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Distress In Ireland

Volume 32: debated on Monday 8 April 1895

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I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1) in what portion of the parish of Aughamore have the relief works been opened, as mentioned by him on Monday last; (2) what proofs of the prevalence of exceptional distress are recognised and admitted by the Local Government Inspectors; and (3) whether he will instruct these Inspectors to consult with the Priests in the distressed districts?

The works referred to in the first paragraph are at Castleroyan and between Kilkelly and Kiltimagh. As regards the second paragraph, the Inspectors are under no restrictions in the matter referred to. They accept any proofs, and form their conclusions upon any evidence which presents itself, and which appears to them to be reliable. It has already been intimated to the Inspectors that they should take every possible opportunity of consulting the Clergy in the course of their inquiries in distressed districts, and I understand it is now their practice to do so.

The right hon. Gentleman's answer to my question on Monday gave the people of the locality to understand that he had ordered works to be opened at Aughamore, while it now appears that he was only referring to the works opened at Kiltimagh.

I cannot say that I connect my answer with the question of my hon. Friend, but I will make further inquiry. The works at Kiltimagh are the only works opened.

Will the right hon. Gentleman, where there is direct and absolute contradiction between the reports made to him and the information furnished to us, take some means of satisfying himself by independent inquiry?

I am going to spend a portion of my so-called holiday in paying a visit to Ireland, and I hope, while on the spot, to be able to get such information as will prove satisfactory to hon. Members.

Does the right hon. Gentleman know that the works at Kiltimagh are four miles from Aughamore, and that the people of Aughamore have to walk eight miles?

I don't consider that going four miles to work and four miles back is anything unheard of.

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he has been able to take any action with reference to the representations made to him in a letter dated 28th February, by the Rev. Peter Kelly, P.P., Ardara, County Donegal, directing his attention to the fact that Ardara was one of the poorest parishes in the County of Donegal, and that the effects of a failure of the potato crop fell with especial severity on the inhabitants from the fact that there is no developed system of fishing or other means of obtaining a livelihood, and proposing remedies by the commencement of relief works and a better system of Local Government Board inspection for the relief of distress; whether his attention has been directed to the proceedings of a public meeting held in Ardara, as reported in the Londonderry Journal of 1st April, at which Father Kelly, who presided, strongly urged that men willing to work for 7s. a week should obtain employment instantly, at which meeting resolutions were unanimously carried urging on the Executive the necessity of starting public works, and characterising the Local Government Board's system of inspection as futile and misleading; and, whether he will take immediate steps, having regard to the weight of these representations, for the alleviation of the sufferings of the people of this locality?

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland if he has been made aware that the Guardians of the Glenties Union, at their meeting held on 29th March, passed a resolution urgently pressing on the Government the necessity for opening relief works in certain parts of the union, and complaining that, notwithstanding repeated representations of theirs to the like effect, no practical steps have been taken to meet the requirements of the case, stating also that the guardians are opposed to any further extension of outdoor relief, inasmuch as the rates in some of their electoral divisions already amount to 6s. in the pound, and that further taxation would impoverish the union; whether he is aware that, at a subsequent meeting of the same Board held on the 1st of April, a similar statement of facts and a request for a speedy opening of relief works were put forward as matters of urgency requiring from the Government immediate attention; whether his attention has been directed to the proceedings of a public meeting held a few days ago at Ardara, in the Glenties Union, presided over by Major John-stone, J.P., Chairman of the Glenties Board, and to the speeches delivered on that occasion by the Rev. Peter Kelly, P.P., Mr. Congdon, Major Johnstone, Mr. Crumley, Mr. M'Groarty, P.L.G., Mr. Gilbride, P.L.G., and other gentlemen, all testifying from personal knowledge to the existence of acute distress in that district, and complaining of the neglect of the Government to do anything for its alleviation; and whether he will direct that some practical action shall be promptly taken to cope with the serious state of affairs referred to in those speeches and resolutions?

My attention has been drawn to a report of the proceedings at the meetings of the Guardians of the Glenties Union, and at the public meeting referred to, as well as to the representations made by the reverend Gentleman named in the question of my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for South Donegal. Relief works were opened some time ago in several divisions of this union, and the other parts of the union in which works have not been established have recently been visited by two of the Inspectors of the Local Government Board. Both of these gentlemen made a very careful investigation of the condition of the poorer classes, and both concur in the opinion that at the present time there exists no necessity for the opening of additional works in the union. As regards the incidence of the poor rate in the union, I am informed that there is only one division out of 27 in the union in which the rate is 5s. 10d. in the pound, and that in the remaining 26 divisions the rate averages about 3s. in the pound. The view appears to have prevailed at the public meeting referred to, that a man who is "willing to accept" a wage of 7s. a week should be afforded employment on relief works, and in reference to this, I have only to observe that although the rate of wages on relief works has been fixed at a low figure, yet their primary object is not to afford employment to persons because they are "willing" to work for this low remuneration, but to render assistance to persons who, being in occupation of land, are precluded from availing themselves of the usual means of obtaining poor law relief open to other persons.

I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether his attention has been called to the utmost dissatisfaction which exists at present as regards the method of inspection pursued by those inspectors. Is he aware that these inspectors apparently do not consult the priests of the districts concerned, that they go as a kind of picnickers in tandem from one place to another. I wish to know, if that is brought to the knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman, if he will take any steps whatever to obtain a complete and satisfactory inspection?

I should deprecate the description my hon. and learned Friend has thought right to give of these public officers——

I know so far as I can know anything at all without actual visual inspection—I know that these gentlemen go through an enormous amount of conscientious labour, and very trying duties. For my own part I take what they tell me, and take the reports with which they furnish me, as giving as good information as they can have access to. With regard to the first question, I am aware, of course with regret, that dissatisfaction does exist. I am not very much surprised at it, because there is very great distress, but with the means at my disposal it is impossible for me to meet the wishes of the clergy and others in coping with this unfortunate state of affairs.