The EARL of DONOUGHMORE
presented a petition from inhabitants and owners of property within the Parliamentary boundary of the city of Cork, complaining of the manner in which the officers charged with the preservation of the peace in that city discharged their duty at the last election, and praying for relief. He had intended to accompany the presentation of the petition with some remarks of his own, but as there was a petition in reference to this election under consideration in the other House of Parliament, he should refrain from doing so. He might, however, observe that for two days, during the election, the city of Cork was in the possession of a lawless mob.
The EARL of BANDON
said, he merely rose for the purpose of supporting the petition presented by the noble Earl, and to state that he could bear testimony to the disgraceful conduct represented in the petition.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, he observed that the petitioners prayed, amongst other things, that the House would devise some mode of protecting life and property during elections in Ireland. Without, however, questioning the allegations contained in the petition, he submitted that it would be disadvantageous in every way, if their Lordships' House were to raise discussions with respect to matters of that description, as they might thereby prejudice the impartial consideration of the election petition before the tribunals appointed to try their merits.
§ The EARL of DERBY
I do not think my noble Friend behind me is open to any censure on the part of the House, or of my noble Friend who has just sat down, for having in the performance of his duty, presented a petition, couched in most respectful terms, to this House, asking for the intervention of Parliament for the removal of that which, if it did exist at the last election, was undoubtedly a great evil; and stating facts connected with the locality from which the petition proceeded which were within the knowledge of the petitioners themselves, and on which they founded their prayer for some remedial measures. On the other hand, I concur with my noble Friend that a lengthened discussion, or an attempt to form a judgment with regard to the merits of a particular case, ought not to precede an inquiry, still less an attempt of the Legislature to pronounce an opinion upon a question of 777 this kind, when an inquiry will, in all probability, take place before the proper legal and constitutional tribunal in another place. I entirely concur with my noble Friend that such a course would be both unwise and impolitic. If I correctly understand my noble Friend behind me, he does not propose to institute any inquiry at the present moment. This case of Cork as detailed by the petitioners, I fear, is by no means a single one; and I am afraid that in the course of the approaching Session of Parliament very many petitions of a similar character will be presented by different parties in Ireland, and will undergo investigation, on oath, before those tribunals which are appointed for the especial purpose of inquiry into disputed elections. I think that before those Committees it is very possible that not only local but much general information of very considerable interest and importance may be produced; and I am far from saying that if the result should be that not only in one case but in several—from any quarter or by any body of men—the free exercise of the right of election has been tampered or interfered with in Ireland— I am far from saying that the result of such a mass of evidence from different quarters may not justify and render necessary the intervention of the Legislature for the purpose of preventing such an infringement of the law, and such an interference with the liberty of the subject. But, for the present, while I cannot concur with the noble Lord opposite (Lord Monteagle) that my noble Friend behind me is open to any censure for having presented the petition, I entirely agree in the propriety of our neither, in this nor any other similar case, prejudging questions which must be submitted to competent tribunals in the other House of Parliament.
§ Petition read, and ordered to lie on the table.