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Motion For A Return

Volume 217: debated on Tuesday 5 August 1873

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"That there be laid before the House, a Return, as per annexed form, as to each county in Ireland stating the name of Lieutenant and date of his appointment as such; names of the local Magistracy with dates of appointment, distinguishing resident front non-resident, and amount of property for which each Magistrate appears rated for the relief of the poor as Occupier and as Immediate Lessor, and stating whether usually resident or non-resident in County, in a tabular form."
His object in moving for this Return was to obtain the information with respect to counties in Ulster, and more especially as affecting the county of Louth. More than three years since, the then Chief Secretary for Ireland stated, in answer to a Question which he (Mr. Callan) had considered it his duty to put—
"That every influence would be used by the Government to have advantage taken of all fair and proper opportunities to reduce the inequalities admitted to exist in the undue disproportion of Protestants to Catholics on the magisterial bench."
And within the last few days the noble Marquess the Chief Secretary for Ireland, whom he regretted not to see in his place, stated that the promised revision had been completed in 26 counties in Ireland, including the county of Louth; and the noble Marquess took the opportunity of making a statement, not on his own authority, but on that of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland—"That every opportunity had been taken to remove the inequality existing between the Catholics and Protestants, so far at least as the landed property of Catholics would permit, and that there was no dissatisfaction in Ireland with regard to magisterial appointments, save amongst those—including himself—who had not been appointed to the Commission of the Peace." With regard to the dissatisfaction alleged to exist, he held in his hand a letter from one of the ablest, as he was one of the most retiring and unassuming, Bishops of his Church (the Bishop of Clogher). His Lordship wrote—
"May your efforts prove effectual in causing sums improvement of our magisterial condition. I have long believed, and often said, that we, in this province especially, are but half emancipated as long as our magisterial courts are constituted as they are. We are ever made to feel that all the penalties of the law are for us, and all its loop-holes for others. One section of the community feels that it cannot exercise its lawful privileges with safety, whilst another section feels it may defy the law, and violate it with impunity."
He would content himself with referring to one official document—the Report of the Commissioners of Enquiry held at Dungarvan in 1871, which recommended that where there was no Catholic qualified for the Commission of the Peace, a resident Catholic magistrate should be appointed; and the Lord Chancellor in transmitting this Report to the Lord Lieutenant pointed out that there were places, especially in the North of Ireland, where there was none or a very inadequate representation of Catholics on the bench, and recommended that wherever there was fit and competent persons their appointment should certainly take place. Now, in the county of Louth, where he (Mr. Callan) resided, out of a population of 70,000, 64,000 were Catholics; but out of a magistracy numbering 56 there were only 8 resident Catholics; and of 10 petty sessions benches, there were 5 on which there was not a single Catholic magistrate. Yet the House had Returns of the pro- perty qualification of 9 Catholic gentlemen of the county, which would well bear comparison with that of any other gentlemen on the Commission, and who were personally as well qualified in every respect. It might be, and indeed it had been said, that the present Chancellor had, in a great measure, reduced the inequalities existing in other places. He (Mr. Callan) held a Return, extracted from the records of the Hanaper Office, Ireland, from which it appeared that since the appointment of the present Chancellor, there had been 17 appointments to the magisterial bench in the county of Antrim, of whom only I was a Catholic; in Armagh, 16, of whom only 2 were Catholics; in Cavan, 13, of whom but 4 were Catholics; in Donegal, 19, of whom only 2 were Catholics; in Down, 33, of whom but 4 were Catholics; in Fermanagh, 9, of whom not even I was Catholic; in Londonderry, 20 Protestants, and only 1 Catholic; in Monaghan, 10, of whom 2 only were Catholics; in Tyrone, 17 Protestants, and only 1 Catholic. It was clear, then, that since the present Lord Chancellor came into office, instead of reducing the inequalities complained of, he had in reality considerably increased them. He therefore considered himself justified in moving for the Return.

said, that the Return would be entirely useless. The hon. Member seemed to imagine that a magistrate must have his qualification in the county for which he was acting. But this was not so—a qualification would enable a magistrate to act in one county as well as in another. A magistrate might become non-resident in the county for which he was originally appointed; but his qualification would enable him to act in the county in which he became resident. Moreover, rateable property was not the only qualification for a justice of the peace. It was clear that the Return was one which ought not to be granted.

objected to the Return on the ground that it raised a new qualification. The inference would be drawn that Roman Catholics were excluded from the magistracy on account of their religion, and that the Lord Chancellor ought to appoint a certain number of Roman Catholics, whether they were qualified or not,

said, that anyone acquainted with Ireland could vouch for the fact that there was no disposition on the part of the Irish Executive to make any distinction in the appointment of magistrates on account of creed. If Roman Catholic gentlemen were qualified by property and station for the commission of the peace, it was quite a mistake to suppose that there was the least desire to exclude them.

said, that at this time last Session the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) was adopting a similar line of argument to that now put forth by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. That hon. Member was said to be at present on his way to America; but his mantle appeared to have fallen on the shoulders of his fidus Achates, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate). But the hon. Member was entirely mistaken in supposing that the Return moved for "would give a new qualification." The Return did not ask for the slightest information on the question of religion—it was intended to meet the assertion of the Chief Secretary for Ireland—

"That all fair and proper opportunities had been taken to reduce the inequalities that had existed in the undue disproportion of Protestants to Catholics on the magisterial bench."
That assertion, he was certain, had never been tested by the noble Marquess, who in making it had been merely the mouthpiece of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He had already shown by the condition of the county of Louth how far that was from being the fact. He could now state that in Fermanagh, which had a Catholic population of 51,756, there was but one Catholic magistrate, and he was non-resident; while the Protestant population of 40,932 had no fewer than 66 Protestant magistrates. He had no doubt whatever that the failure of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland to purge the magisterial bench of prejudice and partizanship, and to confer the commission of the peace on men linked to the great body of the people by the sympathy of a common faith, had done much to create dissatisfaction, and had caused the Irish Executive to be as unpopular in Ireland as the conduct of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, during the Session, had tended to make the Government in England.

said, the House would very shortly be summoned to "another place," and he deprecated a division which might occur at an awkward moment.

Motion negatived.