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Parliament—Galway New Writ

Volume 220: debated on Friday 19 June 1874

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Motion made, and Question proposed,

"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 Borough of Galway, in the room of Francis Hugh O'Donnell, esquire, whose Election has been determined to he void."—(Mr. O'Shaughnessy.)
Certificate and Reports from the Judge selected for the Trial of Election Petitions pursuant to the Parliamentary Elections Act, 1868, relating to the Election for the Borough of Galway read.—(Mr. Conolly.)

, in rising to move, as an Amendment, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words—

"having regard to the decisions of the Judges appointed by this House to try the Election Petitions of the. Town of Galway Election 1874, and County of Galway 1872, having regard also to the recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Town of Galway Election Petition 1857; having regard to the joint Address of both Houses of Parliament which represented to Her Majesty in 1857 that corrupt practices have extensively prevailed at the last Election and at previous Elections for the said County of the Town of Galway, this House is of opinion that the said Town of Galway be henceforth disfranchised,"
said, the late Mr. Thackeray was a person whose advice was as much honoured by his friends as his works were appreciated by the British nation, and on one occasion a young lady asked him what would be the most suitable gift for her to present to a friend who was about to be married. Mr. Thackeray returned as answer—" My dear young lady, others will present objects of richness and luxury. I advise you to present to these people a most useful article of household economy—a filter." Well, that House had long listened to the able and eloquent orations of the late Mr. Henry Berkeley on the subject of the Ballot, and at length, after very much hesitation, presented to the electoral system of the country a filter, in the shape of the Ballot Act. He was happy to say that Act had been a great success not only in England and Scotland, but also in Ireland, where its success was most to be doubted. He (Mr. Conolty) would, however, now tell the House that his duty was to represent that its action was now called for to fill up that which was still wanting in the Ballot Act in Ireland—namely, to second the efforts of the Judges appointed to try Election Petitions, and the provisions of the Ballot Act itself, by putting a stigma on, and a stop to a new system that had arisen—namely, priestly intimidation. In ancient times—that was, 20 years ago, the borough of Galway was notorious for its monetary corruption, when some voters would sometimes receive £2 10s., others £5, and some of the ancient guilds refused to accept any amount under a £10 note. These sums of money were unblushingly given and accepted. From 1852 to the present time corruption was the rule in the borough of Galway. He would begin with 1866. In that year an Election Committee reported that it had reason to believe corrupt practices prevailed, and in 1867 the sitting Member was declared guilty of bribery. A joint Address of both Houses of Parliament, praying for a Royal Commission to inquire into the corruption of the borough, was passed in 1857, and that Commission reported that from 1852, and anterior to that period, bribery and corruption extensively prevailed in the borough of Galway, though in a number of cases it was proved satisfactorily that the candidates had not been personally engaged in bribing and corrupting the voters. Before taking any steps with reference to this matter, he put himself in communication with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, who was by no means favourable to the course he proposed to take. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said—"Oh, no! This proceeding which you propose to take is quite wrong; you cannot disfranchise an important borough like Galway without first having an inquiry by a Royal Commission." His contention was, that there had already been a Royal Commission and Election Committees innumerable, all of which had reported the existence of extensive corruption. Further than that, no man knew better than the Attorney General himself, the existence of corruption through all the ramifications of the body corporate of Galway, and therefore it was not right that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should attempt to deal with the question by means of a transparent put-off. That sort of thing might do in a law Court, but it would not do in the House of Commons. Though the gross form of monetary corruption no longer existed, there remained among the electors of Galway a large proportion of illiterate voters who were peculiarly exposed to the manipulation or the verbal appeals of their priests and their Bishop, and there could be no doubt that that manipulation had been used to good effect in this case as far as those priests were concerned. In fact, they had been condemned by name by the learned Judge who tried the Petition, and who exercised the greatest forbearance in not including in his condemnation the most rev. Dr. M'Evilly, the Bishop of Galway. Let the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General read the evidence himself, and he would find that the margin which separated the Bishop from complicity in the acts of priests living with him in the College of Galway, one of them being his own Vicar General, was very narrow indeed. But before addressing himself further to this subject he must make his position clear to the House, and not only to the House, but to Ireland. He wished to say that he would be the last one to point his finger against any ecclesiastic, and more especially one of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland; for he knew that if that country was a beautiful and wonderful exception to many of the vices which affected other countries, it was entirely owing to the action of the Roman Catholic clergy. Nor could he forgot, that if that loathsome monster of Communism which had defaced one of the fairest kingdoms of the earth, could find no resting place on the green hills of Ireland. That also was entirely due to the untiring efforts of the Catholic clergy in educating the youth of Ireland in the paths of morality. He, however, was bound, when speaking of the priestly intimidation which was now on its trial, to say that he held the Bishop of Galway to be entirely answerable for the conduct of his clergy in connection with the last election, fie wished it also to be understood that he had the greatest possible belief in the organization of the Roman Catholic Church, and he only wished there existed as effectual and useful an organization in the Protestant Church. But on that occasion there was evidence of a most complete description, which brought in the rev, Dr. M'Evilly as not only an accomplice, but as an absolute principal in all those transactions. He did not hold the humbler ecclesiastics as being so chargeable with the recent malpractices at Galway as their Bishop, Dr. M'Evilly, who was at the time suffering under the censure of an Election Judge for previous conduct of the same character at the election for the county of Galway. Although the famous judgment of Mr. Justice Keogh had been most unfairly misrepresented in Ireland, every humble voter in that country ought to venerate the name of that learned Judge, and have it written on the walls of his dwelling in letters of gold, as that of the first man who had vindicated his independence from that priestly oppression which had become so galling that the greater part of the Irish people had risen in their might against it. He found the peasantry of Limerick returning an independent advocate of tenant-right—whom he had the happiness to see opposite—in defiance of the wish of their own ecclesiastics, and hurling from the hustings the man whom it had been sought to impose on them. Associated with Dr. M'Evilly in the judgment of Mr. Justice Keogh was no less a person than Dr. M'Hale, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tuam, an ecclesiastic who had ruled the West in the spirit of St. Boniface, and what had been the result in Mayo? Why, the return the other day of the independent Representative of that county, the electors having shaken off that loathsome priestly domination. Never was there such exultation in Castlebar as when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mayo, who had lately taken his seat here, was returned against the power, and in opposition to the candidate, of St. Jarlath's, as never before had the shout of freedom been heard in Mayo. The consequence had been that the priests, who before were attached to that fallacy, as he must call it, of "Home Rule," had now separated themselves in a body from it. If the people of the West were relieved from the heavy yoke of their ecclesiastics by the sacrifice of the town of Galway, they would have obtained their liberty at a cheap rate. A Commission had formerly reported upon the electoral corruption of that borough, and as a corollary of that Report a Bill was brought in to disfranchise the very classes in the constituency of which he now complained. The House assented to the principle of that Bill by reading it a second time, although the measure was afterwards dropped when it came to be dealt with in Committee. The judgment of Mr. Justice Keogh enlightened the House as to the terrible state of things in the county of Galway; and it was impossible to dissociate the election for the borough from that for the county, on which the learned Judge gave his memorable decision. The same persons were the prime movers in both. Dr. M'Evilly was scheduled by Mr. Justice Keogh; and, although he had nominally kept out of the last scrape, the strong expressions used with reference to him by Mr. Serjeant Armstrong, in which the presiding Judge concurred, appeared in the papers, and there was no doubt that that Prelate was at the bottom of the whole proceedings. He therefore called upon the House to vindicate its own honour, and to strengthen the hands of the Judges who were appointed to try Election Petitions; and, above all, to vindicate the operation of the Ballot Act, which had hitherto been so successful in Ireland. Priestly influence had proceeded to such a length in the West of Ireland, and more especially so in the county of Galway, that tenants had been alienated from landlords, and landlords had been obliged to leave their homes and reside in foreign countries; and that was a county that used formerly to present a most admirable example of a united family—landlord and tenant living together in the most cordial relation. Such was now no longer the case—class against class, hatred, distrust, contention and bloodshed—such had been the direct action of priestly intimidation. But it was chiefly in the interest of the humble voters that he called upon the House to vindicate the laws of the land. Mr. Justice Keogh had stigmatized the conduct of the Roman Catholic clergy in no ordinary language, and the consequence was, that though priests had appeared as the leaders of mobs at the late election for Galway, there had been none of those altar denunciations by which, on previous occasions, the Temple of God had been outraged. That, at all events, was something gained, and he hoped the House would, by agreeing to his Amendment, supplement the action of Mr. Justice Keogh, which had already home such good fruit, and strike a final blow at the system of priestly domination. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Amendment.

Amendment proposed,

To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "having regard to the decisions of the Judges appointed by this House to try the Election Petitions of the Town of Gal way Election 1874 and County of Galway 1872, having regard also to the recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Town of Galway Election Petition 1857, having regard to the joint Address of both I louses of Parliament which represented to Her Majesty in 1857 that corrupt practices have extensively prevailed at the last Election and at previous Elections for the said County of the Town of Galway, this House is of opinion that the said Town of Galway he henceforth disfranchised,"—(Mr. Conolly,)

instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

hoped his hon. Friend who had just sat down would excuse him, if he said that he had entirely failed in the course of his able statement to lay before the House any adequate reasons why the issue of a New Writ for Galway should be refused. The hon. Gentleman had, he thought, somewhat confused the allegations which were contained in the Petition against the return of the late Member for that borough, and the reasons which were given in the judgment of the learned Judge by whom that Petition had been tried. The petitioner rested his case on three distinct grounds, the first of which was the interference of the Roman Catholic Bishop of the diocese, whose name, it was contended, having been mentioned in the Schedule of Mr. Justice Keogh's Report, necessarily disqualified any candidate in whose case he filled the position of agent. Now, upon that ground, the finding of the learned Judge was against the petitioner. The second ground alleged by him was that religious influence had been exercised at the election, or in other words, that the Roman Catholic clergy had made use of their position as ecclesiastics to operate on the minds of the voters by bringing to bear on them religious influences. Against that particular ground of intimidation the learned Judge had also decided. The third allegation was, that there was intimidation—by which was meant to a degree which prevented free agency on the part of the electors. That ground, however, although it was sustained by the learned Judge, it was perfectly plain, was entirely different from the two he had just mentioned. Riot and intimidation might exist at an election, without the electors being in the slightest degree blameable. It might be caused by non-voters, it might be casual and incidental, or it might have its origin in some circumstances which wore confined to the particular occasion. Now, he was not aware of any instance in which a constituency had been disfranchised because there happened on the day of polling to be some riot and violence, though such occurrences might furnish adequate ground for declaring that an election was void. In the cases, for example, of the late North Durham and Dudley Elections there were riots, yet New Writs had been issued for those places; and he saw no distinction between them and the case of Galway, except that in the last-named borough, one or two Roman Catholic priests were mixed up in the riot on the day of polling. Such interference, however, was not in their capacity as ecclesiastics, and these priests, therefore, must be regarded in the same light as other persons who might be guilty of an illegal offence; nor could he see the justice of disfranchising the borough because of their conduct. Having said this much with respect to the recent election, he wished to say a word or two about the Report of the Royal Commission of 1857 to which his hon. Friend had referred, and which he himself, as the head of the Commission, had drawn up. It was not strictly correct to say that that Report recommended that the borough of Galway should be disfranchised. What it recommended was, that something in the shape of disfranchisement should be done with regard to the freemen who had been found guilty of receiving money for their votes in small sums. He might add that although three or four Governments had since been in office, and the whole question had been fully debated in the House, no action had been taken upon that Report. Indeed, the whole matter would have been forgotten had it not been revived by his hon. Friend, to whose Amendment he hoped the House would not assent.

said, that, agreeing with many of the things which bad been said by his hon. Friend the Member for Donegal, the facts he had mentioned had yet not led his mind to the same conclusion. His Motion involved not only one of the Members whom the borough had a right to elect, but, if it were carried the other Member would also lose his seat; and that without any charge being made against him, and, he believed, without any cause. What he should do was to vote both against the Motion and against the Amendment. He considered his hon. Friend the Member for Donegal had made out a strong case for the House expressing its disapproval of what had taken place, and he thought that as a mark of that disapproval the issue of the Writ should be for a time suspended.

, as Chairman of the Committee which tried the Galway Borough Election Petition in 1866, said, that the evidence on that occasion showed that organized and systematic corruption had prevailed in that borough, and it was a most extraordinary circumstance that that evidence was precisely the same as that which had been brought before the Commissioners in 1857. The same names cropped up on each occasion, showing that the same practices had been conducted by the same parties. Immediately after the Committee, over which be had had the honour of presiding, had presented their Report, the then Attorney General, Sir Roundell Palmer, asked him why he had not recommended the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the corrupt practices which it was shown had existed in the borough of Galway. His answer was that, under ordinary circumstances, it would have been his duty to do so; but as the evidence was sure to be precisely the same as that taken by the Commission of 1857, and feeling that a Commission, if appointed, would be obliged to accept that evidence, and therefore make a similar Report as its predecessor bad done, he was unwilling to put the country to the expense of £6,000, which was the average cost of such inquiries. He now regretted that be had not taken the course suggested to him by Sir Roundell Palmer, now Lord Selborne, inasmuch as had be done so, the borough would have been by this time disfranchised. He had also been Chairman of the Select Committee which tried the Reigate Petition, and on that occasion he had recommended the appointment of the Royal Commission whose Report led to the disfranchisement of that borough; but he was bound to say that the practices which bad been shown to have existed at Reigate were slight and venial compared with the systematic and organized bribery which existed in Galway. It now, however, appeared that bribery no longer existed there. Certainly, he could not find any trace of its having been resorted to at the last Election; but there was a great deal of evidence to show that it bad been succeeded by a system of intimidation, and it was rather remarkable that the person who used to be the foremost in bribing was now the leading man in creating riot and disturbance. He alluded to the Rev. Peter Daly. [Several IRISH MEMBERS: You are mistaken. He is dead.] He must say that he was sorry, but at the same time he was much relieved, to find he had made a mistake; but he had been under the impression that the Rev. Peter Dooley mentioned in the Report of Mr. Justice Lawson was identical with the Rev. Peter Daly, whose doings had been brought under the consideration of the Committee of which he had been Chairman. After all, what the House had to look to was the nature and character of the electors; and believing those of Galway to be easy victims of intimidation, he should support the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Donegal.

said, be bad to thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland for the admirable manner in which he had vindicated the rights of Galway and the character of her people. Lord Plunket bad said that history was no more than an old almanack, but the story told by the hon. Member for Donegal had not even that recommendation, inasmuch as it was wrong in facts, incorrect in statistics, and showed the hon. Gentleman's ignorance of even the geography of the county. In the face of these facts, he (Mr. Morris) felt it was his duty to vindicate the character of the electors whom he had had the honour to represent ever since 1832. Galway had had the privilege of returning two Members, and the men whom it had returned had won a place in the history of the country. It had for 25 successive years returned the late Mr. Blake, who had the reputation of being one of the best breeders of horses in Europe. It had also returned Mr. Andrew Lynch, of the English Bar, who had attained in his profession a rank equivalent to that of Vice Chancellor. It had also returned the late and universally regretted Lord Dunkellin, Chief Justice Monahan, and several other Gentlemen of eminence. He had to regret that all manner of extraneous facts and the circumstances of the unfortunate county election of 1872 had been dragged into the discussion by the hon. Member for Donegal, with the view of throwing odium upon the borough of Galway in order to have it disfranchised. He wondered whether the hon. Gentleman sought the seats for the capital of the county which he represented—a town which had a population of 563 inhabitants, and did not contain more than a dozen houses. Why, it could not lodge the Judges when they went Assize, so that they were obliged to take up their abode in the next county, and, indeed, he believed the hon. Gentleman himself would admit that he had to build a kind of shed for the purpose of affording some shelter for the grand jury. He regretted that the hon. Member for Glamorganshire should have drawn such a dreadful picture of the corruption which prevailed in Galway; but, if such was the case, how was it, he would ask, that the Committee had not only confirmed both Members in their seats, but had, in respect to one of them, decided that as against him the Petition was frivolous and vexatious, and that the petitioners, as guilty of great contempt themselves, should pay the costs of the inquiry?

said, the Committee had reported as to the existence of bribery and corruption on both sides, but that there was not any proof of agency as against the sitting Members.

would reiterate what he had stated, and if the hon. Gentleman challenged him, he would ask him to retire into the Library. [Laughter.] Yes; if the hon. Gentleman challenged what he said, he would ask him to retire with him into the Library, where he would show him the Report. The fact was, that both Members retained their seats, and one was awarded costs, the Petition against him being declared to be frivolous and vexatious. In respect to area, population, and wealth, Galway was the fifth borough in Ireland, and it was the capital of the Province of Connaught, a Province which had now the honour of giving a title to a Member of the Royal Family. He would, there fore, like to know if they disfranchised Galway, what borough in Ireland would be safe? He regretted he had not the ability to defend the borough as he could have wished; he had forgotten many things which were running in his head, but he hoped that where he failed the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield would, as he had done in 1857, amply vindicate the character of Galway.

denied that there was any evidence in the Report of the Inquiry before Mr. Justice Lawson to show there had been either riot or disturbance in Galway at the last Election; so that the charges made against the Bishop and clergy were absolutely false.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

New Writ for Galway Borough,— in the room of Francis Hugh O'Donnell, esquire, void Election.