been adequate or complete, and so it was disfranchised for a further term of one year.
I cannot help thinking that the punishment of disfranchisement, and in this I agree with the Attorney-General, is a very severe one. For my own part I entertain the strongest possible objections to it. The most obvious objection to the punishment is that, and I think Members of the 1262 House of Commons in all parts ought to appreciate this, that it is a confession of weakness of our judicial side. If you disfranchise a constituency it is quite certain you will disfranchise many innocent persons. In the case of Worcester or Louth, of course, the House of Commons would find it difficult to identify individuals, and in order to punish a few you are going to deprive the whole of a constituency of representation. That is a very grave step to take, and I agree with the Attorney-General for Ireland that it is a step the House of Commons ought to delay very greatly before committing itself to. I would venture to say that there is one ground, and one ground only, which justifies this House in disfranchising a single elector in any constituency, and that is a ground, and an appropriate ground, of public policy. And that is if it has been made out and established that there is grave doubt that a fair election can be held if a new election is ordered by the House of Commons. Beside that question whether a fair election can be held, those technical points of precedents and of distinctions between widespread intimidation in the legal sense and in the moral and popular sense ought not to weigh in the balance for a moment. The only question is, can a fair election be held? I challenge any fair-minded man in any part of the House, and I will not exclude from this challenge hon. Gentlemen from Ireland sitting below the Gangway, who always have the courage of their opinions, and I would ask them two questions, first are they here to give the House of Commons any assurance that there will be a fair election. If they say that they are able to give such an assurance, we are entitled to ask the second question and press for an answer, and that is what guarantee have they that those who were responsible for the wholesale intimidation in December last will have seen the error of their ways, and that they are not further exasperated by the Petition and by these proceedings to-day?
§ Mr. BYLES
The House cannot complain of the lack of legal advice. I think four eminent lawyers have spoken from the benches opposite, some of them a little long-winded. There were two from these benches, and one from the Nationalist Benches who addressed the House upon this subject. Perhaps, therefore, the words of a common layman may be listened to for a moment or two. I propose to vote to refuse the issue of the writ 1263 for North Louth. I voted to refuse the issue of the writ for Worcester, and on precisely the same grounds I intend to give my vote against this writ. I am quite sure my great friend, Sir Charles Dilke, who always took a very strong line, and who taught me a good deal about these matters, if he had been here would have led us into the No Lobby. I cannot forget that a very large number of hon. Members who are going into the No Lobby did not vote to refuse the writ for Worcester, and therefore cannot claim the consistency of which I am now boasting. I brush aside the ingenious legal cobwebs which have been spun for our edification, and I look at the thing from the commonsense point of view as it appears to me. I say that no one can read the judges' report and the evidence in this Petition and say that there has been a free and pure election. This question, as we have been told, is a question for the House of Commons and not for the Government. It is for the House to decide, and it is our duty to take care that only men who have a free, open, and pure and fair election sit on these benches as far as we can control. We have the opportunity of controlling now. I have been impressed, and am sure others here have been impressed with the argument put by the hon. and learned Member who has just spoken, and by the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin that you could not go to an election
§ to-morrow in the constituency of Louth and have a free and fair election. Hon. Members below the Gangway opposite have been challenged to get up and say that we can, but they have not done so.
§ Mr. BYLES
It must be evident to everybody that at the last election there was a determined attempt on the part of the victorious party to defeat their opponents by any means. They would stick at nothing, and I have not the slightest doubt that that would be done again. I know I am going into what many people think is the wrong Lobby; therefore, I am driven to say that my motive for so acting is not my friendship for Mr. Healy, nor is it to support the minority in Ireland, some of whose arguments have nearly caused me to change my mind. I have the strongest possible sympathy with hon. Members below the Gangway opposite, and the strongest possible hostility politically to the Unionist group, who have proposed this Amendment. My sole motive in voting as I shall vote, and I hope some of my colleagues will join me, is to get free men freely elected to this House.
§ Question put, "That the proposed words be there inserted."
§ The House divided: Ayes. 164; Noes, 250.